Tag Archives: national park

National parks group: Nuclear plant expansion threatens Everglades

A proposal to expand Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in South Florida would threaten Everglades restoration and the national park, according to a conservation group dedicated to protecting federal parks.

Florida Power & Light wants to add two new nuclear units, making Turkey Point one of the largest nuclear power facilities in the country.

This week, with the release of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s environmental impact statement on the proposal, the National Parks Conservation Association is challenging the project, saying it threatens the national park system, wildlife and Everglades restoration in Florida.

The NPCA says the proposal goes against the NRC’s own standards, which state, “Sites adjacent to lands devoted to public use may be considered unsuitable” and unacceptable impacts are “most apt to arise in areas adjacent to natural-resource-oriented areas.”

Therefore, the NPCA said, Turkey Point should not expand its operations because of its possible impacts to the ecological health and economic viability of surrounding protected areas.

Caroline McLaughlin, Biscayne program manager for NPCA, issued this statement to the press: “We have serious concerns about the expansion proposal for Turkey Point, especially considering the widespread contamination the plant’s operations has already caused in nearby water resources. If the expansion moves forward, it would double the number of nuclear towers, all located on the shores of the nation’s largest marine national park.

“You couldn’t pick a worse location to put a nuclear power plant than between two national parks and an area already vulnerable to storm surge and sea level rise. Biscayne and Everglades National Parks are home to threatened species like the wood stork, snail kite and West Indian manatee, and offer amazing recreational opportunities like boating, fishing, scuba diving and exploring. Both parks are key components of the ongoing, multibillion-dollar Everglades restoration investment. Collectively they welcome more than 1.5 million visitors that spend around $135 million annually, invigorating South Florida’s local economy.

“The amount of water required to operate the two new reactors, compounded with the current water quality and quantity concerns, puts Biscayne National Park in jeopardy. FPL would be allowed to draw fresh water from under Biscayne National Park, at the same time that we are trying to reestablish an increased amount of fresh water to the park through Everglades Restoration. The Turkey Point cooling canals are already contaminating Biscayne Bay and the Biscayne Aquifer. Adding two new reactors could exacerbate existing water quality problems. The wastewater injected underground from the new reactors could potentially pollute South Florida’s underground water supply. FPL’s mitigation plan to address the loss of wetlands due to the expansion is also inadequate, and therefore the Army Corps must conduct their own environmental analysis of the proposal and its impacts.

“NPCA, along with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other individuals are challenging FPL’s application for a federal license for the two new reactors and are awaiting next steps within the legal process. We will continue to do all that we can to preserve Biscayne and Everglades National Parks, its natural resources and our drinking water.”

Morning news: Thick crowds of sunrise watchers pose risk at national park

The National Park Service wants to manage safety and resource protection concerns as growing crowds of people compete for space to watch the sunrise at Hawaii’s Haleakala summit.

Private or rental vehicles have exceeded available parking 98 percent of the time this year, up from 83 percent in 2014 and 94 percent last year, the Maui News reported.

Some people are parking and walking where they shouldn’t, a Haleakala National Park official said. Visitor safety is also a concern as people venture out to find a better view.

“People want to get away from the crowds, so they go off trail into endangered species habitat, which is also where many sensitive cultural resources are,” said Polly Angelakis, the park’s chief of interpretation and education. “Or they move out on to cliff faces or crumbling volcanic rocks, which are very dangerous.”

The sunrise can draw as many as 850 people in one morning, with a daily average of 600.

“These resources can be damaged both by vehicles and off-road travel by visitors,” Angelakis said.

No plan has been drafted to manage the noncommercial crowds.

Two meetings have been held to solicit public comment on ways to manage crowds, visitor enjoyment as well as the protection of natural resources.

People can submit comments by June 6 via the online Planning, Environment and Public Comment System.

Park officials plan to use the comments as they develop a potential plan.

Grand Canyon development dealt blow

The U.S. Forest Service dealt a huge blow to a company that wants to build hundreds of homes, high-end boutiques and five-star hotels just outside Grand Canyon National Park.

The Kaibab National Forest on Friday rejected an application for a road easement that developers needed to move forward with the project in Tusayan, a small town a couple of miles from the park’s South Rim entrance.

