Public Funds Used to Lobby for Lower Water Standards,
by Peter Hancock, Lawrence Journal-World
A BIG Earth Day Is Just Around The Corner, by Craig Wolfe
State Begins Quest for Cleaner Water, by Jean Hays, Wichita Eagle
The Sad State of River Access in Kansas, by T. J. Hittle
Smithfield Foods Buys Out Murphy Farms, by Cliff Smedley
Wal-Mart Supercenter Denied, by J. Scott Smith
Missouri River News, by Bill Griffith
Water and Toxics--Matters of Life and Death, by Terry Shistar
Damage to Environment by Trade Rules Growing, by Craig Volland
The Day of Six Billion, by John Kurmann
As The World Spins, by Steve Baru
Run, by Tom Thompson
Kanza Newza, by Tom Thompson
Executive Committee Nominations for the Kanza Group, by Steve Hassler & Andrew Kolosseus
Amtrak: A Fun Way to Get There (and back)! - Part II, by Wayne Sangster
The League of Kansas Municipalities levied a surcharge on cities to pay for an environmental lobbyist and consultant.
By Peter Hancock - Lawrence Journal-World Writer
Printed with permission of Lawrence Journal-World.
Taxpayers in many Kansas cities helped pay for lobbying efforts that resulted in looser state water quality standards that spared them from having to upgrade their sewage treatment plants. In addition, all cities that belong to the League of Kansas Municipalities, including Lawrence, began paying a special "surcharge" to that organization this year to pay for continued lobbying and consulting services on environmental issues.
The results of that effort were described in an article published this week in the "Kansas Government Journal," a publication by the League of Kansas Municipalities. John C. Hall, the Washington, D.C., consultant who lobbied for the looser standards, said the effort resulted in "changes to the state water quality standards and implementation policies which will provide significant relief to many communities." "The revised limits represent a situation in which little additional treatment is necessary for compliance compared to the original limits," Hall wrote.
Those statements, as well as the new regulations behind them, have angered environmental groups that say the new regulations represent a step backward in water quality regulation in Kansas. "If you read Hall's argument, he's basically admitting there was a degradation (of the standards)," said Charles Benjamin, an attorney for two environmental groups that are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly failing to enforce the federal Clean Water Act in Kansas.
The lobbying effort began in 1997 when the Kansas Department of Health and Environment proposed an update to the state's water standards that would have severely limited how much ammonia could be present in lakes, rivers and streams. Since sewage treatment plants are the biggest source of ammonia pollution, many cities in Kansas worried the rules would force them to spend millions of dollars upgrading their sewer plants.
Don Moler, executive director of the League, said several cities got together and hired Hall as a lobbyist to fight implementation of the new standards. Although he could not provide a complete list of those cities, he said it included Independence, Fort Scott, Ottawa, Topeka and Johnson County Water District No. 1.
The 1997 Legislature suspended implementation of the standards and appointed a special Surface Water Quality Commission to propose new standards for ammonia and chlorides, which come from wastewater plants, and atrazine, a widely used farm herbicide that has been linked to cancer. Those new standards, according to the article by Hall, let each city negotiate "site-specific" ammonia limits using larger "mixing zones" and seasonal adjustments, resulting in higher allowable levels of pollution. According to a chart in the article, ammonia limits under the old rules ranged from 2.1 to 2.7 parts per million, but with the new rules they can range from 12 to 53 parts per million.
Dave Wagner, wastewater superintendent for Lawrence, said the looser standards will have no impact on the design of a $40 million expansion and upgrade of the city's wastewater plant that is scheduled to begin next year. Wagner said the city will design its facility to comply with the stricter limits by removing most of the ammonia from the effluent.
Last October, Moler said, the League of Kansas Municipalities voted to fund an ongoing environmental lobbying and consulting program with a special surcharge on membership dues. For Lawrence, the surcharge amounted to $3,299.56 in 1999. The city's total fees and dues to the league amounted to $25,957.07, according to city finance director Ed Mullins. Moler defended the use of public money for lobbying against tighter water standards, saying it resulted in substantial savings for taxpayers and utility ratepayers.
"It's the public's money one way or the other," he said. "We think (environmental regulation) has to be done in a smart way, and it has to be done in a cost-effective way. Eventually, you have to ask yourself, at what point is it clean enough?"
By Craig Wolfe
Lots of water has gone under the bridge since I first got really involved in an Earth Day. That was back in 1990 for the 20th anniversary. Now we've got the 30th anniversary or Earth Day 2000.
It seems like a lot of energy went into the 20th anniversary... a phenomenal amount of energy, in fact. So much that it makes me wonder if we can do it again, we enviros seem to be spread so thin these days. But there is a hidden "good news" in being spread so thin. Back in 1990, we (or at least I) weren't doing nearly as much as we are now. I look at the issues that we are involved in and how dedicated and competant our key volunteers are. We are spread so thin because we are doing so much now. Virtually in every area of the Sierra Club, we seem to be a much more effective and organized club.
What probably has me most worried, however, is that we need new blood... where will it come from. The average age of our key activists, I would venture to say, is 5 to 7 years older than in 1990.
I know Kansas City is getting ready for a big series of events with Bridging the Gap providing a hub around which we can all get involved. 4 weeks of events are planned. Big events are likely to occur at Science City, The Kansas City Zoo, and the Agricultural Hall of Fame in Wyandotte County. Home, Work, Schools, and Play will each take a week of the events centered around our current set of issues.
Hopefully, the bigness of Earth Day 2000 will excite and stir the young blood out there. We need to be ready to spread our nets and put them to excellent use.
The state can't clean the Arkansas River system all at once, so Kansans will be asked to choose which rivers and streams they want cleaned up first.
By Jean Hays, The Wichita Eagle
Printed with permission of The Wichita Eagle-Beacon Publishing Co., Inc.
