Black Carp Introduction Gets Hooked

States in the Mississippi river basin are protesting a decision by the state of Mississippi to allow a foreign fish to be introduced tocontrol a pest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… the other states are concerned the fish will escape into the wild and damage the environment:

Transcript

States in the Mississippi River Basin are protesting a decision by the state of Mississippi to

allow a foreign fish to be introduced to control a pest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester

Graham reports the other states are concerned the fish will escape into the wild and damage the

environment:


If you buy a package of catfish filets at the supermarket or order blackened catfish at your

favorite restaurant, chances are that fish was raised in a farm pond in Mississippi. The state of

Mississippi supplies almost three-fourths of the world’s commercial catfish. It’s a two-billion

dollar a year business, coming in only after cotton and timber as one of Mississippi’s largest

industries.


In recent years, Mississippi farmers have been struggling with a parasite that’s attacking the

catfish. Jimmy Avery is a researcher with the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center at Mississippi

State University. He says the parasite is causing quite a bit of damage.


“It’s either killing these fish outright or it’s stressing them to the point they no longer grow.”


Avery says the parasite makes its home in snails. To get rid of the snails, the Mississippi

Department of Agriculture and commerce has approved introducing an Asian fish called the black

carp. The black carp eats snails and mussels. But, other states are worried that the black carp

will escape the farm ponds and get into the wild. Avery says that’s not likely…


“The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce has decided that through the permit

process, we can minimize this. They’ll know where every black carp is located. They’ll know what

kinds of system they’ve been put in and it felt like that those regulations that had been put in

place are strong enough to prevent that.”


But the State of Missisippi’s assurances don’t convince others. Roger Klosek is the Director of

Conservation at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. He studies native mussels.


“If black carp are used to deal with the snail problem, eventually they’ll escape into the main

waterways, and start reproducing. And once they do that, they’ll start feeding on the native

mussel fauna which is one of the last remaining native mussel faunas in the United States and

literally wipe it out.”


Klosek says native mussel populations have already been hurt by another exotic species, the zebra

mussel. He believes the black carp would be the last straw for American freshwater mussels.


“So, somebody’s going to lose and it’s probably better – I know the catfish farmers will hate me

for saying this, but – it’s probably better that they lose a little economically rather than

reduce some of the native fauna to an irretrievable state.”


Some states’ officials agree with Klosek. Bill Bertrand works with the Illinois Department of

Natural Resources fisheries office. He says there’s a history of Asian carp getting loose. The

silver carp, the bighead carp, and the grass carp have already escaped from farm ponds, mostly

from Arkansas where there are few regulations.


“There’s a history of these exotics, imports, escaping into the river system, spreading throughout

the entire river basin system and causing impacts on all the other states in the system. And

Mississippi appears to tend to ignore that fact and go ahead their own merry way, saying ‘Well

we’re doing this because we want to do it and it’s beneficial to us.'”


Bertrand says governors of some of the states along the Mississippi River have sent letters to the

Governor of the State of Mississippi, asking him to stop the use of black carp. Several of the

states intend to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the importation of the fish. The

federal agency has not yet received that request… but even if the Fish and Wildlife service

found a ban was appropriate, it would take several months to go through the process. Even then, a

ban would not apply to black carp already in the U.S.


Mike Oetker is a fisheries biologist with the Fish and Wildlife service. He says the agency is

trying to play the role of mediator.


“Right now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to work with states and the industry to

try to prevent the problem of the possible release or accidental release of black carp into the

environment. There are several alternatives to black carp where we can use native fish such as the

red ear sunfish or freshwater drum or even big mouth buffalo to do the same type of biological

control that the black carp are doing. And that would give of the ability to kind of circumvent

this problem.”


The catfish farmers in the State of Mississippi say the native fish don’t eat the snails as

quickly as the black carp. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce says it will ask

farmers to use chemical treatments first and where native fish will work, they’ll try to use them.

but in the end, the Mississippi agency says it will allow catfish farmers to use black carp when

it appears other methods don’t work.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.


