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Great Lakes barrier too weak to stop carpTuesday, 29 March 2011 02:22
Great Lakes barrier may be too weak to stop carp
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Voltage coursing through electrical barriers designed to keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes may need to be raised to keep out juvenile fish, U.S. officials said on Friday.
The Army Corps of Engineers has mounted a multimillion-dollar effort to keep voracious Bighead and Silver Carp that now infest the Mississippi River Basin out of the Great Lakes, where scientists predict they could decimate the lakes' $7 billion fishery.
"The current barrier operating parameters are effective for fish as small as 5.4 inches in length," the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a news release.
"The research published in this report suggests that slightly higher operating parameters than those currently in use may be necessary to immobilize all very small Asian carp, as small as 1.7 to 3.2 inches in length."
Juvenile carp can swim 37 miles by the time they reach 6 inches in length.
Environmentalists and several state governments have fought to create a permanent ecological separation between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other federal agencies and Chicago-area governments have joined commercial shippers, sightseeing operators and recreational boaters in an bid to keep the waterways open.
For now, officials say smaller, juvenile carp are well downstream from the three electrical barriers on the canal that links the river system to the Great Lakes, so the two-volt current laid down by the barriers will be maintained.
The best estimate of a potentially reproducible population of Bighead carp is 25 miles downstream from the barriers, Charles Wooley of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
Lock and dam structures have impeded the carp's progress, Wooley said, and agency crews will be vigilant during the summer spawning season to kill carp in the pools between dams.
A U.S. study to be completed this spring will determine the impact on barges and barge operators if the voltage in the barriers is raised to 2.3 volts, which laboratory tests show is sufficient to repel the juvenile carp.
Army Corps Major General John Peabody stressed that the voltage impact on the juvenile carp was measured in a laboratory, and "needs to be validated" in the field
Proposal would exempt some road projects from wetlands requirementSunday, 27 March 2011 23:32
Proposal would exempt some road projects from wetlands requirement
BY PAIGE LaBARGE
LANSING — A new Senate bill would prohibit the state from imposing mitigation requirements on some road projects that damage wetlands.
Sen. Tom Casperson, R- Escanaba, sponsored the measure that would apply to projects with the right-of-way of existing roads.
“The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), is saying they can’t go along with this because it is violating federal law and the quality of environment in Michigan, but so many things can be positively affected if the bill is passed,” Casperson said.
The bill would prohibit the DEQ from imposing wetland mitigation requirements on some road projects, said Brad Wurfel, press secretary at the Department of natural Resources and Environment.
Mitigation requires new wetlands to be created if an existing one was previously filled in by road construction.
Wurfel said the DEQ can’t comment about its stance on the bill but said environmental quality could be harmed.
Ed Noyola, deputy director of the County Road Association of Michigan, said the change would benefit the road system, even though it could hurt the environment.
“This bill would definitely have an impact on roads, but for the DEQ, it could jeopardize environmental qualities,” Noyola said.
For example, it would make budgeting easier, reduce permits and make road projects more cost-efficient, he said.
“It would be a streamlined process, not needing mitigation for the building of roads,” Noyola said.
Co-sponsors include Sens. R- Darwin Booher, R-Tory Rocca, R- Howard Walker and R-John Proos.
Casperson said he introduced the bill to alleviate costs of road-building by county road commissions and to upgrade roads, as long as they stay within existing right-of-ways.
“The road commissions throughout the state are frustrated right now because they have to get permission, through permits, to mitigate wetlands for road-building,” Casperson said.
They must go through a permit process and have to build–or not build–based on what the department says, according to Casperson.
According to Casperson, the most significant improvement would be in funding, because commissions devote time to obtain permits when they could be improving the roads.
“Better roads means better transportation to all areas of the state, and this boosts the overall economy and gives the road commissions more money,” Casperson said.
If the bill is passed, it will apply to state highways, and city and county roads.
It’s pending in the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.
DNR chooses Great Lakes MuskiesWednesday, 23 March 2011 20:05
|DNR chooses Great Lakes Muskies rather than Northerns|
“This is a key turning point in our muskellunge production program,” said DNR Fish Production Manager Gary Whelan. “This strain of muskellunge is native to most of Michigan; the northern muskellunge is native to only a small portion of the far western Upper Peninsula in the Wisconsin River drainage.
