AmeriScan: September 14, 2005

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Hurricane Ophelia Threatens North and South Carolina

MIAMI, Florida, September 14, 2005 (ENS) - Hurricane Ophelia, hovering off the coast of North and South Carolina for days, is now moving northwards and creeping closer towards land.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning from the South Santee River of South Carolina to Oregon Inlet, North Carolina, including Pamlico Sound.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has issued a voluntary evacuation notice to parts of Horry and Georgetown counties and a portion of Charleston County as Ophelia threatens coastal areas.

The storm continues on a path that potentially may bring tropical storm-force winds, possible tornadoes, storm surge, the potential for severe localized flooding and heavy rains to parts of the South Carolina coast and beyond.

“People on barrier islands, oceanfront property, property in low-lying areas, property along rivers and streams, and people in mobile homes and at campgrounds are especially at risk,” the governor said. “It is urgent that they give extremely careful consideration to moving inland.”

Ophelia's storm center is about 110 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 110 miles east of Charleston, South Carolina. It is moving north-northwest at about four miles per hour.

Maximum sustained winds are near 75 miles per hour with higher gusts. The Hurricane Center warns that Ophelia has the potential to regan hurricane strength during the next 24 hours.

Carolina Power and Light's Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant has declared an emergency at the lowest level of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission categories, an Unusual Event. The plant is located two miles north of Southport, North Carolina.

Both units are still operating at full power and the plant area is not currently experiencing any hurricane force winds. The wind speed at the site is about 24 miles per hour. State and county emergency response organizations have been notified.

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Katrina Wreaks $90 Million Worth of Havoc on Wildlife Refuges

ATLANTA, Georgia, September 14, 2005 (ENS) - Preliminary estimates suggest the damage to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges and facilities in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina now exceeds $90 million, and still not all stations have been assessed. Sixteen national wildlife refuges and other Service hatcheries, field stations and offices across the region remain closed due to the damage they sustained from the hurricane.

Approximately 150 Fish and Wildlife Service employees are assisting other government agencies and relief organizations in the massive Hurricane Katrina recovery effort in southeast Louisiana and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

All Service personnel have been accounted for, although more than 20 employees have lost their homes or been displaced.

In the days since Katrina's landfall, employees of the Service have cleared miles of roads and emergency corridors to speed relief aid to citizens. They have operated boat rescue missions in New Orleans, supported search and rescue efforts throughout the impacted area, and provided food and lodging for emergency personnel and relief volunteers.

"We're continuing to focus on community assistance activities and support the Federal Emergency Management Agency's overall recovery effort," said Marshall Jones, deputy director of the Service. "Service personnel were in the area within hours of the storm coming ashore and we'll help as long as we're needed. Our people live here too."

Earlier this week, Fish and Wildlife Service crews opened roads to Louisiana Heart Hospital and now are providing 200 meals a day to that facility, as well as to 100 Marines assigned to the area.

Fish and Wildlife Service search and rescue crews have responded to a helicopter crash and an overturned airboat.

Over three days, an eight-member team made up of FWS personnel from the Lafayette field office and employees from U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rescued between 250 and 300 people from the New Orleans mid-town area. Later in the week, the team, which grew to include 38 volunteers and 18 boats, joined with a search and rescue team from Phoenix, Arizona, to rescue more than 100 sick and disabled individuals.

As immediate needs are met, Service personnel are beginning to clean up debris around hospitals, schools and government buildings and extinguish brush fires.

"Our people are making a difference every day in the lives of citizens across Katrina's path," said Jones. "Much more work lies ahead to be sure, but we are proud of the role our agency is playing in this relief effort and the dedication of our employees to one another."

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Judge Slaps Injunction on Logging Giant Sequoia National Monument

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 14, 2005 (ENS) - A federal judge has shut down a 2,000 acre commercial logging project in Giant Sequoia National Monument because the federal government relied on outdated science to justify a controversial timber sale.

Judge Charles Breyer issued a preliminary injunction late Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, blocking a timber sale known as the Saddle Project while a case brought by the Sierra Club is still pending.

“Balancing the serious environmental harms which could occur absent preliminary relief with the serious questions that remain as to the merits,” wrote Judge Breyer, “the Court finds that a preliminary injunction is warranted.”

