Category Archives: Clean Water

Posts relating to clean water work.

Debunking Myths and Taking Action to Stop Asian Carp

 

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Invasive Asian carp are an urgent threat to the health of the Great Lakes, and the people and economies that depend on the lakes and their resources. The Sierra Club and its partners have long advocated for a comprehensive solution to the risk of these fish invading the Great Lakes, along with the other aquatic invasive species that threaten both the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked by Congress with finding a solution to invasives moving into both basins, their current efforts are heavily focused on Asian carp and their upstream movement. The Chicago Area Waterways system provides an artificial connection between the two basins, created over 100 years ago when the Chicago River was reversed to send wastewater downstream to the Illinois and then Mississippi River.  We must address the consequences of this artificial connection to protect our vital freshwater resources.

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Map showing location of locks, Asian carp populations and the current electric barriers within the Illinois river system. 

Earlier this year, the Army Corps completed a draft report detailing their Tentatively Selected Plan to install controls at the Brandon Road Lock in Joliet, Illinois in an effort to prevent Asian carp from moving upstream towards Lake Michigan. The new deadline for submitting comments on this report is December 8, and a fourth public meeting to present the report and gather input will be held on December 5 in New Orleans.

Let’s take a look at what’s included in the Tentatively Selected Plan.

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None of these proposed control methods will stop traffic from moving through the lock. Electric barriers are used elsewhere in the river system, and the other technologies can be deployed without preventing current operations. While this combination of control methods cannot provide 100% confidence that Asian carp will not move through the lock, they will reduce the risk of transfer and add an additional stopgap between the current population and Lake Michigan.

In a recent news article, the president of Illinois Marine Towing Inc. claimed: “The new plan for structural barriers would slow shipping from 11,000 barge passages per year at Brandon down to 7,000.” According to the Army Corps, there is no factual basis for this claim in their analysis, and these figures don’t align with actual lockages at Brandon Road. Obviously, the impacts to transportation would be highest during construction of the project, when the shippers are expected to temporarily use another method of transportation during construction (estimated conservatively at 40 days) and then return to their normal operations after construction is complete. But outside this period, the reduction in lockages is not predicted at this mythical scale.

Another “alternative fact” we’ve seen recently came from the State of Illinois’ Lieutenant Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti who was interviewed for an article in Ottawa’s The Times: “Last summer a live Asian carp was found in the Calumet River, less than 10 miles from Lake Michigan. But Sanguinetti said an autopsy and other testing shows it did not arrive via the Illinois River.” According to Dr. Greg Whitledge at Southern Illinois University’s Department of Zoology, who performed the autopsy on the fish caught over the summer, it is incorrect to conclude that the fish definitely did not arrive at its collection location via the Illinois River.  The chemistry of the fish’s earstones (otoliths) are consistent with prior residency in the Illinois and Des Plaines Rivers.  Whether it arrived in the Calumet River on its own or was moved there (i.e., transported around the barriers and released) cannot be determined.

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A live Silver carp was found in June 2017 beyond the current electric barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), just nine miles from Lake Michigan. 

So, it is possible that this Asian carp did arrive via the Illinois River. And it is possible that other Asian carp will move through the Illinois River system towards Lake Michigan without additional protections to stop their movement. While we greatly appreciate the work that staff of state agencies like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are doing to remove large amounts of Asian carp from the river system, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to fish these voracious invasive species to extinction.  

It’s far past time to get serious about a permanent solution to the problem of Asian carp and all aquatic invasive species threatening our waterways. The State of Illinois should be working proactively with other states and agencies to identify and implement such a solution, rather than dragging their heels and placing declining waterway use by barges over the future of our most important natural resource. Both can be protected if we work together effectively.  

In the face of these myths and inaccuracies, we must bring science back into the conversation and work together cooperatively to ensure that an effective, holistic solution is implemented to protect the Great Lakes, a national treasure, economic driver and drinking water source for over 40 million people.

Please submit your comments before Dec. 8th to tell the Army Corps to move forward expeditiously with their plan to install controls against invasive Asian carp. For help submitting a comment, use our Action Alert.  

 

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Illinois Fracking Permit Withdrawn Statement of Jack Darin, Director, Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter

Woolsey Operating Company, LLC has withdrawn its fracking permit and associated application for a wastewater injection well in White County Illinois. The permit was the first horizontal fracking permit to be issued since the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act was enacted in 2013, and recently approved over the objections of area residents and thousands of Illinoisans. Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter, had this reaction:

“This decision comes as a relief to residents in White County and across the state who objected to the permit granted by the Rauner Administration. However, the relief is only temporary until Illinois tells the oil and gas industry that dangerous fracking is not welcome here. We must not let the mounting incidences of water contamination, air pollution and increased seismic activity associated with horizontal fracking to happen here in Illinois. Illinois should prioritize clean energy and the thousands of jobs it promises, rather than sacrificing our water to bet on the ups and downs of fossil markets.”

