Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ship sinking plan not off shoals yet

Recorder and Times

A provincial Ministry of Natural Resources official says it’s premature to suggest there’s clear sailing for plans to sink a 2,800-tonne warship in the St. Lawrence River.

Jim Fraser, MNR area supervisor in Kemptville, said Monday that concern over the artificial reef project’s impact on the river’s fish habitat is just one of several regulatory hurdles still in the way.

“We’re trying to work proactively with the proponent, but there’s a number of hoops still to go through,” said Fraser.

His comments follow remarks at a city council meeting last week by a Brockville and District Tourism Advisory Committee member indicating approvals were close at hand.

“Everything looks good, we’re looking at … perhaps the sinking going forward perhaps after Labour Day. It’s amazing news,” committee member Laura Good told councillors.

She was referring to plans by the Eastern Ontario Artificial Reef Association (EOARA) to purchase the decommissioned HMCS Terra Nova, a 372-foot anti-submarine destroyer escort built in 1956.

The EOARA is seeking approval to sink the warship in 130 feet of water in the St. Lawrence about four kilometres east of Brown’s Bay.

The $2-million project has the support of municipal, provincial and federal politicians who are eager to reap its economic benefits.

Proponents have said it could attract up to 6,000 divers annually, generating $8 million a year for the region’s tourism economy – good news for a region battered by economic bad times.

While Fraser said there are still several approvals required, the major unresolved question is clearly what impact scuttling the massive warship will have on the sturgeon population.

He said the location selected by EOARA is considered a sturgeon nursery by fish biologists, an area where the young fish “spend their formative years.” more

More wind projects gust into Thumb - Ubly turbines tested on Monday

Bay City Times

Forty-six turbines are being tested at Michigan's second commercial wind park in Huron County, and towers that could bring more windmills are being installed in Tuscola and Mason counties.

Workers for owner John Deere Wind Energy were conducting test spins on Monday at the wind park near Ubly, acquired last month from Connecticut-based Noble Environmental Power, said Jeanette Hagen, development manager for John Deere Renewables.

Consumers Energy officials also were to announce the start of construction today on three meteorological towers in Tuscola County and four others in Mason County, bordering Lake Michigan.

The utility expects to finish construction of the 180-foot-tall "met towers" by the end of the year, officials said. In addition, Consumers Energy will refurbish two existing towers it has purchased in Mason County.

"The purpose of the meteorological towers is to collect wind data over a two-year period," George Hass, executive director of new generation for Consumers Energy, said in a statement.

"We'll be measuring wind speed, wind direction and air temperature to determine if the sites are suitable for wind turbine generators and the best location for them."

Consumers officials say they've secured more than 28,000 acres of easements in Tuscola and Mason counties for potential wind generation development. They didn't say how many windmills may be in the cards.

The 46 Ubly area windmills were constructed on about 5,000 acres of farm fields in Bingham and Sheridan townships.

Hagen said the test spins are part of routine inspections for such a project.

General Electric, which manufactured the 1.5-megawatt turbines near Ubly, plans to hire and train about 10 local people as wind technicians for the 46-turbine park, Hagen said. GE will maintain the windmills for John Deere Wind Energy. more

Scientist studies birds, plants at Presque Isle

Erie Times-News

Birds and plants. Since the late 1800s, many important studies have been done on the birds and the plants of Presque Isle. But, until recently, no specific studies have been done to show how the birds and the plants at Presque Isle depend upon each other.

Quietly, very quietly, a study of that interrelationship began at the park in 2007. Though few have heard about it, there's nothing secretive about it. It's just that there's never been a public announcement, and the fact that those who are doing the work are so deeply interested in what they are doing that they probably never even thought of seeking publicity.

Birds are the main focus of the research, bird banding is the method, and Sarah Sargent is the coordinator of the project.

It was early in May when I first met Sarah Sargent. She had just banded a bird and was standing in almost the exact spot where Ron Leberman stood on June 3, 2006, as he brought to a conclusion his 46 years of banding birds at Presque Isle.

Through the grapevine, I'd heard that bird banding had been resumed just beyond Niagara Boat Ramp, where Leberman had his mist nets and banding table in years past.

