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.
DNR to try pesticide on zebra mussels
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will take the unusual step of treating a western Minnesota lake with a pesticide in hopes of killing a localized infestation of zebra mussels.
But the vice president of an area lakes association isn’t impressed, fearing that action is too little and too late to save the lake from the small invasive mollusks.
“For whatever reason, they want it to appear that things are under control,” said Terry Kalil, vice president of the Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations. “Things are not under control. The DNR strategy is a failed one.”
She accused the agency of responding slowly to a legislative directive last spring to train water-related equipment operators about invasive species matters and of applying an “unproven” chemical that’s likely to be ineffective.
The DNR suspects that juvenile mussels found recently on a boat lift pulled from Rose Lake were brought to the lake weeks ago when the lift was installed there. Kalil said the lift came from already infested waters.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Ethanol plant faces felony pollution charge
Corn Plus, a major ethanol cooperative in southern Minnesota, was charged with reporting that its pollution control equipment was working properly in late January when company officials knew it was not.
The alleged felony offense took place Jan. 27, less than a week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Corn Plus a grant of $128,658 from its Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels.
The alleged offense also took place while the company was on probation for a previous environmental law violation.
Corn Plus, which produces 49 million gallons of ethanol a year 35 miles south of Mankato in Winnebago, pleaded guilty two years ago to a misdemeanor for negligently discharging polluted water into Rice Lake. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham placed the company on three years’ probation in October 2009 and ordered it to pay a $100,000 fine, plus a $50,000 “community service payment” to a critical habitat program run through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Corn Plus also paid $861,000 to settle a dispute with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last year over alleged water quality violations that took place from 2006 to 2008. It paid a $200,000 civil penalty and agreed to spend at least $691,000 on plant improvements designed to protect the environment.
According to the latest charge filed in federal court in Minneapolis, Corn Plus falsely certified that it was complying with its permit requirements knowing that its pollution control equipment was allowing excessive discharges into the air, a violation of the Clean Air Act.
–The Star Tribune
E-mails released on oil sands pipeline
With the Obama administration about to decide whether to green-light a controversial pipeline to take crude oil from Canada’s oil sands to the United States Gulf Coast, e-mails released paint a picture of a sometimes warm and collaborative relationship between lobbyists for the company building the billion-dollar pipeline and officials in the State Department, the agency that has final say over the pipeline.
Environmental groups said the e-mails were disturbing and evidence of “complicity” between TransCanada, the pipeline company, and American officials tasked with evaluating the pipeline’s environmental impact.
The e-mails, the second batch to be released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, show a senior State Department official at the United States Embassy in Ottawa procuring invitations to Fourth of July parties for TransCanada officials, sharing information with the company about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meetings and cheering on TransCanada in its quest to gain approval of the giant pipeline, which could carry 700,000 barrels a day.
–The New York Times
Think like a kindergartener; save the planet
Read Freshwater programs director Peggy Knapp’s account of helping some kindergarteners save the Earth by cleaning up leaves and organic debris that, otherwise, would go into lakes and streams. You can do similar great work – and win $500 – by entering the Work For Water challenge sponsored by Freshwater and InCommons. The entry deadline is Oct. 11.
Hitting the water wall
Read Jonathan Foley’s take on whether the world is running out of water. Foley, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, says it’s not the quantity of water we should be concerned about. Rather, it is all the things that humans do to water that worry him. Writing in “momentum,” the institute’s newsletter, Foley says we need to adopt a mind-set that “respects the limits and fragility of our water supply.”
Groups urge continued conservation $$
A national coalition of 56 policy and advocacy organizations is urging Congress to preserve funding for essential U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs and to take additional steps to enhance soil, water quality and wildlife on agricultural land. The coalition outlined a set of key principles that lawmakers should observe as they write the Conservation Title of the 2012 farm bill and seek ways to trim the federal deficit.
The 56 coalition members are asking Congress to:
• Put a high priority on funding critical conservation programs at the current baseline level of $6.5 billion a year.
• Strengthen and enforce provisions that require farmers to implement basic conservation practices in return for farm subsidies and extend them to insurance subsidies.
• Target conservation dollars where the opportunities for conservation and environmental outcomes are greatest.
• Streamline existing programs by reducing unnecessary administrative burdens and ramp up their effectiveness by linking payments to performance and focusing more on whole-farm and whole-ranch conservation systems.
• Ensure that all segments of the farming community – women, minorities and beginning farmers – have access to funding and technical assistance.
USDA’s conservation programs are the main tools for implementing best management practices that help crop and livestock producers conserve our soil resources and avoid deposition of nutrient and sediment into our rivers and lakes. Agricultural conservation is also the primary means to protect vital habitat and endangered and threatened species on the privately held land that constitutes the majority of our nation’s land base.
–Environmental Working Group News Release
Soy growers propose subsidy, conservation cuts
With the congressional supercommittee pushing ahead with work on a plan to slash the deficit, farm groups are struggling to come up with ways to spend the farm subsidies that don’t get cut. The American Soybean Association is the latest to come forward with a proposal.
