Freshwater Future Canada Blog

Freshwater Weekly 14/9/17

WISCONSIN CONSIDERS REPEAL OF POPULAR MINING LAW

Wisconsin State Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) has introduced a bill that would effectively rescind the state’s popular “Prove It First” law, which currently presents a significant obstacle to the construction of new sulfide mines in Wisconsin. Aquila Resources, a Canadian exploration company that owns the controversial Back Forty mine proposal in Michigan, has expressed interest in several Wisconsin sites, and this bill’s passage would remove the only formidable legal barrier to expanding operations there.

72% of Wisconsinites support “Prove It First” and want it preserved. Learn more about the bill on our sister organization—Freshwater Future’s—blog.

ALGAE WATCH

There’s a pretty significant algal bloom in Lake Erie right now. It’s still safe to recreate in most of the lake except for areas near Maumee Bay State Park and west of south Bass Island in Ohio, but there are  visible scums on the water west of Bass Islands. The weather forecasts a wind that may allow more scums to form and push northward, parts of which could hit Pelee Island or possibly the south shore of Ontario.

Lake Erie advocates from both sides of the border joined this week in Waterloo, Ontario to tackle this very problem using innovative technologies. Freshwater Future Executive Director Jill Ryan spoke yesterday at the 2017 Aquahacking Summit, likening Lake Erie to “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to the health of the Great Lakes and sharing how communities around Lake Erie are working to address the problem of algae.

GRANT PERIOD CLOSING

At Freshwater Future, we’re proud to support grassroots groups working on the ground to protect the water in their communities. Our fall project grant period is closing soon! Don’t miss this opportunity to apply for awards up to $3,500 for projects that promote water protection and restoration. Applications are due September 29, 2017—just two weeks away!

Learn more about our grant programs—or apply for a grant—here.

Freshwater Weekly 7/9/17

This week: an update on the Waukesha diversion + Wisconsin’s Foxconn deal advances + innovative solutions for Lake Erie.

PROCESS TO DIVERT GREAT LAKES WATER UNDER REVIEW

Last year, hundreds of Freshwater Future supporters like you spoke out against a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan to supply the community of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Under the 2008 Great Lakes Compact, water cannot be diverted outside the Great Lakes basin, except when communities that straddle the Great Lakes and Mississippi River drainage basins meet a set of strict criteria.

The Waukesha diversion was unanimously approved by the Compact Council of Great Lakes governors in June 2016. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative—a collective of 131 Canadian and American mayors in the Great Lakes region—mounted a legal challenge to the decision, but has recently dropped that challenge in exchange for an agreement to strengthen the review process for future applications.

This was the final legal hurdle to be cleared before the Waukesha diversion moves forward. We’ll keep you updated as Waukesha implements the conditions placed on it by the council, and as details of the new application review process are released.

 

FOXCONN DEAL THREATENS WISCONSIN WATERS

Wisconsin’s proposed deal with Foxconn—maker of iPhones and electric components—cleared the Senate budget committee on Tuesday and is expected to be passed by the Senate. The would roll back decades of hard-won environmental protections and funnel $3 billion of taxpayer money to a plant likely to use upwards of 10 million gallons of Great Lakes water a day.

Learn more about why this deal is bad for Wisconsin, bad for the Great Lakes, and bad for the environment on the blog of our sister organization, Freshwater Future.

 

AQUAHACKING: INNOVATION SOLUTIONS FOR LAKE ERIE

The 3rd annual Aquahacking Summit will get underway next week in Waterloo, Ontario. A celebration of water and of Lake Erie, the event brings together water experts and members of the tech community to develop innovative, actionable solutions to water-related issues.

It starts with a hacking challenge—students, hackers, and engineers pitch their ideas and the finalists make it to the Summit. The Summit is a 3-day conference that includes a youth delegation, speakers, panelists, discussion sessions, and the selection of the 2017 Challenge winners.  

All are welcome, with a special invitation to environmental groups and students. With algae being such a concern for Lake Erie, our own Jill Ryan, Executive Director, will speak about how the issue is being addressed by communities around Lake Erie. Learn more and register for AquaHacking 2017!

Freshwater Weekly 31/8/17

This week: a proposed nuclear waste dump on Lake Huron + Lake Erie algae watch + 5 ways to protect the Great Lakes + more ways you can make a difference.

NUCLEAR WASTE ON THE SHORES OF LAKE HURON?

Plans for a proposed nuclear waste dump in Ontario—less than a mile from the Lake Huron shore—have stalled as the Canadian government requests more information about the proposal.

Opposition has been swift and decisive on both sides of the border: 224 resolutions opposing the plan have been passed in jurisdictions representing more than 23 million Canadian and American citizens. If radioactive wastes make it into Great Lakes waterways, there is no technology to recover it at this scale. Radioactive material would slowly spread throughout the basin, and remain there for thousands of years.

Get more background information from our sister organization, Freshwater Future.

LAKE ERIE ALGAE WATCH

Last weekend, Toledo, Ohio’s Water Quality Dashboard moved from “clear” to “watch” when the presence of toxic algae was detected in the city’s untreated water supply. Water quality quickly returned to “clear,” but the event is an important reminder of the trouble Lake Erie faces.

Each summer brings toxic algal blooms caused primarily by runoff pollution from large-scale agricultural operations around the lake. In 2015 Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario to committed to reducing the amount of runoff pollution—specifically phosphorus—flowing into western Lake Erie by 40%, but little progress has been made toward this goal. Now environmental groups are calling for Lake Erie to be declared “impaired” under the US Clean Water Act, which would initiate tighter controls on nutrients entering the lake.