It was the data from his many continuous years of banding at Presque Isle that brought Sargent -- who has a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology, and works for Audubon Pennsylvania, a state office of the National Audubon Society, to Presque Isle.

"I'm banding here because Ron banded here. It's just really valuable to have longtime data stats," she said.

She said she'd been here last fall, that this was her first spring banding here, and that in the summer and fall she'd be doing some habitat work -- looking "at habitat quality and how quickly birds can gain weight during the stopover."

"This is the only important stopover area for birds," she said. "Especially in the spring, because they're coming from the south to the north. They really build up on the south shore of the lake. Presque Isle, of course, is kind of a promontory, and it's a real migrant trap.

"We just want to know whether they're able to get sufficient food to gain weight in order to continue their migration further north. Like these yellow warblers that go up all the way to the tundra -- practically into the low willows up there, where there's extensive breeding range. And yet, in the winter, they're wintering in northern South America -- Venezuela and Columbia. more

New ship sails into Thunder Bay

A new ship will sail the Great Lakes this week, and shipping officials call that good news for both the industry and the city.

This MV Blacky is being loaded with canola at the local Viterra elevator, and will make its way to Mexico where the shipment will be turned into canola oil.

Lake Superior Shipping Ship agent Sandy Henderson said it's the first of 14 ships to be built in China by a Montreal-based company. He said it is a good sign that new ships are being built.

Henderson also said that the ship was built three months ago, and can carry up to 28,000 tonnes of cargo. As for the kind of cargo the ship can carry, Henderson said anything from grain to steel.

But with the depth limitations in the Great Lakes, it cannot carry more than 20,000 tonnes out of Thunder Bay. The MV Blacky will sail out Tuesday and arrive in Mexico in about two weeks. more

Jaeger sightings reward frozen birders: Aerial View

Plain Dealer

For birders who braved the icy winds, driving rain, stinging sleet, blinding snow and crashing waves over the weekend, the payoff was worth the pain.

Inspired by the prospects of rarities, dozens of birders endured numb toes and wind-chapped faces at some of Lake Erie's best vantage points from Huron Harbor to Headlands Beach.

The reward was the most jaegers seen in Northeast Ohio in years.

Jaegers are the pirates of the sea: sleek, powerful, falconlike fliers that steal fish from gulls rather than catching their own.

Jaegers nest on the Arctic tundra and winter in the oceans, with small numbers passing through the Great Lakes along the way.

Some years, we're lucky to see any. This year, lakefront birders are witnessing a major invasion.

With the jaegers pushed closer to shore by stiff northern winds, birders lined the breakwall at Huron on Saturday to enjoy close views of two species, parasitic and pomarine.

Later in the day, Jerry Talkington hit a grand slam with four jaegers -- three parasitic and one pomarine -- in the same field of view at Sunset Park in Willoughby.

Earlier last week, Talkington and the Headlands Crew scored with several more marauding jaegers of varying plumages, a flyby Northern gannet, huge flocks of migrating tundra swans and black-headed and Franklin's gulls.

Farther east, John Pogacnik spotted jaegers, scoters, harlequin ducks and several black-legged kittiwakes, glaucous, Franklin's and lesser black-backed gulls in Lake County. Phil Chaon found a red-throated loon at the Eastlake Power Plant.

To the west, Gabe Leidy and Jen Brumfield nailed more than a half-dozen of both species of jaegers at Lorain and Huron harbors Saturday and a young Northern gannet at the Avon Lake power plant Sunday.

By Sunday morning, the lake had turned angry and muddy, making fish scarce and driving the jaegers to the horizon, where they were difficult to pick out.

But the harsh conditions sent thousands of gulls to the relatively calm waters of Fairport Harbor, where 15 of us staked out the shoreline and aimed our binoculars and spotting scopes at a spectacular avian parade.

Brumfield was the magician who conjured up a black-headed gull from among the multitudes of look-alike Bonaparte's gulls.

