August 31, 2015

Press Release: A Landmark for Clean Water

American Rivers * Clean Water Action * Environment America * Natural Resources Defense Council * League of Conservation Voters * Prairie Rivers Network * River Network * Sierra Club

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Michael Kelly, 202.393.5449, mkelly@cleanwater.org

Washington (August 28, 2015) – A coalition of conservation groups today said they are mobilizing their millions of members and activists in support of the Clean Water Rule and to oppose efforts in Congress to block it.

Their call comes as the long-awaited rule, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps), took effect across most of the nation on Friday, August 28. Unfortunately, due to a temporary injunction issued by the District of North Dakota, EPA and the Corps cannot implement the rule in 13 states involved in litigation.

In a group statement, American Rivers, Clean Water Action, Environment America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, Prairie Rivers Network, River Network, and Sierra Club said:

 “Today is a landmark in the history of clean water protection. Though we are disappointed by the temporary injunction in North Dakota, which leaves the water families and communities rely on in 13 states at risk of pollution and destruction, we are confident that commonsense, science-based protections for our water will prevail in the courts. The Clean Water Act authorizes EPA and the Corps to safeguard the bodies of water that have a significant impact on downstream waters and that is what the Clean Water Rule does.

Public support for the Clean Water Rule has never wavered and Americans will not tolerate efforts, in Congress or the courts, to turn back the clock now. Recent polls show that majorities of Americans across the political spectrum want their elected officials to get out of the way and let the Clean Water Rule go forward. However, the assault on clean water protections continues.  Defying common sense, science, and their constituents, a number of states filed suit to stop the Rule; and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate attached riders to must-pass spending bills that would roll back the Clean Water Rule, even though the Obama administration has rightly threatened to veto these measures. These actions raise the specter of another government shutdown this fall.  In addition, the Senate is very likely to debate S. 1140, a bill to stop the Clean Water Rule and force the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps to start over.

Americans are tired of polluters and their political defenders politicizing clean water. Our millions of members and supporters understand what’s at stake, and we will make sure their voices are heard by members of Congress to ensure the Clean Water Rule is implemented without delay.”

The Clean Water Rule eliminates  loopholes that for more than a decade left roughly 60% of the nation’s small streams and millions of acres of wetlands vulnerable to pollution and destruction. The Clean Water Rule restores clear protections to the drinking water supplies for nearly a third of all Americans.

Small business owners, local governments, public health professionals, religious leaders, rural interests and the general public support the Clean Water Rule.  Despite this broad public support, polluters—led by lobbyists for corporate agribusiness, oil and gas, and big developers—are exerting heavy pressure on Congress to undermine the Clean Water Rule.

For more information, please visit ProtectCleanWater.org.

See how the Clean Water Rule will protect Illinois waters

August 20, 2015

Prairie River Notes – Summer 2015 Newsletter

PRN Summer 2015 newsletter FINAL_Page_1Read Prairie Rivers Network’s Summer 2015 Newsletter, featuring articles on:

  • On Flood and Fire
  • New Madrid Levee Boondoggle
  • Annual Dinner
  • Redesigning Ag in Nature’s Image
  • River Steward Award Nominations
  • Board of Directors Update
  • Vying for Fed Funds for Flooding
  • New I ♥ Wildlife t-shirt

 

August 17, 2015

Get Your “I ♥ Wildlife” t-shirt

We all ♥ Wildlife!

Wildlife-shirt-picture-of-Keith-and-Gen-small-crop2

Shirt choices:

Men’s or unisex - steel blue with crew neck

Women’s - leaf green with v-neck (fitted, runs slightly small)

Sizes - S  M  L  XL  XXL

Make a donation of $20 or more to Prairie Rivers Network to protect clean water and we’ll send you a complimentary shirt. Just tell us what kind (men’s/unisex or women’s) and the size.

heart-water-bird-design-FINAL canoe shirt close up

We’re so happy and proud of the shirt design which was donated by Joy Schmoll from Just Say Joy.

July 29, 2015

New Madrid Levee Project is Harmful Boondoggle that Must Be Stopped

Prairie Rivers Network & partners seek EPA veto

Down in the Missouri boot heel lies a huge expanse of wetlands where migratory birds seek rest and food, and where fish spawn and rear their young. By storing massive amounts of water during storms, the wetlands also protect the Illinois towns of Cairo and Olive Branch from destructive flooding. These precious wetlands get their water from the Mississippi River through the last remaining gap in the complex of levees that divide the river from its floodplain. Without the gap, the wetlands would die, along with many of the fish and birds that rely on them. It is this natural flooding through the gap in the levee that has created the most important backwater fisheries habitat in the Middle Mississippi River.

MS River backwater

The gap in the levee remains because the area is a federally-designated floodway. As such, it is intended to be flooded during big storms. Landowners in the floodway, despite having been compensated for use of the land in this way, are not happy about the periodic flooding. They want the gap closed, and the Army Corps of Engineers is determined to give them what they want, no matter the cost.

