February 24, 2003

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Chicago to get launch ramp on River

The Illinois DNR is awarding $200,000 to help build a two-lane boat ramp, courtesy dock and parking area at 3200 S. Western Ave. in Chicago. This facility will be the first and only public motorized boat launch on the Chicago River within the city

limits. The overall cost is estimated at $703,500. The rest will come from the Chicago Park District and work may be spread out over time.

State To Construct Second Barrier to Combat Asian Carp!

   The State of Illinois announced that it has agreed to be a local project sponsor, allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to erect a second, more permanent barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in an attempt to protect Lake Michigan and the ecology of the Great Lakes from invasion by Asian carp.

 

   An experimental, temporary barrier erected by the Corps has been operating since last spring. Cost of the new, long-term barrier is estimated at $7 million, with the state’s share at $2 million. Construction is expected to begin sometime next spring, with completion expected to take six to eight months.

 

   Several species of Asian carp including bighead, silver and black, are of concern because of their great reproductive capacity, large size, voracious eating habits and their ability to leap from the water into boats. Females can carry up to 1 million eggs, each fish can weigh as

much as 100 pounds and reach a length of 50 inches.

They eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily by devouring plankton and they take over whatever habitat they invade, consuming or squeezing out native species. Asian carp were spotted this summer in the upper Illinois River, less than 25 miles from the electric barrier and within 55 miles of Lake Michigan.

 

   “The Great Lakes are a prime target for these monster fish. They will not be deterred by colder waters, and in fact, may prefer these waters used by trout and salmon,” said DNR Fisheries Chief Mike Conlin.

               

   Bighead and silver carp are both native to China. They were introduced in the southern Mississippi River area by aquaculture operations trying to control plants and algae in their fish ponds, but they escaped during the floods in the 1990s and have migrated north. Black carp, also from China, were imported by aquaculture farmers in Arkansas to control snails and have escaped into the wild but have not spread to the extent of the other two.

House/Senate ok $$ for 1st barrier

   WASHINGTON -- The Senate approved an amendment to the 2003 federal spending bill on January 23 providing $500,000 that will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue operating the electric dispersal barrier in the Chicago Ship & Sanitary Canal. Because the money is contained in both the Senate and House bills, it is not an item that can be negotiated in conference.

 

   The measure, sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-OH, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, passed by voice vote.
The temporary $2.2 million barrier in the Canal, which connects the Mississippi and Chicago rivers, was turned on in April to control movement of invasive species.  It was scheduled to be removed after 18 months. The barrier will help keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.  
               

   DeWine plans to introduce a separate bill in the Senate that

would make the barrier permanent and possibly add another

barrier to the waterway. The barrier, which is a series of cables under the canal, sends a low-level charge to the fish that repels them so they turn around instead of swimming into Lake Michigan, which is about 25 miles away.

 

   The Asian carp, which can grow to 100 lbs and 4 ft. long, threatens the plankton food supply of paddlefish, gizzard shad, bigmouth buffalo and other filter feeders. They also compete with larval and juvenile fish and mussels. The fish can eat up to half their body weight a day in plankton, leaving little food for other fish.

   Arkansas fish farmers imported the Asian carp from China in the 1970s to improve water quality in their pens. Some escaped and began appearing in the Mississippi River in the 1990s.

New MN statewide fish limits approved

   New limits for crappie, sunfish, lake trout and catfish will take effect on the 2003 fishing opener next May, the Minnesota DNR has announced. The limit changes will affect all inland waters and the Minnesota-Canada border waters.

 

   Daily and possession limits will be reduced for three species, with crappie limits going from 15 to 10, sunfish from 30 to 20, and lake trout from three to two. The change in the lake trout bag limit applies to all inland lakes but according to DNR Fisheries Program Manager Linda Erickson-Eastwood "not Lake Superior and its posted tributaries above posted boundaries." "Lake Superior lake trout limits will remain at three." The daily and possession limit for catfish will remain at five, but only one over 24" and two flathead catfish will be allowed in the total limit.

 

   DNR data showed that lake trout harvests have been

above recommended levels on many waters in northeast

Minnesota and the average size of crappie and sunfish has been declining statewide. The new limit on lake trout is expected to decrease the statewide harvest by as much as 30% on average and will help maintain lake trout populations at a higher level.

 

   Lake Superior creel limits will remain the same because of Great Lakes Fishery Commission and DNR reports indicating the healthy recovery of its lake trout populations.  Fisheries agencies subsequently decided to eliminate stocking in zone 3 Minnesota waters because of the excellent recovery.
               

