AmeriScan: October 3, 2005

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Returning Hurricane Survivors Find Moldy Homes

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, October 3, 2005 (ENS) - Residents returning to home after the hurricanes should be aware that mold in their damaged houses can create a health problem, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is warning.

Water-damaged homes provide a moist environment for mold to flourish. It is often visible as a fuzzy growth or a discoloration of surfaces. It may be accompanied by a musty, earthy odor or a foul stench. Residents are advised to use care when cleaning up the mold.

People with respiratory problems should not spend time in houses with mold. Those who are sensitive to mold spores may experience wheezing, difficulty breathing, nasal and sinus congestion, burning and watering eyes, dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or skin irritation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that anyone going into a moldy house to clean up should wear a mask rated n95, available at hardware or building supplies stores. They should also wear rubber gloves.

If mold is on hard, non-porous materials like tile or floors, the surfaces can be washed with a household detergent or disinfectant and dried thoroughly. A mix of one-half to one cup of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water can be used for disinfecting. This should only be used in well-ventilated areas. One should never mix bleach with ammonia; it produces toxic fumes.

Fans at open windows or doors can be used to help with the drying out process, but they should blow outward, rather than in, to avoid spreading the mold.

FEMA warns that people should not use their air conditioners until a professional has checked the equipment. If the air conditioner has mold inside, using it will spread the mold throughout the house.

Porous materials such as carpet, mattresses, upholstered furniture, insulation and ceiling tiles with mold should be discarded. Workers should wear the masks and rubber gloves while handling anything that is suspected to have mold.

Wallboard, drywall and particle board are also porous and should be discarded, FEMA warns. Water can travel up inside these materials two feet or higher than the visible water, so care should be taken to cut sufficiently above what appears to be the limits of water damage.

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Hurricane Winds Stirred Up Troublesome Citrus Canker

LAUREL, Mississippi, October 3, 2005 (ENS) - On a swing through the hurricane-struck Gulf Coast states on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced an additional $53.75 million in emergency funding to eradicate citrus canker in Florida.

"This critical funding from USDA will help accelerate eradication activities and keep citrus canker from spreading in Florida," said Johanns. "USDA is providing these funds to help Florida protect the health of the citrus industry, which has been placed at greater risk by a series of hurricanes that have spread the wind-borne disease."

Since October 1995, when citrus canker was first detected in Miami, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) have been working to eradicate the disease.

In total, USDA has provided more than $378.6 million in funding to support eradication activities. In addition, the President George W. Bush's fiscal year 2006 budget calls for $42.6 million in citrus canker funding. This latest infusion of emergency money will support tree removal and commercial grove surveillance.

Citrus canker is a rapidly spreading, highly contagious bacterial disease that causes fruit to drop prematurely. In addition, citrus canker lesions make infected fruit unmarketable. Because there is no chemical cure or treatment for citrus canker in Florida, the only way to eradicate the disease is to destroy all infected or exposed trees.

By August 2004, the state and federal agencies were making some headway in eradication activities. But in August and September, four hurricanes hit Florida, causing significant canker spread and $500 million in damage to the Florida citrus industry.

This pattern of increased hurricane activity has continued, and the effects became evident during the spring and summer 2005 growing season when 269 new citrus canker infections were detected in commercial citrus groves.

Despite the damaging effects of recent hurricanes, the joint state and federal eradication program has continued to protect Florida's citrus market. No interstate markets have closed to shipments of Florida citrus from nonquarantine areas and no foreign markets have closed due to the presence of citrus canker.

The program is detecting infestations early and removing infected and exposed trees before the disease can spread.

Accelerating eradication activities is essential to the health of Florida's citrus industry, which represents 77 percent of U.S. citrus production and provides, both directly and indirectly, 90,000 full-time jobs. Annually, the Florida citrus industry generates $9.1 billion, including $5 billion in wages.

