Posts Tagged ‘darby nelson’

Dates not to miss, pythons and butterflies

February 6, 2012

The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

DNR proposes boat trailer permitting 
Minnesota’s 800,000 boat owners would have to pass a course on how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species before they could trailer their boats anywhere, under a bill proposed by the Department of Natural Resources.

“We’re envisioning it would be an online training course,” said Luke Skinner, DNR invasive species specialist. “This would be required training so boaters know the laws and what they need to do to prevent the spread of invasive species.”

Those hauling other water-related equipment, such as docks or boat lifts, also would have the pass the course. Also, fines for those caught violating invasive species laws would be doubled — all part of increased efforts by the DNR to slow the spread of invading critters to Minnesota’s waters.

Some measures will be implemented this season, including random roadside boat checks and a requirement that boat owners place free DNR stickers on their boats spelling out invasive species requirements. But the training requirement proposal wouldn’t kick in until 2015, under the proposed bill.
–The Star Tribune

Important events in March
Put these three important dates on your calendar:

  • March 1. Mindy Lubber, an international leader in efforts by investors to persuade and pressure multinational companies to adopt sustainable business practices, will give a free public lecture. The lecture is titled “Investing in Sustainability: Building Water Stewardship into the Bottom Line.” Learn more and register to reserve your place at the lecture. The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.
  • March 17. The Minnesota division of the Izaak Walton League will sponsor Watershed Solutions Summit 2012, at Normandale Community College. Learn more.
  • March 29. Precision Conservation is the science and art of putting conservation practices at the places on the landscape where they will do the most good. The Freshwater Society, with the assistance of a number of partners, will sponsor a conference aimed at Soil and Water Conservation District supervisors, Watershed District managers, county commissioners and others who care deeply about protecting water quality. Dave White, the national chief of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will deliver the keynote address. Learn more and register to attend.
Darby Nelson book a finalist for award

Darby Nelson

Darby Nelson

For Love of Lakes, a new book by Darby Nelson, is a finalist in this year’s Minnesota Book Awards. Nelson, a member of the Freshwater Society Board of Directors, is a longtime conservationist, a retired environmental science professor and a former Minnesota legislator. His book, a collection of first-person essays about lakes in Minnesota and across the United States, was published by the Michigan State University Press. It is one of four finalists in the memoir and creative nonfiction category. The winners will be announced April 14. Learn more about For Love of Lakes and read its introduction. Learn more about the Book Awards and vote on-line in the People’s Choice category.

Mercury rules an issue in taconite plant dispute 
Iron Range officials expressed frustration with Magnetation Inc. over the company’s threats to build an iron ore pelletizing plant in another state. But company officials say it’s Minnesota’s tough pollution rules that are forcing them to look elsewhere.

State Rep. Tom Rukavina and St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson say they are upset that the company is considering building the $300 million plant somewhere other than the Iron Range, especially after Minnesota invested heavily in helping Magnetation get started.

Magnetation is considering sites in Superior, Indiana and Illinois in addition to Itasca County for the plant that will employ about 150 people.

“To me, it’s embarrassing that a guy who got $1 million of free taxpayer money from Minnesota would even consider going to another state,’’ Rukavina said, referring to a $1 million grant Magnetation’s CEO Larry Lehtinen received in 2008 from the Minnesota Minerals 21st Century Fund administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
--The Duluth News Tribune.

GOP seeks environmental permitting changes 
Republicans in the state Legislature are advancing a new set of initiatives to overhaul environmental regulation.

The measures come after they reached accord last year with Gov. Mark Dayton on a sweeping bill that streamlined the environmental permitting process. That bill was a noteworthy but ultimately fleeting act of bipartisanship. Now, backed by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and opposed by environmental organizations, a second round of permitting legislation passed in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on a voice vote.

The bill picks up where the 2011 legislation left off. Last year’s legislation allowed businesses to submit their own environmental reviews of projects for consideration by state regulators. This year’s bill, sponsored by Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, proposes to allow companies to hire an outside consultant to prepare environmental permits. The applications would ultimately be approved or rejected by the state Pollution Control Agency.
–Politics in Minnesota

China arrests 8 in massive pollutant spill
China has detained another company official, bringing the total to eight, over a massive river pollution case in the country’s south, the government and state media said. Industrial waste — including toxic cadmium — polluted up to a 300-kilometre (190-mile) section of the Longjiang River in the Guangxi region and threatened drinking water supplies for millions of people.

