Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Groups Challenge Wisconsin Ballast Water Standards

Jan 15: The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) announced they had filed a legal challenge that claims the State of Wisconsin’s new ballast water discharge permit violates State law and won’t prevent freighters from importing more invasive species, like zebra mussels, into the Great Lakes. Neil Kagan, senior attorney at NWF's Great Lakes Regional Center said, "Compliance with the Wisconsin ballast water discharge standards would not prevent invasive species from entering Wisconsin waters. Wisconsin officials have said prevention is the best way to protect the Great Lakes from new invasive species, but the state’s ballast water discharge standards won’t prevent new invasions. The state’s failure to follow its own laws to protect water quality is the basis of our lawsuit.”

NWF said Wisconsin released ballast water discharge standards in a permit in November. The permit, which is set to take effect February 1, would require ocean freighters to treat ballast water, but said "the discharge standards are too weak to be effective." They said the final permit is weaker than the draft version and contains a loophole that would allow ships to fall back to the weakest discharge standards. "The permit runs counter to a State law that prohibits degradation of Wisconsin’s waters."

The groups indicated that the Federal government has not enacted ballast water discharge standards despite numerous agencies working on the problem for the past two decades. The U.S. Coast Guard recently proposed national ballast water treatment standards [
See WIMS 10/2/09; WIMS 8/31/09].

Access a lengthy release from NWF with additional information (click here). Access more information from NWF's Great Lakes Regional Center website (click here).

2005 & 2006 Great Lakes Regional Water Use Reports Available

Jan 19: The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) announced that the Great Lakes Regional Water Use Reports for 2005 and 2006 are now available. The GLC extended its appreciation to the states and provinces in providing this information. The Great Lakes Regional Water Use Database was established by the Great Lakes states and provinces in response to a recommendation in the Great Lakes Charter of 1985 that calls for a uniform, consistent base of data of Great Lakes water withdrawals, diversions and consumptive uses. Beginning in 1987, water use data have been submitted to the repository on an annual basis and reports provided to assist the jurisdictions in Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River water resources planning and management.

As specified by the Water Resources Management Committee in its 1987 report, Managing the Waters of the Great Lakes Basin, the database catalogs withdrawals by water use category, sub-basin and jurisdiction. The database became operational in the summer of 1988 following a multi-year cooperative effort. Design and development involved input from many state, provincial, and federal agencies, with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) providing much of the leadership. A Great Lakes Regional Water Use Database to provide comparable water use information on withdrawals, diversions and consumptive use is also called for under Article 4 of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and Article 301 of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources.

Access an announcement from GLC with links to related information (
click here). Access the GLC water use database (click here). Access a database query page to obtain customized search results (click here).

Supreme Court Denies Request To Close Waterways

Jan 19: The U.S. Supreme Court issued a brief notice with no further explanation indicating, "The motion of Michigan for a preliminary injunction is denied." On December 21, 2009 [See WIMS 1/4/10], Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox joined by the states of Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin and the Province of Ontario filed a request for a preliminary injunction to immediately order Federal, state, and local officials responsible for Chicago-area locks and waterways to close them in order to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. Cox said, "The fish are an aggressive invasive species that could quickly devastate Great Lakes fish populations, causing severe damage to Michigan's economy by ruining the Great Lakes' $7 billion fishing and tourism industries."

In their response brief, the State of Illinois said, "Michigan's efforts to downplay the economic impact that will result if its request for preliminary relief is granted, as well as its silence of the public health effects associated with even a temporary closure of the locks and sluice gates, cannot disguise the fact that neither the balance of equities nor the public interest weighs in Michigan's favor." Illinois said the Army Corps estimated that closing the O’Brien lock alone would back-flood 14,000 homes; and some 500,000 additional truck loads, with associated pollution and road maintenance concerns, would be needed to move the amount of cargo currently hauled by barges on the Canal each year [
See WIMS 1/16/10].

According to a report on the SCOTUS blog, "the Court refused to issue a permanent injunction that would have closed waterway locks and required other temporary measures in reaction to the discovery of the carp upstream in Illinois rivers. The Court’s order did not dispose of Michigan’s plea to reopen a decades-old decree to address the carp migration issue on its merits. That will come later in cases 1, 2 and 3 Original, Wisconsin, Michigan and New York v. Illinois." Last Friday, January 15, the Court reviewed the various briefs that had been submitted.

Groups supporting the close of the Mississippi River-Lake Michigan connection including --Alliance for the Great Lakes; Great Lakes United; Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition; National Wildlife Federation; and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) -- issued a joint release on the Supreme Court action. The groups indicated that although the High Court did not comment on the decision, at the same time, it did not yet act on Michigan’s request to reopen a nearly century-old case allowing Chicago to divert its wastewater from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River.

Alliance President Joel Brammeier said, "Unlike the court, Asian carp don't heed jurisdictional lines. If emergency measures to stem the tide of carp are the wrong play, we need a new playbook -- and we need it yesterday. Without that, there's no time to build the permanent separation the Great Lakes and Mississippi need." Henry Henderson, director of NRDC's Midwest Program and the first Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago said, “Illinois cannot breath too big a sigh of relief, as the Supreme Court could take further action on Michigan’s case."

Henderson said the new DNA findings reinforce Michigan’s assertion that the Chicago Diversion threatens the health of the Great Lakes. “Whether they are forced by the Supreme Court or not, Illinois’ elected officials need to follow up on their statements in recent weeks and take leadership in finding timely solutions to this problem." The groups reported that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm called for an immediate summit at the White House with President Obama and the eight Great Lakes governors to address the Asian carp threat.

Access the Supreme Court Order (
click here, scroll to page 3). Access the SCOTUS blog post (click here). Access the joint release from the groups (click here). Access a media report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (click here). Access a media report from the NYT (click here). Access the Michigan, Illinois and all legal filings in the case (click here).