Sunday, February 28, 2010

Asian Carp Roundup

The past week was a big week for the Great Lakes in terms of lobbying in Washington and for news on the asian carp. For the first time environmentalists and shipping industry representatives agreed that permanently separating the Chicago River would be feasible. The idea was that if the river was separated upstream from the locks, then shippers would still have access to the Chicago ports. The statement was said at an asian carp hearing before the Senate's Subcommittee on Water and Power.

Next week the Army Corps of Engineers will release their modified lock operation plan for the asian carp.

Water and Power Subcommittee Hearing

Saturday, February 27, 2010

EPA Rates Boundary Waters Mine Proposal as "Environmentally Unsatisfactory"

The EPA has rated the proposed Boundary Waters mine as "environmentally unsatisfactory" and also said that the impact statement was "inadequate."

Star Tribune Story:
PolyMet Mine Can't Proceed as Proposed

New Report Puts Pressure on Obama to Regulate Coal Ash Waste Sites

The Environmental Integrity Project released a report this week finding that many coal ash waste sites across the country are emitting harmful toxins into groundwater that is exceeding federal limits on drinking water standards. There are no current federal laws against coal ash or combustion wastes. The report found that many of these unregulated waste sites contained levels of arsenic as high as 145 times the legal limit as well as other dangerous toxins such as sulfates, boron, and selenium.

The report found that the Consumers Energy Karn/Weadock coal ash waste site in Saginaw Michigan had concentrations of boron and arsenic in the groundwater near the site 99 times over the legal limit. They also found that the landfills are a major contributor to arsenic in the Saginaw Bay area.

The report comes at a critical time for Michigan as there are all kinds of plans for new coal plants including the contested proposed coal plants in Bay City and Rogers City. This comes after a recent study by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) found that Consumers Energy will not need any additional energy capacity until 2020. Environmentalists have been advocating for increased efficiency, renewable energy, and gas generated energy plants.

The Rogers City plant has been particularly controversial as the coals ash would be several thousand feet from Lake Huron. The other concern is that the geography in the area is full of sinkholes and karst formations which are cracked limestones formations that get filled with underground voids or underground streams. Critics of the plant fear that the toxic chemicals would leach into the groundwater and pollute Lake Huron. Officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE) have drilled at the site and determined that the site is solid and safe for coal ash disposal.

At a recent public meeting most of the local residents were in favor of the local plant since it would bring desperately needed jobs. On the other side if something was to go wrong than it could be an expensive mess for taxpayers and export pollution to other communities. The state has yet to grant the final permits for the plant.

Critics of the recently approved Bay City power plant say the fight is far from over. They are also attacking the plan of toxic coal ash disposal. One group that owns stock in Consumers Energy is asking the company to better explain the plan to dispose of the millions of tons of toxic coal ash, while other groups are trying to persuade the MPSC to not grant consumers Energy their final certificate of need which is the final permit required before construction can begin.

Environmental Integrity Report:
Out of Control: Mounting Damages From Coal Ash Waste Sites

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Asian Carp Supreme Court Case Delayed

An extension has been granted in the U.S. Supreme court case for Illinois' legal response to the case. While this is a normal legal filing it drags out the deadline until March 22. There is a sense of urgency in the asian carp case, according to Wayne State Law professor Noah Hall's blog "this increases the risk that asian carp will get into the Great Lakes before the court can even decide to take the case."

Michigan Senate holds hearing on Asian carp; briefing in Supreme Court case delayed

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More Spring Flooding and Summer Drought for Great Lakes Region

A new climate model run by Purdue researchers shows that Great Lakes states could see up to 28 percent more precipitation by 2070. Much of that increase would be seen in the winter and spring and would likely lead to increased flooding. The model shows that though it may rain more overall, the summer and fall seasons will be drier This is troubling in that it could really have an adverse effect on agriculture by disrupting the planting season, while summer and fall droughts would also negatively impact crops and intensify water concerns.

Another serious issue is water quality. The increased heavy wet weather events could wreak havoc on local waterways from combined sewer overflows (CSOs). CSO's happen when rainwater overwhelms local sewer capacity and rainwater and sanitary waste overflows onto the waterways. Last year was the worst year in awhile with 37.2 billion gallons of CSOs in the Metro Detroit area. While those numbers are bad, there is an increased focus by municipalities on green infrastructure which looks at ways to redirect and filter rainwater naturally rather than having it go into the sewer systems.

The model was based off of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that gave predictions from 1950-2099. The model assumes warmer winters ranging between 2.7 and 5.4 degrees, and warmer summers ranging from 3.6 and 10.8 degrees. The projections were put into the Variable Infiltration Capacity Model which simulates rain patterns in land environments.

One of the recommendations is that though there won't be a shortage of water, ways to store excess water may need to be found. Some municipalities such as Rochester Hills, MI are already considering measures such as this. Though it is less of a response to global warming than it is towards using the reservoir for lawn irrigation so they can avoid peak water rates from the City of Detroit. Still though, it is the same principle, and the infrastructure will be useful for the future.