   Crappie and sunfish limit changes are expected to reduce harvest by only 3 to 4%, but the harvest reduction could be greater on lakes with exceptional fisheries. The changes could help stabilize the declining trend in average size for those species.

Chronic Wasting Disease found in a farmed elk

   ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced that an elk from a Stearns County farmed elk herd tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).  The animal was one of 21 elk on a farm near Sauk Center that were quarantined and tested due to exposure to a CWD-positive elk

from Aitkin County.  The other 20 elk in the herd tested negative.  This discovery marks Minnesota's second confirmed CWD case.

 

   To date, CWD has not been detected in Minnesota's wild deer herd. So far, 1,488 samples collected during the 2002 firearms deer season have been negative. 

Review of Michigan's Wetlands Program - EPA Invites public Comments by March 7

   CHICAGO -USEPA Region 5 is inviting public comments on its review of Michigan's wetlands regulatory program, also known as the Section 404 provision of the Clean Water Act.  Michigan is one of two states with authority to administer the program.

 

   EPA's review concluded that in general the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality does a good job of administering the program, but identified some improvements that must be made so that the Michigan program is consistent with federal rules. The state has already taken steps to ensure that its program is consistent with federal regulations and guidelines.

Some of the differences between the Michigan and federal

programs were:

 

   The state does not clearly require a permit for the conversion of wetlands to agricultural production, state drain maintenance exemptions are broader in scope than federal exemptions, and state rules exempt construction of basins for mining waste and water storage areas from the need for permits.

 

   EPA's review was published in the Jan. 7 Federal Register, and is available on its Web site, www.epa.gov/region5 . Comments should be postmarked by March 7, 2003, and sent to Sue Elston, U.S. EPA (W-16J), 77 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604 or e-mailed to  elston.sue@epa.gov

 

USEPA, USFWS want input on ESA

Feds seek to improve endangered Species process for pesticides – due March 10                   

   The USEPA, USFWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service, in consultation with the USDA, are seeking comments from the public and affected parties on how the Endangered Species Act consultation process can be made more effective and efficient with respect to pesticide registration actions.

 

   Comments, identified by docket ID number OPP-2003-0010, 
must be received on or before March 10, 2003.  Comments may 
be submitted electronically or by mail. Use EPA Dockets at 
http://www.epa.gov/edocket/ to submit or view public comments, 
access the index listing of the contents of the official public docket, 
and to access those documents in the public docket that are 
available electronically. Once in the system, select ``search,''  
then key in the appropriate docket ID number.

 

   Under the Endangered Species Act, EPA must ensure that registration of pesticides will not jeopardize the continued existence of threatened or endangered species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.  Through an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in the Federal Register, the feds are seeking comments on a variety of approaches to improve and enhance the consultation processes among agencies. Improving the consultation process will directly benefit

listed species and their habitat by ensuring that the

potential effects of pesticides are examined in a timely and comprehensive manner.

 

   Specifically, the agencies are soliciting comments on the following approaches, such as:

 

► Approaches to make the consultation process more efficient by eliminating redundant analyses and focusing on pesticide use patterns which appear most likely to raise concerns. 

► Consultation approaches that would involve the wildlife agencies only when EPA finds that a pesticide registration action is likely to adversely affect listed species.  Otherwise, no further consultation would be required.

► Procedures that focus and prioritize the wildlife agencies' reviews once consultation is deemed necessary, and gives appropriate consideration to EPA's scientific findings and protection strategies. 

 

   The agencies are seeking comments on these approaches to facilitate the decision making process and enhance the integrity of the decisions.   The Federal Register notice announcing this is available at http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-SPECIES/2003/January/Day-24/e1661.htm  More information on EPA's Endangered Species Protection Program is available at: http://www.epa.gov/espp/

Mississippi River plan available for public review – due March 29

   A proposed new management plan for the Mississippi Scenic Riverway between St. Cloud and Anoka is now available for public review and comment. Public meetings have been scheduled for the first week in March and written comments are due by March 29.

 

   The draft plan guides the MN DNR and local government management of the Mississippi River portion designated as a State Wild and Scenic River.  The draft plan would replace the management plan prepared in 1976 when the river was originally designated as a Scenic Riverway. Public meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, March 4, at the Monticello Community Center in Monticello; Wednesday, March 5, at the Sherburne County Government Center in Elk River; and Thursday, March 6, at the Stearns County Government Center in St. Cloud. All three meetings will begin at 7 p.m. with a presentation

about the content of the plan, followed by questions and discussion.