Police have detained eight executives from two firms, Jinhe Mining Co. and Jinchengjiang Hongquan Lithopone Materials Factory, according to a statement from Hechi city, where the pollution originated. Authorities were seeking another four people who had fled, the Shanghai Daily newspaper quoted Hechi Mayor He Xinxing as saying.
–AFP

Pythons swallowing up Everglades mammals
Precipitous declines in formerly common mammals in Everglades National Park have been linked to the presence of invasive Burmese pythons, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Burmese python caught in 2009

15-foot, 162-pound Burmese python. Photo, Mike Rochford, University of Fla.

The study, the first to document the ecological impacts of this invasive species, strongly supports that animal communities in this 1.5-million-acre park have been markedly altered by the introduction of pythons within 11 years of their establishment as an invasive species.

Mid-sized mammals are the most dramatically affected. The most severe declines, including a nearly complete disappearance of raccoons, rabbits and opossums, have occurred in the remote southernmost regions of the park, where pythons have been established the longest. In this area, populations of raccoons dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent and bobcats 87.5 percent. Marsh and cottontail rabbits, as well as foxes, were not seen at all.

“Pythons are wreaking havoc on one of America’s most beautiful, treasured and naturally bountiful ecosystems,” said U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt. “Right now, the only hope to halt further python invasion into new areas is swift, decisive and deliberate human action.”
–USGS News Release

‘Loophole’ might shield Sherco emissions
Environmental groups called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to close a “loophole” in new air pollution rules that would let the oldest coal-fired units at Xcel Energy’s Sherco power plant forgo expensive retrofitting.

Sherco, located in Becker, 45 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, is the state’s largest power plant, capable of producing 2,400 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 1.8 million households. But the plant burns 30,000 tons of coal a day, and the environmental groups say its emissions are the main contributor to the haze that hangs over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and other natural areas.

Estimates for the cost of retrofitting the Sherco plant range from less than $50 million to several hundred million dollars.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Health Department sets forum on drinking water 
The Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Contaminants of Emerging Concern Program will hold a public forum on drinking water and the department’s effort to explore potential contaminants.

The forum will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, at the department’s Snelling Office Park,  1645 Energy Park Drive, St. Paul.

The Forum is open to anyone concerned about protecting the state’s water resources from contaminants. It is an opportunity to share information related to contaminants of emerging concern and to learn more about CEC program activities.

If you have questions or would like to participate via the Web, contact Michele Ross at michele.ross@state.mn.us or 651-201-4927. Learn more about Advisory Forum . Read a 2010 Freshwater Society interview with Pamela Shubat, who directs the Contaminants of Emerging Concern program.

Karner blue butterfly
Photo: Phil Delphey, USFWS

Rare butterfly an issue for Wisconsin sand mines
In the sand barrens of Wisconsin lives an endangered blue butterfly. Its range overlaps almost perfectly with the sand that’s become a lucrative part of a boom in natural gas drilling. And to kill a Karner blue without a permit violates federal law. But of the dozens of frac sand companies that have descended upon the area, just one, Unimin, has applied to the state Department of Natural Resources to be able to legally destroy Karner blues in its operations, according to David Lentz, who coordinates the agency’s Karner blue butterfly habitat conservation plan. And only four companies have contacted the agency’s Bureau of Endangered Resources directly.
–The Fond du Lac Reporter

Elephants in Australia?
 Australia could introduce large herbivores such as elephants as part of a radical biological solution to the problem of bushfires and invasive species, says one expert.

The argument is laid out in a provocative commentary from Dr David Bowman, a professor of environmental change biology at the University of Tasmania, and is published in Nature magazine.

“I’m being as provocative as possible to try and wake everybody up to say, ‘Look, what is currently happening is not sustainable. We have to think outside the square,’” Dr Bowman said.

He says the short-term programs designed to address Australia’s serious problems with bushfires and invasive species are piecemeal, costly and ineffective.

For example, he says, they are not succeeding in controlling the invasive gamba grass that leads to frequent intense fires in Australia’s north.

“It’s out of control,” he said. “Last year we had a fire in the outback in Central Australia the size of Tasmania. These things are very bad.”
–Asia Pacific News

 

Legacy spending, zebra mussels, carbon emissions

December 5, 2011

Tthe Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

You are reading this blog. Thanks. Either you knew of its existence and subscribed to it or came looking for it, or perhaps you found it through a search engine. Since late 2009, we have published links to hundreds of important articles about the water, science and the environment. If you like what you see here, please use one of the “Subscribe to this blog” features, at right, to sign up to receive it regularly.