The report is published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research:

Hydrologic impacts of projected future climate change in the Lake Michigan region

Science Daily
Projection Shows Water Woes Likely Based on Warmer Temperatures

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kennecott Fiasco is Playing Out in Minnesota's Boundary Waters

Will the same Kennecott fiasco be allowed to play out in Minnesota's boundary waters?

The Detroit News ran a good story today summarizing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) 11th hour giveaway to Kennecott, effectively selling out native americans rights and the idea that we are public stewards. The controversy arose out of the fact that that the proposed sulfide mine was located at Eagle Rock which is sacred to the Anishnabe people. What was weird was how sudden the permit was granted. A week before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) was merged into the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE), they ruled that the Anishnabe people's contention that Eagle Rock was a sacred place of worship could not be recognized by the state of Michigan. The MDEQ's reasoning was that the sacred Eagle Rock is not a place of worship, only buildings can be recognized as places of worship.

The Kennecott Eagle Project is scheduled to begin as early as this spring. Critics say that new mining laws known as Part 632 were not enforced and that a bad precedent has been set.

Now it seems that the floodgates have been opened for risky sulfide mining throughout the Lake Superior region. Sulfide mining is risky because when sulfide ore or the tailings are exposed to air and water it produces sulfuric acid and create havoc in an environment. It can lead to long-term consequences especially if the company goes bankrupt, then taxpayers get stuck with the bill.

Now new sulfide mines are being proposed in Minnesota's Boundary Waters. The proposed mine would be located in the geographic area known as the Duluth complex just south of the boundary waters. The Canadian company Polymet mining have proposed an adjacent open pit sulfide mine that would be located between Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt Minnesota on land in the Superior National Forest. Any contamination from the mine would go the St. Louis River that flows into Lake Superior.

Another mining company Franconia minerals is proposing another mine about 30 miles to the northeast right next to Birch Lake which is part of the boundary waters watershed.

On a personal note, I have enjoyed the epic splendor that is the boundary waters. We traveled 60 miles in a week. Canoeing and portaging from lake to lake. It is a place where you can go days without seeing anybody and the forest gets so thick in some places that you are literally walking on forest debris that is about 10 feet off of the ground. We had water purifiers but after awhile we just drank water straight from the lake with no ill consequences. Minnesota needs to be public stewards of their land for their own sake and for Canada's sake since the Boundary Waters go up into Canada.

Boundary Waters Mining Video

Precious Waters website against Minnesota Sulfide Mining

Links to the Kennecott ordeal:

Controversial Kennecott mine permits OK’d at 11th hour

Save The Wild UP

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Carpageddon" in Ypsilanti

It was yet another contentious asian carp meeting in Ypsilanti on Wednesday. There were busloads of shipping advocates from the Chicago passenger ferry industry and shipping industry. Their message was clear: any temporary or permanent closure of the locks would be in the words of a spokesperson for Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), "Absolutely devastating." The other messages that were hammered home was that the eDNA method by Notre Dame researchers was unproven and unreliable and that the locks are not water tight. Many also voiced concern that they did not have any industry representation involved n the process of developing a solution.

Almost the entire question session was dominated by shipping advocates. At one point an audience member yelled from the crowd "These are not technical questions, this is lobbying." Shortly after that outburst tensions remained high as a shipping advocate accused The Nature Conservancy's Lindsay Chadderton (who was representing the eDNA science) of laughing at him. "Your laughing, I'm just a common man," he then went on to ask how accurate the eDNA was percentage wise, when that answer couldn't be given the man retorted "so I'm supposed to take your word for it that it actually works?" Earlier on in Chadderton's presentation he explained how there was peer review of the science but that nothing has been published yet since everything is happening so fast. In last weeks Chicago carp meeting officials said peer reviews should be published by June.

Shipping industry advocates continued to dominate the first half of the public comment period giving the feeling that there was only one dominate viewpoint to the large group of assembled people. That changed in the second half of the public comment period as more environmentalists that advocated ecological separation began to get out their message. All in all I counted 23 comments for the shipping industry and 21 viewpoints for ecological separation of the locks and for more aggressive measures to be taken.

There was also a presence of charter boat captains that depend on the fishery that were concerned about their jobs but they were far less organized than shipping advocates.

Much of the environmentalist perspective focused on ecological separation, and the failures of the federal government in dealing with invasive species in the past. It was pointed out that the electric barrier was originally installed to stop the round goby from getting into the Mississippi watershed and ultimately failed to do so. One man with the Ohio Great Lakes Fishery Commission criticized the feds saying that they "Don't do anything until you can prove it's a problem." Other concerns pleaded that this is the chance to finally get it right and separate the invasive species pathway for good. It was pointed out that several other invasive species are in danger of using the pathway to get in the Great Lakes and vice versa.

