Posts Tagged ‘wolves’

Zebra mussels; felony pollution charge

October 3, 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.

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.
–UPI

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.
–PR Newswire

Poll: U.S. enviromental concerns decline

March 22, 2010

Environmental concern declines, poll shows
Americans are now less worried about several environmental problems than at any time in the past 20 years, partly because they believe conditions are improving, according to a Gallup Poll.

 Their concern for each of eight environmental problems fell from a year ago and in all but two areas — global warming and maintenance of the nation’s fresh water supply — reached an all-time Gallup low.

 “It also may reflect greater public concern about economic issues, which is usually associated with a drop in environmental concern,” Gallup says in its release, adding that another factor may be “greater action on environmental issues at the federal, state, and local levels.”

 The declines are quite dramatic for some issues. 

Less than half, or 46%, of Americans worry a great deal about pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, down from 72% in 1989.
–USA Today

 World Water Day: Raising awareness of clean water
Monday, March 22, is World Water Day, an observance sanctioned by the United Nations. 

An estimated 1.1 billion people worldwide rely on unsafe drinking-water sources. Therefore the theme of World Water Day 2010 is focusing on raising awareness of water quality under the theme “Clean Water for a Healthy World.” 

World Water Day has been observed annually since 1992.

Some fish stocks rebounding, report says
A new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report shows that the last decade has been a period of progress in rebuilding depleted fish stocks, sustaining many fisheries populations, and gaining a better understanding of the complex relationships between marine species and their habitats. 

The report cites the Alaskan groundfish fisheries—walleye pollock, Pacific cod, rockfishes and Atka mackerel—as a prime example of how managers and fishermen are working together to keep fish harvest rates at sustainable levels while reducing risks to other species in the ecosystem, including marine mammals, juvenile fish and other fish species not being targeted. 

These findings are one of a number of highlights from the nation’s coastal communities that are described in the newly released NOAA report Our Living Oceans: Report on the Status of U.S. Living Marine Resources

While the report details much progress, it also outlines significant challenges, including ending overfishing for about 20 percent of U.S. stocks where overfishing persists.
–NOAA news release

 EPA delays part of Florida water rules
The Environmental Protection Agency is delaying the downstream portion of water pollution rules being developed to control urban and farm runoff in Florida.

Peter Silva, the agency’s assistant administrator, advised Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole of the decision in a letter .

The downstream rules will be delayed until next year when the agency also will be working on similar regulations for estuaries and coastal waters.

The agency is still on track, though, for finalizing rules for lakes and springs by Oct. 15. The pollution has been blamed for causing algae blooms.
–The Associated Press

DNR won’t expand L. Minnetonka milfoil treatment
Bay-wide chemical treatments worked well to kill Eurasian water milfoil on Lake Minnetonka, but they won’t be expanded this year because of other troubling changes in the water, the Department of Natural Resources has ruled. 

Milfoil was nearly eliminated on Grays Bay and greatly reduced on Phelps Bay after chemical treatments last summer. But some desirable native plants disappeared with the unwanted weeds. Water clarity also dropped on Grays Bay. 

It’s not certain that the chemical affected water clarity, but both developments have given the DNR pause about expanding the treatments, said Chip Welling, DNR coordinator of aquatic invasive species management.
–The Star Tribune

 Anoka County preserves Rum River land
Anoka County is buying a prime tract of land for a natural area along the Rum River in Andover and Oak Grove.

The 590-acre property is one of the largest undeveloped tracts in the metro area, officials said.

 “It’s a real gem,” said John VonDeLinde, Anoka County parks and recreation director. Cedar Creek flows through the property, which has wetlands, flood plain, upland forests and grasslands, he noted.
–The Star Tribune

Lamprey battle offers hope for defeating Asian carp
The forecast was grim.

A parasitic invasive species that fed on healthy trout, salmon and catfish had entered the Great Lakes through its shipping canals, quickly asserted its dominance, and pushed the region’s commercial and sport fishing industries to the brink.

 The invader was the sea lamprey, a razor-toothed, eel-like monster that attaches itself to large fish and sucks the life out of them. And in the 1940s, with no known predators and no clear road map to stop them, many feared the sea lamprey would take over the largest freshwater body in the world.