The Corps’ New Madrid Levee project would close the 1500 foot gap in the Mississippi River levee with a 60 foot high wall and drain the area with massive pumps. The price tag is high, $165 million taxpayer dollars, especially when you consider who gains; and who loses.

The winners are few. A small group of powerful agricultural landowners in the floodway want more certainty over crop production. With the gap closed, these landowners will be freer to plant still more crops and otherwise further develop the floodway. Senators McCaskill and Blunt stand to gain the farmer vote through support of the project.

Stop the New Madrid Levee

The losers are many. Too many. The Town of Olive Branch, Illinois lost 50 homes in a 2011 flood, because Missouri landowners in the floodway brought last minute legal action to try to stop the Corps from using the floodway. The delay cost Olive Branch millions of dollars in damage. Cairo, IL; Paducah, KY; and Hickman, MO are at similar risk of flooding should the levee be built. Once the gap is closed it is fully expected that development within the floodway will intensify. More development means more opposition to operation of the floodway when it is needed. Putting these small struggling river towns at greater risk of flooding also makes it more difficult for them to attract businesses and residents, intensifying economic insecurity.

And then there are the many fish, bird, and other wild species that depend on this area for their survival. We’ve walled off so much of the Mississippi River from its natural floodplain that few backwater habitats persist. It is in these backwater areas that critical spawning, rearing, and nesting occur, and allow species to recover, reproduce, and even thrive. There are fewer and fewer of these places, and we must protect them.

The New Madrid levee has had many heads since its first birth in 1954. In 2007, opponents thought they’d finally seen the end of it when a federal district court ordered the Army Corps to “tear down that wall” (or something like that) and dismantle the parts the Corps had built. But being forced to tear down the project proved no deterrent. The Corps is poised to release its final plan recommending once again that the project be built, and with taxpayer funding.

So how can we finally kill this thing? There is a way. Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA has the authority to veto the project. An EPA veto would ring the final death knell for the New Madrid levee. And that’s what we’re working to achieve. With the help of our partners, Prairie Rivers Network has been co-leading a campaign to convince EPA that it must veto this project. You can help. Join our social media team and keep a look out for action alerts over the coming months.

Email kknowles [at] prairierivers.org to join the campaign.

Let’s #stopthelevee once & for all.

 

July 22, 2015

Press Release – New Poll: Hunters and Anglers Nationwide Support the EPA’s Clean Water Rule

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
July 22, 2015

New Poll: Hunters and Anglers Nationwide Support the EPA’s Clean Water Rule

Sportsmen and women across the political spectrum support protecting smaller streams and wetlands

Washington—A new nationwide, bipartisan survey found broad support among hunters and anglers for applying Clean Water Act protections to smaller streams and wetlands.

“As every hunter or angler knows, ducks need healthy wetlands and fish need clean water—it’s that simple,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, which commissioned the poll. “Everyone on Capitol Hill should take note: clean water has the bipartisan support of millions of sportsmen and women across our nation—and these men and women vote.”

Download the poll memo.

One of the poll’s key findings is that more than 8 in 10 of the hunters and anglers (83 percent) surveyed thought that the Environmental Protection Agency should apply the rules and standards of the Clean Water Act to smaller, headwater streams and wetlands. Support for this policy was strong across the political spectrum with 77 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Independents and 97 percent of Democrats in favor.

“The results of this poll are unambiguous: America’s hunters and anglers care very deeply about water quality,” said Al Quinlan, the president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “It is unusual to see such intense levels of public support for any issue.”

“I am the fourth generation of my family that has loved to fish the Wabash River. My sons are the fifth, said Illinois based artist and avid fisherman, Tony Treadway. “I have always lived or worked near Illinois waterways. I have seen the change from when I started fishing in the 1960’s and how much cleaner and better the rivers are now as a result of the environmental protection acts, like the Clean Water Act. I hope that the rivers continue to improve in their health so that they will be there for my grandchildren and great grandchildren to enjoy as I have in my lifetime.”

The issue of protecting smaller streams and wetlands adjacent to those streams has been politically contentious in recent years. The Clean Water Act protected all of the nation’s streams and wetlands from its passage in 1972 until two split Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 left it unclear exactly which streams and wetlands could be covered by the law.

The bipartisan research team of Public Opinion Strategies (R) and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) partnered on the survey of 1000 registered voters who also hunt or fish. The sample leaned conservative—38 percent of those polled were Republicans, while just 28 percent were Democrats. Almost half of those surveyed (49 percent) said they considered themselves a supporter of the Tea Party.

“It would be hard to find a more conservative group than the hunters and anglers we polled,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. “And yet their support of this policy is broad‐based and wide‐spread, cutting across partisan and ideological divisions. And it endures after hearing the arguments against it.”

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers finalized a rule clarifying that the Clean Water Act applies to more than half of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands—bodies of water that had been in a legal limbo for more than a decade. However, Congress is considering legislation that would undermine or nullify this rule.

