Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Niagara River 1 dbImage via Wikipedia

There are three major reasons that the funding proposal put forth by the Town of Lewiston, "Plateau Dog Park and Nature Preserve,should be denied funding at this time and for the proposed location.

1) The Greenway Commission has properly noted that the proposed location for the dog park is within the area of study already found consistent and funded by the Commission and appropriate standing committee: "Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim." The Commission voted to table the proposal for the dog park based on this observation. Nothing has changed with regard to this; the study of the gorge rim is not yet complete; the identical proposal for the dog park, with no change of location, now requests full funding.

For a standing committee to fund the dog park proposal would be to disregard this decision as if it were meaningless. While this action may be defensible in some circumstances, technically legal, in this instance it is not.

2) The Niagara River and its shorelines has been designated by the Audubon Society and others as a Globally Significant Important Bird Area, the first international area so designated. The Lewiston Plateau is within this area; the "Nature Preserve" of the plateau referred to in the dog park proposal title ("Plateau Dog Park and Nature Preserve")is therefore also within this area. The Nature Preserve, which has been established as a grassland for ground-nesting birds, is home this year to two nesting pairs of grasshopper sparrows, a species "of concern" in New York State, where their numbers are greatly diminished because of habitat loss. The presence of these birds have been documented by a well-known birder and we have photographic evidence. Other ground-nesting birds such as the meadowlark and bobolink are nesting there,

The current Nature Preserve is small, given the preferences of many ground-nesting species, including the grasshopper sparrow. We are fortunate to have them--and should be considering the enlargement of the Preserve, not establishing a dog park which will virtually ensure that a larger Preserve will not happen in the future.

3) The proposal itself is poorly written in terms of content and is, at the very least, misleading. At its worst, it might appear fraudulent to

a) There will be none of the applied for funds spent on the "Nature Preserve." Because it is a grass land, no "landscaping" is needed; landscaping, in fact would be detrimental to the Preserve; it would not, as is claimed by the proposal, "improve fauna and landscape."

b) What is proposed will not be in any way be "extending Olmsted's legacy."If, in fact, if the Olmsted vision had any relevance at all on the plateau, the proposed dog park would be destroying it. Anyone with even a scant knowledge of Olmsted's legacy, most visible in our area on Goat Island above the Falls, knows this to be a preposterous statement.

c) There are repeated references to the Nature Preserve in the proposal, which seem to be related to the following: a chain link fence will be erected along the boundary of the Preserve, to prevent the inadvertent loose dog(s) from the penned area of' the dog park from entering the Preserve. It is along this fence, probably believed to be unsightly, where trees ("landscaping") will be planted. These will not be of help to the "fauna" of the Preserve. They area cosmetic to hide a fence that wouldn't be there in the first place had a dog park not been contemplated for this location. That this mitigation is necessary calls the dog park location into question.

The proposal has checked "Environmental" on the application for funds. Putting a dog park in this category is a perversion of the word "environmental" by most generally perceived definitions.<

e) Under "Ecological Integrity" of the proposal is the following language:"...this project will improve the health, vitality, and of natural resources and wildlife habitats with and emphasis placed on restoring and retaining ecologically significant areas and natural landscapes in and over the water and inland."

A dog park provides none of these and to suggest it is capable of delivering them stretches credulity beyond the imagination.

I speak strongly against the funding of this proposal for a dog park (Nature Preserve shouldn't even be in the title) in this location. The Town of Lewiston should be encouraged to resubmit a revised proposal for a dog park in a different location.
Bob Baxter,
Niagara Frontier Wildlife Habitat Council Chair
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The Niagara River Greenway is a Rudderless Boat

The Niagara River Greenway is a rudderless boat

Author: Larry Beahan

Published Date: Jul 26, 2010 12:00 AM

The Niagara River Greenway is in danger of foundering in a cataract of well-meaning but disorganized and competing voices. The existence of a Greenway Commission sounds like someone is at the helm but the commission has no legal tools. It has no rudder.

