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Great Lakes & the Environment


Though costs remain a concern, Illinois signals support for plan to stop movement of Asian carp

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes has an important new supporter — J.B. Pritzker, the recently elected governor of Illinois. In an April letter to the Corps, Pritzker said the state was “willing to move forward to preconstruction, engineering and design” on the Brandon Road Lock and Dam Project. But he also expressed concern about the estimated price tag: $778 million. More »


Indiana ruling stands in case of private property vs. public trust doctrine

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A legal dispute in Indiana over private property rights and the public trust doctrine ended in February when the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to hear the case. In 2018, Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled that public use of the Lake Michigan shoreline extended to the lake’s “natural ordinary high water mark.” Some lakefront property owners argued that the “water’s edge” should instead be used as the legal dividing line. The Indiana justices disagreed: “At a minimum, walking below the natural [ordinary high water mark] along the shores of Lake Michigan is a protected public use.”
This year, Indiana lawmakers are considering legislation (SB 553) that would define other rights of the public to use the shoreline — for example, boating, fishing, swimming, bird watching and sunbathing. The bill would define in statute the “Lake Michigan shore” as public trust land that extends to the high water mark.
According to Wayne State University’s Great Lakes Law, Ohio and Michigan also have had important public trust cases over the past decade and a half: in 2011, the Ohio Supreme Court established the “natural shoreline” (where the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes) as the legal dividing line; in 2005, the Michigan Supreme Court set the line as the ordinary high water mark.


Ohio putting more dollars into reuse of dredged materials, as ban on open-lake disposal looms

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
By July of next year, a practice in Ohio’s commercial harbors will no longer be allowed — the dumping of dredged materials into the open waters of Lake Erie. This ban is the result of a bill passed by the legislature in 2015 (SB 1), and is part of the state’s broader efforts to keep excess nutrients from entering the shallowest of the Great Lakes, causing harmful algal blooms and degrading water quality. The legislative action from four years ago, along with subsequent funding commitments, has led to an unprecedented effort in the state to find beneficial uses of these materials — the rock, sand, gravel, mud and clay removed from the bottom of shipping channels to keep them safe for navigation. More »


Michigan paves way for new tunnel, oil pipeline under lakes

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Michigan Sen. Curt VanderWall calls it the “most scrutinized pipeline in the nation.” And whatever one thinks the state should do about the future of Line 5 ­­— which is located under the Straits of Mackinac and carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids every day — it’s hard to disagree with the observation. The state’s policy solution, at least for now, is this: Allow Line 5 to continue to operate for another few years, under enhanced inspections. Meanwhile, begin construction on a utility tunnel, located up to 100 feet beneath the lakebed, that would secure a new pipeline. More »


Getting the lead out after Flint: How states reacted to the crisis

by Jon Davis ~ December 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
After the water crisis in Flint, Mich., burst onto the national scene in late 2015 and early 2016, many states took a closer look at their laws regarding lead pipes and water service lines. A new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Northeast-Midwest Institute details post-Flint lead laws and regulations passed since 2015 in those
regions. More »


Federal law on ballast water pre-empts state rules, but provides path for basinwide standards

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
States will lose authority to adopt and enforce their own standards on ballast water discharges under recent changes in federal law. President Donald Trump signed the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (part of a broader measure on the U.S. Coast Guard) in December. Passage of the compromise measure capped years of legislative debate over how ballast water discharges should be regulated — particularly who should be setting and enforcing the
standards. More »



Soo Locks authorization, language on key Asian Carp project part of Water Resources Development Act

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A bipartisan deal on how to manage the nation’s water resources has potentially big implications for the Great Lakes and the region’s states — authorization of a nearly $1 billion project at the Soo Locks, movement on a plan to stop Asian carp, and more money to protect drinking water. More »



Michigan will require lead service lines to be replaced starting in 2021

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
As part of what state officials say is the strictest set of lead and copper standards in the nation, Michigan will require all of the state’s public water systems to replace their lead service lines. Starting in 2021, the Detroit Free Press reports, each public water system must replace, on average, 5 percent of its lead service pipes per year over a 20-year period, with water customers paying for most of the estimated $2.5 billion price tag.
The new state-level rules also create stricter “lead action levels,” the point at which a water system must take steps to control corrosion. The federal lead action level is 15 parts per billion; Michigan’s will be 12 ppb starting in 2025. In addition, the state will establish a new water system advisory council and mandate that two water samples be collected at sites served by lead service lines.
“The federal Lead and Copper Rule simply does not do enough to protect public health,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in June when announcing the new standards. The changes come four years after the start of a public health crisis in the Michigan town of Flint — the result of residents’ drinking water being contaminated with lead due to a switch in the town’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River.



