Freshwater Weekly 1/25/18
This week: a decommissioned dam in Ontario + ethanol in Ontario gasoline threatens Lake Erie + help stop a Lake Superior sulfide mine + binational efforts to stop carp + dramatic changes to Michigan environmental law + ways to make a difference.
SUCCESS! CITY OF LONDON, ONTARIO VOTES TO DECOMMISSION DAM
On January 16, the City of London city council voted unanimously to decommission the Springbank Dam on the Thames River in southwestern Ontario. This would eliminate the last man-made barrier on that stretch of the Thames, thereby improving water quality, enhancing aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and protecting endangered species.
Our friends at the Ontario Rivers Alliance led the effort to have the dam decommissioned, and our sister organization Freshwater Future Canada was happy to add their voice to the groundswell of support for a healthier Thames River. The Thames is a priority watershed for action in the Lake Erie clean up efforts, so this is also great news for the lake.
MORE ETHANOL IN ONTARIO’S GASOLINE COULD MEAN MORE ALGAE IN LAKE ERIE
As part of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Ontario may require suppliers to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline from 5 percent to 10 percent by 2020, and our sister organization Freshwater Future Canada teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to caution against this approach.
A similar mandate in the United States caused significant environmental harm due to increased demand for corn-based ethanol. In the US, 40 percent of the corn crop grown now goes to produce fuel rather than feeding people or livestock. To take advantage of a rise in the biofuel industry, farmers have converted more than 7 million acres of native prairie, rangeland, and forests into cropland. They have drained wetlands, and applied more fertilizers and pesticides to maximize production. The runoff pollution from these chemicals has serious impacts on water quality, as we know from the rise of toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie.
Freshwater Future is hard at work on both sides of the border protecting Lake Erie, and we’ll keep you informed of opportunities to take action.
HELP STOP A FEDERAL LAND SWAP FOR LAKE SUPERIOR SULFIDE MINE
Last week, we asked you to help our neighbors in Minnesota, who are in an urgent struggle to protect Lake Superior from the PolyMet open-pit sulfide mine. If you haven’t taken action yet, there’s still time to help block a federal bill (HR 3115) that would require a land exchange transferring 6,650 acres of Superior National Forest land to the PolyMet mining company, which plans to build a sulfide nickel-copper mine near Lake Superior. Over 60 regional environmental groups oppose the land swap, and the National Congress of American Indians has passed a resolution in opposition.
TAKE ACTION: Learn more—and take action—here.
A BINATIONAL EFFORT TO STOP ASIAN CARP
In response to the Brandon Road Study, a draft plan released by the US Army Corps of Engineers that details methods of preventing the spread of Asian carp, officials in the Great Lakes states are promoting what Freshwater Future has advocated for from the beginning—complete separation of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes drainage basins. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, “attorneys general from three Great Lakes states including Pennsylvania say a $275 million federal plan for keeping Asian carp out of the lakes is too expensive and rejects the most effective possible solution.”
Meanwhile, across the border in Canada, the federal government has committed to spending $20 million over the next five years on the effort to prevent the introduction of Asian carp to the country. This money will triple the size of the team researching the threat and allow the federal government to significantly increase its monitoring of the places around the lakes most at risk.
MICHIGAN BILLS COULD DRAMATICALLY ALTER ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
A few weeks ago, we told you about two sets of Michigan bills that would undermine existing environmental protections and dramatically change how our environmental laws are implemented. If passed, these bills could impact all environmental law in Michigan, for years to come.
1. Senate Bill 652 and House Bill 5333 transfer decision-making power from environmental experts to a committee of stakeholders comprised primarily of industry representatives. There is no requirement that committee members have environmental science education, training, or experience—only that they have a stake in the outcome of decisions.
2. Senate Bill 653 and House Bill 5332 change the appeal process for environmental permit applicants. DEQ decisions—like denied permits for mining or for development in wetlands—could be appealed to a board of the governor’s political appointees, and their decisions would be final.
Unfortunately, one of these bills (House Bill 5333) has already passed the Michigan House and now goes to the Senate for consideration. But you can still help!
TAKE ACTION: Email your Michigan senator and representative today. Tell them you want experts—not industry—making the state’s environmental decisions; tell them to vote “NO” on this collection of bills.