Cost of keeping Asian carp from Great Lakes nearly triples
By JOHN FLESHER
AP Environmental Writer
Wednesday, November 28
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Fortifying an Illinois waterway to prevent invasive carp from using it as a path to Lake Michigan could cost nearly three times as much as federal planners previously thought, according to an updated report.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week released a final strategy plan for upgrading the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, which experts consider a good location to block upstream movement of Asian carp that have infested the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
Scientists warn that if the voracious carp become established in the Great Lakes, they could out-compete native species and harm the region’s $7 billion fishing industry.
The Corps’ new plan is similar to a draft from August 2017, but the estimated price tag has jumped from $275 million to nearly $778 million.
“Basically during the past year, some additional engineering and design work changed the scope to bring it up to that current cost,” Allen Marshall, spokesman for the Corps’ district office in Rock Island, Illinois, said Wednesday.
The biggest increase is for building an “engineered channel” at Brandon Road. The lock-and-dam complex is on the Des Plaines River, which forms part of the waterway link between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi.
Under the plan, the channel would contain devices including an electric barrier, noisemakers and an air bubble curtain to deter fish from swimming upstream and remove those that don’t turn back. The adjacent lock would be retooled to flush away unwanted species floating on the water.
The draft had proposed using water jets to dislodge fish that might be stunned or caught in gaps between barges. But the new version says a better method would be generating a continuous, dense curtain of air bubbles in the channel.
The Army Corps is accepting public comments through Dec. 24 and expects to submit the plan to Congress in February. Its timetable envisions congressional authorization and initial funding next year and the signing of building contracts by July 2020, with work completed by March 2027.
Several states that border the lakes, including Michigan and Illinois, agreed previously to discuss sharing the costs. The escalating price could complicate those negotiations.
“Now that the cost has nearly tripled to $778 million, we need to have a better understanding of how this project, with all the proposed components, actually reduces the risk of Asian carp and other invasive species getting into our Great Lakes in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Ed Cross, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Tammy Newcomb, water policy adviser for the Michigan DNR, acknowledged feeling “sticker shock” but said it shouldn’t derail the project.
“Given the costs of Asian carp invading our Great Lakes, inaction is not an option,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force.
Illinois officials and business groups have questioned the need to drastically re-engineer the lock and dam — particularly if it would slow barge traffic on the busy commercial waterway.
Lynn Muench, a senior vice president of the American Waterways Operators, which represents barge companies, said the Army Corps report sidesteps whether Asian carp are likely to reach Lake Michigan in sufficient numbers to thrive. It also has no cost-benefit analysis of the proposed deterrents, she said.
Meanwhile, environmentalists were concerned that the Army Corps budget for next year includes no money for pre-construction engineering and design work to get things moving.
“How serious is the Trump administration about getting this project constructed if they haven’t put the necessary funding in to keep it moving on schedule?” said Molly Flanagan, a vice president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
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The surprising way plastics could actually help fight climate change
November 29, 2018
Authors: Joseph Rollin, Postdoctoral Researcher in Bioenergy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Jenna E. Gallegos, Postdoctoral Researcher in Chemical and Biological Engineering, Colorado State University
Disclosure statement: Joseph Rollin receives funding from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Jenna E. Gallegos does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Colorado State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
What do your car, phone, soda bottle and shoes have in common? They’re all largely made from petroleum. This nonrenewable resource gets processed into a versatile set of chemicals called polymers – or more commonly, plastics. Over 5 billion gallons of oil each year are converted into plastics alone.
Polymers are behind many important inventions of the past several decades, like 3D printing. So-called “engineering plastics,” used in applications ranging from automotive to construction to furniture, have superior properties and can even help solve environmental problems. For instance, thanks to engineering plastics, vehicles are now lighter weight, so they get better fuel mileage. But as the number of uses rises, so does the demand for plastics. The world already produces over 300 million tons of plastic every year. The number could be six times that by 2050.
Petro-plastics aren’t fundamentally all that bad, but they’re a missed opportunity. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Switching from petroleum-based polymers to polymers that are biologically based could decrease carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons every year. Bio-based polymers are not only renewable and more environmentally friendly to produce, but they can actually have a net beneficial effect on climate change by acting as a carbon sink. But not all bio-polymers are created equal.
You may have encountered “bioplastics” before, as disposable utensils in particular – these plastics are derived from plants instead of oil. Such bio-polymers are made by feeding sugars, most often from sugar cane, sugar beets, or corn, to microorganisms that produce precursor molecules that can be purified and chemically linked together to form polymers with various properties.
Plant-derived plastics are better for the environment for two reasons. First, there is a dramatic reduction in the energy required to manufacture plant-based plastics – by as much as 80 percent. While each ton of petroleum-derived plastic generates 2 to 3 tons of CO₂, this can be reduced to about 0.5 tons of CO₂ per ton of bio-polymer, and the processes are only getting better.
Second, plant-based plastics can be biodegradable, so they don’t accumulate in landfills.
While it’s great for disposables like plastic forks to biodegrade, sometimes a longer lifetime is important – you probably wouldn’t want the dashboard of your car to slowly turn into a pile of mushrooms over time. Many other applications require the same type of resilience, such as construction materials, medical devices and home appliances. Biodegradable bio-polymers are also not recyclable, meaning more plants need to be grown and processed continually to meet demand.
Bio-polymers as carbon storage
Plastics, no matter the source, are mainly made of carbon – about 80 percent by weight. While petroleum-derived plastics don’t release CO₂ in the same way that burning fossil fuels does, they also don’t help sequester any of the excess of this gaseous pollutant – the carbon from liquid oil is simply converted into solid plastics.