Time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers in Will County until a plan is in place that protects our communities

Residents of Will County strongly urge a moratorium be placed on the annexation and zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers in Village and City jurisdictions of Will County until Will County completes a comprehensive land use and transportation plan.  Building on the Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan’s emphasis on protecting quality of life and improving existing roads, we now need a comprehensive land use and transportation plan that protects our communities from industrial developments that negatively impact our quality of life, natural resources, and air and water quality.

trans-hubs-usWhile the county can lead the land use plan, it is up to municipal officials to approve or deny the zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers. The impacts of new warehouses do not stop at municipal boundaries.  Traffic from warehouses built in Elwood and Channahon affects roads in Joliet and New Lenox.  We need our municipal leaders to work together to protect the quality of life of all citizens.

It’s time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers until we have a plan in place that protects our communities.  Citizens of Will County want to preserve quality of life so that industry complements rather than overruns the region’s rich agricultural heritage. Citizens want diverse, sustainable economic growth rather than over-reliance on one sector.  Citizens want to ensure their families continue to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and that new industrial facilities don’t pollute and decimate the beautiful natural areas that are important to the community’s identity and economy.  

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That plan is critical to the safety, health and quality of life of my community in that it will:

  • Promote safe and efficient movement of freight through Will County while protecting others on our road system;
  • Protect the prime farmland and open spaces that are growing economic assets to our region, and home to rare wildlife and recreation opportunities;
  • Place the highest value on environmental justice and quality of life for those of us who live, work and recreate near the freight traffic, warehouses and distribution centers.

Five important reasons to create a comprehensive land use and transportation plan:

  1. The transportation infrastructure cannot handle current traffic levels.  I-80 through Joliet is frequently a bottleneck, causing some drivers to divert onto local roads.  The I-80/53 interchange is crumbling and cannot handle traffic levels.  Since our roads are at capacity, it would be illogical to add more warehouse traffic.  traffic-conjestion
  2. Many warehouses sit vacant. It does not make sense to pave over some of the richest farmland in the world when there are empty warehouses and land already zoned for warehouses available.

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    Prime farmland is a prime asset of Will County–it should be protected, not paved over.

  3.  Air quality must be protected. While intermodal is often touted for its environmental benefits in terms of placing containers on rail instead of trucks, the hubs–like Will County– experience massive amounts of diesel exhaust due to the convergence of semis in one area to pick up and drop off shipping containers.  Elected officials need to protect our air quality and health by examining what measures Will County can take to move toward zero-emissions, electric vehicles.  
  4. Sensitive natural areas must be protected. Will County is home to natural areas that provide habitat to rare grassland birds and freshwater mussels. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Kankakee River cannot be replaced and must be protected from the diesel fumes, runoff, and the sound and light pollution that accompanies warehouse developments. 

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    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County stretches across 20,000 acres. Photo: The Wetlands Initiative

  5. We must take a hard look at whether the corporations locating in Will County are paying warehouse workers a living wage. We must also take a hard look at what percentage of goods moving through Will County are made in the United States.  If taxpayers are asked to help pay for the infrastructure to support these warehouses, then taxpayers have a right to question whether this system of globalism makes sense for people and the planet. will-county-openspace

Your car can be more than a pumpkin holder.

Spooky carIt may only be October, but now is a great time to donate your vehicle. When you donate a vehicle that you no longer need or use, your generous donation will not only support Illinois Sierra Club, but you can also benefit from the donation too! When you donate your car, truck or boat to Illinois Sierra Club before January 1st, 2018, you could qualify for a 2017 tax deduction!

The donation process is easy.

CARS will pick up most cars, trucks, trailers, boats, RVs, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, and heavy equipment, making it easy for you to support the Sierra Club’s mission to move toward a greener future.

Don’t let your car just be a pumpkin holder this Fall. Visit us online to give your vehicle a new purpose today!

 

Announcing our 2018 platform – 100% In for the Environment

We have never needed our leaders to take bold action for the environment more than now. If we are going to resist the unprecedented threats to basic protections for our air, land, water, and wildlife, and set new examples for smart strategies that can solve our environmental challenges, it is time for Illinois to lead.

That’s why Illinois Sierra Club has released our 2018 platform –our roadmap for what local leadership on critical environmental issues looks like.

Watch and share the video announcing our 2018 Platform here:

 

We can afford nothing less than 100% effort, solutions that address 100% of the problem, and that benefit 100% of Illinoisans.

It is time for Illinois to commit – 100% – to provide a healthful environment for each and every one of us. Illinois can step up to ensure that our environment is cleaner, and our economy healthier, by being all in to seize the opportunities in restoring our environmental leadership.

We’ve created a roadmap for you and our elected leaders to follow. Read our 2018 platform and say you’re 100% In For The Environment! https://sierra.secure.force.com/actions/Illinois…

Groups applaud release of Asian carp study, urge swift action to move from study to construction

Alliance for the Great Lakes   •   Natural Resources Defense Council
Prairie Rivers Network   •   Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter

Chicago, IL (August 7, 2017) – After much delay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today released the Brandon Road Lock & Dam Study. The study provides critical new information on the options for implementing additional Asian carp control measures to slow the movement of the invasive fish. Environmental and conservation groups released the following statement in response:

“The recent finding of an adult Asian carp nine miles from Lake Michigan underscores the urgent nature of this threat to Lake Michigan and all of the Great Lakes. The study, which was completed months ago, should have been released in February yet the Administration sat on it in reaction to pressure from industry groups and officials from the states of Illinois and Indiana. This delay wasted valuable time, putting the Great Lakes at unnecessary risk.

