Welcome to one of the Great Lakes region's first environmental issues blogs. The North American Great Lakes contain 18% of the world's available surface freshwater and are a source of beauty, spiritual renewal and livelihood. Keep track of Great Lakes news and comment or disagree politely to frequent posts.
A misleading headline from the Muskegon, MI Chronicle: "Bill would keep wetlands protection under state control." In fact, a close reading of the bill shows it defers to the feds on important wetlands definitions and mimics federal Army Corps of Engineers nationwide permits, and at one point bars the state from exceeding federal guidelines. This is not only a loss of state control, but a decimation of the 30-year-old law.
'Permits 'R Us' Michigan DEQ water quantity program rubber stamps water withdrawal application. Even worse, the applicant admits the huge amount of water approved for withdrawal is to support future sprawl which is inconsistent with state law:
"Some people think this 85 million gallons is well beyond what we need
but the reality is on a hot August day, Flint and Genesee County
together can use 55 million gallons," said Wright. "We put in the extra
gallons to plan for future use, for what happens over the next 30 years
as we develop the economy around here."
If you like nuclear power, you'll love that more high-level waste is being stored close to Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
If you've ever visited Niagara Falls, you know how 150 years of commercialization of the Gorge has diminished -- but not yet ruined -- its grandeur. Development (including road construction) that would never be permitted now has lined the Gorge's shoulders.
There is now the chance of restoring a more natural look, feel and sound to a portion of the Gorge.
That can happen if 6.5 miles of the Robert Moses Parkway are removed from the New York side of the Gorge and replaced with a non-motorized greenway, as as the Niagara Heritage Partnership is arguing. A leader of the cause is Bob Baxter, who writes, "That the parkway is damaging to the fragile gorge and river ecology is not in dispute. Five and a half miles of four-lane parkway equals nearly three million square feet of rapid run-off surface. Hundreds of tons of salt are spread annually on this highway; routine herbicide applications to hinder “undesirable” vegetation contributes to this contamination introduced into an environment supporting centuries old white pine and other botanical communities unique to New York State. The NY Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation documents 231,738.75 tons of carbon emissions annually from vehicles using the gorge parkway.
"Restored natural landscapes along a parkway-free gorge rim would provide economic and environmental potential for our region. It would enlarge the Globally Significant Important Bird Area by over 300 acres, creating a green space attractive to those seeking green vacations. Visitors could select hiking experiences according to their interests: within the gorge itself, or a more casual walk along the blacktop rim path, and wonderful family or group bicycling trips that would incorporate Lewiston and Youngstown as destinations. For more experienced and ambitious cyclers, the ride would extend along the upper river to Grand Island and beyond, and would also link up with the historic Seaway Trail at Lake Ontario."
Headlines about sewage entering Great Lakes waterways and tributaries are not uncommon. But this one is. The same river receiving these wastes is proposed as the receptacle for water discharged from the proposed Waukesha, Wisconsin diversion of Great Lakes water. Blogger James Rowen has provided useful analysis.
Measuring contaminants in people is a good idea. Using that data to measure whether Great Lakes cleanup is benefiting human health is a good idea. But:
While the agency has not chosen which contaminants to look at, it will
most likely focus on the usual suspects, Dearwent said. “I think in
general that we could say that we’ll probably be focusing on persistent
organic pollutants, so the chlorinated pesticides, PCBs, possibly
dioxins and furans, possibly polybrominated diphenyl ethers and
possibly some heavy metals. Those in general are usually the
contaminants or classes of contaminants that we look at, either because
of their burden to public health or because of their persistence in the
environment and in people.”
The money will be better spent if at least some of it measures emerging contaminants in water and people. More on that soon.