Archive for the ‘development’ Category

Oil slicks, estrogen in the water, and rooftop farming

June 8, 2009

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of some of the best regional, national and international articles on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to the original sources.

Estrogen linked to fish kills, study suggests
Exposure to estrogen puts fish at greater risk of disease and premature death, according to a new federal study.

The U.S. Geological Survey study showed that estrogen exposure reduces a fish’s ability to produce proteins that help it ward off disease and pointed to a possible link between the occurrence of intersex fish and recent fish kills in the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

The report, published in the current issue of Fish & Shellfish Immunology, adds to a growing body of research pointing to problems with estrogen in the nation’s waterways.
–The New York Times

DNR investigates reported fishkill
A reported die-off of sturgeon in the Mississippi River south of Prescott, Wis., prompted an inconclusive search by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff.

DNR area fisheries supervisor Kevin Stauffer said a three-hour search by fisheries staff didn’t reveal any dead sturgeon in Pool 3, the stretch of river between Hastings and Red Wing.

Anglers reported the fishkill to the DNR, saying they had seen dead fish last weekend and the previous week.

Greg Schorn of Newport said he and another angler had seen 50 to 100 dead sturgeon, as well as several other dead species, while they were fishing Pool 3.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Oil slick covers 80 miles of Mississippi River
Crews continued to work overnight Wednesday to corral a huge oil spill on the Mississippi River that now stretches more than 80 miles below New Orleans and threatens the fragile delta ecosystem. Government officials, meanwhile, are scrambling to bolster water supplies downriver from the spill and some anticipate possibly having to truck in water.

More than 400,000 gallons of thick industrial fuel oil spilled just upriver from the Crescent City Connection in the collision early Wednesday morning between a tanker and a barge being pulled by a tugboat. The oil spill, the largest on the Mississippi River in the New Orleans area in nearly a decade, halted shipping traffic on one of the nation’s busiest waterways.

The Coast Guard, which is investigating the incident, has released few details, but confirmed that none of the tugboat’s crew had the proper licenses to operate on the river. Neither the tug operator’s name nor the name of the river pilot aboard the tanker has been released.
–NOLA.com

Vermont cows do their thing to curb global warming
Chewing her cud on a recent sunny morning, Libby, a 1,400-pound Holstein, paused to do her part in the battle against global warming, emitting a fragrant burp.

Libby, age 6, and the 74 other dairy cows on Guy Choiniere’s farm here are at the heart of an experiment to determine whether a change in diet will help them belch less methane, a potent heat-trapping gas that has been linked to climate change.

Since January, cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants like alfalfa and flaxseed — substances that, unlike corn or soy, mimic the spring grasses that the animals evolved long ago to eat.
–The New York Times

New mining development in northern Minnesota poses environmental risk
The fears about copper-nickel mining start with sulfuric rock the metals are found in. When exposed to the air, these rocks can leech caustic pollutants like acid and metals.

Just west of Duluth, the St. Louis River spills through rocky channels on a final plunge to Lake Superior. Retired biology teacher Len Anderson said, not only is this area beautiful, it’s key for the Lake Superior fishery.

“It also is the nursery for many of the fish that inhabit Lake Superior,” Anderson said. “You know, over 100 river miles away from PolyMet, but this is where, I believe, the critical issue is going to come to a head.”

The issue, he said, is methyl mercury – mercury in a form that can harm fish as well as the people and animals that eat the fish.
–Minnesota Public Radio News

L.A. restricts lawn sprinkling to two days a week
It’s now illegal to water lawns in the nation’s second-largest city except on Mondays and Thursdays as Southern California deals with the effects of drought and regulatory restrictions on its distant water supplies.

The city is facing its third consecutive year of water supply shortages, according to the city Department of Water and Power, and the new sprinkler ordinance is accompanied by a pocketbook incentive for conservation.

The amount of water customers can purchase at the lowest price, known as Tier 1, will now be reduced by 15 percent. Customers who do not achieve a 15 percent reduction in usage will be charged at a higher rate for every gallon above their Tier 1 allotment.
–The Associated Press

A rooftop garden grows in Milwaukee
A year ago, Erik Lindberg rented a boom lift with a bucket and hoisted 15 cubic yards of dirt to the roof of his north side remodeling business. In the process, he planted himself firmly in the middle of a growing urban agriculture movement.

Lindberg, owner of Community Building & Restoration, turned to rooftop gardening in the belief that his actions might encourage people to grow their own food or buy locally grown produce.