More than 50 years after biologists launched an all-out assault on the sea lamprey — among the most intensive and costly invasive species eradication efforts in history — the war is all but over. With science, money and muscle, biologists have reduced the sea lamprey population by 90 percent and restored the natural balance to the Great Lakes.
–The Chicago Tribune

Six frequently asked questions about Asian carp
The Asian carp’s presence is highly contentious in the Midwest, with ramifications that could affect the economy as well as the environment. Here’s a primer on the Asian carp and why this invasive species poses such a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem. 

What is the Asian carp?

It’s a collective term that describes four species of fish that originated in China but have shown up in the United States: the silver, bighead, grass, and black carp. The bighead and silver carp are the ones that have made their way to the front door of the Great Lakes system. 

Grass and black carp can be found farther south, in the Mississippi River. But “they’re not knocking at the door [of Lake Michigan] yet,” says Jennifer Nalbone, director of navigation and invasive species for Great Lakes United, a coalition of advocacy groups.
–The Christian Science Monitor

 Company says it can lock carbon in cement
It seems like alchemy: a Silicon Valley start-up says it has found a way to capture the carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas power plants and lock them into cement.

If it works on a mass scale, the company, Calera, could turn that carbon into gold.

Cement production is a large source of carbon emissions in the United States, and coal-fired electricity plants are the biggest source. As nations around the world press companies to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions, a technology that makes it profitable to do so could be very popular. Indeed, Calera’s marketing materials may be one of the rare places where glowing quotes from a coal company and the Sierra Club appear together.
–The New York Times

 DNR seeks to de-list Minnesota wolves
The Minnesota gray wolf should be removed immediately from the federal government’s endangered and threatened species list and returned to state management, according to a petition filed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

The DNR filed the petition with the Washington, D.C., office of the U.S. Department of the Interior and asked the government to make its decision within the next 90 days. The petition is a procedural step between state and federal natural resource conservation agencies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has tried to delist the wolf in Minnesota and the western Great Lakes region from federal protection on two occasions. Both times the decision was overturned due to legal challenges related to procedural issues. 

“We filed the petition because it is time to have the federal classification match the Minnesota reality,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “Federal officials agree that the Minnesota gray wolf population is not threatened or endangered. They agree our wolf management plan ensures the long-term survival of the wolf.”
–DNR News Release

 Florida eyes rivers for drinking water
State water managers and utilities, some offering determined resistance, are drafting long-term plans for taking drinking water from Northeast Florida’s rivers.

 Specifically, they are targeting Black Creek in Clay County, the St. Marys River on the Georgia border and the Ocklawaha River in Putnam County. Together, they could yield 164 million gallons a day for utilities that rely on the increasingly strained Floridan aquifer. 

The plans may never be used, and just discussing them is stirring strong reactions from both sides, environmentalists and utilities. 

But the St. Johns River Water Management District is saying there are no more easy alternatives.
–The Jacksonville Times-Union

 Thompson Reuters goes greener
At Thomson Reuters’ sprawling campus in Eagan, employees on a committee dubbed “Bluebirds and Beyond” volunteered to work in a carpentry workshop on a recent afternoon, nailing together cedar birdhouses. 

Meanwhile, on a paved “Blue Bird Trail” that winds more than two miles past ponds and meadows, other employees were hiking, hoping for a glimpse of the deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and jackrabbits that populate the company’s land near Hwy. 149 and Opperman Drive. 

With an array of conservation projects underway, the landscape here is changing. This summer, it will bloom with wildflowers as the birds and wildlife get an upgrade in their habitat. 

That’s because more than 100 employees have been volunteering for stewardship projects that began last year with the removal of invasive plant species and reseeding.
–The Star Tribune

Climate, nitrogen flow and ‘sneaker males’

June 22, 2009

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

Climate change research regionalizes U.S. impact

Man-made climate change could bring parching droughts to the Southwest and pounding rainstorms to Washington, put Vermont maple sugar farms out of business and Key West underwater over the next century, according to a federal report released. 

The report, a compilation of work by government scientific agencies, provided the most detailed picture yet of the United States in 2100 — if nothing is done to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

It found that a warmer world, with average U.S. temperatures increasing four to 11 degrees, would significantly alter natural ecosystems and urban life. More than before, scientists broke down those effects to the regional level. 