Ohio’s Clean Lake 2020 plan represents next step in efforts to prevent runoff, algal blooms

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Last fall, nine Lake Erie experts identified specific strategies that they viewed as most important to reducing phosphorus runoff and preventing harmful algal blooms in the lake’s western basin. As of early June, Ohio legislators were moving toward passage of a bill backing those scientists’ findings with state dollars. More »


Michigan, Minnesota among states dealing with PFAS contamination

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Late in 2017, Michigan lawmakers ended their legislative year seeking a fix to another problem with drinking water in the state. It wasn’t lead contamination this time, but rather the discovery of 28 sites in the state with known levels of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The Legislature allocated $23.2 million for various response and mitigation measures. In early 2018, the Minnesota attorney general finalized an $850 million settlement with 3M over groundwater contamination in the east metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. The cause: The company’s disposal, over decades, of PFAS chemicals used for products such as Scotchgard, stain removers and fire retardants. More »


Lake Erie listed as ‘impaired’ by second Great Lakes state

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that the open waters of Lake Erie be designated as impaired due to harmful algae and occurrences of microcystin, which impacts drinking water. According to The (Toledo) Blade, this designation (a reversal of previous decisions by Gov. John Kasich’s administration not to list the lake’s open waters as impaired) had long been sought by environmental advocates and will “invariably mean tighter rules for agriculture and others that release nutrients into western Lake Erie tributaries.” Michigan already has designated its part of western Lake Erie as impaired. (Every state submits lists of impaired waterways as part of its obligations under the Clean Water Act.)
Michigan and Ohio, along with Ontario, have agreed to reduce nutrient runoff into Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. That goal aligns with reduction targets in the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
Commercial fertilizer and manure applications are the largest sources of excess phosphorus into the western basin of Lake Erie, the binational International Joint Commission concluded in a report earlier this year, while certain climate conditions (heavier rainfall and warmer temperatures) contribute to larger nutrient discharges and faster development of harmful algal blooms.


Michigan proposes partnership to help pay for new Asian carp controls

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Earlier this year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder proposed that all of the Great Lakes states (along with Ontario) collectively pay for that $8 million in operations and maintenance costs associated with the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to install a mix of new structural and nonstructural barriers at the Brandon Road Lock & Dam in Joliet, Ill. More »


Fears of oil spill in Great Lakes lead to new deal, safeguards

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Concerns about twin, 64-year-old pipelines located under the Straits of Mackinac (which connect lakes Michigan and Huron) led to a new agreement in late November between the state of Michigan and Enbridge. In announcing the deal, Gov. Rick Snyder said “business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable.” According to the Detroit Free Press, the state has been frustrated about a “lack of forthrightness” regarding the safety of these pipelines, which are known as “Line 5” and carry up to 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids every day.
Under the agreement, Enbridge must:
In recent years, the safe transport of energy resources (via pipeline, truck, rail or barge) has received more public attention across the Great Lakes basin, in part because of a rise in this activity due to production in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields and Alberta’s oil sands.


In 2017, ‘severe’ algal blooms once again observed in Lake Erie

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In May and late June, heavy rains fell on the Maumee River, which begins in Fort Wayne in Indiana, runs through agricultural areas in northeast Ohio, and eventually flows into Lake Erie in Toledo. The river, scientists say, has high concentrations of phosphorus, and with all of the spring and summer precipitation, those nutrients discharged into the smallest of the five Great Lakes. The end result: One of the worst observable algal blooms in Lake Erie. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only the years 2011, 2013 and 2015 had more severe blooms. More »


North Dakota gets legal win in cross-border water dispute

by Ilene Grossman ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A cross-border legal dispute in the Midwest over water came closer to reaching a conclusion this summer when a U.S. District Court lifted injunctions that had prevented North Dakota from completing its $200 million Northwest Area Water Supply projectt. A lawsuit to stop the project was filed by the province of Manitoba in 2002; seven years later, the state of Missouri joined the suit against North Dakota. Those two jurisidictions filed an appeal in October of the District Court's ruling. More »


Plan to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes would cost $275 million

