Tuesday, February 9, 2010

MI Governor Rejects Administration Asian Carp Plan

Feb 8: Federal officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Coast Guard unveiled a strategy that outlines over 25 short and long-term actions and $78.5 million in investments to combat the spread of Asian carp. The Administration said the draft Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework (Framework) is "an unparalleled effort to control the invasive species, unifying Federal, state, and local action, and introducing a multi-tiered defense of the Great Lakes to prevent Asian carp from developing self-sustaining populations while longer term biological controls are being developed."
    The Administration said in a release, in the near term, the Framework focuses on keeping carp from establishing populations in the Great Lakes. It calls for reduced openings of Chicago's navigational locks to prevent carp movement. In addition, Federal agencies will deploy enlarged field crews for physical and sonar observation, electro-shocking and netting operations within the waterway. Turnaround times on eDNA verification will be expedited and testing capacity will be doubled to 120 samples per week.
    In March, 2010, a $13.2 million contract will be awarded for construction of barriers between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and Des Plaines River, which will prevent fish passage around the electric barrier in the event of flooding where the two water bodies mix. A $10.5 million contract will also be awarded for construction and operation of a third electric barrier (IIB). The Framework expedites a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' study of the feasibility and impacts of permanent lock closure, the effectiveness of lock closings to block carp movement, the risks and costs associated with closure, and a discussion of alternatives. The Framework identifies a variety of longer term Asian carp management techniques for the duration of 2010 and beyond. This includes $3 million in funds for commercial market enhancements and $5 million for additional chemical treatments in the case of barrier failure. It also puts forth over $1.5 million in new research funding.
    Michigan's Governor Granholm said that a proposal unveiled by the White House falls short of protecting the Great Lakes from the threat posed by Asian carp and continued her call for the locks in Illinois to be closed to protect the ecosystem and the $9 billion boating and $7 billion sport and commercial fishing industries that support the regional economy [See WIMS 2/8/10]. The Governor said, "I am grateful for the good deal of effort and thought that has gone into this by the Obama administration, but I am very disappointed with the proposal presented today during the White House meeting. We have to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, but the proposal presented still leaves the lakes vulnerable to this threat."
    Granholm said she supports creating a physical and biological separation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed that keeps Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan. Granholm has called for closing the locks between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal electrical barrier and Lake Michigan until that separation is constructed. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposes to continue operating the locks while attempts are made to suppress Asian carp populations.
She said, "While we did have some areas of agreement with the White House, we believe that the plan does not adequately address the concerns we have been voicing about the imminent threat Asian carp pose to the Great Lakes. I believe the proposal's primary objectives are not sustainable, and that this is a plan to limit damages -- not solve the problem."
    The only options that exist presently for fish population suppressions in rivers and canals are the use of rotenone and crews of commercial fishermen netting fish. To keep the locks open requires frequent poisoning of the waters with rotenone, Granholm noted, as well as long-term monitoring. She said, "Neither option is a real solution." Granholm also expressed concern that nearly 70 percent of the funding for the federal Asian carp proposal comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GRLI), an interagency plan to target the most significant problems in the region, including invasive aquatic species, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediment.
    The Governor said, "We are concerned they are robbing funds from other vital issues we need to address in Great Lakes restoration. The needs we have to address environmental and sustainability issues in the Great Lakes are paramount and a major economic issue for our state. I applaud the administration for commitment to construction of the second electrical fish barrier, separation of the rivers and canal systems to prevent carp movement during floods, increased research, and an aggressive public education campaign. These areas of agreement, however, are not enough to address this very serious issue threatening the health of the Great Lakes and the region's tourism economy."
    According to a release from the Governor's Office, Granholm and the Michigan delegation do support the administration's multi-tiered approach to addressing the Asian carp issue.  They also support emergency measures to block passage of water and fish between the Des Plaines River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC), and the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the CSSC. Michigan also supports increased research of the issue and construction of an additional barrier.
    Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released a statement on the Framework saying, "The effort to control Asian Carp received an unprecedented investment from the Obama Administration today. The $78.5 million strategic framework proposes 25 short and long term actions involving four federal agencies that will work closely with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the City of Chicago. It is clear that the Administration is prepared to wage an aggressive battle prevent this invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes. I am committed to working together to find a solution that will protect our lakes, while preserving jobs and promoting economic activity in the region."
    Access an Administration release on the Framework (click here). Access the 46-page Framework (click here). Access a lengthy release from Governor Granholm (click here). Access a release from Senator Durbin (click here). Access the Asian Carp Coordinating Committee website for extensive details and background (click here). Access a Chicago Tribune report on the meeting (click here).

