Tuesday, August 16, 2011

NY Law Will Comply With Compact On Water Withdrawal

Aug 15: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he will sign a new law to protect New York's waters and the Great Lakes by requiring a state permit for the withdrawal of large volumes of water from the state's rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater. Significantly, the law will enable the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to comply with commitments under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Compact) by regulating all significant water withdrawals occurring in the New York portion of the Great Lakes Basin. The law also directs DEC to establish an effective water conservation and efficiency program, which is another key responsibility of states under the Compact. The legislation (A5318-2011 S3455-2011) also increases penalties to deter violations that threaten the quality and quantity of the State's water resources.  

    The new law is designed to foster responsible conservation practices and economic growth while protecting water bodies and wildlife habitats. The permitting process will ensure a continued water supply to existing municipal, agricultural and industrial users, and will help identify areas that could support new water-dependent businesses. The law requires approval before operating or proposing a system with the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons or more per day of surface and groundwater.

    Access a release from the Governor (click here). Access additional information (click here).

Lake Erie Watersnake Removed From Endangered & Threatened List

Aug 15: Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or the Service) removed the Lake Erie watersnake, a harmless species found on offshore islands in western Lake Erie in Ohio and Ontario, from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The snake becomes the 23rd species to be delisted due to recovery. DOI indicated in a release that under the Endangered Species Act, the Service has worked to successfully stabilize our nation's most imperiled species in part by fostering partnerships, employing scientific excellence, and developing a workforce of conservation leaders who promote conservation programs that help species recovery.

    Salazar said, "Today the Lake Erie watersnake joins species such as the bald eagle, the American alligator, and the peregrine falcon that have rebounded from the threat of extinction and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act. These species — and the hundreds of others whose extinction has been prevented by the Act -- are living testimonies to its ability to bring species back from the brink by protecting them and conserving and restoring their habitat." The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on August 16, 2011, and become effective on September 15, 2011.

    The Service listed the Lake Erie watersnake as a threatened species in 1999. Threats to the species included intentional killing and loss of its shoreline habitat on Lake Erie to development. In 2003, the Service finalized a recovery plan that called for protecting habitat and providing outreach to reduce threats to the species. In cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife (ODNR) and other partners, biologists worked to minimize and reduce the threats to the snake by sustaining and protecting summer and hibernation habitat and ensuring the permanent protection of shoreline habitat.

    Recovery criteria include a combined population of at least 5,555 snakes on the U.S. islands, sustained for six years, and protection of key habitat. Through continued habitat protection and public education, the Lake Erie watersnake population grew to about 11,980 in 2009, and has exceeded the minimum recovery level since 2002. About 300 acres of inland habitat and 11 miles of shoreline have been protected for the snake since it was listed. The Act requires that a species be monitored for a minimum of 5 years after delisting to ensure that the species remains stable after its protections are removed. The Service and the ODNR have developed a post-delisting monitoring plan to verify that the species remains secure from risk of extinction after the protections of the Act no longer apply. Lake Erie watersnakes remain listed as endangered by the state of Ohio so killing them is still illegal under state law.

    Access a release from DOI and link to a fact sheet, a prepublication copy of the final rule and other information about the Lake Erie watersnake and the ESA (click here).