Monday, October 20, 2008
It is the oldest in-water boat show in the nation, but has the nation's economy and the election broad-sided the business of powerboats?
Tim Williams reports vendors are trying to stay on top of these tough economic times.
It's the biggest powerboat show north of Palm Beach, Fla., and with nearly 600 vendors and more than 35,000 people attending, the size of the U.S. Powerboat Show remains virtually steady.
It is slightly down this year due in part to shifts in the economy and the election.
"Attendance is down in the powerboat show about fifteen percent, but the people are happy, optimistic. They're buying to some extent," said Ed Hartman, show owner.
Hartman says for some potential buyers, fluctuation in fuel prices and the credit market both impact deals, and the election isn't far behind.
"The buzz that they're hearing, true or not, is if they earn more than $250,000, it's gonna be taken away from them. And I hear that, so they're saying let's wait until after the election to borrow that money," said Hartman.
Wall Street is another concern. It was down as of closing Friday. Brokers say yacht numbers are up.
"Boats that are 47-feet and down, the economy affects those buyers probably more significantly than it does buyers of this boat and some of the larger boats," said Ben Sprague, yacht broker.
Even when the economy hinders the sale of large ticket items like boats, some vendors say they still fare pretty well. That's because when people aren't spending thousands to buy new toys, they're spending hundreds to dress up the toys they already have. more
Coleman, 26, a grant writer for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, spent 15 minutes in the water pushing herself out of her craft, righting it and then reboarding. It was several hours before she showered.
She called in sick to work the next morning with gastrointestinal problems, she says.
Coleman and other environmental advocates say incidents like that illustrate problems with water quality caused by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. It’s one of the country’s few large sewage authorities that does not disinfect the effluent it pumps into waterways.
The MWRD faces increasing pressure from environmental advocates, and from state regulators, to begin doing so. They say the district is required to disinfect under the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, which was designed to support healthy fish and wildlife populations and recreation on the nation’s waterways.
“We feel that it’s necessary to protect people that are recreating in the water, which has increased quite a bit over the last 30 years,” says Scott Twait, an engineer with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Bureau of Water.
District officials say installing and operating disinfection equipment would cost nearly $1 billion over 20 years. Further, they say, there’s no proof disinfection will cut illnesses among people exposed to river water.
The district is conducting studies on the benefits of disinfection, as well as the feasibility of installing the technology.
“All of these studies need to be generated and complete before we feel comfortable as a technical organization that we are in making a decision,” says Thomas Granato, an MWRD assistant director. “We have billions of dollars at stake.”
To proponents of disinfection, the measure is a matter of basic public health and safety.
Although all MWRD plants remove pollutants from sewage, the effluent may still contain bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause disease.
Disinfection by chlorination or UV irradiation reduces bacteria, viruses and parasites.
It’s viewed as “standard” for publicly owned wastewater plants, says Dale Kemery, press officer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Most publicly owned treatment plants do disinfect their effluent,” he says.
Sewerage districts in the nation’s two other most populous metropolitan areas, New York City and Los Angeles, have been disinfecting their effluent for the past several decades.
The 14 plants operated by the Department of Environment in New York City serve eight million people and treat 1.3 billion gallons of water per day, a volume roughly equivalent to the 1.5 billion gallon flow that the MWRD cleans every day.
Even if disinfection were not required by state regulators, DEP Assistant Commissioner Vincent Sapienza says he’d still recommend it, as a matter of public health and safety for the New Yorkers. Many city residents swim at the city’s beaches and come into contact with treated water. more
Supporters tell us this natural cooling system would dramatically cut energy use in the area.
"It's this kind of project that would put central New York and Onondaga County literally on the cover of TIME Magazine -- it's that kind of project," says ESF president Neil Murphy.
There's already a pump station, treatment plant and pipeline from the lake to Onondaga County, adding a second pipeline, Murphy says, would make sense.
The idea is to take the cold water from deep under the surface of the Great Lake, pipe it down to central New York and use as a cooling source for public and private buildings.
"If we can bring together the right entities to make it go, the savings will be astronomical in terms of electric usage," says Metropolitan Water Board chair Ferdinand Picardi.
Not only would that water be pumped into central New York to help cool buildings, it would also flow back out into Onondaga Lake, which would help with the lake cleanup.
If it works -- and that's still a big “if” -- they say it could have benefits that reach far beyond central New York. more
On Thursday at 9 a. m., Jon Jouppien's team of diggers set out to uncover the Lake Ontario entrance to the first Welland Canal.