State environmental officials will begin looking next week at ways Kansas can comply with a court order to reduce pollution in the Arkansas River and the streams that feed into it.
The work begins Monday, when an advisory group meets to debate which pollution problems should be tackled first and which can be ignored for a decade or more.
"Everything about our water is at stake -- whether we are going to be able to swim or fish or if we are going to have as clean of water as everyone seems to want," said DeEtte Huffman, a Wichita resident. Huffman founded the Ark River Coalition, a group of volunteers in four states working to protect the Arkansas River.
In the Arkansas River basin, which stretches from Great Bend to Arkansas City, 84 stretches of rivers and streams are considered too polluted to use because of salt, bacteria, pesticides and fertilizer.
Another 24 lakes in the area are in trouble due to pollution, including Cheney Reservoir, Watson Park Lake in Wichita, Cheyenne Bottoms wetlands in Great Bend, and the state fishing lakes in Kingman, Cowley and Barber counties.
The plan developed by the state will eventually determine whether the fishing is any good and if it is safe to go into the water during the Wichita River Festival. It will also determine how much farmers, cities and industries have to spend to reduce pollution in the rivers.
Beforethe end of June, when the state's plan must be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency, the public will get a chance during a series of public hearings to say how clean it wants the area lakes, river and streams to be.
Among the questions:
∑ Do we want to spend money to make Lake Afton a better place to fish? The lake is dying from a large influx of nutrients.
∑ Should children splashing in Cowskin Creek in west Wichita be safe from bacteria and parasites? Water is like a magnet to kids, but septic tanks, pet waste and livestock are suspected of polluting the creek.
∑ How important is it to Wichitans to drink water free of atrazine, a weed killer suspected of causing breast cancer? Within a year, the city plans to draw water from the Little Arkansas River, which in the spring carries four to 13 times the amount of atrazine allowed.
∑ Do Derby residents want the Arkansas River clean enough for canoeing? The river picks up high levels of bacteria as it flows through south Wichita.
The state doesn't have the money to fix all of those problems, said Tom Stiles, head of planning and prevention for the KDHE.
And there's no price tag yet for cleaning the water -- but at most, south-central Kansas may get $1 million a year from the state water plan, which is financed by a tax on water use, he said.
In setting priorities, Stiles said, the state may decide to protect Cheney Reservoir, which is Wichita's water supply, while letting Lake Afton deteriorate.
The emphasis on clean water is the result of a lawsuit filed in 1995 by the Kansas Sierra Club and the Kansas Natural Resource Council.
The aim was to force the state to address non-point source pollution -- the dirt, chemicals and oil that run off of farm fields, urban lawns, feedlots and city parking lots, according to Bill Craven, the attorney who filed the lawsuit. Until now, the bulk of the state's efforts to clean up water has focused on the 1,625 cities and industries in Kansas that pipe wastewater to rivers.
The lawsuit was settled in 1997, when the state and the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to reduce non-point source pollution. Since farms and feedlots are the largest sources of problems in the state's rivers, according to KDHE reports, most of the efforts will focus on agriculture.
The state has promised farmers that the antipollution program will be voluntary, at least for the first five years.
For a glimpse of what might happen, consider Wichita's drinking water.
The city plans to use the Little Arkansas as a source of drinking water. But in the spring, the river contains the herbicide atrazine, which farmers spray on corn to kill weeds, said Jerry Blain, superintendent of pumping for the Wichita water department.
Under a voluntary approach, the city has two choices: It can build a new treatment plant to remove the atrazine, or it can pay farmers to keep the weed killer out of the river.
The city is still studying the costs of treatment, Blain said, but it is a safe bet that paying farmers to use alternative chemicals will be a lot cheaper than building a new treatment plant.
A similar program is already underway around Cheney Reservoir, Wichita's main source of drinking water. The city has spent $300,000 planting grass filter strips and improving feedlots to keep farm runoff out of the reservoir. Federal and state farm programs have contributed another $700,000.
Having city folks and environmental agencies take an interest in what goes on at the farm can be worrisome to most farmers, said Lyle Frees, project coordinator for the Cheney Lake watershed.
"In most cases, it will mean a change in how they manage the operations," he said. "The upside is getting along as good neighbors."
The Arkansas River is one of the defining features of Wichita. Despite its muddy brown appearance, it is fairly clean as it flows through downtown. By the time it reaches Derby, it is loaded with bacteria. (Fernanado Salazar photo)
How to get involved
The public gets a say in deciding which pollution problems the state should tackle first.
The process begins Monday during a meeting of the basin advisory committee, an arm of the Kansas Water Authority, which advises the governor and the Legislature on water policy.
The committee meets at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Chemical Waste Management office, 8808 N. 127th East near the small town of Furley. (From Highway 254, drive three miles north on Greenwich Road to 85th Street. Turn east on 85th and drive one mile to 127th.)The meeting is open to the public. A series of public hearings will be scheduled for the spring.
The state of the rivers
About 70 percent of the 15,620 miles of rivers and streams tested in Kansas are too polluted for one or more of their intended uses.
Among the problems:
51 percent are not safe for boating, or other contact, due to bacteria.
41 percent are too polluted to serve as a source of drinking water.
28 percent or 232 of 836 miles tested contain fish that are not safe to eat.
The list of the polluted waters in Kansas can be found on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Web site, www.kdhe.state.ks.us/befs/ 303d/index.html.
Jean Hays writes about the environment. She can be reached at 316-268-6557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By T. J. Hittle (785) 539-7772, email@example.com
"Decriminalize Canoeing in Kansas." Many have seen the blue bumper sticker that features that slogan. It appears on many cars, vans, trucks, and canoes all over Kansas and is available from the Kansas Canoe Association. That single slogan, now a nationwide scandal, attracts a LOT of attention. It generates questions from paddlers and tourists from California to Maine. It was the brainchild of a paddler from Wichita, KS when asked what Kansans could do to help get the message out of the pathetic lack of public access to rivers in Kansas.
