Sunday, January 16, 2011

Grand Lake St Marys update

State officials briefed on Grand Lake St. Marys situation

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DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Ohio Director of Agriculture James Zehringer had the shortest trip, since he lives just down the road in Fort Recovery. He was joined by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Nally and Department of Natural Resources Director David Mustine for a briefing held at Wright State University’s Lake Campus detailing what the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Committee seeks to do to deal with the problem.CELINA – Just four days after being sworn in by Governor John Kasich, the directors of three state agencies were in Celina to underscore the governor’s commitment to deal with the algae bloom problem on Grand Lake St. Marys.

The three directors, along with Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing, a representative of the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Committee, and State Representative Keith Faber, later held a meeting with media representatives to provide comments on the briefing and what could be the next steps in the process.

The three state officials, who were sworn in January 10 by Governor Kasich, indicated their commitment to taking action on the issue, while Faber said he was pleased with the quick action by Governor Kasich to honor a commitment he made during the gubernatorial campaign to solve the lake’s problems.

“When John was campaigning, he came here and saw first-hand the impact on Grand Lake St. Marys and the community,” Faber said, “and he made a commitment … that this would be a priority for the new Kasich administration.

“And I don’t know how you get much more priority, as a state legislator, than to see the three directors – and really the four agencies that are directly impacted on this – coming in literally the first week they’re in office to talk to the interested parties about what needs to be done to fix Grand Lake St. Marys,” Faber added.

All three state directors were provided with a strategic plan outlining steps needed to deal with the algae bloom problem.

Those priorities include the following:

  • Sequestration of soluble reactive phosphorus to limit availability of nutrients that fuel algae and mycrotoxin development (the highest priority item).
  • Physical removal and encapsulation of nutrient-laden sediment, through dredging, as the most effective long-term means of eliminating internal nutrient loading and the controlling factor for nutrient cycling within the lake.
  • Develop opportunities to remove stressors on the ecological system through application of technologies that provide sustainable processes.
  • Establish Best Management Practices in each sub-watershed draining to the lake to intercept and remove nutrient loading prior to its entry into the system.
  • Decrease rough fish population through removal and management actions.
  • Management of the lake as an economic resource of the state, with recognition of the influence it maintains over the local and regional economy.
  • Fund the development and restoration of natural resources within the state, where the economic benefit will exceed the costs of capital investment to undertake.
  • Prioritize applications from producers within the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed for the Water Pollution Control Loan fund, with the added caveat that use of manure best management practices and technologies be integrated into all aspects of the agricultural/livestock industries located within the watershed to decrease nutrients draining into the lake.

All three directors were complimentary of the work done so far by the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Committee, with Mustine saying he felt the strategic plan was “very professional.”

Although he comes from Indiana, Nally, the new Ohio EPA director, said he is familiar with the local problem since he lived near a water recreation area in the Indianapolis area called Geist Reservoir, adding that that area, which includes homes in the median range of $1 million-$10 million, has the same problem as Grand Lake St. Marys.Mustine said he was also impressed with the local fundraising efforts, which have generated $650,000 so far. “That’s fantastic and certainly inspires us to be looking as hard as we can to find ways to get resources for this effort.”

Nally also responded to a question asking what the state planned to do this summer to deal with the problem.

“There’s going to be action done this spring,” Nally said. “Whether it prevents a algae bloom this summer we don’t know, but at least we’re not going to say we didn’t try these top four, five, six top issues, we’re going to be doing things and not waiting for something to happen.”

“If you’re asking if we’re going to have action, yes, we’ll guarantee we’re going to have action,” Zehringer added. “We can’t guarantee success.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Agriculture is responsible for one third of Antropogenic GHG emissions

Impact Investing in Sustainable Agriculture for a New Economy

Dec. 22 2010 - 1:52 pm | 1,051 views | 1 recommendation | 6 comments

According to a recent article from Scientific American, agriculture is responsible for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Agribusiness farming operations are notorious for nitrogen and phosphorus runoff (particularly from poultry and hog farms). In the Chesapeake Bay region, for example, one study estimated the price tag for restoring the bay at $19 billion, of which $11 billion would go toward “nutrient reduction.”

There are more than 400 such dead zones throughout the world. Additionally, heavily subsidized corn and soy feed to livestock contribute to massive deforestation in the developing world. Tufts University researchers estimate that in the United States alone, between 1997 and 2005 the industrial animal sector saved more than $35 billion as a result of federal farm subsidies that lowered the price of the feed they purchased. These statistics demonstrate both the complexity of the supply chain from feed farm to table, and illustrate the importance of sustainability in the American food production industry.