They quickly hit the bull's-eye -- twice -- exposing timber beams and supports of the east and the west walls of the channel.
Jouppien, a heritage consultant and archeologist, was elated.
By late morning, the excavators sported giant smiles, and words like "monumental" and "historic" were being used to describe the discovery.
"My work here proves that the canal is in Lakeside Park," Jouppien said as a backhoe clawed into the Port Dalhousie earth.
"This is a piece of nationally important history," said Jouppien, a Niagara Falls resident. "It is critically important to the military and economic history of the early days of the province.
"We didn't expect it would be in this fabulous state of preservation."
As he spoke, a member of the team shouted excitedly from the east-side dig: "Hey! We've got some lock wall fragments here."
The excavation site is in a grassy area at the northwest corner of Lakeside Park.
Jouppien -- who is conducting the excavation for the provincial Ministry of Culture -- said historical documents show the canal at that location is 13.8 metres wide and 2.25 metres deep.
"What's intriguing is we've measured it and we're getting a span of 53 feet (15.9 metres)," Jouppien said.
"We're testing the historic documents people have always used, but this is the real story," he said.
The canal opened in 1829 after five years of construction. It was filled in as successor canals were built.
"This is a chapter in history," Jouppien said. "We can say that first canal is right here in Port Dalhousie, in Lakeside Park."
Jouppien will report back to the City of St. Catharines "so they can use the data we're finding here ... to do cultural resource management of the park," he said.
That means if there's future work underground, the city will know the exact canal dimensions so the remnants aren't damaged, he said.
"I'm also going to be making recommendations that the city looks at the heritage Today will be spent preparing maps, Jouppien said. A report will be sent to the Culture Ministry "by the new year," and the city will get a copy.
In a few days, the excavation site will be filled in again "for safety reasons and also preservation," Jouppien said.
"Isn't that beautiful?" said St. Catharines Regional Coun. Bruce Timms when told about Thursday's discovery. more
The Grand Rapids Press
When Jeromy Butts, of Belmont, showed up at the Sixth Street fish ladder at lunch hour last week, hoping to show his daughter Syndey the big salmon that run up river in the fall, they saw one fairly quickly.
But this year, the run has been more like a walk. It was hardly the slap-dash action of some previous years with fish streaming up the ladder.
"It takes some time to see one. We will wait around," Butts said.
Nearby on the elevated catwalk, Matt Chandler, a salesmen from Caledonia, had stopped by to see the same.
"I came to see if the fish were jumpin' yet, but there's not much happening. It's been very slow."
"Slow" is the word being mouthed by more than fish ladder visitors. It's become a common refrain this year from anglers on the Grand River and fish biologists alike. Even Lake Michigan charter captains have noticed a difference.
"This is one of the worst years I've seen down here at the Sixth Street dam," said James Gordon, a Grand Rapids angler, who has been fishing the river since he was a young man. "When we got those three days of rain, what was here just shot through."
Mike Pitton, a Belmont angler and a regular at Sixth Street, said coho salmon came through first and quickly. Then the big kings began to show up.
The fishing then was interrupted by heavy rains three weeks ago that caused the river to rise several feet and become unfishable. Pitton suspects the big kings blew upstream during that high-water event.
"I think they're long gone," Pitton said.
Chinook salmon now are showing up on the Grand River near Lansing, according to state officials.
"There are a decent number of fish up there," said Jay Wesley, the DNR fisheries supervisor for southwest Michigan. "I wouldn't say the run is off, but the catch has been. We've been hearing that on the Web and from anglers."
Wesley could not say how many fish had moved upstream on the Grand River nor how that compared with other years, but anglers on Lake Michigan are noticing a difference.
"My limit catches are down by 40 percent over last year," said Denny Grinold, past president of the Michigan Charter Boat Association and owner of Old Grin Charters in Grand Haven. "There are less Chinook out there and fewer limit catches."
State fisheries officials say that may be true. Michigan cut its Lake Michigan salmon stocking effort by 30 percent in 2006, reducing the number of planted salmon from 2.3 million to 1.6 million per year. Fish managers hoped to establish a fishery more in balance with a declining alewife population, the forage salmon eat. Other Lake Michigan states followed suit. The result was a 25 percent lakewide reduction in stocking.
"Our goal in 2006 was reduce the number of salmon out in the lake," said Mark Tonello, the DNR fisheries supervisor for northwest Michigan. "We were going to a sustainable fishery and trying to get away from the boom and bust. more
A $300-million wind farm planned near Goderich, Ont., has been cancelled three years after the developer, EPCOR Utilities Inc., was selected by the province to build it.