Toxic algal blooms have made landfall in parts of Ohio and Ontario this summer, leading to beach closures and other recreational restrictions. For up-to-date information on the blooms, you can view the latest algae forecast here.

4 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT THE GREAT LAKES

Small actions can make a big difference! At Freshwater Future, we help thousands of communities around the Great Lakes protect their local waters so that, together, we can protect the whole of the Great Lakes. Individual actions are powerful, too! On our blog we’ve shared our top five little things with big impact that you can do to help keep our lakes healthy and clean. Read them here.

4 Things You Can Do To Protect the Great Lakes

Small actions can make a big difference! At Freshwater Future, we help thousands of communities around the Great Lakes protect their local waters so that, together, we can protect the whole of the Great Lakes. Individual actions are powerful, too! Here are four little things with big impact that you can do to help keep our lakes healthy and clean.

1. Watch What You Wash

One load of laundry can release more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers into the water system, polluting our waterways and disrupting the food chain. These fibers are shed in the wash from clothing made from synthetic textiles like fleece, acrylic, nylon, and polyester. They’re too small to be filtered out by most wastewater treatment plants, so they end up in our rivers and lakes. To minimize shedding, wash synthetic clothes less frequently, and wash full loads in cold water with liquid—not powder—detergent. Bonus points for installing a washing machine filter to capture the microplastics released with each load of laundry!

2. Go Fertilizer-Free

Nitrogen and phosphorus contribute to the growth of algae, which—in a balanced aquatic ecosystem—provides food for fish and other aquatic life. But too much nitrogen and phosphorus is entering our waterways as a result of runoff pollution from fertilizers, creating an overabundance of algae. Toxic algal blooms can poison fish, contaminate drinking water, and shut down beaches. Choose a phosphorus-free fertilizer, or better yet, skip the fertilizer altogether and replace your lawn with native plants to filter out pollutants.

3. Ditch the Aquatic Hitchhikers

Humans have introduced more than 186 invasive species to the Great Lakes ecosystem. You can help prevent their spread by rinsing and wiping down your boats, paddleboards, kayaks, and other watercraft after use. Be sure to remove all visible plant and animal species, and let the watercraft dry completely before setting out in a new body of water. Don’t forget that parts of the craft not exposed to the sun or proper air circulation—such as ballast and bait tanks, live wells, and bilge areas—will take extra time to dry.

4. Dispose of Meds Properly

Traces of pharmaceutical drugs—including antibiotics, hormones, and psychoactive drugs—can be found in the drinking water supplies of over 40 million Americans. When we ingest medications, our bodies don’t absorb the full dosage and we expel the unused portion. Most water treatment systems can’t filter this out, and traces of our medications end up in groundwater, lakes and rivers, disrupting the ecosystem. To reduce your impact, take only the medication you need, and dispose of unused pills properly—do not flush them down the toilet.

Freshwater Weekly 24/8/17

This week: show your love for Lake Erie + a bad deal for Wisconsin + our take on the plan to stop Asian carp + ways you can make a difference.

WE ARE LAKE ERIE DAY

Show your love for Lake Erie on Monday, August 28! It’s the first ever #WeAreLakeErie Day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Our sister organization Freshwater Future Canada, along with our friends Environmental Defence and the Canadian Freshwater Alliance, are creating an online wave of support for Lake Erie. You can join in by sharing your personal stories about the lake—like this one—on social media.

Anyone who participates will automatically be entered into a drawing to win one of these custom “I Love My Lake” tees, designed and printed in Toronto. Throughout the day, we’ll also share other ways you can get involved to help protect the lake.

Why Lake Erie? It’s all about stinky, slimy—and sometimes toxic—algal blooms. Get the whole scoop on our blog.

 

WISCONSIN DESERVES BETTER

The state of Wisconsin is considering a deal with Foxconn—maker of iPhones and electric components—that would roll back decades of hard-won environmental protections and funnel $3 billion of taxpayer money to a plant likely to use upwards of 10 million gallons of Great Lakes water a day.

A bill to approve the deal was recently passed by the Wisconsin Assembly and is now under consideration by the Senate Joint Finance Committee. Governor Scott Walker brokered the deal and is expected to sign the bill if it’s passed by the state Senate.

Learn more about why this deal is bad for Wisconsin, bad for the Great Lakes, and bad for the environment—as well as what Wisconsinites can do about it—on our blog.

 

THE PLAN TO STOP ASIAN CARP

The recently-released Brandon Road Study details promising increased protections that would significantly decrease the possibility of invasive carp entering the Great Lakes, and the US Congress should act quickly to authorize and fund these critical measures to protect our Lakes and our water-dependent economy.

However, even if all of the Army Corps of Engineers’ recommendations are implemented, there is still an estimated 13% chance that Asian carp will breach the Brandon Road lock and dam and swim through the Chicago waterways to Lake Michigan. We cannot let this happen.

The Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting public comments on their recommendations here. At Freshwater Future Canada, we believe that the best plan for preventing the spread of Asian carp is to restore the natural divide between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes by closing the Brandon Road passageway.

TAKE ACTION: Our sister organization Freshwater Future is calling for the Corps to expand its recommendation and use every tool at our disposal to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Get guidance and submit comments here on their blog.