The only two politicians that actually showed up to the meeting were Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Dingell said the "Very best thing we can do, is close the locks." Stabenow echoed that sentiment and urged a quicker emergency response to the situation.

The award of best new word of the day has to go to Port Huron's Judy Ogden for "carpageddon."

One man had a copy of former Muskegon Chronicle reporter Jeff Alexander's book Pandora's Locks that he said everyone should read to learn more. I agree. It is an excellent book that explains in a measured non biased way of how we are where we are with invasive species. It is a long complicated story that Alexander has referred to in interviews as a "slow motion wildfire."

Jeff Alexander's Website

Great Lakes Echo Interview with Jeff Alexander about Pandora's Locks

What actions have been taken recently?

According to Charlie Wooley who is Midwest Deputy Regional Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, they have 2 weeks access to a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to get biologists out to where they need to be to look for asian carp. They have 3 more additional boats out gill netting and electrofishing. They are focusing on warm water areas since the asian carp prefer warmer water. Commercial fishing boats are even helping out looking for asian carp.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Free Class Shows How To Help Prevent CSOs By Starting a Rain Garden

The Southeastern Oakland County Water Authority (SOCWA) is holding the second of two free classes this Thursday on "Greenscaping Your Home Landscape: Sustainable Landscapes with Native Plants, Mulch, and Rainwater Recycling."

The program shows the best ways to start a rain garden. A rain garden is a depression in the landscape that absorbs rainwater that would otherwise go into the sewers. Too much rainwater in the sewers can lead to combined sewer overflows (CSOs) where the sewer capacity gets overwhelmed and releases sewage into the local waterways.

Rain gardens are one way that anyone can use green infrastructure in preventing CSOs from happening while simultaneously beautifying their yard.

The class goes from 6:30-8:30 pm on Thursday, February 18 at:
Bloomfield Township Library
1099 Lone Pine road, Bloomfield Hills
Registration is required

The SOCWA website has plenty of guides and tips for getting a rain garden started

Monday, February 15, 2010

As Canada Seeks Asian Tar Sands Investors, Marathon Moves Ahead With Detroit Refinery Expansion

As more American and Canadian firms turn away from Alberta's tar sands, Canada is courting Asian investors. The Canadian government recently approved a deal with the Chinese oil company PetroChina for a $1.9 billion majority share in two tar sands projects in the Mackay River and Dover areas. Canadian Prime minister Stephen Harper said to expect more energy investment from China.

The shift to Asian investment in the tar sands comes at a time of strong opposition to the energy intensive project. Major oil companies such as Shell have backed off their plans for expansion in the tar sands amidst a recent revolt by shareholders. The tar sands are controversial because producing one barrel of oil produces three times the amount of greenhouse gases than by conventional means.

The tar sands were booming when gas prices were high, but as gas prices fell so did tar sands production and plans to expand refineries. In October of 2008, environmentalists sounded the alarm that these refinery expansions would effectively export tar sands pollution to the Great Lakes region. These refinery expansions included the heavily industrial area of southwest Detroit. Marathon Oil announced that they were going to implement a $2.2 billion Heavy Oil Upgrade Project (HOUP). This expansion was abandoned in February 2009, due to poor market conditions. On February 3rd of this year Marathon Petroleum Company has announced that they will be going forward with the project.

Ironically enough, the project announcement came on the same day that The Detroit News did extensive coverage of a grassroots effort by residents of southwest Detroit to put a moratorium on industrial expansion which would stop the asphalt company Great Lakes Petroleum from opening up shop. Southwest Detroit residents of the 48217 ZIP code have the highest levels of fine particle pollution in the state.

In September of 2009, southwest Detroit residents used the EPA approved bucket brigade tool to test the air for dangerous pollutants. The bucket brigade tool is an easy to operate air sampler that is housed in a five gallon bucket. With the help of the grassroots organization Global Community Monitor, they found high levels of the hazardous substances Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and toluene.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment are doing air samplings and monitoring residents' results. The report should be finished in a few weeks.

Here are some related articles:

Canada looks to China to exploit oil sands rejected by US

Report: How the Oil Sands Got To The Great Lakes Basin

Marathon Petroleum's Detroit Refinery to Build Heavy Oil Upgrade Project

The Detroit News article: Southwest Detroit residents want industrial development halted in neighborhood

Bucket Brigade collects air sample, discovers high level of toxic chemicals

HOUP: Detroit Heavy Oil Upgrade Project

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Raucous Chicago Asian Carp Meeting Shows Little Promise for the Lakes

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee held their Chicago public meeting before a packed house on Friday afternoon. This was the first of two public meetings discussing the $78.5 million federal plan of action.

The plan called for using the locks less, aggressive treatments of the fish killer rotenone in places where the asian carp is detected, more electric barriers, flood barriers, and lots of studies and research in locating and biologically and chemically controlling the asian carp.

Most of the people at the emotionally charged meeting worked in the shipping or tourism industry along the Chicago locks. Their message was clear: they didn’t want any permanent or temporary closing of the locks of any kind, saying that it would drive them out of business.