 

   Key elements of the plan include modest changes to the riverway's boundary and several proposed changes to the land use rules. The existing land use rules create two zoning districts; the proposed plan would create four districts, giving local governments and property owners greater flexibility while still protecting the river's outstanding values.

 

   To get a copy of the draft plan call the DNR Waters Division at 651-296-4800. The draft plan can also be viewed on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/ .

 

   Written comments on the draft plan, due by March 29, may be e-mailed to steve.johnson@dnr.state.mn.us  or mailed directly to: Steve Johnson, Minnesota DNR Waters Division, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4032.

Groups want for more public use of Lake Calumet

Meetings to be held Feb 28 & March 28, at 3600 E. 95th St.

   Conservation and environmental groups are challenging the Illinois International Port District's board to open up Lake Calumet for more public use. A recent meeting was full of recreationists during the first of three public meetings to discuss the lake's future.

 

   Many said commercial shipping has declined on Lake Calumet, the lake's health is improving and the port district should allow more recreational and educational activities on the lake's shores — which are owned by the port district.   People from local clubs, boards and agencies focused on Lake Calumet referenced the lake's past, when it was larger, less polluted and served as a fishing and trapping haven on the Southeast Side.

 

   Some in the crowd said there are educational opportunities not being realized. Lake Calumet's southern shore serves as a deep port for Great Lakes shipping freight arriving in Chicago, while the lake's north shore is

less developed and home to a variety of rare and

endangered plants and animals.

 

   Familiar battles between local environmentalists and the port district reached a high pitch last summer, when the port district's plans to build a 1,000-slip marina on the lake became public. Mayor Richard Daley eventually killed the marina proposal, telling the port district board that the marina didn't conform to the city's land use plans. Daley appoints some members of the port district's board.

 

   After January's meeting, William Braasch, the board's chairman, said the port district is sincere about working with environmentalists.  "These folks live here. These folks have dedicated a good portion of their lives to working with the environment," Braasch said. "We're going to, hopefully, come up with the best possible land use for this land here, and have them on board with us at the same time."

               

   A second public meeting on Feb. 28 before the port district board will consider recreational issues, and a third meeting March 28 will discuss commercial issues. The meetings will be held at 3600 E. 95th St.

Early Retirement hits IL DNR

   It's not bad enough that we'll be getting a new DNR Director after 12 years of dedicated service by Brent Manning. Over 500 hundred employees preceded Manning into early retirement on Dec 31. That's almost 25% of the 2150 DNR employees on Illinois' payroll.

 

   With new governor Rod Blagojevich's hiring freeze it will be hard to manage the state's natural resources and programs for the foreseeable future.  Four of seven project managers in the wildlife division – gone; 10 of 16 staffers in the real estate division – gone; 16 site superintendents and 17 assistant superintendents – gone; five directors -  gone,

with four more probably gone by April..

 

   Gone from fisheries are veteran biologists Rich Hess (Lake Michigan) and Bill Bertrand (Mississippi River).  Ron Allen, who is responsible for the successful launch of the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame and has run top-notch events throughout his 25-year tenure – gone. The forestry division has been whittled down.

               

   As one DNR staffer said, "There's definitely going to be things that are not getting done and people are not going to understand why."

Invasive species causing great ecological harm

IJC urges US/Canada to prevent future Introductions

Alien invasive species, transferred from foreign ecosystems, can thrive in the Great Lakes, unhindered by any natural controls such as predators they might confront in native ecosystems.

 

Exploding zebra mussel populations have caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to water structures and ecosystems, and they are only one of 160 non-indigenous species now inhabiting the system. The next alien species to enter the lakes could cause even greater damage. The U.S. and Canada have responded by developing regulations and procedures surrounding ballast water discharge from ships entering the ecosystem through the

 St. Lawrence River, because ballast water is the primary source of the threat.

 

But risks remain because the majority of ships entering the Great Lakes system can legally claim “no ballast on board” and thereby are exempt from current regulation. However, they still harbor alien species in the sludge of their “empty” ballast tanks, and in the bio-films contaminating hulls or anchor chains.

 

In light of the high risk, the IJC believes the two national govern-mints must urgently take more aggressive steps to prevent future alien species introductions, including new rules and programs to assure that “no ballast on board” ships do not biologically contaminate our waters.

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