‘Illegal’ Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Plan Alarms Minnesota … Feds Plan Great Lakes Resoration … Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Expands … Chinook Salmon Running Strong in Pacific Northwest … EPA Funds Two Drinking Water Innovation Centers
‘Illegal’ Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Plan Alarms Minnesota
WASHINGTON, DC, September 24, 2014 (ENS) – Earlier this month, U.S. State Department documents revealed a scheme by Canadian tar sands giant Enbridge to nearly double the capacity of its Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline and bypass the Presidential Permit process.
Enbridge is planning to transfer tar sands crude from Alberta Clipper to another pipeline, Line 3, just north of the Canada-U.S. border, then re-transfer it back to Alberta Clipper once it has crossed into the United States.
A State Department official has indicated that the agency will allow Enbridge to move forward with this plan, even though the State Department had previously said that such an expansion would require a full environmental review.
This expansion would put Alberta Clipper on par with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and significantly increase the amount of toxic, highly polluting tar sands crude being moved into the United States.
This development has been met with shock and anger by national environmental advocates and Minnesota communities that face the threat of increased tar sands.
A coalition of national and local environmental groups has sent a letter to the State Department urging the agency to prevent Enbridge from engaging in “this illegal end run around the environmental review process for its tar sands project.
Enbridge, the largest Canadian oil transport corporation, has a 285-mile tar sands pipeline across northern Minnesota crossing the Mississippi headwaters.
Enbridge has requested an increase of 27 percent to 570,000 barrels per day in the pipeline, which has been operating since 2010.
The environmentalists insist that the deal be approved by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry because it is an international transaction. They maintain that the increase in tar sands oil would be equivalent to the combined tailpipe exhausts of 5.5 million continuously operating cars.
A petition to Obama and Kerry urging rejection of the Enbridge plan has been signed by Minnesota elected representatives including: Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and Congressmembers Collin Peterson, Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan, Betty McCollum – all Democrats.
Feds Plan to Restore Great Lakes
CHICAGO, Illinois, September 24, 2014 (ENS) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy today released a new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan that lays out steps that federal agencies will take during the next five years to protect water quality, control invasive species and restore habitat in the largest surface fresh water system in the world.
McCarthy, who chairs the federal Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, released the plan at a meeting of Great Lakes Mayors in Chicago.
“The new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan lays out the steps we need to take to get us closer to the day when all Great Lakes fish will be safe to eat, all beaches will be safe for swimmers and harmful algal blooms will not threaten our drinking water supplies,” said McCarthy.
“During the next five years, federal agencies will continue to use Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals.”
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “We’re proud to partner with farmers and the many others engaged in voluntary efforts to restore the health of the Great Lakes. Supporting sound conservation practices such as planting cover crops, rotating crops, installing filter strips and restoring wetlands not only helps keep our water clean, it can help create jobs and grow the economy in local communities.”
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said, “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative continues to highlight the diversity of the Corps of Engineers’ capabilities for the planning, design and construction of environmental restoration projects.”
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Anne Castle said, “Our Great Lakes plans and projects involve pollution prevention and cleanup of the most adversely affected areas, increasing understanding and management of invasive species, and a first-ever comprehensive assessment of the entire 530,000 acres of Great Lakes coastal wetlands habitat for the purpose of strategically targeting wildlife restoration and protection efforts.”
The GLRI Action Plan announced today summarizes the actions federal agencies plan to implement during Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 using GLRI funding. They include: cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern, preventing and controlling invasive species, reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful and nuisance algal blooms, and restoring habitat to protect native species.
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources have helped fund cleanup actions required to delist five Great Lakes Areas of Concern and to formally delist the Presque Isle Bay Area of Concern – a major change from the 25 years before the Initiative, during which only one Area of Concern was cleaned up and delisted.
More about the GLRI Action Plan is online at: www.glri.us/actionplan/
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Expands
WASHINGTON, DC, September 24, 2014 (ENS) – The U.S. government has expanded the boundaries of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron from 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles. The new boundaries now include the waters of Lake Huron adjacent to Michigan’s Alcona, Alpena and Presque Isle counties to the Canadian border.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, released a final rule and environmental impact statement on the expansion earlier this month.
The expansion is based on several years of research by NOAA and its many scientific partners, and now protects an additional 100 known and suspected historic shipwreck sites.
“The expansion of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary represents an important milestone for the sanctuary and the region,” said Jeff Gray, sanctuary superintendent. “We welcome the opportunity to expand our research and education programs to provide increased protection for the Great Lakes and their rich history. We are also excited to work with our community partners to further enhance sustainable tourism in the region.”
