We have a long way to go, but we're making progress. Here are some signs that we are moving towards sustainability.
May 20, 2013
Tompkins Weekly 05/20/2013
By James A. Balyszak
With the onset of spring and the arrival of warmer weather, residents of Ithaca and the Finger Lakes Region look to the outdoors for recreation and relaxation. This exodus to the outdoors marks a wonderful respite from the clutches of winter, and the beginning of a new season. At the same time, this transition also marks the beginning of a different type of season…Hydrilla Eradication Season!
The Hydrilla Task Force will continue hydrilla eradication efforts in the Cayuga Inlet during the 2013 treatment season (June-November). These on-going efforts, begun in the fall of 2011, will reduce the overall biomass of hydrilla in the inlet (above the sediment), and help to further reduce the tuber population (below the sediment). These tubers pose the greatest risk for the potential spread or re-infestation of hydrilla in the Cayuga Inlet and beyond.
Hydrilla tubers can remain dormant and viable in the soil for 3-6 years, only to give rise to new hydrilla plants when they sprout in the future. Numerous treatment alternatives were examined by the Hydrilla Task Force, with herbicide treatments being the most viable option (in terms of effectiveness, logistical feasibility, and long-term costs). These treatments will use both contact and systemic herbicides to target hydrilla; killing it above the sediment, causing the tuber to expend energy and resources, and preventing the development of new tubers.
The 2012 herbicide treatments were successful, reducing hydrilla biomass by 90-95 percent and reducing tuber density to a tenth of what it was. Although the efforts of the past year were effective, tubers are still present in the inlet, as expected, since herbicides are not effective in killing tubers below the sediment. Herbicide treatment will continue to be needed until the tubers are eliminated, possibly until 2020. Sampling and monitoring of the tuber population and any growth of hydrilla will inform if and where herbicide treatment will be used. Long-term sampling and monitoring is expected to extend past 2020 to ensure that all hydrilla is eradicated and has not spread. In other states, eradication efforts have failed when monitoring or herbicide treatments were stopped too soon.
Hydrilla is often referred to as one of the world’s worst invasive plants. Its ability to spread rapidly through plant fragmentation and turions (buds), and the fact that tubers remain dormant and viable in the soil for years, make eradication challenging. States like Florida, where hydrilla has taken over a majority of the shallow freshwater bodies, spend upwards of $20 million annually to control and manage hydrilla. Eradication is no longer a feasible option for states like Florida where the population is so well established and widespread.
Fortunately, the infestation was caught early on in the invasion of Cayuga Inlet, where the hydrilla population was still low enough for eradication to be a feasible option. If hydrilla was allowed to grow unchecked it would quickly dominate the inlet and spread rapidly into shallow areas of Cayuga Lake. From there it would not take long for it to spread to neighboring Finger Lakes, the Erie Canal, and the Great Lakes. Once established, hydrilla would cause a substantial loss of native aquatic habitat; displace native species; negatively affect boating, fishing, and recreation; reduce income from tourism and lakeshore properties; and diminish the flood control properties of the inlet. The consequences of not acting swiftly to eradicate hydrilla in the inlet far outweigh the costs of implementing a 5-8 year eradication plan. Because the predictions are so dire, the Hydrilla Task Force formed to address the hydrilla infestation, which includes creating the Cayuga Inlet Management Plan. Local, state, and national stakeholders and experts carefully considered all possible management options. Selection of the strategies used in 2011, 2012, and suggested for 2013 and beyond, was based on effectiveness, feasibility, and benefits to the environment and community. The current eradication plan offers the best possibility of success and long-term benefits.
If you would like more information about hydrilla and local eradication efforts, please visit our website StopHydrilla.org and like us on Facebook at “Stophydrilla.org” and on Twitter @Stophydrilla.
