Originally posted by: L.M. Ray on 12/15/2005 7:12:43 PM
2 articles for your comments...
NEW: Action Needed to Reverse Great Lakes Breakdown, Say Scientists
Spiel -- Wed, Dec/14/05
December 12, 2005
New Report Urges Restoration to Repair â€˜Immune Systemâ€™ Of Great Lakes to Avoid Ecosystem Collapse
ANN ARBOR, MICH. - The immune system of the Great Lakes is breaking down and the ecosystem is in danger of collapse, according to a new report released today by the regionâ€™s leading scientists.
The report underscores the urgent need for comprehensive restoration to repair the â€œimmune systemâ€ of the Great Lakes, and to reverse a pattern of decline that threatens to affect drinking water, swimming, fishing, tourism and other benefits derived from the largest body of fresh water in the world.
â€œThis report serves as a warning,â€ said Al Beeton, Ph.D., one of the lead authors and former director of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. â€œThe Great Lakes are deteriorating at a rate unprecedented in their recorded history and are nearing the tipping point of ecosystem-wide breakdown. If we want to restore this resource, it is time to act now.â€
The paper reports that the Great Lakes buffering capacity, or immune system, is breaking down, rendering ineffective the self-regulating system of the lakes to protect themselves and recover from new stresses like pollution and invasive species. â€œIf not addressed with great urgency,â€ states the report, â€œthe Great Lakes system may experience further â€“ and potentially irreversible â€“ damage.â€
To date approximately 60 scientists, including the region's Sea Grant directors, have endorsed the paper, â€œPrescription for Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection and Restoration: Avoiding the Tipping Point of Irreversible Changes,â€ and its recommendations.
â€œAs alarming as this diagnosis may be, the solution is relatively straightforward and achievable if we act now,â€ said
Don Scavia, Ph.D., another lead author and Professor of Natural Resources at the U. of Michigan. â€œTo restore the Great Lakes, we need to start treating the lakes holistically and not just as a series of isolated problems to be solved one at a time.â€
The report recommends:
â€¢ Restoring the Great Lakes immune system by rehabilitating coastal habitats and the wetlands and tributaries that serve as a filter for the Great Lakes;
â€¢ Stopping the addition of new sources of stress, like non-native species;
â€¢ Protecting areas that are still healthy; and
â€¢ Monitoring the restoration process to determine whether the Great Lakes are in recovery or ongoing decline.
According to the report, despite progress in some areas, the Great Lakes are exhibiting a number of disturbing symptoms that led the scientists to conclude they may be on the verge of a breakdown. Some of these problems include the increasing number of beach closings caused by bacteria contamination, rapid disappearance of diporia â€“ a key fish food â€“ that has severely disrupted the food chain, the resurgence of the Lake Erie â€œdead zone,â€ and the widespread and sudden decline in native fish such as yellow perch.
The report comes as President Bush and the Environmental Protection Agency prepare to release on December 12 a plan to restore the Great Lakes, as part of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, a year-long process established by President Bush to develop a blueprint for restoring the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes comprise almost 20 percent of the worldâ€™s surface fresh water and supply drinking water to more than 40 million U.S. and Canadian residents. The Great Lakes also support local agriculture; a diversity of wildlife, including a world-class fishery; maritime trade; industry; and tourism.
NEW: Closing the St. Lawrence Seaway to protect the Great Lakes
Spiel -- Wed, Dec/14/05
Study recommends closing as an economic benefit to region and country
For years, many conservationists, members of the science community and other concerned individuals have wanted to stop ocean-going ship traffic on the Great Lakes. That's because vessels traveling from the ocean to the Lakes oftentimes carry invasive species, but opponents call the industry a vital part of the economy. A new study paid for by the Joyce Foundation questions how vital that industry really is.
Ocean going cargo ships are a losing proposition for Michigan and other Great Lakes states, the study says and tackled the question: How much would it hurt the economy if we end ocean shipping on the Great Lakes? The report suggests transportation prices would rise about fifty-five million dollars per year. The study claims ending ocean ship traffic will cost money, but keeping it could cost more.
Eliminating ocean shipping on the Great Lakes could increase transportation costs by 5.4 %, according to the authors of a study presented last week at the Shedd Aquarium. John Taylor, a marketing and logistics professor at Grand Valley State U. in Grand Rapids, Mich., and James Roach, a consultant and former Michigan Dept of Transportation official, studied traffic along the St. Lawrence Seaway and into and out of the Great Lakes in 2002.
"If the cost of regulation rises, then cargo shippers may change their transportation mode," Taylor said. Shifting cargo from ships to trucks and trains would mean adding another
1.6 trains and 197 trucks per day, Taylor and Roach said. It would mean a $26.4 million increase in the cost of transporting steel and would add millions to the cost of exporting grain.
Overseas trade on the St. Lawrence Seaway accounts for about 7 % of all Great Lakes shipping and saves the regionâ€™s manufacturers about $55 million a year in transportation dollars. But it will cost utilities and taxpayers at least $200 million to deal with invasive species dumped into the lakes from foreign ships. The seaway hasnâ€™t lived up to expectations,â€ one researcher said.
Estimates for dealing with the Great Lakesâ€™ 160 invasive species have ranged from $1.5 billion a year to $5.7 billion a year. Taylor said his annual number of $200 million comes from adding up the cost of Great Lakes utility companies in clearing water intake valves of species, such as zebra and quagga mussels.
Many feel the one way to fight the invasion of zebra mussels and other nonnative species on the Great Lakes would be to stop allowing oceangoing vessels to dock here. However, transportation experts who've read the study question some of its methodology.
For example, it assumes prices for alternatives, such as rail, would remain constant, but some experts say it's possible those costs would rise, making the transition away from ocean shipping more expensive.