Audits examine Legacy spending
A legislative auditor’s report looking broadly at spending so far from Minnesota’s $240 million a year Legacy Amendment said “efforts to ensure accountability are generally adequate.”

But the report – intended as a first benchmark for many more audits to come — listed a number of questions and concerns about how the Legislature, state agencies and appointed oversight boards and councils use money from the sales tax increase that voters approved in 2008.

Those questions include:

  • How can lawmakers and others ensure that spending decisions meet a constitutional mandate that spending from the new tax revenue should supplement and not substitute for traditional sources of funding?
  •  Will the 25-year sales tax increase produce a qualitative improvement in the health of the Minnesota’s environment, especially the cleanliness of its waters?
  •  Are the oversight groups and the recipients of Legacy money doing enough to disclose and prevent conflicts of interest in decision-making?

A second, related audit report looked specifically at financial accountability for expenditures.

Read the two audit reports. Check out coverage of the reports by the Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio.

Darby Nelson

Dec. 6 book-signing by Darby Nelson
Don’t miss the book-signing Tuesday, Dec. 6, by Darby Nelson, a longtime conservationist and Freshwater Society board member. Check out an article about his new book, For the Love of Lakes, and link to the introduction Nelson wrote for it. RSVP for the book-signing event at 6 p.m. in the Student Center theater on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Zebra mussel found in Pelican Lake
A single juvenile zebra mussel was found recently on dock equipment removed from Pelican Lake in Crow Wing County near Brainerd, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

A dock services provider discovered the zebra mussel attached to a dock post during removal of a dock. Local DNR staff were subsequently contacted for a positive identification.

DNR biologists are investigating how the zebra mussel might have gotten into Pelican Lake. They have conducted a thorough survey of other docks and marker buoys on the lake and have not located additional zebra mussels. The small size of the zebra mussel indicates it is not at a reproductive stage.

The DNR is working closely with homeowners and the Pelican Lake Association to continue monitoring the lake for zebra mussels. Any additional zebra mussel detections should be reported immediately to DNR invasive species specialists Dan Swanson at 218-833-8645 or Rich Rezanka at 218-999-7805.
 –DNR News Release

Carbon emissions rise in 2010 
 Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last year, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.

Emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, according to an analysis released by the Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists tracking the numbers. Scientists with the group said the increase, a half-billion extra tons of carbon pumped into the air, was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.

The increase solidified a trend of ever-rising emissions that scientists fear will make it difficult, if not impossible, to forestall severe climate change in coming decades. The researchers said the high growth rate reflected a bounce-back from the 1.4 percent drop in emissions in 2009, the year the recession had its biggest impact.
–The New York Times

USGS documents groundwater draw-down 
More than 280 million acre-feet of groundwater has been withdrawn from the Mississippi embayment aquifer system between 1870-2007, according to a new water modeling tool developed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

This cumulative withdrawal, which is the equivalent of five feet of water over 78,000 square miles, contributes to one of the largest losses of groundwater storage anywhere in the United States.

The new USGS modeling tool was designed to help resource managers find a balance between water supply and demand for future economic and environmental uses. The three-dimensional model provides a holistic picture of how water flows below ground and how it relates to surface-water. The Mississippi embayment aquifer system encompasses approximately 78,000 square miles in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

A report documenting past and current groundwater conditions, and tools to forecast regional response to human use, climate variability, and land-use changes are all available online.

“Our groundwater aquifers are nature’s own natural method for storing water safely long term where it is less vulnerable to loss through evaporation and surface contamination,” explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. “We should be as concerned about loss of groundwater as we are about dropping levels in reservoirs behind dams, because in the depths of the worst drought, when the rivers run dry, it is only the groundwater that will sustain us.”
–USGS News Release

EPA’s ballast water rules criticized 
Newly proposed ballast water regulations fell flat with environmental groups that argued the restrictions would not go far enough to thwart the spread of invasive species.

Ballast water, which ships carry for stability, has long been known to transmit foreign organisms between bodies of water. The zebra mussel, quagga mussel and round goby, which have wreaked havoc on the Great Lakes ecosystem, are suspected to have arrived through ballast water.

