Category Archives: Clean Water

Posts relating to clean water work.

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.

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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.

Saving the Great Lakes has never been a partisan issue

For our honeymoon, my husband and I biked from Vancouver, BC to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon – 1,200 miles in 5 weeks through some of the most beautiful parts of this country. On that trip, it was common to see other folks on bikes loaded up with their tent, gear and sleeping bags also touring the area. 

We were excited when one morning on our way to Sleeping Bear Dunes we saw a bicyclist with a packed bike stopped on the side of the road – our first fellow bike tourer sighting this trip. We slowed down to say hello and ask where he was headed. “North,” he replied, and we all laughed. “Us too,” we said and invited TJ to ride along with us. He joined us all day for our ride and meal breaks, and we chatted almost the entire ride.

TJ had started biking from his home in Rochester, Indiana two days before. He rode a beastly 280 miles in his first two days – a feat which just thinking about makes my whole body ache. His family was planning to meet him in Northport, Michigan where they would vacation together. Back in Rochester, TJ is a firefighter and has two young sons. We heard lots of great stories about his boys and adventures as a firefighter along the ride.

 

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A quick selfie with TJ before he left us to continue biking for the day

We were eager to be headed for the Sleeping Bear Dunes – a jewel in Lake Michigan’s crown. Sandy beaches, forested islands, 450-foot dunes, and manifold species of animals and plants are protected here by the National Park Service and are enjoyed by millions of visitors during all four seasons.  

But during the summer of 2006, an unwelcome guest showed up on Sleeping Bear’s shores. Thousands of birds were dropping dead on the region’s pristine beaches after losing the ability to hold their heads up and fly. Scientists determined the culprit was a disease called type E avian botulism, which first came to Lake Michigan in the 1960s but hadn’t made a resurgence since 1983.

Avian botulism is caused by toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. These toxins often concentrate in aquatic invertebrates like invasive zebra or quagga mussels, which are commonly ingested by bottom-feeding fish that then get gobbled up by birds like gulls and loons, for which the toxin is paralytic and lethal.

In 2010 the National Park Service and a coalition of conservation research partners received funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to study these avian botulism outbreaks. Researchers measured changes to coastal habitats that are affected by the increase in botulism, and mapped and documented past lake changes in order to understand and predict botulism outbreaks in the future. 

Future steps in the project include a continuation of monitoring and managing outbreaks, and increasing nonprofit and volunteer involvement in data collection and beach cleanups. Funding from the GLRI is necessary for the fight to decrease avian botulism and keep the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem intact.

Up on the dunes, the GLRI is helping stop a terrestrial invasive species from further hurting Sleeping Bear’s ecosystem. Known scientifically as Gypsophilia paniculata, baby’s breath is a pretty white flower native to Eastern Europe and commonly found in gardens across the United States. But careless planting in the Great Lakes region has turned baby’s breath into an aggressive invasive species.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has funded a project to manage the invasive plant along 100 acres of the Lakeshore and to study its effects on the ecosystem. The project aims to measure and catalog the location and spread of baby’s breath, remove the plants physically and with herbicide, and observe changes that occur from season to season.

Eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would be devastating to these efforts at Sleeping Bear Dunes, and many others like it dedicated to keeping our Lakes healthy and clean.

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Throughout our day, I told TJ about the work that I do and our campaign to #SaveTheGreatLakes. He told me that growing up in Rochester, he takes his two boys up to Benton Harbor or the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore every summer. When I asked, he told me he “leaned right” politically, but didn’t quite seem to see how that was relevant to us talking about keeping our Great Lakes healthy.

Protecting the Great Lakes, our drinking water, and the economy they drive has long been a bipartisan issue. We can’t let hyper-partisanship in politics get in the way of protecting the Great Lakes. The GLRI protects our drinking water, creates jobs, protects public health, keeps beaches open and upholds a way of life for millions of people. Donald Trump’s Great Lakes cuts should be dead on arrival for all members of Congress from our region. And we must stand up together to #SaveTheGreatLakes.

