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.
Read Facets articles on-line
Asian carp. The future of U.S. and world agriculture. A Gene Merriam column on conservation and crop insurance. Two new books on lakes. Don’t miss the latest issue of “Facets of Freshwater,” the Freshwater Society’s newsletter. Features, which you can read on-line here, include:
- A q-and-a interview with Tim Schlagenhaft, the Minnesota DNR’s point person in the campaign against Asian carp.
- A column by Freshwater President Gene Merriam urging that the federal Farm Bill be changed to make conservation compliance a requirement for farmers getting subsidized crop insurance.
- An article on MN FarmWise, the farmer-to-farmer mentoring program that Freshwater and the National Park Service are building to encourage farmers to employ proven conservation practices to reduce soil erosion and runoff.
- A preview of th Nov. 10 lecture that Fred Kirschenmann will deliver on water and the future of U.S. and world agriculture.
- An article on Freshwater’s new Work for Water campaign.
Read a web-only article on a University of Minnesota doctoral student’s research on how water moves within the many bays of Lake Minnetonka. The research holds potential to allow data from water-quality measurements taken at a few places in the lake to be extrapolated to the entire lake.
Farmer accused of killing pelican chicks
On May 17, Craig Staloch just snapped, his lawyer says.
Within the space of a few hours, he smashed thousands of American White pelican chicks and eggs — all of the offspring in one of the state’s largest colonies — even though a wildlife officer had told him the previous day that they were protected by federal law.
Making his first appearance in federal court, Staloch, a farmer from Faribault County, entered no plea to a criminal misdemeanor charge filed for what conservation officials say is one of the most extreme acts of wildlife destruction they’ve ever encountered.
“He flipped out,” said Staloch’s attorney, Jason Kohlmeyer. “He got frustrated and went to town.”
The birds had damaged about seven acres of land he was renting on the shores of Minnesota Lake, Staloch said after the hearing. Over the past three years they’ve cost him $20,000 in expenses and lost revenue, he said. When he asked for help, state wildlife specialists suggested a fence to protect his crops, Kohlmeyer said.
“But that’s not effective,” he said. “The damn birds fly.”
–The Star Tribune
Cormorant control bill introduced
A new bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. John Kline and Collin Peterson would give states greater latitude to manage the size of migrating flocks of cormorants.
The birds are protected under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act but Kline and Peterson say an overpopulation of cormorants has caused damage in their districts, displacing other species and fouling the air and water with waste.
Under the current law, states must submit plans to control the population to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval. Under Kline and Peterson’s bill, governors would have authority to manage the bird populations, with that authority subject to review every five years.
–Minnesota Public Radio
DNR tries zebra mussel pesticide
Favorable weather conditions allowed the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to treat a 10-acre section of Rose Lake on Oct. 6 for an isolated infestation of zebra mussels in the Otter Tail County lake.
The treatment, using copper sulfate, is the first of three pesticide treatments occurring this fall to kill a small population of juvenile zebra mussels discovered in the lake in late September. DNR biologists believe the invasive mussels were introduced when a boat lift was placed in the 1,200-acre lake this summer.
The DNR hired a licensed aquatic pesticide contractor to apply the treatment, which is commonly used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch. The DNR is paying $14,000 for the three treatments, which take about two hours to complete.
“We know copper sulfate will kill zebra mussels, but we won’t know for sure until next summer if the treatment was successful,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist. “We will be monitoring the site closely.”
–DNR News Release
Senjem to speak on non-point pollution
Norm Senjem, who recently retired from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, where he directed the agency’s effort to measure and reduce the sediment and phosphorus flowing into Lake Pepin, will be the featured speaker Wednesday, Oct. 12, at
a Sip of Science. The happy-hour-style lecture series is sponsored by the National Center For Earth-Surface Dynamics at the University of Minnesota.
Senjem will speak at 5:30 p.m. at the Aster Café, 125 SE Main Street, Minneapolis.
