Tuesday, February 23, 2010

GLC Calls For Ecological Separation To Stop Asian Carp

Feb 23: The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) has called on Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to embrace a clear goal of ecological separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds as the key, permanent strategy in the war against Asian carp and their threatened invasion of the Great Lakes. The resolution, approved by the Commission, asks Congress to provide the Corps with authority and substantial resources to complete the study of ecological separation -- defined as prevention of the movement of invasive species between the watersheds -- and to accelerate completion of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal portion of the study to September 2011.

    The resolution also calls for accelerating the timetable for full operation of the Asian carp barrier system on the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal and to establish structural measures to prevent the inadvertent introduction of Asian carp from floodwaters of the Des Plaines River into the canal, and ultimately the Great Lakes. The action took place at the Commission's 2010 Semiannual Meeting in Washington, DC where the eight member states of the Commission, along with associate Canadian member provinces of Ontario and Qu├ębec, voiced consensus on the need to inhibit further movement of Asian carp northward to the Great Lakes.

    In other Commission business, implementation and ongoing support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) were key focal points of the Great Lakes Commission's federal legislative priorities for FY 2011, formally released at the meeting. The Commission's federal priorities, outlined in the publication "Fulfilling the Promise for the Great Lakes: Advancing Great Lakes Restoration and Economic Revitalization," are largely driven by the GLRI's five focus areas: aquatic invasive species, contaminated sediments, nonpoint source pollution, degraded wetlands and threatened fish and wildlife resources. Enacted by Congress with full funding of $475 million for FY 2010, the GLRI is planned as a five-year program to restore and protect the Great Lakes. The Administration has proposed funding at a level of $300 million for FY 2011. The complete GLC 2011 legislation program is available from the Commission's website indicated below.
    Access a release from GLC (click here). Access links to the Resolution details (click here, to be posted soon). Access the GLC FY11 Legislative Priorities (click here).

Great Lakes Advocates In DC For Funding & Carp Action

Feb 23: According to a release from the Healing Our Waters (HOW) Coalition, more than 100 citizens from the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are traveling to Washington, DC on February 23-24, to ask U.S. Senators and Representatives to support three priorities: (1) Fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $475 million; (2) Take aggressive action to prevent the Asian carp from taking hold in the Great Lakes, while working toward the permanent separation of  the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins; and, (3) Pass Great Lakes restoration legislation that propels restoration forward by establishing a restoration framework to ensure transparent priority-setting, accountability, and most importantly action. The groups action comes immediately following U.S. EPA release of its 5-year, $2.2 billion Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan on February 21 [See WIMS 2/22/10].
    Jeff Skelding, campaign director for HOW Coalition said, "Congress and the Obama Administration have demonstrated that the Great Lakes are a priority for the nation. What's most needed now is an all-out effort to beat back the Asian carp and a commitment by Congress to restore funding for successful restoration programs that create jobs, while laying the foundation for long-term
prosperity. It's time for the nation to roll up its sleeves and get to work, before the problems get worse and more costly."

    While the Obama Administration has proposed only $300 million for GLRI in its FY 2011 budget -- down $175 million from FY 10 -- the Coalition is pushing for continuing the $475 million funding level. The Administration explained the reduced funding in budget documents indicating that, "In 2009, the President announced a new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, committing the Federal government to significantly advance Great Lakes protection and restoration. In FY 2011, EPA is increasing the relative funding for the Invasive Species focus area in recognition of anticipated new demands such as fighting incursion of Asian Carp. FY 2011 funding has been reduced to reflect ramp up period, allowing time for the program to absorb the initial influx of FY 2010 $475 million in resources." [See WIMS 2/1/10].
    However, the Coalition points out that U.S. EPA recently requested proposals for approximately $120 million in restoration projects as part of the GLRI. The Agency received more than 1,050 proposals totaling more than $940 million -- a level of demand more than 7 times the supply of available funds. They said many projects will not be funded. Skelding said, "After decades of assault and abuse, the Great Lakes will not be healed over night. The backlog of work is enormous. It's going to take a sustained, multi-year effort to nurse the Lakes back to health, which is why we need Congress' support now. This is good to do for the environment and the economy."
    Access a release from the HOW Coalition (click here).