Daily Archives: November 14, 2014

The Clean Water Network Celebrates Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary

This is a guest blog from Natalie Roy, Executive Director, Clean Water Network that was presented on the American Rivers website.

Natalie Roy, Executive Director, Clean Water Network.

Natalie Roy, Executive Director, Clean Water Network.

When I was ten years old, I wrote letters to President Lyndon Johnson and New York Mayor John Lindsey.

The letters conveyed my ten-year-old sense of outrage about polluted air and water as well as dismay about litter on the streets.  My friends and I even made up a song about pollution on our way to an outdoor field trip.

My teacher that year had us make a film (no videos back then) about taking care of our natural resources. I played the role of kid who abused the environment.  The year was 1968.

It is an understatement to say there was plenty of turmoil that year.  Protests, riots, and assassinations were in the fabric of the time, but so were advances in civil rights and women’s rights.  We were about solving problems then.  Everyone wanted to change the world and make a difference.  Activism was not only a good thing, but something cool.

Activism was also the only way to save the planet.  This was the time of burning rivers, raw sewage spewing into waterways, and dead lakes.  Everyone seemed to recognize that something had to change or we were going to destroy ourselves and our planet. Whatever side of the political isle people were on, they were, at least in my ten year old mind, all on the same environmental team. Clean Air and Water were essential to life, end of discussion.

During this heightened period of environmental consciousness, the Clean Water Act was enacted, forty years ago this October 18th. Even though President Nixon vetoed the Act, Congress overrode the veto by a margin of more than 10-1. It seemed unfathomable that anyone could not see how fighting to protect our precious water resources was not in everyone’s best interest.

Since the passage of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972, many of our waterways have become less polluted.  Lake Erie, for example, which was declared “dead” in the 1960’s, now supports a multi-million dollar fishery. Pollution in river systems like the Mississippi from “point sources” such as sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities, has been dramatically reduced.  In 1970, point-source contaminants from industrial facilities accounted for 85% of the pollutants in our waters, and today account for only 15%.  The rate of wetland loss has declined by 90% since the 1970’s.

We are indebted to the visionaries responsible for crafting the Clean Water Act, landmark legislation that protects our nation’s precious water resources. But many challenges remain. Forty years later, nearly half of all rivers, lakes and streams are still not swimmable and fishable. Funding levels and federal regulatory safeguards have not kept pace with our evolving water pollution and infrastructure problems.  Worse, exemptions in current law allow the natural gas industry, agribusiness and other industries to pollute our water supplies. While today burning rivers are a thing of the past, we have a wide range of serious pollution challenges on our radar screen for the 21st century.

These challenges include detectable amounts of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, legacy mining waste polluting our waterways, hundreds of new chemicals being introduced into the marketplace every year, a nearly threefold increase in nitrogen pollution entering the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River and its tributaries, a natural gas drilling boom threatening drinking water supplies, new crops of emerging contaminants, invasive species threats, and pollution from agricultural and stormwater runoff.

Clean water is also under attack by many Members of Congress – agencies are being defunded and numerous pieces of legislation and policy riders have been introduced to limit the scope and enforcement teeth of the Clean Water Act.  Sadly, environmental activism is no longer considered cool. We do not all seem to be on the same team.  There are endless attacks by polluters to roll back federal authority to protect water quality in rivers, streams, lakes, bays, wetlands and coastal areas nationwide.

We are at a clean water crossroads. Really it is an environmental crossroads. We need to re-engage fellow citizens about the threats to our freshwater resources, both in our own communities and nationally.   Public opinion polls consistently show that Americans care about clean water and worry about pollution in rivers, streams and lakes.  Americans do not want to go back to the days when states had inconsistent water quality protections, when they discharged untreated sewage and other pollutants into waterways, creating environmental and health problems for their downstream neighbors.

This year, during the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, it is important to not only celebrate this milestone, but redouble our clean water advocacy efforts going forward. It is time to rekindle that environmental activism energy! More than forty years ago the country’s water pollution problems were easy for a ten year old to spot. It was easy to see the pollution back then.  Today the problems are more complex and difficult to detect for a ten year old or for anyone for that matter. The Clean Water Act anniversary is a great time for all of us to reflect on past successes as well as scope out the serious clean water challenges of the 21st century.

Our challenge is simple. Leave this planet in better shape than when we found it so we are not leaving problems for the ten year old kids of today. Join the Clean Water Network as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary and look forward, this Thursday on Capitol Hill – details here.

