Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

May 4, 2007

Windmill plans face a jumble of regulations

The Cleveland Plain Dealer details these problems with wind power in Lake Erie:

A national study of wind energy points out what advocates of a Lake Erie wind farm have emphasized – the lack of policies and guidelines at all levels of government adds complexity and time to wind projects.

Ohio generates a mere 7 megawatts of wind power. But an alternative-energy task force, appointed by the Cuyahoga County commissioners, is pursuing a wind project of five to 10 turbines, generating up to 20 megawatts three miles off the shore of downtown Cleveland.

The county task force found it would need nearly a dozen approvals at the state and federal levels, from agencies that have never dealt with offshore windmills.

The possibility of erecting windmills in Lake Erie raises a number of environmental concerns, including the destruction of migrating birds.

The National Research Council study found no evidence that wind turbines have done significant damage to bird populations, but it called for more study.

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February 19, 2007

Ohio approval of water pact faces new snag

From the Toledo Blade:

Minnesota on Thursday did what many thought Ohio would do: Become the first Great Lakes state to adopt a proposed compact for managing lake withdrawals on a regional basis.

Ohio could be poised to follow suit. But first, supporters may have to overcome a property-rights opposition movement [and] reaffirm the support of Ohio’s industry, which is lobbying to limit regulatory power.

State Sen. Tim Grendell said he will introduce a bill this week that would put a vote on hold for at least a year. He is calling for the creation of a joint legislative task force that would spend the rest of 2007 listening to what other Great Lakes states say about the proposal.

Wisconsin has a similar review under way, resulting recently in a 12-page document of concerns.

Opposition comes from a provision that calls for water in the Great Lakes basin to be held in “public trust”:

  • Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled that private property owners own groundwater beneath their land.
  • Ohio might give up its sovereign right to state-owned water by agreeing to be part of a regional water board of eight states.
  • Criteria for water withdrawals should be made by state legislatures and not governors as in the Compact
  • Permits for withdrawals should be based on anticipated effects on watersheds, not on individual streams and tributaries within them.

Additional material: Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources

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January 12, 2007

Wind power along Lake Erie just might fly

Filed under: Great Lakes News,Ohio — nemo @ 1:29 pm

The Cleveland Plain Dealer carries this story regarding wind power off Lake Erie:

An energy task force will recommend to Cuyahoga County commissioners next month that the region pursue a demonstration project of four to 10 turbines, spinning at least three miles out on Lake Erie.

… turbines sitting at least three miles out could catch fruitful wind speeds averaging 16 mph.

Ten turbines could generate up to 20 megawatts, powering tens of thousands of homes and businesses, officials said.

… other daunting issues include environmental impacts, bird flyways, airport flight paths and shipping channels.

Engineering challenges include anchoring towers in a lake that’s 50 to 60 feet deep. The towers would stretch 240 feet or more above the water and hold rotating blades that, tip to tip, are longer than a football field. The towers must withstand waves and winter ice.

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December 22, 2006

Bill would keep water in Ohio – update 4

12/22/2006 Update: Ohio legislators have wrapped up their two-year session without giving final approval to an agreement that’s supposed to protect Lake Erie and other Great Lakes from plans to pump water out of the region.

12/15/2006 Update: The Ohio house cleared a bill on the compact Wednesday, but it landed Thursday in the Senate Rules Committee where unwanted bills sometimes die. The Senate anticipates adjourning the session as early as next week.

12/14/2006 Update: The Ohio House yesterday voted 81-5 to jump-start a bill designed to give eight states and two Canadian provinces the power to prevent diversion of increasingly valuable Great Lakes water.

12/11/2006 Update: A Chester Township legislator has temporarily dammed up a bill that would prevent the siphoning of Great Lakes water. The bill … appears to still have enough votes to clear the Ohio House.

Original 12/9/2006 post:
The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio: reports on Ohio’s progress passing the Great Lakes Compact:

The Ohio House of Representatives is expected to approve today The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, known as House Bill 574.

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November 17, 2006

Feds ignore ballast issue

Filed under: Ballast,Great Lakes Issues,Invasive Species,Ohio — nemo @ 2:30 pm

The Cleveland Plains Dealer carries this update on ballast and invasive species — in a nutshell, the shipping industry‚Äôs battles to escape ballast water restrictions have been successful:

Federal officials trying to halt a deadly fish virus in the Great Lakes ignored both a request by Ohio fisheries experts to deal with ballast water and criticism from the Great Lakes states over an emergency order that could put bait dealers and fish farmers out of business.

The order to ban the interstate shipment of live fish from Great Lakes states is one that state officials don’t want, no one can enforce, and if businesses comply, will force many to shut down.

The shipping industry’s battles to escape ballast water restrictions have been successful, despite the billions being spent to combat the invasive species ocean freighters have brought to the Great Lakes. Joining the parade of zebra mussels, round gobies and other invasive species now is viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a saltwater virus that has plagued European waters.

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