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Hurricane-Struck Farmers to Receive $29 Million

WESTWEGO, Louisiana, October 3, 2005 (ENS) - In Westwego on Friday Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that $9 million in Emergency Conservation Program funds are now available for Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas agricultural producers to repair environmental damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Of the $9 million announced, Alabama producers receive $1 million, Louisiana $4.5 million, Mississippi $2.5 million and Texas $1 million.

These funds are in addition to more than $20 million in Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funding provided on September 7 after Hurricane Katrina.

"USDA is committed to helping farmers and ranchers recover from the effects of the hurricanes," said Johanns. "These emergency conservation funds, along with millions of dollars in aid we've already sent to the region, will help rebuild land, farms and businesses."

Producers can use ECP funds to remove farmland debris, restore fences and repair conservation structures. It will also help pay for grading and shaping storm damaged farmland.

In order to be eligible, hurricane damage must create new conservation problems that will impair or endanger the land and affect future production if repairs are not made.

Farm Service Agency state and county committees administer the program and set ECP sign-up periods. Locally elected county committees can implement the Emergency Conservation Program for all disasters except drought, which receives authorization from the national Farm Service Agency office.

Eligible producers receive 100 percent cost-share assistance as determined by Farm Service Agency county committees. Producers should check with their local Farm Service Agency office regarding ECP sign-up periods.

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Natural Gas Pipeline Invades Colorado State Wildlife Area

WASHINGTON, DC, October 3, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Federal Assistance has adopted a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the proposed Entrega Pipeline Project.

The Entrega natural gas pipeline is proposed to extend 328 miles from Meeker, Colorado, to Wamsutter, Wyoming, then east and south to Weld County, Colorado. The gas pipeline is designed to transport initial capacity up to 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas.

A portion of the pipeline will be constructed on the Piceance State Wildlife Area, managed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW).

The CDOW acquired the Piceance State Wildlife Area with funds from a Federal Assistance in Wildlife Restoration grant, administered by the Service. Federal Assistance regulations require that any sale of property rights acquired with Federal Assistance funds, including granting temporary and permanent easements, must be reviewed and approved by the Service.

Two right-of-way easements would be granted by CDOW to the Entrega Pipeline Company over approximately six linear miles of the Piceance State Wildlife Area. The short term easement will allow for the construction of the pipeline; the long-term easement will allow the Entrega Pipeline Company to operate and maintain the pipeline for a maximum of 50 years.

The EIS is available for review at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Office, 134 Union Boulevard in Lakewood, Colorado.

Once approved, under state and federal law, Entrega will have power of eminent domain - the right to appropriate private property for public use, usually with compensation to the owner.

Entrega said the company "will make every effort to negotiate rights-of-way easements with landowners in good faith to avoid using this authority."

Entrega said the company will compensate landowners for damages to crops caused by construction.

Entrega Gas Pipeline Inc. has developed an environmental complaint resolution procedure that remains active for at least three years following the completion of construction. The procedure provides landowners, local governments and weed management agencies with directions for identifying and resolving their environmental mitigation problems and concerns during project construction and restoration of the right-of-way.

Affected parties with concerns should first call Entrega’s local contact Denny Needham at 303.552.1053.If parties are not satisfied with their response with the local contact they should contact Entrega’s Toll Free Hotline at 866.305.3830. If they are still not satisfied, they should contact the Commission’s Enforcement Hotline at 888.889.8030.

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Virginia Developer Agrees to Restore Destroyed Wetlands

WASHINGTON, DC, October 3, 2005 (ENS) - Newdunn Associates LLP, and its contractors, Orion Associates and Northwest Contractors (Newdunn) have reached settlements with the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia, which will require the firms to completely restore the approximately 26 acres of wetlands in Newport News, Virginia, the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced Thursday.

The settlements resolve allegations that Newdunn violated the Clean Water Act.

In 2001, Newdunn failed to obtain state and federal permits before it began digging ditches and filling wetlands on the 43 acre property it owns. The property included approximately 38 acres of wetlands, 26 acres of which were filled.