To read the full report, click here. To read the Midwest-specific analysis and predictions, click here.

–The Washington Post 

Farm groups oppose climate change bill

Minnesota farmers thought they’d be wearing the white hats.

When the climate-change debate began, many growers were intrigued. They control millions of green acres, the dawn of carbon credits promised new revenue and biofuels showed green could be profitable.

“We are the ones that are growing the crops, and we are the ones that have control over the carbon capture,” said Doug Albin, a corn and soybean farmer near Clarkfield. “So we were trying to figure out if there’s anything we could do to help.”

 It hasn’t worked out that way. As global-warming legislation is being rushed through Congress, nearly every farm group in America now opposes it. Even the Farmers Union, which remains gung-ho about carbon-credit trading, said it would “very much like to support climate-change legislation.” But it won’t, as written.

 A pair of bruising battles has hardened the lines. First came a fight over measuring the carbon footprint of corn-based ethanol. It’s not part of the cap-and-trade bill, but it was a big part of the climate-change debate. When regulators took a hard line against ethanol, the once-hopeful farm sector soured.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 3M wins groundwater suit

The 3M Co. won a landmark court case when a jury ruled against claims of Washington County residents suing the company over chemicals in their groundwater.

 For 3M, it was a triumphant end to a five-year case that once loomed as one of the largest environmental lawsuits in Minnesota history.

 “Obviously, we are pleased with the verdict. It was supported by the evidence,” 3M spokesman Bill Nelson said.

 The jury delivered the unanimous verdict with surprising speed — deliberating four hours to decide a case that involved five weeks in court, 35 witnesses, eight law firms and more than 300 exhibits.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Nitrogen flow to Gulf reduced from 2008

The amount of nutrients delivered from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in April and May of 2009 to the northern Gulf of Mexico was the tenth- highest measured (about 295,000 metric tons of nitrate-nitrogen) by the U.S. Geological Survey in three decades.

 The amount of nutrients delivered in the spring is a primary factor controlling the size of the hypoxic zone that forms during the early summer in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which is the second largest hypoxic zone in the world. Hypoxic zones are areas where oxygen levels drop too low to support most aquatic life in the bottom and near-bottom waters.

In 2008, the hypoxic zone exceeded 20,000 square kilometers, an area similar in size to the state of New Jersey. This spring’s delivery of nitrogen was about 23 percent lower than what was measured in 2008, but still about 11 percent above the average from 1979 to 2009. The amount of nutrients delivered to the Gulf each spring depends, in large part, on precipitation and the resulting amounts of nutrient runoff and streamflow in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin. Streamflows in spring 2009 were about 17 percent above average over the last 30 years.

In previous years, preliminary nutrient fluxes were estimated through June, and were provided in July. Researchers have reported that the May nutrient fluxes are more critical than June nutrient fluxes in determining the extent of the hypoxic zone for that summer. Thus, the USGS is now releasing preliminary estimates of the nutrient flux in mid-June to better address the needs of researchers predicting the size of the hypoxic zone.

–U.S. Geological Survey

 Ruffed grouse count up significantly

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts are significantly higher than last year across most of their range, according to a report released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

 “Counts have been increasing steadily since 2005 but this is the substantial annual increase we’ve been hoping for,” said Mike Larson, DNR research scientist and grouse biologist. “Drumming counts this year are as high as counts during recent peaks in the population cycle.”

 Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 2.0 drums per stop statewide. Last year’s average was 1.4 drums per stop. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.

–Minnesota DNR 

Beware the round goby ‘sneaker’ males

Scientists have found the existence of two types of males of a fiercely invasive fish spreading through the Great Lakes, which may provide answers as to how they rapidly reproduce.

 The research, published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, looks at the aggressive round goby, a bottom-dwelling fish which infested the Great Lakes watersheds around 1990. Presently, they are working their way inland through rivers and canal systems and can lead to the decline of native species through competition and predation.

Researchers at McMaster University discovered evidence that in addition to round goby males which guard the nest from predators and look after their offspring, there exists what scientists call “sneaker” males – little males that look like females and sneak into the nests of the larger males.