More than 50 years ago, the New York Power Authority tapped the Niagara River to produce a bonanza of clean electric power. But the communities that contain the Niagara River have felt short-changed of its benefits. The Power Project, itself, mars the natural beauty of the gorge. The magnificent torrent of the falls is sapped of strength by water diversion. The chemical industries that it powers pollute the surroundings and tourists flock to the Canadian, not the American, falls.

Federal relicensing of the Power Project required reparations to these injured communities. The New York Power Authority and the state of New York arranged for the reparations to be delivered as $450 million over 50 years to fund a Niagara River Greenway. A Greenway Commission was appointed to develop a plan and make “recommendations” for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the Greenway.

An excellent plan was developed by the commission, but the implementation of the plan is faltering for lack of coordination. The actual money was awarded to four independent standing committees. They are required to ask only if the commission considers their spending proposals “consistent” with the Greenway Plan. But the Standing Committee may do whatever it wants after asking this advice.

I listened to Bob Kresse, the current Greenway Commission chairman, fume at a recent meeting. He watched a presentation by Wendel Duchscherer Architects on a plan for Greenway Signage funded by one of the standing committees. Many months ago the commission had found the proposal for the study “consistent” with the plan but had had no opportunity to influence this all-important matter of what the whole Greenway would look like, not even when signs were about to be painted.

I am Sierra Club representative to the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition, which has a seat on the Ecological Standing Committee. We spent $100,000 to fund a project which inside of the year will provide a plan for the ecological restoration of the Niagara Gorge rim.

In light of this study, the commission tabled a decision on a proposal by Lewiston to build a dog park that will endanger a songbird habitat. Despite this lack of a finding of consistency and disregarding the $100,000 ecological plan, the “host community standing committee” immediately funded the dog park.

Somebody needs to coordinate the spending of this $450 million in a reasonable, consistent and agreed-upon way. The Greenway Commission must be given a rudder.

Larry Beahan is Sierra Club representative to the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition.

© The Buffalo News

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Language of Bees

The Language of bees
Source: Environmental News Network, 24 February 2010

Bees communicate their floral findings in order to recruit other worker bees of the hive to forage in the same area. There are two main hypotheses to explain how foragers recruit other workers; the "waggle dance" theory and the "odor plume" theory. The dance language theory is far more widely accepted, and has far more empirical support.

Honeybees do not only waggle dance to tell hive mates the whereabouts of good eats, they also bump and beep to warn others when big trouble awaits at some of those floral diners according to a recent study.

In 1947, Karl von Frisch correlated the runs and turns of the dance to the distance and direction of the food source from the hive. The orientation of the dance correlates to the relative position of the sun to the food source, and the length of the waggle portion of the run is correlated to the distance from the hive. Also, the more vigorous the display is, the better the food.

There seem to be two types of dances: the circle for food less than 100 meters distant and the figure 8 for longer distances.

Now there is the discovery of the "stop" or warning signal as the first negative or "inhibitory" message ever found in bees.

Previously the only recognized messages were all about how good and where the nectar was at various locations relative to hive.

"Originally people called it a begging signal," said bee researcher James Nieh of the University of California at San Diego, regarding what was for 20 years considered a mysterious behavior. "It's usually produced by butting the head and giving a short beep" to another bee that is in the middle of providing information to the hive about a specific feeding site.

So Nieh and his assistants devised a series of experiments to simulate attacks by predatory crab spiders or by bees from competing colonies.

"In all causes we found yes, they all significantly increased 'stop' signals," Nieh confirmed. His results are reported in the February. 23 issue of the journal
For full story, please click HERE.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Youngstown Yacht Club Against Proposed WInd Turbines in Lake Ontario

Please help us by contacting the Niagara County, New York Legislators to voice your opposition against NYPA's Offshore Wind Turbine project and vote on the Niagara Gazette survey, links attached!

Please help us prior to the July 27th meeting of the Legislature.
Thanks for your help,
The Youngstown Yacht Club Board of Directors

The YYC Board is embroiled in a very significant effort to organize YYC Members and others in our community aligned in opposition to the New York Power Authority (NYPA's) Great Lakes Offshore Wind  (GLOW) project.