And by selling the vegetables he grows to subscribers and a nearby Outpost Natural Foods store, he may have become Milwaukee’s first commercial rooftop farmer.

“It’s an experiment,” said Lindberg, 42. “Can you develop a business plan out of something like this? The answer is, I don’t know yet.”
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Three-quarters of Texas county homes at risk from climate change
A new study suggests more than 100,000 households will be displaced and more than $12 billion infrastructure losses suffered as a result of climate change raising the sea level in the Galveston area over the next 100 years.

The finding comes three days after a Texas A&M University study found that Corpus Christi’s infrastructure will also be affected by climate change.

“The Socio-Economic Impact of Sea Level Rise in the Galveston Bay Region,” commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and the British Consulate-General Houston, estimates that 78 percent of households will be displaced in Galveston County. A more aggressive sea level rise could displace 93 percent of households, according to the study.
–Houston Business Journal

Federal charges filed in Louisiana wastewater case
Louisiana Land and Water Co. owner Jeff Pruett was arrested by federal marshals after being indicted on 17 felony counts of violating federal pollution laws.

Pruett is president and chief executive officer of Louisiana Land & Water Co., the principal officer of LWC Management Co. and operates more than 30 water and wastewater treatment systems in northeastern Louisiana.

The charges involve violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act — commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act — at more than a half-dozen of the systems owned or operated by Pruett.
–The News Star

Invasive species legislation runs into a roadblock: pet owners
Water managers dispatched two experts to Washington recently to back a bill targeting an Everglades problem that seems to get bigger every year. The latest, largest evidence emerged in mid-May: a Burmese python stretching 16½ feet.

It is the longest yet of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the exotic constrictors the South Florida Water Management District has pulled off its lands and levees in the past few years. More sobering: The female was pregnant, carrying a clutch of 59 eggs — more proof the giant snakes are breeding in the wild.

“These are not little snakes running around. These are massive, dangerous animals,” said district spokesman Randy Smith.
–Richmond Times-Dispatch

U.S. restricts California water use to protect salmon
Federal regulators levied sweeping new rules on Delta water deliveries to prevent the thirst of California’s farms and cities from rendering extinct several salmon runs, steelhead, green sturgeon and a Pacific Northwest population of killer whales.

The suite of regulations would ensure more cold water is available for spawning fish, and that water operators make it easier for fish to swim from upstream spawning grounds through San Francisco Bay and back again.

The National Marine Fisheries Service estimated the new regulations would cut water supplies from the Delta beginning next year by about 5 percent to 7 percent, or roughly 330,000 acre-feet a year, enough water for a city of about 2 million people. Most of the water loss is due to measures to help steelhead migrate down the San Joaquin River, officials said.

The hit to Delta water supplies comes on top of rules put in place in December to prevent Delta pumps from driving another fish, Delta smelt, to extinction.
–San Jose Mercury News

Lawmakers seek restrictions on oil drilling tactic
U.S. lawmakers expect to introduce legislation that would reverse a Bush era law exempting a controversial drilling practice from federal oversight, possibly driving up costs and curtailing the development of vast amounts of unconventional energy.

Democratic Representatives Diana DeGette of Colorado and Maurice Hinchey of New York plan a bill that would repeal a measure in a 2005 law that excluded the method of hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“This is a very serious issue. If it is not addressed, large numbers of people are very likely to suffer,” Hinchey told Reuters. “Their water will be contaminated. Their houses will no longer be livable.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” injects a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations at high pressure to force out oil and natural gas. The practice is used to stimulate production in old wells, but is now also used to tap oil and gas trapped in shale beds across North America.
–Reuters

Wisconsin ballast water rules delayed
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Matt Frank says shipping industry concerns about technology are holding up a state plan to make oceangoing Great Lakes ships clean-up their ballast water.

Fishing groups and environmentalists are urging the DNR to finish work on a proposed permit plan aimed at stopping ships with contaminated ballast water from using Wisconsin ports. The Great Lakes ships that come from other nations are thought to bring in invasive species.  Frank says his agency still plans to move ahead with the  permit. But he says some shipping companies say the clean-up technology isn’t quite ready.

Frank says he’s pleased that New York’s ballast water rules were recently upheld, but adds the best thing would be if the federal government passed tougher ballast water requirements. He says the DNR will make a decision sometime this year.
–Wisconsin Public Radio

China reports water pollution reduction
China cut its water pollution and emissions of acid rain-causing sulphur dioxide last year as it stepped up efforts to make its economic growth cleaner, state media said.

Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, dropped by 4.42 percent in 2008 from a year earlier, while sulphur dioxide emissions were down 5.95 percent, the official Xinhua news agency said.

China has promised to cut the two key pollution measures by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010, and is also looking to reduce its energy intensity, or the amount of energy used to create each unit of gross domestic product.
–Reuters

Vacant homes pose mosquito risk
Neglected and foreclosed, abandoned homes add one more obstacle to control mosquitoes, said Clark County Health Department official Doug Bentfield.



Though numbers are sporadic, the number of abandoned properties that need to be sprayed with chemicals to kill the bug’s larvae have increased, he said.



“This is costing the county money,” Bentfield said.



Most problems arise when owners leave items that collect water outside such as pools, bird baths and old tires. Even the children’s pools become a breeding ground for the mosquitoes if neglected.
–The News and Tribune

IBM researching better arsenic filter
Many people in the world lack access to clean drinking water. In places including Bangladesh, millions must drink water containing arsenic, which can cause neurological problems, organ failure, and death. Making robust water filters that can remove salt and arsenic without requiring a lot of energy has been a challenge. Researchers at IBM are developing a material used to make computer chips for more-efficient removal of salt and toxic chemicals from drinking water.

Polymer-membrane water filters have been in use since the 1970s “with no big materials innovation in a long time,” says Robert Allen, senior manager of chemistry at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, in San Jose, CA. There are problems with traditional membrane filters. The chlorine used to kill pathogens in water degrades them. They’re susceptible to fouling, or clogging up, when the water forced through them in a desalination process called reverse osmosis contains oil or proteins.

The IBM researchers have made a new membrane material that resists these problems while also screening out arsenic.
–MIT Technology Review

Infested lake waters, trash burners and lawn-mowing goats

June 1, 2009

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of some of the best regional, national and international articles on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to the original sources.

Lake Winnibigoshish now designated “infested water”
Anglers and boaters must adhere to stricter rules on Lake Winnibigoshish near Deer River because the lake has been designated “infested waters” under state regulations.

The infested-waters designation was made May 7 because of an exotic species, the faucet snail, first found on the lake in 2007. The snail is a host for a trematode that has caused the die-off of hundreds of scaup and coots on Lake Winnibigoshish during the past two falls’ waterfowl migrations.

Winnie’s designation as an infested water will have broad implications.

“I think it’s a real big deal,” said Chris Kavanaugh, Department of Natural Resources area fisheries supervisor at Grand Rapids. “It’s important we get the word out to folks so they comply with the laws that are intended to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species to other waters.”
-Duluth News Tribune

UM students work on clean water to India
A team of University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students from a civil engineering class are in India to share their ideas and plans for helping bring clean water to thousands of residents living in the slums of Mumbai — the same impoverished area that provided the backdrop for the Oscar-winning movie, “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The University of Minnesota students, who collaborated with students from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, are winners of the first-ever Acara Challenge sponsored by the Minnesota-based Acara Institute, a non-profit institute that tackles global problems through sustainable business solutions.
–UM News Service

Environmental fund closes down
John Hunting, an heir to the Steelcase office furniture fortune, always knew that his foundation, the Beldon Fund, would have a limited life span.

“I felt as an environmentalist that it was imperative to spend the money now, because it would be silly to wait for the future if there wasn’t going to be a future,” Mr. Hunting said in an interview the other day. “And I also felt that if I died and there was a board running things, the money might start going to causes I wasn’t interested in funding.”

On Friday, the Beldon Fund closed its doors, having spent about $120 million over a decade strengthening environmental organizations in five states — Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wisconsin — and increasing awareness of the impact that environmental degradation has on human health.
–The New York Times

Downtown Minneapolis Trash Burn to Increase 20 Percent
Just in time for the return of outdoor baseball to Minnesota, the downtown garbage burner is planning to expand next door to the new ballpark.

A proposal making its way through Minneapolis City Hall would allow the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center to burn as much as 20 percent more trash — about 200 tons more per day — the first expansion since the burner was built in 1989. The change would occur next summer when the Minnesota Twins would be playing their first season at Target Field.

Opposition so far is limited to environmental activist Leslie Davis, who unsuccessfully sued to block construction of the stadium until the environmental impact of its location was studied. Twins and ballpark officials support the burner plans.
-Star Tribune

Minnesota to receive $107 million for Clean Water Fund
Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced that Minnesota will receive more than $107 million in funding for the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program.

The money will also come, in part, from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund that comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These funds will help jumpstart the economy and create jobs, while improving water quality.