–Science Daily.com

 Good and bad news on fish in upper Mississippi

The current health and status of the Upper Mississippi River and its resources, such as fish species, are profiled  in a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal and state partners.

 Good news — the report indicates that almost all fish species known from the Upper Mississippi River over the past 100 years still presently occur in the river. Bad news — five species of non-native carp make up one half of the weight of all fish, while the other half of the scale is made up of nearly 150 native fish species. These non-native fish harm the ecosystem by destroying habitat and competing for food and space with native species.

–USGS web site

 Wisconsin DNR issues controversial pumping permit

After years of pilot programs and numerous stopgap measures, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued the Crystal, Fish and Mud Lake District a controversial five-year permit that will allow it to continually pump water from its lakes to the Wisconsin River.

 For the residents living in the lake district, the permit represents the culmination of nearly 10 years and about $600,000 spent devising a way to lower the lakes encroaching upon their homes.

 The permit will allow the district to pump 24 hours a day, seven days a week until Fish Lake is lowered about 3 feet to its normal high-water mark.

 However, opponents of the permit view it as eroding environmental standards and potentially damaging the quality of the lower Wisconsin River.

–The Wisconsin State Journal

 Wisconsin crayfish harvested for perch bait

Jim Hansen waded into the chocolate milk-colored Root River, pulled up one of his nine mesh traps and examined the dripping, snapping, writhing contents – crayfish destined to lure Lake Michigan perch to anglers’ fishhooks.

 Some clung valiantly to the sides of the trap, like shipwrecked sailors clutching a life raft. As Hansen tipped the trap toward a white plastic bucket, one critter fell into the water.

 “Oh, we didn’t want him anyway. We’ll get him tomorrow,” Hansen said.

 The 65-year-old Mount Pleasant man, as well as other wild bait harvesters elsewhere in the state, is busy trapping the invasive species that panfish love to eat.

–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Suit challenges de-listing of wolves

Five groups sued the government for removing more than 4,000 gray wolves in the upper Great Lakes region from the endangered list, prolonging a dispute over whether the predator can survive without federal protection.

 Despite the wolf’s comeback from near-extinction in the region over the past two decades, some activists insist it remains vulnerable. The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeks an injunction returning Great Lakes wolves to the endangered list while the case is heard.

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections last month, as the Obama administration upheld a Bush-era finding that the wolf could survive under state management. The animal protection and environmental groups disagreed.

Management plans crafted by Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin presently do not allow wolves to be hunted or trapped, although farmers and pet owners can kill wolves attacking domestic animals.

–The Associated Press

 USDA kills 4.9 million animals

The number of animals poisoned, shot or snared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than doubled last year, and environmentalists who are critical of the killings are renewing their effort to cut the program’s funding.

 The USDA’s Wildlife Services division killed more than 4.9 million animals during the 2008 fiscal year, some of them pests that threaten crops. That’s more than double the 2.4 million animals killed the previous year, but the agency contends the increase is due to more accurate counting methods.

 Wildlife Services, which released the annual death count last week, reported that 90 percent of animals killed in 2008 included crows, blackbirds, magpies and three species of invasive birds: European starlings, sparrows and pigeons.

–The Associated Press

 U.S., Canada to revise Great Lakes pact

The United States and Canada say they will update a key agreement to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species, climate change and other established and emerging threats to the world’s biggest surface freshwater system.

 Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which was last amended in 1987, is no longer sufficient.

 She announced the deal to revise it — something environmental groups have been pushing for — with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon during a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. The treaty created an international commission to settle water-related disputes between the two countries.

–The Associated Press

 Chemicals, human hormones don’t mix

First organic food — free of pesticides — had the spotlight. Then consumers learned about buying cosmetics without parabens. Just last month Minnesota banned the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups.

The mounting health cautions might seem tedious — does every little thing cause cancer? — but a common thread weaves through the concerns. Numerous everyday products are made with chemicals that may disrupt people’s endocrine system, which is also known as the hormone system.

–The Star Tribune

EPA sets hearing in Ashland, Wis., cleanup

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a cleanup plan for polluted soil, ground water and sediment at the Ashland/Northern States Power Lakefront Superfund site in Ashland, Wis. A public comment period runs June 17 to July 16.