There were a few patterns of attack by opponents of lock closure. The method of eDNA was attacked repeatedly throughout the meeting. One employee for Chicago Water Taxi said that he threw out a hairbrush recently so his DNA is in a landfill that he never visited. It is true that independent peer review of eDNA has not been completed yet. It should be finished around June, but in the meantime officials are taking any eDNA results seriously.

Another commonly echoed sentiment was that there was not yet sufficient proof that the asian carp could even live in the Great Lakes. People pointed out that random asian carp have been found in Lake Erie over the years and there has never been evidence of a sustainable population. The truth is it is not known for sure what will happen if the asian carp get into Lake Michigan. The common consensus among experts seems to be that it is not a chance worth taking.

Environmentalists hammered away at the same message that the only way to truly stop the asian carp was ecological separation. The people in favor of closing the locks were definitely in the minority at the meeting. Anytime ecological separation was mentioned there was only isolated clapping.

Meanwhile the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still standing behind their electric barriers. The second barrier should be up and running by October of this year, and they have plans for a 3rd electric barrier. One commenter that was in favor of closing the locks raised the point that the reason the first electric barrier was originally built, was to keep the round goby out of the Mississippi watershed and that it ultimately failed to do so.

Despite the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ preference for electric barriers, the time period does not seem reasonable. Even though in the recent plan they have $13 million to expedite the second barrier, it still won’t be fully operational until October. While they may plan to build another electric barrier, Rebecca Humphries Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment pointed out that it has taken six years to build the second barrier and it is still not fully operational.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ruled out closing the locks as a short-term solution, they are basically relying on using the locks less based on these four scenarios:

“Alternative 1 – No action; Chicago and O’Brian Locks operate as normal

Alternative 2 – Modified Structural Operations – Close each week; Chicago and O’Brian Locks open 3-4 days every week, a significant reduction from current ‘show and go’ operations. Checking potential to place screens on the sluice gates and the lock gates during periods of closure.

Alternative 3 – Modified Structural Operations – Close one week / month; Chicago and O’Brian Locks closed to navigation one week per month starting in April 2010.

Alternative 4 – Modified Structural Operations – Close every other week; Chicago and O’Brian Locks closed to navigation two weeks per month starting in April 2010.”

Along with the USGS they plan to tag asian carp to see if they can get past the electric barrier. Other measures are very focused on studies and reports about eDNA and monitoring as well as the assumption that some new technological innovation or biological control will be discovered quickly enough to somehow stop the asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes while simultaneously keeping the locks open indefinitely.

The federal asian carp plan doesn’t seem to have any reasonable timeline. It seems that the plan is geared towards dealing with the asian carp after they have invaded Lake Michigan. There are no quick snappy actions other than the willingness to throw a lot of money at the problem.

Here are some good stories on the event:

Dan Egan Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Asian carp proposal isn't pleasing many

John Flesher
Environmentalists want stronger carp control plan

This is the federal asian carp plan
Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework

Friday, February 12, 2010

Large Companies are not Adequately Reporting Water Risks to Investors

A recent report by Ceres (Pronounced series) finds that many large companies fail to report vulnerabilities of water scarcity to investors. The report ranked 100 publicly traded companies on their disclosure of water risks to investors. As local water issues in the U.S. and abroad intensify, there is a serious threat to companies that their supply-chain could be adversely effected in water-stressed areas. These realities are not being addressed in reports to investors. Many companies are operating as if water is an infinite resource.

The report took companies from eight sectors: beverage, chemicals, electric power, food, homebuilding, mining, oil, and gas. These are all industries that are heavy water users. The selection of the 100 companies from these eight sectors were selected based on their 2008 revenues. The companies were systematically ranked based on voluntary and mandatory reporting.

The findings were based on a 100 point scale and the results are surprisingly low. The highest score of 43 was for the UK based beverage company Diageo. The highest average score by industry was the mining industry, while the lowest average scores went to companies in the homebuilding sectors.

This report shows how undervalued our natural resources are. It shows the old way of valuing our natural resources as a limitless bounty for the taking. This report shows a growing trend of viewing natural resources in a finite and more realistic sense. This was mainly an issue for environmentalists for years, but as water issues become more transparent and in the mainstream, investors have been the one sounding the alarm. Recently, shareholders for Shell oil showed their dismay against the energy intensive tar sands in Alberta Canada. Despite denials by Shell that this investor unrest led to them scaling back tar sands operations, the company curiously announced a week later that it was indeed scaling back expansion of the tar sands.

While it is easy for large corporations to dismiss environmentalists, investor revolts and demands over eco-accountability cannot be ignored.

Ceres Report summary

Ceres Water Report:
Murky Waters? Corporate Reporting on Water Risk

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Excerpts and Ideas from Tuesday's Congressional Carp Hearing

On Tuesday the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a Congressional hearing on the asian carp. This came the day after federal officials released their Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework that details plans and funding details of how the asian carp will be dealt with.