Automakers Unveil Green Concept Cars

Ford and General Motors each plan to unveil new
environmentally friendly concept cars at this year’s North American
International Auto Show in Detroit. The cars are the outgrowth of an
initiative between the federal government and the big three auto
companies to develop a car that could fit a family of five but get 80 miles
to the gallon. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Edelson Halpert has more:

Transcript

Ford and General Motors each plan to unveil new environmentally friendly concept cars at this

year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The cars are the outgrowth of an

initiative between the federal government and the big three car companies to develop a car that

could fit a family of five but get eighty miles to the gallon. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s

Julie Edelson Halpert has more:


A mid-sized vehicle that triples the fuel economy of today’s cars. That was once only a pipe dream

for domestic auto makers. But after six years of research, they’ve done it. Using a combination

diesel and electric engine, Ford and General Motors have developed cars that get gas mileage up to

eighty miles per gallon. Jeff Coleman is a spokesman for General Motors. He says GM’s car, the

Precept, makes great environmental strides. but one big obstacle remains: cost.


“Many of the technologies that are on the GM Precept are not in high volumes today, and so you’d

expect the vehicle to be quite expensive. And the job over the next few years is to learn more

about these technologies, put these into use in real vehicles that are on the road today.”


Coleman says that as the technologies become more widespread, costs will come down. The auto

companies hope to develop an affordable high mileage car by 2003.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Edelson Halpert.

Commentary – Beyond Y2K

After all the hype and preparation, Y2K came and went without
so much as a bleep on the computer screen. But instead of congratulating
ourselves for a disaster avoided, Great Lakes Radio Consortium
commentator Suzanne Elston thinks we should be remembering what
caused the problem in the first place:

Transcript

After all the hype and preparation, Y2K came and went without so much as a bleep on the computer

screen. But instead of congratulating ourselves for a disaster avoided, Great Lakes Radio

Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston thinks we should be remembering what caused the problem in

the first place;


I have to admit I was one of the few people who didn’t stockpile canned goods and cash in

anticipation of the Y2K crisis. And although I had plenty of candles on hand New Year’s Eve, they

were there to create a festive atmosphere for my dinner guests, not to light our way into some

post millennium darkness.


But if all the hype leading up to Y2K wasn’t enough, ever since the greatest non-event of the

century came and went, we’ve had to listen to all this self-congratulatory nonsense. All the hard

work. All the careful planning. Aren’t we great? Doesn’t anybody remember we caused this mess in

the first place? We keep developing these new technologies and then applying them without ever

looking beyond the most obvious consequences.


Things like the personal computer promise to change our lives. And they do, but until there’s a

crisis – like the silly Y2K thing – nobody bothers to ask at what cost.


Look at the environment. We deal with the obvious and forget about everything else. So if a

chemical’s highly toxic or a nuclear device is highly explosive, then we have a tendency to avoid

it, or at least try to contain it somehow.


But look at things that have had a subtle but deadly impact, like chlorofluorocarbons. Down here

an earth they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Inexpensive, inert substances that could

do everything from keeping our food frozen and our houses cool to cleaning our computer chips. And

then we found out that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer. Who knew? Better yet – who even

bothered to ask?


Look: I’m not saying that we should abandon any new ideas in case they might backfire on us. What

I am saying is that everything has a cost… everything. And we could avoid a whole lot of trouble

and panic, if we really bothered to look at the price tag in the first place.


Suzanne Elston is a syndicated columnist living in Courtice, Ontario. She comes to us by way of

the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

A Fight Over Dam Decommissioning

More small river dams are being torn down around the U-S. In
fact, a recent report by conservation groups says several states in the
upper Midwest are leading the way at getting rid of dams that no longer
produce electricity. Environmentalists say tearing down thestructures
helps water quality. But some people who live near the dams feel like
they’re losing an old friend. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck
Quirmbach prepared this report:

Transcript

More small river dams are being torn down around the U.S. In fact, a recent report by conservation

groups says several states in the upper Midwest are leading the way at getting rid of dams that no

longer produce electricity. Environmentalists say tearing down the structures helps water quality.

But some people who live near the dams feel like they’re losing an old friend. The Great Lakes

Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach prepared this report:


(sound of rushing water)


“This is an excellent example of the state of many of the dams across Wisconsin and the fact they

are rapidly deteriorating.”


Stephanie Lindloff is standing on top of the Franklin Dam in Sheboygan Country. The rural area’s

about fifty miles north of Milwaukee. The Franklin Dam is about two stories high and half a

football field long. It was built in the 1850’s, to power a grist mill. But the mill is long gone.

And now, on its way to lake Michigan, the Sheboygan river pours through a small hole. That’s

slowly draining the impoundment, or lake behind the dam. Stephanie Lindloff says the hole is a

sign of advanced aging.


“This dam in particular, not unlike a lot of dams around the state, had a gate that was boarded up

and the wooden boards were what was holding the water back in the end of June, two lowermost

boards cracked and water started seeping out of impoundment… wasn’t an emergency situation, but

nonetheless there was a break in the dam.”