To address that problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued draft permits that would require certain ships to treat ballast water before releasing it. In some cases, ships would be required to have fewer than 10 living organisms per unit of water, a concentration in line with the International Maritime Organization’s standard. The amount of water depends on the size of the organism.

But several environmental groups said that the standard should be closer to zero.

“It is not like this is a smokestack where you can scrub out 90 percent of the mercury or carbon dioxide and then feel pretty good about yourself,” said Thom Cmar, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental advocacy organization based in New York. “Here you have a living pollutant that can breed and reproduce.”
–The Chicago Tribune

Nature Conservancy brokers sustainable fishing
On the Pacific Coast, south of San Francisco, the Nature Conservancy and local fishing captains have forged an unusual business partnership aimed at maintaining both the local fishing industry and the threatened stocks of fish on which the industry depends.

Five years ago, the Nature Conservancy bought out a number of boats and fishing permits. Now the environmental group leases back the permits and boats – on the condition that crews abandon trawling in favor of more sustainable methods of fishing and that they put some areas of ocean habitat off limits to fishing.  Read a New York Times article profiling the unusual arrangement.

Lots of pros and cons on fracking
Is hydraulic fracturing – fracking – a safe and effective way to dramatically expand the domestic oil and gas production in the U.S.? Or is the practice of injecting vast amounts of water deep into the rock formations that contain oil a bargain with the devil that eventually will contaminate groundwater that is even more valuable than oil?

Read competing views in multiple opinion pieces published in U.S. News & World Report’s Debate Club feature.

Army Corps eyes dredging north of Hastings 
The Mississippi River will get a new island near Cottage Grove in a plan to straighten out a crooked barge channel.

The Army Corps of Engineers has begun a study of the $5 million project involving a section of the river north of Hastings. A sharp bend in the barge channel is becoming tougher to navigate and needs to be rerouted, said Paul Machajewski, the corps’ channel maintenance coordinator for the St. Paul District.

Cleared sediment would be piled out of the way, creating an island that boaters already are eyeing.

“I am pretty excited by this. There are a lot of win-win things about it,” said Greg Genz, a consultant who works on river-related issues. Shippers who used to weave through the passage with 15 lashed-together barges now can manage only eight 10 12.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

EPA rule threatens L. Michigan ferry 
Facing a deadline to stop dumping toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan, owners of the last coal-powered steamship on the Great Lakes are pushing for it to join Mount Vernon, Lincoln’s Tomb and Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace as a protected national historic landmark.

Even if the Badger fails to make the list of the nation’s historic and cultural treasures, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may be unable to force the aging coal burner to eliminate the nearly 4 tons of waste it dumps in the lake every time it sails.

An amendment added to a budget bill by Republican congressmen from Michigan and Wisconsin would prevent the EPA from imposing more stringent pollution limits on any ship that is “on, or nominated for inclusion on” the list of landmarks.

In documents obtained by the Tribune, the car ferry’s owners plead for the National Park Service to grant the Badger special protection from the EPA, which in 2008 gave them four years to find a solution to the ship’s pollution problems.
–The Chicago Tribune

The dirty truth about La Brea Tar Pits
For years, residents living near Ballona Creek and environmentalists have complained of mysterious sheens of oil and grease in the western Los Angeles County waterway, often blaming industrial dumping, urban runoff or other man-made causes for the pollution.

One cause that apparently never crossed their minds: the La Brea Tar Pits.

It turns out the tourist attraction and preferred field trip destination of seemingly every grade schooler in the region has sent oily wastewater spilling into the highly polluted creek.

The tar pits, in Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile neighborhood, overflow during heavy rains, overwhelming the devices that separate oil from water. Polluted runoff then gets into the storm drain system, spilling into the creek and emptying into the ocean, according to county planners.
–The Los Angeles Times

Suit claims grazing’s impact ignored 
Millions of cattle graze on public lands all over the West and have done so for more than a century.

But a new complaint filed by an environmental group charges that despite Clinton-era moves to examine and diminish the impact of grazing in the arid West, Interior Department employees have blocked the use of federal data on the impact in regional scientific studies. The actions by mid-level Interior employees “seriously compromise” the scientific integrity of efforts to figure out how and why western ecosystems are changing, said the complaint, filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington-based environmental group.