The timber industry and U.S. Forest Service had argued that the logging was urgently needed for fire prevention, but Judge Breyer noted in his decision that the agency “waited five years to execute this contract because of unfavorable timber prices.”

Giant Sequoia National Monument contains two-thirds of all the Sequoia redwoods in the world. The Bush administration's plan for Giant Sequoia as well as the Saddle Project specifically includes logging of healthy trees of any species as big as 30 inches in diameter or more. Trees that size can be 200 years old or more.

In the six years since the Saddle Project was initially approved, the project area became part of the Giant Sequoia National Monument, and future commercial logging was outlawed.

The Bush administration, which has attempted to reopen Giant Sequoia National Monument to commercial logging, had tried to grandfather that project into the monument boundaries, and the Forest Service began logging the area in late July.

Conservation groups charge that the Forest Service has not considered the likely environmental harm that the logging will cause, nor has the Service utilized the research and analysis conducted since the project was proposed in 1999.

Pat Gallagher, Sierra Club director of environmental law, said, “This timber project directly conflicts with the purpose of national monument status. Judge Breyer’s decision helps ensure that the Giant Sequoia Monument will be protected and can continue to inspire visitors for generations to come.”

Deborah Reames, acting as co-counsel said, “The court agreed that the conservation groups had a strong case and that all logging should be halted until the court determined whether the sale was legal. Further commercial logging of the Sequoia National Monument would have set a dangerous precedent, so this is a very good decision for anyone who loves these trees and this park.”

Local activists have been investigating the logging site where trees were felled in the week of August 3 and have found stumps well over 30 inches in diameter. Such trees in the arid southern Sierra can be very old since there can be 10 or more annual growth rings to an inch on some sites.

The Sierra Club says, "Logging these ancient trees means that it will be centuries before these areas will recover old growth characteristics and, meanwhile, species that depend on ancient unlogged forests will have no refuge. The Pacific fisher is making its last stand here in the southern Sierra; projects such as the Saddle could mean losing this valiant little creature forever."

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Green Ribbons Tied on Old Trees Boise Cascade Plans to Cut

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 14, 2005 (ENS) - On the weekend, grassroots groups began tying giant green ribbons on trees in logging communities and cities across the Pacific Northwest to remind timber giant Boise Cascade to keep its promise not to harvest from old growth forests in the United States.

On September 3, 2003 Boise released "Boise and the Environment," a policy promising, "Effective in 2004, Boise will no longer harvest timber from old-growth forests in the United States."

The Boise Green Ribbon Campaign was prompted by separate lawsuits involving Boise over contested U.S. Forest Service timber sales after fires in the Metolius watershed in Oregon's Deschute National Forest and the Eagle Old Growth Reserve in Washington's Wenatchee National Forest.

Green ribbons first appeared over the weekend on old growth trees marked for logging by Boise. Now the ribbons are appearing in Leavenworth, Wenatchee and Seattle in Washington and Sisters, Bend and Portland in Oregon as well as in Boise, Idaho where the company is headquartered.

Members of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and Leavenworth Audubon Adopt-a-Forest who are leading the green ribbon campaign are calling on Boise to back off both sales and reconfirm its commitment to keep out of old growth.

In a September 7, 2005 meeting with Boise CEO Tom Stevens at Rainforest Action Network's San Francisco offices, a good faith agreement was reached to enter into a cooperative science based assessment process to create greater consensus on region-appropriate definitions of old-growth, an effort groups hope can prevent future clashes. The meeting included representatives from the Northwest Forest Campaign and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The emergency meeting followed an August 31 letter to Stephens expressing opposition to Boise's decision to log in the Wenatchee and Deschutes National Forests by 16 groups - American Lands Alliance, BARK, Dogwood Alliance, Environmental Protection Information Center, Free the Planet, Greenpeace Canada, Greenpeace USA, Klamath Forest Alliance, Leavenworth, Audubon Adopt-a-Forest, National Forest Protection Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Olympia Rainforest Coalition, Rainforest Action Network, Student Environmental Action Coalition, Siskiyou Project, and The Lands Council.

"We are hopeful that the new Boise will not return to its old ways," said Brant Olson, director of the Old Growth Campaign at Rainforest Action Network. "With less than four percent of America's original forests still standing, the Pacific Northwest is ground zero for old growth protection."