Call it death by delay.
EPCOR, headquartered in Edmonton, said in a statement late Wednesday that the long wait for provincial and municipal approvals and uncertainty around regulatory matters made it "unable to meet the contract's conditions as a result of circumstances beyond its control."
The 160-megawatt wind farm would have had up to 70 turbines capable of generating power for 50,000 homes. It would have been one of the largest in Ontario.
Neil Levine, a spokesperson for the Alberta utility, said it became clear over the past year that the project could not meet its in-service date, which under a 20-year power purchase contract with the Ontario Power Authority was supposed to be Oct. 31.
"The more you have delays the more costs go up and these projects become quite difficult," said Levine, adding that aside from some limited opposition, the community was generally in support. "It's just that we're a very conservative province, so it's difficult to put anything anywhere."
It's the second major wind project in the province to be terminated because of red tape.
Two years ago, Brookfield Power abandoned a 50-megawatt project in Blue Mountain because it couldn't get municipal construction permits in time.
Those in communities who are opposed to wind projects have become skilled at using layers of government and their respective rules to bog down the process, making it difficult for some developers to calculate final costs and keep within the timelines of their contracts.
When equipment orders have been placed and workers are on site and being paid, even a short delay can add millions to a project.
Debbie Boukydis, a spokesperson for Enbridge Inc., which is close to finishing a 189-megawatt wind farm in Kincardine composed of 115 turbines, said the project has been delayed more than a year because of local opposition and what amounted to regulatory ping-pong.
Boukydis said that some locals were concerned about noise and how far the turbines were set back from property lines and houses.
In response, Enbridge agreed to increase the setback but a small minority still argued it wasn't enough and ended up appealing the project to the Ontario Municipal Board. Canadian Hydro Developers' $450-million 198-megawatt farm planned for Wolfe Island near Kingston has also been delayed. more
Advocates for the lakes region are begging the next president to support a rescue plan expected to cost more than $20 billion. They liken it to the Florida Everglades restoration that Congress approved eight years ago — and it, too, is struggling for lack of money.
"The current economic crisis is even more of a reason why both candidates should articulate comprehensive, detailed Great Lakes cleanup commitments," said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. "Investment in cleanup of the lakes is also an investment in a healthy regional economy."
The Great Lakes region includes crucial states in the presidential race: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The McCain and Obama campaigns agree that the Great Lakes need help but argue over the approach.
While campaigning for re-election in 2004, President Bush established an interagency task force that oversaw development of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. It called for upgrading wastewater and sewage treatment systems, stemming the exotic species tide, restoring wetlands and wildlife habitat and cleaning up toxic sediments. But the administration provided little money.
Obama, an Illinois senator, said last month that McCain had "stood with Bush" in failing to support adequate spending on the lakes. The Democrat, whose home city of Chicago anchors Lake Michigan's southern shore, released a five-point plan featuring a $5 billion "down payment" toward implementing the restoration.
McCain's campaign said the Obama plan "throws taxpayers' money at the problem." Yet aides said the Republican senator from Arizona also supports the restoration, although he has put forward no detailed plan or spending commitment. Obama is a co-sponsor of legislation to implement the restoration; McCain is not.
"The Great Lakes restoration must be a bipartisan initiative that brings on board all regions of the country in supporting the lakes as a national treasure," McCain campaign spokeswoman Sarah Lenti said in a written statement.
Robert Sisson, a national staffer with Republicans for Environmental Protection, said McCain's support of the lakes was sincere. But the budget crisis makes any specific funding pledge at this point an empty gesture, he said.
McCain is trying to have it both ways, said Heather Zichal, Obama's energy and environmental policy director.
"If John McCain is saying this restoration can take place without a significant federal contribution, he's just paying lip service when he claims to support it," Zichal said.
She acknowledged that money would be tight. But hailing from a Great Lakes state, Obama understands the lakes' dire situation and would give them top billing, Zichal said.
"You don't have to explain to a Great Lakes senator why this should be a priority," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. "It's in our DNA."
Obama's plan also calls for appointing a Great Lakes czar within the Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate efforts on the federal, state and local levels.
Other proposals include stepped-up efforts to identify and reduce toxic pollution, promote water conservation and crack down on ship ballast discharges responsible for most of the 185 invasive species that threaten the lakes' ecosystem. more