A sustainable alternative to the beef factory-farming model follows in the footsteps of conservationist pioneer Allan Savory. The recent winner of the prestigious Buckminster Fuller Prize, Savory developed the Holistic Management grazing technique during his time as a researcher and farmer in Southern Africa in the 1980s. By getting grazing cattle to stay in larger, tight herds, Savory was able to restore grassland vitality and increase grass biodiversity. Deep chewing of plant roots, paired with the repeated soil chipping of hooves, caused dormant seeds to germinate and water to penetrate below the surface. According to Shannon Horst, CEO and co-founder of the Savory Institute, ranchers can consistently double, and even quadruple livestock capacity over time. (See an article in TIMEfor more on the Savory grazing technique).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Savory’s work has been its appeal to both profit-driven investors and international development agencies like USAID as a tool to combat desertification in rural farming communities. Since 2005, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance has provided more than $1.1 million to support Savory’s African Centre for Holistic Management’s program to restore degraded land, revive water sources, mitigate the effects of global climate change, and increase crop yields. Savory and Horst have worked with range managers on ranches and community group ranches, demonstrating how to manage holistically in communal and private range lands, in partnership with USAID.

Within the past couple of years, for-profit enterprises like Grasslands, LLC are successfully implementing the Savory Holistic Management methodology. Grasslands owns and manages 14,000 acres in South Dakota, and is funded by a network of private impact investors likeArmonia, LLC and Capital Institute founder John Fullerton. The profitability of the Grasslands structure comes from ranching fees per head of cattle, and is based directly on the Savory Institute business model. By investing in companies like Grasslands, Fullterton and other impact investors are laying the foundation for new finance-based theories, tools, and metrics to serve the needs of a sustainable economic system.

In addition to increased yields of beef per acre, the Grasslands model also creates an opportunity to commoditize sequestered carbon for carbon credit trading. Steven Apfelbaum, Founder/Chairman of Applied Ecological Services, Inc., explained to TIME, ”healthy grasslands represents the ecosystem with the highest potential for carbon sequestration of any on the planet.” Ranches like those owned by Grasslands cover an estimated 30 million acres in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa—and nearly half of the earth’s land mass. Given the shear vastness of the earth’s grasslands, holistic management and reclamation projects hold huge implications for changing the planet.

While Grasslands only just completed its first year in operation, rancher Jim Howell reports that the two South Dakota ranches are expected to double in value and in productivity over a ten-year period and to yield annual dividends on the order of 4% to 5% in the early years, increasing to 10% to 11%. In a recent Capital Institute article, Fullerton expressed his confidence that the Grasslands model can provide a profitable, scalable model for biodiversity recovery: “We have a case study here of true wealth creation in Grasslands,” he says. “We are building biodiversity, soil fertility, sequestering carbon, and generating financial returns. And if my belief of what will happen to ecosystem services plays out, we will make a lot more money with these assets than with most financial assets.”

For more on Grasslands and the Capital Institute’s sustainable investment agenda

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lakes a big source of climate-warming gas: study

Lakes a big source of climate-warming gas: study

OSLO | Thu Jan 6, 2011 2:47pm EST

(Reuters) - Lakes and rivers emit far more of a powerful greenhouse gas than previously thought, counteracting the overall role of nature in soaking up climate-warming gases, a study showed on Thursday.

A review of 474 freshwater systems indicated they emitted methane equivalent to 25 percent of all carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas blamed for stoking climate change -- absorbed by the world's land areas every year.

Trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.

"Methane emissions from freshwater sources were greater than expected," David Bastviken, lead author of the study at Linkoping University in Sweden, told Reuters.

"Some of the carbon that is being captured and stored by the Earth will be counteracted by methane from these freshwater sources," according to the study by experts in Sweden, the United States and Brazil in the journal Science.

Emissions of methane, released by decaying vegetation and other organic matter in rivers, reservoirs, lakes and streams, have not previously been properly built into models used to understand global warming, Bastviken said.

The findings indicate that other parts of the landscape, led by forests, should be prized more as the most robust natural stores of greenhouse gases, he said.

"This means that forests and other local environments, being carbon sinks, are even more important" in helping offset global warming, he said. Land-based stores "may be more rare than expected."


Bastviken said the freshwater methane emissions were not a new environmental threat since the presence of the gas in the atmosphere was previously known, even if scientists were unsure where it came from.

"This has always happened. We just haven't paid attention," he said. Even so, he said a thaw of permafrost in places from Siberia to Alaska may also be releasing more methane from once frozen soils.

A U.N. climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, last month agreed to set up a system to slow deforestation, from the Amazon to the Congo basin, to help slow climate change.

The plan envisages incentives for developing nations to safeguard forests rather than clear them to make way for farmland, towns or roads. Deforestation accounts for perhaps 10 percent of greenhouse gases from human activities.

A build-up of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, will cause more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels, according to the U.N. panel of climate scientists.

Methane is about 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Bastviken said the findings were not an argument for draining wetlands or lakes to limit methane emissions -- that might well backfire and release carbon stored in sediments.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)