  A formal public hearing where comments on the plan will be accepted is set for 7 p.m., Monday, June 29, at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.

The EPA, with consultation from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is proposing an estimated $83 million to $97 million cleanup project that includes:

  •  Removing soil from the most contaminated areas of Kreher Park and the Upper Bluff/Filled Ravine, thermally treating the soil on-site and re-using it or disposing of it off-site.
  • Using barriers to contain and stop the movement of contaminants in groundwater, possibly treating the groundwater in-place and adding wells to extract and treat ground water.
  •  Digging up wood waste and contaminated sediment near the Chequamegon Bay shore and dredging contaminated sediment offshore, covering the offshore cleanup area with 6 inches of clean material and treating contaminated sediment after removal or disposing of it off-site.

 The Ashland/NSP Lakefront Superfund site includes several properties within the city of Ashland, including Kreher Park, and about 16 acres of sediment and surface water in Chequamegon Bay. Environmental concerns stem from a manufactured gas plant that operated in the area from 1885 to 1947.

Find more site information at http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/ashland/index.htm.
–EPA News Release

Obama stuns environmentalists with national forest stance

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama wooed environmentalists with a promise to “support and defend” pristine national forest land from road building and other development that had been pushed by the George W. Bush administration.

But five months into Obama’s presidency, the new administration is actively opposing those protections on about 60 million acres of federal woodlands in a case being considered by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

 The roadless issue is one of several instances of the administration defending in court environmental policies that it once vowed to end.

Its position has been a disappointment to environmentalists who had hoped for decisive action in rolling back Bush-era policies.

–Los Angeles Times

 Pollution studied through tiny microorganisms

With a $165,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, Melissa Lobegeier will soon begin a second study focused on water quality, and this time, she will focus her research in the Clinch and Powell Rivers of southwestern Virginia, where pollution from mining is a concern.

 An assistant professor of geosciences at Middle Tennessee State University, Lobegeier will examine two types of microorganisms that are indicators of pollution; namely, thecamoebians and foraminifera, which are hard-shelled, single-celled organisms that tend to be very well preserved because of their hard shells. While a lot remains unknown about them because it’s difficult to keep them alive in the lab, Lobegeier says they are believed to catch food particles by sticking protoplasm out through holes in the shells. Their reproductive cycle is something of a puzzle.

 “They have an asexual phase where they reproduce by splitting up their protoplasm up into a whole lot of juveniles and then regrow,” she says. “And then they have a sexual phase where that asexual generation produces the egg and the sperm, which then they release from their shell. And they come together to form the next juveniles, who reproduce asexually.”

–Science Blog

 “Green” rating system developed for fish

Quick: Which fish has a smaller carbon footprint: yellowfin or barramundi? What about halibut or salmon? Oysters or clams?

 Those are questions that even the most earnest chef would probably have a hard time answering. Even if he could know, just keeping track would be a full-time job.

Chefs have plenty of other things to do. And so at their behest, Washington, D.C.-based seafood distributor ProFish soon will unveil a rating system that helps chefs compare the environmental impacts of popular fish from sea to table.

 The program, called Carbon Fishprint, gives each fish a score based on whether it was farmed or wild, how it was caught, and the amount of energy used in harvesting and shipping.

–The Washington Post

 Lake Tahoe project aims to end invasive species spread

This summer, researchers will begin a project aimed at halting the spread of invasive species in Lake Tahoe. While the Tahoe Keys are the focus, the work is important for all who live around the lake, take advantage of its recreational opportunities, appreciate its beauty or depend on tourism for their livelihood.

Most of us are familiar with the efforts to keep destructive quagga mussels out of the lake. While we’re winning that battle for now, other invaders — such as the aquatic plants Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed and the warm water fish largemouth bass and bluegill — are already established.

–The Tahoe Daily Tribune

 Hearing proposed for Arizona gas storage bill

The collapse of two salt water wells in southeast New Mexico is reason enough to kill a bill exempting a proposed natural gas storage facility in Eloy from Arizona groundwater protection rules, the project’s opponents say.

 Supporters, however, say that it’s not fair to compare the two operations because they’re significantly different, and that the Arizona gas storage site can be designed to make sure a collapse doesn’t happen.

