The Washington Post – October 30, 2013 – Video
Jackie Kucinich breaks down the five big Farm Bill issues Congress needs to sort out before January. To view video, click here.
The Washington Post – October 30, 2013 – Video
Jackie Kucinich breaks down the five big Farm Bill issues Congress needs to sort out before January. To view video, click here.
By Diane Roberts – Tallahassee.com – November 1, 2013 – Opinion
Water is life; water is also money — especially in Wakulla County, with its blue-green tangle of rivers, sloughs, bays, springs and swamps. Nobody visits the place for the strip malls on the Crawfordville Highway; people come (more than 300,000 a year) to paddle the St. Marks, fish the bay, and gaze on the cold glory of Wakulla Springs. Yet the Wakulla County Commission, apparently inspired by property rights zealotry, wants to stop protecting wetlands. For full opinion, click here.
Every year at this time in Maine, we reach that point when going outside as the temperature drops becomes a choice rather than a given. The amount of clothing that is required, the preparation in case you get stuck where you don’t want to be comes into consideration, and whether or not your family will tolerate your trek in the cold is a gamble you have to make. What I have found at this time of year is that finding the right place to drag everyone into a wetland is the key to late autumn explorations.
The Scarborough Marsh in Southern Maine always makes the decision an easy one. It’s our go-to cold weather wetland wander. The Marsh trails are part of both the Eastern Trail System and the system of Audubon Centers, bringing the benefits of well-cared-for trails, gorgeous vistas, clear maps and notable points along the way. Best yet, unlike most Audubon-run areas, dogs are welcome, which makes our golden doodle Tucker happy indeed!
The Scarborough Marsh is a gorgeous tourist attraction during summer months, with access to rental canoes and paddling on a tidal creek through the marsh water meanders. The grasses are lush, framed by rose bushes, photogenic wooden fences and long bridges. It is easy to be in the marsh in the summer. It takes a hardier soul the rest of the year, yet the rewards are no less. In the non-summer months, we park just past the Audubon Visitor’s Center for a walk along the bike trails. Once everyone is properly dressed and wearing too many clothes to be comfortable, I put my daughter in the backpack (really? I thought she was getting big enough to walk…), and organize drinks, the all-essential snack, my camera and a map for my son to pore over along the trail. Our favorite moment is when we make our way out onto the initial bridge and first see the great expanse of marsh.
Owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the 3,100 acre estuary is the largest salt marsh in the state, made up of an array of tidal marsh, salt creeks, freshwater marsh and uplands. It is not difficult to understand why the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has designated the Scarborough Marsh as one of the state’s most significant coastal Focus Areas. The marsh’s wildlife productivity and habitat diversity are astounding. It is home to a wide array of ducks, Great Blue Herons, and birds of prey. Nearby are also Scarborough Beach and its dunes, which provide critical habitat for the region’s piping plovers and least terns.
The walk can be as long or as short as you want. We usually go about two miles and turn back. The gravel-lined trails are easy to walk, so we can go farther with the kids than we usually would. We look at marsh grasses, check out shadows as the sun gets lower, identify new birds we have never seen and check out what seed husks and other signs of activity we can find. And that is about all at this time of year. As toes become icy and fingers cease to move it is time to head back, timing which often coincides with late fall’s early sunsets.
Every time I am in that amazing marsh, regardless of the time of year, I want to protect it. In Maine, we need to think about Southern Maine’s encroaching development and the impact of huge increases in impervious surface in the region over the last 15 years. Thanks to the Department of Fish and Wildlife Service, the Audubon Society, the Eastern Trail Alliance, and other partners, Scarborough Marsh will be enjoyed for years to come. However, we all need to do our part to protect the places we care about. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection shares some ideas about how individuals can take action to protect the Scarborough Marsh that are equally useful for protecting your local wetlands.
For more information about the Scarborough Marsh, check out:
By Donnelle Eller – Des Moines Register – October 30, 2013
Researchers looking at urban wetlands said cities and towns — even homeowners — can use them to capture nutrients that can degrade nearby rivers, lakes and streams, slow flood waters, and provide important habitat for wildlife. But building urban wetlands would likely play a small role in the action needed statewide to reduce the nitrogen and phosphorous that’s been blamed for creating the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, said researchers. For full story, click here.
GeoEngineering Exposed – October 29, 2013
In the summer of 2012, a small group of the Haida people, a native community in Canada, had a problem. The salmon they rely on were disappearing. So the Haida took matters into their own hands. They partnered with an American businessman, drew up plans and then took a boat full of iron dust into the waters off their home island and put the dust in the ocean. To read full blog post, click here.
I recently had the opportunity to represent the Association of State Wetland Managers in a meeting with wetland program representatives from Alaska and Oregon to discuss their potential assumption of the §404 wetland permit program. Michigan and New Jersey were also included to share their 404 experiences. Among other issues, we discussed the barriers that have limited404 Program assumption by the states, contrary to Congressional expectations in 1977.