A news release from the National Center For Earth-Surface Dynamics says Senjem will argue that voluntary measures are no longer enough to address non-point pollution in Minnesota.
Mineral leases delayed 6 months
Minnesota officials unexpectedly postponed prospecting for copper and other minerals on private lands near Ely, giving cabin owners and local residents six months to try to change state law allowing the exploration.
Even though the state has the power to sell the leases that would permit drilling, road building and other activities because it controls the mineral rights to those properties, Gov. Mark Dayton said that with the state on the brink of a new era of mining it’s critical to “get it right.”
“Those minerals are not going to go anywhere,” he said. A delay, he said, will allow the state “to regain the public trust.”
About 75 people attended the special meeting by the state’s executive council, made up of Dayton and the state’s other top elected officials. Property owners who have been fighting the sale since April were granted a last chance to persuade the council to reject or at least postpone the 50-year leases on their land. They said they wanted the opportunity to go to the Legislature to change a century-old law that they said is skewed in favor of the mining companies.
“That law was made by and for the mining companies,” said Ron Brodigan, who had mineral leases sold on about 120 of the 200 acres he owns near Isabella.
–The Star Tribune
DNR seeks local input in managing groundwater
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is trying to improve the way it manages the state’s underground water supply.
Cities, industries and farms are all using more water. State scientists have found evidence that pumping too much water from underground is damaging lakes, streams and wetlands, particularly during summer, said Andrew Streitz, a hydrologist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
“We’re a water rich state, and I think for the first time we’re bumping up against limits to what we thought of as a limitless resource,” said Streitz, who studies the interaction between groundwater and surface water.
To help preserve a precious natural resource, the DNR plans to test a new water management model that would give local officials a greater role in conserving water.
–Minnesota Public Radio
BWCA lottery ends
Visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness no longer will have to deal with a lottery to get a permit to enter the 1-million-acre preserve in northern Minnesota.
The U.S. Forest Service is dropping the long-used lottery system next year, and will offer permits on a first-come, first-served basis instead.
“Because of current technology and improvements to our reservation system, the lottery is no longer necessary,” Jim Sanders, Superior National Forest supervisor, said in a letter to BWCA visitors.
The agency had used a lottery from Dec. 1 to Jan. 15 to help distribute permits, especially for high-demand entry points and dates. About 9,000 people applied for permits during the lottery period. When it ended, permits were distributed on a first-come basis.
“There’s so very few dates where there isn’t some availability, and very few entry points with that high level of demand, that it just doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of anyone to keep the lottery,” said Kris Reichenbach, a Superior National Forest spokeswoman.
–The Star Tribune
Court rules for mountaintop mining
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Obama administration overstepped its authority in tightening oversight of permits used by coal companies in a process known as mountaintop removal mining.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that the federal Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act when it issued tougher environmental guidelines related to fill material dumped into streams after the tops of mountains are blasted off to extract underlying coal seams. The National Mining Association sued the EPA last year and argued that the agency couldn’t issue the new guidance without formal rulemaking.
The dispute is one of several in which the mining industry has argued that more stringent environmental regulations are hampering the ability of coal companies to operate and maintain mining jobs. The judge has yet to hear arguments on the second part of the mining association’s lawsuit which involves the specific water-quality guidelines used by the EPA.
Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the mining association, said that more than 70 mining permits in Appalachia that had been on hold will be freed up as a result of the judge’s decision.
–The Wall Street Journal
MPCA renews groundwater testing
Responding to recent monitoring results that showed increased perfluorochemical (PFC) levels in the groundwater at the 3M Woodbury dump site, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has conducted a new round of sampling of private wells in residential areas of Cottage Grove and Woodbury near the site.
Testing results indicate none of the wells tested had levels of PFCs that exceed state drinking-water standards. However, the MPCA continues to work with 3M to determine the reason for the increase and determine if changes in the site cleanup plans are necessary.
MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said the agency moved quickly to sample private wells to determine whether the water from the wells is meeting state drinking-water standards for PFCs.
“We contacted homeowners for permission and fast-tracked the sampling and lab analysis. This week we called residents back to let them know that the wells that were tested were below the health-based drinking-water levels for PFCs,” Aasen said.
–MPCA News Release
TPT to cover Great Lakes conference
Twin Cities Public Television will provide live and delayed coverage of a major U.S.-Canada conference on the future of the Great Lakes. The conference will be held in Detroit, Oct. 12 through 14.For information on the conference and scheduling details, go to www.tpt.org/greatlakes.
UN conference focuses on water
Successful water projects can serve as templates around the world and help to stimulate the adoption of green economies, a conference run by the United Nations inter-agency group focused on water issues has heard.
The three-day UN-Water conference in Zaragoza, Spain, discussed examples of successful water projects as well as how to adequate manage the world’s limited water resources.
Experts predict that the amount of water needed by humans could exceed the amount available by as much as 40 per cent by 2030, making water management a priority in the sustainability agenda. Water is also closely linked to the green economy because it is interwoven with sustainable development issues such as health, food security, energy and poverty.
The conference served as a preparation process for next year’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development,
known as Rio+20.
–United Nations News Release
Fluoride debate resurfaces
Consumers hearing that some U.S. communities will no longer add fluoride to their drinking water, such as Florida’s Pinellas County, may wonder whether this cavity fighter is safe.
The short answer: Most health professionals say yes, as long as people don’t ingest too much of it.
Studies in the 1930s found tooth decay was less severe in areas with more fluoride in drinking water, prompting U.S. communities to add it to their water.
Yet the Obama administration is moving to lower its recommended amount in drinking water as newer research shows high levels can cause tooth and bone damage.
The National Academies’ National Research Council found in 2006 that children are at risk of losing enamel and developing pits and brown stains on their teeth if the fluoride in their water exceeds the maximum level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It said this “severe fluorosis” can cause tooth decay.
Report urges upgrading U.S. water system
Want to create nearly 1.9 million American jobs and add $265 billion to the economy? Upgrade our water and wastewater infrastructure. That’s the message of a new report released by Green For All, in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute and the Pacific Institute. The Rockefeller Foundation generously provided funding for the project.
Every year, sewage overflows dump 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage into our water systems – enough to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with waste one-inch deep. But investment in our nation’s infrastructure to handle stormwater and wastewater has lagged, falling by one-third since its 1975 peak.
The report, Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment, looks at an investment of $188.4 billion in water infrastructure – the amount the EPA indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. That investment would inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs in related sectors and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending.
–Green For All News Release
Environmentalists wary of Great Lakes pact
U.S. and Canadian negotiators are putting the finishing touches on the bi-national Great Lakes water quality agreement even as conservation groups continue to grumble that they are being kept in the dark about the details of a document designed to help both countries manage the world’s largest freshwater system.
The agreement was first passed in the early 1970s in response to outrage over chronic pollution problems facing the lakes, and it was subsequently updated in the ’70s and ’80s. Now the governments are getting set to release a 21st century version of the plan after acknowledging two years ago that new problems such as invasive species and fresh chemical contaminants were not adequately addressed in the existing agreement.
The governments have been soliciting public input, but the problem for a big coalition of conservation groups is the public has not been allowed to see details of the draft plan.
Government leaders say it has to be that way.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Montana settles clean-water suit
A federal judge has approved a far-reaching settlement giving Montana until 2014 to clean up polluted streams and lakes in 28 watersheds across the state, capping nearly 15 years of legal battles, officials said.
The deal covers more than 17,000 miles of rivers and streams and 461,000 surface acres of lakes, requiring them to meet water-quality standards set for uses such as drinking, swimming and fishing, under the federal Clean Water Act.
The settlement, signed by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, addresses hundreds of types of pollutants, including hazardous chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and heavy metals such as mercury.