– See more at: http://www.americanrivers.org/blog/the-clean-water-network-celebrates-clean-water-act-40th-anniversary/#sthash.6mQaaWZ6.dpuf

South Texas Whooper migration delayed


By Wade Harrell

U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

While it was reported back in September that we had a few earlier than expected whooping crane arrivals, it now seems that fall migration is shaping up to be a bit delayed this year. We have received several reports of whooping cranes still on the staging grounds in the Saskatchewan prairies this past week. There have been a few birds reported from traditional stopover sites in the US, such as Quivira NWR (http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Quivira/what_we_do/science/whooping_crane_sightings.html) in central Kansas and Salt Plains NWR in northern Oklahoma. Presumably the mild fall in the northern plains states is contributing to a somewhat delayed migration. Other waterfowl species (ducks & geese) appear to be following a similar pattern.

Whooping Cranes on the Refuge

Whooping crane tour boats and Refuge staff have reported only a handful of whooping cranes along the marshes of the BlackjackPeninsula. We have had a couple reports of a pair of whooping cranes observed from the Heron Flats platform, although they aren’t there on a consistent basis. I have not received reports of whooping cranes from the observation tower at the Refuge yet, but it shouldn’t be long before visitors can expect to be able to view whooping cranes there. Only 2 of 25 currently active GPS marked whooping cranes have made their way to the Texas coast and have been moving around area coastal marshes off-Refuge. I expect that we will have quite a few more arrivals after the next few frontal passages.

Texas Whooper Watch

Texas Whooper Watch is up and running and has done a great job in getting the word out on whooping crane migration to the public this year. Take some time to check out their website here: http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/whooper-watch/

Be sure to report any Texas sightings beyond the known Aransas/Lamar area via email: [email protected] or phone: (512) 389-TXWWW (8999)

Food & Water Abundance: 

Reports by area guides and Refuge staff indicate that blue crabs and other whooping crane food items are a bit more abundant this year than in the past few years. Wolfberries seem to be abundant in the marsh this year as well. A big thanks goes out to the Mid-Coast Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists for completing a wolfberry planting in whooping crane habitat on the Refuge a few weeks ago.

With financial and administrative assistance from San Antonio Bay Partnership and other partners, we were able to complete the rehabilitation and conversion to a solar pump of one old windmill site on the BlackjackPeninsula and a new well completion. We have game cameras established on these new watering sites and hope to share some nice wildlife photos in future updates. The Victoria Advocate published a news article about the “Water for Wildlife’ project that can be found here: https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2014/oct/28/wildlife-advocates-enter-state-water-wars/.


The Refuge received 13.42″ of rain from July-October 2014, similar to that same time period last year although over 9″ (70%) of the rainfall total occurred in September. This week’s rains will help continue to fill area wetlands used by whooping cranes. Salinity levels in San AntonioBay are currently around 30 ppt. We do expect to see a dip in salinities in the next few days as water from recent rains in the GuadalupeRiver watershed reaches the bay.



Study to uncover the unknown lives of Whooping Cranes


Whooping Cranes

A new, innovative research study is underway that will help wildlife biologists discover important information about one of the most interesting birds in the world, whooping cranes.

Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks & Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, Crane Trust, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, and the International Crane Foundation have teamed up to tag and monitor adult whooping cranes to learn more details about their everyday life. The adult cranes will be tracked using satellite GPS technology which can uncover unknown migration stops, habitat use, nesting areas, and more.

Although this highly endangered species has been studied for years, new innovative ways to gain information is as important as ever to help keep the species on the road to recovery.

Learn more about this new study through a great 9 minute video from one of the partners, TexasParks and Wildlife. See the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPjPmdVf36k

Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas Attacks the EPA

Commentary by Ted Beringer

Northeast Director of the Kansas Wildlife Federation (KWF)

It is an unfortunate reality that Senator Pat Roberts, based upon his comments in a letter to the Kansas Wildlife Federation and the Kansas City Star (Nov 12, 2014), could have lived in Kansas his entire political life and come to the conclusion that clean water and air are a threat to the people of Kansas.

He has chosen to shuffle along with six other powerful senators across the country in an attempt to force the country to ignore science and embrace the idea that the Environmental Protection Agency is somehow harming us: Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Being from energy producing states, their motivation is to protect business as usual, even if it harms the country’s air, water & climate. The collective comments these senators have made in attacks on the EPA have been refuted at every turn. Even China has recently agreed to make significant reductions in planned carbon emissions. It is important to hold every one of these senators scientifically accountable for their expressed intention of gutting the EPA as they assume positions of power 2015.

My comments are not necessarily those of the KWF.