"If Boise proceeds to log in areas designated as Late-Successional by the U.S. Forest Service, Rainforest Action Network and our allies will consider it a direct violation of its public promise not to log old growth in the United States," Olson said.

Pat Rasmussen of Leavenworth Audubon Adopt-a-Forest said, "Until recently, the Forest Service protected Ponderosa pines over 21 inches in diameter. Thanks to misleading misnomers like the Bush administration's so-called Healthy Forest Initiative, companies like Boise are being allowed to destroy public land for private profits. We're tying green ribbons on trees everywhere to remind Boise that they made a promise to protect old growth, and we expect them to keep it."

Thirteen conservation groups have formed the Northwest Forest Campaign to engage the public on the issue of old-growth logging and appeal to policy makers to protect mature and old growth forests on federal public lands in western Washington and Oregon.

Members of the campaign work with scientists to develop alternatives to current logging practices, with rural communities to re-orient the funding of land management agencies, and with members of Congress to ensure the protection of ancient forests.

The campaign works to protect the last of the region's ancient forests for wildlife, clean water and future generations. For more information, please visit NWOldGrowth.org.

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Restore Hetch Hetchy Presents Billion Dollar Plan

SACRAMENTO, California, September 14, 2005 (ENS) - A billion dollar plan to restore Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley by removing O’Shaughnessy Dam and replacing the water and energy that would be lost was proposed Tuesday by a nonprofit group in a new report released at a press conference at the State Capitol Tuesday.

Hetch Hetchy Valley was inundated by San Francisco’s O’Shaughnessy Dam early in the last century, to supply water and power to San Francisco and Southeast, South and West Bay Area communities.

In the new study, the nonprofit group Restore Hetch Hetchy showed that the dam could be removed and the valley restored, providing visitors to Yosemite National Park the chance to see what the group calls a “second, wilder, Yosemite Valley.”

The study provides the first detailed analysis of the actual removal of O’Shaughnessy Dam and ecological restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley.

The total cost of dam removal, valley restoration, water filtration, and replacement of water and energy supplies with the lowest cost alternatives would be about one billion dollars, the group says, comparing the project to others of similar nature and cost such as the preservation of Headwaters Forest and restoration of San Francisco Bay salt ponds.

For the first time, the study shows that by diverting water from the Tuolumne River and its tributary, Cherry Creek, into existing pipelines, 95 percent of the water and 73 percent of the energy could be retained that would otherwise be lost if the dam were removed.

Additional measures such as water and energy conservation, raising Don Pedro Dam, and groundwater storage could easily and economically replace the decreased water and energy, the group says.

Restore Hetch Hetchy says removal of the dam can be done using existing roads and a new conveyor system to minimize disruption to the park and the surrounding communities.

In the group's opinion, removal would take five years. During that time, ecological restoration would begin. The National Park Service, with volunteer assistance, would plant thousands of trees and other native plants in the restored valley, and the valley would appear substantially restored to visitors in less than 10 years.

San Francisco presently does not filter water from the Tuolumne River, but filtration would be required if the dam is removed. The Restore Hetch Hetchy report recommends that filtration begin immediately, increasing the quality of water supplied to Bay Area residents.

The group says removal of the dam would not interfere with the extensive repairs San Francisco is making to the rest of its water supply system, and would not slow down the pace of those repairs.

More than 170 dams have been removed in the United States in the last five years. Major dams on the Elwha River in Washington state, Maine's Kennebeck River, Virginia's Rappahonock River and many other rivers have either been removed, or are about to be removed.

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Public Input Sought on Port of Los Angeles Revitalization

SAN PEDRO, California, September 14, 2005 (ENS) - The Port of Los Angeles and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have released the Notice of Preparation/Notice of Intent (NOP/NOI) for the proposed "From Bridge to Breakwater" waterfront development in San Pedro. With 270 available berths, the Port of Los Angeles is America's busiest container port and the eighth busiest in the world.

The Port of Los Angeles is revitalizing its waterfront - everything that falls in or along the eight miles of land and water stretching from the historic Vincent Thomas Bridge to the federal breakwater in San Pedro.