While there were not any huge revelations in the Congressional hearing on Tuesday, there were requests to expand the debate beyond just the asian carp. There were calls to close the shipping locks not just for the asian carp but to protect other invasive species from going to the Great Lakes to the Mississippi watershed.

There were also other calls to finish federal ballast water regulations that were passed in the House of Representatives in April of 2008. The bill has not been taken up in the Senate since. James Oberstar (D-MN) joked that the bill had fallen into a Senate black hole.

The following are brief excerpts and highlights of things that were said by the presenters at the meeting.

Major General John Peabody US Army Corp of Engineers

"Actively exploring all options"

"Any assertions that the barrier system is or has been ineffective in restricting upstream movement of bighead and silver carp are speculative. The facts are that the fish barrier system has been in continuous operation since 2002 and has performed as designed as far as we can tell."

Peabody asserted in his testimony that though environmental DNA of asian carp is an important emerging technology, since it has not been independently peer reviewed the results should be considered preliminary. An external peer review is being done and should be completed by June.

Rebecca Humphries Director of Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment

Humphries pointed out that the annual costs each year for the zebra mussel is $100 million and $30 million for sea lamprey.

"I cannot stress the following in simpler terms: once an invasive species gets established in the lakes, we cannot eradicate it."

"The threat of asian carp must be treated as a crises, and steps must be implemented immediately to address it. As early as 2003, scientists, government officials, and stakeholders were calling for ecological separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi watershed. But we did not act quickly enough, short-term fixes have become long-term projects, for example the installation of the second electric barrier took over six years and is still not fully operational."

Humphries Recommendations:

"Closing and ceasing operation of the O'Brien lock and the Chicago lock until a permanent ecological barrier is constructed between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed. The Army Corps of Engineers must have the authority to close the locks on the emergency basis, and also a permanent basis if necessary."

We must initiate studies to seek out alternative ways to move cargo past the locks

"We must install interim barriers at other locations this year. Including barriers between the Des Plaines River and the canal and the Indiana harbor and Burns Ditch from the Grand Calumet and Little Calumet rivers to eliminate the potential for flooding between these two watersheds."

Additional studies of the biology and ecology of carp and predictive models of the areas most at risk for carp infestation.

We also will need additional dollars for monitoring based on risk analysis.

Reserve funding for rapid chemical response as needed.

We will need to operate the barriers at full voltage.

Being proactive with the citizens, so they do not unknowingly transport the species.

Matt Frank Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

"We may not have much time."

"We need to get the second barrier up." It should be up and running this year (Later on in the Q & A, Gen. Peabody said the second barrier would be fully operational by October).

We need to look at ecological separation.

"We need to move faster"

Frank also brought up the issue of ballast water and how it was passed in the House overwhelmingly but not the Senate. Frank urged the committee's oversight to move on the issue. We need to get strong federal standards on this issue that goes beyond the International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards.

"We need to move from talk to action"

David Lodge Director for the Center for Aquatic Conservation and professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame:

On how close the carp are:

"Silver carp are not only at the doorstep of the lake up at Wilmette and northern Chicago but in fact appear to be in Lake Michigan or at least in Calumet harbor opening to Lake Michigan."

Bighead carp are not yet detected in the lake.

"It's a numbers game, and if the goal is to prevent invasions in Lake Michigan, then the proximate management goal has to be to prevent additional individual fish of either species from entering Lake Michigan. It is not inevitable that an invasion by either one of these fishes will occur and our most recent results, finding Silver Carp in the lake make it even more urgent that steps are taken to prevent additional fishes from entering the lake."

This canal has already been a dangerous pathway for other species such as zebra and quagga mussels for spreading across the country. Other species such as the spiny water flea and water chestnut have also spread via the Chicago canal. New Zealand mud snail and bloody red shrimp may spread from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi system. Other species in the Mississippi system may spread to the Great Lakes via the canal such as the Brazilian waterweed and the northern snakehead.

Dr. Mike Hansen Chair of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission

"The goal must be ecological separation."

Del Wilkins Vice President of Terminal Operations and Business Development of the Canal Barge Company, Inc.

Testifying on behalf of the American Waterways Operators (AWO) National trade association for the tugboat and barge industry

"Inland waterways navigation is essential to our economy, and it is the safest most economical mode of domestic fright transportation with the smallest carbon footprint of any mode."

9 proposed actions by AWO:

1. Expedite the construction of the second electric barrier.

2. Design and implement bubble and acoustic fish barriers.

3. Immediately complete structures to stop carp during flooding.

4. Conduct research to determine the effectiveness of the electric barriers as well as the bubble and acoustic barriers.

5. Employ consistent measures to locate the fish species such as electro-fishing, netting and commercial fishing that do not interfere with the flow of commerce.

