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Entries in wetlands (27)


Rebuilding Wetlands Focus of Plan for Regulating Lake Ontario Water Levels


Following 16 years and $20 million in studies, the United States and Canada, via the International Joint Commission, have established a new strategy for regulating Lake Ontario water levels, with the focus on rebuilding wetlands to benefit fish and wildlife. Not surprisingly, "sportsmen were among the loudest proponents of Plan 2014," the Syracuse Post-Standard said in an editorial endorsing the action.

Essentially, the plan calls for a return to more natural highs and lows that the lake experienced before the Moses-Saunders Dam was built on the St. Lawrence River in 1958. From year to year, the lake could fluctuate as much as 8 feet.

"It is this process that maintains the diversity of wetland plant communities, and also the diversity of habitat for a whole variety of fish and wildlife species," said Doug Wilcox of the College at Brockport, State University of New York.

With the dam in place, the goal was to moderate levels to facilitate shipping and hydropower, with shoreline property owners also benefiting from more stable water. But it had unintended consequences.

Many native plants among the fishery's 64,000 acres of coastal wetlands died, and invasive cattails flourished. The lake lost both habitat and nutrient filters that enhanced water quality. Fish and wildlife populations declined.

Proponents of the plan insist that it will allow for a nature-based fluctuation without materially changing the current range of high and low water. In doing so, it will restore fish and wildlife populations, which will boost outdoor recreation, including fishing, boating, and ecotourism. At the same time, they say, it also will increase hydropower production and aid the shipping industry.

Opponents, meanwhile, mostly are home owners, especially on the south shore, who fear greater fluctuation will damage or destroy properties.

IJC Chair Lana Pollack said that members understand such concerns, but believes that Plan 2014 is the best possible compromise.

"It's hard to give 100 percent to any particular interest when there are competing interests involved," she said.


Wisconsin Law Encourages Volunteer Habitat Projects

A new law in Wisconsin is intended to encourage volunteers to place more permitted fish habitat projects in state waters. Its sponsors say it will do so by protecting those who do from the civil liability associated with damage or injury caused by placement of certain types of structures in navigable waters and wetlands.

"During this legislative session, my office was contacted by a number of property owners who were hesitant to pursue a DNR (Department of Natural Resources) permit for placing a fish crib or other coarse woody habitat due to liability," said state Rep. Rob Swearingen.

"After working closely with officials at the DNR, I am confident that Senate Bill 315 will protect Wisconsin property owners and promote fish and wildlife habitat."

Carrying the lengthy title of "An Exemption From Civil Liability Related to the Placement of Certain Structures in Navigable Waters and Wetlands," the law provides immunity  if the structures were placed  for the creation, protection, or improvement of fish and wildlife habitat. Additionally, it affords protection for non-commercial net pens used to hold and rear fish for stocking into the body of water in which they are located.

DNR must have approved placement of the habitat or determined that

a permit or approval was not required. Also, the law specifies that those placing habitat are not required to inspect or maintain the structure or to give warning of the existence of the structure.


Citizens Must Be Voice for Fish and Wildlife in Gulf Restoration

Less than five years after the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, BP has agreed to pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages for its role. This stands in stark contrast to the decades-long litigation following the Exxon Valdez spill, and is great news not only for those who live along the Gulf Mexico, but for all of us who recognize the ecological, recreational, and economic value of this region to the nation.

Much of our seafood comes from there. Millions of us visit the five Gulf states annually to fish and enjoy other outdoor pursuits. And if you live in the Midwest or Great Plains, the waterfowl hunting that you enjoy annually is  dependent on healthy and abundant marshes and wetlands along the Gulf Coast, where 70 percent of waterfowl from the Central and Mississippi Flyways stopover or winter annually.

Now that we have an amount for what it likely the largest environmental settlement in history, it's important that plans and projects be implemented wisely and effectively. The federal RESTORE Act of 2012 will ensure that 80 percent of any Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties paid by BP and other companies responsible for the disaster goes to the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund. That means each of the Gulf states will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to implement recovery plans, starting with Pot 1 for wildlife habitat restoration and improvement of water quality. This category also provides for “job creation” and “infrastructure projects,” which could allow expenditures that sound good but that won’t help the Gulf.

That's why it will be important for citizens along the Gulf to be a voice for fish and wildlife. They must tell their governors and state legislators that they want the money spent on projects such as restoring wetlands, sea grasses, and barrier islands, as well as ensuring adequate freshwater flows, which are important for sustaining healthy spawning and nursery habitat for fish and wintering areas for ducks and geese.

Vanishing Paradise looks forward to working with federal and state officials and the RESTORE Council to make sure that the BP funds go to meaningful, comprehensive restoration.

And as this work begins, we should remember that we still don't know the true extent of the damage caused by an estimated 4.9 million gallons of oil pouring onto the ocean floor. Years and possibly even decades will be required to determine population level impacts to species.

What we do know is that an estimated one million birds died from exposure to the oil, as well as large numbers of dolphins and sea turtles. We also know that cleanup crews removed 106,465 tons of "oily material" from Gulf shorelines by the end of 2013. And BP reports that it already had spent $14 billion and 70 million personnel hours on cleanup and response by that time.

With direction as provided by the RESTORE Act and watchful oversight from those of us who want the best for Gulf Coast fish and wildlife, it now will spend an additional $18.7 billion.


Galveston Grass

Photo by Robert MontgomeryBeneficial marsh grasses like this will grow more plentiful as restoration projects enhance fish and wildlife habitat in Galveston Bay. With the Galveston Bay Foundation and Vanishing Paradise providing oversight and assistance, much of the work will be financed by the  RESTORE Act, using funds provided by BP to compensate for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill five years ago.


Restoring Galveston Bay

Activist Angler is down at Texas' Galveston Bay, looking at efforts to improve the wetlands, sea grasses, and oyster reefs.  Galveston Bay Foundation and Vanishing Paradise (VP), an initiative by the National Widlife Federation, are making certain lots of good work is being done with money from the RESTORE Act.

Following a tour of the projects, we found time to do a little fishing with Captain Chris Howard. Andy McDaniels, VP national sportsmen's outreach coordinator, is holding the redfish.