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November 05, 2015     Post 66
politics and water

photo of West Valley Site

Stand by for another political article on Lake Ontario inspired by recent local elections. I promise to make the next Log note more entertaining. However, I'm pretty deep into writing the script for the Lake Ontario video (updates are posted at the Kickstarter site for Saving The Beautiful Lake) and so I need to get this off my mind.

Workshops funded by NOAA are being held in Rochester and Watertown this month to solicit ideas and inputs on how to prepare for the climate change of the future on Lake Ontario. Here's part of the press release.

“New York Sea Grant is inviting public stakeholders in the Lake Ontario region of New York State to share their best thinking on what actions are needed through lake and watershed planning to prepare for possible future extreme climate conditions and population changes in the region at workshops at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 in Watertown and at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 in Rochester.”

The release prompts this stakeholder to ponder a few questions that I would ask if I had the energy and money to attend these affairs both of which are well over a hundred miles of driving from my location.

Given the possibilities for unprecedented drought risks in the central plains as put forth by Dr. Ault of Cornell and co-workers in the on line journal Science Advances of the AAAS, is the Great Lakes Compact between the states and Ontario and Quebec strong enough to resist diversions of water to parched midwestern cornfields? As I wrote in Saving the Beautiful Lake could emergency executive orders from the president of the U.S. override the Compact if things really did get that bad?

And could the bottled water loophole that allows export of small containers of water from the Great Lakes basin be taken to define water as a “product” as some legal scholars believe? If so what are the implications for WTO agreements and enforcement of same?

Are there ways to strengthen the agreement between states and provinces to protect the lakes? Remember less than one percent of the volume of the Great Lakes is renewed each year. Take more than that out and the Lake Mead bathtub ring will appear.

Another area of some urgency is that of various 'legacy' wastes and toxins stashed around the lake. More specifically what can we do to facilitate the long term safety and above ground storage of West Valley Waste? The West Valley Coalition points out increased frequency of extreme precipitation events will accelerate the erosion of the site. In a single rainstorm a couple years ago, Buttermilk Creek cut back 15 feet towards the unlined trenches of the state licensed portion of the site that contain among other goodies, an unspeakable stew of toxic industrial chemicals and an estimated eight to fifteen pounds of plutonium.

What can we do about this and the other radioactive FUSRAP sites within our watershed? It has been fifty years since a comprehensive climatology of rainfall events has been updated, and the trend towards more frequent extreme precipitation events has not been factored into the models for either Lewiston's Lake Ontario Ordinance Works home to half the known radium 226 in the world, or West Valley erosion/leakage rates.

The Great Lakes Commons effort seeks greater collaboration between various people using and impacting the lakes and the 'experts' residing in distant offices. How can this be done using modern technology and minimal road travel? Perhaps an on line summit format similar to that being employed by the Toronto area 'commoners' could get a diversity of view points together.

It would seem useful to have various stake holders including agricultural, recreational/tourism, angler-boater, 'tree hugger' and land owner, water plant operator, local government, water dependent industry and or thermo electric power producers, etc together perhaps via a webinar format to share their concerns and priorities and to explore who conflicts might be resolved through shared responsibility to the greater good and the future human and non human users of the lake.

Maybe some pertinent people could be invited to 'attend'. You might actually get some of the farmer- tourism-recreational industry people this time of year.

Coming soon I promise, a more entertaining tale of the past summer's adventures on the lake while boating!

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