This project  is opposed by Fort Niagara, the Youngstown Village Council as well as towns or villages of Sardinia, Porter, Oswego, Greece, Hamburg and Cattaraugus County to name a few. The Niagara County Legislature initially supported this project but they are now having second thoughts. They will review this topic again at their July 27th meeting. We would like to have you help our cause by contacting the Niagara County Legislators on the list below and by emailing them to state your opposition to this project.

As mentioneded in [the YYC newsletter], Ripple's, NYPA's stated objective is to facilitate the installation of a wind turbine farm about 2 miles off the shore of Fort Niagara, from the mouth of the river to Wilson. The areas contiguous to this farm and radiating out 1/2 mile in all directions would likely be closed to recreational navigation. This would result in the loss of our Olympic Circle and the site of the Level Regatta. Theses functions cannot be moved further out as the depth of the lake is too great to set the race marks.

This problem goes far beyond the loss of a magnificent scenic vista and natural resource. The electrical power that would be produced by this farm of 450 foot tall turbines is unneeded in WNY so it will be  diverted downstate, as our excess power currently is. As this sporadically produced electrical power becomes available (wind turbines produce at capacity about 30% of the time) the most logical place to reduce output to maintain the needed balance in the grid would most likely be the Robert Moses generation facility in Lewiston (a very green facility).

Nuclear facilities don't spool up and down very efficiently and coal burning facilities like Somerset would have to be operating on standby mode in case the wind  is too strong or too light which happens frequently. The financial incentive to build these wind turbine farms go to the developers who will be chosen by NYPA and will receive long term Power Purchase Agreements  (PPA's) from NYPA guaranteeing the developers a much higher than the market price for electricity. This cost is then born by the rate payers. Tax credits from governments are also part of the incentive to entice developers to build these projects.

Remember the ethanol craze of a few years ago,  again transactions that made no economic sense without massive subsidies. The potential winners here are the wind turbine manufacturers, none of which are in the US. NYPA has spoken of thousands of jobs being created, but they will not be from the manufacture of the turbines. The installation of massive pedestals in the lake bed will require specialists in marine construction this will produce few if any jobs. The staging  port for such a project would have to be Rochester since no port in Niagara County can accommodate vessels of the size required to build out this project.

Here is how you can help.

1) Here is a link to the Niagara Gazette website, at the bottom of the home page is the spot to vote in their poll against the wind turbine project off the Niagara shore.

2) Below are a list of names of the Niagara County Legislators with hyperlinks to create emails directly to the members. Please click on each and state your opposition to the GLOW project. If you know how to copy and paste you can use the same text to each legislator and not have to retype them.

Thanks for your help.
John Reinhold,
Commodore YYC

Niagara County Legislature
Richard A Marasco
809 Vanderbilt Ave
Niagara Falls, NY 14305

Renee Kimble
3302 Hyde Park Blvd
Niagara Falls, NY 14305

Jason J Cafarella
2259 Forest Ave
Niagara Falls, NY 14301

Dennis F. Virtuoso
2703 Independence Ave
Niagara Falls, NY 14301

Vincent M Sandonato
824 91st Street
Niagara Falls, NY 14304
Danny W Sklarski
2119 Tuscarora Rd
Niagara Falls, NY14304