It is clear from Congressional records that lawmakers anticipated routine 404 assumption by states, in a manner parallel to the NPDES program. Congress not only expected that states would be willing and able to take responsibility for regulation of headwater and “interior” waters and wetlands, but also recognized that states – with their inherent land use authority – would be especially well-positioned to integrate land and water management. However, more than 30 years after Congress authorized states to administer their own wetland programs in lieu of the federal permit program, only Michigan and New Jersey have completed the assumption process.
Of the several barriers to assumption, one in particular – the scope of state jurisdiction under an assumed program – has special relevance during review of EPA’s Science Advisory Board report on the Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters, and anticipated rulemaking on the scope of federal jurisdiction. This is because over the past thirty years, various legal rulings have clouded the legal terminology that defines what waters can be included in a state assumed 404 Program (i.e. “assumable waters”) in addition to the extent of waters that are regulated under the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Act allows for assumption of the §404 Program by,
“..any State desiring to administer its own …permit program for the discharge of dredged and fill material into the navigable waters (other than those waters that are presently used, or are susceptible to use…as a means to transport interstate or foreign commerce shoreward to their ordinary high water mark, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide…including wetlands adjacent thereto…).” -CWA §404(g)
This clause includes two important limitations on assumption. The Corps of Engineers must retain jurisdiction over (1)waters used to transport interstate or foreign commerce, and (2) wetlands adjacent to these waters. Given uncertainty regarding the legal meaning of both “navigable” and “adjacent”, these limits are open to interpretation.
In 1977,Congress explained that states would be allowed to regulate “navigable waters other than traditional navigable waters” – a phrase that helps only a little in the context of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have rested heavily on the term “navigable waters” in defining the limits of federal jurisdiction. More helpful was a statement in the legislative history explaining that non-assumable waters include the “Phase I” “traditional navigable waters” defined in regulations promulgated by the Corps of Engineers in 1975. By contrast, other (assumable) waters listed in these regulations included primary tributaries of navigable waters, natural lakes over 5 acres, and adjacent wetlands (Phase II); and other waters up to the headwaters, and adjacent wetlands (Phase III).
Neither Michigan (in 1984) nor New Jersey (1993) had any significant difficulty in defining assumable waters. The Corps of Engineers retained jurisdiction over the traditionally navigable waters that it had regulated under §10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, including the Great Lakes in Michigan, tidal waters in New Jersey, and some major river mouth areas in both. On the other hand, many lakes, rivers, and streams that are clearly “navigable” under a broader definition have been routinely regulated by these state 404 Programs.
The Michigan Princess on waters of the Grand River near Lansing, MI, an area regulated under Michigan’s 404 Program.
Unfortunately, the extent of assumable waters is less clear for states considering §404 assumption at the present time. In the muddied vocabulary defining waters of the U.S. as navigable waters under the Clean Water Act, the Corps of Engineers is understandably concerned that if waters are not defined as “navigable”, then the federal government will lose regulatory control. Yet clearly, Congress intended that the states be able to take over the regulation of “navigable” interior waters. This issue must be clarified.
In addition to the question of navigable waters, states must contend with the definition of “adjacent” wetlands – both to determine the extent of assumable waters, and to compare the extent of jurisdiction under their own state law and the Clean Water Act. Use of the term “adjacent” for both purposes causes confusion. In terms of the original limit on assumption, it appears that Congress meant to ensure that the Corps maintains clear authority to protect navigable channels including immediately adjacent wetlands along the shore of those waters; placement of physical structures on foundations along the shore, or excavation of immediately adjacent wetlands, could impact the physical integrity of the navigation channel.
However, as used in determining the extent of Clean Water Act jurisdiction post Carabell/Rapanos and SWANCC, the term “adjacent” has been used to define wetlands that exist at a significant distance from stream channels (but that have some sort of connection with those waters). Use of this term in various parts of the nation is far from consistent, and for that matter, the term “adjacent” applied in the context of state assumptionis inconsistent in the conflicting opinions rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Rapanos case.
For wetland rich states such as Florida, an enormous percentage of wetlands might be considered “adjacent to navigable waters”. Drawing a boundary defining continued Corps jurisdiction under an assumed program would not only require difficult case-by-case decisions by the Corps, but could leave the state with little to assume. This does not appear to mesh with Congressional intent.
The Florida Everglades
Anticipated rulemaking regarding Clean Water Act jurisdiction offers an important opportunity to simultaneously explain the extent of waters that are assumable under §404(g). Given the experience of Oregon and Alaska, I would strongly encourage clarification of the terms “navigable” and “adjacent” for this purpose. Specifically, the new rules should clarify that – for purposes of defining non-assumable waters in accordance with §404(g) – the term “navigable” includes only traditionally navigable waters (such as tidal waters, the Mississippi River, or the Great Lakes) which support interstate or foreign commerce and that were regulated by the Corps of Engineers under Phase I of their 1975regulations. Waters defined under Phase II and III of the 1975 Corps regulations should be assumable by the states in accordance with legislative history.