“I believe the first responsibility of government is to ensure the safety of its citizens, and making sure people have clean water to drink is an important part of that,” said Klobuchar.
–KSTP TV

Funding granted for shoreline stabilization project
A grant received by the East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (EOTSWCD) will go toward shoreline stabilization projects.

The funding was granted by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to pay for services provided by a Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) crew. The funding was available through the Clean Water Legacy program to assist with projects that help protect and restore water quality.
–The Fergus Falls Daily Journal

Well water could cause health problems in children
Private well water should be tested yearly, and in some cases more often, according to new guidance offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The recommendations call for annual well testing, especially for nitrate and microorganisms such as coliform bacteria, which can indicate that sewage has contaminated the well. The recommendations point out circumstances when additional testing should occur, including testing when there is a new infant in the house or if the well is subjected to structural damage.
–Science Daily

Shoreview tests permeable paving
Shoreview is betting on a new “green” concrete paving method that lets rainwater pass right through the street surface to prevent damaging runoff.

Pervious concrete — made of gravel and cement minus the sand that gives regular concrete its impenetrable density — has the porous quality of a Rice Krispies bar.

Because it will allow water to drain straight to the ground below, Shoreview will install about a mile of pervious concrete streets without storm sewers in the Woodbridge neighborhood on Lake Owasso.
–The Star Tribune

Wisconsin volunteers document life in holding ponds
Jody Barbeau wades into a shallow pond in woods less than a mile from shoppers at Mayfair Mall and commuters on congested U.S. Highway 45 – to glimpse a bustling community of other creatures.

Two mallard ducks cautiously paddle away from Barbeau, but there is no indication of aquatic life until he lifts a net out of the water.

Reddish dots on the fabric are water mites, he said.

A nearly transparent crustacean with a bulbous head is a male fairy shrimp, a relative of the lobster, said Barbeau, a biologist and volunteer pond monitor. They float belly up.

An explosion of fairy shrimp in late April and early May clogged the
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Maryland goats invasives to save turtles
A herd of goats coming to the rescue of a handful of imperiled turtles may sound like the plot of a Saturday morning children’s cartoon show, but that’s just what’s happening in the Carroll County town of Hampstead.

The State Highway Administration has enlisted the help of about 40 goats to devour invasive plant species in wetlands along the path of the soon-to-open, 4.4-mile Hampstead Bypass to protect the habitat of the bog turtle – a species listed as threatened in Maryland.

State highway officials decided to give the goats a tryout as four-legged lawn mowers rather than to attack the unwanted vegetation with mechanical mowers that might have killed the diminutive reptiles or damaged their boggy habitat on the fringe of Hampstead. The goats – leased from a local farmer who prefers to remain anonymous – have been on the job for a week, and highway officials say that so far they seem to be up to the task.
–The Baltimore Sun

Research: Environmental estrogens impact male rats
A five-generation rat study provides the clearest evidence to date that exposure to low levels of environmental estrogens can increase the risk of abnormal cell growth in the male breast.  Abnormalities which could have the potential to become cancerous developed in the mammary gland tissue of male rats that were exposed to either the soy-based phytoestrogen genistein or ethinyl estradiol – an estrogen used in birth control pills. The findings support a growing concern that exposure to low levels of estrogen in the environment might increase the risk of breast cancer.
–Environmental Health News

Legislation limits DNR oversight of Mississippi
Cities and homeowners who feared new rules would reduce their control over property and development are welcoming changes made in the critical-river-area measure signed by the governor.

Legislators said the bill, included in the Legacy Amendment law, was modified to protect homeowners and cities along a 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, from Hastings to Dayton.

The measure allocated $500,000 over two years for the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to revise rules for new development along the corridor. The DNR is to begin developing rules in January.
–The Star Tribune

Australian desalination plant under way
Sydney’s controversial desalination plant is almost 80 per cent complete and will start pumping drinking water this summer, the New South Wales  government says.

NSW Water Minister Phillip Costa says the plant, at Kurnell is Sydney’s south, will be able to provide 15 per cent of the city’s water within five years.

“It’s well and truly advanced, 70 to 80 per cent complete. Commissioning will occur by the end of the year,” he told a Sydney conference on NSW’s urban water sustainability. “We’re looking at water coming online in the summer 09-10. Once operational the plant will be capable of producing 250 million litres of water a day.”
–theage.com.au

Northeastern U.S. could face rising seas
In the debate over global warming, one thing is clear: as the planet gets warmer, sea levels will rise. But how much, where and how soon? Those questions are notoriously hard to answer.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colo., are now adding to the complexity with a new prediction. If the melting of Greenland’s ice sheets continues to accelerate, they say, sea levels will rise even more in the northeastern United States and Maritime Canada than in other areas around the world.
–The New York Times

UM StreamLab mimics natural processes

April 3, 2009

(This article was published in the March, 2009, Facets of Freshwater, the Freshwater Society’s newsletter. Read it here, or go to www.freshwater.org.)