The problem of having only three public rivers in Kansas with virtually no public river access to them has plagued Kansans for many years. Kansas has the highest percentage of privately owned land in the entire USA. Our State Constitution was written to reinforce this private land ownership in the strongest possible way. Until 1990 it was assumed by most Kansans that with the surface waters in Kansas being publicly owned, and as long as you were floating on publicly owned water, you were not trespassing. All that changed in 1990.
In 1988 a protracted lawsuit began in SE Kansas on Shoal Creek. The Kansas Wildlife Federation (KWF) handled the vast majority of the legal fees and other expenses associated with the test case brought forward by Chris Meek, then Cherokee County Attorney. The case was the result of a feud between Holly Haven Canoe Outfitters and landowner Jasper Hayes regarding an electric fence that Hayes had placed across Shoal creek to prevent canoeists from crossing his property. KWF really took some heat on this issue, as did the Kansas Canoe Association and others, who acted as "friends of the court." I would be remiss without crediting KWF with the moral and financial backbone that took this case forward.
Chris Meek was eventually defeated as County Attorney due, in large part, to the bad press generated by the test case. He continued the case however, without pay, to the Kansas Supreme Court. Several large Kansas farm organizations poured considerable money in legal fees and other behind the scene efforts into seeing the case defeated and Chris Meek financially ruined. The result was the interpretation that we have in Kansas now regarding riparian landowner rights and Kansas streams. The State Supreme Court determined that as long as a riparian landowner owns the land to the midpoint of any stream (other than the three historically navigable streams, the Kansas, the Arkansas, and the Missouri Rivers) then they also control the use on that water. Essentially, this meant that if you were floating on any stream other than the Kansas, Arkansas, or Missouri Rivers, you were trespassing unless you had permission from all the adjoining landowners along the way. Although there remains a few streams with their headwaters located along small sections of public lands, a review of a typical list of riparian land owners along most private lands bordering Kansas streams quickly show how ridiculous an undertaking of obtaining multiple permissions would be.
The Supreme Court further stated that only the Kansas legislature could make changes that would allow access on rivers and streams in Kansas. Interestingly enough, the electric fence was never re-erected by Mr. Hayes and canoeists continue to float Shoal Creek (although illegally), much like I have floated rivers and streams in Kansas for the past 21 years (nearly 7,000 river miles). Most paddlers use public bridge right-of-ways, State, Federal, and City public properties, and other more nebulous means of access as we descend through tall weeds, poison ivy, and dangerous steep muddy banks to access our rivers and streams in Kansas.
The Kansas legislature has also taken the State Supreme Court decision to an extreme by ignoring the well documented potentials of tourism on the three public rivers. At every turn since the 1990 decision, they have acted to kill every legislative attempt at achieving river access on even the three public rivers. This is despite an overwhelming interest by their constituents demanding river access. A few large cities have circumvented this process. They have individually been building their own river accesses, such as those few found in the Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City, and Wichita. But, by and large, there is virtually no good river access to a great many river sections of the "three navigable" rivers in Kansas. This is essentially the equivalent of having hundreds of miles of public parks with no entrances to themÖ.pure hypocrisy.
State Supreme Courts of most other states, such as Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, etc. do not interpret their own State Constitution in the same manner. In fact, on the very same Republican River that flows from Nebraska into Kansas, paddlers will find a series of well developed river accesses, until they reach the Kansas border. Kansas remains the only states in the USA that has no state system of public accesses. This, in spite of the many studies, some performed by various State agencies, which document the tourism potentials of river touring in Kansas. The 1996 Kansas River Recreational Study, a five-state agency 2-year study commissioned by the Kansas legislature, confirmed the need for public access. The study also documented the tourism dollars that would result from a system of public accesses and that will benefit the many businesses and governmental bodies statewide.
What we have now in just the Kansas and Arkansas Rivers alone is a public river trail system that extends statewide, near thousands of potential users across Kansas, with virtually no access to it. It just doesn't make much sense to have these two great public rivers with enjoyable potential recreational experiences in our back yard, yet with no way to access them.
Certainly, public river access will benefit all Kansans and is really a statewide issue with its potential to help keep Kansasí recreational tourism dollars in-state, instead of spending them in Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Colorado. A number of natural resource and recreational organizations in Kansas and on the Federal level are working to change the lack of river access. Your membership and voice in any of those organizations would make a real difference. Please join and help in the efforts to change the state of river access in Kansas. Our neighboring states long ago had the wisdom to recognized the benefits of a system of public river accesses.
Kansas Permits in Doubt
by Cliff Smedley of Johnson, KS, Co-coordinator of Stewards of the Land
In a major new consolidation within U. S. agriculture, Murphy Farms has signed a letter of intent to sell their operations to Smithfield Foods of Smithfield, Virginia. Smithfield Foods is the world's largest hog producer and processor. Murphy Farms was the world's largest producer until last year when Smithfield bought Carrol Foods. It's still not clear whether all the operations of Murphy will be sold to Smithfield.
If Murphy is getting out altogether then the status of the permit issued to build a 11,000 sow breeding facility in Hodgeman County would be in doubt. Smithfield could not pass for a family farm in Kansas like Murphy is trying to do. In April of 1997 Hodgeman County citizens voted to ban corporate hog farming. KDHE permits are not transferable. Lane County citizens are still challenging in court their commissioners' resolution to allow corporate farming. If they are successful, then the merger could have an impact in that county as well where Murphy has a permit to build a 22,000 sow breeding facility. Construction has not begun on either facility due to chronically low hog prices.