Lindloff is with the environmental group, The River Alliance of Wisconsin. She estimates it would

cost at least 350,000 dollars to fix the Franklin Dam. It might take only one-fourth of that

amount to tear it down. Besides saving money, Lindloff says removing the Franklin Dam would also

make the Sheboygan River healthier.


“Scientists agree dams devastate river systems. They continue to block natural functioning of

rivers, impact water quality, they block fish migration and spawning grounds.”


Lindloff says ten miles of the Sheboygan River and river shoreline could be improved if the

Franklin Dam comes out. But some people who live along the small lake are sounding off about the

proposed teardown.


“I mean the dam’s solid. It’s built solid.”


Kris Wilkins believes the Franklin Dam merely needs some repairs. She loves the small farm she has

along the lake, and has even taken to raising geese.


(sound of geese)


Wilkins predicts that removing the dam would drastically cut the size of the lake and harm the

value of her property.


“It’s gorgeous out here, we have all kinds of wildlife: green herring, blue herring, our geese,

fox, woodchucks all around, it’s just nature all the way.”


Wilkins and several of her neighbors are trying to create a lake district. That’s where local

people could assess themselves a tax to raise some of the money to fix the dam. The group’s

leader, Don Last, says he’s prepared to hike his own taxes.


“It’s really the only alternative we have to find the funds and possibly get matching money to

restore and maintain.”


But some wonder if the small number of folks in this rural township can raise enough cash. They

won’t get any help from the dam’s owner, which is the Franklin volunteer fire department. The

department no longer gets its firefighting water from the lake, and fire officials say they have

no money for dam repairs. A state bailout is unlikely too.


If the Franklin Dam comes down, it would join about fifty other Wisconsin dams that have been

removed in the last twenty years. Ohio and Pennsylvania have also taken out a sizeable number of

the old structures. Steve Born is a regional planner at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

He’s written nationally about dam removals. Born says the entire Great Lakes region can benefit,

as long as officials keep a check on contaminated sediments that may have built up behind the

dams.


“There has to be provisions for either draining the impoundment… dredging these… moving them

to safe landfill sites… neutralizing them in some way. But they can’t be allowed to just

disperse throughout the system.”


Born is an advisor to trout unlimited, which is another of the groups pushing for dam removals. If

state and local governments go about removing dams carefully, Born and others will welcome the

site of more free-flowing streams.


(sound of stream)


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chuck Quirmbach in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin.

Dump Generates Creative Power Solution

Methane is one of the main by-products of landfills. It’s also a
fuel, which can be used to create electricity. In 1978, the federal
government began requiring utilities to buy this methane-generated
power. But as energy prices dropped, methane producers found their
profits disappeared as well. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly reports, they’re looking for new alternatives:

Transcript

Methane is one of the main by-products of landfills. It’s also a fuel, which can be used to create

electricity. In 1978, the federal government began requiring utilities to buy this

methane-generated power. But as energy prices dropped, methane producers found their profits

disappeared as well. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, they’re looking

for new alternatives:


(sound of blower)


Frank Lavadera stands proudly next to a small, green pipe sticking out of the ground. It’s

attached to a fan, which is sucking methane gas out of this landfill in Saratoga Springs, New

York.


“It pulls the gas from the landfill to this particular point and pushes it across the street to

where the engine system is, to where it’s used.”


(sound of skating)


Where it’s used in the town’s skating rink. The landfill produces enough methane to provide

eighty-five percent of the rink’s electricity. The methane is pumped into a generator. That

produces the power that freezes the ice, keeps the rink lit, and heats the water for the showers.

Lavadera designed the project. He’s an engineer at Cluf, Harbor and Associates in nearby Albany.

He was originally hired to close the city’s landfill, which is filled with horse manure from the

nearby racetrack.


“One of the things we found was that this particular landfill had a tremendous amount of methane

gas, above and beyond what would normally be expected. And as a result, we needed to collect this

methane as opposed to just passively venting gas into the atmosphere. But simultaneously, the city

constructed this ice skating rink, and it was very natural connection that we’d match the two up

together to utilize the gas.”


The city is now saving fifty-thousand dollars a year in utility costs. At one time, they probably

would have sold the electricity to a power company and made a profit. Utilities are required to

buy methane-generated electricity from landfills at the same price it costs the utility to make

it. The problem is, the overall price of producing electricity has dropped drastically. In New

York State, it’s gone from six cents per kilowatt-hour in the 1980’s to about two cents today.