The soybean growers are calling for abolishing the existing direct payments and creating a new revenue-protection program called Risk Management for America’s Farmers. The plan is similar in principal to one proposed by the National Corn Growers Association. Payments would be triggered by losses in an individual producer’s revenue. The corn growers plan is pegged to area losses.
The soy growers’ plan also calls for abolishing the existing revenue-based subsidy program, ACRE, and SURE, the permanent disaster assistance system.
The soybean growers also are calling for making cuts in conservation programs as well as farm subsidies, but farmers are getting pushback on that idea from environmental organizations.
–The Des Moines Register
Asian carp found in Iowa lakes
State environmental officials say invasive carp species have been found in a Clay County lake.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources say bighead carp and silver carp were found in Elk Lake by commercial fisherman hired to remove rough fish, such as common carp, from the northern Iowa lake.
Officials with the DNR say the invasive fish likely traveled past barriers on the Little Sioux River and into the lake because of flooding on the Missouri River. They say the fish have invaded the Missouri River recently and likely traveled from the river into the Little Sioux and over dams that would have normally prevented their passage.
DNR personnel also caught two bighead carp in East Lake Okoboji last month while conducting routine sampling.
–Iowa DNR News Release
‘Earmark’ ban ends U.S. wolf trapping
A lack of money will end a federal program that has quietly trapped and killed thousands of wolves in northern Minnesota in the past 33 years, officials said.
The program had targeted wolves near where livestock and pets were being killed and had the approval of farmers, conservation leaders, wolf lovers, natural resource officials and politicians of both parties, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
But a moratorium on earmarks in Washington means there’s no money for the program after fiscal 2011 ended, the newspaper said.
In the past, congressional members from Minnesota and Wisconsin had routinely used earmarks get funding for the program.
“We’ve got too many wolves causing too many problems now,” Dale Lueck, treasurer of the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association, said.
New York ballast water rules draw fire
New York state is poised to implement new rules that could have a major impact on the global shipping industry. Invasive species sometimes move from place to place in “ballast water” — that’s the water ships suck in and discharge to level their loads. Officials in New York want all that ballast water treated to kill any “living pollution” before it reaches their harbors. But the treatment technology is expensive and untested. Because the state serves as a gateway to the Great Lakes and ports in New Jersey, other states and countries are disputing the new rules.
–National Public Radio
Nevada groundwater pumping criticized
Every spring will run dry in the vast valley just west of Nevada’s only national park if the Southern Nevada Water Authority is allowed to pump all the groundwater it wants and pipe it to Las Vegas.
That was the dire warning delivered by an attorney for a new and perhaps unexpected voice of opposition to the pipeline project: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The aquifer will shrink. The land will subside,” said Las Vegas attorney Paul Hejmanowski , speaking on behalf of the Mormon church as a state hearing opened in Carson City on the authority’s massive pipeline plans. “You can monitor it, you can quantify it, and in the end, you can lament it. But you can’t fix it.”
The authority is seeking state permission to tap up to 126,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year from Spring Valley in White Pine County and Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys in Lincoln County. Most of the water — 19 applications totaling more than 91,000 acre-feet — is being sought in Spring Valley, just west of Great Basin National Park.
–The Las Vegas Review-Journal
USGS reports groundwater use in the West
Groundwater pumping, which has been increasing since the 1940s, now accounts for about one third of the estimated annual flow from the aquifers of the eastern Great Basin. In parts of this region, groundwater pumping exceeds the rate of natural discharge, leading to land subsidence and declines in water levels and spring flow.
U.S. Geological Survey scientists recently published a report examining groundwater recharge (replenishment) and discharge for the eastern Great Basin. The study examined 110,000 square miles across Utah, Nevada, California and Idaho, and the report covers groundwater conditions from Death Valley in the southwest to Cache Valley in the northeast.
“Groundwater resources are not only a critical part of present water supplies in this area, but are likely to increase in importance in the future because the region is facing population growth and limited surface water supplies,” said Kevin Dennehy, coordinator for the USGS Groundwater Resources Program.
–USGS News Release
Deloitte announces pro bono sustainability effort
Deloitte announced it is providing pro bono services to help develop a public online tool that allows companies to more easily identify and collaborate with businesses, relevant governments, Non-Governmental Organizations and communities to advance sustainable water management on a location-specific basis.
Specifically, Deloitte is teaming with the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF), the Pacific Institute and the German International Development Agency (GIZ) in developing the CEO Water Mandate (which is part of the United Nations Global Compact) Water Action Hub (the Hub).
Deloitte’s contribution to IBLF, valued at up to $500,000, will allow organizations to access a publicly available online water-focused capacity building platform that can serve as a clearinghouse for emerging corporate water accounting methods, tools, and stewardship practices.
The Hub will feature a mapping function that visually places each facility and/or organizations within watershed maps to help organizations better understand stakeholders and initiatives in their watersheds of interest. Watershed maps are designed to allow companies to build upon their use of other online analytical mapping and water risk characterization tools such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD’s) Global Water Tool and the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct project.