Great Lakes Cities Call For Unity To Stop Asian Carp

Feb 8: As tensions rise and differences emerge between various parties involved in the Asian Carp control issue, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative announced on February 5, that maintaining unity within the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence community is essential to prevent  Asian carp from establishing populations in the largest freshwater resource in the world. The Cities Initiative Board of Directors has adopted a "Statement of Unity" that sets out key steps that need to be taken to protect the resource.
    Cities Initiative Chairman George Heartwell, Mayor of Grand Rapids, MI, said, "This is a matter of utmost urgency and we need a united sense of purpose among the government partners and the stakeholder community that the Asian carp must be stopped dead in their tracks. There is no tomorrow when it comes to solving this problem."
    The Cities Initiative outlines key steps in the short, mid, and long term that need to be taken. They said, "In the short term in 2010, much more comprehensive surveillance and monitoring is essential immediately to know where the Asian carp are, how many of them are there, and where they are going. With that information available, the authorities can make much better decisions about what type of actions are necessary for what numbers of fish in what locations. While this is being done, continued operation of the electronic barrier at optimum levels, construction of flood protection, additional chemical treatment, and other possible steps must be taken or readily available. 
    "Moving from the short term to the mid- term in 2011 and 2012, there must be an expedited study for long term solutions, including separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds in a way that prevents fish and plant life from moving between the two basins. Upon completion of those studies, there must be full and timely implementation of the solutions in 2013 and beyond, and the funding to make it happen."
    David Ullrich, Executive Director of the Cities Initiative, said, "Mayors from across the basin are prepared to work with all partners to come up with the best solutions and make them a reality so the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence are protected. The quality of life and economic well being of our people are determined by the resource, and we owe it to ourselves and future generations to keep the Asian carp out."
    As an example of the elevated rhetoric and hostility developing between parties in the issue, on February 5, lawmakers from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan launched an online campaign "demanding that Chicago bureaucrats and the Governor of Illinois" close two shipping locks to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Michigan Representative Judy Nerat (D-Wallace) said, "We can't let complacent Illinois politicians and bureaucrats continue to hold the Great Lakes hostage when there is an imminent Asian carp threat at our doorstep."

    In a release, Michigan State representatives issue a release saying they were launching "an aggressive online effort by sending a virtual postcard of a boat filled with Asian carp to Chicago and invited people from around the Great Lakes region to join their fight by e-mailing 'boatloads of carp' to Chicago bureaucrats like Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Executive Director Dick Lanyon and the Governor of Illinois, who are stalling action to protect Great Lakes." State Representative Mike Lahti (D-Hancock) said, "Summits are fine as far as they go, but meetings and position papers aren't enough to end this enormous threat to the Great Lakes. We need action now from the Illinois governor and the bureaucrats in charge of the Chicago locks." 

    Access a release from the Cities Initiative (click here). Access the "Statement of Unity" (click here). Access the Cities Initiative website for more information (click here). Access a release and link to the MI Reps. online campaign (click here).

NY Appeals Court Upholds States' Ballast Regulations

Feb 4: A release from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlights a New York State appellate court ruling that dismissed a challenge brought by shipping interests against what they say are the State's tough new ballast water requirements, designed to limit the introduction of more invasive species into the Great Lakes. NRDC points out that this is the second time that the State, with help from intervening NGOs, has successfully defended the ballast water restrictions in court. Legal experts at NRDC and National Wildlife Federation (NWF) hailed the win as a huge victory for states in the region that have taken an aggressive stand to limit dumping of water containing biological pollution from ocean going vessels. They indicated that alien species have already cost the Great Lakes economy billions of dollars.

    Due to the incredible environmental threat posed by invasive species, lawyers from NRDC intervened in the shipping industry lawsuit alongside the State of New York, representing NWF. The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, Third Judicial Department, rejected shipping industry arguments that the New York ballast water regulations were illegal because they were stricter than the U.S. EPA's nationwide discharge permit. Marc Smith, Policy Manager with NWF said, "Today's court decision is an important victory in the ongoing saga to protect our majestic Great Lakes from invasive species. Requiring the shipping industry to install effective protections against these invaders is long over-due. Now more than ever do we need aggressive federal action to help reinforce New York's leadership to ensure a more comprehensive defense policy against invasive species."


    The New York court's ruling that states have authority to adopt ballast water rules that are more protective than Federal standards is consistent with the decision last year in a lower state court as well as the Sixth Circuit Federal appeals court in Cincinnati to uphold Michigan's ballast water rules against a similar shipping industry challenge. NRDC and NWF also intervened in those cases, along with other environmental groups, to defend the challenged rules. 

    Access a release from NRDC and link to the court ruling and related information (click here).