Posts Tagged ‘zebra mussels’

Chemical fails to kill zebra mussels in 2 lakes

October 24, 2012

Efforts by the Minnesota DNR to stem two budding zebra mussel infestations through chemical means have yielded – at best — mixed results.

The DNR used copper sulfate to treat two lakes – Rose and Irene – in Otter Tail and Douglas counties last fall after a few immature zebra mussels were found in the lakes.

The good news: Inspections of the lake this summer did not turn up evidence of larval zebra mussels known as veligers. That would have been proof zebra mussels were reproducing in the lakes.

The bad news: Inspections this fall found adult zebra mussels, proof the copper sulfate did not eradicate the zebra mussel population.

Read the DNR’s news release on the effort. Read a Minnesota Public Radio report on the findings.

Conservation takes hit in House ag bill

July 16, 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.

House Farm Bill lacks conservation teeth
The U.S. House Agriculture Committee passed a new 10-year, $969 billion federal Farm Bill that makes deeper overall spending cuts and does less to encourage soil and water conservation than the Senate version of the legislation.

(An earlier version of this blog posting had two incorrect headlines. It is the House bill, not the Senate legislation, that is the weaker of the two versions on conservation.)

It now appears very likely the Senate and House will not agree on a compromise bill before the November election. Scores of farm programs currently are scheduled to expire after Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. But the Senate and House almost certainly will approve a stopgap extension of those programs.

Unlike the Senate bill passed last month, the House version would not require farmers to protect wetlands and maintain soil erosion plans on marginal land as a condition of qualifying for crop insurance. The House bill also cuts $3 billion – $1 billion more than the Senate legislation — in federal payments to farmers and ranchers through the Conservation Stewardship Program.

Read a  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition analysis focusing on conservation provisions in the bill. Read New York Times and Politico articles on the House committee action.  Read a 2011 column by Freshwater President Gene Merriam advocating for the conservation compliance requirement for crop insurance.

From the USGS' Water Science for SchoolsPlay a game, stretch your mind 
If you haven’t already looked at it, check out the expanded Freshwater web page for kids. It’s got games for kids and basic information about water that most adults can learn from, as well. Sources include the U.S. Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Parents, teachers, home-schoolers will find the page useful.

Pelican Lake zebra mussel infestation confirmed
Scuba divers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have found zebra mussels in Pelican Lake in Crow Wing County near Brainerd. They were found in two separate locations during a search of the lake on July 9.

The search was a follow-up to an intensive search last November after a single juvenile zebra mussel was found on a dock. The November search of the lake failed to turn up any additional mussels. DNR staff also asked the Pelican Lake Association to notify its members to report any suspect mussels, but no other zebra mussels were found in 2011.
–DNR News Release

Wisconsin court rejects local water rules 
The Wisconsin Supreme Court dealt a blow to environmentalists concerned about water pollution from huge livestock farms, when it said communities couldn’t set stricter standards than the state.

The ruling was believed to be the first decision by a state Supreme Court in about a half-dozen cases pitting neighbors and small farmers throughout the Midwest against so-called factory farms, which can have hundreds or even thousands of animals. Similar cases have been filed in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma, and the decision was closely watched.
 –The Associated Press

Duke research has implications for fracking
A study that found hydraulic fracturing for natural gas puts drinking-water supplies in Pennsylvania at risk of contamination may renew a long-running debate between industry and activists.

The report by researchers at Duke University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said a chemical analysis of 426 shallow groundwater samples found matches with brine found in rock more than one mile (1.2 kilometers) deep, suggesting paths that would let gas or water flow up after drilling.

While the flows weren’t linked to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the study found natural routes for seepage into wells or streams.

“The industry has always claimed that this is a separation zone, and there is no way fluids could flow” from the shale to the aquifers, Avner Vengosh, a professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and one of the study’s eight authors, said in an interview. “We see evidence of hydrologic connectivity.”
–Bloomberg News

Heat causing Minnesota fish kills
Record-setting heat may be contributing to fish kills in lakes across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Natural summer fish kills are not unusual,” according to Brian Schultz, DNR assistant regional fisheries manager. “In the past several days, however, we’re getting increased reports of dead and dying fish in many lakes from around the state.”

Unusually warm weather has raised water temperatures of many shallow lakes. Schultz has received reports from DNR field staff of surface water temperatures in some lakes reaching 90 degrees, with temps at the bottom only a few degrees cooler where maximum depths are less than 10 feet.
–DNR News Release

DNR completes wolf hunt rules 
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource has finalized rules for Minnesota’s first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season this fall and winter.

There are several changes to what the DNR originally proposed in May as a result of input received since the proposal was announced.

“We changed the closing date for the late season from Jan. 6, 2013, to Jan. 31,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager. “We also tightened the wolf harvest registration requirement so we can more quickly close a zone based on harvest results.”