This summer, there are going to be some big floods in Minneapolis.

The floods won’t inundate Hennepin Avenue, they won’t seep into the IDS Crystal Court or the Metrodome and they won’t displace residents of any of the city’s neighborhoods.

In fact, the floods won’t be real floods at all. They will be a carefully planned experiment in which torrents of water – each the equivalent of a once-in-50-years flood – will be sent rushing through the floodplain of the small artificial stream that is the heart of the University of Minnesota’s new Outdoor StreamLab.

The fake floods, nine-hour events intended to allow researchers to observe and precisely measure how engineered structures and vegetation such as sedges and rushes stabilize stream banks and prevent the loss of soil to high water, are an example of the controlled experiments the Outdoor StreamLab makes possible.

“What we have is an opportunity to change the stream, manipulate what’s entering the system, and see how it affects the water, sediment, and organisms within the stream,” said Anne Lightbody, a university research fellow who is director of the lab.

The $500,000 artificial stream cutting through an artificial flood plain has been used by researchers since last summer. It is across the Mississippi River from Downtown Minneapolis, a little way upstream from the Stone Arch Bridge. Water from the Mississippi is diverted into the stream through two 18-inch pipes.

Despite its relatively small size – 130 feet by 60 feet, about one-sixth the size of a football field – the StreamLab stream lab is, by far, the largest such facility in the United States. It is a dramatic improvement on the indoor flumes and basins that researchers long have used to model stream behavior in the university’s nearby St. Anthony Falls Laboratory.

“Everything we do here is trying to build small-scale models of natural phenomena,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, the director of the St. Anthony Falls Lab. “The indoor lab is very useful and serves its purpose, but it has limitations.”
The outdoor lab is operated as a partnership between the St. Anthony Falls Lab and the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics, a multi-university consortium sponsored by the National Science Foundation and housed at the St. Anthony Falls Lab.

The stream in the Outdoor SteamLab is about 9 feet wide and about a foot deep in its quiet pools, a few inches deep where it flows over rocks and gravel. It allows experiments that mimic creeks and streams. Eventually, Sotiropoulos hopes, the partners will build a bigger, much longer, artificial stream adjacent to the current one that would allow researchers to conduct experiments more applicable to large rivers.

For now, though, the researchers using the Outdoor StreamLab are reveling in their ability to manipulate the flow and environment of the artificial stream for experiments.

Lightbody is leading research on the impact of sediment pollution on aquatic insects.
Last summer, researchers introduced about a ton each of sand, clay and top soil into the stream – an attempt to replicate the kind of sedimentation that would accompany an intense storm. Then they captured and counted the insect species floating in the water and clinging to rocks in the shallows, upstream and downstream of the sedimentation.

Another research project is attempting to measure the extent to which nitrogen, a common pollutant, is removed from stream water when water flows out of the stream, into the sub-surface water table and then back again into the stream.

Still another research project looked at the way sediment moved within the stream. The stream was constructed with a flat bottom, but over a short time that changed. To the delight of the researchers, the artificial flow created sand bars on the inside of bends and deep pools on the outside, the same behavior as a natural stream.

“The river is continually moving sediment, and the question of how much it is moving and where it is putting it is important in streams of all sizes,” Lightbody said.

Pollution concerns, frog calls and smuggled dish soap

March 30, 2009

Every week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of regional, national and international news articles and research reports on water and the environment. Go to the Freshwater web site to read the latest digest, or click on the links below to read the original articles. If you see something that interests you, let us know by posting a comment.

Drinking water pollution tops concerns, poll shows
Pollution of drinking water is Americans’ No. 1 environmental concern, with 59% saying they worry “a great deal” about the issue, according to a new Gallup Poll.

All eight environmental issues tested in the 2009 Gallup Environment survey, conducted March 5-8, appear to be important to Americans, evidenced by the finding that a majority of Americans say they worry at least a fair amount about each one. However, on the basis of substantial concern — that is, the percentage worrying “a great deal” about each — there are important distinctions among them.