Gerald K Farnham
5460 Hinman Road
Lockport, NY 14094

William L Ross
6761 Walmore Rd
Niagara Falls, NY 14304

Philip "Russ" Rizzo
590 William St
North Tonawanda, NY 14120

Peter E Smolinski
449 Robert Dr
N. Tonawanda, NY 14120

Paul B Wojtaszek
30 Sherwood Ct.
N. Tonawanda, NY 14120

John D Ceretto
685 Cayuga Dr.
Lewiston, NY 14092

Clyde L Burmaster
2515 Parker Rd
Ransomville, NY 14131

David E Godfrey
4821 Lake Rd
Burt, NY 14028

Anthony J Nemi
87 S New York St
Lockport, NY 14094

Wm Keith McNall
739 Willow St
Lockport, NY 14094

Richard E Updegrove
4688 Day Rd
Lockport, NY 14094

John Syracuse
6091 Condron Rd
Newfane, NY 14108

Michael A Hill
3464 Stone Rd
Middleport, NY 14105

Dog Park Environmental Issues

Dog fecesImage via Wikipedia
Apparently a couple of people who sit on the Niagara River Greenway Commission (NRGC) and vote on the submitted projects neglected to mention the letter read to the Host Community Standing Committee that rescinded the statement that the Town of Lewiston dog park is not within the Wild Ones Niagara project boundary. It is. The Lewiston Plateau dog park was also almost completely installed by the time it came before the NRGC for the second time for a consistency vote. Kudos to Robert Kresse, the Niagara River Greenway Commission chair, for abstaining to vote on the recent round of greenway proposals this week.

The Host Community Standing Committee (HCSC) also ignored a request for an Environmental Impact Assessment, although the HCSC chairperson did ask the grant writer if he noted the request. He did. They unanimously voted fund the dog park regardless.

Here are some dog park statistics and their environmental impacts. The document provided was produced at the request of the Planning and Development Depart in Lowell, Mass. It can be read HERE. Below is a summary of the document written by Dillon Sussman of the Conway School of Landscape Design.

Aesthetic Issues of Dog Waste
1. It's unsightly, smelly, and messy
2. Dog waste can spread harmful bacteria and parasites
3. Excess nutrients are released from dog waste creating "nutrient pollution."

Dog waste is cited as the 3rd or 4th largest contributor of bacterial pollution in urban watersheds. E coli, salmonella and giardia readily infect humans and can cause serious illness or death. Parasites: hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms can be passed from dog feces to humans. Typically transmission occurs when skin comes into contact with the larva. Roundworm eggs can’t be seen by human eyes. They hatch in human intestines and attacks can include attacking the retina, causing blindness.

Each gram of dog feces can contain 23 million fecal coliform colonies.

A study done at a Seattle watershed found 20 percent of bacteria in water could be attributed to dogs (EPA, 2001).

Dog feces has higher phosphorous rates than that found in cow manure, broiler chicken litter or swine manure.

Anyone that owns a dog knows urine burns grass. It contains nitrogen. The higher the concentration and more frequently applied, the worse the problem becomes. The contaminated runoff can lead to serious water quality problems.

The EPA says nutrient pollution is “worthy of environment concern." Nutrient pollution has consistently ranked as one of the top causes of degradation in some US waters for more than a decade. (EPA website, 2008)

Dog parks may amplify the aesthetic, sanitary and environmental problems caused by dog waste by concentrating it in smaller areas. (Lewiston fenced 1.3 acres for approximately 1,600 dogs.)

Most smaller dog parks host 50 dogs at a time and they are often overrun with dog droppings. A 1998 Los Angeles study counted 2,000 dogs using a 3 /4 acre park in a single week.  The average dog produces 3 /4 pounds of poop every day. 1,000 dogs doing their daily duty in a park will produce 750 pounds of excrement in a week. The park will be speckled with approximately 1 poop every 33 square feet. There isn’t room for it to decompose as it does in the open. Even if picked up and removed it may leave bacteria and parasites behind.

Why the dog park is an item of concern for the grassland habitat at the Lewiston (NY) Plateau Wildlife Refuge located on the Niagara River Gorge Rim.
The negative effects of excess nutrients in a Boulder, Colorado dog park found that native grasses, which are accustomed to low nitrogen levels were unable to compete with nitrogen-loving exotic-invasive species that flourished when dog waste increased on the site (Watson, 2002)
Environmental Impact of Dog Waste
San Francisco recently determined that pet waste accounted for 4 percent of their residential waste stream (Jones, 2006)

Typically, dog waste is picked up in plastic bags and taken to a landfill. Plastic bags do not decompose for decades, effectively mummifying the waste and taking up valuable landfill space. Dog waste decomposition also produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

Flushing dog feces down the toilet has mixed results. Many wastewater facilities are already over taxed and are unable to process the waste. Some found dog feces to be very hard; it blocked their machinery.

