A new report says the nation’s beaches were closed a record number of times last year because of high bacteria levels in the water. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams reports:
A new report says the nation’s beaches were closed a record number
of times last year because of high bacteria levels in the water. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams reports:
The Natural Resources Defense Council releases a beach report every
year. It’s based on data from the previous summer. The NRDC says,
last season, there were more than 18,000 closings or advisories –
that’s more than any summer in the past 14 years.
Nancy Stoner is with the NRDC. She says health officials are doing a
better job of testing beaches and that has lead to more beach closings.
Stoner says it’s good that more beaches are being tested… but she
says most communities are failing to control pollution sources.
“We know where the problem comes from and that’s contaminated
storm water and sewage. One of the big problems this year is that the
Clean Water State Revolving Fund has been slashed in the White
House budget. And Congress has not restored that funding.”
Stoner calls the funding critical for cities to repair aging sewer and
storm water systems. The NRDC is calling on Congress to restore the
cuts to the fund in the fall.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Rebecca Williams.
The Bush Administration is seeking 45 million dollars from Congress to fund efforts to clean up parts of the Great Lakes. The money would go toward cleaning up four severely polluted sites. There are 26 such polluted sites located entirely within U.S. borders. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jerome Vaughn has more:
The Bush Administration is seeking 45 million dollars from Congress to fund
efforts to clean up parts of the Great Lakes. The money would go toward
cleaning up four severely polluted sites. There are 26 such polluted sites
located entirely within U.S. borders. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Jerome Vaughn has more:
The 45 million dollars the Bush Administration is asking for in its 2005
budget proposal…more than quadruples the amount provided this year to
clean up contaminated sediments under the Great Lakes Legacy Act.
EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt traveled to Detroit to make the
announcement. He says the purpose of the increased funding is pretty
“Improving the quality of the water… and making certain the metals,
phosphates and any other pollutant that’s there now… can be taken out
before it becomes a bigger problem.”
The additional monies would be used to clean up four so-called “areas of
concern”… where pollution from PCBs and heavy metals are known to exist.
Some environmental groups… applaud the Bush Administration’s move… but say
more resources are still needed to address other issues… like invasive
species and vanishing wildlife habitats.
The Great Lakes Legacy Act was signed into law in 2002… but the program has
not previously been fully funded by Congress.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium. I’m Jerome Vaughn in Detroit.
Congress has approved a plan to clean up some of the most polluted spots in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Congress has approved a plan to clean up some of the
most polluted spots in the Great Lakes. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The Great Lakes Legacy Act authorizes 270-million dollars over the next
five years to clean up pollution hot spots known as Areas of Concern.
Matt Doss is with the Great Lakes Commission, which lobbies
Congress on behalf of the eight Great Lakes states. He says Congress still
has to approve appropriations for the Act.
“It’s an important victory, but we need to get the money to
implement the bill. And, secondly, I think people need to
recognize that this is a very important down payment on
getting this work done.”
The actual cost of the clean up of the areas will be much higher.
Doss says if this money shows measurable results, it will be easier to ask Congress for more in the future. Although 270-million sounds like a lot, other areas have pulled in a lot more. For instance, the Florida Everglades
recently pulled in nearly eight billion dollars for clean up projects there.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The Upper Mississippi River is a key navigation route for
commercial vessels traveling to and from the Great Lakes. The U-S
Army Corps of Engineers is studying ways to enhance the river’s traffic
capacity. One option is to expand some of the locks. That would reduce
the time it takes for barges to travel between ports. But one Corps
economist says the benefits of lock expansion don’t outweigh the costs.
Now, he’s blowing the whistle on those whom he says have fixed the
numbers to justify a one billion-dollar construction project. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Kevin Lavery reports:
The Upper Mississippi River is a key navigation route for commercial
vessels traveling to and from the Great Lakes. The U-S Army Corps of
Engineers is studying ways to enhance the river’s traffic capacity. One
option is to expand some of the locks. That would reduce the time it takes
for barges to travel between ports. But one Corps economist says the
benefits of lock expansion don’t outweigh the costs. Now, he’s blowing the
whistle on those whom he says have fixed the numbers to justify a one
billion-dollar construction project. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Kevin Lavery reports:
Lock and Dam number 25 near Winfield, Missouri straddles the upper
Mississippi 40 miles north of St. Louis. Last year, 39 million tons of
grain, soybeans and other cargo passed through here. Though it’s winter,
water continues to rush through the dam. However, ice on the river farther
north has slowed barged traffic here to near non-existence.
