AmeriScan: November 6, 2001


BOSTON, Massachusetts, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - America's coastal states, the states bordering the Great Lakes, and the Pacific and Caribbean island territories, are experiencing increasingly severe coastal erosion and a variety of other coastal hazards, say researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Most of the hazards are natural, but unwise coastal development and poorly designed manmade alterations have increased the risk of damage to life and property.

"Because many of these destructive processes occur gradually, they garner little publicity, leaving residents of coastal areas largely unaware of the hazards," said Jeff Williams of the USGS. "Lack of publicity and the often contentious nature of property issues make good public policy on coastal issues difficult to achieve."

Williams co-chaired a session on Monday at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Boston. The session was titled "America's Coastal Crisis - Providing the Geoscience Information Needed to Conserve and Protect Coastal Resources."

More than 45 million residents live along hurricane prone coastlines, Williams said. Since the 1960's, population and development within this coastal zone have more than doubled and are expected to continue for the next several decades.

This population explosion, which has put more property at risk, has made the apparent number and magnitude of coastal hazards appear to increase dramatically.

Assuming no additional beach replenishment, about 1,500 homes along America's coasts, and the land on which they are built, will be lost to erosion each year. About 87,000 homes are located on land expected to be lost to erosion within 60 years.

In Maine, 20th century rates of sea level rise relative to land were unprecedented. In Louisiana, barrier islands are eroding at an alarming rate and rapid land subsidence contributes to a relative rate of sea level rise that is nearly the fastest in the country.

Along the Rio Grande River, dams and reservoirs have altered the natural environment to the point where water and sediment no longer flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Surveys of Monterey Bay in California have revealed that a seawall constructed to mitigate coastal erosion can instead increase erosion.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to: describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect quality of life.

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - For decades, owners of beach property have built seawalls to protect their property from storm damage.

But these walls are controversial because they may accelerate erosion near the walls themselves. Taking a fresh look at beach survey data collected over eight years in California's Monterey Bay in the vicinity of a seawall has provided geologists with some new insights to the long term impacts of seawalls on the beach.

"Long term changes in beach width and volume in front of a seawall that is regularly hit with winter storm waves was not significantly different than the long term changes measured on adjacent beaches without seawalls," explained James Tait, a geologist at Southern Connecticut State University.

Depending on various factors, "a seawall may have no significant long-term effect on beach behavior even though it may cause active erosion during storms," added Tait. "The reasons for this is that rebuilding of the beach during the summer months of fair weather waves allows the beach in front of the wall to recover completely."

Before decisions regarding permitting and construction of seawalls are made, planners need to consider geologic factors such as sediment supply sources, sediment transport rates, and whether or not the beach is already eroding due to sea level rise or other reasons.

"It is these factors that may determine whether the effects of waves hitting the wall during storms causes net long term erosion," Tait said. Tait presented his research on Monday at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Boston.

"This information is important to coastal managers who may be faced with difficult and costly choices between allowing protection of coastal property and preserving public resources," Tait wrote.

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - Hermaphrodite fish - fish with both male and female characteristics - are on the rise, due to the birth control pill and other natural and unnatural forms of estrogen that have made their way into the water.

Feminized male fish were first found downstream from sewage plants in the United Kingdom, said researchers at the Geological Society of America's (GSA) annual meeting in Boston.

"Closer to home, we have observed intersex white perch in various locations in the Great Lakes, " explained Chris Metcalfe, professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University in Ontario. "And in the Columbia River, there is a much higher proportion of female salmon than males, indicating that some feminization process may be going on."

Metcalfe conducted lab experiments on aquarium fish to try to find out which of the various forms of estrogen are the culprits in the sexual alteration of fish. He reported his research findings and shared new statistics on estrogen concentrations in water, generated by the Canadian Department of Environment in Burlington, Ontario, at the GSA meeting on Monday.

Metcalfe found that very low levels of several estrogen hormones - 17 alpha-ethinylestradiol, 17 beta-estradiol, estrone and estriol - caused intersex and altered sex ratios in the aquarium fish.

"Ethinylestradiol is the active ingredient in the birth control pill," said Metcalfe. "The other compounds are the natural female estrogen (beta estradiol) and metabolites of that compound excreted by women."

Metcalfe also found from his experiments that other estrogen mimicking compounds - such as alkylphenol ethoxylate surfactants (compounds used in such things as pesticides, detergents and cosmetics) and the plasticizer, Bisphenol A (used in lacquers for dental treatment and to coat food cans and other metal containers) - had little or no effects on the fish.

Metcalfe believes that it is the female estrogen hormones released from sewage treatment plants that are responsible for the feminization of wild fish.

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TUCSON, Arizona, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - A scientific computer mapping analysis released by the Western Native Trout Campaign demonstrates that native trout species in the western United States are correlated with the region's remaining roadless areas.

If the federal roadless policy adopted in 2000 is withdrawn, many populations of native trout could become extinct, the report suggests.

