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Thursday
Jan242013

Low Water the 'New Normal' for Great Lakes?

Leader-Telegram photo.

Anglers and recreational boaters were warned in late fall of dangerously reduced water levels in Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior, with a likelihood of all three falling to record lows in early 2013.

Michigan and Huron were 11 inches lower than the year before and 2 feet, 4 inches lower than their long-term averages for October. Superior was at its 1925 record-low average for that month.

Mostly, the decline is blamed on a mild winter with little snow followed by a hot summer with little rain, according to Keith Kompoltowicz, a hydrologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are seeing much lower water levels than we had last year, and that is the case all over the Great Lakes,” he said.

But more and more, attention is turning to what man has been done to alter the water levels and what might be done in the way of mitigation. For example, reversing the Chicago River in 1900 so it flowed out of Lake Michigan instead of into it resulted in a loss of about 2.1 billion gallons a day, which has dropped the long-term average for both Michigan and Huron by two inches.

Key focus, though, is on the St. Clair River, which has been heavily dredged, allowing more water to flow out of Huron and into Erie and, from there, eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists generally believe this alteration has resulted in a drop of the long-term average for Huron and Michigan by about 16 inches. But a recent joint study by the U.S. and Canada suggests that erosion in the St. Clair might have reduced the long-term average for those two lakes by an additional 3 to 5 inches.

That has prompted a coalition of mayors from 90 cities around the Great Lakes to ask the International Joint Commission, which advises on boundary water issues, to further investigate engineering options to raise lake levels in order “to compensate for human activities, notably dredging in the St. Clair River . . .”

Another group, Save Our Shoreline, wants a mechanism to control water flow in the St. Clair.

“Given the history of consistent water level reductions since 1855, the unmitigated and unplanned increase in conveyance in the St. Clair River since 1962, and the uncertainties presented by climate change, we believe it would be irresponsible not to begin the process toward a regulatory structure now,” it said.

Water levels on the Great Lakes typically fluctuate by inches seasonally and by as much as several feet over a period of years. But, until now, anglers, marina operators, and lakefront property owners felt secure in believing that water levels wouldn’t drop below the 1964 record lows.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Wednesday
Jan232013

Florida's Clermont Chain of Lakes Is Drying Up

 Waterfront property owners on Florida's Clermont Chain have lost their water front and want to know why. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Many of Florida’s lakes have suffered from low water levels during the past decade, but none more than the Clermont Chain of Lakes in central Florida. In fact, while other nearby fisheries have had adequate water during years of more abundant rain, this 15-lakes system that includes Minneola, Minnehaha, Susan, and Crescent has continued to dry up.

“Clermont Bait & Tackle that was here for generations is gone now,” said Dave Burkhardt, who has lived on Lake Crescent for 25 years and is owner of Trik Fish/Triple Fish line company.

“Guides are gone and so are marinas and boat businesses. Hundreds of people who are paying taxes for waterfront property don’t have water anymore.

“And yet this is supposed to be a highly protected system.”

In fact, the Clermont Chain is but 41 of the state’s rivers, lakes, lake chains, and estuarine areas to be designed as Outstanding Florida Waters.

But it certainly didn’t look that way this past fall, with shrubs and trees growing beyond boathouses and weeds carpeting dried up canals. The chain was estimated to be 2 ½ to 3 ½ feet below regulatory water levels when the Lake County Water Authority (LCWA) decided to spend $150,000 on a study by AMEC, an engineering and project management company, to find out what is happening to the water.

Mike Perry, LCWA executive director, maintains that much of the problem stems from persistent drought for the chain and its headwaters, the Green Swamp, a massive wetlands system east that stretches across a half-million acres in southern Lake and northern Polk counties east of Tampa. “The lakes are really driven by rainfall,” he said.

But property owners believe that something else is going on. Some even suspect that water is being diverted to Tampa.

“Some people don’t have all the information and they are coming up with their own answers to the problem, with things like, ‘The system is flowing the wrong way, or somebody has done something in the system to make it drain from the Clermont Chain out to the Withlacoochee River,’” Perry added.

One resident who has studied the watershed extensively countered that members of LCWA board “don’t have a clue” what is happening to the water. But he’s not in the conspiracy camp either.

“They talk about the Green Swamp being the source, but the water runs mostly north and west,” said the man who asked to remain anonymous. "We get water from just one corner of the swamp.”

And flow from that source is impeded by a number of obstacles, he said, including blocked culverts and a road that diverts water to the Withlacoochee River. “They say that it’s got to rain when what’s really going on is that the water is running out to the ocean,” he said.

Will AMEC make a similar finding?

“Whatever conclusion AMEC reaches, the authority is under obligation to respond and to take this to the next level. The ball is rolling,” said the South Lake Press in an editorial.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Monday
Jan212013

Help Your Local Shelters --- NOT the Humane Society of the United States

Click on the map to see a larger version.

I adopted Ursa, a Lab-mix, when she was about four months old. For nearly 14 years, she was an unwavering source of love, affection, and companionship, and my life was much the better for it.

She died this past spring, and I have been slow to recover and think about getting another dog.

But now I’m ready. As soon as I finish with two brief business trips, I’m heading to my local animal shelter to adopt another companion.

By the way, local shelters do great work and they deserve our support. They exist mostly on local donations. People who volunteer at these places never want to euthanize cats and dogs, but sometimes they have no alternative; they don’t have enough space and enough funding to support all of the strays and abandoned animals that come in.

Sadly, millions of people are duped every year into giving to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) instead of to their local shelters. They are fooled by commercials such as those featuring narration by actress Wendie Malick. As she speaks, pitiful animals are shown on screen with overlaid messages that say things like “When will I eat again?” and “Why do they keep beating me?”

