Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Props for POPS

I was dawdling up around Stevens Point on Saturday November 14, hoping to absorb a little knowledge from the hallowed halls of the local university in those parts, when I stumbled on an event that was right up a river rat's alley. The Politics of Phosphorus Citizens' Summit, hosted by the hard-working River Alliance of Wisconsin.

A day long powwow about the negative effects of phosphorus pollution on our rivers and to my ears. Toxic blue green algae has become a scourge of Wisconsin's waters over the years (not to mention the fur of one river rat), and it's a problem that can seem insurmountable to the average citizen. So it was a great idea for River Alliance to give those citizens...paddlers, anglers, business owners...a chance to get together and share a bit about their experiences with this noxious by-product of phosphorus runoff. And to maybe get working on a few solutions.

A lot was said during the 6 hours of the summit, and I won't try and recreate it all. But you can find out what went on by clicking here. The busy rats at River Alliance HQ have posted a nice set of notes, summaries and summations from the summit, including some pretty flash and dash Powerpoint presentations. Enjoy.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all you river lovers out there. Safe travels and safe returns.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Lot to Carp About...

We're welcoming a guest post today, from River Alliance aquatic invasive species chief Laura MacFarland, alerting all you readers to a very scary threat to the Great Lakes--Asian Carp. These huge, hungry invaders are something right out of a river horror movie, and action is needed to get the authorities that be to do what needs to be done (isn't it always?...) to stop the Carp's spread. Read on, river rats, read on...

"The Army Corps and Notre Dame University has detected DNA evidence of Asian Carp ABOVE the electric barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Cal-Sag Channel and the Calumet River. That means the fish could be within 6 miles of Lake Michigan with only navigational locks (insufficient barriers) standing in their way.

The River Alliance of Wisconsin is writing the Council of Great Lakes Governors to encourage them to ask the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency, which will allow Federal agencies to enact emergency measures to prevent the invasion of Asian carp from the Chicago Shipping and Sanitary Canal into Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes.

The federal government must declare a state of emergency, so that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard have the authority to do what is necessary to stop the Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. This is the opportune time for such measures because of the planned shut down of the electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal for maintenance, and due to recently revealed hydrological connections between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) with the Des Plaines River and the Illinois & Michigan Canal (I & M Canal) during high flows and possibly low flows as well.

Call your member of Congress AND the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and urge them to:

- Tell the Corps to immediately close all controlling locks in Chicago waterways that lead to Lake Michigan.

- Tell the Corps to take any and all monitoring and control efforts to keep the Asian carp at bay and the Great Lakes safe.

- The risk is too great to delay taking action, we must act today to save the Great Lakes from this devastating invasive species.

To reach your member of US Congress, you may call the Capitol Switchboard at: 202-224-3121

To reach IL DNR Director Marc Miller, you may call 217-785-0075"

Check out the video clip below to see just how dangerous these interlopers are:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sacrificing rivers? And why not a lake or six, too?

Rat has been reading with great interest the most recent issue of The Flow, the River Alliance's newsletter. This issue is all about the connection between food, farming and rivers. Lot's of intriguing stuff in there...not the least of all the comment made by a "high level" state official, who thinks, “We may have to sacrifice a few rivers to grow the food we need to grow.” Well, at least now we know where some of our "leaders" stand, I suppose.

I was a little suspect when I read in there that, "Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't" -- "it" being a lot of groundwater pumping for agriculture drying up lakes and rivers in sandy central Wisconsin. For the Rat, it's obvious -- you pump a bunch of water through big wells, you're bound to dry up the nearby lakes and rivers that depend on that very same groundwater.

Wisconsin Public Television's latest entry in water issues takes on the delusion, expressed in their piece by a potato farmer, that we have plenty of water and don't worry, be happy. In central Wisconsin, we have a case of good science undermining the myth and, implicitly asking, "Whose water is it, anyway?" Watch and learn:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Great Great Lakes Reporting

Zebra mussels getting cozy (too cozy) in Lake Keesus in Waukesha County
(photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Of all the laments about the demise of the daily newspaper, one of the most salient is the loss of good, factual, analytical reporting. For all their ubiquity (and their iniquities), Rat fully understands that blogs – even this one – are not journalism.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Egan served up some fine reporting lately, however – reporting with a bit of an edge. In the October 27 edition, Egan asked the question that’s gotta be asked: what will $475 million of federal money for saving the Great Lakes really get us? Probably not what’s needed most – enforcement of existing laws. Read the sobering conclusion from his reporting here.

He keeps up the drumbeat in a follow-up story zeroing on invasive critters that hitchhike from foreign ports and get dumped into the Great Lakes, the most infamous of which is the zebra mussel.

To Egan’s point again: the zebra mussel is out of the barn door (can you say that?), and the new federal largess won’t touch this problem. In this case, it’s not the lack of enforcement, but a lack of good laws in the first place to keep nasty bilge water from being dumped in the Great Lakes.

Rat can’t imagine why a relatively tiny industry like Great Lakes shippers have such a grip on the tillers of Congress and state legislatures. (It’s not like they’re running casinos.)

Yet, lawmakers continue to refuse to regulate these ships. Their cargo could get moved around the Great Lakes by train or truck cheaper anyway. What gives? Maybe they're swept up in the romance of the high seas. Maybe they're in the hip pocket of the zebra mussel lobby. Or maybe they've listened to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald one too many times and have lost all perspective. We might never know why they're so reticent to regulate this industry and the many menaces it's responsible for dumping in the Great Lakes. But we do know one thing...

....better start getting used to zebra mussels...and little else... in Wisconsin's inland waters...