Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

Wetlander's Pick of the PostsBeyond capitalism and socialism: could a new economic approach save the planet?

By Jo Gonfino – The Guardian – April 21, 2105
To avoid social, environmental and economic collapse, the world needs to move beyond the standard choices of capitalism or socialism. That’s the conclusion of a new report released Wednesday by US think tank Capital Institute. The non-partisan think tank argues that both systems are unsustainable, even if flawlessly executed, and that economists need to look to the “hard science of holism” to debunk outdated views held by both the left and the right. For full story, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereClimate Change: Improving Restoration to Meet Shifting Plant Communities

By Kate Gazzo, M.S. – Great Ecology – May 1, 2015
As an ecologist understanding how changing climates affect restoration can be essential to a project’s success. Questions which arise include; how likely is a restored wetland to remain wet in an increasingly Mediterranean climate, and what is the success of restoring a tidal marsh along a coast that is predicted to be underwater in 100 years? Considering millions of dollars are often spent on restoration projects, the projected biophysical conditions of a project region should be considered to secure the long-term success of a project and protect the financial investment that has been made to restore a site. For full blog post, click here.

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By Jeanne Christie

Both the Administration and Congress are engaged in addressing the Clean Water Rule that is currently under Interagency Federal Review with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  The comment period on the proposed ruled closed November 14, 2014.  Following review of comments, a final rule was sent to OMB on April 3rd.  According to the EPA website, the final rule will be published sometime in May of 2015 . This is a very ambitious timeline that will be challenging to meet, but it signals the Administration is moving ahead with finalizing the rule and it is likely if it is not finalized in May, it will be published and put into effect in the coming months.

cleanwateract1At the same time, Congress has held a series of hearings in both the House and Senate on the Clean Water Rule and the House has followed these by introducing H.R. 1732, the “Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015”. The bill was introduced on April 13 and may be brought to the House floor in the near future.  The legislation would require the Administration to withdraw the existing rule and start the rulemaking process over.  The primary reason reported for doing this is so the states and other parties can engage in full consultation with the EPA and the Corps in the rulemaking process.

In addition this week the House passed an Energy and Water Appropriations Bill which includes a rider that would prohibit the agencies from implementing a new rule.  This rider, should it remain in the appropriations budget, would take affect when funding is authorized for the next fiscal year.

Also this week Senators have introduced a bill, the “Federal Water Quality Protection Act” that would also require the Administration to start over adhering to a set of new definitions and principles that appear to substantially reduce the extent of  waters subject to the Clean Water Act following the SWANCC and Carabel/Rapanos Supreme Court decisions.

What’s Next?

What happens next depends in part on whether the Administration publishes a final rule in the next couple months.  If it does, the reception by states, the regulated community, and many other interest groups, as well as the reception of the House and Senate bills, particularly the Senate bill, will influence what steps Congress continues to pursue.  There is already some discussion and head counting underway to determine if there are enough votes in the Senate to override a likely Presidential veto.  If the proposed legislation is not passed into law, then it is likely that appropriations language would constrain the Administration’s ability to implement a new rule.

It would be prudent for States to evaluate the new Senate bill in consideration of both the impact of the bill if enacted at the federal level and also with respect to the consequences of having similar legislation introduced in their states.  Over time states clean water protection has generally evolved to follow federal law in many states, particularly with respect to cw51515-444exemptions and this bill has a number of new ones as well as new terms and definitions in response to recommendations from various interest groups.

For those who would like Congress to be informed and understand their concerns and recommendations about how to respond to a new Clean Water rule as well as the proposed legislation, it is important to be actively engaged both now and when the final rule is  published.

For more information on the EPA/Corp Clean Water Rule, go here.