Additional results from the poll:

  • Fully 89 percent say that the Clean Water Act has been “more of a good thing” for the country, with majorities of every single demographic sub‐group echoing this sentiment.
  • More than 8 in 10 sportsmen (82 percent) agree with the statement: “We can protect our water quality and have a strong economy with good jobs for Americans at the same time, without having to choose one over the other.”
  • Three-quarters (75 percent) of hunters and anglers see applying the Clean Water Act to smaller streams and wetlands is more of a safeguard, rather than a burdensome regulation.
  • Almost half of those surveyed (47 percent) say that water quality and fish and wildlife habitat issues are of primary importance to their voting decisions. Nearly all sportsmen say these issues are at least somewhat significant in their voting decisions (92 percent).
  • Two-thirds (67 percent) say they would have a more favorable opinion if their Senator upheld this application of the Clean Water Act. Only one-in-ten would feel less favorably (11 percent).

“Hunters and anglers were the original conservationists and their support for this policy comes as no surprise,” said Jim Martin, conservation director at the Berkley Conservation Institute, a branch of Pure Fishing, one of the largest tackle manufacturers in the sportfishing industry. “Restoring Clean Water Act protections to smaller streams and wetlands will help the economy, protect our drinking water and allow us to pass the great sport of fishing down to future generations. Congress should allow this common-sense rule to take effect without delay.”

“I cannot fathom the thought of my kids not being able to hunt or fish in the streams here in Illinois, says Dan Sidwell, President of the Oyate Sports Club in Pocahontas, IL, who is supportive of the Clean Water Act. “Outdoor recreation and sports are a tradition in downstate Illinois. As an avid hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman, I believe it’s our responsibility to take care of our streams, rivers and lakes. If we don’t what will we leave for our children?”

About the methodology

From June 23–July 4, 2015, Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research completed 1000 interviews with registered voters who also identify as hunters, anglers or both. Half of the interviews were conducted on landline and cell phones, with the other half conducted via internet panels. Respondents are from throughout the United States and the sample was compared to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys of adults who hunt or fish for demographic representation.

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and InstagramPrairie Rivers Network is National Wildlife Federation’s Illinois Affiliate and Illinois’ advocate for clean water and healthy rivers. 

Contacts: 
Lacey McCormick, (512) 610-7765, mccormick@nwf.org
National Wildlife Federation

Carol Hays, (217) 344-2371, chays@prairierivers.org
Prairie Rivers Network, Illinois Affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation

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July 16, 2015

Say NO MORE to mercury pollution in the Ohio River!

No more Mercury Ohio River thermometer image

Clean water can’t wait! It’s time to stop discharging toxic levels of mercury into the Ohio River!

The Ohio River is the public water supply for 5 million homes from Pittsburgh, PA to Cairo, IL, and is home to over 150 species of fish. It shouldn’t be a private waste dump for big business. But for ten years now, dozens of coal fired power plants and factories up and down the Ohio River have fought a requirement to cut the amount of mercury they dump into the river. Mercury — it’s so toxic that it’s not even safe to put an old glass mercury thermometer in our kids’ mouths.

Right now public officials with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), which sets pollution control standards for the Ohio River, are considering backtracking on previous limits to continue to allow “hot spots” in the Ohio River, where dangerously high levels of mercury are pumped into the river. According to the EPA, toxic pollutants like mercury can build up in the food chain to levels harmful to human and ecosystem health. They are associated with a range of adverse human health effects including cancer.

Prairie Rivers Network is working with Kentucky Waterways Alliance and other groups in states along the Ohio River to stop these increases in mercury dumping into the river.  Together we are petitioning ORSANCO to keep current rules in place.

Sign our petition to protect the Ohio River.

“We, the undersigned, do not want toxic amounts of mercury dumped into the Ohio River.  We want state and federally-appointed officials charged with improving water quality in the Ohio River to uphold the ban on toxic chemical hotspots, or mixing zones.  We want government officials to put public health before corporate profits.  We want the Ohio River to be free of mercury, from Pittsburgh to Paducah.”

Illinois shares 122 miles of the Ohio River before it joins the Mississippi River at Cairo, IL. This stretch of the Ohio is home to historic Cave-in-Rock, Metropolis and its famous Superman statue, the beautiful Shawnee National Forest, and the Ohio River Scenic Byway that meanders through beautiful river towns, with scenic glimpses of the river.  Please help us protect the river that these communities rely on.

Please stand with us to protect the health of Ohio River communities in Illinois, and wildlife from toxic mercury, by adding your name to the petition to ORSANCO.

TakeActionButton

When signing, please indicate that you heard about this issue from Prairie Rivers Network.

Learn more about this issue at Kentucky Waterways Alliance.

This article from WDRB in Louisville, KY (PDF of article) details how mercury pollution is threatening people, communities, and wildlife along the Ohio River.