Asian carp ‘fatigue’ threatens Great Lakes
By: Tom Henry, The Blade
August 3, 2016
Great Lakes charter boat captains are calling on Congress to refocus efforts on Asian carp, the exotic species with a voracious appetite that many fish biologists fear would wreak havoc on the region’s $7 billion fishery if they ever became established in it.
Those fishing captains are one of the groups with the most to lose, because they are highly dependent on a diverse mix of fish species to make their businesses more attractive. That’s especially true in Lake Erie, where more fish are spawned than the rest of the Great Lakes combined.
In a conference call Tuesday, charter boat captains said they aren’t sure if it’s election politics that has put the Asian carp issue on hold.
They expressed frustration with the pace Congress has taken since being presented with a landmark report 2½ years ago in which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers laid out several possible engineering solutions, the most expensive being a physical separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds at a cost of $18.4 billion. That is the option most Great Lakes scientists advocate.
Dave Spangler, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association member and owner of Dr. Bugs Charters in Oak Harbor, Ohio, said keeping the issue in front of Congress is “a serious thing” because western Lake Erie — with its warmth, shallowness, and world-class spawning areas — would be “utopia for Asian carp.”
“Walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass would go away,” Mr. Spangler said.
He said Ohio’s $14 million lake-based tourism would take an irreversible hit.
“Our mission is to make sure all of our future generations can enjoy Lake Erie,” Mr. Spangler said.
He and others agreed their disagreement isn’t with the Great Lakes congressional delegation, which for years has been largely supportive of Asian carp legislation and funding efforts. But the delegation itself has expressed frustration several times over efforts to get congressmen from other parts of the country to embrace the issue.
“I haven’t heard anything at all this year. That’s part of our frustration,” Mr. Spangler said. “It seems like they’ve got Asian carp fatigue.”
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who co-chairs the Great Lakes task force in the U.S. House, has been critical of the pace Congress has been on for years.
But she said on Tuesday that she is encouraged by movement on some funding projects.
Guy Lopez, owner of Wild Dog Tackle and Good Guyde Service in Illinois, said he has firsthand experience along the Illinois River with silver Asian carp, a species that becomes a missile-like projectile when boats come by because it is highly sensitive to motor vibrations.
Silver carp and bighead carp are two of four species of fish generally classified as Asian carp, and the ones that get the most attention because of their destructive tendencies.
“I watched one of the carp fly two feet over my boat. It could have broken my windshield,” Mr. Lopez said. “I’d hate to see this happen to the Great Lakes.”
Fishermen lauded efforts in Fort Wayne, Ind., where officials have replaced a temporary fence with a permanent berm that separates the carp-filled Wabash River from the Maumee River, which flows northeast into Lake Erie near Toledo and has some of the region’s best spawning habitat.
The two waterways weren’t normally connected, but there are many times they have been when the rivers were running high from heavy spring rain.
The most logical next step, charter fish captains said, is for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite its plans for an $8.2 million study of work that could be done near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Ill.
That project, if authorized, could establish a single point to block the one-way, upstream transfer of exotic species from the Mississippi River basin into the Great Lakes basin, according to a Corps report.
Brown sympathizes with Lorain steelworkers -- but wants to see trade cheating fixed
By: Katie Nix, The Chronicle-Telegram
August 2, 2016
LORAIN — Former Lorain resident and current U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown made a trip back to his old stomping grounds Monday afternoon for a roundtable with local and national officials regarding the city’s economic future.
“As someone who used to live in Lorain, I talk to people about the declining steel industry all the time,” said Brown, who represented the area as a congressman in the 1990s and early 2000s. “I spoke with the mayor about it as soon as last week and (state Rep. Dan Ramos) and I have discussed it on multiple occasions. I also speak to residents about how the declining industry has affected them.”
Both Ramos and Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer attended the roundtable along with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Lorain County commissioners Ted Kalo and Matt Lundy as well as several union officials.
With the layoff of 200 workers and the indefinite idling of the Republic Steel plant that began in March, the city has a $3.6 million deficit brought on by a loss of tax revenue.
Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, said in order for Lorain to recover, the city needs to look at revamping its tax policies, and it needs to be better protected by trade enforcement.
“There needs to be partnerships with the Department of Commerce and other national agencies,” he said. “We need to be looking at tighter trade enforcement, but with the illegal dumping and subsidization of Chinese steel, the challenges are greater than they ever have been. We need to fix the cheating.”
