Jet Ski Home Rule & Emission Bills Passed

Jet Ski Home Rule & Emission Bills Passed

WHEN WE THINK OF SUMMER AND AQUATIC HABITATS, jet ski’s are cause for concern to fragile environments already under stress from waterfront developments, pollution and habitat degradation. Now thanks to the determination of Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and other environmental organizations across New York, the Jet Ski Home Rule Bill is a tool we can use to protect and conserve aquatic habitats.

The Home Rule or Jet Ski Local Government Restrictions bill, A.8097-D / S.5309-C, has passed both the New York State Assembly and Senate. The Home Rule bill clarifies the authority of cities, towns, and villages to regulate the use of personal watercraft, commonly known as ‘jet skis.’ The bill, specifically allows municipalities to designate the bodies of water where ‘jet skis’ are permitted or prohibited, the hours when they may be operated and the speed to which they must be limited.

Another plus for the environment is a new bill regulating jet ski air emissions. The Jet Ski Emission bill, A.10851-A / S.7440-A, requires the Commissioner of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to develop regulations, which at a minimum, are equal to the California air emission reduction regulations for personal water craft. The bill mandates that the regulations apply to every new personal water craft that is manufactured for sale or offered for sale in New York. These bills are a start in the right direction, with the continued efforts of grass root initiatives, New Yorkers are diligently working towards cleaning up their own backyard. For more information, contact Great Lakes United at (716) 886-0142 or email glu@glu.org

A Note from the Editor: Seizing Teachable Moments

Have you ever realized how many opportunities for aquatic habitat protection present themselves in ordinary conversation? A good friend of mine has always said “seize every teachable moment.” By this she meant we shouldn’t let the small comments and questions concerning our work and passions slip by without acting on them.

For example, in ordinary conversation you may have a friend give you a report on her garden containing beautiful Purple Loosestrife. SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY! Explain to her the impact that this plant has on wetlands and share the fact that one plant can produce millions of seeds that can then be dispersed by wind and animals. For me, the trick here is to provide the information without stepping up on my soap box, and knowing when to let the topic drop.

At a recent public event I was presented with many such opportunities, and as usual I found that many of the folks were happy to learn about the impacts their actions may be having on the environment, and how to reduce those impacts. Although there were the occasional nay sayers that just didn’t think their individual behavior made a difference, I think reaching 9 out of 10 people with simple conversations is a great return on my efforts for simply being willing to seize those teachable moments.

In this season when we all tend to be on or near the water among other outdoor enthusiasts, I hope you will seize the moment if someone is growing harmful exotics, terrorizing water fowl, or dumping into a storm drain.

A Lakeshore Community Gets To Know Their Wetland Neighbors

 

By Jessie Hadley and Leigh Bartoo, The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy has identified Les Cheneaux Great Lakes Marsh as one of seven ecologically significant natural communities along the northern shore of Lake Huron. Since the early 1990’s, The Nature Conservancy has partnered with the Les Cheneaux community through providing resources and collecting biodiversity information along the Lake Huron shoreline. Recently, The Nature Conservancy helped to administer and facilitate funding to be used for beginning wetland plant and animal community descriptions and understanding of the natural and human-created factors affecting them. The University of Michigan (U of M), Michigan State University (MSU), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research team collected data over a three year period.

In October 1999, the research team compiled their results and submitted a report to Michigan Coastal Management Program titled, “Les Cheneaux Coastal Wetland Project: A Synthesis”. Overall, the integrity of Les Cheneaux marshes were found to be in excellent ecological health and very diverse. In addition, a report on invertebrates was published in the December 1999 issue of Wetlands, “Development of a Preliminary Invertebrate Index of Biotic Integrity for Lake Huron Coastal Wetlands.” Reports, such as these, were shared with the Les Cheneaux community and other partnering groups who make decisions about land and water use in and around marshes.

In July 1999, a community-wide Marsh Forum was held in Les Cheneaux to provide an opportunity for researchers to discuss with residents results from the collaborative wetland project. The success of the public forum began excitement and awareness in the community for future research projects. Following the public forum, MSU, U of M, and USGS researchers designed projects that included local citizens in monitoring particular species and groups of organisms. Monitoring of yellow perch and other fishes, burrowing mayflies, dragonflies and damselflies, frogs and toads, and invertebrates comprised the primary indices of long-term biotic health measurement. Four of these studies made their debut this summer, while two other studies were continued from previous years. Students from MSU and U of M performed each study independent of volunteers to determine accuracy of volunteer monitoring data. This spring and summer completes the pilot run for these newly designed studies and with the help of volunteer feedback and researcher input, the projects may be refined for long-term meaningful monitoring results.