In June 2001, Newdunn started mechanized land clearing, grubbing of stumps, and localized re-grading that resulted in the unauthorized discharge of dredged/fill material into jurisdictional, non-tidal, forested wetlands on the property, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

After repeated notices from the Army Corps of Engineers and the DEQ demanding that Newdunn cease any and all unauthorized work, the state agency issued its first "special emergency order" in a decade, demanding that all excavation activity be stopped immediately.

These actions led to lawsuits in state and federal courts, which have been resolved by the lodging of the consent decree. Under the federal consent decree, Newdunn is required to completely restore the wetlands impacted on site.

"This agreement strengthens Virginia’s wetland protection efforts," said DEQ Director Robert Burnley. "Our goal always has been to make sure the proper steps are taken to preserve wetlands, and this agreement makes it clear that those efforts will continue."

Newdunn will also pay a $250,000 fine - with $150,000 of that amount going to Virginia for environmental improvement projects.

Newdunn has agreed to purchase six mitigation bank credits to mitigate for the loss of wetlands during the length of the litigation.

Newdunn began the onsite restoration work earlier this year. Newdunn also agrees to seek permits for any proposed future impacts on site.

On the state level, the staffs of the Norfolk District and the Virginia DEQ shared information and resources to aggressively pursue this case brought on their behalf by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

As part of the state settlement, the State Water Control Board's enforcement action against Newdunn for wetlands destruction will be dismissed, and Newdunn's appeal of the water board's order to restore the wetlands will be dismissed.

The money obtained by Virginia in the settlement will be used for Virginia's environmental emergency cleanup fund; Wetlands Watch Inc.’s efforts to promote compliance with environmental laws and regulations for wetlands protection in Virginia; and for the Elizabeth River Project to restore wetlands on the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River.

Bob Hume, Norfolk District’s regulatory branch chief said, the favorable ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was "nationally significant."

At issue was the extent to which development of America’s wetlands is regulated by the Corps under the Clean Water Act.

"It verified the limited effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Solid Waste Authority of Northern Cook County v. United States decision and affirmed the Corps’ authority to regulate wetlands that are part of a tributary system to navigable waters," Hume explained.

The settlement is the result of joint federal-state cooperation, said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly Johnson of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This joint enforcement action represents that positive results can be achieved when federal and state agencies work together," she said.

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Sea Otter Tourism Could Earn Millions for Southern California

MONTEREY, California, October 3, 2005 (ENS) - An expanded southern sea otter population would provide millions of dollars in annual economic benefits to California, finds a new report commissioned and released Thursday by Defenders of Wildlife.

The report, "Economic Benefits of Expanding California’s Southern Sea Otter Populations," was prepared by Dr. John Loomis, a natural resources economist from Colorado State University, whose research and writing on the economic impacts of species conservation is nationally recognized.

It reveals that an expansion of the sea otter population south of Point Conception would result in significant benefits to Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from an increase in tourism, recreation-related incomes and jobs. The area’s environment would also improve by way of a healthier coastal ecosystem.

"Today’s report shows that species conservation can go hand-in-hand with economic development. An expanded southern sea otter population could generate millions of dollars for parts of California’s economy," said Dr. Frank Casey, director of conservation economics for Defenders of Wildlife.

The southern sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis, which lives along California’s Central Coast from Half Moon Bay in the north to Santa Barbara in the south, is listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

One of the outstanding issues regarding sea otter conservation is whether otters should return to more of their historic range, including movement southward beyond Point Conception near Santa Barbara.

In 1986, Congress established a "no-otter management zone" running from Point Conception south to the Mexican border to maintain and increase sea otter populations, expand their range to safeguard the species from oil spills or other localized catastrophic events, and to minimize the conflicts caused by sea otters in areas with commercial and recreational shellfish fisheries.

Defenders of Wildlife calls the translocation program "a failure," and says shortly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release environmental documents re-examining whether or not sea otters should continue to be prohibited from migrating south of Point Conception.

The report finds that Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and California statewide, could reap millions of dollars from tourism, recreation-related incomes and jobs if sea otters were given the opportunity to migrate south of Point Conception.

