Thursday, January 13, 2011

New MI Attorney General Continues Asian Carp Legal Actions

Jan 13: Michigan's new Attorney General Bill Schuette announced he will renew and continue efforts to protect Michigan's environment and economy by continuing Michigan's lawsuit initiated by former Attorney General Mike Cox that is aimed at stopping the march of Asian carp into the Great Lakes. Schuette was joined by the Office of the Great Lakes Director Patty Birkholz and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC). Schuette said, "Standing by and letting Asian carp invade the Great Lakes would be an unprecedented ecological and economic disaster. We must defend Michigan's unique environment and fight to keep Michigan jobs." 

    Schuette indicated that he met with leaders of Michigan's environmental and sportsmen's communities this week to form a united front in the fight to block Asian carp. These groups included MUCC, Trout Unlimited, Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen's Association, National Wildlife Federation, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Nature Conservancy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Birkholz said, "The imminent invasion by Asian carp through the Chicago area waterways is one of the most significant threats ever to the Great Lakes. As a state, we must join with others and take all necessary actions to stop the invasion. The Office of the Great Lakes and others in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment stand ready to help any way possible."

    Schuette's suit calls for both long-term and immediate actions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Schuette is asking the Court to force the Army Corps of Engineers to shorten their planning to create a permanent ecological barrier between the Mississippi and Great Lakes from five years to 18 months. This is vital to stopping not only the flow of invasive species into the Great Lakes, but to stop their movement down into the Mississippi basin.
    While the study is being completed, Schuette is asking for increased activity in a number of areas to stop the Asian carps' advance, including: Operating locks in a way that limits the movement of the fish; Installing other interim physical barriers to fish passage; Increased monitoring for evidence of the fish beyond current electrical barriers using the best available techniques, including environmental DNA (eDNA)testing; and Targeted poisoning and netting in Chicago-area waterways. 

    The repeated discovery of Asian carp eDNA beyond electrical barriers in Chicago, in addition to the discovery of a live carp beyond the barrier, brought together a coalition of five Great Lakes states in the suit, with Michigan being joined by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania on July 19, 2010. The most recent district court action on the case occurred on January 7, 2011 in which the Court considered plans to schedule the ongoing suit.In addition, Michigan has filed an appeal of a December 2, 2010 ruling that denied Michigan's motion for a preliminary injunction that would put immediate remedies in place, such as closing locks and increasing monitoring, as the underlying case goes forward. Michigan's brief supporting its request for the preliminary injunction is due to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit by January 26, 2011.
    Access a release from the MI Attorney General (click here).

EPA Announces Upcoming GLRI Funding Opportunity

Jan 12: By the end of January, 2011, U.S. EPA expects to release a competitive announcement (Request For Applications,  or RFA) requesting the submission of grant applications for approximately $40 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding. The amount of funding for the RFA is contingent on the availability of appropriations. Full applications will be due approximately 45 days after release of the announcement. EPA notes that at this time it does not expect to issue any other GLRI funding announcements in Fiscal Year 2011.

    Elements of the RFA are expected to have numerous benefits, including: Increase in on-the-ground/in-the-water action; Prioritize restoration of Beneficial Uses and Areas of Concern; Reduce duplication of effort by applicants; Allow projects to begin this field season; and Simplify the funding request and the submission process.

    Funding under the RFA will support work under four of the five Focus Areas of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan.
Applications for GLRI funding for Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration in FY 2011, which is the focus area not in the RFA, must be made through other Federal agencies and opportunities, such as Sustain Our Great Lakes -- for which the deadline for submissions is February 14, 2011.
    Access an announcement from EPA with complete links to related information (click here). Access the GLRI website for more information and background (click here).

World's First Freshwater Wind Farm Slated For Lake Erie

Jan 7: In his last official act as governor, Ohio's outgoing Governor Ted Strickland signed an Option-to-Lease contract between the State of Ohio and the Lake Erie Energy Development Company (LEEDCo), a major step toward the construction of the world's first freshwater wind farm in Lake Erie.  The contract further positions Cleveland and the State of Ohio as a global leader in advanced energy industry job creation and in the production and distribution of renewable energy.
    The agreement between the State of Ohio, the Lake Erie Energy Development Company (LEEDCo), and Freshwater Wind I, LLC, was signed, on behalf of the State by, Governor Strickland, Attorney General Richard Cordray, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sean Logan. The legally binding contract gives LEEDCo and Freshwater Wind the exclusive right to pursue a submerged lands lease for a designated area in Ohio's portion of Lake Erie. If performance metrics are met within the timeline established in the contract, Ohio will be home to the first freshwater wind farm in the world.
    The area covered by the Option-to-Lease agreement consists of nine grid cells totaling approximately 5,706 acres and is located approximately six miles due north of the city of Lakewood (Lakewood Park area). Ohio's first option to lease Lake Erie submerged lands for production of wind generated electricity allows a pilot project to explore the potential of offshore wind in Lake Erie.  LEEDCo and Freshwater Wind expect to install five wind turbines at the proposed site beginning late 2012 in an initial project expected to produce approximately 20 megawatts of electric generating capacity. According to estimates by NorTech, the initial project is estimated to create and sustain more than 600 jobs.
    Access a release from Governor Strickland with more details (click here). Access the LEEDCo website for more information (click here). Access the Freshwater Wind, LLC website for more information (click here).