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AmeriScan: April 26, 2005

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Illegal North Pacific Fishing Target of Multi-National Patrols

JUNEAU, Alaska, April 26, 2005 (ENS) - Official forces from Canada, Russia and Japan will join the U.S. Coast Guard this summer to control illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in the North Pacific Ocean. Air patrols of the area began on Saturday.

The Canadian Air Force and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as well as Russia's Federal Border Service and Japan's Maritime Safety Agency will work together with the Coast Guard throughout the summer to stop illegal high seas fishing, including illegal driftnet fishing, which can threaten marine ecology.

Long range patrol aircraft, including an Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules fixed winged aircraft and Canadian Air Force CP140 Auroras, will carry American and Canadian enforcement officials who will identify and report suspected IUU fishing vessels for subsequent interdiction by the U.S. Coast Guard's Pacific Area cutters.

"This multinational enforcement operation is a model of international cooperation that has helped to protect fish stocks in the North Pacific and could help to do likewise in other oceans," said Robert Martinolich, Fisheries and Oceans Canada chief of enforcement operations for the Pacific Region.

Since a 1992 United Nations ban on high seas driftnet fishing took effect, member countries of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) and China have worked to protect species including salmon, squid and tuna by detecting and interdicting large-scale IUU fishing operations. The United States, Canada, Japan, Russia and South Korea are all Commission members.

Rear Adm. James Olson, U.S. Coast Guard District 17 Commander based at Juneau, says international cooperation and enforcement is important to protect the resource against illegal fishing.

"The North Pacific Ocean is an enormous area that can not be patrolled by one nation alone," said Olson. "Our partnership with other Pacific Rim nations and our commitment to the NPAFC make it possible to detect, deter and prosecute those fishing vessels that seek to illegally harvest global resources."

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Kentucky Sewer District Pours $500 Million Down the Drain

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, April 26, 2005 (ENS) - Kentucky's Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District has agreed to make extensive improvements to its sewer systems at a cost likely to exceed $500 million.

The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) agreed to eliminate unauthorized discharges of untreated sewage and to address problems of overflows from sewers that carry a combination of untreated sewage and storm water.

Throughout the year, the county's sewer systems are overwhelmed by rainfall resulting in unlawful discharges of untreated sewage and overflows of combined sewage into the Ohio River and its tributaries totaling an average of 4.5 billion gallons annually.

The Commonwealth filed a civil suit against the MSD in state court in February, 2004 and has been negotiating since that time with the District to reach an agreement.

A consent decree, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville, represents the combined efforts of both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The consent decree will require MSD to propose and implement specific corrective action plans to bring overflows from its combined sewers that carry a combination of both untreated sewage and storm water into compliance with water quality standards.

The District must also propose and implement specific corrective action plans to eliminate unauthorized discharges from its sanitary sewers that carry just untreated sewage. The worst discharges, representing about 75 percent of the total, must be addressed no later than 2013.

The MSD must also improve its management, operation and maintenance programs to prevent future overflows; and respond to overflows when they occur.

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher was pleased with the settlement, which he called, "a monumental step forward in improving water quality" in the state.

"These issues have never been addressed in a meaningful way in Kentucky, and the cooperation of federal, state and local entities was key to moving forward expeditiously," the governor said.

"Old sewage systems across our nation allow significant water pollution to occur," said Thomas Skinner, EPA's acting assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Collaboration like this can be a model for other cities to achieve cleaner water, faster."

The MSD was created to provide sanitary sewer and storm water drainage service for residential, commercial, and industrial entities throughout the city of Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky.

MSD is responsible for the operation and maintenance of six major regional wastewater treatment facilities, 21 minor treatment plants, and approximately 3,000 miles of sewer lines.

About 23 percent of these sewer lines are served by a combined system of single pipes that carry both untreated sewage and storm water to a treatment plant. The remaining 77 percent of MSD's system carries untreated sewage separate from storm water.

The MSD has also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1 million to Kentucky and perform $2.25 million in Supplemental Environmental Projects. These projects include public health screenings for residents of neighborhoods adjacent to the industrialized areas of the western portion of Louisville.