Questions, comments or concerns can be directed to the Hydrilla Program Manager, James A. Balyszak, 1771 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, 607-257-2340 or email@example.com
May 13, 2013
Tompkins Weekly 05/13/2013
By Abbe Lyons
Have you made decisions on whether to get married or stay married based on access to health insurance? Have you applied for, stayed in or left a job or career path because of how it would affect your health insurance? Have you ever come close to losing a job with health insurance benefits? Even if the answer is no, have you ever known anyone else in any of these situations? If you needed urgent care for an injury or accident that wasn’t covered by health insurance, could you afford to pay for it? Was our system of health insurance ever sustainable? It’s questions like these that led to the founding of the Ithaca Health Alliance and its signature program, the Ithaca Health Fund.
Begun in 1998, using a unique cooperative funding model, the Health Fund provided financial assistance for specific categories of health care to any member who met income guidelines. Many community members, healthcare providers, businesses and organizations understood that healthcare disparities affect the physical, mental and financial health of our community. They provided discounts and donated memberships so that health care in Tompkins County began to be a little more accessible for everyone, especially those who could not afford the $100 annual membership. Becoming a tax-exempt organization seemed like a natural step, but government requirements led to growing pains that required some restructuring. Now the Alliance is re-launching the Ithaca Health Fund with a newly adapted model continuing our mission to facilitate access to health care for all, with a focus on the needs of the uninsured.
The Health Fund, which began assisting with the costs of broken bones and ambulance rides, grew to offer 22 grant categories, discounts on preventive care and holistic care, and a free loan program. Yet there were still so many needs that could not be met solely through the Health Fund, and the membership made clear in community meetings the importance of becoming more than just one program, voting to incorporate as the Ithaca Health Alliance. In 2000, free educational programming began, and in 2006, the Ithaca Free Clinic opened to offer direct services to people without health insurance. Research prior to opening the Clinic indicated that IFC could expect to begin with 250 visits per year and grow over five years to 500 visits per year. However in the very first year, there were 861 visits, and in 2012, almost 2900! The board began the process of applying to become a 501(c)3 tax-exempt charitable organization, not knowing that this would lead to a tough choice between the existing membership model and the long-term sustainability of the Alliance in general and the Free Clinic in particular, as the IRS set this as a condition for approval of our application. As with all important decisions, this one was put to the membership for a vote. In 2011, the membership voted overwhelmingly to disband in order to receive 501(c)3 status, exempting the organization from paying taxes and allowing us to apply for foundation grants and give donors a tax deduction.
What makes the new Health Fund different, and what is the same? Like the old Health Fund, grants are available area residents who meet income guidelines (low-to-moderate income). Generally, a person whose income level would have qualified them for grants under the old Health Fund should still qualify for grants under the new Health Fund. Unlike the old Health Fund, the new Health Fund does not require membership in order to be eligible for Health Fund grants. Like the old Health Fund, there are specific categories of care, and the funding for these grants comes largely from community members. We’ve had to start smaller with the re-launch, offering six grant categories for medical and dental emergencies: broken bones, emergency stitches, dental extractions, root canals, Chinese herbal medicine and post-exposure rabies inoculations. We have a new application form and trained volunteers who can help with other financial advocacy for people without insurance.
The foundational values of community input, integrated health care with both conventional and holistic providers, community-based funding and volunteer efforts continue to guide the Health Alliance today. One of the my favorite aspects of the Ithaca Health Alliance is the way Allies are not limited to only one role. Many of our staff and board members first became connected as Alliance members, Clinic patients, volunteers or donors. The Health Alliance is all of us, together, working towards sustainable health for all in our community, giving, receiving and taking care of ourselves and one another. Learn more about the many ways you can be an Ally at www.ithacahealth.org.
As a longtime Alliance member, Abbe Lyons voted to elect board members, open the Free Clinic and finally, to disband the membership. She now serves as Executive Director of the Ithaca Health Alliance.
