Florida and Georgia have been arguing about the water that flows into the Apalachicola Bay for three decades, about as long as Tommy Ward and his family have been selling oysters from the bay. Florida says Georgia draws more than its fair share of water from the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers before they fuse to create the Apalachicola River. Georgia uses the water to supply thirsty Atlanta and the vast farmland south of the metropolis. But its disruption of the freshwater flow has increased the salinity of the bay and the number of oyster-eating predators, which are able to thrive in saltier water. The result: The virtual collapse of the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. During a week filled with U.S. Supreme Court-related news, many overlooked the significance of the ruling the court issued last week in the Florida-Georgia dispute: Taking a rare — if not unprecedented — stance, the court seemed to suggest that in water disputes between states, the health of an aquatic ecosystem can be considered alongside drinking-water and farming concerns. Florida’s odds did not look good as its case was headed to the Supreme Court. Ralph Lancaster, the special master appointed by the court to oversee most hearings in the case, said that though the bay had been affected by overuse of water upstream, it wasn’t clear that capping Georgia’s water use would solve the problem.But the justices disagreed, saying Lancaster used too strong a standard in evaluating whether adjustments upstream could solve problems in the Apalachicola Bay. The court remanded the case back to Lancaster who must reconsider Florida’s proposal and evidence.
Oxford County MPP Ernie Hardeman has been tapped to lead the agriculture portfolio under Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s new cabinet. The naming of Hardeman as ag minister comes somewhat as a surprise, as Lisa Thompson and Toby Barrett were widely speculated as top picks for the post. Thompson has been named Minister of Education. Barrett did not receive a cabinet post, but was named Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
State Rep. John Patterson applauded the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 299, the companion bill to Patterson’s House Bill 643, the Ohio Clean lake 2020 Plan. Joint-sponsored with state Rep. Steve Arndt, the bipartisan legislation invests $36 million in efforts to tackle the issue of harmful algal blooms and create innovative programs to clean up Lake Erie. “Our Great Lake remains a vital resource to us here in Northeast Ohio, impacting everything from growing our crops to growing our economy. We must do everything we can to ensure its long-term health,” said Patterson. “The Clean Lake 2020 Plan confronts the challenges we face by investing in new, innovative programs to reduce the devastating effects of algal blooms and clean up our lake so that the next generation of Ohioans can enjoy this precious resource.” The Clean Lake 2020 Plan would invest the following, $2.65 million to monitor phosphorous loading, harmful algal growth and toxicity levels at The Ohio State University’s Sea Grant and Stone Lab;$10 million to research alternative uses for dredged sediment;$20 million in grants and loans for farmers to reduce phosphorous runoff;$3.5 million for soil and water conservation districts in the lake’s western basin.
Gov. Ralph Northam arrived to announce a new broadband initiative to improve internet services in rural areas. Northam said Virginia used to be ranked No. 1 as the state in which to do business nationwide, but has fallen down the list in recent years. “One reason for that is lack of broadband,” Northam said, particularly in rural areas. “If you go to the eastern shore, here, or west, we’re nowhere near where we need to be.” The state raised the amount of money committed to improving rural broadband from $2 million to $8 million, and the Tobacco Commission has committed $11 million to the project, the governor said.
With one glance at the most recent U.S. rankings on solar energy, it becomes clear the Midwest has a long way to go if it wants to catch up to other regions on the use of this renewable source. Only Minnesota and Indiana placed in the top half of states as of 2017. But in a third Midwestern state, Illinois, big changes appear on the horizon, with landowners and county governments alike showing interest in making solar a new “cash crop” — whether it be on farmland, brownfields or even publicly owned property.The Solar Energy Industries Association is projecting that Illinois’ solar capacity will increase by 1,501 megawatts over the next five years, one of the bigger jumps in the nation. If that happens, and the state begins to climb in the U.S. rankings, legislative passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016 will be cited as a major catalyst.“[It] was a bipartisan effort to promote renewable energy across the state,” says Rep. Norine Hammond, who represents a part of rural western Illinois. “It resulted from years of negotiations between utilities, businesses, consumer and environmental groups.”
