Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Special Delaware Has Special Atlantic Sturgeon

The Delaware River is unique and special in so very many ways -- in ways that many know, but also in many ways folks don't know.

Did you know that the Delaware River is home to a unique population of Atlantic Sturgeon?  There is a population of Atlantic Sturgeon that lives it the Delaware River which is only found here, in our River -- they are genetically distinct from all other Atlantic Sturgeon on earth.  Amazing.

At one time there were so many sturgeon in the Delaware River that they provided 75% of the caviar nationwide.  But then, as people do, people took advantage and overharvested the sturgeon, to the point of decimation.  By the early 1900s sturgeon fishers were pulling in only 6% of what they had pulled in just two decades before.

The Atlantic Sturgeon have such an extended life cycle, and reproductive cycle, that it has inhibited their recovery.  Females don't sexually mature until around age 16; boys age 12.

But the real reason the Atlantic Sturgeon have not been able to recover is not because of their normal growth and reproductive cycle, it is because people continue to take advantage -- advantage of the sturgeon and the River they live in.  Pollution, dredging, harvest as bycatch from other species, and more all continue to pound the Atlantic Sturgeon into decline.

By some estimates we have less than 100 Atlantic Sturgeon in the Delaware River -- LESS THAN 100!

The Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon have a special, unique and irreplaceable place in our River and on this earth. They deserve our respect and care.  Whether you appreciate them as another living member of our planet, or as a contributor of food, jobs and income to those who would harvest them and/or eat them -- swift action is needed to restore the Atlantic Sturgeon populations to the Delaware River.

You can help provide the Atlantic Sturgeon the protection they need -- go to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network website at to learn how you can take action to have the Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon identified as endangered and receive extra needed protection pursuant to federal law.

February 5, 2010 is the deadline.
Please don't wait to take your action.
We have less than 100 -- the Atlantic Sturgeon need your help now.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Delaware Deepening -- A Threat to Jobs and the Environment

              There is a bounty of data, documents and records to demonstrate the wealth of environmental harm and the lack of economic and job benefits from deepening of the Delaware River.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative office of Congress, is among those who have shown that the claims of economic benefits from deepening the Delaware River an additional five feet are, in large part, a sham.  And sadly the sham was not an accident – it was the result of “miscalculations, invalid assumptions, and outdated information.”

The Army Corps and project supporters admit that resulting shipping benefits from deepening are in the form of increased efficiencies – the same volume of goods will come up the River just in fewer ships.   In fact, the way the Army Corps says it:  “The future volume of cargo passing through the Delaware River port system is determined by macroeconomic factors that are not affected in any measurable way by the channel depth. The purpose of the deepening project is to make it possible to handle … cargo in a more efficient way.  This efficiency takes the form of more-heavily-loaded vessels.  With the deeper channel, fewer total vessel calls will be required because it will be possible to handle more cargo per ship.” 

Less ships, less offloading, same amount of cargo?  Less jobs, not more.

            Agencies and experts have been documenting the threats of deepening for nearly two decades including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Delaware River Basin Commission, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the University of Delaware’s Sea Grant Program, experts associated with the Delaware Estuary program. 

While Deepening will not be the impetus for new port jobs, it will undermine, diminish and jeopardize River jobs – jobs dependent upon the quality of the Delaware River, its fish, shellfish, wildlife and ecosystems.  Introducing toxins into the already overburdened River, damaging habitats critical for fish and shellfish, burying horseshoe crab and Saballaria vulgaris populations, blasting away at reaches of the River, moving the saltline upriver in a way that threatens contamination of New Jersey and Philadelphia drinking water and introduces harm to oysters and freshwater marshes, causing and/or accelerating erosion of marshlands important for habitat and protecting communities from catastrophic storms, subjecting communities to 60 to 94 feet high piles of toxic dredged muck, individually and collectively harms a wide array of commercial, recreational and ecotourism jobs and revenues.   Among those jobs and economies put at risk:

ü    The annual harvest of oysters from the Delaware Estuary is projected to generate from $50 to $80 million of economic benefit.  The loss of this income would be devastating to those communities dependent upon it.

ü    The $34 million ecotourism industry dependent upon the horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebird phenomenon of the Delaware Bay, providing crucial support to local economies in the “off-season.  And the additional $34 million of ecotourism generated by other shorebirds dependent upon a healthy Bay.

ü    The $150 million of annual revenue and social welfare value from the horseshoe crab-dependent biomedical industry to whom one pint of Horseshoe Crab blood is worth $15,000 for required testing on medical devices, vaccines and intravenous drugs used by all. 

ü    Spending in the estuary region by recreational anglers valued at an average of $62 to $100 per day. 
            And much, much more.

            Why is it okay with the port community to put these jobs and economic benefits on the chopping block? 

            Those opposing deepening do not oppose the ports.  In fact we have advocated for wise port investments that will protect the environment and create port jobs at the same time.  Our goal is to protect all communities, all jobs, and all who depend upon the Delaware River; not to sacrifice the many in order to benefit only those who are using this project to further their own political, personal and professional agendas.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Protecting the River from Gas Drilling -- PA Action Happening Now

The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection has proposed regulations for natural gas drilling wastewater and other discharges that are high in Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). A discharge standard of 500 mg/L TDS, 250 mg/L for chlorides and 250 mg/L sulfates have been proposed based on a stated goal of protecting drinking water quality. While this is a step in the right direction, the regulations need to be stronger and the standards need to be protective of fish and aquatic life as well as drinking water -- and to accomplish this 500 mc/L of TDS is simply not strict enough. 

Further, the proposed rules do not include any testing or regulation of the many dangerous chemicals that are used in hydrofracking and that are produced as toxic flowback when a shale gas well is developed; this is a gross oversight.

Most importantly, the State continues to crank out drilling permits and issue discharge permits for facilities that do not meet this standard now; they plan to continue to allow gas projects and discharges to proliferate even though the new rules are not expected to be adopted until 2011.  There must be no new gas well drilling permits nor any wastewater discharge permits issued until protective standards and comprehensive regulations are adopted and implemented by PADEP; it is irresponsible for DEP to continue to issue permits for wells that will produce more wastewater than existing facilities can process. A MORATORIUM should be implemented until our streams and rivers are protected from gas drilling wastewater pollution!