Asian Carp, Oil Spill and Great Lakes Restoration Highlights

I’m back after an August hiatus, and there’s lots happening. Here are a few items:

Asian carp: the breaking news is that the Obama Administration has created a new position, Asian carp director, in the Council of Environmental Quality, and filled it with none other than our own John Goss, the former executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation. I’m very excited about this. I’ve known John for years and he’s passionate about the Great Lakes and very good at getting things done, a combination we really need in that job. He’s got his work cut out for him because the position doesn’t come with new legal authority, just the power to persuade and cajole and coordinate. But that’s what John does best, so I have high hopes. And we look forward to working with him. Check our NWF’s news release on the Asian Carp Tsar announcement.

On the flip side, the Administration (via the Corps) is actively fighting a lawsuit brought by the states to shut the canals. The hearing is going on this week; stay tuned for the outcome.

Kalamazoo River oil spill: The good news is that the leak was stopped within days, the oil seems to be contained and it never reached Lake Michigan. The bad news is that the spill occurred in an area that was flooded due to heavy rain events the days prior. At the spill site, 5 acres of wetlands were heavily saturated in tar oil; around 30 miles of river banks were coated with oil; and surrounding wildlife has been significantly impacted and will continue to be impacted until all oil is completely removed from the river banks.  Issues continue to arise around worker safety and residential rights. The spill happened in Congressman Mark Shauer’s district, and the committee he sits on (House Transportation and Infrastructure) is holding a hearing on it in Washington next week, September 15. NWF’s response coordinator, Beth Wallace, and I have been invited to testify before on the committee. More on that soon.

Great Lakes restoration: The first grants are out! EPA made the grant announcements this week in Green Bay and Toledo. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson personally made the announcements, four grants in Ohio totaling $1.9 million, and seven in Wisconsin at $5.2 million. These are the first wave of what’s expected in the next few weeks to be 270 projects and $160 million in grants from EPA.

Not to be outdone, the Healing Our Waters –Great Lakes Coalition announced our own Great Lakes restoration grants, 13 of them totaling $190,000. These grants are seed money to enable small organizations to go after the larger government grants.

There’s more, of course, but this post is long enough. Next week, I’ll be in Washington doing double duty: visiting Congressional offices as part of a HOW fly-in, and tracking the Kalamazoo River Oil spill hearings. I’ll post when I have more news.

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