Forest Supervisor Heather Provencio said the project is deeply controversial and opposed by most of the tens of thousands of people who commented on it. She said the envisioned development would “substantially and adversely” affect the Grand Canyon and nearby tribal lands.

Environmentalists applaud decision

Environmentalists applauded the decision and said they’re hopeful it will put a permanent stop to plans by Stilo Development Group USA. They’ve said the growth would mar the beauty of the region and stress resources.

“This is just not the right place for it,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney for Earthjustice.

Developers have sought for decades to seize on the heavy traffic in Tusayan, bringing forth proposals that would boost the population of about 600 in Tusayan and attempt to lure even more tourists.

Stilo spokesman Andy Jacobs said the company is disappointed but willing to address concerns over water sources, the scope of the project, and the impacts on infrastructure and visitation at Grand Canyon National Park. He and the town said they weren’t given that opportunity.

Provencio said the town’s application didn’t meet screening criteria but even if it did, she likely would have rejected it because “there is significant evidence the proposal is not in the public interest.” She said the town could reapply once numerous concerns are addressed.

Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain said the Forest Service should have given the application fair consideration.

The forest’s decision also means that Tusayan cannot move forward with plans for affordable housing on land once owned by Stilo and completely surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest. The Town Council approved the creation of a housing authority and bylaws this week, said Mayor Craig Sanderson.

“We’re in the middle of pushing forward in anticipation of being able to utilize the land that we own and with this decision, it puts that on its heels,” he said. “Where do we go now?”

Lawmakers: Make Stonewall Inn a national park

Two New York lawmakers are leading a campaign to designate Stonewall Inn as the first national park honoring LGBT history.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler made their announcement in late September in front of the Greenwich Village tavern that was the scene of a 1969 uprising at a key moment for the nascent gay rights movement.

“When we look at our country, we have recognized women’s rights, civil rights, all kinds of rights,” Gillibrand said. “The time has come to give this part of our history an imprimatur of national importance.”

The two Democrats were joined by other elected officials and members of the National Parks Conservation Association and the Human Rights Campaign.

National parks can only be created by an act of Congress. They include sites of cultural or historic importance.

Gillibrand says she and Nadler are first asking President Barack Obama to declare Stonewall a monument. A congressional vote on park status would come later.

Gillibrand credited gay-rights activists for spurring action on giving greater recognition to the historic tavern raided by police more than four decades ago, triggering violent protests.

During his second inauguration in 2013, Obama mentioned Stonewall and the struggle for LGBT equality as being on a par with women’s and civil rights.

Stonewall would be the first park representing the gay community, but the fight isn’t over, Gillibrand said.

“Same-sex couples don’t have the same adoption rights, or the same federal benefits,” she said. “There’s more work to do.”

More than 200,000 protest development plans near Grand Canyon

The U.S. Forest Service is considering a proposal that would clear the way for a mega-development only a mile from the Grand Canyon National Park boundary.

“The local, national and international communities have spoken and the message is clear — this development doesn’t belong next to the Grand Canyon,” said Robin Silver, a founder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now it’s up to the Forest Service to act in the public interest and reject this proposal.”

This spring, more than 200,000 people submitted public comments urging the U.S. Forest Service to reject a special permit request from Stilo Development Group to build roads, sewers and other utilities through the public lands within the Kaibab National Forest. The access is needed to develop the 580-resident community of Tusayan, Arizona — near the southern entrance to the park — from a tourist town into a complex of high-end homes, retail stores and restaurants.

President Theodore Roosevelt guaranteed federal protection for the Grand Canyon in 1908, declaring, “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it.”

The Stilo project is one of several proposals environmentalists say threaten the canyon. Another would restart operations at a nearby uranium mine.

Environmentalists say the Stilo development threatens groundwater that feeds the canyon’s creeks and springs, endangering some of the park’s most important and biodiverse wildlife habitat.

“Building a massive sprawling development at the gateway to Grand Canyon threatens the very things that the park was established to protect — the waters, wildlife, dark skies and opportunities to experience natural quiet,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “That is why thousands of people here in Arizona and across the country are asking the Forest Service to reject this proposal.”