Likewise, I would suggest that -for purposes of defining limits on assumable waters under §404(g) – the term “adjacent” wetlands refer only to immediately connected wetlands necessary to maintain the physical integrity of traditionally navigable waters that support interstate and foreign commerce. The Corps of Engineers and a state that wishes to assume administration of the Section 404 Program should be allowed to agree on a readily identifiable boundary between state-assumed waters and retained Corps jurisdiction based on a fixed buffer area, such as 500 or 1000 feet from the shoreline of the navigable water.
Clarification of the distinction between the extent of “assumable” waters by states and the extent and limits of Clean Water Act jurisdiction would remove one significant barrier to state program assumption. Relative to the complexity of some other Clean Water Act issues, this appears to require a relatively simple and straightforward definition of terms – and I hope that EPA takes advantage of this opportunity during rulemaking.
To review the SAB report, click here.
For additional information regarding the SAB report and proposed rulemaking, or to find out how to comment on the report, click here.
For more information regarding state 404 program assumption, click here.
A Legislative History of the Clean Water Act of 1977: Volume 3. Conference Report page 349
 Ibid, page 347-348
By Max Greenberg – Media Matters – October 22, 2013 – Blog
Fox is accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of a “power grab” for proposing a rule to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. In fact, the new classification is based on sound science and intended to address years’ worth of confusion surrounding the proper protection of the nation’s waterways. To read full blog post, click here.
By Merritt Frey – River Network – October 2013
Around the nation, river and watershed groups are breathing life back into our rivers and streams through projects focused on restoring a “riparian buffer” along the water’s edge. This report, presents a snapshot of work to restore and protect riparian buffers in the United States. Two types of information are provided: 1.) a summary of the results of a short, national survey of organizations involved in riparian buffer restoration and 2.) a selection of case studies documenting projects in various watershed situations. To view report, click here.
As a community planner, artist and an environmentalist, I am continually intrigued by the theory of sustainable development and in finding ways to effectively balance the three legs of the “sustainability stool”: the economy, society, and the environment. Wetlands, I believe, are an integral part of any sustainable development effort. When I think of wetlands, however, I often catch myself thinking only of the wetlands found in rural America – the ones that you see in beautiful pictures of wetlands in the wilderness being enjoyed by ducks, moose or outdoor enthusiasts. Rarely do I imagine or think of them as being a part of the fabric of urban places. But as I have dug deeper into the subject of “green” infrastructure in relation to wetland restoration, I increasingly come up with examples of urban places which have incorporated the natural functions of nature, specifically wetlands, to resolve structural, social and economic issues which they are facing due to crumbling “structural” infrastructure systems and a stagnating economy. Throughout my research, I am constantly reminded of the research I did for my master’s capstone on the creative economy and its role in sustainability planning and development – and the concept of “creative placemaking.”
Good urban design is an important component of Creative Placemaking. Urban design has been described as “the art of creating and shaping cities and towns.” It is derived from planning and transportation policy, architectural design, economics, engineering and landscape design. Interdisciplinary by nature, it “draws together the many strands of place-making, environmental stewardship, social equity and economic viability into the creation of places with distinct beauty and identity.”[i] Green infrastructure has developed into a significant component of urban design and offers opportunities for all members of the community, regardless of socioeconomic status, to enjoy the benefits of nature – physically, aesthetically, and financially.[ii]
Quality of life is integrally connected to “quality of place.” As Corson Ellis, an entrepreneur in Portland, Maine, says in an interview for the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, “If you’re in a beautiful, beautiful place, you’re a more motivated and happy person.” (Ellis, 2012) Creative Placemaking is a new technique for creating that “quality of place” which attempts to balance the need for a healthy economy, society and environment. It is a socially inclusive community planning strategy which leverages the arts and the environment to help shape and revitalize the physical (built and natural), social, and economic character of neighborhoods, cities, and towns.
Entrepreneurship is at the heart of Creative Placemaking which emphasizes an asset-based approach to planning. It draws on the ideas and inspirations of people in the local community to enliven public spaces, enhance business vitality and improve public health and safety. Creativity in this context is not seen as occurring in some sort of separate silo or vacuum. It happens harmoniously within the context of the arts, the economy and the environment (both natural and built). It recognizes the creative ability of everyone and the benefits of a healthy community and social capital. It is inherently a grassroots effort to create vibrant, resilient, and sustainable communities.
Some really inspiring and exciting examples of creative placemaking and green urban design that incorporate all three legs of the sustainability stool include:
Any good gardener knows that if they want to produce beautiful flowers or healthy food crops, they need to begin with healthy soil. Sustainability planning and development is no different. We need to begin with healthy, equitable neighborhoods if we expect to grow beautiful, prosperous communities. The role of the creative economy in sustainability planning and development, therefore, is to value and proliferate public goods (such as public art, community gardens, and transit), to catalyze social interaction, equity and communication, and to foster our creativity and ingenuity in developing solutions to some of today’s most dire problems such as climate change and habitat loss. It is an effective strategy to accomplish our sustainable development goals of balancing the needs of society, the economy and nature. Urban wetlands and green infrastructure are integral components for a creative placemaking strategy capable of sustainable development success.
By John Vidal – The Guardina – October 13, 2013
As warnings of global climate change grow ever more dire, John Vidal offers 10 tips on how to prepare for an apocalyptic future. For full story, click here.