A lock is essentially a watery elevator that raises and lowers boats to
different depths. Each lock is 600 feet long, but a typical 15-barge tow is
12-hundred feet long. Walter Feld is with the Corps of Engineers’ St.
Louis District. He says a tow has to break apart to negotiate the lock’s
“One lockage would take about 30 minutes. When you break that tow
apart and put two pieces together, it takes probably closer to 90 minutes.
So all that delay adds up to triple the length of time to get through
In 1993, the Corps began a 58-million dollar study of the upper
Mississippi in an attempt to plan for the needs of the navigation industry
over the next 50 years. Dr. Donald Sweeney was named the lead economist
for the study:
“The feasibility study is a planning and implementation
You’re required to investigate the economic effects and environmental
consequences of whatever actions you might propose.”
At the start of the study, Sweeney says his team was told to give its best
unbiased estimate of the situation:
“And I believe that was truly the spirit of the study up
late 1997, at which it turned 180 degrees.”
Among other alternatives, the Corps looked at doubling the size of seven
locks to reduce congestion on the river. But the economics team concluded
the benefits gained would not be worth the cost of construction. Sweeney
says the analysis showed such a project would result in a loss of up to
20-million dollars a year.
In a written affidavit, Sweeney testified that top Corps officials
the economists to alter their analysis to justify spending a billion
dollars to expand the locks. The report points to a number of internal
memos indicating the Corps’ desire to appease the barge industry. In 1998,
Sweeney was relieved as head of the economics team, five years after the
Corps spokesman Ron Fournier says the media has underplayed the full scope
of the navigation study, and that lock expansions are not the only option at
the agency’s disposal.
“The study is actually navigation improvements, which is
variety of alternatives for the river. We have alternatives such as
extending the guide walls, adding mooring cells or buoys for barges to
tie up to, and then again also the expansion of the lock chambers
Fournier says Sweeney failed to take into account some of those
alternatives, many of which he says were added since the economist left the
“The navigation study has been evolving for the past seven
years; and as new data is received from the shipping industry, from the
farm growers and from a variety of other economists throughout the
country, new calculations are being used and different results are
Aside from the financial issues associated with large-scale construction,
environmentalists say lock expansion would jeopardize wildlife on the river.
Washington D.C. based Environmental Defense has taken a leading stance in
the issue by releasing many of the internal Corps documents to government
officials. Senior attorney Tim Searchinger says the papers clearly show
most of the people in the study had a great deal of professional integrity,
and that some may have been pushed into doing the wrong thing.
“There is a top ranking leadership that’s willing to cause
environmental harm, even when the analysis clearly shows that from a
purely economic standpoint, the project isn’t justified either.”
Another reason why economist Donald Sweeney says the Corps is pushing
expansion is because such projects would bolster the agency’s stagnant budget.
“They’re trying to become a bigger, more vital agency.
sometimes that conflicts with a purely unbiased scientific analysis of
potentially a billion dollars worth of expenditures.”
Late last month, the Office of Special Counsel declared the Corps likely had violated the law in
catering to the interests of commercial navigation. The OSC is the independent federal agency with
whom Sweeney filed his affidavit. The office has ordered Defense Secretary William Cohen to
conduct an investigation and report back by the end of April. Spokesman Ron Fournier says from the
start, the Corps has been forthright about the
study both with Congress and the public.
“We feel that when this investigation is complete,
find there’s no wrongdoing, and of course the
study has been done in an above
Corps will prove that the
board, upright manner.”
The investigation has also reached the congressional level. The Senate
committee on Environment and Public Works is conducting a number of public
hearings on the study this month.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium,
I’m Kevin Lavery in St. Louis.
There’s a breakthrough in getting money for replacing the ship
responsible for keeping shipping lanes on the Great Lakes clear of ice.
A Wisconsin member of Congress says that after six decades of service,
they need to retire the coast guard ice-breaker “Mackinaw.” The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson has more: