Proof that the environment can get better - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Commentary

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Proof that the environment can get better

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 11:00 pm

Next week is the 40th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire, an event that has come to symbolize environmental degradation. The current condition of the river symbolizes something else worth recalling in the wake of Earth Day: environmental improvement, from abysmal conditions.

On June 22, 1969, an oil slick on the Cuyahoga River caught fire and burned for 20 minutes, causing $50,000 in damage to a railway trestle. There had been more serious river fires, including one on the same river in 1936 that burned for five days. A few years after the 1969 fire, a federal report found that the lower Cuyahoga had "no visible signs of life," not even leeches and sludge worms that thrive on waste.

During the 1980s, the federal Environmental Protection Agency began assessing fish populations in the stretch of the river from Akron to Cleveland. Biologists would return with only 10 actual fish - not fish from 10 species. In the summer of 2008, in the same stretch of the river, biologists found 40 different species of fish, including steelhead trout and northern pike.

"It's been an absolutely amazing recovery," Steve Tuckerman of the Ohio EPA told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I wouldn't have believed that this section of the river would have this dramatic of a turnaround in my career, but it has."

Indeed, in 2009, the Cuyahoga is expected to meet the federal Clean Water Act's stringent standard for healthy habitat for aquatic life. But federal action has not always proved beneficial for water quality and fish populations.

Before the 1969 fire, local officials in Ohio aimed to tackle pollution with a $100-million bond issue to finance cleanup, litigation against polluters, and greater enforcement of state water pollution control statutes. Such measures received a great deal of support from the Cleveland business community. In contrast, the federal government provided "not one dime" of assistance despite the Cuyahoga's role as a serious polluter of Lake Erie, a major interstate water body.

The Cuyahoga is not the only body of water to show improvement. Whitefish are again spawning in the Detroit River, for the first time in decades. There is also some good news for commercial fishermen. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), assesses more than 500 discrete fisheries in the coastal waters of the United States. The general finding of the NMFS 2008 report is that U.S. fisheries are improving at a rapid pace.

Seven stocks are no longer subject to overfishing, writes NMFS administrator James Balsiger, four stocks have increased biomass and are no longer overfished, and three stocks have been "fully rebuilt." Further, no stocks have been found to be subjected to overfishing, and the number of overfished stocks has decreased from 47 to 45. Those stocks that are overfished stand to benefit from a different approach to conservation.

Science magazine has discovered what market-oriented environmentalists have known for two decades, that applying property rights to fisheries is an effective way of protecting and enhancing fish stocks. Or, as the headline in Science put it last Sept. 19, "Privatization Prevents Collapse of Fish Stocks, Global Analysis Shows." Science estimates that global adoption of property rights for fisheries could have reduced fisheries collapse by nearly two-thirds, from roughly 26 percent to about 9 percent.

This year is also the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster, in which a tanker spilled more than 10 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound in Alaska. Twenty years later, the sound has returned almost completely to its pre-spill condition. Polycyclic aromatic and saturated hydrocarbons (PAH and SHC) in mussels and ocean-bed sediment are trending to very low near-pristine background levels, according to a report in Marine Pollution Bulletin.

There is a long way to go on some fronts, but environmental improvement deserves recognition. On the lower Cuyahoga and elsewhere, there is good reason to celebrate. Go fishing for a change.


K. Lloyd Billingsley is director of editorial services at the California-based Pacific Research Institute.

More about

More about

More about

  • Discuss

Arizona HS Student Forced To Remove “Black Lives Matter” T-Shirt

0 Comments Jack Flash BUCKEYE, Ariz. – When Mariah Havard arrived at Buckeye High School for picture day Tuesday wearing a Black Lives Matter …

Published: August 29, 2016 - 12:51 pm @…

Despite Mixed Signals, Trump Continues to Embrace Hardline on Immigration

Donald Trump has sparked a flurry of confusion about his stance on immigration, a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, with mixed signals…

Published: August 29, 2016 - 12:49 pm @…

Music For Surgery

advertisement Find more information on Dr. Weil and integrative medicine. The premiere resource for in-depth, timely, trustworthy i…

Published: August 29, 2016 - 12:51 pm @…

Constitutional Carry right for Missouri

On June 12 of this year, an armed madman stormed into a nightclub in Florida and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others in the …

Published: August 29, 2016 - 12:26 pm @…

Scottsdale Quarter slates fifth annual fall concert series

Cooler temperatures are around the corner and that’s just one more reason to enjoy evenings at Scottsdale Quarter with favorite Valley bands. …

Published: August 29, 2016 - 12:24 pm @…

New York City’s famed The Halal Guys are opening restaurant in Tempe

The Halal Guys, the famous street carts that have been selling Middle Eastern food in New York City for 25 years, are coming to the Valley. Ac…

Published: August 29, 2016 - 12:20 pm @…

Officials: Hackers breach election systems in Illinois, Arizona

Hackers accessed an Illinois Board of Elections database, compromising up to 200,000 records The FBI alerted the Arizona Department of Adminis…

Published: August 29, 2016 - 11:46 am @…

‘Foreign hackers’ accessed Arizona, Illinois election databases

Get short URL A secret FBI memo urged states to beef up the security of their voter databases, blaming unspecified “foreign hackers” for two i…

Published: August 29, 2016 - 11:45 am @

Exclusive — Breitbart/Gravis Arizona Poll Shows Razor Thin Margin Between John McCain, Kelli Ward Heading into Election

Ward, a former state senator who stepped down from that post to focus on the U.S. Senate race, trails McCain with Arizona Republicans by just …

Published: August 29, 2016 - 11:43 am @…

Gary Johnson: Build a better immigration system, not a wall

Gary Johnson: Our politicians, both right and left, have created a system for legal immigration that simply doesn't work Our bureaucracy makes…

Published: August 29, 2016 - 11:47 am @…

Facebook on Facebook

Twitter on Twitter


Subscribe to via RSS

RSS Feeds


Most Popular

Online poll