Worried by growing demands and shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, Wyoming lawmakers are seeking legislation to authorize water banking in Wyoming and declare it a “beneficial use.” The proposed changes to water law could allow Wyoming to “bank” Green River water for the purpose of meeting obligations to downstream states, and in doing so keep the state’s water users from running dry in the event of a shortage.Lawmakers on two legislative committees were briefed recently of looming disruption in the Colorado River Basin due to drought and growing demand. The 1922 Colorado River Compact that determines how the basin’s water is divided among seven western states and Mexico is based on overly rosy assumptions of flows. With Lake Powell at 43 percent of capacity and falling, water managers are nervous.They fear cascading events that could limit water use, curtail power generation, reduce critical electricity revenue and jeopardize endangered species in the region where 40 million people depend on Colorado River Basin water. Flows into Lake Powell in 2018 are expected to be 51 percent of normal and a “structural deficit” is causing Lake Mead to fall at a rate of about 12 feet a year.
Agricultural research will benefit from the expansiveness in Pennsylvania’s new budget. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a spending package June 22 that provides a 3 percent raise for Penn State research and Extension, and for the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school. Their research helps Pennsylvania farmers remain competitive, reduce pollution and stay ahead of livestock diseases, said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, minority chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
The Ohio House approved a bill that would ban dog wardens from using gas chambers for euthanasia and allow the use of a tranquilizer gun to capture animals without a veterinarian present. If the Senate also approves the bill, it would affect Erie County, which is one of the few remaining county dog warden offices that uses a gas chamber for euthanasia. Erie County’s dog warden, Barb Knapp, said she would be willing to adjust the euthanasia procedure if the provision allowing the use of tranquilizers passes. That would allow her employees to safely euthanize animals with an injection without having to worry about being bitten, Knapp said. Knapp said being able to use a tranquilizer gun when capturing animals also would make work conditions safer for employees who have to go out to get a dog.
A recent case out of the Waco Court of Appeals, James v. Young, is the real-life version of many landowners’ nightmare. When a six-year-old child fell off of a horse the landowners allowed him to ride, his parents filed suit. Did the Farm Animal Liability Act apply to shield the landowners from liability? The James family and the Young family were friends. One weekend, the two families were spending time at the Young ranch. The mothers and two of the children rode horses while several of the men worked cattle. When the mothers and children returned, six-year-old Bradey James said he wanted to ride the horse as well. Bradey and another child, Daniel, got on two of the horses and rode down a gravel road. They turned around and headed back towards other horses up the road and the horses they were riding began running. Bradey hit his head on the saddle horn, fell off of the horse he was riding, and was injured. The James family filed suit against Justin and Paul Young for negligent handling of animals claiming that they failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent the horse from injuring Bradey and that they allowed the child, who was only six-years-old, to ride their horse and failed to determine the ability to safely manage the horse before allowing Bradey to ride. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Justin and Paul Young and dismissed the case. The court found no genuine issue of material fact in this case to justify going to trial. The James family appealed. The Youngs claim that the Farm Animal Liability Act relieves them from liability. The James family concedes that the Act applies, but claims that they at least raised a genuine issue of material fact over whether the exception was applicable and their claims may go forward.
Kristi Noem, Republican candidate for South Dakota governor, has chosen Larry Rhoden to serve as lieutenant governor. Rhoden is a lifelong West River rancher, a dedicated husband and father, and a proven leader with a record of service for South Dakota. “Larry, like most ranchers, is plain spoken, direct, and honest. That’s why I trust him, and why I chose him to serve as lieutenant governor,” said Noem. “Larry’s spent his life ranching. His family operation has survived droughts and floods, blizzards, and bad markets. Even though his herd survived winter storm Atlas, he was out the next morning helping his neighbors, a testament to his South Dakota character. But that’s who he is. Larry has served his church, served our state in the South Dakota National Guard, and served his constituents as a citizen legislator. I am honored he’s again chosen to serve; this time, as South Dakota’s next lieutenant governor.” “I am humbled to accept Kristi Noem’s offer to serve as her lieutenant governor,” said Rhoden. “It’s clear Kristi is fighting for something much bigger than herself, and she expects the same of those serving in her administration. We have an opportunity to do some big things without raising taxes or growing government. I’m proud to be part of the team.”