6. Fund research on biologic control agents of asian carp.

7. Sampling barges for juvenile carp and their eggs.

8. Impose further restrictions on the importation of asian carp.

9. Conduct more scientific studies on the ability of asian carp to survive in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

The AWO strongly opposes permanently closing the locks or even periodically closing the locks.

Q & A

Major General Peabody stated that the second barrier would be ready in October of this year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering acoustic and bubble barriers.

Discrepancies between Joel Brammeier (President and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes) and Wilkins

Wilkins said that the locks won't be a permanent barrier since they leak. They wouldn't be an ecological barrier.

Brammeier clarified that he was talking about the long-term need to separate the lakes. He cited that the volume of commerce moving through the locks is less than one percent of the total for the Chicago metro area.

What are different pathways that the asian carp could be distributed into the Great Lakes?

What are the potential impacts of asian carp on the Great Lakes?

Lodge responded by saying that the silver and bighead carp are abundant south of the electric barrier so the biggest way that they could get in the lakes is through the electric barrier, especially if it is less than 100 percent effective and flooding occurs where the carp could breach the canal. Lodge said that it makes the most since to focus on the canals for now.

Other ways that the carp could invade the lakes are fishermen using young carp for bait, or the intentional release of the bighead or silver carp. There are some cultural practices that encourage releasing live carp into the lakes.

Nobody knows for certain what the impact would be on the Great Lakes, though it would probably not be a positive impact.

Will it satisfy Michigan that all of the agencies are cooperating together?

Humphries responded by saying: "Is it our goal to biologically, ecologically, and physically separate these watersheds or is it not?"

What are the long-term goals? This will direct how we deal with it short-term.

Here is a link to the asian carp Congressional hearing courtesy of The Great Lakes Town Hall:

Video of Tuesday's Asian Carp hearing

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Details of the New Detroit Sewage Plan

Coming off of one of the worst years for combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in awhile, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) recently released its: "Alternative Rouge River CSO Control Program Executive Summary." This new plan explains the DWSD's alternative to the former Upper Rouge Tunnel project. The new plan is cheaper and takes place over a longer time period of 25-years and also includes green infrastructure measures as well as grey infrastructure measures.

Green infrastructure aims at limiting rainwater from getting into the sewers in the first place. The report recommends the following points that would be implemented by "multiple City agencies and departments, as well as private and non-profit stakeholders. A $50 million budget has been established to fund Green Infrastructure projects from sewer revenues..."

1. Disconnect residential and municipal downspouts.

2. Demolish and remove vacant structures and replace with pervious land cover.

3. Use bioswales and tree trenches along roadways and parking lots to intercept runoff and reduce stormwater inputs.

4. Plant trees for uptake and evapotranspiration along roadways and open spaces.

5. Implement activities on municipally-owned properties, focusing on managing stormwater runoff in underutilized parks.

Grey infrastructure is far more expensive and instead of being preventive like green infrastructure, it focuses on how the rainwater and sanitary waste will be treated before being released into the environment. The grey infrastructure also focuses on eliminating the CSO outfalls altogether. The DWSD plan has the following CSO control projects for grey infrastructure:

1. Complete the Oakwood District Sewer Improvement Program (three construction contracts totaling $59 million).

2. Install remedial improvements at the Baby Creek Screening and Disinfection (S&D) Facility including disinfection feed system renovations, new mechanical mixers, and emergency bypass channel ($3 million).

3. Complete the Total Residual Chlorine Minimization and In-Stream Assessment program for three Rouge River CSO Control Facilities ($1 million).

4. Initiate improvements at the Hubbell-Southfield CSO Basin to maintain the operational effectiveness of that facility ($2 million).

5. Modify two Lower Rouge Outfalls to eliminate existing CSO discharges ($1 million):

• Carbon Outfall elimination
• Fort St. East Outfall diversion to Oakwood Basin

6. Eliminate the Glenhurst Outfall by constructing flow control devices and a new pump station to direct this flow to the Oakwood Northwest Interceptor ($3 million).

7. Construct two new Pilot Projects to demonstrate the effectiveness of First Flush capture tanks in conjunction with disposable nets and innovative upstream disinfection injection systems at both the 7 Mile East and Pembroke outfalls ($41 million).

8. Re-invest in existing CSO control facilities on a phased basis over the 25-year program to ensure their continued structural integrity and operational viability as they approach their design life expectancies ($40 million).

9. Construct a new CSO storage tunnel (URT-2); a 5.5-mile long, 19-foot diameter; 63-MG capacity tunnel to control 14 CSOs between Warren Avenue and McNichols; plus associated drop shafts and outfall modifications, and a 35-mgd pump station to dewater the captured flow to the wastewater treatment plant after the storm event ($484 million).

10. Upgrade the wastewater treatment plant by constructing a new Rouge River Outfall (RRO-2) with the capability to chlorinate and dechlorinate primary effluent to eliminate the existing undisinfected Rouge River Outfall (RRO-1). This project will include improvements at the wastewater treatment plant to provide flow control including gates, regulators, hydraulic structures, and instrumentation and control, plus a new outfall conduit ($130 million).