The District must also perform, or provide funding for groups that will perform, efforts to raise environmental awareness and stewardship for the local and regional community; and convert and reclaim the former Lee's Lane Landfill into an area for public use.

In the past, the United States has reached similar agreements with other cities, including Mobile, Atlanta, Knoxville, Miami, New Orleans, Toledo, Baltimore, and Los Angeles.

The proposed consent decree with MSD is subject to a 30 day public comment period and final court approval before it can take effect.

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Hawaii Stryker Brigade Approved in Federal Court

HONOLULU, Hawaii, April 26, 2005 (ENS) - A federal judge Monday cleared the way for the U.S. Army to create a Stryker brigade at Schofield Barracks on Oahu over the objections of environmental and Native Hawaiian groups.

Judge David Ezra rejected claims by Earthjustice, which represents three Native Hawaiian groups - Ilioulaokalani Coalition, Na Imi Pono and Kipuka - and environmental groups. The judge determined that the Army had followed all requirements of existing federal environmental laws in approving the Schofield site.

The groups filed their objections too late, the judge decided, but even if they had protested early enough, the Army properly notified the public and adequately studied the impact of the project, the judge ruled.

The $1.5 billion project calls for the transformation of the Army's 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division into a Stryker unit.

"The Army is pleased with Judge Ezra's ruling and appreciates the court's thoughtful consideration of this very important matter," the 25th Infantry Division said.

William Aila Jr., spokesman for Na 'Imi Pono, one of the three groups, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the ruling.

The 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, which just returned after spending a year in Iraq, has been designated to become the new fighting unit.

The Stryker is an eight-wheeled, 23 foot long, 20 ton combat vehicle that can be transported on the C-130 aircraft. The Stryker vehicle has a 350 HP diesel engine. The vehicle can travel at a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour and can travel 330 miles on one tank of fuel.

Although there are 10 variations of the Stryker, the primary design variants are the infantry carrier vehicle that can carry nine soldiers and their equipment and requires a driver and a vehicle commander and the mobile gun system. This gun system would be mounted on the Stryker and modified to incorporate a 105mm turreted cannon and autoloader system with a crew of three.

Hawaii has been selected as one of six locations for an interim force based on the Stryker vehicle, or a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. As the Army transforms to become what the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) calls "more lethal, highly mobile, and survivable than the current force," the interim force will use available technology and weapons, select new equipment, such as the Stryker, and adopt a modified training doctrine to train soldiers to be able to meet the goals of a fast reacting light force.

The Stryker Brigade Combat Team would be equipped with a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle to provide "day or night reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capability."

The FEIS notes that training operations of the Hawaii Stryker Brigade will result in threats to migratory birds and noise and visual impacts, impacts from construction and training on general habitat and wildlife, vessel impacts on marine wildlife and habitat, and runoff impacts on marine wildlife and coral ecosystems. "These impacts would be limited and would be addressed by ongoing Army environmental management and stewardship activities," the Army says.

Much of the Stryker training would be done on the Big Island of Hawaii. The FEIS says ordnance firing and detonations might create noisy conditions at several locations, including the Mauna Kea State Park rental cabins, acknowledging that, "Project-wide impacts from ordnance firing would be significant."

Live-fire training would take place on the Big Island and Oahu. One such training area is on the northernmost exposure of the Northwest Rift Zone of the extinct Ko‘olau Volcano, which makes up the eastern half of Oahu. Noise and dust from live-fire training, soil compaction caused by off-road Stryker training, and alteration of cultural and archeological resources are among impacts noted in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Hawaii Stryker Brigade is found at: http://www.ttsfo.com/sbcteis/feis/index.htm

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Plant Platforms to Decontaminate Honolulu's Ala Wai Canal

HONOLULU, Hawaii, April 26, 2005 (ENS) - Floating platforms covered with plants are going to be deployed to clean up Honolulu's polluted Ala Wai Canal. The canal forms the land-side boundary of Waikiki and runs from Kapiolani Park past the Hawaii Convention Center to the ocean at the state's largest small boat harbor.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources last week approved a permit for Natural Systems Inc. to begin installation of two long, narrow platforms covered with 'akulikuli plants, Sesuvium portulacacastrum, a variety of portulaca, also known as pickleweed.