The San Pedro Waterfront and Promenade Master Plan is a long term plan to turn 400 acres of Port property from industrial, working space into parks and public waterways over the next 30 years.

Some projects are being completed now. In December 2004, the Port completed construction of the Los Angeles Cruise Ship Promenade, marking the first step of development to the San Pedro waterfront.

With plans to finish the Harbor Boulevard Parkway and Gateway Plaza project this summer, the continuation of the Promenade will connect the World Cruise Center to downtown San Pedro, featuring a park with benches, trees and plants along the walkway down Harbor Boulevard.

The next major project slated for construction during 2006 is the new downtown plaza at the intersection of 6th Street and Harbor Boulevard. This Town Square will include an interactive water feature and connect to the proposed 7th Street Pier, a public dock for visiting boats and water taxis.

The NOP/NOI kicks off a public comment period and an environmental review process that is expected to take 18 months to complete. During the public comment period, which ends on October 28, the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the project description, attend three public scoping meetings and workshops, and submit comments or questions they want addressed during the Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analysis.

"This is another milestone for a project that has been in the hearts and minds of San Pedro residents for years - a new waterfront that reflects the heritage and personality of San Pedro and gives the City of Los Angeles the world-class waterfront it deserves," said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who represents the Harbor area.

"This plan reflects nearly four years of community input, and I encourage the community to continue participating during this important review process," said Hahn.

"We are interested in continuing to hear from the community, our customers and the local stakeholders on this project, as we have for the past several years," said Port of Los Angeles Interim Executive Director Bruce Seaton.

The following public meetings are also scheduled for project discussion and public feedback:

Hosted by the Port of Los Angeles
Thursday, September 15 and Thursday, September 29
6 to 8:30 p.m.
Ports O' Call Restaurant, Berth 76, San Pedro

Hosted by the Port of Los Angeles and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Tuesday, October 11
6 to 8:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Harbor Hotel, 601 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro

All meetings will have translation services available for Spanish speakers, and the public is encouraged to attend.

A copy of the NOP/NOI and public participation guide can be viewed and downloaded from the Port of Los Angeles website at www.portoflosangeles.org/DOC/NOP_BridgetoBreakwater.pdf or can be obtained by calling (310) 732-3675.

Anyone wishing to submit comments in writing should do so care of the Port's Environmental Management Division, or via e-mail at ceqacomments@portla.org, by October 28, 2005.

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Dry New Jersey Bans Outside Burning

TRENTON, New Jersey, Setpember 14, 2005 (ENS) - Residents of New Jersey and visitors to the state are urged to practice water conservation due to continued hot and dry weather conditions. In addition, the state's Forest Fire Service has restricted recreational fires in most of the state, and agricultural burning permits also are suspended.

"If existing trends continue we may need to invoke the state's non-emergency drought options. Clearly the adage 'waste not, want not' applies here," said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell.

The DEP's tracking of the six drought regions in New Jersey indicates particular vulnerability in the northern and central part of the state with decreased ground water levels and reduced reservoir levels.

Southern New Jersey has fared somewhat better with near-normal levels recorded for stream flows and ground water due to relatively higher amounts of rainfall but due to dry conditions in recent weeks, this area also remains under close scrutiny.

Under the new fire restrictions, fires directly on the ground and in wooded areas are prohibited. These restrictions will remain in place until adequate rainfall is received or until additional measures are needed.

The DEP's internal drought monitoring group assesses drought indicators and water levels and evaluates water supply management options to reduce the likelihood of a water emergency.

If conditions do not improve, the DEP would consider ordering the water purveyors to develop alternative water supplies, to conduct flow tests and to activate water supply interconnections and water transfers. Before moving forward with any of these requirements, the department will schedule a public hearing.

Over the summer, New Jersey received below average rainfall throughout central and northern New Jersey. DEP is asking the public to voluntarily limit lawn watering to 20 minutes twice a week through the fall.

People are asked to fix leaky faucets and pipes in the home. They should turn off faucets while brushing teeth and shaving and generally when not in use.

Install water conserving faucet and shower heads, the DEP advises, and run washing machines and dishwashers only when full.

For additional water conservation information visit www.njdrought.org

For additional information on fire restrictions visit www.njwildfire.org

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