Dumping occurs when foreign steel is brought into the United States and sold below the domestic market price. The U.S. has rules against steel dumping but countries, such as China, are some of the biggest offenders.
“When the steel is dumped, the effect is almost immediate on the market, but hearings to make sure our trade policies are being enforced can take anywhere between four to six weeks. We want to speed that process up,” Brown said.
Pritzker said her department wants to make steel dumping cases easier to prosecute.
“Dumping is the highest it’s been in years,” she said. “Part of the problem is it’s being dumped in other countries and then traded here, and we don’t necessarily know that it’s been dumped, and it adversely affects our market.”
Pritzker said from talking to members of the United Steel Workers Local 1104 and other local unions at the roundtable she also wants to bring in better workforce training for those in steel mills.
“We want to make sure that individuals are getting the training they need to perform their duties and also move up,” she said. “With one in five of the nation’s steelworkers living in Ohio, these are steps that need to be taken.”
Ritenauer said he agreed with Brown and Pritzker, who called for economic development partnerships between the local and national governments.
“I think one of the biggest things we need to be focusing on is the economic development part of our future and the key to that is in Washington, D.C.,” Ritenauer said. “The support from those national agencies and departments is so important because they have the funds necessary to make some of the improvements we need and to bring new businesses in.”
Ritenauer said while he’s dedicated to bringing in different industries to Lorain to diversify, he still thinks a major component of the city is its manufacturing.
“The era of 20,000 steel jobs are gone,” he said. “Those days aren’t coming back, but I think it’s still a huge part of who we are and what we bring to the table. The international economy wreaked havoc on us, and so we need to be looking at other opportunities that we might have on our waterfront and on the west side of town or at the industrial park on the east side. Manufacturing has declined in Lorain, but it’s not dead.”
Brown said he felt the steel industry will bounce back in Lorain to an extent because of the ebb and flow of the market but not all of the jobs will return.
“The problem is when you lose good, union jobs like this, it has an affect everywhere in the city — you have a hard time getting to keep firefighters and police officers and other city employees and services,” he said.
Pritzker said the ripple effect from the layoffs was evident at the roundtable.
“Declining economies make it so difficult to support firefighters, police officers, roads, parks, schools, everything,” she said. “For me, these issues aren’t at a macro level. They’re personal, and when I meet people that have been devastated by the layoffs and trade policies, it motivates me to go after it and change them.”
Cleveland Metroparks gets nearly $8 million from feds for bike and pedestrian paths
By: Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com
July 26, 2016
WASHINGTON - Cleveland Metroparks has been awarded a $7.95 million federal transportation grant to build more than four miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails in central Cleveland, including a bridge to connect the existing Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail to the lakefront, according to the office of Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
Metroparks' "Reconnecting Cleveland" project will also complete several regional bicycle and pedestrian trails and link to the Erie Canal Towpath Trail, Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail (CFCT) and Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway, the park network said.
The federal grant will pay close to half the project's $16.45 million cost. The rest of it will come from sources including the state of Ohio, the Cleveland Foundation, and Gund Foundation, says Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman. Construction will start along the Cleveland Foundation Centennial trail on August 1 and "come on line very quickly," he said. All the work should be done by 2020, Metroparks officials estimate.
"It is really about connecting Cleveland," Zimmerman said. "People really identify with trail connections and connecting places to the Metroparks. This 'Reconnecting Cleveland' grant is a great example of many people putting together a lot of effort to really take Cleveland to the next level."
In its funding application to the federal government, the Metroparks system said the project will help stabilize local neighborhoods, provide low-cost transportation options, generate economic re-investment and provide city residents with access to jobs, transit, and two major green space venues which have been inaccessible for decades – the Lake Erie shoreline and the Cuyahoga River.
Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat, said the grant "took a lot of work from many stakeholders."
"The plan will provide connectivity for residents of several neighborhoods that have been physically isolated and negatively impacted by decades of disinvestment," she said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in support of the grant.
Others who submitted letters to support the project included U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Marcia Fudge, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and a long list of civic groups and local legislators.
The federal money will be used to build:
- Wendy Park Bridge – links the CFCT to Wendy Park on Whiskey Island and Lake Erie
- Whiskey Island Connector – links the Wendy Park Bridge to Edgewater Park, three pedestrian tunnels and the Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway
- Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway Connector – links the CFCT to the Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway
- Canal Basin Park Connector – links the CFCT to Canal Basin Park, Rivergate Park, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Waterfront Line Rapid Transit, and downtown Cleveland
- Red Line Greenway – links the CFCT to two RTA Red Line Rapid Transit stations, and provides a primary commuting corridor from W. 65th Street to downtown Cleveland.