The perch skein survey, in its second year, was developed by the US Geological Survey to identify critical spawning habitats and fish egg mass quantities. A large number of local residents and a high school science class combed the shoreline marshes looking for perch skeins, counting their numbers, and measuring their sizes. This survey takes place during a two-week period in late April or as soon as the ice melts away from the shoreline. Also developed by the US Geological Survey, were the Odonata (dragonfly & damselfly) and burrowing mayfly surveys. Volunteers scoured six bays for dragonfly and damselfly larval skins found attached to emergent vegetation during the summer months. Mayflies are widely recognized as excellent indicators of water quality and through collecting hatching dates and population estimates residents can track marsh health.

The University of Michigan developed a marsh fish survey, in which volunteers set out minnow traps baited with cat food at four bays. For a two week period, the number of each species captured and water depths were documented. Minnow species have been determined to be susceptible and sensitive to polluted or disturbed habitat more than other fish species. Therefore, the percentage of minnows versus other fish more tolerant of disturbed habitat can provide an indication of marsh health and water quality.

Michigan State University developed a study of aquatic invertebrates, which began in mid-July and will continue through September. The presence and percentage of water quality sensitive invertebrates can reveal an indication of wetland system health and diversity.

Volunteers have completed their fourth year listening to six of Michigan’s 13 frog and toad species breeding calls. The Marsh Monitoring Program, developed by the Long Point Bird Observatory of Point Pelee, Canada, has provided all the needed materials; identification cassette tapes, and protocols for conducting the survey. Monitoring amphibians can provide information about water quality, since water and any contaminants are easily absorbed through their skin.

The Nature Conservancy and Les Cheneaux community has established a long-term and vital partnership with collegiate and governmental institutions for continuing research and expertise. These projects provide an opportunity for the community to conduct research each year and use the information collected for making empowered decisions regarding shoreline threats. As the Les Cheneaux community begins further development of their economic base through nature-based tourism, monitoring programs such as these will be available for ongoing stewardship and measuring success for maintaining these special coastal marshes. For further information regarding the Les Cheneaux marsh monitoring program, contact The Nature Conservancy’s Northern Lake Huron Project Office at (906) 484-9970.

Important Bird Areas Program Will Target Wetlands

Summer is the time of year when wetlands are teeming with life on all levels. This is the season when wetland birds are actively searching for insects, other animals, and plant-life to feed their young. It will not be long until fledglings are learning what needs to be learned to begin flights south for next winter or to cope with the cold weather just a few months away.

Birds like the Prothonotary Warbler, Virginia Rail, and Least Bittern that breed in Ohio wetlands all travel south in the winter and must face a variety of dangers along the way. Accidents, disease, and exhaustion claim many.

An even greater danger is the loss of wetland habitat. While an accident with a tower may destroy lives one by one, destruction of a wetland can destroy a whole suite of lives and even affect significant portions of a population. Acres and acres of wetlands continue to be dredged and drained for human activities. Upon the heels of the desmise of wetlands comes the disappearance of those species which depend upon these habitats. Evidence detects declines in avian populations over the past 40 years.

The National Audubon Society has joined with a number of bird conservation organizations in this country and around the world in a wide-ranging effort to reverse these alarming trends. A critical first step in this process is to identify and protect the places where birds breed, overwinter, or stop on migration. We call these places Important Bird Areas, or IBAs.

To qualify as an IBA, a site must meet one of the several rigorous criteria. An IBA Technical Committee of Ohio bird experts judges a nominated IBA to see if it stands out from other areas because it has large concentrations of birds, species of high conservation priority, or birds associated with a unique habitat. IBAs may be on public or private land, range from a few acres to several thousand, and be either protected or unprotected.

Once Important Bird Areas are identified, cooperative steps are taken to ensure their continued value as safe havens for birds. Local conservation groups, birdwatchers, public officials, and most important, the private land owners or public land managers, come together to plan the best possible management strategy for the area. This can involve the public purchase of key habitats from willing sellers, the creation of conservation easements on private lands, or simply the perpetuation of sound land-management techniques.

Audubon Ohio anticipates the cooperation and assistance of everyone who cares about wetland conservation in identifying IBAs and protecting critical habitat, especially wetlands. A list of IBA sites should be released in the fall of 2000.

Great Lakes Bulk Water Export – An Ecosystem Agenda

 

By Jennifer Nalbone, Great Lakes United

In 1998 a highly publicized controversy broke out over a proposal to export bulk water from Lake Superior. The proposal was eventually turned down, but in the process the governments discovered that it is not necessarily legal to simply ban export and diversion of water from the Great Lakes basin. A little thing called trade law severely limits government ability to simply ban any form of trade in water.

According to some high-priced legal talent hired by the Great Lakes Protection Fund, the solution is reforming water use law so that it judges proposed water uses according to impact on the ecosystem. Basically, to protect against ecosystem-threatening export or diversion, we need to regulate *all* water use on the basis of ecosystem protection.

As a result, the ten states and provinces around the Great Lakes are considering a complete overhaul of every basin state and province’s way of managing water so that it has an ecosystem protection basis. Of course, where water runs, how much of it, how often, and when, is the basis of much habitat functioning. The contemplated government overhaul could have arguably the most significant impact on habitat protection since the creation of environmental assessments, fisheries law, wetlands protection and endangered species legislation.

This year, five environmental organizations sat down to figure out what such a new system would like if it was going to be effective. For six months staff and board members from Great Lakes United, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the National Wildlife Federation’s office in Ann Arbor, the Lake Michigan Federation, and a Quebec group called Strategies St. Laurent, worked to hammer out a consensus document. We want to ask: have we done a good job?

We think the program we outline hits the major points, and suggests the right approaches; but does it? We would like you to help us refine the document so that it is truly comprehensive and on-target. Please take a look at the summary below. We would like you to comment to us on the summary or, better yet, ask for the full twelve-page document, and comment on that. We’re asking for comment from a lot of quarters. Once we get it, we plan to make changes and ask for mass sign-on before we present the plan to state and provincial officials. Please take a look:

“An Ecosystem Agenda for Water Use Management in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.”

 

Summary

In the wake of recent proposals to divert and export water from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin, government will soon be putting forward plans to reform basin water use management. The International Joint Commission has issued its report on the subject. Both Ontario and Québec are currently developing strategies for water use issues. The two provinces and the eight Great Lakes states have been meeting to create a basin-wide strategy.

It is up to the public to insist that new solutions for managing water-use fully protect and restore the basin ecosystem while sustaining water for future generations. To do this we must address the many changes people cause in the natural state of water, from exporting water for drinking to damming streams for electricity.

This document provides analysis and recommendations that embody such an approach. There are several environmental “must haves” that will distinguish between proposed approaches that lead to sustainable use of Great Lakes waters and those that push the region further down the spiral of non-sustainable water use:

  • The objective must be to protect and affirmatively restore the Great Lakes water system, not just fend off additional harm
  • The strategy must result in dramatic reductions in basin human water use
  • All changes to the Great Lakes water system must be addressed. Managing solely for how much water is used while neglecting how and where it moves, for example, will not protect water for the benefit of all users, including wildlife
  • A comprehensive strategy for the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes water system, and a standard for implanting it, must be developed. The strategy must:
-provide specific, binational protection and restoration goals for the Great Lakes water system
-include a basin-wide standard to be applied to all decisions on proposed new water uses or alterations of the water system
-be conservation-based: protecting and restoring the Great Lakes water system as opposed to accommodating and mediating the needs of use sectors
-set conservation targets by use sectors with timelines
-take a watershed approach to system protection and restoration aimed at encouraging living within the means of individual watersheds
-embody the precautionary principle: conservative approaches in the absence of perfect information about the needs of the water system
  • The process for developing the strategy and standard, and for making decisions based on them, must be open and accessible to the public and subject to challenge by citizens. The process for developing and implementing the strategy and standard must be guided by the region’s state, provincial and tribal governments. The process must also respect and accommodate the legitimate role of federal governments in overseeing national and international interests in protecting and restoring the Great Lakes water system
  • The federal governments must assure the availability of a constitutionally valid mechanism that enables vigorous international, provincial and state cooperation
  • Should state, local and First Nations governments fail to create a strategy, the federal governments should step in to assure that a strategy is created
  • The onus must rest with those proposing new or increased water uses or alterations to the water system to show that they are consistent with the strategy and standard
  • Information on the connection between the water system and the life it supports should be continuously and aggressively gathered and assimilated into a publicly accessible, binational water information base that is understandable and useful to lay citizens
  • Regional climate change should be aggressively researched and climate change data evaluated with water data to routinely review the estimated impacts of climate change on water supplies
  • The effects of all approved water uses must be monitored for periodic evaluation of uses against the standard and strategy, and to inform future water use decisions. This monitoring information should be included in the binational water information base
  • Water use approvals must be rescindable if evidence later arises that they are no longer, or never were, consistent with the strategy and standard
  • Every individual’s right to water for basic human needs must be guaranteed
  • The waters of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin are a single ecosystem. If they are managed as such, according to the principles outlined in this document, it is highly unlikely that any diversion or bulk export of water out of the basin would ever take place
  • The federal, state and provincial governments should place a moratorium on new or increased diversions into or out of the basin, and on new or increased water uses and other changes to the basin water system until a strategy has been implemented