The report, "Imperiled Western Trout and the Importance of Roadless Areas," used geographic information systems to map out the locations of eight native trout species and federal roadless areas. It found a "very strong" correlation between healthy fish populations and roadless areas. For example, 92 percent of healthy Gila trout populations live in unroaded areas, as do 75 percent of healthy greenback cutthroat trout populations, 76 percent of bull trout, and 71 percent of westslope cutthroat trout.

At least 2.8 million acres of inventoried roadless areas on U.S. Forest Service lands have been lost to road construction over the last 20 years. Millions more have been lost on Bureau of Land Management lands and in smaller, uninventoried roadless tracts. Another 34.3 million acres of inventoried roadless areas on public lands are vulnerable to road construction under existing regulations.

The Clinton administration proposed new regulations which would ban road building on almost 60 million acres of road free areas. After several legal challenges, and under pressure by extractive industries, the Bush administration is considering discarding the so called roadless rule.

"This report shows us that roadless areas provide a refuge for the strongest surviving populations of native trout," says David Bayles, conservation director for Pacific Rivers Council. "These refuges are sacred ground for native trout. We must defend them from oil and gas drilling, logging, mining, grazing, road building or anything else that would harm these last best places."

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BOISE, Idaho, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - Idaho Rivers United and other salmon advocates have filed a lawsuit claiming that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has failed to manage the Federal Columbia River Power System in a manner that treats power, fish and wildlife concerns equitably.

The lawsuit was prompted by this year's salmon migration season, during which BPA made money at the expense of the endangered salmon, the groups charge. The Northwest Power Act, which became law in 1980, requires regional federal agencies to treat fish needs and power production in the Columbia River system equitably.

The suit charges that BPA has ignored the equitable treatment requirement in adopting plans designed to save endangered salmon and steelhead from extinction.

"The 2001 salmon migration season was one of the worst on record, primarily due to drought conditions," said Bert Bowler, Native Fisheries Director for Idaho Rivers United. "But had BPA treated fish equitably, it could have reduced the impact of low flows. Instead, BPA declared a power emergency that balanced power generation on the backs of fish and sacrificed millions of salmon and steelhead."

BPA also failed to fund measures needed to conserve fish in the Columbia Basin during 2001, Bowler said.

A previous Ninth Circuit case held that BPA's equitable treatment responsibility should place fish and wildlife concerns on equal footing with power production. The court ordered BPA to develop a mechanism to determine whether they have met their equitable treatment responsibilities.

"We don't want a repeat in the future of the migration season we've experienced in 2001," Bowler said. "The effects of BPA's failure to treat the fish equitably during this power emergency are likely to be disastrous in 2003 and 2004, when this group of migrants should return to Idaho."

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - Citizen advocates converged in Washington, DC on Monday to call on President Bush and Congress to end the outburst of wartime opportunism since the September 11th terrorist attacks.

"Since September 11th, members of Congress have served up a nonstop buffet of corporate pork legislation," said Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and Citizen Works founder. "Under the guise of 'national security' our federal treasury is being raided and democratic rights are being taken away while Congress feeds sympathetic campaign contributors at taxpayer expense, sends working people to fight, and leaves the unemployed, disenfranchised, and American families to suffer."

Organizations in the environmental, labor, consumer, civil liberties, civil rights and pro-democracy communities say they now must defend citizens against an onslaught of opportunism in areas ranging from multi-billion dollar corporate tax cuts to expansion of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"For corporations to loot the U.S. Treasury and prey on the environment while wrapping themselves in the flag is an act of sheer treachery, one Americans will not soon forget," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA.

Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, said that, "The administration and many in Congress are pushing energy legislation that will actually weaken national security."

Citizen Works, a pro-democracy citizen organization, listed several areas of "corporate opportunism," including an economic stimulus plan that benefits corporate treasuries and neglects workers, and the reemergence of "fast track" legislation that would hinder congressional input into international trade agreements.

Other moves criticized by the group included handouts for the insurance industry, tax breaks for billionaires instead of the poor, and price gouging by pharmaceutical companies.

"The nation recognizes that the heroes of this tragedy are our nation's working people, but all Congress and the president want to do is give more tax breaks to big business and the nation's wealthiest people," said Mildred Brown, past national president of ACORN.

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NEZ PERCE NATIONAL FOREST, Idaho, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - The eco-terrorist group Earth Liberation Front (ELF) has claimed responsibility for "spiking" trees throughout the Otter Wing Timber Sale in the Nez Perce National Forest.

Some anti-logging activists have adopted a technique called spiking trees - driving metal spikes into trees to damage chain saws and other equipment used to log the trees. However, many environmentalists avoid spiking, as it can endanger lumber mill workers if spikes or saw teeth broken by spikes fly into the air.

The anonymous ELF cell said the action was taken in protest of the destruction of public forests by private companies, and the destruction of habitat which affects hundreds of species of fish, insects, birds and mammals.

The group claimed no single area or issue as a sole focus, but included in its message a warning to the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, stating that "We may feel compelled to act again. The forest service of Idaho should know that has long as they continue to destroy Idaho's last remaining wildlands, they risk action on behalf of the ELF."