Right before TJ left us to continue on his way, he told us, “I’ve been out East to the ocean once or twice. But I don’t know what it is, I just prefer the Great Lakes.”

I can’t put my finger on it either. But these Lakes are pretty special.

Contribute to our campaign to #SaveTheGreatLakes here.

And be sure to sign our #SaveTheGreatLakes petition here

 

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A perfect ride to visit GLRI success stories in Muskegon, MI

Muskegon, a town in Michigan at the southernmost tip of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, is home to celebrated museums, pristine recreational beaches, a top-notch performing arts camp, an amusement park — and two Great Lakes Restoration Initiative success stories.

 
Our ride into Muskegon was relatively flat and absolutely perfect weather – mid-70s and sunny. We stopped for an afternoon snack and stretch break on the shores of Lake Muskegon. A recreational and ecological staple of the area, the lake forms a harbor along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and drains out of the Muskegon River.

 

Decades of industrial discharge into its waters and wetland destruction along its shores brought Lake Muskegon to a critical point, and in 1985 it was listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Great Lakes “Area of Concern.”

 
An “AOC” is a geographic location in the Great Lakes watershed where environmental degradation has occurred as the result of human activities. In the past two decades many projects have been implemented to delist Lake Muskegon as an AOC, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has played a critical part in making Muskegon’s waterways healthier places for wildlife to live and visitors to enjoy.

 
Half a mile upstream from the lake, a GLRI project is aiming to do just that by restoring ecologically rich wetlands along the banks of the Lower Muskegon River. For years these areas were unnaturally separated from the river by dikes and pumps so the resulting land fragments could be used for celery farming. These harmful alterations broke up aquatic and terrestrial habitats, contributed to the degradation of the Lake, and hurt fishing possibilities along the river.

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I happen to walk past this GLRI sign while eating a heaping cone of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream

 
Engineers and conservationists are hard at work, clearing away human-made fill and reconnecting the Muskegon river with its floodplain and Muskegon Lake. The removal of these man-made structures, which are filled with concrete, soil, tree stumps, and sediment, is one of the last steps in the process to delist Muskegon Lake as an AOC.

 
This isn’t the first time the GLRI has helped clean up Lake Muskegon. In 2012 the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Muskegon city and county partners completed a $12 million effort to remove 43,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the bottom of the Lake. Decades of industry discharge through a storm sewer pumped mercury and petroleum products into the Lake, contaminating fish (which affected how much people were allowed to catch and eat) and causing a host of other environmental problems.

 
The removal project created jobs for barge and dredge operators, truck drivers, biologists, chemists, and toxicologists. It helped bolster the fishing industry on Muskegon Lake and decreased serious public health concerns relating to contaminated fish and water. Investing in the GLRI, in our waterways, and in the Great Lakes as a whole, works.

 
Without the GLRI, 53 acres of Muskegon wetland will remain disconnected and thousands of fish and wildlife will be isolated from vital habitat networks. Moreover, failure to fund and complete the current cleanup project would continue to hurt the vibrant Muskegon recreation industry, which contributes $1.3 million to the local economy every year.

 
The GLRI has a proven track record of success in Muskegon, and in shoreside communities all around the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, President Trump has proposed to completely eliminate this program. This is an issue that transcends politics and partisanship — folks from all sides of the aisle enjoy and deserve clean water and beautiful natural spaces. We call on our Great Lakes members of Congress from both parties to join us in standing up for the GLRI this budget season.

 
We care about our health, our economy, our environment. We care about our Great Lakes. And we aren’t backing down.

 
You can show your support by contributing to our campaign to #SaveTheGreatLakes at http://www.teamsierra.org/illinois/kady, and signing the pledge at http://www.addup.org/campaigns/save-the-great-lakes-from-the-trump-administration

 

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Asian Carp Advance On Lake Michigan; Trump Halts Project to Stop Them, Threatens To Cut Off All Great Lakes Funds

Yesterday an invasive adult silver carp was caught within nine miles of Lake Michigan in the Calumet River. The 8-pound fish was captured in a gill net by a commercial fisherman working for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) as part of their seasonal intensive monitoring program looking for this invasive species within Chicago’s waterways. This critical work is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which President Trump has proposed to eliminate all funding for beginning October 1. More information about current carp control efforts is available here.