For information about the record established through the recent House and Senate Hearings see:

House-Senate Joint Hearing on State & Local Impacts of Administration’s Proposed Expansion of Waters Regulation, Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Senate Environmental and Public Works – Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments and Stakeholders, Saturday, March 14, 2015

House Committee on Agriculture Conservation & Forestry Subcommittee—Public Hearing: WOTUS, March 17, 2015

Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Waters of the United States: Stakeholder Perspectives on the Impacts of EPA’s Proposed Rule, Tuesday, March 24, 2015

04/06/2015    Field Hearing: Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments and Stakeholders

cw5115-3304/08/2015    Field Hearing: Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments and Stakeholders

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View from the blog-o-sphere5 years later: Revisiting the areas most affected by the BP oil spill

By Estelle Robichaux – Environmental Defense Fund Blog – April 16, 2015
April 20 marks the five-year anniversary of the BP oil spill, and people around the country are reflecting on the state of the Gulf – how ecosystems and communities have recovered from the spill and how far they have yet to go. For full blog post, click here.

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsJobs per drop irrigating California crops

By Josué Medellín-Azuara, Jay Lund and Richard Howitt – California WaterBlog – April 28, 2015
Some of the most popular drought stories lately have been on the amount of what water needed to produce food from California, as a consumer sees it — a single almond, a head of lettuce or a glass of wine. The stories are often illustrated with pictures of common fruits, nuts and vegetables in one column and icons of gallon water jugs representing their water usage in the other. But there are more than two columns to this story. The amount of water applied to crops also translates into dollars and jobs — the main reasons for agriculture’s existence in California. For full blog post, click here.

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by Brenda Zollitsch

We hear about global issues all the time, including climate change, species extinction, pollution, and more and we know that a cumulative effect of lots of local actions in different places across the globe are all intricate parts of the larger web that addresses (and in some cases causes) these problems.  But what role do ramsarlogo42315wetlands in your state play in the global picture?  Do they have an important contribution to make?  Do some of them provide a home or a stopover for migratory birds?  Do they provide unique habitat for endangered amphibians?  Do they provide one or more unique or irreplaceable functions? If they do, well it’s time to consider applying to become a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance.

There is an opportunity to increase the number of designated “Wetlands of International Significance” in the United States through encouraging states to work with the US National Ramsar Committee to evaluate and designate unique wetland areas within the state and bring them into this international network of wetland sites recognized as having specific and irreplaceable global value.  In the following blog I try to answer some of the most common questions about becoming a Ramsar site and end by inviting you to participate in an upcoming webinar about Ramsar that ASWM is hosting and connect with the US National Ramsar Committee to learn more about how to get the ball rolling for one or more sites in your state.

tramchimnp42315What is Ramsar?

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that was adopted on February 2, 1971. Over 160 countries, including the United States, are parties to the Ramsar Convention.  The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.”

Under “three pillars” decided upon at the Convention, the Contracting Parties commit to: 1) work towards the wise use of all their wetlands; 2) designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management; and 3) cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.  For a copy of the Ramsar Strategic Plan go here.

What does Ramsar Stand For?

horiconmarsh42315Ramsar is actually not an acronym, it is the name of the city where the international wetlands treaty was signed — Ramsar, Iran.  (Think of it this way, it is like the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which was signed in Kyoto, Japan).  The organization is called the Ramsar Convention, the treaty signed is named the Ramsar Treaty and the designated sites are referred to as “Ramsar Sites”. 

Does Ramsar Define Wetlands the same way we do in the United States?

The Ramsar Convention uses a broader definition of wetlands than we generally use in the United States.  The Ramsar definition of wetlands includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

Do Ramsar sites have special attributes?

Ramsar-designated wetlands must meet specific criteria; however, these criteria are very broad and encompass a range of highly valued attributes that many wetlands across the US have.  These attributes include wetlands containing representative, rare or unique wetland types and wetlands of international importance for conserving biological diversity, including specific criteria for waterbirds, fish and other taxa.  There are a total of nine criteria, only one of which has to be met to qualify a wetland site for consideration by Ramsar.  For a complete list of the criteria go here.