The complaint charges that officials of the Bureau of Land Management not only effectively prevented ecosystem scientists from making grazing a significant part of their regional analyses but also failed to inform them of data gathered by the bureau.
–The New York Times

Ethanol plant faces pollution penalty

November 28, 2011

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Corn Plus ethanol plant penalized – again
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has announced that Corn Plus will pay a $310,000 civil penalty to resolve violations of the air-quality permit issued to the company’s ethanol-production facility in Winnebago.

The violations, occurring from 2008 to 2010, were discovered through on-site inspections by MPCA enforcement staff and through analysis of monitoring data the company is required to submit under its air quality permit.

A staff inspection in August 2009 found violations of Minnesota laws and rules as well as permit conditions. The inspection confirmed that some of the violations were not previously reported to the MPCA as required by the facility’s permit. MPCA staff requested more monitoring records and discovered many repeated data patterns that indicated Corn Plus had falsified up to a year’s worth of monitoring data, primarily relating to operations of the facility’s air-emissions-control equipment.

In March 2011, staff from the MPCA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency interviewed the facility’s environmental manager and requested more monitoring records. The facility was issued a grand jury subpoena at that time by the EPA. After reviewing the records, EPA and MPCA staff identified more potentially false data from 2010.

Last month, Corn Plus was charged by the EPA with a felony for falsifying information about its pollution-control equipment. These actions follow an $891,000 settlement with the MPCA in January 2010, and another criminal charge from the EPA in late 2009 for water-quality violations.
–MPCA News Release

New UN report cites degraded land and water resources
Widespread degradation and deepening scarcity of land and water resources have placed a number of key food production systems around the globe at risk, posing a profound challenge to the task of feeding a world population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, according to a new FAO report..

The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture (SOLAW) notes that while the last 50 years witnessed a notable increase in food production, “in too many places, achievements have been associated with management practices that have degraded the land and water systems upon which food production depends.”

Today a number of those systems “face the risk of progressive breakdown of their productive capacity under a combination of excessive demographic pressure and unsustainable agriculture use and practices,” the report says.

No region is immune: systems at risk can be found around the globe, from the highlands of the Andes to the steppes of Central Asia, from Australia’s Murray-Darling river basin to the central United States.
—Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN news release

Photo contest seeks signs of winter
Calling all Photographers…. Check out Freshwater Society’s Facebook page and submit your best photo of the first signs of winter! Winning photos will be published in the 2013 Weatherguide Environment Calendar! The deadline for submission is Dec. 31.

Dec. 6 book-signing by Darby Nelson
Darby Nelson, a Freshwater Society board member, will talk about  and read excerpts from his new book, For Love of Lakes,  in a book-signing event at 6 p.m.  Tuesday, Dec. 6, in the Student Center Theater on the University of  Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus.

Read a Freshwater article about the book and link to the introduction Nelson wrote for it.

Minnehaha Creek district eyes expanded role
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is about to make what it says is one of its most important—and potentially expensive—decisions in recent memory.

Citing internal study and consensus that invasive species are the No. 1 threat to the watershed’s long-term vitality and health, the district is considering taking a lead role in the fight to prevent the spread of aquatic hitchhikers—something that has historically been the Department of Natural Resource’s responsibility.

“We would like to see the DNR take a very strong, very active role in this, but we don’t feel the state has the resources to protect our resources—nor do they have the staff,” said Eric Evenson, the MCWD’s top administrator.
 –Minnetonka Patch

Rare isotope tracks ancient aquifer
The Nubian Aquifer, the font of fabled oases in Egypt and Libya, stretches languidly across 770,000 square miles of northern Africa, a pointillist collection of underground pools of water migrating, ever so slowly, through rock and sand toward the Mediterranean Sea.

The aquifer is one of the world’s oldest. But its workings — how it flows and how quickly surface water replenishes it — have been hard to understand, in part because the tools available to study it have provided, at best, a blurry image. Now, to solve some of the puzzles, physicists at the Department of Energy’s Argonne  National Laboratory in Illinois have turned to one of the rarest particles on earth: an elusive radioactive isotope usually ricocheting around in the atmosphere at hundreds of miles an hour.
The New York Times

Budget collapse leaves winners, losers
Count pheasant hunters as among those likely disappointed that Congress is plowing under that new farm bill. Biofuel producers, on the other hand, may be happy to see the bill go.

Those groups were among the winners and losers in the hastily crafted bill that the House and Senate agriculture committees had planned to stuff in a deficit-reduction plan that a congressional supercommittee was charged with writing. The supercommittee gave up trying to agree on the plan, leaving the agriculture committees in Congress to start over on the farm legislation.