It’s possible to mitigate the harmful effects of a dog park, however, it hinges on dog park surfaces and water handling. Few dog park designers seem to consider where the contaminated water will go once it leaves the park’s fence. Decomposed granite is popular. It’s impervious to water. It must be watered to keep the dust down, but it runs off the surface carrying fecal and urinary residue with it.

Regular watering, intensive mowing regimens, overseeding, and fertilization may help maintain a grassy surface. Periodic closure of a dog park gives grass time to recover. (Arvasin, 2003, Burkhardt, date unknown)

There's no water at the Lewiston Plateau.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lincoln Nutting's Flowering Plants of Western New York

Monarda fistulosa, bergamot, Mint Family

Lincoln Nutting, a photographer and naturalist, has photographed an A-Z list of Western New York's flowering plants. The website (link HERE) states everyone has permission to download and use his images. The only request is for the user to "please credit Lincoln Nutting, the Eckert Herbarium, and Buffalo State College."

The native plant pictured is a pollinator favorite. Its common name is bee balm.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Letter to the Editor

"The song birds that brighten spring mornings have been in decline since the 1960's, having lost 40% of their numbers. Birds that breed in meadows are in even more trouble. Once common species such as the northern bobwhite, eastern meadowlark, field sparrow, and grasshopper sparrow have declined 82, 72, 68, and 65%, in total numbers, and are completely absent from many areas that used to support healthy populations. For most of us, hearing such numbers triggers a passing sadness, but few people feel personally threatened by the loss of biodiversity.

Here is why every one of us should feel threatened. Here is why it matters. Losses to biodiversity are a clear sign that our own life-support systems are failing. The ecosystems that support us-that determine the carrying capacity of our Earth and our local spaces--are run by biodiversity. It is biodiversity that generates oxygen and clean water, creates topsoil out of rock, buffers extreme weather events like droughts and floods, pollinates our crops, and recycles the mountains of garbage we create every day." (Doug Tallamy. Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, author Bringing Nature Home, Wild Ones member)

Grasslands, like those at the Lewiston Plateau Wildlife Refuge, provide valuable ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, storm water control, water filtration, absorption of air pollutants, oxygen production, habitat for rare birds and butterflies and agricultural pollinators. Grasslands also provide social benefits through enhanced recreational and tourism opportunities and education.

Wild Ones Niagara advocates for open space preservation and stewardship, biodiversity through local ecotype preservation (native plant communities), and Creative Tourism. Our region’s grasslands, woodlands, and ancient old growth forests have the potential to provide us with billions in economic and socioeconomic benefits. Our Niagara River Greenway (NRG) project, Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim, has never been done. It elevates the Niagara River Greenway Plan to an exceptional level of excellence. At its core, reclamation, restoration, and a positive economic benefit assessment for all of Lewiston, Niagara Falls, and the Niagara River Greenway region. It includes the Lewiston Plateau Wildlife Refuge, the site of a future dog park.

The Wild Ones Niagara project lacks malice. They asked the NRG Commission to support the fully funded project by tabling the consistency determination for the dog park. That happened. The next day, the dog park proposal applied for funds from the Niagara County Host Community Standing Committee. They also were asked for a stay to complete the evaluations. Lewiston refused, claiming private land ownership. They were funded without a NRG consistency determination.

Why circumvent a regional process and research? On 27 May 2010 a request letter to the Lewiston Supervisor concluded, “At the end of the day, it’s not that programs and projects are about reclamation and restoration; it’s that they are also about education. Education in these financially challenging times is what is going to save us.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

WNY Media Offers Observations About the Niagara River Greenway

The City of Buffalo finds many ways to FAIL. They can’t hire a qualified police chief in a transparent matter. They can’t partner with a national low income housing firm without demanding kickbacks like a petulant child. And the only way they help an urban farm is get out of the way, when everything in their being wants to restrict and stop. One would think all the ways to FAIL had been taken. Oh, you naive soul. No, now we can’t even spend our own money.