The Murphy Farms sellout will generate a further concentration in the pork industry. Just as in the poultry industry, we are going to have a few huge corporations with the power to get their greedy way on all issues and without market competition. For the rest of us it will mean poorer and poorer quality foods, unhealthy working conditions for workers, more corporate welfare, unfunded burdens on our state and local infrastructures, family farmers becoming serfs on their own land as contractors, greater threats to our air and water resources, threats to private property rights as neighbors are forced into court battles with a huge corporation, threats to our democratic processes as politicians buy into the promises which can only come true through exploitation of the constituents they represent, and frayed relationships in otherwise close-knit communities. We will receive all of these "economic development benefits" in order to line the pockets of a few.
Stewards of the Land is aware that more and more people nationwide are willing to pay a premium for beef and pork that's raised humanely and without chemicals. Also, many people feel it tastes better. Consumers who are willing to investigate this option will help Kansas beef and pork producers who want to enter this market. This is a much better alternative than the factory farm model which the Baltimore Sun says is slated to the be the model for all of agriculture including grain production.
By J. Scott Smith, Flint Hills Group, Manhattan
For those of you that might not be aware the Flint Hills Group has been helping the neighborhood groups fight the zoning and construction of a Wal-Mart supercenter big-box store in Manhattan, Kansas since September 1998. Sometimes hard work pays off ! Jim Sherow, Flint Hills Group Chair, and Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, Flint Hills Group Vice-Chair helped head up the neighbor group assault. The article below comes from the The Manhattan Mercury - Friday, August 27, 1999
SHUT OUT - Unanimous City Commission denies Wal-Mart's request to build a west side supercenter
By Rodd Cayton, Staff Writer
Unable to accept the size of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter at a west Manhattan location, city commissioners unanimously rejected it this morning.
While commissioners seemed to agree that the land in question should be developed for commercial use in the future, they felt that the proposal for a 150,000-square-foot, 24-hour store was out of scale with the adjacent Arbor Heights neighborhood.
Commissioners said drainage and traffic concerns also pushed them away from embracing the proposal, which was first introduced to the city last September.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, wanted to buy a 24.3-acre tract of land near Seth Child Road and Fort Riley Boulevard, and asked for a zoning change to build the store.
Commissioners also felt the store had more characteristics of what's called a "regional" shopping center, rather than a "community" shopping center as determined by the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. That's the city's major policy guide on land use matters; the plan says that downtown Manhattan is supposed to be the community's only "regional" shopping center. The plan does not carry the force of law, but must be considered, according to zoning regulations.
The commission did acknowledge that the plan fails to specifically address large warehouse-type stores such as the proposed Supercenter; commissioners thus went more on judgement on that issue than on exact criteria set forth in the plan.
Commissioner Bruce Snead said as part of his motion to deny the petition for the rezoning that the proposal was "substantially not conforming" with the land use plan.
He also said the size and the 24-hour nature of the proposed store make it incompatible with the neighborhood.
"It's simply too big," Commissioner Karen McCulloh said. "No matter how we massage it, it's not going to work there."
"I have problems with the scale and intensity of use next to a residential area," Commissioner Carol Peak said.
"The bigness of this project is its downfall," Mayor Roger Reitz said.
When Reitz cast the final vote, opponents of the store sprang from their chairs and burst into applause.
In June, the planning board recommended that the commission approve the proposal, with 23 conditions attached.
Snead called the proposal "a lemon that's been beaten and hammered by the planning board, that has not turned into lemonade for the community."
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer predicted that the Supercenter - company lingo for a Wal-Mart with a full-service grocery store under the same roof - would create 350 new jobs and bring in tax dollars from outside Manhattan. (During the meeting, Wal-Mart's local attorney, Joe Knopp, quoted then-Riley County Commissioner McCulloh as saying Riley needs to compete for sales tax dollars with Pottawatomie County.)
Knopp said the parcel has been seen as a commercial area since 1961. He said previous commissions and planning boards have looked at proposals for the site and determined that retail use was appropriate.
Knopp said the approval of the planning board in June came only after the company agreed to 95 of 105 suggested changes, and agreed to drop the store's auto-service component.
Neighborhood residents acknowledged the concessions, but said the company ignored the one facet of the proposal that bothered them most: the size of the store.
Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, speaking for the Arbor Heights neighborhood, said the group expects commercial development on the site, "but not of this mammoth scale."
Wal-Mart officials countered by saying the proposed Supercenter, while on more acres than Westloop or Village Plaza, would contain less square footage of sales space than either.
Opponents also said that noise, light and other pollution from the store would cause a decline in the quality of life in Arbor Heights.
Knopp said the store would not be visible from Arbor Heights, which rests on a hill above the site. The proposal called for trees and a retaining wall between the neighborhood and the store.
Peak said the potential impact of the store would extend beyond the visual.
The primary impact, commissioners said, was possible increased traffic. Reitz said that although a traffic engineer determined that one access point, from Shuss Road, is sufficient, he still had concerns about traffic congestion.
Commissioner Ed Klimek, who said the Seth Child corridor "needs a shot in the arm," said he decided to support the motion only after Wal-Mart officials would not say that they would consider a smaller store, one that would not be open 24 hours.
Supporters of the Wal-Mart proposal attacked the city's economic development practices, which include offering tax-supported grants and loans to firms that agree to locate here.
Wal-Mart representatives estimated that the company would make a $10 million investment at the Seth Child Road site, including buying the land, clearing vegetation for the groundbreaking and hiring. The company did not seek any public money.
Dawn Stotts said the Supercenter would provide a convenient shopping center for residents of the nearby Redbud Estates trailer park.
The meeting started at 7 p.m. and ended at 1:30 a.m.
By Bill Griffith
The past few months have been a busy time for the Missouri River and its friends. As this goes to press there are more developments unfolding so stay tuned for further news as things heat up on the Mighty Mo'.
One of the most far-reaching actions could possibly be The Missouri River Valley Improvement Act of 1999. In late June, Senator Bob Kerrey introduced this Missouri River bill in the Senate. This is a 320 million dollar bill designed to do several good things for the river. One primary piece of the bill is that it would amend the Flood Control Act of 1944 to equate fish and wildlife with other traditional uses of the river such as navigation, hydropower, and water supply. This could be a huge victory for the Missouri River. I urge you to contact Senators Brownback and Roberts and express your support for this bill. It is imperative they hear from us!