The roots of these plants will dangle at least three feet into the water. Bacteria and microorganisms that colonize the roots will improve water quality by drawing in nitrogen, phosphorus and algae as nutrients.

"In one year, we hope it will demonstrate water quality improvement due to the project," said Chad Durkin, project manager told the "Honolulu Advertiser" newspaper. "We think it is the most cost-effective application to control non-point source pollution."

Non-point source pollution occurs when rain runs off the land, carrying sediment from construction sites, excess fertilizer, pesticides from lawns, bacteria from livestock and pet wastes. These pollutants are washed into the canal and then into the ocean.

Board approval came with three conditions: that the project have no commercial activities, that it is entirely removed at the end of the year and that the company work with canoe clubs that use the canal to ensure they have access to the water.

Durkin told the board that water will be tested monthly with the results given to the state Department of Health to document changes in water quality.

The plant platforms will be 3,400 feet long and five feet wide. The project is funded with a $500,000 federal grant, which includes funding to remove the platforms when the project is completed at the end of the year.

The company also is conducting similar demonstration projects in Salt Lake and in Kawa Stream in Kane'ohe, and last week was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for a commercial project at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Big Island.

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Colorado Elected Officials Urge Strong Lynx Protections

BOULDER, Colorado, April 26, 2005 (ENS) - A bipartisan group of elected officials in Colorado Thursday sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture insisting that the department retain strong protections for lynx on the White River National Forest.

The letter, signed by 11 state legislators and county commissioners, was written in response to an order by a political appointee to weaken protections on the forest.

As a result of Colorado's lynx release program, there are at least 80 adult lynx in the region and those adults have given birth to at least 55 wild lynx kittens.

The success of the lynx recovery program now hinges on ensuring that lynx habitat is adequately protected.

Four county commissions - Pitkin, Eagle, Gunnison, and Boulder - have passed resolutions in recent weeks adopting the same position as the elected official letter, insisting on retaining strong protections for lynx on the White River.

On April 9 the Colorado Division of Wildlife released six more Canada lynx into the San Juan Moutains. By the end of April, more than 200 lynx will have been released in the reintroduction program which was started in 1999.

For Len Gregory, a member of the board of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), it was the first time he had watched a lynx release.

“It was a great thrill to see those magnificent animals lope into the woods,” said Gregory who represents the Pueblo area and eastern Colorado on the GOCO board. “We got a chance to see a very worthwhile project at work on the ground. Species recovery is very important, and GOCO continues to be very supportive of the Division of Wildlife.”

Since lynx reintroduction was started in 1999, GOCO has contributed more than $2.8 million to the program. The Division of Wildlife has contributed another $1.8 million.

Also present was state Senator Lewis Entz, who represents the San Luis Valley and is a strong supporter of the reintroduction program. Entz was the only person at the event who had seen lynx in Colorado before anyone even considered a reintroduction program. He told the crowd that he saw a lynx one morning in the 1940s when he was hunting in the area.

The reintroduction effort started in 1999, and by the end of April some 204 lynx will have been released - 38 this year. Based on counts and radio-collar tracking through the end of 2004, biologists believe at least 105 lynx are alive. That number does not include the cats released in 2005.

The Division of Wildlife is authorized by the Colorado Wildlife Commission to reintroduce lynx for another three years if needed.

“The lynx reintroduction program is recognized as one of the greatest conservation efforts going on in the United States today,” said Bruce McCloskey, Division of Wildlife director. “The effort is a testament to our dedicated staff and to the people of Colorado who firmly support this program.”

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Global Warming Blamed for Plant Blooms in the Arabian Sea

WEST BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine, April 26, 2005 (ENS) - Tiny ocean plants that form the base of the marine food chain are increasing at record rates due to the decline ofwinter snow over southwest Asia and the Himalayas and the rapid meltdown of what snow has fallen, a team of scientists at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences has shown.