Another notable change is that the wolf range will be divided into three zones for the purposes of harvest targets, registration and season closure. The northeast zone and the east-central zone closely parallel the 1854 and 1837 treaty ceded territory boundaries. These zones will allow the state to allocate and manage wolf harvest in consultation with Indian bands that have court-affirmed off-reservation hunting rights. The northwest zone will be the other area open to wolf hunting. Only that portion of Minnesota where rifles are legal for deer hunting will be open for taking wolves.
–DNR News Release

Nitrate tests at Benton County Fair
Area residents who rely on their own wells for drinking water can have their water tested for nitrate contamination for free during two days of the Benton County Fair in Sauk Rapids.

The Benton Soil & Water Conservation District and Minnesota Department of Agriculture are conducting the nitrate clinic from 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 1 and 2.

The clinic will be at the SWCD’s fair booth in the Education Building. Nitrate is a common contaminant, particularly in shallow wells, dug wells and wells with damaged or leaking casings. Nitrates can come from fertilizers, animal waste and human sewage.
–The St. Cloud Times

Zebra mussels in court; water conflicts loom

March 26, 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.

West Metro zebra mussel fight goes to court
The ice went out on Christmas Lake, and soon a new gate will go up at its only public boat ramp, signaling the start of what may be the most contentious boating season yet in Minnesota’s two-decade fight over zebra mussels and other invasive species.

The gate, installed in November, is more than a method to keep invasive species out of one of the most pristine and exclusive lakes in the metro area. Some see it as a challenge to individual privacy and a virtual Minnesota birthright — unfettered access to any lake or river in the state.

Those two imperatives — protecting the lakes and keeping them open to all — are at the heart of a lawsuit filed last week by three west-metro lake associations against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The associations claim the state has failed to devise a comprehensive plan against invasive species and has thwarted their efforts to protect the lakes they treasure.
–The Star Tribune

Intelligence report: Water conflicts possible 
The American intelligence community warned in a report that problems with water could destabilize countries in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia over the next decade.

Increasing demand and competition caused by the world’s rising population and scarcities created by climate change and poor management threaten to disrupt economies and increase regional tensions, the report concludes.

Prepared at the request of the State Department, the report is based on a classified National Intelligence Estimate completed last October that reflected an increasing focus on environmental and other factors that threaten security. An estimate reflects the consensus judgment of all intelligence agencies.
–The New York Times

Save these dates:

 March 29. The Freshwater hosts a conference on precision conservation, the science and philosophy of putting conservation practices into place at spots on the landscape where are most  effective and provide the most return on investment. Learn more.  April 12. The Freshwater Society’s Ice Out/Loon In party and fund-raiser celebrates spring.  The event will be from 5:30 to 8;30 p.m. at the Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach. There will be music, food, a silent auction and – where else can you find this? – a loon-calling contest.

Medicine drop box

Medicine drop box

Hennepin County accepts unneeded drugs
Prescription and non-prescription drugs are a significant source of water pollution. Don’t flush them down the toilet or pour them down a sink. Hennepin County has installed self-service drop boxes for unneeded and outdated drugs in a number of places throughout the county.

Learn more about where you can find the drop boxes and what you can – and cannot – dispose of in them.

Eden Prairie backs water conservation 
Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens is asking residents to join the “Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.” It is a friendly, online competition between residents of cities across the nation to see who can be the most “water-wise.

All residents have to do is log on to mywaterpledge.com and make an online pledge on behalf of Eden Prairie. By making the pledge, residents promise to follow a series of conservation measures for their homes, yards and cars, things like washing only full loads of laundry, fixing leaky faucets and walking or biking short distances.
–KSTP-TV

Iowa State offers advice on nitrate loss 
As Corn Belt farmers face challenges to reduce nitrate loss in surface and groundwater by 40-45%, Iowa State University (ISU) research confirms what many growers fear: “The right application of nitrogen (N) is [just] the first step,” says Matt Helmers, ISU associate professor, agricultural and biosystems engineering.
–Corn and Soybean Digest

Research: Fracking causes air pollution
People living within a half-mile of oil- and gas-well fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants five times above a federal hazard standard, according to a new Colorado study.

The University of Colorado Denver School of Public Health analysis is one of a string of studies in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado that highlight the air-quality impacts of drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. “Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural-gas development that has focused largely on water,” said Lisa McKenzie, the study’s lead author.

The analysis found volatile organic chemicals at five times the level below which the emissions are considered unlikely to cause health problems, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Hazard Index.
–The Denver Post

Metro-outstate fight looms on park funding
 A bitter battle is brewing between park agencies in the Twin Cities and in outstate Minnesota over how much each should get from the nearly $40 million state Parks and Trails Legacy Fund.

More than 60 percent of the sales tax money comes from the seven-county metro area, but only about 40 percent is being used for parks and trails there. The rest goes to the state Department of Natural Resources and to regionally important parks and trails outstate.

“This wasn’t a fund just created for outstate parks, for gosh sakes,” said Carver Commissioner Tom Workman, who used to serve in the Legislature. “We’ve got to take a stand here.”