The Trump Administration has also halted efforts to upgrade the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, downstream of the electric barriers, to prevent the movement of Asian carp upstream. The Army Corps of Engineers was set to release the study for public review in late February when the White House blocked its release.

Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Clean Water Program Director Cindy Skrukrud released this statement:

“The capture of a silver carp past the electric barrier and just 9 miles from Lake Michigan is a potent reminder of how the Trump Administration is failing to address the huge problem that aquatic invasive species pose to the Great Lakes. While alien invaders are headed towards Lake Michigan, Trump and his team are halting projects to keep them out and dismantling Great Lakes protection programs. It is urgent that Governor Rauner and our entire Congressional delegation call on President Trump to release the Brandon Road Lock and Dam study that his administration is holding hostage, and demand that he commit to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. If Trump is allowed by Congress to cut off all Great Lakes funding October 1, Illinois DNR will not be able to continue the critical work underway right now to catch and control these dangerous invaders.”

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Want to take action? Here’s how you can help:

Sign the Great Lakes Protection Pledge and tell your Member of Congress to do the same

Tell your Members of Congress to support legislation to stop Asian carp

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Silver carp captured in the Illinois Waterway on June 22, 2017 below T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam.
Image courtesy of Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
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The Brandon Road Lock and Dam upgrade would increase protection for Lake Michigan

 

Bill Introduced Today to End White House Delays in Combatting Asian Carp Invasion

Today a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Stop Asian Carp Now bill, which would require the Administration to release a study the Army Corps of Engineers has done on Asian Carp control methods at Brandon Road Lock and Dam. In response, Sierra Club and our partners released the following statement.

 

Alliance for the Great Lakes  ·  National Wildlife Federation  ·  Natural Resources Defense Council  ·  Ohio Environmental Council  ·  Prairie Rivers Network  ·  Save The River  ·  Sierra Club   ·  Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

 

Media Statement
Bill Seeks to End White House Delays in Combatting Asian Carp Invasion
Groups Applaud Efforts by Members of Congress to Make Latest Research Available to the Public

Chicago, IL (June 21, 2017) – A bipartisan bill introduced today in Congress would push the Trump Administration to stop delaying a key effort to stop the Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes. Conservation groups from around the Great Lakes region expressed support for the bill. The groups stressed that the current Asian carp control measures, from electric barriers to harvesting, are not enough to keep the harmful fish out of the Great Lakes.

Two years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with studying additional protection measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, IL. The facility is a logical choke point location to install control measures to stop the fish from moving closer to the lake. The study was paid for at taxpayer expense and is ready for public review. The draft report was supposed to be released for public review and input on February 28, 2017. But, instead of releasing it to the public, the White House blocked the report’s release, leaving it hidden away on a Washington, D.C. shelf gathering dust. And with it, efforts to install critical prevention measures to halt Asian carp have all but come to a halt, putting the Great Lakes at risk.

Today a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Stop Asian Carp Now bill, which would require the Administration to release the Brandon Road Study. The Stop Asian Carp Now bill was introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Bill Huizenga (R-MI).  We applaud Members of Congress for pushing to make this report public and fighting to protect the Great Lakes from the serious threat posed by Asian carp. Conservation groups support the bill noting that, “the Administration has had more than three months to review the report. It is past time to give Great Lakes residents a chance to do the same.”

The seven cosponsors in the Senate so far are Senators Durbin (D-IL), Peters (D-MI), Baldwin (D-WI), Brown (D-OH), Franken (D-MN), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Duckworth (D-IL).

The 31 cosponsors in the House so far are Reps. Huizenga (MI-02), Joyce (OH-14), Slaughter (NY-25), Nolan (MN-08), Trott (MI-11), Bergman (MI-01), Moolenaar (MI-04), Walberg (MI-07), Kildee (MI-05), Upton (MI-06), Schneider (IL-10), Mike Bishop (MI-08), Dingell (MI-12), Lawrence (MI-14), Walz (MN-01), Quigley (IL-05), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Conyers (MI-13), Moore (WI-04), Gallagher (WI-08), Chris Collins (NY-27), Schakowsky (IL-09), Mitchell (MI-10), Duffy (WI-07), Pocan (WI-02), Levin (MI-09), Fudge (OH-11), Stefanik (NY-21), Latta (OH-05), Amash (MI-03) and Brian Higgins (NY-26).