The Water Resources Development Act of 1999 passed this year and had two exciting points in it. The first was the acreage authorization for the Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project was increased from about 30,000 acres to about 120,000 acres. This quadruples the acreage that can be purchased from willing sellers by the Corps and restored to their natural condition on the lower river (below Sioux Falls, SD). Congressional dollars will still need to be channeled in this direction but it is a great first step. Also, the Missouri River Enhancement Program is now law. It provides $30 million over the next two years to undertake habitat restoration programs along the entire length of the river.
The Senate approved $5 million for the Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project and the House approved $10 million. The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill is now in conference committee. We may need help pushing for the $10 million dollars and we will attempt to keep you posted.
The Army Corps of Engineers is now in the process of selecting a preferred alternative for the Missouri River Master Manual. They will announce their selection in October, with a larger public rollout of the preferred option in December. In mid-to late January the Corps will begin a series of public workshops and formal public hearings to gather public input on the preferred alternative.
IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WE FILL THESE PUBLIC MEETINGS WITH PEOPLE THAT CAN EXPRESS OUR POINT OF VIEW. The Missouri River Coalition of which we are members will be holding Master Manual discussion/training in all the towns where the Corps will be putting on its public meetings. Chad Smith of American Rivers will be leading the sessions and I urge you to try to attend. They will not be long and are extremely important so we can articulate our views and vision concerning the Big Muddy.
On August 31st the Missouri river Basin Association (the eight states and the tribes along the river) announced that they had come to an agreement on a "historic consensus" for the Missouri River flow management. The plan is a disaster for the river. It relates only to drought periods so does hardly anything except keep the status quo which is allowing the river to die a slow, lingering death. Not surprisingly, the plan does little for endangered species. It recommends the formation of an "endangered species recovery committee," but its plan is vague. It does recommend a spring rise test out of Fort Peck Dam in Montana but according to Missouri River scientists it will fail to produce useful results. The plan will result in a jeopardy opinion from the Fish and Wildlife Service and American Rivers has already threatened to sue the Corps due to the violations of the Endangered Species Act.
This is a precarious moment for the river and we need to be ready to respond. Stay tuned.
Programs and Vision
By Terry Shistar
Having hit a nerve in at least one reader with my suggestion in the last issue that the notion of "pest" should be abandoned, I'll risk offending a few more readers. [By the way, my views in this column should be viewed as a challenge to the Sierra Club rather than as a statement of the Club's policy. And while all complaints should be directed to me, I thank John Kurmann for comments on a draft of this column.]
I would like to suggest that we, as environmentalists, should rethink our support for environmental programs. We need to be very careful about how we participate in the regulatory process, to the extent of completely removing ourselves at times.
For someone who has spent most of the last 20 years advocating a greater involvement in the regulatory process, this has been a big change of perspective. But isn't it a commonplace definition of insanity to do the same things over and over again, always expecting a different response?
Let's look at a generalized history of an environmental program. The program arose because some problem--dirty water, dirty air, leaking hazardous wastes, or injury from poisons, for example--attracted so much public attention that Congress had to do something about it. They had to do something even though it meant imposing more regulations on the people who get them elected.
The program created by the law and subsequent agency regulations is designed to limit the risk of injury (mostly to humans) to "acceptable" levels. What is "acceptable" is generally determined based on data gathered and submitted by those who are regulated, through meetings attended mostly by the regulated community, and scheduled at times when most people can't attend. The regulators who make decisions generally ride the revolving door between agencies and regulated entities. Finally, if we want even these regulations to be enforced, we usually need to sue the agency.
And we do this over and over again, expecting something different the next time.
In The Story of B, Daniel Quinn says, "Vision is the flowing river. Programs are sticks set in the riverbed to impede the flow. What I'm saying is that the world will not be saved by people with programs. If the world is saved, it will be because the people living in it have a new vision."
I'm going a step further. Programs are not just sticks in the riverbed impeding the flow. While they may impede the flow to some extent, they are primarily sticks supporting the banks of the river, preventing it from changing course.
Why do we have pesticide programs? To allow and even promote the use of biocides, despite the problems we know result from broadcasting poisons.
Why do we have water pollution programs? To allow people to pollute water despite popular demand for clean water.
Our programs respond to public concern--which might possibly have resulted in a new vision, a new way of doing things--by simply regulating the rate at which we do the same old things.
Our society needs to pretend (or maybe do just a little) to limit pesticide poisoning and water pollution and so forth in order to maintain the myth that "the world was made for humanity." Once we really ask ourselves how we could do what those programs are supposed to do, we see that we can't clean the water by allowing a little less waste in the river. Instead, we need to completely rethink the idea of rivers as a place for waste to go.
Ironically, the Clean Water Act did just that--or at least the preamble did. The preamble of the Clean Water Act says the following: "The objective of this chapter is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters. In order to achieve this objective it is hereby declared that, consistent with the provisions of this chapter -
"(1) it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985;
"(2) it is the national goal that wherever attainable, an interim goal of water quality which provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and provides for recreation in and on the water be achieved by July 1, 1983;
"(3) it is the national policy that the discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts be prohibited;."
It looks like someone who was involved in writing that law had a new vision. Unfortunately, that vision was not shared by those who dump waste into waterbodies, or regulators at EPA, or regulators at state agencies. Instead of eliminating the discharge of pollutants and meeting interim goals for protecting "fishable, swimmable" uses, the water pollution program has institutionalized "acceptable" amounts of pollution via the misnamed National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits and redefined "fishable, swimmable" uses so that they don't include fishing and swimming.
