Help protect vegetation – in Committee on Capitol Hill right now

Army Corps of Engineers guidelines

Now, we are looking forward to understanding the process of riverbank vegetation removal…

1) Who gets to decide what trees and plants are removed?
2) Who gets to decide what native vegetation is appropriate and should not be removed?
3) Will “they” continue to spray the rip-rap (large rocks) with Rodeo (herbicide) twice per year even though the vegetation does not present an unacceptable safety risk?

This measure would prohibit “the removal of existing vegetation as a condition or requirement of any approval or funding of a project, or any other action, unless the specific vegetation has been demonstrated to present an unacceptable safety risk,” according to Indiana State Representative Marlin Stutzman. (Journal Gazette. Fort Wayne, IN. October 23, 2013)

4) What are the next steps to review riparian areas in Fort Wayne, to uphold this newly passed legislation?

U.S. Congress Levee Bill Overview
Update May 21, 2014 The BILL PASSED  ~ YEAH! 

SEC. 2020. VEGETATION MANAGEMENT POLICY

March 7, 2014

Indiana Federal Senator Joe Donnelly supports the Bill and his Office expects the Bill to be voted upon within the next 2 months. The Conference Committee Chair is California Federal Senator Barbara Boxer.

Indiana Federal Senator Dan Coats supports the Bill and his office expects the Bill to be voted upon within the next few months.  “We are supporting the Bill, as long as there are not earmarks added that we do not agree with.”

I. January 27, 2014

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013, on October 23, 2013. The U.S. Senate passed S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013, on May 15, 2013. The two chambers are now in the process of conferencing their bills.

 

 II. Explanation of Legislative Process

Conference committees operate after the House and the Senate have passed different versions of a bill. Conference committees exist to draft a compromise bill that both houses can accept. Both houses of Congress must eventually pass the identical legislation for the bill to become law. The two houses can reach that identical product through the process of amendments between Houses, where the House passes the Senate bill with a House amendment, or vice versa, but this process can be cumbersome. Thus most major bills become law through using a conference committee.

III. Current practices of the Army Corps of Engineers document:

A. “Guidelines for landscape planting and vegetation management at levees, floodwalls, embankment dams and appurtenant structures. (ETL 1110-2-571)” DOWNLOAD HERE:

2014 Version: Guidelines for landscape planting and vegetation management at levees, floodwalls, embankment dams and appurtenant structures. (ETL 1110-2-571)

B. Background
1. ACE made a blanket statement for the entire USA due to the levee breech during 2009’s Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA.

C. Rodeo (only DNR approved herbicide) broadcast spraying (rather than spot spraying) on ALL rip-rap (stones on the side of river) to keep any and all vegetation from growing, for inspection purposes only.
1. This continues to be a practice that should be reviewed in this study as well

D. In addition to the 2X/year vegetation removal ON the rip-rap, ACE is putting pressure on the Board of Public Works to remove more vegetation from stream banks in addition to the riverbanks that have already been rip-rapped.

E. ACE needs to define what they consider “water retention”.
1. Are these areas required to have a levee structure on it?  Have natural alternatives been thoroughly researched by the Corps? Contradiction has been consistent throughout ACE’s  history on such critical issues. Discussion on levee maintenance contradictions.

IV. Progression of the Bill

October 23, 2013 Legislation Introduced: Levee-clearing mandate challenged; Stutzman amendment halts arbitrary removal of trees unless the specific vegetation has been demonstrated to present an unacceptable safety risk

October 24th, Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman PASSED a bill that will halt the arbitrary removal of trees, helping to protect the natural spaces needed to filter water, retain native life, hold soil down and save Indiana taxpaying funds $25 million!

V.  How Save Maumee helped this legislation to develop

It took many of us relaying facts about retaining natural unmowed spaces next to waterways to push this issue forward.

A. Rep. Stutzman was walked to his car by Abigail King at the Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor Annual Member Meeting, and informed him about levee & vegetation issues.

B. Indiana State Rep. Electoral Candidate Jack Morris is very aware of the issue, and has worked with Save Maumee and Win Moses to move this issue forward.

C. Bob Moris’ 15-year-old son was Abigail King’s drivers education student, so she had a chance to inform Rep. Morris.

D. Allen County / City of Fort Wayne Board of Public Works Manager Bob Kennedy and his Office have discussed the vegetation removal issue in D.C. via discussions with Save Maumee representatives.

VI. Save Maumee’s Contribution
EVERYTHING WATER: THE MAUMEE MATTERS RIVER WEEK

To pull together all groups who want to improve water quality, help with protection and stewardship of their own waters, through exploration of the largest watershed contributing to the Great Lakes.

A. The 141 mile, 9 day Canoe Trip will work to change the 2009 Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) ruling of indiscriminate native vegetation removal along rivers and streams.

B. Raise community awareness about surface water (i.e. rivers, lakes, ponds, streams) problems and solutions that contribute to runoff.

C. GPS/GIS information gathering regarding water conditions through; 1) marking drains/pipes – where nutrient loads have the potential to thrive, 2) potential areas for Public Access sites, 3) identify potential problem areas, 4) mark large river trash locations

D. Learn and Teach so that others may mimmic our impact and love for waterways. We have been encouraging other groups to showcase their work. We are all test subjects on this trip.

E. Report our findings through documentary creation by
1) Fort Wayne Public Access Production Manager,  Erik Mollburg
2) Theatre for Ideas, Producer Terry Doran – a local program for 30 years

F. Showcase the Upper Maumee Watershed Management Plan,
due for Public Review: April 2014

VII. CONCLUSIONS

This legislation will create a review of current practices, so we need to apply a little pressure to let our decision makers know that Stutzman has the right idea.
How can I help RIGHT NOW?

The current ruling for guidelines for plantings and vegetation management at levees can be completely rewritten/ overturned in April 2014.  Let’s make sure it is.  NOW it is up to US to make it pass this bill!

Tax payer dollars have already created documents, which support vegetation buffer strips, wetlands, floodplains – these areas need to remain natural or create and protect these naturalized areas so flooding may be reduced. However, water quality suffers without enforcement of laws created to protect public health.

Save Maumee Grassroots Organization’s Vice Chair & Founder,  Abigail King stands firm, “We want to make sure the public is aware of the damage of natural areas due to the requirement of removing all vegetation 15 feet on either side of all levees, for inspection purposes alone.  This is an ecologically sensitive area and should not have native plants indiscriminately removed. Numerous government agencies and studies cite vegetation buffer areas as beneficial and necessary.”

HOW VEGETATION HELPS RIVER WATER QUALITY?

CONSTRUCTION and vegetation removal on Fort Wayne dykes DURING REMOVAL of vegetation on levees in Fort Wayne

CONSTRUCTION Edgewater Blvd. Fort Wayne Levee

looking toward City of Fort Wayne from local rivers

FURTHER EXPLANATION of LEVEE ISSUES