How many Ramsar sites are there internationally and in the United States?

Internationally, there are over 2,000 Ramsar-designated Wetlands of International Significance sites.  To see a map of these sites, go here.  In the United States, there are only 37 Ramsar wetland sites, a number that the US National Ramsar Committee seeks to sandlakenat42315increase significantly over the next several years.  Sites range from the Connecticut River Estuary and Tidal Wetlands Complex and Cache River-Cypress Creek Wetlands to Everglades National Park and the Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park.  For links to all the Ramsar sites in the US, go here.

How does a wetland get designated as a Wetland of International Significance?

Any wetland which meets at least one of the criteria for wetlands of international significance and has been designated by the appropriate national authority can be added to the Ramsar List.  In the United States, the national Administrative Authority is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Sites interested in applying need to work with the US National Ramsar Committee to complete all elements of the application process, which includes scientific documentation of the specific criteria being submitted as the justification for designation, evidence of community and state support and a range of other information, including plans and commitments for preservation and management in perpetuity.  Once the application is complete, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sends the recommended designation, with a completed Ramsar Information Sheet, directly to the Secretariat.  The Secretariat ensures that the data and map meet the standards set by the Conference of the Parties, and then adds the information on the Site to the Ramsar Sites Information System.

What are the benefits of becoming a Ramsar Site?

Ramsar sites gain access to a variety of technical supports, including communication, education and participation and awareness (CEPA) resources; access to three grant programs; the ability to participate in regional initiatives; and guidance from science and technical staff.  Designation also carries with it political capital in many areas, where the recognition as a site of international significance provides additional political ashmeadow42315ammunition to protect the site from development and other impacts.  Where a Ramsar Site’s ecological character is threatened, the Contracting Party can request a Ramsar Advisory Mission (RAM).   A RAM enables countries to apply global expertise and advice to the problems and threats that could lead to a loss in ecological character to a wetland.

Where can I learn more?

We encourage you to celebrate National Wetlands Month by Joining ASWM and EPA’s Upcoming Webinar on Ramsar and efforts to increase the number of designated sites in the U.S. Please join us for the webinar, by checking on ASWM’s main webpage for registration information.  Registration should open next week.

The best place to get more information is from the United States National Ramsar Committee (USNRC).  The USNRC is an organization formed to support the goals and objectives of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands within the United States and internationally. The USNRC provides support and advice to initiatives that promote the conservation and wise, sustainable use of domestic and international wetlands. For more information on the work of the USNRC, go to their website here.  To join the USNRC as a member, go here.

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsForest garden bearing fruit as both food producer, water filter

By Whitney Pipkin – Bay Journal – April 15, 2015
To reach the patch of land he manages near Bowie, MD, Lincoln Smith crosses a cul-de-sac and a soggy cornfield left bare in winter but for the tender shoots of a cover crop. This is what most food-growing fields in the Chesapeake Bay watershed look like in late winter, he noted as he slushed through the mud during a recent visit. But, in the field next door, Smith and his business partner, Benjamin Friton, are growing an alternative. “This is a forest garden,” Smith said as he stepped inside a towering fence that separates this field from the other and protects burgeoning plants from the region’s ravenous deer.
For full story, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereReport recommends model better account for influence of urban streams, trees on nutrient pollution

Chesapeake Bay Program – April 10, 2015
A new report from an advisory committee of scientific experts recommends the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Watershed Model be adjusted to better account for the influence of stream corridors and tree canopy on pollution from urban areas. For full blog post, click here.