“The spotted muskellunge will be more at home in more waters than northern muskies.”
The DNR has been studying the idea of raising spotted muskies for more than a decade, but did not want to bring the Great Lake strain into the hatchery system while raising northern muskies because of potential disease concerns. DNR Fisheries Division personnel plan to take 1.5 million eggs from spotted muskies in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River this spring with a goal of producing 40,000 10- to 12-inch fall fingerlings.
In order to minimize the risk of spreading disease, the DNR will not take eggs from northern muskellunge this year, but will evaluate the need to produce northern strain muskies in the future. Ideally, the department will address the disease concerns and be able to raise both strains in the future, Whelan said.
To learn more about fishing in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing.White Lake Beacon, Whitehall Michigan
Keep hands off Michigan natural resources trust fundTuesday, 22 March 2011 21:24
Editorial: Keep your hands off the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund
Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 6:37 AM Updated: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 6:37 AMBy The Grand Rapids Editorial Board
Rep. Dave Agema wants to divert money set aside to preserve pristine public land and put it toward building highways.
Didn’t Joni Mitchell write a song about that — paving paradise and putting up parking lots, or in this case, roads? It’s a bad idea. Lawmakers should reject the plan from Mr. Agema, R-Grandville.
Mr. Agema’s legislation would take 80 percent of the money in the Natural Resources Trust Fund — which buys property for public use — and spend it elsewhere. Sixty percent of the Trust Fund would go toward the state transportation fund. Twenty percent would go toward airports. The remaining 20 percent would go toward parks.
The proposed raid on designated dollars is as old as the Trust Fund itself.
Established in 1976, the Fund is fed by revenues from oil and gas companies that drill on state lands. The rationale is simple: The people of Michigan trade two non-renewable resource — oil and gas — for another, land.
Yet from the beginning, legislators have been unable to resist reaching their hands into that pot of cash. During the first seven years of the Fund, more than $100 million was diverted to other purposes. Early raids were made to upgrade double-bottom tanker trucks and buttress a sagging budget. In 1983, then-Gov. James Blanchard tried to tap the Fund to pay for a signature program, the Michigan Youth Corps.
Even lawmakers themselves recognized their inability to behave. In 1984, then-State. Rep. Paul Henry, a Grand Rapids Republican and later a member of Congress, helped put on the ballot a constitutional amendment that protected the Trust Fund from these kind of grabs. Voters passed it by huge numbers, nearly a 2-1 ratio.
In 1994, voters again overwhelmingly blocked diversion of some Trust Fund money, and raised the cap on the amount that could be held in the Fund at any one time. In 2002, voters raised the cap again, to $500 million, a level expected to be hit this year. Overflow revenue goes into the State Park Endowment Fund for park maintenance.
The money shift Mr. Agema proposes would require another state-wide ballot question to change the constitution. Given the history, that proposal would almost certainly fail.
The Fund has been put to good use. We see the results all around West Michigan, most recently in the purchase of pristine dune land on Lake Michigan in Saugatuck.
Mr. Agema holds an apparent philosophical opposition to too much publicly owned land.
“It’s getting to the point,” Mr. Agema has said, “where the state of Michigan will own the state and the people won’t.” Yet the state is the people, and the trust fund allows preserved land to belong to everyone, not a fortunate few. Land preservation defines the very heart of Michigan’s conservation ethic and helps maintain the state a status as a popular tourist destination.
Mr. Agema is being joined in this effort by two other West Michigan lawmakers — Reps. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia Township, and Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Township.
Certainly, these legislators see a cash-starved budget and an easy source of money. Roads are woefully underfunded. That makes it incumbent on Mr. Agema, Mr. Yonkers and Mr. Hooker to build a road funding system that will be sustainable for the future, not cast covetous eyes on the Trust Fund as past lawmakers have done.
Far better for the state if these lawmakers do the hard work — not raid funds the people of Michigan have repeatedly designated for the preservation and maintenance of precious public lands.
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