U.S. Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, had urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to expand the boundary and had introduced Congressional legislation to do so for the past three years.
“Thunder Bay has been a tremendous success,” said Levin. “It has offered an educational wonderland for students, researchers, and divers, and it has protected and preserved our maritime history and supported economic development. I was proud to support its creation, and I am thrilled with the announcement of its growth.”
With the border expansion, 47 additional known historic shipwrecks will fall within the sanctuary’s boundaries, and there are some 100 yet-to-be-discovered shipwrecks that may fall within the area.
During the process to review the sanctuary’s management plan in 2006, several local government and nongovernmental organizations passed resolutions or submitted written letters of support for boundary expansion. In 2007, the Thunder Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council adopted a resolution supporting expanded boundaries. NOAA held three public scoping meetings April 2012 to hear community views about the proposed expansion.
Designated in 2000, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, headquartered in Alpena, Michigan, is one of 14 sites managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the only one in the Great Lakes.
Thunder Bay features some of the world’s best-preserved shipwrecks, and visitors can explore these underwater sites first-hand through diving, snorkeling and kayaking. Drawing more than 80,000 visitors annually, the sanctuary’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, also in Alpena, features more than 10,000 square feet of interactive exhibits and has become a major tourism destination in the region.
Chinook Salmon Running Strong in Pacific Northwest
PORTLAND, Oregon, September 24, 2014 (ENS) – More adult fall chinook salmon have returned to the Columbia River Basin this season than in any year since 1938 when the Bonneville Dam was constructed, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration.
More than 600,000 sockeye salmon have navigated Bonneville Dam’s fish ladders on the lower Columbia River. Most are moving toward the Okanagan River in Washington State.
These numbers are only a fraction of the predicted 1.5 million adult fall chinook returning by the end of 2014, a run that might equal last year’s 1.27 million record.
These returns are the result of a host of federal, tribal, state and nonprofit organizations in the region working together over the past decade to improve conditions in the tributaries and main stem river using an “all H” approach – harvest, habitat, hydro and hatcheries – as well as favorable ocean conditions.
“With our many partners, we work to balance the needs and interests of the region with large-scale improvements for fish,” said David Ponganis, Northwestern Division Programs director for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “These record-breaking numbers show that the structural and operational improvements made at the dams have resulted in safer passage conditions for juvenile and adult fish.”
These efforts represent one of the largest fish and wildlife programs in the nation, paid for by the region’s electric ratepayers and federal taxpayers.
“The results we are seeing reflect a tremendous collaborative effort within the Columbia River Basin,” said BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer. “We look forward to working with our existing and future partners towards a common vision of continuing to bring back more fish to the rivers.”
In the 1990s these fish populations barely survived, until they became the focus of state and federal efforts to restore them.
Most of these chinook salmon are not part of endangered populations. But scientists have counted a few thousand imperiled Chinook returning to the Snake River, renewing hope that progress toward recovery is at hand after decades of litigation and years of effort toward restoration.
EPA Funds Two Drinking Water Innovation Centers
WASHINGTON, DC, September 24, 2014 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing over $8 million to create two national centers for research and innovation in small to medium-sized drinking water systems.
The recipients are the University of Colorado Boulder’s Design of Risk Reducing, Innovative Implementable Small System Knowledge (DeRISK) Center, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems (WINSSS) Center.
These two EPA-funded centers will develop and test advanced, low cost methods to reduce, control, and eliminate groups of water contaminants that present challenges to communities worldwide.
“These centers will help to develop innovative and practical solutions for challenges faced by smaller drinking water systems, which make up the majority of public water systems in the United States,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development.
“Providing cost effective solutions to help these systems deliver safe, high quality drinking water will help improve the health, economy and security of our nation’s communities.”
Ninety seven percent of the nation’s roughly 160,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people each. These drinking water systems face many obstacles including limited resources, aging infrastructure, and complying with a variety of regulations.
The new centers will help strengthen the technical, managerial, and financial capacities of drinking water providers throughout the country.
Both centers will collaborate with stakeholders to support problem-oriented research on groups of water contaminants and their origins. This research marks a move towards developing transdisciplinary results that will be nationally acceptable and applicable.
These grants, part of EPA’s research on safe and sustainable drinking water, support the development of water clusters – networks of businesses, researchers, and others involved in water technology. Colorado and Massachusetts are both home to water cluster organizations. These organizations are leading the way in developing cutting-edge technologies and bringing them to the market, where they can solve water challenges that threaten health and daily activities while promoting technological innovation and economic growth.