Shelley Cohen is head of the EPA’s methane outreach program.


“Utility prices in many states are still very cheap and they’re not able to offer prices for the

landfill gas that make it economical to develop a project. That being said, the landfill and the

landfill developer generally look for other options for developing gas projects.”


Cohen knows about eighty landfills in the U.S. that have found other ways to recycle their

methane. Many simply use it themselves to heat their buildings and run generators. Others sell it

to neighbors. There are asphalt and paper companies that use methane to run their boilers. And in

Canada, the methane from one landfill heats four greenhouses. Cohen says these projects are making

good use of one of the most potent greenhouse gases.


“The environmental benefits are tremendous. Because you’re capturing the methane from the

landfill. You’re reducing those emissions from the landfill and then you’re somehow utilizing it,

which means you’re also offsetting the need to use other forms of polluting energy, such as coal.

So it has this double environmental benefit.”


But Frank Lavadera says landfills still shy away from these projects. For one, they have to build

a system to convert the methane to electricity. In Saratoga Springs, that cost more than a million

dollars. And two, the farther the methane has to travel, the more expensive it’ll be. So, they

need to have a willing neighbor.


“That’s what made this project work very well, is we had the ice skating rink directly across the

street from the landfill. That probably is what will drive methane gas projects in the future as

time goes on, is matching up landfills with high users that might be close by so they could

effectively utilize the electricity.”


There’s another possibility on the horizon. Environmental groups are pushing for a federal tax

credit to make it easier for landfills to produce electricity. John Skinner is president of the

Solid Waste Association of North America.


“Our proposal is for a federal tax credit for landfills that use the methane gas as a fuel and

that will adjust the economics so that it’s economically feasible to do so. There’s probably

another 250 to 300 that would come on-line that won’t come on-line otherwise.”


Skinner says a previous tax credit helped create more than two-hundred new projects. But it

expired two years ago. The current proposal is expected to come to a vote in the House sometime

next year.


(sound of skating)


Meanwhile, the more creative landfill owners are forging ahead. They have to find a way to get rid

of their methane. But rather than seeing it as a waste product, they view it as a resource. Now,

they just have to find someone who’s willing to use it.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Agri-Chemical Merger Stirs GMO Debate

A corporate merger between two large agri-chemical companies
will create the world’s largest pesticide manufacturer. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… some environmentalists are
concerned the new company’s approach will mean more pesticide use:

Transcript

A corporate merger between two large agri-chemical companies will create the world’s largest

pesticide manufacturer. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports some

environmentalists are concerned the new company’s approach will mean pore pesticide use:


The chemical and agriculture companies Novartis and Astra-Zeneca are in the process of merging

their agriculture divisions. The new company, Syngenta, will go its own way sometime in 2000.

Syngenta will be the world’s largest pesticide producer, and the third largest producer of

genetically modified seeds. Some environmentalists are concerned about the merger. Lori Mott is

with the Natural Resources Defense Council.


“Well, it’s a potentially dangerous mix because one of the areas where genetically modified

organisms are being developed is to make them pesticide resistant. So, you could have the largest

seller of pesticides also making the seeds that are resistant to the very pesticides that they

sell and the end result would be excessive use of pesticides – as if we don’t already have that –

out in the environment with severe environmental consequences.”


Mott says the new company will likely focus on creating herbicides and design genes to make crops

resistant to them. She says that will encourage farmers to use pesticides even more because they

know it won’t harm their crops. Astra-Zeneca already has a pesticide and pesticide-resistant crop

seed package. Novartis is working on one. Both of those product packages will now be part of the

Syngenta line. Other companies such as Monsanto and DuPont also have genetically modified crops

resistant to their respective pesticides.


A financial analyst says it’s possible the merger might mean less use of certain pesticides. One

of the companies involved in the merger, Novartis, manufactures atrazine. It’s the herbicide most

used on crops in the Midwest. Atrazine has developed negative reputation because drinking water in

some lakes and wells has been contaminated by the herbicide.


Alexander Hittle is an analyst with A.G. Edwards and Sons. Hittle says if Syngenta pushes an

herbicide and genetically-altered crop package, it might mean atrazine is used less.


“Atrazine sales are actually really being in part driven by resistance to genetically modified

crops. Either way, the farmers are going to be using pesticides, herbicides. Is the herbicide

being used in one of these seed combinations more or less benign than an herbicide that would be

used under so-called conventional farming. And, I think that’s the way, in terms of the

environment, the question needs to be posed.”