The agriculture committee leaders did all their work on the bill behind closed doors and never released an actual text of the legislation.

But Pheasants Forever, an advocacy group, successfully lobbied the lawmakers for provisions that would have steered conservation funding to landowners who preserved grassy areas as habitat for the game bird.

The ethanol industry was dismayed to find out that the bill, according to a summary that leaked out, would have blocked the Agriculture Department from subsidizing the installation of service station pumps that can dispense higher blends of the biofuel. The legislation also contained no money for subsidizing farmers who provided crop residues and other new feedstocks for making biofuels.
–The Des Moines Register

Septic systems threaten Cape Cod waters
When the tide rolls out, the beaches on the west coast of Cape Cod often turn a shade of lime green, with splotches of a slimy substance that locals say resembles black mayonnaise and smells like rotten eggs.

In the warmer months, a film of algae spreads through the harbor in Cataumet and the opaque waters turn a copper color, veiling the little life left on the seabed.

“There can be so much algae in the water that they look like huge lily pads, like you can walk across them on the water,’’ said Scott Zeien, owner of Kingman Yacht Center, who has been swimming and sailing off this Bourne village since he was a child. “It’s really gross. It looks like a bad day on the Mississippi River – not a place anyone would want to swim.’’

The problem, a growing body of evidence suggests, stems from the dramatic rise in development on the Cape and the lack of sufficient waste-disposal systems. The remnants of sewage from septic tanks of the more than 200,000 full-time Cape residents is seeping into the ground water and polluting estuaries, bays, and other bodies of water from Bourne to Orleans.
–The Boston Globe

Add hairy crazy ant to the list of invasives
America is under siege — not by a foreign power, but by invasive species slowly working their way across the nation, leaving a sometimes-devastated and often-changed landscape in their wake.

Just as Dutch elm disease from Asia removed an iconic tree from the American landscape beginning in the 1940s, the emerald ash borer may conquer the ash tree in coming years. West Nile virus from Africa killed 57 Americans last year. And work crews often encounter giant Burmese pythons in South Florida.

The latest addition to the list of non-native creepy-crawlies is the hairy crazy ant. The tiny foragers are believed to have come from South America. They first got to the Caribbean in the late 19th century and are working their way through Florida and the Southeast. First discovered nine years ago in Texas by exterminator Tom Rasberry, the ants are now also in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, says Jim Fredericks, director of technical services for the National Pest Management Association in Fairfax, Va.
–USA Today

A report card on Minnesota’s environment

November 21, 2011

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Dayton seeks environmental report card
Trumpeting his administration’s success in speeding up permitting and environmental reviews, Gov. Mark Dayton ordered additional steps to make things even better.

With state departments now issuing 80 percent of permits within a time frame he called for in January, Dayton signed an executive order requiring the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board to recommend ways to simplify and to improve things further and to come up with an annual report card tracking the state’s performance.

“We’re feeling really good about this,” said Dayton, adding, “We’re looking for ways to do even better.”

At a Capitol press conference, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Paul Aasen said his agency has issued more than 1,300 permits within a 150-day goal set by Dayton and Republican legislators last winter as both sought ways to speed up the permitting and environmental review pace to make things easier for businesses.

Dayton and Aasen said 96 percent of permits for new or expanding projects are being issued within 150 days. Aasen, meanwhile, said permits not decided within the 150-day period typically involved complex air-quality issues.

During the legislative session, Republicans called their streamlining efforts a signature achievement, even though Dayton had required some of them in an earlier executive order.

Dayton said he wants the first EQB report card by Nov. 15, 2012. By the following Jan. 15, he wants the EQB to organize and host a followup “congress” on the state of Minnesota’s environment.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

3M, state agree on clean-up
The 3M Co. and state regulators signed off on a plan to start cleaning up groundwater in Cottage Grove that for decades has been contaminated with industrial toxins used in some of the company’s best-known consumer products.

Though it brings the long, controversial cleanup one step closer to completion, the parties still haven’t agreed on how to address a far more difficult problem: removing the contaminants, known as PFCs, from the water before it is discharged from the company’s Cottage Grove manufacturing plant into the Mississippi River. The river above Hastings is also contaminated with the toxins, and, as a result, the state Health Department has said fish there are not safe to eat.