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Less than two months after a silver carp (one of four species of Asian carp) was found nine miles from Lake Michigan and beyond the three electric barriers designed to prevent their movement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled a plan that would add a new layer of protection for the Great Lakes. For a cost of $275 million, the Corps says, a mix of structural barriers and other control measures could be installed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam. The federal agency released its “tentatively selected plan” in August and is taking public comments through
Oct. 2. More »


South Dakota adopts new tax incentive to protect its waterways

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
South Dakota legislators agreed this year to provide new tax incentives for private landowners who help protect the state’s water resources from agricultural runoff. The goal of SB 66 is to encourage the use of buffer strips that filter out nutrients and keep these pollutants from reaching a water body.
The law applies to agricultural land within 120 feet of certain lakes, rivers or streams (a total of 575 lakes and 11,000 miles of streams, according to South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard). Eligible riparian buffer strips will be assessed at 60 percent of the land’s agricultural income value; also under the law, grazing is prohibited from May 1 through Sept. 30.
Under a 2015 law in Minnesota, new perennial vegetation buffers of up to 50 feet must be placed along rivers, streams and public ditches to prevent nutrient runoff. The law provides flexibility for landowners to install and maintain the buffers. Financial support to meet this new requirement comes from a mix of federal, state and local conservation programs. Nearly three-quarters of Minnesota’s counties are already between 60 percent and 100 percent compliant with the buffer requirement, Gov. Mark Dayton announced in March.



Future of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in doubt; state legislators urge continuation of federal funding

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Only a few months after celebrating key congressional victories at the end of 2016, Great Lakes advocates are now fighting to prevent a complete elimination of funding for a federal program that has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that protect habitat, stop the spread of invasive species and clean up “Areas of Concern.” President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for an end to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It says “specific regional efforts,” such as those related to the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, should instead be the responsibility of state and local entities. More »


Do any laws in the Midwest restrict state agencies from adopting environmental rules more stringent than federal regulations?

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2017 ~ Question of the Month »
Federal laws and regulations on the environment often serve only as a “floor,” with states having the leeway to enact tougher rules or statutes of their own. However, some state legislatures and governors have adopted measures (either state laws or executive orders) designed to rein in the actions of their own environmental agencies. Most recently, in February, Indiana’s HB 1082 became law. More »


As political tides change, advocates of protecting Great Lakes celebrate year of progress

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
After a tumultuous year in national politics, and in advance of a new U.S. Congress and presidential administration, advocates of Great Lakes protection and restoration won some important legislative victories at the tail end of 2016. Those accomplishments, perhaps most notably a formal authorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, provide the region with some much-needed certainty about federal Greaft Lakes policy during a period of change in Washington, D.C., said Chad Lord, policy director of the Healing Our Waters Coalition. More »


States put greater emphasis on lead testing after water crisis in Flint

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When the problem of tainted drinking water created a public health crisis in the Michigan city of Flint, the state’s legislators had two clear missions to fulfill. First, fix the problem, with strategies — both immediate and longer-term — that help affected residents, bring back some normalcy to their lives, and then assist in the entire community’s recovery. Second, find ways to prevent the problem from ever occurring in another Michigan city. And that idea of prevention has spread well beyond the borders of Michigan, with legislators in nearby states taking notice of the crisis and beginning to think more about the safety of the water supply in their own districts. More »



Phosphorus-fed algal growth leads Michigan to label part of Lake Erie watershed ‘impaired’

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Though it likely won’t change much of the work already under way to protect western Lake Erie from excessive algal blooms, Michigan’s recent designation of its part of the watershed as “impaired” signals the importance of reaching new binational goals to control phosphorus runoff. More »


Already allowed in Ontario, fish farming in Great Lakes proposed in Michigan

by Carolyn Orr ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Could the Great Lakes be used even more to satisfy the U.S. demand for seafood? There is no question that U.S. consumers seem to have an insatiable appetite for it. In addition to the production of $9 billion worth of edible fish in 2015, we imported more than $20 billion worth. And as a result of decades of overfishing, natural fisheries cannot meet global demand — about half of all seafood is farmed fish from China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. More »


Interstate compacts can be valuable tool in protecting invaluable resource: water

by Jon Davis ~ August 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When Charles Fishman, author of the acclaimed book “The Big Thirst,” praised the Great Lakes compact this summer at the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, he also called for Kansas and Nebraska to lead an effort to create a similar interstate agreement to protect the Ogallala Aquifer. But what are compacts and how do they work? How well do they work? And how could they help the Midwest preserve and protect its water resources? More »


