Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Executive Order On Stewardship Of Ocean, Coasts, & Great Lakes

Jul 19: With little fanfare, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes on July 19, 2010. The Executive Order adopts the Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and directs Federal agencies to take the appropriate steps to implement them. The Executive Order strengthens ocean governance and coordination, establishes guiding principles for ocean management, and adopts a flexible framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes.

    Obama Administration officials also released the Final Recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force on July 19, 2010, which would establish a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes (National Policy) and create a National Ocean Council (NOC) to strengthen ocean governance and coordination. The Final Recommendations prioritize actions for the NOC to pursue, and call for a flexible framework for coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes. The NOC would coordinate across the Federal Government to implement the National Policy. The Final Recommendations also call for the establishment of a Governance Coordinating Committee to formally engage with state, tribal, and local authorities. 

    Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) said, "President Obama recognized that our uses of the ocean are expanding at a rate that challenges our ability to manage significant and often competing demands. With a growing number of recreational, scientific, energy, and security activities, we need a national policy that sets the United States on a new path for the conservation and sustainable use of these critical natural resources."

    On June 12, 2009, President Obama sent a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and Federal agencies establishing an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and charged it with developing recommendations to enhance national stewardship of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes and promote the long term conservation and use of these resources. The Task Force was led by CEQ and included 24 senior-level policy officials from across the Federal Government. At the President's direction, the Task Force released an Interim Report in September 2009 and an Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning in December 2009. 

    Each of the reports was made available online for public comment. The Task Force received and reviewed close to 5,000 written comments from Congress, stakeholders, and the public before finalizing its recommendations. The Task Force's Final Recommendations combine and update the proposals contained in the two earlier reports.

    Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), issued a statement saying, "Our oceans are in urgent need of a coordinated approach for their conservation and management, and this new national policy is a step in the right direction. Our oceans face numerous threats, from overfishing and pollution to climate change and acidification. The policy announced today acknowledges that our country needs to initiate a comprehensive program to ensure healthy and productive oceans and coasts for generations to come. The Obama administration's proposal creates a governance structure for the management of the oceans and sets out a program for marine spatial planning -- which, like zoning on land, would designate certain areas for diverse uses such as drilling, fishing, shipping and protection. But the proposal lacks guarantees for conservation and biodiversity protection. . . The policy announced today is a good and necessary step toward coordinated planning and conservation, but we have yet to see if it will translate into good management."

    Access an announcement from the CEQ with links to the Executive Order and all background documents (click here). Access a release from CBD (click here).

MI, MN, PA, WI, OH Attorneys General Join In New Asian Carp Lawsuit

Jul 19: Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced that his office has filed a suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to take emergency action to block Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, and accelerate efforts to develop a permanent solution to protect the Great Lakes. Attorneys general from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Ohio have joined Cox in the effort to protect the Great Lakes, due to what Cox called "the Army Corps' dismal record of inaction in confronting Asian carp."
    Cox, a Republican gubernatorial candidate said, "President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers have failed to fight Asian carp aggressively. Asian carp will kill jobs and ruin our way of life. We cannot afford more bureaucratic delays -- emergency action must be taken to protect the Great Lakes." The lawsuit is supported by affidavits from experts at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE) and Wayne State University, and includes a motion for preliminary injunction seeking immediate action to address the threat that Asian carp will enter Lake Michigan. Cox indicated in a release that the imminence of this threat was made clear by the recent capture of a live bighead carp in Lake Calumet, six miles from Lake Michigan and beyond any barriers.
    The release indicates that the lawsuit is based on: (1) Public Nuisance: By failing to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, the Corps allows grave and likely irreparable harm to the aquatic resources of the Great Lakes and the shared public rights to them; and (2) The Administrative Procedures Act: The Federal Administrative Procedures Act allows legal challenges to Federal agency decisions that are arbitrary or unlawful.
    In the lawsuit, Cox points to the Army Corps' recent failures to implement commonsense emergency actions to stop Asian carp, and the Administration's denial of the request by Ohio for a new Carp Summit, even after the recent discovery of Asian carp in Lake Calumet. Cox indicated that, "Despite mounting evidence over the last several months that Asian carp are present in Chicago waterways, the Army Corps has refused to temporarily close the O'Brien and Chicago Locks, failed to apply fish poison in every location that tested positive for Asian carp eDNA, failed to comprehensively address all pathways linking Lake Michigan with carp-infested Illinois waterways, and failed to sufficiently accelerate the evaluation of a permanent separation of the Great Lakes Basin from the carp-infested Chicago Area Waterway System."

    The lawsuit calls for the Corps to use all available efforts to block Asian carp passage in the waterways linked to Lake Michigan, including: Use block nets, other physical barriers and fish poison at strategic locations to block or kill Asian carp that have already swam through the O'Brien lock, dangerously close to Lake Michigan; Install and maintain block nets and other physical barriers in the Little Calumet River, where no barrier of any kind currently exists; Temporarily close the O'Brien and Chicago Locks, except as needed to protect public health and safety; Temporarily close sluice gates at the O'Brien Lock, the Chicago River Controlling Works, and the Wilmette Pumping Station, except as needed to protect public health and safety; Install and maintain screens on all sluice gates mentioned above to reduce the risk of fish passage when gates are open; and Accelerate efforts to complete a feasibility study of a permanent hydrological separation of the Great Lakes Basin from the Mississippi River within the next 18 months, with reports at six and 12 months.
    According to the release from Cox, "The lawsuit makes clear that all of the requested action would be subject to exceptions to prevent flooding, allow access for emergency responders, and any other action necessary to prevent serious threats to public health and safety." Earlier this year, Cox petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene to address the threat of Asian carp. The Supreme Court declined the take up the case, but did not rule on the merits of the legal claims by Michigan and other Great Lakes states.
    A group known as Un-Lock Our Jobs issued a release saying the lawsuit would "force short-term, costly and ineffective solutions to the prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan." The group said it is an organization working towards a "comprehensive solution to stop the spread of Asian carp, while leaving the Chicago locks open to commerce." Speaking on behalf of the group, Mark Biel, executive director of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois said, "This is yet another example of the political grandstanding that is counterproductive to this debate. The Army Corps already stated lock closure will not lower chances of Asian carp entering Lake Michigan; it absolutely devastates waterway commerce and does nothing to help the situation. Furthermore, the demands for additional barriers are completely gratuitous -- plans for an additional electric barrier are already in motion. Why is it necessary to sue unless these politicians are focused primarily on getting their names in headlines?"
    Un-Lock Our Jobs indicates that it was founded to protect the uninterrupted operation of the "Avenue of the America's" -- the essential waterway connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River corridor. A project of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, Un-Lock Our Jobs is a coalition of agriculture, business, labor, river communities, and concerned citizens working towards a comprehensive solution to stop the spread of Asian Carp, while leaving the Chicago locks open to commerce.
    Access a release from AG Cox (click here). Access a release from Un-Lock Our Jobs (click here). Access the Un-Lock Our Jobs website for more information (click here).