Thursday, January 12, 2012

Comments Wanted On Draft Oceans & Great Lakes Action Plan

Jan 12: The Obama Administration released a National Ocean Policy action plan to address the most pressing challenges facing ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. The draft requests comments on actions the Federal Government will take to improve the health of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes, which support tens of millions of jobs, contribute trillions of dollars a year to the national economy, and are essential to public health and national security. The plan, is available for public comment through February 27.

    The draft action plan will ensure the Federal Government targets its resources to more effectively and efficiently deliver results for Americans, including greater predictability for ocean users and better access to the latest science and information related to ocean health. The actions reflect ideas and input from industry, conservation groups, local officials, the public and other stakeholders who provided critical feedback to the National Ocean Council through two public comment periods and 12 regional listening sessions.

    Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and Co-Chair of the National Ocean Council said, "When President Obama created the National Ocean Policy, he marked a landmark step toward addressing the challenges that face the health of our ocean and coasts, and the economies they support. This action plan will help focus our resources on actions that will enhance the stewardship of coastal and marine resources on which so many communities, small businesses, and American jobs depend." John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Co-Chair of the National Ocean Council said, "This plan reflects a number of overarching priorities of the Obama Administration -- including a commitment to scientific data as an important basis for decision-making and a commitment to transparency and openness as we ensure that the interests of all stakeholders, from recreational beach-goers to fishermen and farmers, are taken into account."  

    Ocean and coastal resources are under pressure from growing and often competing uses, such as national security, recreation, shipping, energy production, and commercial fishing, as well as from pollution, resource extraction, and climate change. The draft Implementation Plan focuses on public-private partnerships, promoting efficiency and collaboration across sectors, managing resources with an integrated approach, and making available and using the best science and information on ocean health. The plan outlines key milestones, identifies responsible Federal agencies, and indicates the expected timeframe for completion of Implementation Plan actions including:
  • Streamlining ocean and coastal permitting processes, beginning with aquaculture
    • Agencies will collaborate to develop efficient, coordinated permitting processes that will save time and money for ocean industries, encourage economic growth, and protect public health, safety, and the environment.
  • Improving water quality
    • Agencies will identify and implement conservation and best management practices, and promote voluntary partnership programs with stakeholders to reduce rural and urban sources of pollution.
  • Providing climate-change forecasts and vulnerability assessments for coastal communities
    • Federal agencies will improve the quality and accessibility of science and information to enable Federal, State and local decision-makers to reduce the risks of sea level rise and other climate change impacts, and make informed investments in infrastructure, public health and economic development.
  • Improving environmental response management in the Arctic
    • As melting sea ice enables increased access for shipping, tourism and oil and gas development, Federal agencies will work with State, local and international partners to develop coordinated response procedures for oil spills, marine accidents or other incidents to protect people, communities and ecosystems from adverse impacts.

    The plan also makes it a priority to: Provide scientific information to support emerging sustainable uses of resources including fisheries, renewable energy, aquaculture, and biotechnology; Provide open access to data and information across the Federal Government for state and local decision-makers, ocean users, stakeholders, and the public; Identify and make available grant and partnership opportunities to support regional priorities; Develop methods and standards for assessing the resilience of natural resources, cultural resources, coastal communities, and infrastructure in a changing climate; and Identify and conserve habitat for priority fish species.

    Access a release on the draft Plan (click here). Access the draft Implementation website to access the plan, provide comments, and information on previous comments (click here). Access the White House Oceans website (click here).


Lake Erie & Tributaries Suitable Habitat For Invasive Carps

Jan 12: A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study indicates that Lake Erie and its largest tributaries are suitable habitats for invasive Asian carps to reproduce and mature. The USGS study found that the Maumee, Sandusky, and Grand rivers are hospitable environments for Asian carps, potentially allowing the invasive fish to establish a self-sustaining population in western Lake Erie. Currently, Federal agencies are working in partnership with Great Lakes States to implement a series of measures to prevent Asian carps from entering the Great Lakes Basin and possibly damaging native fish populations and the Great Lakes economy. This USGS research effort, coupled with previously published research on Asian carp food availability in western Lake Erie, is the first to demonstrate the potential for Asian carps to successfully reproduce within the Great Lakes Basin. The USGS study, published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research
    USGS director Marcia McNutt said, "While the finding of a hospitable environment is not the scientific outcome we and our partners might have hoped for, the clear implication is that conditions exist which could allow for the establishment of breeding populations of Asian carps in Lake Erie. Experience has shown that if they do, the native fish, and the economy that depends on them, could suffer gravely."

    To determine if these and other species of Asian carp can potentially mature in Lake Erie and if river conditions are favorable for them to spawn, the USGS researchers studied water temperatures in the lake and water velocity during flood events in eight major tributaries over the past 20 years. The new study found that the Maumee River, which enters western Lake Erie at Toledo, is highly suitable for Asian carps to mature and spawn, and the Sandusky River, which enters western Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio, and the Grand River, which enters central Lake Erie at Fairport Harbor, are moderately suitable.

    Federal and state agencies and other partners are undertaking aggressive tracking and monitoring of the invasive species, have installed electric barriers in the Chicago Area Waterways System to keep Asian carp from moving toward Lake Michigan, and constructed a 1,500-foot fence to block advancement of Asian carp from the Wabash River to the Maumee and Lake Erie.

    Access a release from USGS (click here). Access an abstract and information on obtaining the complete paper (click here).