“We look forward to reviewing the findings in detail and to continuing the conversation on this critical issue with elected officials and concerned citizens during the public comment period. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must listen carefully to public input on the study and then move quickly from study to implementation of additional protection measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, a logical choke point in the system.

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Map showing locations of key features, or measures, of the tentatively selected plan at Brandon Road Lock and Dam. [Source: USACE]

“While possible control measures at Brandon Road Lock and Dam represent another step in the fight against the upstream movement of Asian carp, we cannot lose focus on the need for a two-way solution that also addresses invasive species moving from the Great Lakes into the Mississippi River basin.

“Thank you to the many Congressional Great Lakes champions who have advocated for the release of this study. Continued effort by elected officials will be needed to ensure the process is not delayed further and funding is appropriated for future construction needs.”

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Media Contacts:

Alliance for the Great Lakes: Jennifer Caddick, (312) 445-9760

Natural Resources Defense Council: Ivan Moreno, (312) 651-7932

Prairie Rivers Network: Robert Hirschfeld, (217) 344-2371 x8205

Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter: Cindy Skrukrud, (312) 251-1680 x110

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The Brandon Road Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement is available for review at the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) site.

Comments will be accepted through October 2, 2017. They can be submitted online or mailed or delivered to:

US Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District
231 S. LaSalle St. Suite 1500
ATTN: GLMRIS – Brandon Road Comments
Chicago, IL 60604

The Corps will hold a series of public meetings in order to open a dialogue and obtain feedback. Scheduled meetings are:

  • September 11, 2017 from 1 to 5 p.m. at James R Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph St., Chicago, Illinois
  • September 14 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Muskegon Community College, Collegiate Hall, 221 S. Quarterline Road, Muskegon, Michigan
  • September 18 from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. at Joliet Junior College, “U” Conference Center, 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, Illinois

During the meetings, the Corps will provide a presentation on the tentatively selected plan that includes structural and nonstructural options and technologies for preventing upstream transfer of aquatic nuisance species, such as Asian carp, at Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River. Oral and written comments will be accepted at the meetings. A webinar and Facebook Live format will be provided for the September 14 and 18 meetings. Meeting details will be posted at the GLMRIS Public Meetings page.

Our Ride Ended, But The Campaign To #SaveTheGreatLakes Continues

My husband and I set out this summer to ride our bikes around Lake Michigan in an effort to help #SaveTheGreatLakes. On our ride we met people from all different places and of all different backgrounds, who were visiting Lake Michigan for all different reasons. Some were bike tourers like us, while others were just there for the day to enjoy the beach with their families. What brought us all together were the Lakes.

Protecting the Great Lakes have never been a partisan issue – the lakes provide us with drinking water, help power industry, and are a source of rejuvenation, recreation, and beauty for so many. They’re what make our region great, and programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) are necessary to ensure they are just as great for future generations.

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We saw the impact of the GLRI firsthand. From Muskegon, to Sleeping Bear Dunes, to the Upper Peninsula and back down through Wisconsin, folks depend on the Federal funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help restore ecological integrity and enhance natural beauty. We saw decades of industrial and agricultural discharge cleared away to reconnect the Lake to rivers and tributaries in Muskegon, Michigan. We saw gulls and loons, healthy and free to fly due to increased efforts to fight avian botulism and the zebra and quagga mussels that spread it. We saw fragile native plants flourishing in the Sleeping Bear Dunes, thanks to GLRI efforts to crack down on invasive and competitive baby’s breath. GLRI projects are as diverse and variable as the ecosystem itself, and indeed the GLRI touches nearly every part of life around the Lakes.

While I was riding, a new federal budget was proposed that fully restored funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Trump’s original budget completely eliminated this program.  While this is a win for the Great Lakes and all of us who care about them, the budget still severely reduces overall critical funding to the Environmental Protection Agency. This new proposal is like funding fire trucks without funding the firefighters – a moot point and a hollow promise from a federal government determined to attack and dismantle the necessary work the EPA does. It is so important that we do all we can to keep fighting, to support and defend the EPA. It’s a winnable fight, if we keep at it together.

We were unable to finish our trip due to a death in the family. But saving the Great Lakes is so much bigger than a bike ride. It’s a long road and an uphill climb, and we will only be able to do it if we work together as one. We still need to make sure that the final budget keeps in the GLRI funding, and fully funds EPA. But I believe in our power. I believe in the Great Lakes, in this movement, and in our vision of a healthier and more just planet.

We can save the Great Lakes. We can save the Great Lakes together. I hope you’ll join us.

 

I’m almost to my (new!) goal of raising $2500 to help #SaveTheGreatLakes. Will you help get me there?

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I took a long ride along Lake Michigan in Chicago before going back to work.

If you haven’t already signed the pledge, do so here.