'Pokemon Go' players frequenting Marcy Kaptur's office to capture Eevee; not all are amused by character sightings
By: Sabrina Eaton, Cleveland.com
August 1, 2016
CLEVELAND -- At first, workers in Rep. Marcy Kaptur's office on Lorain Ave. were puzzled by a dramatic rise in the number of passersby lingering outside their storefront, all staring intently at smartphone screens.
Finally, the Toledo Democrat's staffers put two and two together. Creators of the popular "Pokemon Go" mobile device game had located a virtual Pokemon, an Eevee, outside their building that players could collect as they walked by.
"Of course, It's all about Eevee," a Kaptur spokesman said.
Kaptur's office is entertained by the sudden extra foot traffic that comes with being a way station in a popular game that allows aficionados to collect virtual Pokemon characters when they visit the real locations where game creators placed them.
But staff at several landmarks with serious themes -- such as Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., -- have sought to remove their locations from the game.
"Visitors to these locations should come with an attitude of respect, not a desire to score points in a game," Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky said in a letter that asked the game's makers to remove the Holocaust museum from the game. "I urge you to take immediate action to address this situation by eliminating these sites."
Public safety facilities - like fire stations and jails - also report they've been disturbed by Pokemon Go players seeking access to search for characters, while police are warning people to not play the game while driving.
The game's creators are trying to honor requests from locations that say they're inappropriate for game playing sites, and has already removed the Holocaust museum, a museum spokesman says.
"When something is really popular, we have to figure out the most respectful way to deal with it and make sure that everyone is playing safely and doing things in a respectful manner," the Pokemon Company's consumer marketing director, J.C. Smith, told Associated Press.
Senior Congressional Dems Urge Obama to Adopt No First Use
By: Dave Majumdar, The National Interest
July 25, 2016
Senior Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives are urging President Barack Obama to radically reshape America’s nuclear posture. Among the suggestions is to declare unequivocally that the United States—which is the only nation ever to have used an atomic bomb during wartime—adopt a “no first use” policy and to eliminate America’s launch on warning hair-trigger alert for its nuclear arsenal.
“We encourage you to adopt options such as a no-first use of nuclear weapons declaratory policy and elimination of launch on warning nuclear posture,” reads a July 20, 2016, letter addressed to President Obama from five senior Democratic representatives that was obtained by The National Interest. “Both steps that could avoid an unintentional or hasty start to unprecedented and catastrophic nuclear devastation.”
The letter’s signatories include Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), Rep. Loretta Sanchez, ranking member of the HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, Rep. Jackie Speier, ranking member of the HASC Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, ranking member of the House Budget Committee and Rep. Marcy Kaptur, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water subcommittee.
The United States has traditionally maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity for the use of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, the Pentagon hoped to offset the conventional military superiority of the Warsaw Pact with tactical nuclear weapons should the conflict ever turn hot. The Soviet Union, conversely, maintained an explicit “no first use” policy that then Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev announced at the United Nations in June 1982. The current Russian Federation government renounced the “no first use” pledge in 1993 with its so-called de-escalation doctrine.
Meanwhile, it is not clear if the United States does rely on a launch on warning posture for its nuclear weapons. A Clinton Administration presidential decision directive (PDD) would suggest that the United States abandoned the launch on warning posture in 1997. “In this PDD we direct our military forces to continue to posture themselves in such a way as to not rely on launch on warning—to be able to absorb a nuclear strike and still have enough force surviving to constitute credible deterrence,” Robert Bell, then the senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council, told the Arms Control Association in 1997.
The Democratic congressmen also called on Obama to scale back his nuclear modernization plans—which the members estimated would cost more than $1 trillion over the next 30 years. The Congressmen expressed their concern that Obama’s modernization plan could open the doorway to developing and building new nuclear weapons at the expense of America’s conventional military forces. Moreover, the senior Democratic members called on the administration to reduce the United States’ stockpile of reserve warheads, which currently total about 5000 weapons.
“We should continue to reduce the number of warheads we hold in reserve, since the United States does not need to retain nearly 5000 nuclear weapons in order to possess a strong, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent,” reads the letter. “We urge you to consider reshaping this plan to overhaul the nuclear enterprise.”
While eliminating launch-on-warning, declaring a no first use policy and reducing the reserve stockpile has many proponents, it has not met with universal acclaim even from within the Obama White House.