Alliance for the Great Lakes, Great Lakes United, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and the National Wildlife Federation, in consultation with the Conservation Law Center, Inc., respectfully submit these comments in response to the Final Environmental Impact Statement: U.S. Coast Guard Rulemaking for Dry Cargo Residue Discharges in the Great Lakes, USCG-2004-19621 (â€œFinal EISâ€). As we noted in our comments of July 22, 2008 on the draft EIS and notice of proposed rulemaking (which are considered to be incorporated by reference into these comments), a shared priority of our four groups is to ensure that commercial navigation practices in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River do not have a deleterious impact on the basin freshwater ecosystem and dependant communities and economies.
We opposed the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) draft EIS and rulemaking to codify the practice of discharging dry cargo residues (DCR) into the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and all inland navigable waterways, and recommended the Coast Guard develop more appropriate regulations to improve management of cargo residues with the goal of bringing dry cargo dumping in the Great Lakes to an end. We believe that ending dry cargo dumping is the only alternative that is consistent with federal and international law.
While we maintain the above positions, and remain concerned about a full accounting of environmental impacts (including interacting and cumulative) of DCR discharges in the Great Lakes, we do acknowledge two improvements in the Final EIS:
Recognizing that adverse impacts to sediment habitat in protected and sensitive areas could occur with DCR discharges, and thus changing to â€œsignificantâ€ the level of impact for Alternatives 2, 3 and 4.
Consideration of mitigation options for protected and sensitive areas for Alternatives 2, 3, 4, and 5, including prohibitions on DCR discharges within 3 miles of five land-based protected and sensitive areas.
In addition, while we did not support the USCG preferred alternative (Alternative 2) in our comments on the draft EIS, we do recognize the strengthening of the USCG position concerning protected and sensitive areas in the Final EIS, whereby the preferred alternative would include all of the following:
Bans on DCR discharges within the boundaries of four protected areas.
Restrictions on DCR discharges within Green Bay and the Western Basin of Lake Erie.
Bans on DCR discharges within three miles of the shore of five land-based protected areas.
However, while we recognize these improvements to the USCG preferred alternative, DCR discharges under this policy would still be occurring in numerous other areas in the lakes (including some nearshore areas), adding to other ongoing stresses, including habitat degradation, nutrient enrichment, releases of toxic chemicals, and introduction and/or spread of invasive species.
Our groups maintain that the USCG can do much better. In the preferred alternative the USCG recognizes that additional policies may be needed to address the DCR problem, in noting: â€œIt is possible that the Coast Guard would continue considering additional steps or other regulatory methods for addressing the long-term impact of continued DCR discharges.â€5 We believe that the USCG should commit in this rulemaking to aggressively pursue additional steps and regulatory methods to reach the goal of eliminating deleterious DCR discharges in the Great Lakes.
In summary, we believe that, consistent with domestic law and international agreements, the overall goal should be elimination of DCR discharges in the Great Lakes. While the changes in the Final EIS reflect improvements in the U.S. Coast Guard preferred alternative policy, we maintain that a more aggressive policy that commits to developing steps and regulations that would eliminate dry cargo discharges in the Great Lakes should be pursued in the near-term. We believe such a policy can be adopted in a way that is both effective in preventing discharges and does not cause significant economic impacts.
Read the original transcript of the joint comment to the US Coast Guard here.