Even more unfortunately, the vision embodied in the preamble to the Clean Water Act is fading. As environmentalists spend time debating the fine points of risk assessment, we seem to have forgotten that we once fought for, and got, a commitment to a new vision for clean water. We don't need to abandon our participation in environmental programs entirely. But we do need to ask ourselves whenever we do get involved, "Does our involvement promote a changed vision? Or does it legitimatize a process that reinforces pollution as a way of life?"
Sometimes we have very real reasons for participating in the regulatory process. Some threats are too great to ignore. When we do participate, though, we should pick our battles carefully, fight them well, and above all, use them as opportunities to promote a new vision. To me, this strategy implies that we forego meetings behind closed doors, "public information" meetings with no opportunity for public impact, and hobnobbing with legislators. On the other hand, if we can use a hearing on a bill or regulation to help further a vision of clean water, clean air, biological diversity, freedom from toxic substances, and an end to our war with the rest of the world, then we should grab the chance. In terms of my modification of Quinn's metaphor, we should seize the opportunity to turn the sticks supporting the riverbanks into shovels for diverting the flow.
By Craig Volland
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed by Congress in 1993, and amendments to GATT creating the World Trade Organization (WTO) were passed in 1994. The fine print, skipped over by most members of Congress at the time, is now coming to light. International trade may soon become the premier environmental issue of our time.
Parts of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act have been declared barriers to trade and weakened as a result of secret deliberations at the WTO. An obscure provision in NAFTA is being used by transnational corporations to sue federal taxpayers. They claim that environmental regulations and, even jury verdicts, are depriving them of profits they had expected to receive under the pact. This broadly worded NAFTA provision was supposed to compensate investors only for expropriation of capital assets. Transnational corporations are trying to get a similar provision inserted into the rules of the WTO.
NAFTA and the WTO are also having a chilling effect on badly needed improvements in food safety and forest protection. FDA and USDA officials are reluctant to tighten rules and increase inspections of imported food for fear of being hauled into WTO's kangaroo court. Likewise, USDA officials have set weak rules to prevent infestation of our forests by alien pests inadvertently imported in packaging and wood products. Forest protection was the founding concern of the Sierra Club.
WTO advocates would respond that health and environmental regulations must be subjected to impartial scientific scrutiny. However, there's nothing impartial about the WTO's secret dispute resolution panels staffed by trade advocates. Secondly, the standard of 100% scientific certainty of harm is a rarely attainable. That's why all of our environmental laws are substantially based on the precautionary principle. These judgements must remain in the hands of the citizenry who are most affected and their democratically elected governments.
Even our ability to protect our fresh water supply is threatened by international trade rules. Certain investors are trying to develop an international trade in bulk fresh water, such as from Lake Superior. Once our fresh water supplies are put into play on the world market, WTO and NAFTA rules will limit our ability to place restrictions on export of this precious commodity in time of need. At the very least, any attempt to place such limits will be subject to WTO challenge by any crackpot who desires to sell our natural heritage.
Who will set the balance between the exploitation of national resources and their conservation for future generations? At present this power is flowing away from democratically elected national governments and toward those with a strong financial incentive to exploit the environment for private gain.
The Sierra Club has become very concerned about the impact of international trade rules on health, safety and the environment and even on our democratic process. The reason is simple. Our efforts to protect the environment will go down the drain if supra-national authorities like the WTO and NAFTA are able to overrule the democratically established laws of the United States. We need to let our congressional representatives know that we are watching their votes on international trade as closely as their votes on the environment.
The World Trade Organization is convening a major Ministerial meeting on Nov. 30, 1999 in Seattle. The WTO plans to initiate a new major round of negotiations that will further strengthen investors' rights at the expense of the environment and everybody else. Coinciding with this meeting will be a massive Citizens Summit that will include non governmental groups from around the world. The Summit will include demonstrations and programs on the impacts of the WTO and globalization on the environment, health, labor and human rights, democracy, sovereignty, food and agriculture, and domination by unaccountable transnational corporations. If you would like more information, call Craig Volland at 913-334-0556 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And we just keep growing, and growing, and growing...
By John Kurmann
This article is not a reiteration of the official Sierra Club approach to population growth, but a challenge to the Club to address this growth more directly and effectively than it now is.
The United Nations has set October 12th of this year as the official date on which they estimate the six billionth person will be added to the human population of this world. Sure, this is, to some extent, an arbitrary choice. After all, nobody is taking a head count. But making this particular date the date isn't important because it's the exact date but because it draws attention to the world-devouring process which is at work here. More on that later.
Some background on the history of human population growth may help put this event in perspective. The genus Homo, which comprises all of the species which are considered to be enough like us (i.e., species Homo sapiens) to be called human, dates back something in the vicinity of three million years (estimates vary). Homo has been a very successful genus, well-adapted to the environmental conditions it first evolved into, and well-equipped through its innate intelligence and culture-building instinct to adapt both to changing conditions over time and widely-varying conditions throughout the world.
Still, population growth throughout most of the millions of years of our genus has been glacially slow compared to what we are now experiencing. It is estimated that the total human population of the planet had reached only about 10 million by 10,000 B.P. (Before the Present), after millions of years of growth, despite the fact that humans had spread to every continent except Antarctica.
Something changed dramatically around that time, though. Some humans began to develop a type of agriculture that enabled them to manipulate their available food supply to an apparently unprecedented degree. This new ability to make more food available by manufacturing more meant that the population trends of the past were, indeed, history. Note the acceleration in progress (these are all demographic estimates based on available data and extrapolation, of course):
By 7,000 B.P. there were some 20 million people alive.
By 5,000 B.P. there were about 50 million.
Jump another 3,500 BP and the population is approaching 100 million.
Set your time machine for Y1, the first year of the Christian Calendar, and you'd find about 200 million.