The opposition includes business owners in Tusayan and nearby Flagstaff, a former Coconino County development director, a former Grand Canyon National Park superintendent, outdoor enthusiasts and many park visitors.

Also, the Department of the Interior warned the massive development was raising international concerns over potential harm to the Grand Canyon, a World Heritage Site. The National Park Service has called the project one of the biggest threats to the park in its nearly 100-year history.

David Nimkin, Southeast senior regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, added, “The Grand Canyon is one of our most beloved and iconic national parks — a sentiment that reverberated in messages of opposition sent by our members, supporters and partners in Arizona and across the country.”

On behalf of several groups, the environmental legal defense group Earthjustice submitted a letter in May urging the Forest Service to reject the proposal or, at a minimum, to prepare a full environmental impact statement.

The Forest Service will review the comments this summer and then decide whether to reject the application outright, proceed with a minimal “environmental assessment” with little public review or prepare an environmental impact statement.

An environmental assessment would take up to a year to complete. An impact statement would take twice that long.

At Devil’s Lake, vintage rustic architecture adds to the autumn landscape

This time of year, there’s no better public art than our autumn leaves, and one of the best places to see them in Wisconsin is Devil’s Lake State Park. That park’s packed with other sorts of art, too, albeit art that’s a little out of the ordinary. And some of it is at risk. 

One of its most appealing art forms is “parkitecture,” formally known as “National Park Service Rustic.” It’s a real architectural style that was developed in the 1900s, during the Arts and Crafts movement. Among its features are local materials, designed to harmonize with the landscape.

Devil’s Lake has some excellent examples, including the Chateau, a pavilion on the North Shore constructed in 1925. Many of the scattered, open-sided shelter buildings, as well as the park headquarters, were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, using native quartzite stone.

The park’s often-overlooked Nature Center holds more unorthodox gems. Incredibly, taxidermy is reported to be the latest hipster art fad and, if so, the Nature Center could be a mecca. It contains mounted songbirds, ospreys, otters, foxes, at least three kinds of hawks and seven kinds of owls, as well as living examples of aquatic residents.

Joining them are art photos from the 1910s, original paintings that show the park’s archaeological development and a bas relief topographic map sculpted by Mark Almerlie. Another of his works is in the Visitor Center.

The park also has several Indian mounds, examples of the state’s oldest art form, created around 1,000 years ago. Near the south shore shelter, four 1989 sculptures by Alan Tollakson, collectively titled “Indigenous Reminder,” mimic Native American themes.

The neighboring south shore store is a puzzle and a problem. It features native stone, but when was it built? “I’m guessing it was around the same time when the other stone buildings were built in the park by the CCC,” says Steve Schmelzer, park superintendent with the Department of Natural Resources.

Kevin Flock is general manager and CEO of the Devil’s Lake Concession Corp., which offers souvenirs, refreshments and food at the Chateau and south shore store. He doesn’t know how old the building is, either.

But it’s what’s inside the building that most charms visitors: vintage Art Moderne furniture. Diners and campers can enjoy rose Formica and tubular-chrome chairs and tables that harken to an earlier time while blending perfectly with the general National Park Rustic style.

The Chateau also featured the décor, but in 2011 it was remodeled to make Devil’s Lake appear, ironically, more like a traditional national park.

If you enjoy the décor while looking at autumn leaves, you better take a picture. “It is possible the furniture could be replaced, and a decision should be made no later than May,” Flock says.

Shutdown halts performances of gay-themed play at Ford’s Theatre

Ford’s Theatre has canceled performances of “The Laramie Project” because the theater must close during the government shutdown, but it will present two free performances at a nearby church.

Theater officials had planned to go ahead with evening performances because the programing is funded privately and run by a nonprofit group. However, the theater where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated is a National Park Service site and has been closed.

Ford’s will present free performances tonight (Oct. 4) and Oct. 8 at First Congregational United Church of Christ. The production will resume at Ford’s once it reopens.

“The Laramie Project” is part of the theater’s Lincoln Legacy Project focusing on diversity and equality. The production marks 15 years since Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, was abducted and killed in Laramie, Wyo.