The total cost for all of these CSO grey infrastructure projects will be $764 million.

The new 25-year plan will create an average yearly debt-load of $33 million a year as opposed to the old plan that had an average debt-load of $190 million per year. The project will be implemented in five different phases over the 25-year period.

Phase I: 2010-2014 = $101M
Oakwood Sewer Segments 2, 3 ($44 M) 2010-2011
Baby Creek Remedial Improvements ($3 M) 2010
7 Mile Pilot Project (FFT & nets, NaOCl) ($17 M) 2012-2014
Pembroke First Flush Tank ($15 M) 2013-2014
Glenhurst Outfall Elimination ($3 M) 2014
Carbon/Fort St. Outfall Elimination ($1 M) 2010
Hubbell-Southfield Re-investment ($2 M) 2011
TRC Minimization & In-Stream Evaluations ($1 M) 2010
Green Infrastructure Phase I ($15 M) 2010-2014

Phase II: 2015-2019 = $218M
Oakwood Sewers Segment 4 ($15 M) 2015-2016
Pembroke Outfall Nets & NaOCl ($9 M) 2017
WWTP Outfall Gates/I&C ($30 M) 2015-2016
Re-investment in Existing Facilities ($10 M) 2015-2020
URT-2 South Tunnel Segment ($139 M) 2017-2020
Green Infrastructure Phase II ($15 M) 2015-2019

Phase III: 2020-2024 = $158M
URT-2 S. Tunnel Drop Shafts & Near Surf ($83 M) 2019-2022
URT-2 35 MGD Pump Station ($55 M) 2021-2022
Re-investment in Existing Facilities ($10 M) 2019-2024
Green Infrastructure Phase III ($10 M) 2020-2024

Phase IV: 2025-2029 = $227M
URT-2 North Tunnel Segment ($133 M) 2026-2029
URT-2 N Tunnel Drop Shafts & Near Surf ($74 M) 2029-2031
Re-investment in Existing Facilities ($10 M) 2025-2029
Green Infrastructure Phase IV ($10 M) 2025-2029

Phase V: 2030-2034 = $110M
WWTP Outfall Conduit & Cl2+SO2 ($100 M) 2032-2034
Re-investment in Existing Facilities ($10 M) 2030-2034

The state will still need to approve this new proposal. A public meeting will take place Wednesday February 10 at 7 pm at::

University of Dearborn
Environmental Interpretive Center
4901 Evergreen, Dearborn MI

"Alternative Rouge River CSO Control Program Executive Summary."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Asian Carp Forum in Ypsilanti Next Wednesday

The EPA announced another public meeting that will provide a forum for public comment and ideas on Wednesday, February 17 in Ypsilanti Michigan. The meeting is being hosted by the International Joint Commission and will bring together representatives from all over the Great Lakes as well as federal agencies such as: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA, U.S. Coast Guard and various scientific experts. If you have a problem with the feds' current carp control plan, come out and tell them about it.

The meeting is from 3-6 pm at the:
Marriot Ann Arbor Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest
1275 S. Huron
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

The meeting will also have a live webcast.

DWSD Announces New Sewage Project

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has released an alternative plan to the old Upper Rouge Tunnel Project. The newer plan is $814 million and is a 25-year project. The old Upper Rouge Tunnel project urged a quicker compliance by 2015 and had a $1.2 billion price tag. The newer project calls for smaller 5.5 mile tunnel as opposed to the old plan that had a 7 mile tunnel.

These plans were required by law since the Upper Rouge Tunnel Project was canceled last April due to the high cost. It looks as if the DWSD is going with the idea of the smaller tunnel. This is an idea that was previously proposed and rejected by the MDEQ. This is because the State of Michigan has stricter requirements on waste water than the current federal laws.

A public meeting will be held this Wednesday February 10 at 7 pm at:
University of Dearborn
Environmental Interpretive Center
4901 Evergreen, Dearborn MI

Free Press Story: Project Aims To Cut Sewage Dumping

Federal Officials Release Asian Carp Control Plan

After today's White House Carp summit, federal officials released plans to control the asian carp, called the Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework. The plan lists a bunch of short-term and long-term ways that federal agencies will deal with control of the asian carp. Such plans include building a third electric barrier, installing fences where they would prevent the asian carp from flowing into Lake Michigan during a flooding event, and using the locks less.

The plan also calls for more rotenone treatments in places where carp DNA has been found as well as development of biological controls that mirror those used in sea lamprey suppression. Officials are also calling for expanded carp DNA testing. Under the proposed plan DNA testing would double.

This new plan does not address Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox's request for closure of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Locks. The plan also does not acknowledge the recent study done by Wayne State researchers that valued the shipping industry resulting from the locks at $70 million. The study also found that new jobs would be brought to the region from closing the locks. Cox's lawsuit is still in the works and still is aimed at having the locks closed down. The recent reopening of the lawsuit asks that the U.S. Supreme Court consider the Wayne State study as well as the new asian carp DNA that was found in Lake Michigan.

