USDOT announces new ballast rule for NOBOBS
The Great Lakes Commission is welcoming a proposed rule from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation that would require all oceangoing vessels bound for U.S. ports to flush their ballast tanks with saltwater before entering the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway system. However, since saltwater flushing is only partially effective at eliminating potentially harmful organisms that reside in ballast tanks, further measures - namely technology to treat ballast water discharges -- are still required to protect the lakes against the threat of ballast-borne invasive species. The proposed rule, announced Jan. 16, is scheduled to take effect in late March, before the new navigation season begins. The rule would apply to NOBOB (no ballast on board) vessels, those arriving with empty ballast tanks, which have previously been exempt from U.S. Coast Guard regulations mandating ballast water exchange at sea. The Great Lakes Commission has made effective federal ballast water regulations its #1 legislative priority. Canada already requires saltwater flushing for all oceangoing vessels traveling to its Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway ports. While this new rule is an important step, it is critical that Congress enact legislation ASAP to require installation of treatment technology. Contact: Tim Eder, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Planning grant to evaluate non-ballast AIS vectors
The Great Lakes Commission has received a planning grant from the Great Lakes Protection Fund for a new project focused on non-ballast vectors for aquatic invasive species (AIS). The project seeks to identify and evaluate high-risk commercial and recreation activities and pathways contributing to AIS introduction and spread, including the role of aquaculture, live bait, aquarium and water garden industries, and other high-risk commercial activities. These are generally referred to as the organisms in trade vector. Information gained from the project will be used to guide the development of initiatives aimed at reducing the likelihood that invasive species will be introduced or spread through these activities. An advisory committee drawn from representatives of state and federal agencies, commercial interests, researchers, academia and other specialists will provide overall guidance. The project is scheduled to run through fall 2008. Contact: Katherine Glassner-Shwayder, email@example.com.
2008 Semiannual Meeting and Great Lakes Day in Washington
The 2008 Semiannual Meeting of the Great Lakes Commission and Great Lakes Day in Washington will be held on consecutive days Feb. 26-28 in Washington, D.C. The Semiannual Meeting, Feb. 26-27, will feature presentations and panel discussions on Great Lakes restoration investments and returns, and strengthening federal-state partnerships for Great Lakes restoration. Following the Semiannual Meeting, there will be a congressional priorities briefing session on the afternoon of Feb. 27, held jointly with the Healing Our WatersŪ - Great Lakes Coalition. A reception will be held at the Canadian Embassy that evening. Great Lakes Day will include the traditional Great Lakes Congressional Breakfast on Feb. 28, followed by office visits to meet with members of the Great Lakes Congressional Delegation and their staff. For more information and online registration, see www.glc.org/meeting. Contact: Matt Doss, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sea Grant Fellowship seeking applications
Applications are due Feb. 29 for the 2008 Great Lakes Commission-Sea Grant Fellowship. This program offers a one-year opportunity to work with members of the Great Lakes' science, policy and information/education communities to advance the environmental quality and sustainable economic development goals of the Great Lakes states. The Fellow will be housed at the Great Lakes Commission offices in Ann Arbor, Mich. The fellowship is open to students in a relevant graduate or professional degree program at a U.S. accredited institution of higher education in the United States. For more information, see www.glc.org/about/scholarships/fellow. Contact: Tom Crane, email@example.com.
Funding cut for Clean Water State Revolving Fund
Funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund was sharply reduced when Congress passed the FY2008 appropriations bill in December. The program supports sewage system improvements that play a major role in efforts to protect coastal water quality in the Great Lakes and nationwide. Funding was cut by more than one-third from the previous year, down from $1.08 billion in FY2007 to $689 million in FY2008. For Great Lakes states, this will mean a corresponding loss of approximately $140 million to the region. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration identified the Clean Water State Revolving Fund as a critical piece of its Great Lakes Restoration Strategy, recommending that annual funding be restored to a minimum of $1.35 billion, the level appropriated in FY2004. The Great Lakes Commission, and recently in collaboration with other regional organizations, has supported this recommendation as a legislative priority since the release of the strategy. Contact: Tim Eder, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Commission urging reauthorization of GL Legacy Act
The Great Lakes Commission is beginning the 2008 legislative season by renewing its call on Congress to pass legislation to halt the introduction and spread of AIS, and is calling upon Congress to reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The Legacy Act, passed into law in 2002, authorizes funding to remediate contaminated sediments in the 30 remaining U.S. and binational Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCS) designated under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and is a cornerstone of Great Lakes restoration efforts. To date, five cleanup projects and seven projects to monitor and evaluate contaminated sediments have been implemented under the Legacy Act, with eight additional projects now under review. To better reflect the long-term costs of remediation efforts, the Commission is urging that the annual authorization under the Legacy Act be increased from $54 million to $150 million annually. The Commission is also recommending that the Act be amended to allow the use of funds to support pilot projects demonstrating innovative remediation technologies and techniques, and for habitat restoration. Contact: Matt Doss, email@example.com.
Carp barrier, other legislative priorities enacted in 2007
Congress enacted several of the Great Lakes Commission's top legislative priorities in 2007, including federal authorization and funding for the invasive species dispersal barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The 2007 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) authorized the completion and operation of the barrier at full federal expense; the FY 2008 appropriations bill subsequently provided $9.1 million for construction and operation of the barrier system. WRDA also authorized full federal funding for another long-sought priority of the Commission, the construction of a second Soo Lock capable of handling 1,000-foot Great Lakes freighters; $1.98 million was provided in the appropriations bill for preliminary engineering. Congress also restored partial funding for the Great Lakes Basin Program, which was unfunded in FY2007, appropriating $430,000 in FY2008 (see story in the December 2007 News Briefs). Contact: Tim Eder, firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured project: Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Consortium
Coastal wetlands have critically important ecological values and functions, yet there are relatively few basinwide data available for assessing their ecological health. The Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Consortium, consisting of science and policy experts drawn from many agencies and organizations in the United States and Canada, was convened by the Great Lakes Commission in 2000 to expand the monitoring and reporting capabilities under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement for the basin's coastal wetlands. The Consortium's charge for the past several years has been to design a practical, long-term program to monitor Great Lakes coastal wetlands through the development of indicators and associated monitoring protocols to assess their status and condition. The Consortium's final monitoring plan will be released in the near future. Funding for this effort has been provided by the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. For more information, see www.glc.org/wetlands. Contact: John Hummer, email@example.com
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A News Briefs archive can be found at www.glc.org/email/archive