The gulls have molted out of their black heads and into their drab winter plumages. The black-headed gull is a little larger than the Bonaparte's, has slightly darker underwings and a little more white on the top side of the wings, and brown markings on the back. more

Navigation rights soon to be changed

Daily Observer

Now that the people of Canada re-elected the same government, you ought to be aware that government agendas from before the election stay more or less the same. And part of that agenda are proposed amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA).

Water bodies which can be navigated by an occupied canoe or kayak are deemed "navigable" waters.

While the late 1800s Navigable Waters Protection Act enshrined your right to free and unimpeded navigation in law, the state did not grant to, or bestow upon, Canadians that right. It exists since time immemorial and is your "inherent" birthright, similar to an Aboriginal right!

In numerous Canadian waters the right to free and unimpeded navigation became restricted already, but only after following a lengthy, complicated application and approval process. However, this is to change through the proposed amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

This may have come about in response to farmers' complaints, after having to go through that lengthy approval process to build a wagon bridge across a creek which bisects their lands. However, this issue has evolved into something much larger.

The proposed amendments are to streamline that approval process on a larger scale, making it shorter and cheaper.

Where these amendments include a proposal by a municipal organization from Alberta, virtually every water body shallower than navigable by a vessel with a one-metre draft (a mighty big boat) would see restrictions lifted and the approval streamlined with no public consultation.

Obviously, this would result in open invitations to developers placing obstructive structures at, in or under "navigable" waters without much oversight. Among others, developers constructing in-stream power generators in many streams, rivers and even creeks.

Aqua-culture interests also favour easing up on the approval process and many municipalities see these developments as cash cows through lease and taxation revenues.

Although current NWPA regulations require public consultation and viewings of development drawings at land registry offices, the amended, streamlined version likely would do away with all that. more

Moore resigns as head of state Pollution Control Agency

Brad Moore has resigned as commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, effective Dec. 1, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced today.

Moore will pursue an "employment opportunity in the private sector," according to the governor's announcement.

“Brad has brought effective, thoughtful leadership to the MPCA and has enhanced the state’s reputation as a leader in environmental protection,” Pawlenty said. “He has been a productive and valued member of state government for more than 20 years, and we thank him for his service.”

Pawlenty said Moore implemented many of environmental policies, including:
  • Adoption of a nation-leading water quality permit for Great Lakes ships, which will protect the lake from the growing threat of invasive species.
  • Effective, accountable implementation of Clean Water Legacy funding.
  • Creation of special biofuels and mining sectors within agency divisions, to effectively manage permitting of these large-scale projects.
  • Successful negotiation with 3M on chemical cleanup in the East Metro.
  • Development of the nation's first comprehensive mercury-reduction plan.


Groups want stronger control of Great Lakes water


A coalition of environmental groups wants to amend a recently enacted Great Lakes water management compact, contending it has loopholes that could enable water grabs by multinational corporations.

The groups kicked off their campaign Sunday in Traverse City, led by Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. Their attorney, Jim Olson, said Congress should reword the pact or enact a bill to make clear that water is a publicly owned resource and not a commercial product.

As ratified by the eight Great Lakes states and Congress, he said, the compact opens the door for outsiders to demand access to the region's waters under international trade laws.

If the effort to clarify the pact fails, the coalition will push for stronger water protections under state law or the Michigan Constitution.

"It's a very simple change," Olson said during a public meeting as supporters circulated a petition supporting the revisions. "It's not that hard. We just have to join together to get this done."

Other analysts contend Olson and his allies are misreading the document and no changes are needed.

"We think the compact provides ironclad protections and went as far as we could go without violating international trade agreements," said Marc Smith, state policy director for the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office.

The compact prohibits, with rare exceptions, taking water from the Great Lakes or its tributaries for use outside the system's natural drainage basin. Each state can decide whether to allow bulk exports in containers smaller than 5.7 gallons, including bottled water.

It requires each state to monitor and regulate large-scale water withdrawals and develop conservation policies. more

Great Lakes Science Center Gets $1M To Build Walkway

The Great Lakes Science Center was granted $1 million to build a pedestrian walkway connecting the center to the William G. Mather Maritime Museum.

The $3.4 million project will construct a glass and steel 400-foot enclosed connector to the steamship museum, encouraging crossover visitors year-round.

The funding was approved by the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission. more