Drop in on Christopher Columbus as he sails the ocean blue to the "New" World (not new to the people who'd been living there for thousands of years), and you'd find a population grown to some 500 million. In fact, those teeming masses and their teeming needs were the fundamental force driving the invasion and conquest he initiated.
Spin around Sol another 350 or so times, and we're up to a population of one billion-and-a-bit in the mid-1800s.
Dip down into the industrial world's Great Depression of the 1930s, a mere century or so later, and there are two billion.
Three decades later, in 1960, we reached 3 billion.
Not quite a decade-and-a-half later, in 1974, we reached 4 billion (one of those additions being me).
Thirteen years later, in 1987, 5 billion humans were alive.
Now, just 12 years later, if estimates are accurate, someone is about to be making baby-talk to the 6 billionth human.
Summary of the above dramatic growth is summarized below by editor:
Years Ago††††††† Population
7000††† 20 million
5000††† 50 million
3500††† 100 million
2000††† 200 million
508††††††††††††††††† 500 million
150††††††††††††††††† 1 billion
70††††††††††††††††††† 2 billion
40††††††††††††††††††† 3 billion
25††††††††††††††††††† 4 billion
13††††††††††††††††††† 5 billion
October 12, 1999 - 6 billion
Where will it end? Why does it matter?
There's no way to answer the first question. Most demographers estimate that the average number of births per female worldwide is falling, so the next billion may well take more than a dozen years, not less. The pattern of acceleration from one billion to the next may be broken.
Still, most estimates predict future growth of at least billions more, barring unforeseen catastrophes. The United Nations is projecting that the most likely scenario for growth will result in a population of 8.9 billion in 2050, almost half-again as many people alive then as now. There may be less, there may be more, but significant future growth seems almost certain based on current trends.
Which brings us to that second question: Our growth matters because the world is finite, therefore it is only capable of supporting so much biomass, or living matter. As an ever-larger percentage of that biomass is turned into human bodies, human food, and other biomass-derived human stuff, an ever-smaller percentage is left to be anything else. Our population growth is nothing less than the progressive destruction of the world's incredible biodiversity, which means that it is the root force driving the destruction of the world.
Sure, average resource consumption levels and technology matter. They can either maximize or minimize the damage. The fact remains, however, that even if everyone adopted a lifestyle that was, say, Gandhi-like in its effects, this would only slow down the destruction, not end it, as long as population growth continued.
Unfortunately, population growth has long been given too little attention by most groups concerned with the state of the world, including, as much as I hate to admit it, the Sierra Club. If we're to have any real hope of saving the world, this must change, and change soon.
Y6B--the year of six billion--is going to have far more consequences for the world and our lives than some computer goof. Let's make sure there never is a Y7B.
I don't deserve credit for cleverly coining the term Y6B--that goes to the organization Zero Population Growth (www.zpg.org). For more information on United Nations population projections, go to: http://www.undp.org/popin.
By Steve Baru, Chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club
In the words of the poet John Donne, No man is an island. Similarly, no species is an island, and just as each man depends on each other so does each species depend on others. A delicate balance exists to allow our living globe to spin with life. However, what would happen if that round globe became out of balance?
Recently I over-nighted in Bozeman, Montana, while returning from a wonderful national outing and I happened upon a booth at their local "Sweat Pea Festival." The booth, which was serving buffalo pita meals, was sponsored by the Predator Protection Project, so I was able to mix good food with good conversation. They are currently involved with a campaign to save the remaining black-tailed prairie dog population and restore it to the Great Plains. Eradication efforts have eliminated the prairie dog from 99 percent of itsí historic range in the national grasslands. Their decline threatens the balance of nature because many of the endangered species that live in the Great Plains depend on it for food, including fox, burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks and the black-footed ferret. The black-tailed prairie dog is now being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Last fall Johnson County, Wyoming, initiated a weed and pest control program and poisoned 7,000 acres of prairie dogs. Then they asked the Bureau of Land Management to be a good neighbor and do the same thing on their lands. The Predator Protection Project sent comments on behalf of three groups supporting the end to poisoning and shooting. The BLM then declined to permit poison but did allow "recreational shooting."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service have temporally halted poisoning the Black-tailed prairie dog until a decision is reached giving these prairie dogs protection under the Endangered Species Act.
What can you do to help? Attend the Kanza group general meeting on October 7 and bring a friend. A spokesperson from the Protection Project, who is in town to do seminars at the Kansas City Zoo, on this topic will be the featured speaker.
If you canít to attend but would like more information watch your mailboxes for updates, and feel free to call me.
Again, we are called upon to make a stand to protect our delicate balance of nature. It wonít be the last time we are called, to keep our planet spinning true.
By Tom Thompson, Chapter Political Chair
It seems like we just got done with this stuff but it is time again to start thinking about electing candidates who are friendly to the environment. Obviously, considering Sierra Club experiences with Congress and the Kansas Legislature, there are many elected officials who aren't.
Now is when candidates who are really serious about running for elected office begin making plans. They look for organizers and supporters. They begin testing the waters and researching issues they might use to campaign.
If you are interested in running for office and want ideas on how to get started, call me at 913-236-9161 or email me at email@example.com. I am an experienced campaigner and will give you ideas or plug you into political organizations that can help you.
By Tom Thompson, Kanza Group Chair
Congratulations to The Friends of the Kaw for being the new wooden nickel recipients at Wild Oats. Those who shop at Wild Oats and use their own sacks for packing groceries either get a wooden nickel or a nickel credit. When leaving Wild Oats, wooden nickel recipients can then put their wooden nickel into a container to be donated to a designated non-profit. Environmental shoppers can now save resources by bringing their own bags then help out Friends of the Kaw.
In past months I have written about a need for volunteers. This time I have written some want ads to give members an idea of what help is needed. Please look these over. If one looks interesting, call me at 913-236-9161 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The next 12 months are big. In April we will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day. Next November we will be electing a new Kansas House and Senate, re-electing a congressman in the Third District, and electing a new President. Planning and working will need to be done.