The truth is that very little money donated to HSUS goes to helping homeless dogs and cats. Most of it goes for fund-raising, marketing, administration, and support of an animal-rights agenda that is against fishing, hunting, and use of animals in agriculture.

Protect the Harvest says this:

“The HSUS is not, and has never been, an animal shelter.  In fact, HSUS head Wayne Pacelle famously declared, ‘We never said we funded animal shelters…That’s not in our history or in our statement.’  The vast majority of Americans (71% in fact) believe HSUS to be a collection of local humane societies, but sadly, they are wrong.”

Check out the facts about HSUS at HumaneWatch.org.

And take a look at this great parody of HSUS commercials, "Lawyers in Cages," which reveals the organization’s hypocrisy. 

Friday
Jan182013

Florida's Black Bass Management Plan Shows Success

Lynn Ogle's Trophy Club bass from Lake Istokpoga. FWC photo.

One year in, the Florida’s Black Bass Management Plan “is moving forward and producing some remarkable results,” according to Bob Wattendorf of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Among the more notable were a trophy tagging study and implementation of TrophyCatch, a program to promote catch and release of trophy bass.

“FWC biologists tagged 136 trophy largemouth bass greater than 8 pounds in Florida’s public waters,” Wattendorf said. Thus far, “results are very informative,” he added, “and will help guide trophy bass management planning in the future.”

TrophyCatch officially began Oct. 1. Fifteen days later, Corey Dolan began the first entrant with a 12.3-pound bass that he caught in released at Lake Talquin. The program includes three tiers --- Lunker, Trophy, and Hall of Fame --- to encourage reporting and live release of bass heavier than 8 pounds.

Another achievement was development of a technique to spawn bass out-of-season, so advanced fingerlings of 4 inches or more are ready to stock when more abundant prey are available. “Now FWC biologists are conducting a small-lake stocking study to determine survival of advanced-fingerling bass in 11 lakes throughout Florida,” Wattendorf said.

Accomplishments also included the following:

  • Staff observed and provided guidance to three national tournament organizations, with bass survival of more than 95 percent. FWC issued more than 2,400 permits, allowing possession of bass outside the legal size limits, with requirement that all fish be released into the tournament water bodies. “FWC is strengthening partnerships with bass fishing organizations and local communities to encourage large tournaments to come to Florida and to enhance facilities,” Wattendorf said.
  • FWC teamed with other agencies to restore and enhance recreational fisheries. For example, at Lake Okeechobee, the Water Regulation Schedule was changed to benefit lake ecology. At Lake Apopka, a multi-agency task force identified five projects to restore the bass fishery, as the Florida Legislature appropriated $4.8 million for restoration work.
  • FWC developed a position statement for managing hydrilla using a risk-based approach, and now incorporates public input into management plans, as occurred at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, as well as Istokpoga, Apopka, and Orange Lakes.

Goals of the plan include ensuring healthy lakes and rivers, strengthening local economies by documenting and increasing economic benefits derived from bass fishing, and attracting major bass tournaments, which have huge economics impacts and enhance Florida’s reputation as “Black Bass Fishing Capital of the World.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Wednesday
Jan162013

Vanishing Paradise Adds Conservation Pro Staff to Help Save Delta

Beefing up efforts to educate anglers and hunters about the importance of the disappearing MississippiRiver Delta, the Vanishing Paradise coalition has assembled a 30-member volunteer promotional staff.

Land Tawney, who manages Vanishing Paradise on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, says the new group of volunteer leaders will be a vital part of the coalition’s efforts.
 

“Almost every outdoors business in America has its own pro staff,” Tawney said. “But this is the first time a conservation group has used this same idea to create a team of advocates for hunting and fishing habitat. Our pro staff members are going to be on the ground, on the airways, and on the internet fighting for the delta.”

The wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta are eroding into the Gulf of Mexico at an average rate of a football field every hour.

Vanishing Paradise is a coalition led by the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and the Louisiana Wildlife Federation that aims to restore the Mississippi River Delta by strategically reintroducing water and sediment from the Mississippi River into the rapidly-eroding wetlands.

These coastal wetlands provide habitat for as much as 70 percent of the waterfowl in the Mississippi and Central Flyways and are important for both inshore and deepwater saltwater fish. The Mississippi River Delta is also a nationally recognized bass fishery.

Members of Vanishing Paradise’s pro staff include the following: 

  • Burton Angelle, Louisiana
  • Colin Anthony, Missouri
  • Curtis Arnold, Texas
  • Chad Bell, Louisiana
  • Karen Brigman, Nevada
  • Joey Buttram, Indiana
  • Joule Charney, California
  • Kyle Doherty, Missouri
  • Charles Faircloth, Alabama
  • Mike Frenette, Louisiana
  • Jeff Giffin, Missouri
  • Joseph Gignac, Arkansas
  • Joseph Hoffmann, Minnesota
  • Michael Kaufmann, Illinois
  • Joel Lucks, New York
  • Howard Malpass, Louisiana
  • Luke McNally, Washington
  • Mike McNett, Illinois
  • Wade Middleton, Texas
  • Matthew Miller, Wisconsin
  • Robert Montgomery, Missouri
  • Philip Nelson, Florida
  • John Pollmann, South Dakota
  • Taylor Schaltenbrand, Illinois
  • Sonny Schindler, Mississippi
  • Paul Strnad, Wisconsin
  • Sean Turner, Louisiana
  • Kirby Verret, Louisiana
  • Travis Weige, Texas
  • Garrett Wishon, North Carolina

Learn more about them here.