Early this year both 3M’s groundwater cleanup and the water treatment plan were presented to east metro communities affected by contamination from PFCs, chemicals that 3M used for years in the manufacture of Post-it Notes, fire retardants and other products.

But many local residents objected to the plan. It gave 3M two years to reduce the concentrations of the most critical contaminant, called PFOS, down to the level that would protect the Mississippi — seven parts per trillion. At that level, pollution in the river would gradually improve, eventually making the fish safe to eat again.

But even with the best available technology, company officials said, 3M has been able to get the PFOS level down only to 100 to 500 parts per trillion.
–The Star Tribune

Dec. 6 book-signing by Darby Nelson
Darby Nelson, a Freshwater Society board member, will talk about  and read excerpts from his new book, For Love of Lakes,  in a book-signing event at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 6, in theStudent Center Theater on the University of  Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus. Read his introduction to  the book. Please RSVP for the event.

House passes ban on state ballast water rules
The U.S. House has approved a bill that would set a national policy for cleansing ship ballast water to kill invasive species while prohibiting states from imposing tougher requirements.

The measure that passed the Republican-controlled chamber would adopt an international standard limiting the number of live organisms in ballast water. Vessel operators would have to install technology to comply.

The shipping industry says an existing patchwork of more than two dozen state and tribal policies is unworkable because vessels move constantly from one jurisdiction to another. New York rules scheduled to take effect in 2013 would be 100 times tougher than the House standards.

Environmentalists say the House measure isn’t strong enough to prevent more invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes. They say they hope to derail it in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
–The Associated Press

Groups seek lock closing as Asian carp barrier
More than a dozen conservation and environmental groups urged a state-federal panel to endorse closing two navigation locks in the Twin Cities to keep Asian carp from moving farther up the Mississippi River.

“The ability to temporarily and permanently close the locks at St. Anthony Falls and the Ford dam needs to be of the highest priority in any final Asian carp plan,” said the letter signed by the 14 organizations.

The letter was given to Gov. Mark Dayton, who convened the panel to identify strategies the state can adopt to limit the statewide impact of those fish, which already have been caught in border waters in recent years. Genetic material from one type, silver carp, has even been found as far upriver as the Ford dam, between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The groups’ request was echoed by Paul Labovitz, National Park Service superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a 72-mile stretch of river corridor winding through the Twin Cities metro area.

The Department of Natural Resources will prepare responses the panel can consider next month.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

UM researchers study common carp
Fitted with electrofishing equipment, the boat eased into the cattails along North St. Paul’s Casey Lake, two University of Minnesota technicians standing at the bow with dip nets ready to scoop up stunned common carp.

In short order, they did, plopping them into a pail so that small radio tags could be inserted into the largest ones, enabling researchers to track their movements.

That outing, on a recent sunny afternoon, was just one of a half-dozen ways U scientists are researching one of the state’s most vexing creatures. Brought to Minnesota in the 19th century, common carp have taken over thousands of shallow lakes and wetlands, rooting on the bottom for food and turning many of them into mud holes that no longer sustain ducks and other species.

Now, though, relief could be on the way.

Led by professor Peter Sorensen, U scientists are trying to figure out what makes these carp tick: where they go, when and why, and what attracts and repels them.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Research offers hope for oil sands
Several years ago, Paul Painter, a professor of polymer science at Pennsylvania State University, saw a news report about the deaths of hundreds of ducks that landed on a tailings pond near an oil sands mine in the Canadian province of Alberta. The ducks had become coated with residual petroleum floating on the pond, which was filled with wastewater from the process used to extract oil from the strip-mined sands.

“It wasn’t that I’m a rabid environmentalist,” Dr. Painter said recently. “It just occurred to me that we were working with something that might prove useful.”

That something was an ionic liquid, a salt that, unlike ordinary table salt, is liquid at temperatures below the boiling point of water. Dr. Painter had been using ionic liquids to try to get nanoparticles to mix with polymers, but he realized that they could also be used to help separate different materials — in this case, oil from sand.

Dr. Painter has since demonstrated in the laboratory that ionic liquids have the potential for greatly reducing the amount of water used in the oil sands industry. If he can scale up the process, and if it is adopted, it could go a long way to making the oil sands industry more environmentally sound.
–The New York Times

National Geographic documents river preservation
The November National Geographic magazine has a beautiful article on America’s Wild and Scenic Rivers. It quotes former Vice President Walter Mondale, a co-sponsor of the legislation that preserves the rivers, on the St. Croix River. Read the article here.