In addition to providing economic benefits to California’s coastal region, sea otters play a vital role in maintaining the kelp forests off California’s shores, which in turn help the coastal ecosystem. Kelp forests reduce shoreline erosion, serve as nurseries for juvenile fish, and provide excellent habitat for mussels, clams and other local marine species. Kelp forests also provide a natural defense against foreign plants and animals that move in and destroy coastal ecosystems when kelp beds are depleted or destroyed.

The study used a variety of accepted economic tools, including California statistical models of tourism, to reach its conclusions.

For Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the annual benefits from an additional 100 sea otters in waters off of these counties, during the next decade if the "no-otter" management zone is eliminated, is nearly $40 million each year.

At least 56 to as many as 256 direct jobs in Santa Barbara County in the next decade, according to the analysis in the report, is a result of additional sea otter numbers in waters off of Santa Barbara

At least 1,400 jobs to as many as 8,400 direct jobs would be supported by tourism associated with an eventual increase in sea otter populations along the southern California coast.

"Sea otters are a great Endangered Species Act success story and a symbol of California’s vibrant coastal wildlife heritage," said Jim Curland, marine program associate with Defenders of Wildlife. "If their populations are allowed to continue to expand, the day will come when these magnificent and playful animals no longer need the act’s protections to survive and thrive."

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Fertility Contol Vaccine Approved for Wild Horses

WASHINGTON, DC, October 3, 2005 (ENS) - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be allowed to use a fertility control vaccine on wild horses in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, located in Montana and Wyoming, the U.S. Department of Interior Board of Land Appeals decided Thursday.

Two groups opposing the use of fertility control had filed a petition to stay the contraception program, and that petition was denied.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal protection group, had filed an amicus brief in the case, and today applauded the decision as the right thing for horses.

Dr. Andrew Rowan, executive vice president of The HSUS, said, "The Pryor Mountain horses have been saved from helicopter round-ups, which cause stress and harassment of these unique creatures, because the use of birth control is allowed to go forward and keep the numbers in check humanely."

In 2004, the BLM completed a comprehensive range assessment and determined, due to decreased health of the range’s soil and vegetative resources, that the wild horse herd population should be reduced.

Rather than implement helicopter round-ups and removals of the horses, the BLM proposed to administer a Porcine Zona Pelludica (PZP) immunocontraception vaccine on select mares 11 years of age and older in the 2006 breeding season to suppress herd growth rates.

The Humane Society supported BLM’s decision, endorsing the fertility control program as a more humane and effective method of controlling the population.

In making its decision, the Board sided with BLM’s and The HSUS’ positions, finding that "should BLM be unable to proceed as planned, BLM will have no choice but to gather and remove 50-60 excess horses from the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range in 2006."

The Board emphasized, "Clearly, a gather and removal would have a much greater impact on [petitioners’] enjoyment of the wild horses than the proposed action."

The issues surrounding wild horses on public lands have been extremely controversial. Last December, a Senate rider slipped into an omnibus spending bill allowed wild horses to be sold for slaughter legally for the first time in more than three decades, and dozens of wild horses removed from public lands went to a slaughterhouse earlier this year.

The HSUS believes that the use of immunocontraception is a critical tool to manage America’s wild horse populations in a humane manner and save them from ending up as dinner entrées in France, Belgium, and other countries. The HSUS has been a leader in horse protection, and just last week helped to pass a Senate amendment, 69-28, to end the slaughter of horses for food exports. An identical amendment passed the House of Representatives, 269-158, in June.

In Thursday’s order, the Board agreed that the use of fertility control offers benefits to the wild horses, citing to The HSUS’ declaration of Dr. Allen Rutberg, research assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Population Health at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

Dr. Rutberg, who has experience in immunocontraception vaccine research, said that "older mares darted with PZP vaccine retain better condition under environmentally stressful conditions, and have a higher life expectancy than mares not treated with PZP vaccine."

He also agreed that the "application of PZP immunocontraception…would reduce the impact of the herd on the range, reduce the likelihood of a BLM gather in subsequent years, reduce the number of horses that would be removed if a gather is conducted, and improve the body condition of PZP treated horses."

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