On this page I have previously tried to make sense of the forgotten and neglected Niagara River Greenway Commission. A quick refresher: as part of the New York Power Authority relicensing agreement, $9 million a year is available to be spent on park, tourist, and environmental projects all along the Niagara River, from Buffalo to Fort Niagara. This being New York, however, nothing is easy and simple. The Commission, created by state law, is charged with planning and promotion functions. However, they spend none of the money. That is left to four “standing committees,” made up various civic and political leaders. The Commission declares a certain project (rehabbing La Salle Park, for instance) to be “consistent,” and then the standing committee for that project spends the money.

These standing committees display various levels of competence. While all organized by the New York Power Authority, they show various abilities to even update their websites. I am willing to give credit where it is due: the Ecological Standing Committee is the most organized, with project statuses and updates listed, and even a helpful map of project locations (your humble correspondent requested such web-based updates at a Commission meeting last year – coincidence? Probably.

But back to the FAIL. The Buffalo and Erie County committee has thus far been completely unable to get out of its own way. It is made up of only four members: Kathy Konst (Erie County), Sue Gonzalez (Buffalo), Robert Daly (NYPA), and Anne Joyce (Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy). And yet this four member committee has spent less than 5% of the monies allocated to it so far in over three years of existence.
Tracking the money and dysfunction is challenging because of the incomplete records on the website: only one annual report is listed, and no meeting minutes are available for over a year in 2009-2010. But from discussions with local sources, in addition to the public records, the following emerges:

Kathy Konst and Sue Gonzalez are new to the game. They first appear in public records on February 23rd, 2010 in meeting minutes. Before that Holly Sinnott (previous Erie County planner) and Karen Fleming (City Division of Urban Affairs) were their organization’s representatives, and in their two and half year tenure, not a thing happened. The 2009 Annual Report for the Committee cheekily describes it this way:
The Committee began organizing in 2007 and in the spring of 2008 adopted Committee Protocols. One of the Agreement Commitments was for the Committee to appoint a Trustee. The process consumed a great deal of time, the Committee entered into a Trustee agreement with the Bank of America in September 2009 [sic].

That’s right – it took half a year to agree on the ground rules, and two years to find a bank account. Its not that the committee members disagreed on philosophy, which projects to fund, or anything remotely substantial. They couldn’t figure out who should sign the checks and spend the money. After two and half years of wrangling, Bank of America was brought on to keep the money, and the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo to manage it. In 2009, these services cost $20,191 – $5,500 in bank fees to BofA, and $14,651 in project management fees to CFGB. To watch six projects that haven’t happened yet.

Yes, that’s right, it gets better. Once the committee put most of its shit in same box (October 2009, according to the report), NYPA agreed to transfer over $6 million for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Out of that $6 million, the committee has agreed how to spend $3.6 million of it. And how much of that cash has actually been spent? $360K – 5% of the total handed to it by the relicensing agreement. $340K to BOPC to get started planning two projects, and $20K in fees referenced above. $5.6 million still sits in that BofA account, as of January 2010, presumably racking up banking fees.

There are projects announced in 2008 that still haven’t seen a dime, not because the money isn’t available, but because of general incompetence. The Olmsted Parks Conservancy, a generally reputable and forward looking group, has finally managed to move ahead on planning projects for Scajaquada Creek, Riverside Park, and La Salle Park. Grand Island is still waiting on money for Fisherman’s Landing. But what’s the hurry – its not like Buffalo is a poor city or in the midst of a national recession.

Our community pays attention to funny things. $250K for a failed restaurant makes tons of news. Colin Dabkowski at the Buffalo News writes weekly columns on the tragedy of $5M in county (non)spending on arts and culturals. But $9 million of waterfront spending on a wide swath of Western New York gets barely a yawn? The mismanagement of our regional resources and lack of coherent attention span is astounding.

The WNYMedia post is available HERE.

Study of Wildness Plants Offers Insight to Climate Change

The types of trees, where the stands of these trees start and stop are changing, and so we need to understand without the touch of man, what is naturally happening within climate change on it’s own, to  help us figure out the best steps forward as we unravel the great big mysteries around climate change.

Jensen adds beyond an indicator of climate change, areas like the West Chicagof-Yakobi Wilderness may offer possibilities we haven’t yet considered. Read the entire article HERE.