Four water-related issues on the poll fill the top spots in this year’s ranking. In addition to worrying about pollution of drinking water, roughly half of Americans also express a high degree of worry about pollution of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs (52% worry a great deal about this), and water and soil contamination from toxic waste (52%). About half worry about the maintenance of the nation’s supply of fresh water for household needs (49%).
–The Gallup Poll

EPA finding pushes Obama on climate change
The Environmental Protection Agency’s new leadership, in a step toward confronting global warming, submitted a finding that will force the White House to decide whether to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the nearly 40-year-old Clean Air Act.

Under that law, EPA’s conclusion — that such emissions are pollutants that endanger the public’s health and welfare — could trigger a broad regulatory process affecting much of the U.S. economy as well as the nation’s future environmental trajectory. The agency’s finding, which was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget without fanfare, also reversed one of the Bush administration’s landmark decisions on climate change, and it indicated anew that President Obama’s appointees will push to address the issue of warming despite the potential political costs.
–The Washington Post

Human drugs found in fish near treatment plants
Fish caught near wastewater treatment plants serving five major U.S. cities had residues of pharmaceuticals in them, including medicines used to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and depression, researchers reported.

Findings from this first nationwide study of human drugs in fish tissue have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly expand similar ongoing research to more than 150 different locations.
–The Associated Press

Listen for some croaks, help with some research
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Wildlife Program is recruiting volunteers to participate in its ongoing statewide frog and toad calling survey.

Since 1996, volunteers have collected data by listening to and identifying frog and toad species on specified 10-stop routes. The results provide information on where species are located and how their populations change in abundance and distribution.

For information, click here. Want to listen to a frog? Click here.
Minnesota DNR

Spokane phosphate ban sparks dishwasher revolt
The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers.

They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don’t work as well.
–The Associated Press

Water issues now part of power-generating calculus
Last month, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a utility that provides power to mostly rural areas, agreed to conduct a major study to see if it might meet growing energy needs through energy efficiency and not a big, new coal-fired power plant, as it had proposed for southeast Colorado.

One reason for the move was a challenge by Environment Colorado, an advocacy organization, about the amount of water a new plant would require.
–The Wall Street Journal

Firm plans trash-to-diesel plant in Rosemount
Plans for a plant outside Rosemount that would turn trash into diesel fuel are moving along, despite early concerns from nearby cities.

The Empire Township Board approved a zoning change and comprehensive plan amendment Tuesday that will allow Rational Energies LLC to build a 200,000 square-foot biomass gasification facility on about 50 acres at the intersection of Hwy. 52 and County Road 46.
–Star Tribune

Great Lakes ice cover diminishing over time
Ice cover on the Great Lakes has declined more than 30 percent since the 1970s, leaving the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes open to evaporation and lower water levels, according to scientists associated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

They’re concerned about how the milder winter freeze may affect the environment. But they’re also trying to come to terms with a contradiction: The same climate factors that might keep lake ice from freezing might make freezing more likely if lake levels drop due to evaporation.
–The Associated Press

Big wilderness bill passes Congress
Congress set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness — from California’s Sierra Nevada mountains to the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

The legislation is on its way to President Barack Obama for his likely signature.

The House approved the bill, 285-140, the final step in a long legislative road that began last year.
–The Associated Press

EPA reverses stand on mountaintop mining
In a sharp reversal of Bush administration policies, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said the agency planned an aggressive review of permit requests for mountaintop coal mining, citing serious concerns about potential harm to water quality.

The administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said her agency had sent two letters to the Army Corps of Engineers in which it expressed concern about two proposed mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky involving mountaintop removal, a form of strip mining that blasts the tops off mountains and dumps leftover rock in valleys, burying streams.
–The New York Times

Ethanol industry faces scrutiny on feed byproduct
The ethanol industry must be wondering where the bottom is. Profits are slim or non-existent and about 20 percent of all U.S. plants are shut down. In addition, ethanol’s main by-product, which is sold as livestock feed, has raised potential food safety concerns. Several studies have linked the by-product known as distillers grain to elevated rates of E. coli in cattle. And now, distillers grain is facing further scrutiny because the Food and Drug Administration has found that it often contains antibiotics leftover from making ethanol.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Water a new cash crop for California farmers
As Don Bransford prepares for his spring planting season, he is debating which is worth more: the rice he grows on his 700-acre farm north of Sacramento, or the water he uses to cultivate it.