In keynote address to legislators, author Charles Fishman lays out case, and strategies, for securing Midwest’s water future

by Jon Davis ~ 2016 MLC Annual Meeting Edition ~ Stateline Midwest »
As freshwater becomes an ever more precious resource, the Midwest, as custodian of the Great Lakes and the Ogallala Aquifer, is sitting on the liquid equivalent of a gold mine’s mother lode, Charles Fishman, author of “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” told attendees at the 71st Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting. More »


Regional body of state, provincial officials pores over Waukesha diversion proposal

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The end of a years-long journey by a Wisconsin town to use the Great Lakes for its supply of drinking water appears near, and the entire process has helped mark the beginning of a new era in regionwide management of this invaluable resource. The precedent-setting nature of the decision on this proposed diversion was clearly on the minds of state and provincial officials when they met this spring for meetings in Chicago. More »


Michigan considering tougher copper, lead pipe regulations

by Jon Davis ~ May 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed tightening the state’s lead level guidelines to 10 parts per billion by 2020, stricter than the current federal mark of 15 ppb. The proposed change, announced at a meeting of the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee, is part of a package of proposals that also includes annual water testing at day care centers and schools as well as a requirement that local governments create inventories of lead water pipes and then develop plans to replace them.
Critics of both Snyder’s plan and the federal Lead and Copper Rule say neither addresses the true lead danger level of 5 ppb. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of updating the Lead and Copper Rule, a process that began in 2010. Proposed changes are expected to be submitted to the U.S. Congress in 2017. The rule applies to about 68,000 water utilities nationwide. It requires them to take remedial action to improve pipe corrosion controls or eventually replace lead pipes if 10 percent of sites tested for lead or copper exceed the “action level” of 15 ppb.
The Michigan proposals require approval by the state Legislature.


Aging infrastructure, lead pipes, nitrate runoff and funding among challenges vexing Midwest’s drinking water systems

by Jon Davis ~ March 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The crisis in Flint, Mich., has pushed drinking water quality into the forefront of national conversation, but problems with the Midwest’s aging drinking water infrastructure are not new. Plenty of lead pipes nearing the end of their service lives remain, and nonpoint source pollution from agricultural runoff besets watersheds and municipal water systems before ultimately afflicting the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. More »


As Michigan water crisis boils, legislators mull ‘right to water’

by Jon Davis ~ February 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
As the realization that a generation of children in Flint, Mich., has been exposed to lead poisoning by their own water sets in, some Michigan lawmakers are pushing to enshrine access to clean, safe water in state law as a basic human right. More »


New federal budget maintains funding for key programs that help protect Great Lakes

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In the weeks following congressional passage of an omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2016, Great Lakes advocates were hailing the federal legislation as a victory for protecting and restoring the world’s largest system of fresh surface water. More »


Michigan’s new plan for Lake Erie adds focus on algae-generating invasive mussels

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Under a new plan to reduce harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, the state of Michigan is putting a greater emphasis on the fight against two of the freshwater system’s most destructive invasive species. The Department of Environmental Quality released its multipronged strategy in November. The plan mostly focuses on policies that better control the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie: for example, stricter permitting requirements for municipal wastewater systems and preventing nutrient runoff from agricultural operations. More »


New Ontario law encourages local initiatives as part of wide-ranging strategy to protect lakes

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With enactment of the Great Lakes Protection Act in October, Ontario is not only deepening the province’s commitment to the freshwater system, it also is hoping to spur more locally driven projects and initiatives. Glen Murray, the province’s minister of the environment and climate change, says the new law (Bill 66) is needed to help the lakes “withstand the impacts of the changing climate and keep them drinkable, swimmable and fishable for generations to come.” More »


States, federal government spending $74 million this year on Asian carp control plan

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
States and the federal government have been pouring millions of dollars into a wide range of plans to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. New electric fish barriers have been built. The movement and presence of Asian carp continues to be intensely monitored, in part through cutting-edge eDNA technologies. Commercial fishing operations (hired by the state of Illinois) have removed more than 3 million pounds of Asian carp. As co-chair of the state-federal Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, Mike Weimer is helping oversee these and many other prevention strategies. In 2015 alone, he told lawmakers, the committee will fund a total of 43 projects at a cost of $74 million. More »



Getting to the nonpoint: States pursue new strategies to protect water quality, with an increased emphasis on preventing nutrient runoff from farms

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The Water Quality Initiative in Iowa, a new law in Minnesota requiring vegetation buffers along public water bodies, and the likelihood of "water quality trading" in Wisconsin are examples of how states in the Midwest are trying to curb nutrient runoff and protect water quality. More »


