Freshwater Weekly – July 27th, 2018

This week: Lake Erie Wind Farm + 2017 Lake Ontario Flooding + Lake Erie Algae Early Detection System

Curious Why Lake Ontario Had Terrible 2017 Flooding? Watch This IJC Explanation Video

The International Joint Commission (IJC) has released a short video that highlights the major climatic events that caused 2017 flooding on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The IJC is the binational, independent commission that regulates water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway. This video discusses the board’s decision process for managing outflows and provides a basin-wide explanation of why these decisions occurred. It also explains how the flooding could have been worse if the IJC hadn’t taken the actions they did.

First-of-Its-Kind Lake Erie Wind Development Given Tentative Green Light

The Ohio Power Siting Board has recommended conditional approval of the $126 million, six-turbine wind farm set to be installed 8-10 miles northwest of downtown Cleveland. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2021, 18 years after the project was initially proposed. If carried out, the project would be the first freshwater wind farm in the nation.

The approval does contain some three dozen conditions: one of which is that the company behind the proposal, Lake Erie Energy Development Co. (LEEDCo), develop a bird and bat monitoring plan. The turbines will also be barred from running at night from March 1st to January 1st until the company proves that the turbines are not a threat to migrating birds and bats.

Once the initial six turbines are installed, many following the project expect LEEDCo to pursue expanding the operation to over 1,000 additional turbines over time.

Note: While Freshwater Future supports the expansion of renewable energy in the Great Lakes region, we haven’t yet taken a position on this particular project.

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI 12) Announces Funding for Harmful Algal Bloom Early Warning System on Lake Erie

Great Lakes Observing System Regional Association in Ann Arbor, Michigan will receive a $585,702 grant to improve early warning systems for Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie. The Association brings together organizations involved in the annual monitoring, reporting, and dissemination of harmful algae data. They also communicate with representatives of affected user groups, especially drinking water treatment plant operators.

Improvements to the observing system funded by the grant will provide water treatment facilities and their managers with timely and user-friendly access to critical monitoring data during future algal blooms. This will help them make informed decisions about water treatment and management in the face of potentially toxic blooms and help prevent a repeat of Toledo’s 2014 water quality scare.

Scott Pruitt Is No Longer EPA Administrator, But Don’t Expect Things to Change

In only a year and a half, Scott Pruitt managed to roll back numerous Obama-era policies. He played a key role in pulling the U.S. from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, initiated the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, suspended the Clean Water Rule, repealed a rule that protected streams from toxic waste disposal, and indicated that he would take down the stricter vehicle emissions standards set to take effect in 2022. Pruitt also presided over an mass exodus of over 700 EPA staff nationwide, the purging of climate change references in EPA websites and documents, and the diminished role of science in decision making.

Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler isn’t likely to shift the agency’s course as he steps into his new role. A former coal lobbyist, Wheeler has a long history of advocating for the same types of regulatory rollbacks that Pruitt has championed. Those familiar with his background as a former legislative aide on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and legislative aide to Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)—the most outspoken climate change skeptic in the Senate—say his connections in Washington may help him be even more effective than Pruitt at removing environmental protections. Already, Wheeler has indicated that he will carry out Pruitt’s last agenda item by freezing auto emissions standards and revoking California’s waiver to enforce their own stricter standard. The effect is that automakers will face fleet standards of 35 miles per gallon rather than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.