Posted in nutrient pollution, urban, watershed | Leave a comment

By Jeanne Christie

Venice, Italy, a World Heritage Site, is often identified as one of the cities most vulnerable to sea level rise.  Built 100’s of years ago entirely on wetlands, it’s been on my list of places to visit for many years.  Earlier this month I got to do just that, and to think about some of the similarities and differences between Venice’s challenges and those of our coastal cities.

cw41715-1Venice is both beautiful and also in a visible state of decay.  In many of the buildings along the Grand Canal, first floors are no longer inhabitable due to higher water levels over time.  Seaweed and algae cling to marble steps.  Many doors have flood barriers left in place in anticipation of a high water event.

cwvenice241715In addition, the city itself presents many challenges to its inhabitants.   There is no motorized transportation anywhere in the city. It is necessary to walk or use a boat to get everywhere.  Everything must be transported by boat along one of the canals and then offloaded and placed in carts that are pushed up and over bridges over other smaller canals as they are moved into the city.  The process is reversed to move trash and other materials out.  While the buildings and art and beauty of Venice provide a wonderful and unique experience for tourists, it can be challenging for residents in this day and age.  And the city is losing thousands of residents annually.

cwvenicepop41715“The population of Venice decreased from 184,000 inhabitants in 1950 to less than 90,000 at the beginning of the 1990s; at present the resident population is reduced to 70,000 inhabitants, with an increasing percentage of old people. This demographic decline is due to various causes; one of the most important is the progressive reduction of industry with an attendant increase in unemployment. In addition, because of the state of decay of the houses, the increasing frequency of floods, the relatively high cost of living and the peculiar Venetian way of life, which is not always appreciated by the younger generation, increasing numbers of inhabitants are moving from the city to the urban centers of the terra firma…Tourism is Venice’s most important economic resource, but also a major source of pollution, and negatively influences the quality of life of the inhabitants.

                        –From Coastal Flood Risk Italy (see section on Venice)                                                                        

cwvenice541715Venice is located in the Adriatic Sea along the eastern shore of Italy.  This whole area of the coast, not just the islands, is very vulnerable to sea level rise. In addition, subsidence and plate tectonics create additional threats.  There is a very expensive plan underway, called the Moses project, to erect a series of barriers and gates to block the major inlets to the lagoon where the city is located. Venice, Italy tests $7 billion flood barriers.  This effort may or may not ultimately be successful in saving the city itself. cwvenice741715But what about the local population?

The beautiful parts of Venice that I visited were inhabited largely by tourists and the stores and hotels and restaurants were in historic buildings now entirely geared to a tourist industry.  It wasn’t a theme park. But, for me, it didn’t have the feel of a living city either.

My stay in Venice led me to wonder about whether our focus on building sustainable infrastructure in response to sea level rise and climate change perhaps falls short of anticipating the difficulties that will ultimately be experienced by people living in those areas even when those efforts to slow and hold back the cwvenice841715sea are wholly or partially successful.  Venice offers some unique challenges it’s true.  But will people be willing to continue to live in coastal areas as the oceans encroach and affect their quality of life?  I don’t know the answer to that, but it is a very important part of the equation when we think about sustainability. We need to anticipate that ultimately residents may abandon these communities in large numbers if our definition of sustainability fails to consider livability as well.  Design resilient cities: don’t assume resilient people.  I was delighted to visit Venice, to glide up and down the Grand Canal, to watch the gondolas cruise by, to walk the narrow streets and encounter not only Italians, but people from around the world there like me to have the opportunity to see this extraordinary place. But I was also saddened to see firsthand what a community looks like that is experiencing the exodus of its population in response to changing conditions.  It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

cwvenice9941715

 

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View from the blog-o-sphereDear Humans: Industry is Causing Global Warming, Not Your Activities

By Aaron Huertas – Union of Concerned Citizens – April 7, 2015
Scientists and climate policy wonks usually say global warming is caused by “human activities.” This shorthand obscures an important point: while we humans are certainly responsible for climate change on some level, just a few of us – particularly in industry and government – are a lot more responsible than the rest of us.
After all, I like humans. I like activities, too. And it’s industry practices and government policies that largely determine how much heat-trapping emissions our human activities produce. For full blog post, click here.

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