EPA study: Work in protecting lakes has accelerated, but much more needs to be done

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
What can $1.7 billion in federal funding do to help restore an invaluable resource in the Midwest?
Quite a bit, at least according to a recent federal study outlining the progress made during the first five years of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, or GLRI. More »


Ohio law aims to keep nutrient runoff from reaching Lake Erie

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Less than a year after a harmful algal bloom temporarily cut off the city of Toledo’s drinking water supply, Ohio lawmakers have passed groundbreaking legislation to keep pollutants out of Lake Erie. SB 1, signed into law in early April, establishes several new provisions to prevent nutrient runoff.
For farms located in the western Lake Erie watershed, manure and fertilizers containing phosphorus and nitrogen can no longer be spread on frozen, snow-covered or saturated ground. According to The Toledo Blade, that ban also applies to days when heavy rain is forecast. The penalty for noncompliance is as much as $10,000. The new law also bans the open-lake disposal of dredged material, requires additional phosphorus monitoring at wastewater treatment facilities, and creates the state-level position of harmful algae management and response coordinator.
A coalition of Great Lakes advocacy groups hailed SB 1 as a “good step,” but also urged policymakers to do more. It wants Lake Erie states and provinces to develop new monitoring plans and a timetable to cut the flow of phosphorus pollution into the lake by 40 percent.


To protect Great Lakes, advocates say, protecting six-year-old federal Restoration Initiative must be a top priority

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the last six years, nearly $2 billion has flowed from Washington, D.C., in support of more than 2,000 Great Lakes-related projects. Much progress has been made under the historic Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, says Todd Ambs of the Healing Our Waters Coalition, but it’s far from a job done. In each of his proposed annual budgets since fiscal year 2010, President Obama has included a line item to fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. But will the initiative continue once he leaves office? More »


Nebraska finds new funding stream to protect water resources

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Nebraska will be making a $32 million investment over the next two years in a new fund designed to improve water management and sustainability. At least initially, dollars for the Water Sustainability Fund will come from the state’s cash reserves.
Creation of the fund came a few months after a task force created by the Legislature (LB 517) concluded that “Nebraska stands at a critical juncture with water issues — for example, the depletion of aquifers, reduced flow of surface water (due to groundwater pumping), and an interstate dispute with Kansas over use of the Republican River. (That dispute has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.) In addition to creating a new funding stream for water projects, LB 1098 (signed into law this year) requires local natural resources districts to work together on basinwide plans for managing shared water resources.
The state’s Natural Resources Commission, which will administer the new fund, has also been restructured. The governor will now appoint a majority of the commission members. Previously, most members were elected to represent particular river basins across the state, according to Unicameral Update (the newsletter of the Nebraska Legislature).


States, provinces collaborate to address threat of invasive species

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ever since Asian carp were found to be dangerously close to entering the Great Lakes, the region’s states and provinces have been on high alert. Part of their response has been to work more closely together, and earlier this year, the governors and premiers signed a mutual-aid agreement that formalizes the process for how jurisdictions assist each other when an invasive-species threat arises. More »


Legislators in region protest proposed U.S. law limiting state regulation of ballast water

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Close to 50 state lawmakers from the Great Lakes region have signed a letter expressing “strong opposition” to federal legislation that would greatly limit the role of states in regulating the discharge of ballast water from transoceanic vessels. More »


Drinking-water crisis in city of Toledo leads to new initiatives in Ohio — and calls to do more

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Millions of people rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. But for a short time in early August, about 500,000 of those people — in the Ohio town of Toledo —were told not to use it due to an algae-related contamination. The problem of algal blooms is nothing new in western Lake Erie (the shallowest of the Great Lakes), but as Joel Brammeier of the Alliance for the Great Lakes notes, the incident in Toledo still served as a wake-up call. More »


Bacteria counts at Great Lakes beaches often exceed national safety standards, study shows

by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The millions of people going to a Great Lakes beach might not see and probably don’t want to think about the E. coli bacteria present in the freshwater system’s near-shore waters. But the bacteria are there — and sometimes at counts that exceed a standard for swimmer safety set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Bacteria counts, in fact, are more likely to be higher on a beach in the Great Lakes than in any other coastal region of the country, according to “Testing the Waters,” a June report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. More »


Michigan legislators intensify fight against proposed nuclear-waste disposal site near Lake Huron