Timber activists have been protesting the Otter Wing sale for years. The sale is removing millions of board feet of lumber from what had been one of the largest remaining roadless areas in the lower 48 states.

"The timber sale program - nothing but a financial drain as well as a ecological disaster - must end," said the anonymous ELF activists. "The Otter Wing Timber sale has destroyed a once pristine ecosystem on the South Fork of the Clearwater River. It is an area which hosted abundant wildlife, such as fish, birds, mammalian predators, ungulates and a beautiful mosaic of different forest vegetative patterns. Now most of that area has been logged - aside from the spiked units."

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - After an independent review of the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) shark quota management program, the agency plans to update its assessment methods to include a more comprehensive review of population data.

The independent review released Monday concludes that the data and analyses used in formulating management decisions for the Atlantic shark fishery need to be refined to better assess trends in shark populations. The review is an outcome of a court approved settlement agreement between NMFS and the Southern Offshore Fishing Association, a longline commercial fisher's group.

"The independent reviews give us guidance on how to further strengthen our understanding of sharks," said NMFS director Bill Hogarth. "This agreement between the federal government and the commercial fishermen is a positive step towards improving the science underlying our management of this important fishery. Fishermen and the fish will both benefit in the long run."

Based on the reviewers' comments, the next assessment of shark populations and fishing quotas will reconsider the reliability of data, life history characteristics, and migration patterns into and from other countries' fishing waters.

As part of a court agreement between NMFS and commercial shark fishers, quotas are still based on a 1996 assessment that will be considered valid until a new stock assessment is completed next year.

That assessment determined that a 50 percent reduction in fishing mortality was needed to halt overfishing and maintain shark populations. The quotas set in 1997, and maintained since then, included that reduction.

Sharks are considered difficult to manage because of their biology, their life history and the number of species. They are long lived, late maturing and produce few offspring per brood. Since many shark species are highly migratory fish, they cross management jurisdictions, requiring collaboration by state and federal management agencies.

Because sharks have long life expectancies, collecting data on all life stages of all species is a lengthy process. It also takes many years for the effects of fishing and management to show up in shark populations.

Despite this uncertainty, NMFS is required by the Sustainable Fisheries Act to take a precautionary approach in managing shark species and rebuilding their populations.

"We look forward to the outcome of the next assessment, which will help us move forward with sound management, based on improved data and analyses," Hogarth said.

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EIGHTY-FOUR, Pennsylvania, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - Tri-State Citizens Mining Network, along with residents of the coalfields, held a demonstration Saturday outside the office of Pennsylvania state Senator Barry Stout, urging support of the Coal Communities Fairness Act.

The legislation, which will be introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly this fall, is intended to level the playing field for citizens whose lives and property are undermined, and to prevent excessive damage to the environment, homes, farms and highways by the coal industry.

"For too long, citizens have been virtually powerless to prevent damage to their property from mining operations," said Wyona Coleman, chair of Tri-State Citizens Mining Network. "This legislation will go a long way towards leveling the playing field, and will make mining companies work to prevent damage to homes, water, businesses, historic properties and public utilities, rather than reluctantly repair the damage, as the law now calls for. It's time to return fair play to our communities."

The demonstration was held at Senator Stout's office to protest current mining laws. The protesters said Stout used his influence to avoid mining under his family's property, while other citizens have little recourse.

"Citizens deserve equal and fair treatment under the law," said Coleman. "And this is not just an issue of convenience. Our water supplies - supplies that are more vital than ever in this time of national crisis - are being compromised and destroyed. For our children, and the children of the future, we must guarantee a healthy environment and a sustainable future. We demand that the coal industry modify its mining methods, and work to inflict the least harm on our water, land and structures."

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - Last year, the Energy Star program helped save American businesses and consumers more than five billion dollars and reduced greenhouse gas emissions the equivalent of the emissions from more than 10 million cars, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On Monday, the EPA released its 2000 Annual Report on its voluntary climate protection programs, including the successful and expanding Energy Star program. The report details success in building cooperation for results and outlines goals for 2001 and beyond.

"Since taking office, President Bush and I have emphasized the need to build partnerships across traditional boundaries and encourage cooperation in our efforts to protect the environment," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman in the report's opening pages. "These results prove that voluntary partnerships can produce real environmental results. Working with partners across the economy, we are making progress to increase energy efficiency, develop clean energy solutions, capture and use methane gas, and cultivate environmental stewardship."

Energy Star is one of EPA's voluntary programs that works in partnership with businesses, organizations, and consumers across the country to enhance investment in technologies and practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Star provides a symbol for energy efficient products, homes and other buildings that deliver energy savings to consumers.

EPA's climate change programs, including Energy Star, methane reduction and environmental stewardship, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 35 million metric tons of carbon equivalent last year - comparable to eliminating the emissions from almost 25 million cars. The Annual Report shows that the energy savings from the voluntary programs have grown from six billion kilowatt hours (kWh) saved in 1995 to 74 billion kWh in 2000.

The 2000 Annual Report is available in PDF format online at: