Freshwater Future Canada Blog

Freshwater Weekly — April 20th, 2018

This week: Lake Erie “Impaired” + Ontario Teams Up With California on Climate + U.S. Legislation Has Binational Consequences

Lake Erie Impairment Designation is Good, but Lawmaker Action Still Needed to Fix the Problem

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently declared the open waters of western Lake Erie “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, marking a stark reversal by the Kasich administration after years of resistance. The impairment listing is just the beginning of a long and slow process, with success hardly guaranteed without action from state lawmakers. Ohio policy expert Adam Rissien explains what this all means in a special guest blog.

Ontario and California Vow to Lead the Way on Climate Change

Premier Kathleen Wynne and California Governor Jerry Brown held a bilateral meeting in Toronto on Monday to discuss next steps in the movement to stop climate change.

Ontario and California — the two largest economies in Canada and the United States, respectively — have joined forces with Québec to lead North America in the fight to halt climate change by creating the second-largest carbon market in the world. In its first five auctions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission allowances, Ontario raised $2.4 billion by putting a price on pollution. By law, all of these proceeds are reinvested in programs, rebates, and incentives that are helping people afford low-carbon choices. Future funds will go towards lowering transit fares; expanding high-speed rail; renovating schools, universities, colleges, and hospitals; and subsidizing home-energy renovations.

Ontario’s action comes as the province and the broader Great Lakes region have experienced more volatile weather, increased precipitation, and record flooding from climate change. 

U.S. Senate Rejects Bill Stripping Protections Against Invasive Species  

If you participated in our letter campaign earlier this week, you have reason to celebrate! Despite pressure from the shipping industry, a bill weakening invasive species protections failed a procedural vote on Wednesday. An otherwise routine Coast Guard reauthorization bill was stymied by Great Lakes senators who refused to allow the bill to even be considered.

A rider attached to the bill would have kept states from regulating the ballast water ships carry to keep balanced—and that often provides invasive species a free ride to new homes—while limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to do so. It is estimated that between 55 to 70 percent of invasive species in the Great Lakes have arrived through ballast water, making this bill of particular concern to Canadian Great Lakes residents. Effectively regulating Great Lakes ballast water will likely require binational cooperation to set a stringent universal standard. Until then, we’re glad to see this bill fail.

U.S. House Unveils 2018 Farm Bill, Some Cuts to Conservation Programs

The House Agriculture Committee last Thursday released the text of this year’s Farm Bill—legislation authorizing major agriculture, conservation, and food safety programs. This version of the bill overhauls the conservation title by incorporating the Conservation Stewardship Program into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The former gives long-term incentives for farmers for improving conservation practices, while the latter provides financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices. The House text also increases from 24 million acres to 29 million acres the amount of land available to participate in the Conservation Reserve Program, whereby the federal government pays farmers to remove sensitive land from agricultural production to improve soil quality. While the expansion is good, this bill lowers the total payments for land rentals under the program. Of particular concern to Freshwater Future is a lack of Clean Water Act safeguards in this bill preventing pesticide application in or near water bodies without oversight.

If you’re up for the challenge, the full 641 pages of text are available here and a section by section summary prepared by the committee can be found here. As the process moves forward, we’ll be analyzing changes and updating you as the bill contents solidify.

The Lead and Copper Rule is Not a Health Based Rule  

Elin Betanzo—a water quality engineer and Lead and Copper Rule expert—took issue with a Detroit News editorial that she says repeats common misunderstandings. In a guest blog, she tells us why any blanket statement that “families can drink their water without fear” in Flint is misleading without mentioning the ongoing risk of lead exposure and the need for lead-removing filters or bottled water.

Ways to Make a Difference

There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Find more at freshwaterfuture.org/take-action.

Freshwater Weekly — April 13th, 2018

This week: Flint + Trade Wars and Water Quality + New Plan for Lake Huron

Flint Residents Lose Access to Bottled Water

Last Friday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced that the State will cease shipments of free bottled water to Flint residents affected by the water crisis, despite widespread distrust of and confusion about water quality and filter use. We believe that for the sake of public health and alleviating public mistrust, bottled water distribution should continue until all lead service lines in the city are replaced.

Our sister organization Freshwater Future released this media statement. They’re asking all of our supporters to send an email to Michigan Governor Snyder to tell him Flint still needs an alternative water source. Canadians are invited to show their solidarity.  

Ontario Improves Drinking Water Protections Against Pipeline Spills

Under the Clean Water Act, Ontario requires source protection plans to address potential threats to drinking water. Last week, the provincial government instituted a change that allows those plans to address the potential threat of liquid hydrocarbon pipelines to drinking water sources.

In the News: How a U.S. Trade War With China Could Affect Great Lakes Water Quality

China’s proposed second round of tariffs would apply to U.S. soybeans, which could  impact more than just the farmers who grow the crop. It turns out soybeans absorb excess nitrates in the soil left behind by fertilizers applied to corn grown on the same land. If left in the soil, these nitrates are often carried into streams, rivers, and lakes where they feed algae growth. Any large scale disruption in soybean production could mean more nutrient pollution in places like Lake Erie if farmers can’t find another market for their crop or replace soybeans with another nitrate-absorbing crop.

According to the Iowa Soybean Association, one out of every three rows of soybeans grown in the United States is exported to China. That accounts to $14 billion each year. That’s a lot of soybeans!

U.S. EPA Releases Plan to Restore and Preserve Lake Huron

The Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) for Lake Huron 2017-2021 is part of a binational effort to restore and preserve the Lake Huron ecosystem. The LAMP helps set priorities for research and monitoring and outlines actions that government agencies and the public can take to combat environmental and water quality challenges.

The current Lake Huron LAMP determined that the Lake is in “fair” condition and faces threats that include chemical contaminants, invasive species, and nutrient pollution. Following the release of the LAMP, the EPA announced a $980,000 award to the State of Michigan to help restore fish and wildlife habitat in Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. This funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which organizations like Freshwater Future helped secure $300 million for in the recently passed U.S. federal budget.

Check out this neat map that shows where GLRI dollars have gone.

Freshwater Hero: Kathleen Heideman of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Last week we announced our annual Freshwater Hero awards, which we bestow upon unique and pioneering water protectors in the region. This week we’re highlighting Kathleen—a writer, artist, and environmentalist who’s been defending clean water and wild places from the dangers of sulfide mining for years. She serves on the board of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC), and leads projects on the Coalition’s Mining Action Group. We’ve funded Kathleen and her colleagues for their work on Michigan’s Back Forty and Eagle mines. Read more about Kathleen on her website. Stay tuned as we profile more Freshwater Heroes each week.

WAYS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Find more at freshwaterfuture.org/take-action.

Freshwater Weekly – April 5, 2018

This week:  Budget Successes + Pollution in the Straits + Celebrating Freshwater Heroes

BUDGET SUCCESSES IN US AND CANADA

The US Omnibus bill adopted by Congress on March 23 maintained stable funding for the EPA and several policy riders were erased.  Because of Freshwater Future members like you that contacted their elected officials, the 30% cut to EPA was removed as well as the harmful policy riders that would have put our drinking water at risk, made it easier for polluters to dump or dredge wetlands, and eliminate agencies abilities to consider the effects of climate change.  Thank you for helping!

Ontario’s proposed budget for 2018, released last week, includes an additional $52 million over 3 years for the Great Lakes. This more than doubles the current annual budget – a necessary increase to finally address the growing problem of algal blooms in Lake Erie and other issues such as toxic chemicals, microplastics, and road salt. The province also committed $15 million in new spending for natural-heritage systems including wetlands, lakes and rivers. We look forward to working with the government of Ontario to make freshwater safer for people and wildlife.

 

POLLUTION IN THE STRAITS

Over 500 gallons of a potentially toxic synthetic coolant leaked from electrical power cables in Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac after sustaining damaged. The company is vacuuming remaining coolant from the lines and the Coast Guard is on-site to assist with clean-up of any material that does surface.  The release of the coolant highlights the risky conditions that exist everyday in the waterway between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, and how typical wintry weather can delay response actions, emphasizing the vulnerability of the Straits ecosystem.

 

CELEBRATING FRESHWATER HEROES

Every year Freshwater Future honors some of the dedicated people who devote themselves to protecting the waters in their Great Lakes communities.  The eight recipients this year are incredibly inspiring to us and we encourage you to read about their actions in our most recent Freshwater Voices newsletter.

 

Freshwater Weekly – March 29, 2018

This week: Happy Holiday + AquaHacking + Ohio Declares Lake Erie “Impaired”

HAPPY HOLIDAY FROM FRESHWATER FUTURE CANADA

We wish you a safe and joyous holiday weekend. Freshwater Weekly will be taking a break next week, but we’ll see you back in your inbox on April 13th.

AQUAHACKING 2018 –– NEXT GENERATION SOLUTIONS, TODAY

Each year, over the course of several months, the AquaHacking Challenge engages students and young professionals in science, engineering, and marketing from various universities to create multi-disciplinary teams and develop clean-tech engineering, web, and mobile solutions to water issues affecting the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin. Since its first forum in 2015, AquaHacking has focused on the Ottawa River, the St Lawrence River, Lake Erie, and this year, Lake Ontario. Freshwater Future Canada’s Nancy Goucher sits on the AquaHacking advisory committee.

If you think you’ve got the next big idea in water conservation, learn more about the issues being addressed this year and how to get involved.

OHIO DECLARES WESTERN WATERS OF LAKE ERIE “IMPAIRED”

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the draft 2018 water quality report last week, and––for the first time––has designated the open waters of Lake Erie “impaired.” The designation qualifies Lake Erie for additional federal resources to help combat harmful algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie basin. In recent years, microcystin––a toxin produced by blue-green algae––has threatened the quality of drinking water and the safety of water recreation.

Freshwater Future has been working on both sides of the border to protect Lake Erie from the threat of toxic algal blooms. Ohio’s move is a small but important step in implementing the state and provincial nutrient reduction plans that are necessary to curb algae growth in the lake.

FUND YOUR PROJECT WITH A FRESHWATER FUTURE GRANT

One of the most important ways Freshwater Future protects Great Lakes waters is by making grants to grassroots groups working throughout the region to protect the waters in their communities. We’re now accepting grant applications through April 10, 2018 from grassroots groups engaged in local advocacy efforts to protect shorelines, inland lakes, rivers, groundwater, drinking water, and wetlands in the Great Lakes Basin.

You can find all the details you’ll need to get started applying for a grant—including the request for proposals—here on our website. And if you’re not part of a grassroots group in need of these funds, help us spread the word by forwarding this email to someone who is. If you have any questions, email [email protected] for more information.

WAYS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Find more at freshwaterfuture.org/take-action.

Freshwater Weekly – March 23, 2018

This week:  Freshwater Future in Washington D.C. +  preventing algal blooms + funding opportunities

FRESHWATER FUTURE WENT TO WASHINGTON

Freshwater Future staff recently traveled to Washington D.C for Great Lakes Day—an annual convening at which residents, grassroots groups, and environmental organizations educate Congress about policies and funding to sustain and improve drinking water infrastructure and conservation programs. More than 120 groups traveled to the capital to meet with members of congress from their respective home states and beyond.

Freshwater Future had the honor of meeting with key members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), including Rep. Bernie Thompson (D-MS), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC). We discussed drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater infrastructure upgrades, public health standards to reduce water shutoffs, affordability, and more. Read about our specific “asks” on our blog.

Due to the success of the U.S. Great Lakes Day, Freshwater Future Canada worked alongside our partners to build a similar initiative in Canada. The second annual Great Lakes Day took place in Ottawa in November of 2017 and is a critical part of the effort to secure greater funding for Great Lakes protection in Canada.

MEMBER HIGHLIGHT: CENTRAL ALGOMA FRESHWATER COALITION

The Central Algoma Freshwater Coalition, long-time partner and Freshwater Future grant recipient, just released A Guide to Sustainable Living in Algoma—an information booklet detailing what property owners can do to preserve water quality and prevent nutrient pollution. While the focus is on their majestic portion of northwest Ontario, this booklet’s recommendations are relevant to everyone living alongside a body of water.

The booklet is just one part of a long-term project. The Coalition monitored phosphorus nutrient levels for two seasons in a host of Central Algoma watersheds. Using those results, they created maps that model those watersheds, surrounding land use, and wetland productivity, and presented recommendations on where and how to reduce algal-bloom-causing nutrient pollution. This type of modeling is crucial to preventing algae growth in the Great Lakes, and their efforts make it easier for organizations like Freshwater Future Canada to focus our efforts on problem areas and hone in on the most-effective solutions. Read more about the Coalition and their work in this article feature.

If your organization or group is doing great things around the Great Lakes, we want to hear about it! Send us a note at [email protected].

FRESHWATER FUTURE ON ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN NUTRIENT POLLUTION STUDY

The University of Michigan is wrapping up a study that aims to model nutrient dynamics in the watersheds that drain into the St Clair and Detroit Rivers––relatively understudied sources of nutrient pollution that feed algal blooms in Lake Erie’s western basin. This much-needed study will help governments and organizations like us understand which geographic areas we should prioritize, and what land management practices would be most effective at capturing nutrients like phosphorus before they enter waterways.

As members of the advisory committee, our staff has shaped the policy questions the study will answer. When the results are finalized, we’ll be the first to apply that knowledge to take action.

Read more about the study and its purpose on the University of Michigan’s website.

FUND YOUR PROJECT WITH A FRESHWATER FUTURE GRANT

One of the most important ways Freshwater Future protects Great Lakes waters is by making grants to grassroots groups working throughout the region to protect the waters in their communities. We’re now accepting grant applications through April 10, 2018 from grassroots groups engaged in local advocacy efforts to protect shorelines, inland lakes, rivers, groundwater, drinking water, and wetlands in the Great Lakes Basin.

You can find all the details you’ll need to get started applying for a grant—including the request for proposals—here on our website. And if you’re not part of a grassroots group in need of these funds, help us spread the word by forwarding this email to someone who is. If you have any questions, email [email protected] for more information.

WAYS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Find more at freshwaterfuture.org/take-action.