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A proposal to store nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron is drawing increased scrutiny and opposition, with Michigan lawmakers again weighing in with a new round of legislation and resolutions.
If its project is approved by Canadian regulators, Ontario Power Generation would build a 2,230-foot-deep geologic repository that would hold low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. More »


Minnesota partners with farmers, and feds, on new certification program to protect water quality

by Carolyn Orr ~ November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With the goals of protecting water quality and providing regulatory certainty to farmers, voluntary state programs that certify land-management practices at agricultural operations are cropping up across the country. Minnesota is one of the latest states to adopt such a program, and is backing it up with state dollars to help farmers adopt new conservation practices. More »


In Midwest, states mixed on need for new water quality standards

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A push in Iowa by environmental groups to establish new state water quality standards ended in defeat this fall. In a unanimous vote, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission rejected a proposal to create numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The Sioux City Journal reports that state officials want more time to study the efficacy of current nutrient-reduction strategies before implementing any new rules.
Across the Midwest, concerns about nutrient pollution have increased due to a rise in harmful algal blooms, which can create “dead zones” in water bodies and force the closure of beaches due to health concerns. For more than a decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has encouraged states to set science-based numeric standards to control how much nitrogen and phosphorus is discharged into the nation’s water bodies.
Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin already have numeric standards in place. Wisconsin has the region’s most comprehensive standards; they apply to discharges of phosphorus into lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams. According to the EPA, Indiana and Ohio are scheduled to have numeric standards by 2016. Ohio’s standards will be among the most comprehensive in the nation.


Legislators voice concerns about Ontario proposal to store nuclear waste near Lake Huron

by Lisa Janairo ~ November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ontario Power Generation is planning to build a deep geologic repository less than a mile from Lake Huron in order to store its nuclear waste. The repository, if licensed, could open by 2018. It would be the first permanent disposal facility for radioactive waste to operate in the Great Lakes basin. More »



Sea lamprey resurfaces as invasive threat, spurring Wisconsin to consider new control programs

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
On a recent fishing trip off Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Sen. Robert Cowles made a surprising — and unwelcome — catch. It was a sea lamprey, one of the most destructive invasive species ever to enter the Great Lakes. That discovery has since led Wisconsin lawmakers down an unfamiliar path — considering the use of state dollars for sea lamprey control, which has long been left to the federal governments in Canada and the United States. More »


New policy priorities emerging in fight to protect Great Lakes

by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2013 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article»

After a decade of major policy accomplishments in Great Lakes protection and management, new concerns and legislative priorities are emerging, including efforts to stem the rise in algae growth and address the impact of low water levels and climate change. More »


Midwest's carbon footprint declined over past decade; state-level data also highlight shift from coal to natural gas and renewables

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The Midwest’s carbon footprint got smaller over the past decade, a period of time in which the region’s mix of sources for electric power also changed significantly. According to federal data released in May, total energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide declined in all but four Midwestern states between 2000 and 2010: Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. On a per-capita basis, South Dakota’s carbon footprint was smaller as well. More »


Record-low water levels, rise in algal blooms among concerns linked to changing
Great Lakes climate

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In December, water levels on lakes Michigan and Huron reached an all-time recorded low. And concerns about this trend have never been higher — as reflected in much of the discussion at a January meeting in Chicago that explored the new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. More »



New binational agreement adds climate change, invasive species and phosphorus reduction to list of Great Lakes threats in need of attention

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When the history is written about Great Lakes policymaking in the early 21st century, at least two groundbreaking initiatives will stand out. More »


What are Midwestern states’ policies on public notification of lawn pesticide application?

by Kate Tormey ~ September 2012 ~ Question of the Month »
American citizens and businesses spent almost $62 billion on landscaping services in 2007, according to U.S. Census data. And to help keep those lawns and gardens pest-free, more than 102 million pounds of pesticides are applied yearly in the United States, according to Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit group advocating for limited use of pesticides. More »


What do states in the Midwest charge for hunting and fishing licenses, and what kind of discounts do they offer?

by Kate Tormey ~ April 2011 ~ Question of the Month »
Midwestern states vary a great deal regarding the types of hunting and fishing licenses they offer, as well as how much they charge for each permit. More »


Michigan codifies program to help farmers meet environmental rules, adopt conservation practices

by Carolyn Orr ~ April 2011~ Stateline Midwest »
A voluntary program that helps Michigan farmers ensure that they are complying with environmental regulations and implementing soil- and water-conservation measures has become one of the state’s newest laws. More »