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Note to Media: Two additional resources that may be helpful in relation to this statement include:

Media Contacts:

Alliance for the Great Lakes: Jennifer Caddick, (312) 445-9760, jcaddick@greatlakes.org
National Wildlife Federation: Marc Smith, (734) 887-7116, msmith@nwf.org
Natural Resources Defense Council: Ivan Moreno, 312-651-7932, imoreno@nrdc.org
Ohio Environmental Council: David Miller, (419) 944-1986, DMiller@theoec.org
Prairie Rivers Network: Robert Hirschfeld, (217) 344-2371 x205, rhirschfeld@prairierivers.org
Save The River: Lee Willbanks, (315) 686-2010,  lee@savetheriver.org
Sierra Club: Cindy Skrukrud, (312) 251-1680 x110, cindy.skrukrud@sierraclub.org
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council: Jennifer McKay, (231) 347-1181, jenniferm@watershedcouncil.org

Environmental Groups Sue Illinois DNR over Wasteful Withdrawals of Lake Michigan Water

Last week, environmental protection groups filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to overturn a decision permitting additional billions of gallons of Lake Michigan water to be used to improve conditions in the Chicago River system during periods of poor water quality.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) applied in 2014 to withdraw additional Lake Michigan water. The Alliance for the Great Lakes, Illinois Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Openlands opposed the application, arguing that water conservation practices could be used to more efficiently manage the resource and keep more water in the lake while still protecting water quality in the Chicago River system. IDNR’s Director Wayne Rosenthal issued a decision in March allowing an additional 420 billion gallons of water to be diverted from Lake Michigan through the year 2030. The groups are now challenging that decision in an effort to reduce the amount of Lake Michigan water diverted.

In response, Illinois Sierra Club’s Clean Water Program Director Dr. Cindy Skrukrud released the following statement:

“IDNR issued their decision to allow a drastic increase to the amount of water diverted from Lake Michigan after failing to properly consider whether there are alternatives to maintain sanitary conditions in the Chicago River without using this wasteful amount of water. Everybody wants the Chicago River to be as clean as possible, but IDNR refused to even think about whether that could be done using common-sense solutions like green infrastructure. We are bringing suit in Cook County Circuit Court to assure that Great Lakes water is not wasted.

“Under the Great Lakes Compact, all Great Lakes states are required to evaluate ways to conserve their use of lake water. We recommended that the IDNR require studies on how improved treatment at wastewater plants could reduce pollution in Chicago waterways and reduce the need for Lake Michigan water to flush pollutants out of the system. We also called for studies on how green infrastructure practices could be deployed to reduce pollution from stormwater and combined sewer overflows. In fact, MWRD is already working to reduce pollution to Chicago waterways by improving treatment of its wastewater and implementing green infrastructure practices. Their current measures and expansion of these efforts should be factored into the determination of the need for Lake Michigan water withdrawals over the next decade. IDNR ignored these developments and our recommendations and has not required any study of methods to reduce use of the water. Their decision to allow use of Great Lakes water without even considering conservation practices flies in the face of the Compact and sets a bad precedent for future uses of Lake Michigan water.

“As the Trump Administration moves to cut the flow of vital funding to the Great Lakes, Governor Rauner’s IDNR is also loosening controls on diversions of water from Lake Michigan. Now, more than ever, we need states to do their part to stand up and protect our Great Lakes resource, not waste it.

“We hope the Court will reverse IDNR’s decision and require proper consideration of conservation practices to reduce the use of Lake Michigan water and protect this precious resource.”

Read the Complaint, Alliance for the Great Lakes et al. v. IDNR et al., 2017-CH-05445 (4.14.17)

Read more about the Great Lakes Compact here.