Help Wanted: Individuals to work on a Fundraising project and Social Event. Help is needed to organize a silent auction and to set up the Winter Festival. Planning to begin immediately.
Help Wanted: Individuals needed to help with membership follow-up. Volunteers will help the membership committee contact members whose memberships have lapsed and other member services from the local level.
Help Wanted: Individuals to help with activities and events having to do with Earth Day 2000. This could included helping to set up and sit at tables and displays, participating at events, attending meetings, or phoning. Members might also be on committees to organize events.
Help Wanted: Individuals to help with on going events that involve educating the public about the environment or otherwise helping the Sierra Club as an organization.
Help Wanted: Individuals to help in political activities. People will be needed to help elect pro-environment candidates endorsed by the Sierra Club.
Help Wanted: Individuals interested in running for public office. Candidates to run for the Kansas House or Senate in the November 2000 elections needed. Also candidates interested in running for local office.
Help Wanted: Individuals interested in running for the Kanza Group Executive Committee. Members are the local leaders of the Sierra Club and meet monthly to plan and carry out the business and activities of the Group.
Once again phone me at 913-236-9161 or e-mail email@example.com if you are interested in volunteering to help with any of these activities.
By Steve Hassler & Andrew Kolosseus, Kanza Group Nominating Committee
In the last "Planet Kansas," our group chair, Tom Thompson, encouraged people to consider running for our Executive Committee. Now is the time to throw your hat in the ring. To determine the winners at the beginning of next year, we must distribute ballots in our next newsletter (December), which means we need to get all the ballot prepared in early November before the newsletter goes to press.
Our 11 group officers are elected to two-year terms, with 6 of those positions' terms expiring at the end of this year. Sierra Club bylaws require that we have at least two more candidates than we have positions.
This is the group that coordinates the diverse activities of the Kanza Group of the Sierra Club. With the 30th anniversary of Earth Day coming up in April, and a presidential election looming at the end of 2000, our need for talented individuals to serve on our Executive Committee will be at its peak.
If you are interested in running for and serving on the Executive Committee of the Kanza Group, please contact Steve Hassler at 913-599-6028 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Andrew Kolosseus at 913-371-6629, or email@example.com. We will need your notification, plus a brief statement for the ballot of 150 words or less, by November 1.
by Wayne Sangster
Now about Richmond (Virginia), the destination of the Amtrak trip my wife and I took last May, as promised. Getting to Richmond required that we detrain from the Cardinal at Charlottesville, Virginia, and continue our journey on the Amtrak bus that was waiting at trackside. A bus trip in Virginia is not like one in Kansas. You canít see the horizon; all you see are trees and more trees lining the highway. Thatís fine as a change, but as my mother (a native Kansan) once said about a high mountain valley in Colorado, "You canít see out!". Big skies of western Kansas or somewhat claustrophobic forests in Virginia -- itís nice to have the variety of this great land of ours (notice I said great land, not society).
Richmond has a unique place in the history of transportation. Frank J. Sprague built a breakthrough electric streetcar system there, with revenue service beginning on February 2, 1888. By the end of the year it was the largest such system in the world. Sprague first tried out his ideas for electric traction in 1887 in St. Joseph, Missouri, but got little attention there. At the museum of the Virginia Historical Society we actually got to sit in one of the old-time streetcars.
There are no streetcars in Richmond now (no surprise), but we used its city bus system to travel between our hotel and downtown where the conference activities took place. The service was quite good, with an adequate frequency of service, good on-time reliability, and ample seating space. Located along the bus route we used was the old Richmond Union Station, now a science museum (does that sound familiar?). I spent a couple of hours there one morning.
Our trip back to KC was not as eventful as going there, partly because it was late in the day by the time we got to West Virginia. But a pleasant surprise was spotting in another coach the two college women from Indiana with whom we had had breakfast in the diner on our trip east. They saw us and smiled, but we didnít stop to talk. I hope they were able to see the Brooklyn Bridge, which is on my must-see list for New York City attractions. A feature of this bridge that I enjoyed was that foot and bicycle traffic is accommodated on lanes well separated from the vehicular traffic. A leisurely stroll on the bridge is an unforgettable pleasure.
Companions in the diner on the way back included a retired couple who were connecting in Chicago with the California Zephyr, a pleasant way to get to the west coast. As an aside from the Richmond trip I have a story to tell about the Zephyr: I rode it once, after first taking the Amtrak van to Omaha, and found myself in a motionless train on a mountain slope east of Denver three-fourths of the way up to the Moffat Tunnel (6.2 miles long and the continental divide) after one of the two locomotives broke down --.air brakes are really a great invention!. But then the trip through Gore Canyon (there is no highway) on the western slope made up for any apprehension the east-side incident had caused. The Zephyr has an Amtrak tour guide aboard from Denver to Glenwood Springs.
A late afternoon departure from Chicago on the Southwest Chief found us speeding westward through suburbs along one of the several Metra commuter-rail routes. Until the merger of the Santa Fe with Burlington Northern the Chief followed the Santa Fe all the way to KC. Because of an oddity in laying out railroads in the late 1800s, Galesburg, Illinois used to have two Amtrak stations. The Chief used the SF station and the Zephyr used the BN station. In 1887 the SF set out to build from KC to Chicago by a nearly direct route (their bridge builder was Octave Chanute -- builder of the Hannibal bridge, KCís first), but a deviation was made when Galesburg citizens offered 20 acres for a station and yards, as well as a right of way through the town. This resulted in the SF tracks crossing the Burlington tracks twice. After the BNSF merger a connection was built so that now the Chief is shifted from BN tracks to SF tracks (or vice versa) there.
The slowing of the train as we neared the Missouri River bridge with the lights of the power plant nearby signaled an upcoming on-time arrival in KC. And yes, one can get a cab at the station at one oíclock in the morning!