Arsenic taints Iowa wells
Hundreds of Iowans across the state are drinking tap water polluted with poisonous arsenic as health workers move to rein in the problem.

The problem is so widespread that health officials statewide gathered last week in Des Moines to discuss remedies. Large public water supplies routinely test for arsenic. But health officials are now stepping up efforts to encourage private well owners to pay for their own tests, which cost about $20.

The element occurs naturally in Iowa’s soil. It leaches into ground water, which is the source of tap water for 55 percent of Iowans.

Drinking large amounts of arsenic over decades could lead to cancer of the skin, bladder, lungs, liver and prostate, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Short-term exposure to very high levels can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and skin problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(In Minnesota, the state Health Department estimates that about 10 percent of all wells have levels of naturally occurring arsenic that exceed a 10 parts per billion health standard. Learn more.)
–The Des Moines Register

DNR makes grants for habitat
Twenty grants totaling $1.83 million have been awarded to conservation groups to improve state habitat.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages the Conservation Legacy Partners program to provide competitive grants from $5,000 to $400,000 to local, regional, state, and national nonprofit organizations, including government entities. The grants are for work to enhance, restore, or protect the forests, wetlands, prairies, and habitat for fish, game, or wildlife in Minnesota.

The grants are made possible by Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment dollars.
–DNR News Release

Long Prairie packing plant pays pollution penalty
Long Prairie Packing Co., LLC, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently reached an agreement that requires the company to pay $52,000 for alleged water quality violations. The violations occurred between fall 2009 and spring 2010 at the company’s facility in Long Prairie, Minn.

According to MPCA staff inspection reports, the company improperly stockpiled and land applied industrial byproducts, and failed to maintain a required 600-foot land application setback from surface waters at seven sites. Some of the land applications occurred within farmed wetlands. The company also failed to notify the MPCA or immediately recover blood-contaminated leachate which spilled out of a dumpster and a large storage tote; improperly stored more than 500 gallons of used oil; and operated parts of the facility without a required federal and state industrial stormwater permit.

Of the $52,000 civil penalty, half will be paid to the MPCA, and half will be spent on completing a supplemental environmental project. Long Prairie Packing Co. plans to construct an industrial anaerobic digester near the plant that will reduce the amount and toxicity of pollutants entering area waters, and significantly reduce the land application of industrial byproducts.
–MPCA News Release

Groundwater use threatens rivers
Great Plains river basins are threatened by pumping of groundwater from aquifers, risking a bleak future for native fish in many streams, U.S. researchers say.

Unlike alluvial aquifers, which can be replenished with rain and snow, these regional aquifers were created by melting glaciers during the last Ice Age, the researchers say, and when that water is gone, it’s gone for good.

“It is a finite resource that is not being recharged,” Jeffrey Falke, a researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study, said.

“That water has been there for thousands of years, and it is rapidly being depleted. Already, streams that used to run year-round are becoming seasonal, and refuge habitats for native fishes are drying up and becoming increasingly fragmented.”
–UPI

Mormons criticize groundwater pipeline
An attorney for the LDS Church called a proposal for tapping ground water in the dry regions of Nevada and pumping it to Las Vegas a disaster with good intentions.

“It’s the cotton candy of good intentions with nothing good at its core,” attorney Paul Hermonskie said. “It does not provide the protection my client must have.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is just one of hundreds of protestors who have lined up against the proposal for tapping groundwater aquifers in eastern Nevada. Hermonskie was among several who testified during a closing hearing convened by the Nevada State Engineer’s Office.

Hearings first began in September in which hundreds of documents were submitted and more than 80 people have testified.

At issue is the divisive proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to take ground water so it can supply the future needs of customers in the Las Vegas area. As many as 126,000 acre-feet of groundwater would be tapped to fill the proposed 300-mile, $3.5 billion pipeline that proponents say is necessary to keep the tourism industry — and the economy — of Las Vegas and Nevada afloat.
–The Deseret Sun

Canadian report urges higher water prices
Canadian provinces should consider charging higher fees for water to encourage its water-reliant natural resource industries to use the resource more efficiently, a new report suggests.

The natural resource sectors — agriculture, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, pulp and paper and thermal electricity generation — use more than four litres of water for every litre used by all other sectors combined, including drinking water, said the report released Thursday by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

“And many of them depend on water to do their business,” said Marc Parent, vice-chair of the, round table.
–CBC News


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