According to Joaquim Goes, the lead author of the article entitled “Warming of the Eurasian Landmass is making the Arabian Sea more productive,” these changes could have far reaching consequences not only for the ecosystem of the Arabian Sea but for the general health of the planet.

When winter snow cover is low, the amount of solar energy reflected back into the atmosphere is less.

A decline in the amount of snow cover means that less of the sun's energy goes towards melting of snow and the evaporation of wet soil. As a result the land mass heats up more in summer creating a larger temperature and pressure difference between the land and the sea that is favorable to stronger southwest monsoon winds.

The southwest monsoon winds blowing over the Arabian Sea bring rainfall to the Asian continent and also cause upwelling of cooler nutrient rich water off the coasts of Somalia, Oman and Yemen.

These are ideal conditions for phytoplankton to bloom during summer. Phytoplankton blooms can enhance fisheries, but they also can cause oxygen depletion in deeper waters.

Goes says if the present warming trend continues, the Arabian Sea could slowly become devoid of oxygen.

Oxygen depleted waters provide the perfect environment for the growth of a specialized group of bacteria called the denitrifying bacteria, which convert nitrate in seawater into less oxidized forms of nitrogen such as nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas whose global warming potential is over 300 times that of the most common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

The events Goes has studied have global implications. Monsoon seasons affect more than one-third of the world’s population - those living in Africa and Asia. As more land is cleared for agriculture, and more artificial nutrients find their way to the oceans, plankton blooms are increasing along the coasts.

“The events are like dominoes ... each triggering a change that has a significant impact on the lives and livelihood of people in the coastal regions,” said Dr. Sandy Sage, executive director of Bigelow Laboratory, whose principal focus is the biological productivity of the world’s oceans.

Dr. Goes and his colleagues at Bigelow are continuing interpretations of satellite observations to understand the relationships between the atmosphere and the biological resources of the Arabian Sea with respect to climate change.

They point to research by scientists at the Department of Marine Sciences and Fisheries at the Sultan Qaboos University in Oman that documented the encounters of fishermen off the coast of Oman with massive fish die-offs. These incidences of fish mortality are preceded by the unusually high number fish landings associated with phytoplankton blooms.

Dr. Goes' research, sponsored by the Earth Science Enterprise of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal "Science."

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Cameron Diaz Show Offsets Greenhouse Gas with Green Power

PORTLAND, Oregon, April 26, 2005 (ENS) - Trippin', Cameron Diaz's new environmental adventure series on MTV, is buying enough renewable energy to offset all the greenhouse gases emitted during production of three episodes of the show.

To offset the environmental impact for the three episodes, MTV provided The Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) with detailed information on the numbers of production crew traveling to and from remote locations, including jet, prop, and helicopter flights, boat rides, SUV miles, and even balloon travel as well as hotel stays.

Through revenues generated from the sales of green power products, called Green Tags, BEF funds projects that support new renewable energy projects from solar, wind and biomass.

BEF calculated that 853 Green Tags would offset the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide generated for the Tanzania, Chile and Costa Rica/Honduras segments for the entire production crew as well as Diaz and her friends.

The Green Tags offset 100 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) generated, or nearly 1.2 million pounds of CO2.

For the Honduras segment of the trip, Diaz brings actress Jessica Alba, recording artist Kid Rock, Kid's friend and pro hockey player Chris Chelios, and pro surfer Kelly Slater.

In Chile, Diaz traveled with actress Drew Barrymore, make-up artist Gucci Westman, music video star Derrick Watkins aka Farnsworth Bentley, and professional skateboarder Eric Koston.

“We have long advocated the use of clean, renewable energy and the purchase of Green Tags to offset the environmental impact of energy use from travel and related activities,” said Tom Starrs, vice president of marketing and sales for BEF.

"MTV’s Trippin’ raises the bar, demonstrating in real terms how an organization can offset the environmental impact of its day-to-day operations, whether it’s hosting an event, running a generator or flying around the world," Starrs said. "We hope other media productions and organizations will follow MTV’s lead and join in the effort to offset their operation’s impact on the environment.”

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