After three years of drought in California, water is now a potential cash crop. Last fall, the state activated its Drought Water Bank program for the first time since 1994. Under the program, farmers can choose to sell some of the water they would usually use to grow their crops to parched cities, counties and agriculture districts.
–The Wall Street Journal

Las Vegas water pipeline opposed
A coalition of ranchers, farmers and conservationists is turning up the volume on efforts to block a plan to pipe billions of gallons of groundwater a year from the northeast part of Nevada to Las Vegas.

A coalition lawyer says State Engineer Tracy Taylor relied on bad data and flawed reasoning in deciding last July to let the Southern Nevada Water Authority pump some 6.1 billion gallons of water a year from the rural Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys.
–The Associated Press

Snail evolves larger shells to fight invasive crab
With all the recent changes in the oceans, like dying coral reefs and collapsing commercial fisheries, it’s easy to forget that most changes occur over the longer term. Sometimes the incremental changes are so slight that they aren’t noticeable for decades.

A case in point is described in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Jonathan A. D. Fisher of Queen’s University in Ontario, Peter S. Petraitis of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues: They report on a large size increase in the shells of a well-studied intertidal snail, the Atlantic dogwinkle (Nucella lapillus), around Mount Desert Island in Maine over the last century.
–The New York Times

USDA gardening zones to reflect climate change
As winter retreats northward across the nation, gardeners are cleaning tools and turning attention to spring planting. But climate change is adding a new wrinkle, and now a standard reference – the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map – is about to make very clear how much rising temperatures have shifted planting zones northward.

The guide, last updated in 1990, shows where various species can be expected to thrive.  A revision is expected sometime this year, and while the agency hasn’t released details, horticulturalists and experts who have helped with the revision expect the new map to extend plants’ northern ranges and paint a sharp picture of the continent’s gradual warming over the past few decades.
–The Daily Climate

Nestle spring water plan sparks Colorado fight
A plan to suck, truck and bottle Arkansas Valley spring water has residents here crusading against the world’s largest food and beverage company.

“Nestle is seeking to drain the blood of Chaffee County,” said Salida local Daniel Zettler during a fiery public hearing last week.
–The Denver Post

USGS studies endocrine-disruptors in Chesapeake Bay
Fish health and reproductive issues in the Chesapeake Bay drainage may be associated with fish exposure to hormone-mimicking compounds and other chemicals.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists have studied yellow perch, a species that has declined in recent years, and found that differences in the egg quality of these fish is occurring in some sites they sampled.  In addition, scientists sampled smallmouth bass and other species from major fish kills in the South Branch of the Potomac and the Shenandoah River. They found the fish were infected with a variety of types of skin lesions and a number of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites.
–U.S. Geological Survey

EPA nominee withdraws, citing investigation
President Obama’s nominee for U.S. EPA’s second highest post abruptly pulled out of the Senate confirmation process because of an investigation into the nonprofit group where he once served on the board of directors.

Jon Cannon, a former top EPA lawyer, withdrew from consideration as deputy administrator after learning America’s Clean Water Foundation “has become the subject of scrutiny.”
–The New York Times

‘Water wars,’ bottled water and robo-carp

March 23, 2009

Every week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of regional, national and international news articles and research reports on water and the environment. Go to the Freshwater web site to read the latest digest, or click on the links below to read the original articles. If you see something that interests you, let us know by posting a comment.

Specter of ‘water wars’ may be overblown
The United Nations warned recently that climate change harbours the potential for serious conflicts over water. In its World Water Development Report of March 2009, it quotes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting the risk of water scarcity “transforming peaceful competition into violence”. It is statements such as this that gave birth to popular notions of ‘water wars’. It is time we dispelled this myth. Countries do not go to war over water, they solve their water shortages through trade and international agreements.

Cooperation, in fact, is the dominant response to shared water resources. There are 263 cross-boundary waterways in the world. Between 1948 and 1999, cooperation over water, including the signing of treaties, far outweighed conflict over water and violent conflict in particular. Of 1,831 instances of interactions over international freshwater resources tallied over that time period (including everything from unofficial verbal exchanges to economic agreements or military action), 67% were cooperative, only 28% were conflictive, and the remaining 5% were neutral or insignificant. In those five decades, there were no formal declarations of war over water.
–Nature

Florida considers charging water bottlers
Each day more than five million gallons of spring water is bottled in Florida, and companies pay almost nothing for local water permits. Florida is considering joining other states that have imposed “severance fees” on commercially bottled spring water. It would charge six cents for every gallon taken from springs or aquifers.
–National Public Radio

U.S. toxic chemical releases down slightly
The release of toxic chemicals to the air and water decreased across the country in 2007, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Releases to the air decreased 7 percent, and releases to water declined 5 percent, according to a report issued by the agency.