May 6, 2013
Tompkins Weekly 05/06/2013
By Karim Beers
You’ve seen the yellow Streets Alive! signs on Cayuga and Court streets. You know that Bike to Work/School day is fast approaching. A voice within you is asking if it might be time to dust off that bike that has been in storage since the 20th century. Here are some great arguments you can use to resist that siren call of Spring:
First, “I don’t need to save money.” Biking is cheap; driving a car is most decidedly not. According to Census figures, an average family of four spends over $10,000 a year on transportation costs. The AAA estimates it costs on average 60 cents a mile to drive a car. You can get a functional bike at a yard sale for less than what it costs to fill your gas tank. It doesn’t matter that gas prices are heading north; who needs extra money anyway?
”I don’t really care that much about the planet.” Biking creates no pollution; driving a car is typically an individual’s most polluting activity. An average car releases a pound of carbon dioxide every mile, which is why transportation emissions are the biggest part of our community’s carbon footprint. Ouch! Biking is also really energy efficient. 100 calories—the amount of energy contained in 9 peanut M&Ms or a banana—can power a cyclist for three miles, versus only a few hundred feet for a car.
You can combine “I don’t need more exercise in my life” with “I don’t have the time to bike.” Using people-power to get around our community can take longer than driving, and I need that time to go to the gym—by car, of course!
Need more excuses? How about “I can’t bike up the hills”? David Kay faces two hills every day, and has this to say about TCAT’s bus racks: “As my hair has grayed, I’ve appreciated the multimodal uphill option (bike on the bus) ever more. The racks are so easy to use!” Or Larry Clarkberg from Boxybikes (boxybikes.com) can mount an electric motor on your bike that will zip you uphill.
“I don’t have money for fixing my bike.” If you can’t handle the reasonable prices at the Bike Rack, Cayuga Ski & Cyclery, and Swan Cycles, there are two places where you can get help fixing your bike for free: RIBs at 530 W. Buffalo St, and the Friends Bike Clinic at the Quaker meetinghouse. Emma Hileman writes that she is “Currently rebuilding a … bike at RIBs that was ditched on the side of the road.” She is looking forward to riding it and learning about bike repair!
“I don’t feel safe riding on the roads.” Streets Alive! on May 5th–where Cayuga and Court Streets, from Boynton to GIAC, will be closed to cars—is perfect for a “short and shaky” bike ride, according to event coordinator Vikki Armstrong. You can also ride with someone else on Bike to Work/School Day on Thursday, May 16th. My mom biked to work for first time in a long time at last year’s event.
Finally, “I don’t like having fun.” Judging from comments on the Get Your GreenBack Tompkins website, cycling brings on feelings of elation and joy. Quinn Kelly says: “Riding my bike feels like flying.” Margaret: “I ride my bike to get just about everywhere–up South Hill to school, around town for errands, and outside of Ithaca for fun. Biking is the best! It’s liberating, awesome exercise, free, clean, and efficient. It’s safe to say I’m obsessed!” Barbara Perrone: “I bring my bike on the bus each morning and love riding around town to run errands on my work breaks. I love to buzz through town, enjoying the neighborhoods and not dealing with the traffic. Having a bike in town makes me feel very free.” Laura: “When I am doing errands I really enjoy doing them on my bike. It is much faster and I burn calories which makes me happier when I have to spend money on food.” Brendan Wilbur: “I bike to work and love it!” Francine Jasper: “I know I’m alive and pumped full of energy every time I ride my bike.”
As you can tell, my excuses aren’t that good. This is not to say there aren’t real obstacles to riding. Life is complicated. But perhaps you can figure out how to make some of your trips–even just one–by bike. Maybe it is time to listen to that inner voice calling you to fun and freedom. So this May, dust off your 10-speed, bike around, and Get Your GreenBack! Over 18,000 people have taken a step to save energy and money; what’s yours?
Karim Beers is the campaign coordinator for Get Your GreenBack Tompkins; he has biked up and down the hills in Ithaca and Tompkins County for over 25 years–now with two small boys in tow!