The plan is posted on the website of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

This is federal officials proposed plan:
Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework

Researchers Find Link Between Gastroschisis and Atrazine

Researchers have found a link between the birth defect gastroschisis and the weed killer atrazine. The results will be presented in Chicago at the Society for Maternal-Fetal medicine's (SMFM) annual event: The Pregnancy Meeting.

Gastroschisis is when the intestines and other organs develop in an opening outside of the abdominal wall of the fetus. The research was done by the University of Washington where the state has double the average of gastroschisis. The researchers matched birth certificates to the U.S. Geological Survey's database of agricultural spraying. The researchers found that babies born within 25 km of water contaminated with atrazine were at higher risk for gastroschisis. They also found that babies born between the months of March and May were at higher risk.

This evidence comes on the heels of a recent New York Times expose that found that large amounts of Americans are exposed to atrazine in their drinking water. While the EPA disagrees that the public is exposed to unsafe levels of atrazine, many experts disagree. New studies have shown that atrazine can be dangerous even at legal levels. These studies also suggest that atrazine in the water can lead to birth defects, low birth weight, and menstrual problems.

According to the New York Times, the state at greatest risk in the Great Lakes region is Ohio. In Ohio over 40 percent of the population is exposed to atrazine. The only other state that is even close in the region is Indiana with just over 29 percent of the population exposed to atrazine. The rest of the Great Lakes states have under 10 percent of the population exposed to atrazine.

New York Times:
Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass

Science Daily:
Link Between Birth Defect Gastroschisis and the Agricultural Chemical Atrazine Found

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Will Anything Be Done?

We will be even more saturated by stories about the ugly, voracious, advancing, asian carp as two big meetings are set to take place next week.

On Monday the White House will host regional leaders behind closed doors to discuss what to do about the advancing asian carp. Then on Friday there will be another meeting in Chicago with representatives from all of the involved agencies and states seeking public input.

The big question will be whether any substantive action will come from these meetings. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is working on discrediting the argument that the Illinois economy would be severely impacted. Cox commissioned a study to find out exactly what the economic impacts would be on the Illinois economy. The study found that the claims by Illinois legislators and the Obama Administration are grossly exaggerated. The study came on the heels of a renewed preliminary injunction that Cox filed in response to new carp DNA that was found in Lake Michigan.

The study found the following:

7 million tons of cargo would be affected. This is less than 1 percent of all freight traffic in the Chicago region and 30 percent of the total Port of Chicago traffic.

The affected barge traffic equals two loaded freight trains. This is in a region that has 500 daily freight trains.

Truck traffic would increase by less than 1/10 of a percent despite shippers' claims that the increase in truck traffic would lead to deteriorated air quality.

Cargo that was affected would still be moved by ships, they just would not be entering the locks. The cargo would have to be transported the rest of the way by trucks or trains.

Overall the costs to shippers would be increased by $70 million, not $190 million as was previously claimed by Illinois and federal officials. If anything, new cargo related jobs would be created. Any lost barge jobs would be replaced by trucking or rail jobs.

The report also found that shipping has decreased in recent years from over 7.4 million tons in 2007 to over 6.9 million tons in 2008.

The report came up with three alternatives for cargo if the locks were closed.

"Alternative A. Transload all cargo between barge and truck. All existing cargo passing through the Chicago and O’Brien locks would continue to move by barge. New transload facilities would be built downstream of the barrier. All cargo would be trucked between the transload center and existing customers."

"Alternative B. Transload but some rail. Most cargo would continue to be transferred to and from trucks at the transload facilities. However, some would shift to an all rail movement. "

"Alternative C. Transload, rail, pipeline, and use of other terminals. Half of cargo would continue to transfer to and from trucks at the transload facilities. There would be more rail. Some cargo would continue to move by barge via other routes to terminals elsewhere in the region, and some would move by pipeline."

Given that the Great Lakes sport fishery is valued at $7 billion, the Great Lakes are being held hostage by Illinois officials for the paltry sum of $70 million. There are reasonable actions that can be taken. It will be interesting to see if this study is even considered in the decision making process. By the end of next week we will see whether anything will be done or if everyone will just agree that it is a problem and keep dragging it out.

The report is toward the end of the renewed motion for preliminary injunction.

Chicago Waterway System Ecological Separation: The Logistics and Transportation Related Cost Impact of Waterway Barriers

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Yet Another Carp Meeting Announced for February 12

The EPA just announced that the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee has a meeting for February 12. The meeting is four days after the White House Carp Summit and will address public comments and answer the public's questions. They will also discuss plans and listen to ideas for battling the carp.

The committee is comprised of representatives from all of the Great lakes states as well as local Illinois interests and federal agencies such as the: EPA, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps. of Engineers, and the Coast Guard.

The meeting will take place at the Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago from 3 to 6 pm. There will also be a live webcast.

This is the committee website.