The report shows increases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals like lead, dioxin, mercury and PCBs. Overall PBTs releases increased 1 percent. The increases were primarily due to a handful of facilities, and most of the releases reported were not to the air or water.

Total disposal or other releases of mercury increased 38 percent, but air emissions of mercury were down 3 percent. The majority of mercury releases were reported by the mining industry.

State-by-state data on facilities and releases to air, land and water can be found by accessing the EPA’s state fact sheet by clicking here.

Additional information on releases on zip code, county and facility can be found using the TRI explorer, accessible here.
–U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Major bird populations decline
Several major bird populations have plummeted over the past four decades across the United States as development transformed the nation’s landscape, according to a comprehensive survey released by the Interior Department and outside experts, but conservation efforts have staved off potential extinctions of others.

“The State of the Birds” report, a broad analysis of data compiled from scientific and citizen surveys over 40 years, shows that some species have made significant gains even as others have suffered. Hunted waterfowl and iconic species such as the bald eagle have expanded in number, the report said, while populations of birds along the nation’s coasts and in its arid areas and grasslands have declined sharply.
–The Washington Post

Invasives rules sought for Lake Minnetonka
The Lake Minnetonka Association is calling for emergency boat launch rules for the coming season to prevent the spread of zebra mussels into the lake.

An exploding population of zebra mussels in Lake Mille Lacs warrants emergency action to protect Lake Minnetonka, the association says. It wants to require that all boats be clean and dry, inside and out, before they enter the lake.

The lakeshore owners group is pushing the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, which manages lake issues for the 14 cities ringing the lake, to adopt these ramp rules and step up efforts to protect the lake from invasive species. It is also asking the cities to work on the problem as well.
–Star Tribune

Caribbean fish populations down
Populations of both large and small fish have been declining sharply across the Caribbean in the past 10 years, say researchers, who combined data from 48 studies of 318 coral reefs conducted over more than 50 years.

The data show that fish “densities” that had held steady for decades began to drop significantly around 1995, a trend not reported previously. Although overfishing has long taken a toll on larger species, the drop in smaller species that are not fished indicates that other forces are at work, said author Michelle Paddack of Simon Fraser University in Canada.

Drastic losses in coral cover and changes in coral reef habitats, driven by warming water temperatures and coral diseases, as well as sediment and pollution from coastal development could be among the factors.
–The Washington Post

Robotic carp developed to fight pollution
Robotic fish, developed by UK scientists, are to be released into the sea for the first time to detect pollution.
The carp-shaped robots will be let loose in the port of Gijon in northern Spain as part of a three-year research project.

If successful, the team hopes that the fish will used in rivers, lakes and seas across the world, including Britain, to detect pollution.

The life-like creatures, which will mimic the undulating movement of real fish, will be equipped with tiny chemical sensors to find the source of potentially hazardous pollutants in the water, such as leaks from vessels in the port or underwater pipelines.

The fish will then transmit their data through Wi-Fi technology when they dock to charge their batteries with last around eight hours.
–The Telegraph

EPA sponsors video contest
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is sponsoring a contest for the production of educational videos that will inspire people to help protect streams, lakes, wetlands, and coasts.

Two winners will each receive $2,500 and their videos will be featured on EPA’s Web site. The deadline for entry is Earth Day, April 29.

The contest has two categories: 30- or 60-second videos usable as a television public service announcement, and 1- to 3-minute instructional videos.

For information, go to contest rules on the EPA web site by clicking here.
–U.S. EPA web site

Dubuque museum works to save amphibians
Out of sight and tucked away under lock and key in the basement of the Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, the tiny toads hopping about in climate controlled captivity might not seem sexy.

But when Lee Jackson, Abby Urban and Jerry Enzler begin to talk about their little guests, passion is just around the corner.

It’s a passion for preservation of the Wyoming toad, one of the four most endangered amphibian species in the United States, Urban points out. And one-tenth of the Wyoming toads in captivity are in her care.
–The Dubuque Telegraph Herald

European water use not sustainable, report says
European environmental officials warned that the continent does not have enough water to sustain current consumption levels.

The European Environment Agency issued a report that concluded the problem now applies to northern Europe as well as the south and cannot be addressed by expanding supplies alone.

“The short-term solution to water scarcity has been to extract ever greater amounts of water from our surface and groundwater assets,” said agency director Jacqueline McGlade. “Overexploitation is not sustainable.”
–United Press International


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