The deal stems from a 1997 lawsuit that said the Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality had violated the Clean Water Act by permitting contaminants to be released into the state’s already degraded waters.
In 2003, Molloy sided with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other environmental groups, ordering Montana to develop pollution control plans for many waterways by 2012.
Turning poop into power
Maryland chicken farms produce a substantial amount of phosphorous-rich chicken manure, which contributes to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. One solution to the problem: Turn the poop into power.
A new grant program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will bring $850,000 to Eastern Shore chicken farmers to install technologically advanced systems to convert waste into green energy.
“We’re trying to create a network of people who have experience (with) these technologies to provide assistance to farmers,” said Amanda Bassow, director of the Chesapeake Program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is administering the USDA grant.
Disposal of chicken farm waste is a pressing issue in the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay where, according the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 26 percent of the phosphorus load entering the bay comes from animal waste.
–Capital News Service
DNR hiring conservation officers
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is accepting applications until Oct. 14 for the position of conservation officer.
The DNR’s Division of Enforcement anticipates hiring up to 26 conservation officers for academies to be held in the spring of 2012 and fall of 2012.
Conservation officers provide public safety, and resource and recreation protection response to all field operations for which the DNR Division of Enforcement is held responsible.
Applicants must possess a valid Minnesota Peace Officer’s License, or be eligible to be licensed by the Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training Board prior to the time conditional offers are made; or complete basic police training and be certified as a full-time peace officer in a state or federal law enforcement agency with which Minnesota has reciprocity, and pass the POST Board reciprocity exam by the time conditional job offers are made.
–Minnesota DNR News Release
Hole reported in Arctic ozone
Intense cold in the upper atmosphere of the Arctic last winter activated ozone-depleting chemicals and produced the first significant ozone hole ever recorded over the high northern regions, scientists reported in the journal Nature.
While the extent of the ozone depletion is considered temporary, and well below the depletion that occurs seasonally over the Antarctic, atmospheric scientists described it as a striking example of how sudden anomalies can occur as a result of human activity that occurred years ago. At its maximum extent in February, the northern ozone hole reached southward into Russia and Mongolia.
Emissions of chlorinated fluorocarbons, or CFCs, once found in aerosol sprays, and other ozone-depleting substances like the soil fumigant methyl bromide produced the first ozone hole over the Antarctic, which was identified in 1985. Emissions of those compounds were banned under the Montreal Protocol, which has been signed by 191 countries.
–The New York Times
Engineering Planet Earth?
With political action on curbing greenhouse gases stalled, a bipartisan panel of scientists, former government officials and national security experts is recommending that the government begin researching a radical fix: directly manipulating the Earth’s climate to lower the temperature.
Members said they hoped that such extreme engineering techniques, which include scattering particles in the air to mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes or stationing orbiting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight, would never be needed.
But in its report, the panel said it is time to begin researching and testing such ideas in case “the climate system reaches a ‘tipping point’ and swift remedial action is required.”
The 18-member panel was convened by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a research organization based in Washington founded by four senators — Democrats and Republicans — to offer policy advice to the government. In interviews, some of the panel members said they hoped that the mere discussion of such drastic steps would jolt the public and policy makers into meaningful action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which they called the highest priority.
The idea of engineering the planet is “fundamentally shocking,” David Keith, an energy expert at Harvard and the University of Calgary and a member of the panel, said. “It should be shocking.”
–The New York Times
Canada to test chemical safety
The Conservative government is set to target a new batch of chemicals used in common consumer products — including toothpaste and body wash — to determine if they’re safe for people and the environment.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the renewal of the government’s Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) with a boost of more than $500 million over the next five years.
Substances commonly used in plastic containers, clothing, cleaning products, electronics and batteries are among the chemicals to be reviewed to determine whether they need better regulation or other action, including being banned.
During the first phase of the plan, the federal government banned bisphenol A in baby bottles — an international first that began with a listing of toxicity of the hormone-disrupting chemical.
–The Montreal Gazette