So what do you think? Did we cover everything? Did we take the right approach on what we did cover? If you need more information (we flesh all this out in an additional pages) please do request it. Please send requests or comments to reg3@glu.org, or call Reg Gilbert at (716) 886-0142.

Michigan River Declaration Signed

The Michigan River Network held it’s first annual meeting on July 29, 2000. Thirty people from many different river organizations were present to learn more about the organization, share their thoughts for the future, and attend Membership and Fund-Raising workshops.

In addition to the learning and sharing opportunities, attendees were able to network with other groups doing similar work, meet Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality staff members, learn about upcoming grant opportunities, and brainstorm about future Michigan River Network activities.

A highlight of the meeting was the writing and signing of the Michigan “River Declaration,” as a confirmation of our joint commitment to protecting rivers and watersheds in Michigan. The declaration will be placed on the Michigan River Network website: www.glhabitat.org/mrn. To learn more about the Michigan River Network or to add your name or organization to the declaration, contact Jill at (231)347-1181 or jill@nature.org.

Link to: Michigan River Network River Declaration

International Joint Commision (IJC) Report Released

The IJC sent a strong message to US and Canadian Federal Governments in its Tenth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality released earlier this week. They have made direct recommendations regarding the concerns to human health from;

  • Consumption of contaminated sports fish;
  • Uncompleted remediation of contaminated sediments in each Area of Concern;
  • Atmospheric deposition of persistent toxic substances from within and out of the basin needs prevention and control measures;
  • Adequate attention to effects of urban sprawl such as increased runoff containing nutrients, pathogens, sediment, industrial chemicals and pesticides which can increase erosion, flooding and threaten groundwater;
  • Research strategy of ballast water releases to reduce alien invasive species into the great lakes basin;
  • Immediate need of coordinated binational monitoring and surveillance programs necessary to enable federal governments to fulfill their commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and a binational information policy to support the agreement.

The IJC recommends that the public has a right to know of the progress made on remedial action plans on each area of concern and that governments must clearly state what role they will be playing with each area of concern and what resources they will be dedicating to restoring the impaired beneficial uses.

Threats to human health or aquatic life are of concern to the IJC, especially the inadequate integration of human health issues related to critical pollutants in Lakewide Management Plans (LAMP). Lake Ontario’s LAMP review by the IJC notes “shortcomings exist particularly in the area of defining the threat to human health and estimation of total loadings of critical pollutants.” The IJC Science Advisory Board has recommended that a comprehensive assessment of the threat to human health from exposure to critical pollutants is needed. Consumption of contaminated Great Lakes fish containing persistent toxic substances is a serious risk to critical subpopulations that eat the fish. The IJC recommends that more comprehensive sport fish consumption advisories be culturally appropriate and directed towards women in addition to the general distribution, because exposure may lead to birth anomalies and other serious health problems for children and women of child-bearing age.

The IJC notes three desired outcomes, first that the water is drinkable, second that people can swim in the water and third that people can eat the fish without exposure to harmful pollutants in the Great Lakes basin. For communities who depend on fish for food or bathe in and drink polluted waters, there is no other option. What will it take to wake the people up, for the government to listen and for all of us to walk lightly on Mother Earth? Whether or not the recommendations will be achieved is yet to be seen, it has been 22 years since GLWQA, and we are still permitting the “dumping” of critical pollutants into one of the greatest resources on earth: fresh water.

To help meet the recommendation of the IJC and help clean up the Lakes contact Great Lakes United at (716) 886-0142 or email glu@glu.org or join a local grass roots effort in your community.

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