Because some of the new generation herbicides break down faster, they don’t have the same

reputation for contamination problems atrazine does.


Pesticides aren’t the only thing about the merger worrying environmentalists and others. Until

recently, genetically modified crops were more or less ignored by the American public. But,

because of food safety and environmental concerns, some people are becoming wary of the

bio-engineered plants. Public opinion might shift again in the near future. Hittle says so far,

the traits of the genetically engineered crops have only benefited farmers and the ag-chemical

companies. If consumers see a direct benefit, he thinks they’ll be more accepting.


“Down the road what’s coming are crops that have improved nutritional profiles, so that you’ll

begin to see benefits to consumers and that’s probably where the tide will turn. And, Novartis,

Astra-Zeneca both have pretty strong research capabilities and that should play into those sorts

of products.”


Farmers will be watching for the new products and the whims of the market as public opinion about

genetically modified food evolves. Don Parrish is with the American Farm Bureau. He agrees that

people eventually will accept the new technology.


“But, I guess as consumers see the benefits of what it could mean more lean, tender products, more

nutritious products, you know, I just have a hard time believing that people won’t believe in

good, sound science and won’t ultimately allow that to dictate what is safe for the marketplace.”


The Farm Bureau adds… genetically altered crops will be necessary to feed the world’s growing

population.


Environmentalists say advances in food production should not come at the expense of environmental

damage. The NRDC’s Lori Mott says the Astra-Zeneca and Novartis ag divisions’ merger rushes

headlong into a genetically-altered future that might have serious consequences.


“I think the whole issue of genetically modified organisms is a dicey one. We are changing the

scale of evolution…”


One interesting twist of the Syngenta merger: Novartis will be keeping its baby food line, Gerber

Foods. This past year, Gerber declared it would not allow genetically modified crops into its baby

food – something of a contradiction inside a corporation that has touted the safety of genetically

modified foods. Novartis will keep Gerber, and spin off its genetically modified foods section to

the new company, Syngenta.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Creating Fragrant Flowers

When was the last time you got a bouquet of flowers that had a
fragrant smell? While there’s no shortage of beautiful looking flowers
for
sale, many have little if any scent anymore. As the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Tamar Charney reports it’s a problem one scientist has
gotten a whiff of:

Transcript

When was the last time you got a bouquet of flowers that had a fragrant smell? While there’s no shortage of beautiful looking flowers for sale, many have little, if any, scent anymore. Ast he Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney reports, it’s a problem one scientist has gotten a whiff of:


Flowers have lost their smell as flower growers have bred them to be big and brightly colored. Eran Pichersky is a biologist at the University of Michigan. He studies the smell of flowers. Pichersky is focusing his genetics research on whether it’s possible to bioengineer a flower’s scent.


“We actually have some collaboration with biotech companies who are trying to use some of the genes and enzymes we’ve isolated to put them back into plants so that the plant makes more scent, or even new scent that they didn’t make before.”


But it’s not florists who are interested in this work, it’s farmers. Pichersky’s research means it might be possible to alter the smell of flowers in ways that entice bees to visit crops more often, or even attract other insects to do the pollination work. That increase in pollination could mean an increase in crop yields.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tamar Charney.

Regional Winemakers Worry About Disease

Some winemakers are battling a disease called "black goo." It’s caused
by a fungus that leaves infected grape vines stunted and weak. As the
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports, no one’s sure
where the disease is coming from, or where it might turn up:

Transcript

Some winemakers are battling a disease called “black goo.” It’s caused by a fungus that leaves infected grape vines stunted and weak. As teh Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports, no one’s sure where the disease is coming from, or where it might turn up:


Black goo has claimed an estimated nine-thousand acres of vines in California. That’s only about one percent of the state’s vineyards. But so far, there’s no cure; the only thing growers can do is rip up the vines and replant.


Ironically, some think the ever-growing popularity of California wines may be contributing to the problem.


“In other years, some of the weaker vines would have been thrown away.”


Wayne Wilcox is a professor of plant pathology with Cornell University.


“One of the prevailing theories is that this disease – the fungi that are causing it – are preying on some of these weaker vines.”


Wilcox says there have been a couple of isolated reports of black goo outside of California, including one case in New York. But he says Great Lakes winemakers shouldn’t panic. Instead, Wilcox advises them to examine vines carefully and reject any that look weak.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Wendy Nelson.