Thursday, July 1, 2010

Groups Warn Of Another Asian Carp Threat

Jul 1: A coalition of national and Great Lakes groups are warning of the discovery of spawning Asian carp in the Wabash River which they say shows the crisis is advancing on multiple fronts and demands aggressive and immediate action. The carp were found downstream of a floodplain that separates the Wabash from the Maumee River and Lake Erie, near the city of Fort Wayne, IN. The discovery and acknowledgment of the finding by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee comes a week after the committee announced a live Asian carp was found just six miles from Lake Michigan in Chicago's Lake Calumet [See WIMS 6/24/10].
    The groups said the discovery of a spawning population of Asian carp in the Wabash River is of particular concern because of the possibility the Wabash could flood into the Maumee River in Indiana. The Maumee River flows to Lake Erie and is identified by carp specialists as an ideal habitat for Asian carp. The groups and Congressional leaders are calling for Presidential intervention in the issue and asking him to appoint a Federal Coordinated Response Commander. Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes said, "We're being outmaneuvered by a fish and can't afford to play catch up. We need leadership to anticipate, align and activate on where the carp are going to be -- not where they've already been."
    The groups emphasized their support for the Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act, introduced on June 29 and 30 (S.3553, H.R.5625), in the House and Senate which would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct and expedite a study detailing engineering options in order to determine the best way to permanently separate the Mississippi River Basin from Lake Michigan. The organizations include: Alliance for the Great Lakes - Environment Illinois - Freshwater Future - Great Lakes United - Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition – Indiana Wildlife Federation - National Wildlife Federation - Natural Resources Defense Council – Ohio Environmental Council - Prairie Rivers Network - Sierra Club.

    The Great Lakes Commission also voiced strong support for the new legislation introduced. Todd Ambs, vice chair of the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) said, "We face a crisis in the Great Lakes and we must act with urgency. It is imperative that we take the near-term actions needed to push back against the forward movement of Asian carp. We applaud Senators Stabenow and Durbin for their leadership in advancing a long-term solution that permanently protects the economic and ecological health of the Great Lakes." Tim Eder, GLC executive director said, "Now, more than ever, we need leadership from the federal government and an aggressive timetable for action that matches the urgency of this crisis. This legislation will help assure that long-term solutions move forward quickly."
    Access a release with further details (click here). Access a release from GLC (click here). Access legislative details for S.3553 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.5625 (click here).

Great Lakes Protection & Funding Bill Approved By Senate Committee

Jun 30: The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) approved the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act of 2010 (S.3073), which was introduced in March by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and George Voinovich (R-OH). The bill, approved by voice vote, would authorize more than $500 million in funding for new and existing programs to protect and restore the Great Lakes. The bill would also streamline various advisory committees and task forces to improve the efficiency of the efforts. Also, the bill reauthorizes the Great Lakes Legacy Program for five years and would increases its funding level from $54 million to $150 million per year. Levin and Voinovich co-chair the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. Seven other senators including Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have co-sponsored the bill. The bill now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
    Senator Levin said, "The Great Lakes are a unique American treasure, and I applaud the committee for its action today advancing a bill to restore, manage and protect the lakes. Nearly a tenth of our population lives in the Great Lakes basin, relying on the life-sustaining drinking water the lakes provide, and reaping economic and recreational benefits from them daily. The Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act provides a host of sensible, bipartisan proposals that appropriately treat the lakes as the great treasure they are. It would also streamline the various advisory and governing bodies to more efficiently use taxpayer dollars for these important goals. The bill aims to ensure the lakes will prosper both today and in the long term so that future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy and benefit from them as we have."
    Senator Voinovich said, "Today's EPW passage of the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act is a continuation of my decades-long legacy of protecting the Great Lakes. This legislation will ensure the vital resources necessary to protect and preserve the Great Lakes for future generations – it will also establish the advisory capacity necessary for federal agencies, local government and others to come together to share ideas and guidance and to prioritize funding needs."
    Access a release from Sen. Levin (click here). Access legislative details for S.3037 (click here).

Study Explains Why Lake Erie's Health Is Still Bad

Jun 30: The Nearshore and Offshore Lake Erie Nutrient Study (NOLENS), undertaken by Buffalo State College Great Lakes Center and under the direction of principal investigator Chris Pennuto, a research scientist with the  and professor of biology, concludes this month following a year of research. The fundamental question of the study was, "Why didn't Lake Erie's health improve as expected when the amount of phosphorus discharged into the lake decreased?"
    During the 1960s, Lake Erie was considered dead. One of the contributing factors was, ironically, nutrients. A release indicates that, "Nutrients are like calories. You need calories to live, but if you eat too many of them, you can get very, very sick." One of the nutrients is phosphorus. Pennuto said, "When the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, one of its goals was to reduce water pollution enough to meet certain 'swimmable and fishable' criteria. A specific target goal was to limit the amount of phosphorus discharged into Lake Erie at 11,000 tons a year. Even though that goal was reached more than a decade ago, the lake continues to exhibit some symptoms of illness. Huge algal mats still cover much of the lake bottom, and they shouldn't be there. When they wash up on shore in quantity, the beach becomes unusable."
    During the one-year project, the NOLENS team took more than 500 water, sediment, and tissue samples, which enabled them to look at all the major pools of nutrients in plants and animal smaller than 4 cms (1.6 inches) in size. All told, about 2,500 sample tests were run. In explaining why achieving the target of 11,000 tons of phosphorus didn't yield the expected benefits, Pennuto explained that the models used by scientists in the 1970s looked at the lake as if it were "a big bathtub," in which everything would be mixed up evenly. He said, "We know now that's not an accurate description of how Lake Erie works."
    Another problem is that the phosphorus doesn't just disappear. Pennuto said, "The bulk of it lies in the sediment. The lake's sediment doesn't stay put, so the phosphorus that accumulates there is continuously recirculated throughout the lake. There are biological and chemical processes that distribute it back into the water. The sediment also can be disturbed by human activity, such as dumping dredged material in the lake. The environment provides all kinds of services we don't get charged for. The cheapest way to have clean water is to keep the water sources healthy, because healthy lakes clean themselves. As human beings, we're made up mostly of water, so it is in our interest to make sure it is clean."
    Access a release from BSC Great Lakes Center (click here). Access the BSC Great Lakes Center website for more information (click here).