Thursday, May 24, 2007

Invasive-Species Relief Sought for Great Lakes

A coalition of conservation groups called yesterday for a voluntary moratorium on the use of oceangoing vessels in the Great Lakes to stop the spread of invasive species. They noted that a nonnative fish virus known as VHS is killing fish across the lakes and that the invasive zebra mussel initially introduced in the Great Lakes have been found as far away as Lake Mead in Nevada.

"The Great Lakes are ground zero for freshwater invasives coming into America," said Jennifer Nalbone, Great Lakes United's director for navigation and invasive species. "It is not just a Great Lakes problem; it's a national problem."

Aquatic invasive species account for an estimated $5 billion a year in damage and control costs. Oceangoing vessels account for about 7 percent of Great Lakes traffic, according to the coalition. A recent study by researchers at Grand Valley State University showed that diverting their cargo to rail, barge and truck routes would cost about $55 million per year.

The coalition said the moratorium would be a stopgap measure until Congress passes legislation, which has been stalled for five years, to require the treatment and monitoring of ballast water. Michigan has enacted a law on invasive species, but it is being challenged in court by shipping interests. Legislators in other states have discussed similar bills.

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· TALLAHASSEE -- The family of a teenager who died after being roughed up by juvenile boot-camp guards last year will receive $5 million under a bill signed by Gov. Charlie Crist (R) . Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died in January 2006 shortly after being kneed and struck and having ammonia tablets held to his nose at the military-style facility run by the Bay County Sheriff's Office in Panama City. The state has already paid Anderson's parents $200,000, the most allowed by law without legislative approval. The bill signed by Crist will pay the remaining $4.8 million.

· CHICAGO -- Disorderly-conduct charges were dropped against the Cary-Grove High School senior who wrote a violent class essay shortly after the Virginia Tech massacre. "We believe, as the school did, that Mr. Lee is not a threat to himself, his teacher, his classmates, the principal or the school," McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi said after the hearing. The dropping of the charges means that Allen Lee, 18, will be eligible to enlist in the Marines. The Marine Corps canceled his enlistment when the charges were filed.

· NEW YORK -- Philanthropist and retired hedge-fund manager Robert W. Wilson said he is giving $22.5 million to the Archdiocese of New York to fund a scholarship program for needy inner-city students attending Roman Catholic schools. Wilson, 80, said in a phone interview that although he is an atheist, he has no problem donating money to a fund linked to Catholic schools.

· RIO VISTA, Calif. -- Hope dimmed for two lost, wounded whales as scientists spotted the humpbacks wildly slapping their tails on the water in possible distress as they lingered far from their ocean home. Deep cuts on the mother whale and her calf, likely caused by a run-in with a boat, were worsening after more than a week in freshwater surroundings that the pair are not physically well equipped to inhabit, biologists said.

-- From Staff Reports and News Services

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