 An Arizona State Senate committee plans a hearing on the proposed Eloy facility on Monday afternoon. The House has already passed the bill, which supporters say is needed to ensure adequate long-term natural gas supplies and which opponents fear risks groundwater contamination

–Arizona Daily Star

 Joshua trees could disappear from S. California

A breeze stirs the silence at Joshua Tree National Park as a red-tailed hawk takes flight from the spiky arm of one of the namesake plants in search of breakfast.

It’s a scene that national parks protector Mike Cipra has witnessed many times. Still, he can’t contain his enthusiasm on this early morning outing, despite the gloomy topic he’s discussing with a visitor — the probable extinction of the Joshua tree in the park that bears its name.

 The ancient plants are dying in the park, the southern-most boundary of their limited growing region, scientists say. Already finicky reproducers, Joshua trees are the victim of global warming and its symptoms — including fire and drought — plus pollution and the proliferation of non-native plants. Experts expect the Joshuas to vanish entirely from the southern half of the state within a century.

–The Press Enterprise

 U-Haul customers give $1 million to offset emissions In April of 2007, U-Haul began partnering with The Conservation Fund to facilitate customers’ donations at checkout in order to offset carbon emissions generated from in-town and out-of-town moves. In just two years, more than 287,000 U-Haul customers have elected to offset their emissions. The Conservation Fund has used those donations to plant 133,000 trees that are expected to trap 156,000 tons of carbon dioxide as they mature.

“By leveraging our human, technical, financial and business resources, U-Haul and our customers have made a real difference in protecting the environment and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions,” stated John “J.T.” Taylor, president of U-Haul International, Inc. “U-Haul customers should be applauded for their support of The Conservation Fund, and for benefiting the communities where we live and serve.”

–PR Newswire

Sustainable practices yield profits, study says

A series of scandals over the years have taught Western companies an important lesson about operating in developing countries: Any indication that a company or one of its suppliers is exploiting workers or damaging the environment in these regions can have devastating effects on a company’s reputation—world-wide. The result is fleeing customers and investors.

 But here’s a lesson many executives have yet to learn: A commitment to improving social and environmental conditions in the developing countries where a company operates is the key to maximizing the profits and growth of those operations.

 That’s the conclusion we drew after studying more than 200 companies. As a group, the companies most engaged in social and environmental sustainability are also the most profitable.

–The Wall Street Journal

 Veterans want inquiry into Camp Lejeune water contamination

Kidney cancer, Mike Edwards says, came so close to killing him five years ago that he saw a stairway to heaven and smelled the brimstone of hell.

Now, Edwards and thousands of other veterans are caught in a kind of purgatory. They believe decades of drinking-water contamination at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base sickened them or their family members.

But they may never know the truth.

 Federal officials acknowledge that, from the 1950s to 1985, up to 500,000 people at Lejeune might have been exposed to high doses of chemicals that probably cause cancer and other illnesses.

 A new report offers little hope of answers. No amount of study, it said, is likely to conclusively prove the contamination made anybody sick.

–The Sun News

 Alaska lake dumping permit upheld by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has upheld a federal government permit to dump waste from an Alaskan gold mine into a nearby lake, even though all its fish would be killed.

 By a 6-3 vote, the justices say a federal appeals court wrongly blocked the permit on environmental grounds.

Environmentalists fear that the ruling could set a precedent for how mining waste is disposed in American lakes, streams and rivers.

 The Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 issued a permit for waste disposal at the proposed Kensington mine north of Juneau. Under the plan, tailings — waste left after metals are extracted from ore — would be dumped into Lower Slate Lake.

–The Star Tribune

 Hudson River PCB-sludge to be dumped in Texas

Later this month, the first trainloads of PCB-tainted sludge dredged from the Hudson River will arrive and, in the eyes of critics, will turn a stretch of West Texas into New York’s “pay toilet.”

 They argue that burying dirt so toxic that General Electric Co. will spend at least six years and an estimated $750 million to dig it up will only create a new mess for future generations to clean up.

 But for 15 new jobs and the little bit of money it’ll bring local businesses, the folks who live near the site are willing to take the risk, however remote, of tainting the area’s groundwater by taking out somebody else’s trash.

–The Star Tribune


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