Bio-polymers, on the other hand, are derived from plants, which use photosynthesis to convert CO₂, water and sunlight to sugars. When these sugar molecules are converted into bio-polymers, the carbon is effectively locked away from the atmosphere – as long as they’re not biodegraded or incinerated. Even if bio-polymers end up in a landfill, they will still serve this carbon storage role.
CO₂ is only about 28 percent carbon by weight, so polymers comprise an enormous reservoir in which to store this greenhouse gas. If the current world annual supply of around 300 million tons of polymers were all non-biodegradable and bio-based, this would equate to a gigaton — a billion tons — of sequestered CO₂, about 2.8 percent of current global emissions. In a recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlined capturing, storing and reusing carbon as a key strategy for mitigating climate change; bio-based polymers could make a key contribution, up to 20 percent of the CO₂ removal required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The non-degradable biopolymer market
Current carbon sequestration strategies, including geological storage that pumps CO₂ exhaust underground or regenerative agriculture that stores more carbon in the soil, lean heavily on policy to drive the desired outcomes.
While these are critical mechanisms for climate change mitigation, the sequestration of carbon in the form of bio-polymers has the potential to harness a different driver: money.
Competition based on price alone has been challenging for bio-polymers, but early successes show a path toward greater penetration. One exciting aspect is the ability to access new chemistries not currently found in petroleum-derived polymers.
Consider recyclability. Few traditional polymers are truly recyclable. These materials actually are most often downcycled, meaning they’re suitable only for low-value applications, such as construction materials. Thanks to the tools of genetic and enzyme engineering, however, properties like complete recyclability – which allows the material to be used repeatedly for the same application – can be designed into bio-polymers from the beginning.
Bio-polymers today are based largely on natural fermentation products of certain species of bacteria, such as the production by Lactobacillus of lactic acid – the same product that provides the tartness in sour beers. While these constitute a good first step, emerging research suggests the true versatility of bio-polymers is set to be unleashed in the coming years. Thanks to the modern ability to engineer proteins and modify DNA, custom design of bio-polymer precursors is now in reach. With it, a world of new polymers become possible – materials in which today’s CO₂ will reside in a more useful, more valuable form.
For this dream to be realized, more research is needed. While early examples are here today – like the partially bio-based Coca-Cola PlantBottle – the bioengineering required to achieve many of the most promising new bio-polymers is still in the research stage – like a renewable alternative to carbon fiber that could be used in everything from bicycles to wind turbine blades.
Government policies supporting carbon sequestration would also help drive adoption. With this kind of support in place, significant use of bio-polymers as carbon storage is possible as soon as the next five years – a timeline with the potential to make a significant contribution to helping solve the climate crisis.
COLUMBUS ZOO NAMED CORPORATION OF THE YEAR BY THE OHIO MINORITY SUPPLIER DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
Powell, OH – The Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council (OMSDC) recognized the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium with its Corporation of the Year Award during the OMSDC’s 2018 Annual Awards Gala on November 16 at the Savannah Center in West Chester, Ohio.
The Gala is OMSDC’s signature event and highlights the growth and success of Minority Business Enterprises and the commitment to supplier diversity by the corporate members in the region. The Columbus Zoo received this highly respected award for its Supplier Diversity Program, which ensures a continued commitment to utilizing diverse suppliers for products and services purchased by the Zoo, as well as providing maximum opportunity for certified diverse suppliers that include minority, disabled, veteran, and women-owned business enterprises interested in conducting business with the Zoo.
The award was presented by President and CEO of Che International Group Christopher Che and President of Polymer Technologies and Services, Inc. Sharad Thakkar, Ph.D., to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell and Director of Purchasing Tracy Murnane, who accepted the award on behalf of the Zoo.
“We are honored that the OMSDC has selected the Columbus Zoo to receive the Corporation of the Year Award, and we see this award both as a success for the Zoo and, moreover, the business community. We are extremely proud to work with the many great Minority Business Enterprises in Central Ohio and beyond, and we look forward to continue building upon these strong relationships and together work toward expanding these professional opportunities in the future,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf.
“The Corporation of the Year Award is presented to members like the Columbus Zoo, who exhibit strong support for OMSDC’s certified Minority Business Enterprise community,” OMSDC President & CEO Jacqueline D. Neal said. “We’re proud to present this award to the Zoo and celebrate their work and efforts toward advancing supplier diversity initiatives in Ohio.”
Through the Columbus Zoo’s Supplier Diversity Program, the Zoo searches for suppliers who can help the Zoo deliver exceptional guest experiences and continue its commitment to conservation and education. The Zoo also strives to form strong bonds with its surrounding communities and help women- and minority-owned businesses thrive whenever and wherever possible and ensure that diverse suppliers have a full opportunity to be considered for the Zoo’s business.
In 2017, the Zoo purchased over $6 million worth of products and services from Minority Business Enterprises certified by the OMSDC, ranging from commercial building construction and printing to safety equipment and architectural and engineering services.
About the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also manages The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; annually contributing more than $4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.
About the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council
The Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council (OMSDC), an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing a direct link between Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) and its Corporate Members. Founded in 1972, the OMSDC certifies minority businesses, provides MBEs with access to procurement opportunities, and assists Corporations in the development and maintenance of effective corporate supplier diversity programs. Over the past four decades, OMSDC has been a bridge between corporate America and minority owned businesses. Every year, OMSDC’s Corporate Members spend more than $7 billion with MBEs certified by the Council. For more information about the Council, please visit www.OhioMSDC.org.