Carver County and nine other county and local governments with metro regional parks want a bigger piece of the pie. So far, three metro cities and three county boards have passed identical resolutions, including Carver County and Bloomington’s City Council.  –The Star Tribune

Sturgeon recovering in Lake of the Woods
Lake sturgeon populations in both the United States and Canadian waters of Lake of the Woods and Rainy River have met short-term recovery goals, and fisheries managers now are setting their sights on the long term.

“The Rainy River-Lake of the Woods population is probably one of the most robust, healthiest recovering populations of lake sturgeon in North America,” said Tom Mosindy, fisheries assessment biologist for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in Kenora, Ont. “It’s definitely a good news story.”

Mosindy is chairman of the Border Waters Sturgeon Management Committee, which includes representatives from the MNR, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Rainy River First Nations Indian band in Ontario. He shared findings of the recovering sturgeon population with partners during a joint Ontario-Minnesota fisheries meeting in Fort Frances, Ont.
–The Grand Forks Herald

Court expands property owners’ recourse against EPA 
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favor of an Idaho couple who were prevented from building their dream home after the Environmental Protection Agency barred them from building on their land. The agency claimed the property was protected wetlands under the federal Clean Water Act.

The ruling gives property owners the right to challenge an EPA compliance order from the time it is issued, rather than waiting for the agency to begin enforcement actions.

The decision comes in the case of Chantell and Mike Sackett, who purchased two-thirds of an acre of land near the shore of Priest Lake, Idaho. In 2007, they broke ground on a planned three-bedroom house, but three days later, EPA officials arrived and asked to see their permit for filling in wetlands. The couple, who had only building permits, said they had no idea that they needed a permit from the EPA because there were other houses nearby.
 –National Public Radio

Silver carp, zebra mussels, ag ‘certainty’

March 5, 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.

First silver carp caught in Minnesota
A silver carp and a bighead carp were caught in a seine net by commercial fishermen in the Mississippi River near Winona, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Silver and bighead carp, members of the Asian carp family, are nonnative species that can cause serious ecological problems as they spread into new waters.

The silver carp caught March 1 weighed about 8 pounds. It represents the farthest upstream discovery to date of the species, known for its tendency to leap from the water when startled.

“A silver carp discovery this far upstream is discouraging, but not surprising,” said Tim Schlagenhaft of the DNR’s Mississippi River Team at Lake City. “This is further evidence that Asian carp continue to move upstream in the Mississippi River.”

No established populations of bighead or silver carp are known in Minnesota. However, individual Asian carp have been caught by commercial fishermen in recent years. Three silver carp (two in pool 8 near La Crosse, one in pool 9) were caught between 2008 and 2011. One bighead carp was caught in the St. Croix River in 1996 and one in 2011. Between 2003-2009, six bighead carp were caught in the Mississippi River between Lake Pepin and the Iowa border.
–DNR News Release

Ag ‘certainty’ candidates sought
Candidates are being sought to serve on an advisory committee to help develop the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program. The new program is the result of a January 17 agreement by Governor Mark Dayton and federal officials, with the goal of enhancing Minnesota’s water quality by accelerating adoption of on-farm water quality practices.

The committee, being formed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, will provide recommendations to MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson regarding the development of the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification, as well as its particular features and focus. The committee will be convened and staffed by MDA, and will serve at Commissioner Frederickson’s discretion.

Committee composition will be established by Commissioner Frederickson, with membership from the following:

  • Two farmers or ranchers.
  •  Two representatives of general farm organizations.
  •  Three representatives of commodity or livestock organizations.
  • One representative of agriculture-related business.
  • One representative of crop consultants or advisors.
  • Two representatives of environmental organizations.
  • Two representatives of conservation organizations.
  • Two representatives of local government units.

In addition, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the University of Minnesota Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will be invited to provide technical support.
–MPCA News Release

Legacy $$ sought for zebra mussel fight 
Zebra mussels are a form of biological pollution spreading rapidly across Minnesota lakes. So does that make the fight to combat them worthy of Legacy Fund money?

Some residents of lakeshore communities in the west metro think so, and they’re mobilizing to persuade lawmakers to direct some of the $90 million raised each year for the Clean Water Legacy Fund toward zebra mussels, arguing that they’re the most urgent environmental problem facing the state’s lakes.

“We see this as the threat of our time, and prevention needs to happen,” said Terrie Christian, president of the Association of Medicine Lake Area Citizens in Plymouth. “If we wait until afterwards, it’s going to cost the state and all citizens a lot more, and our lakes are going to be wrecked.”

For Christian and other lake advocates, the invasive fingernail-sized mussels are just as detrimental to clean water as too much silt or fertilizer or other pollutants. They’ve infested about 30 lakes across the state, including heavily trafficked Lake Minnetonka.

Once introduced in a lake or stream, the mussel populations explode and cannot be stopped because they have no natural predators. For now, the best solution to slowing their spread is to inspect and, if necessary, decontaminate all boats that leave infested waters, a daunting and costly proposition.
 –The Star Tribune

Wisconsin wetlands bill signed 
Following months of controversy, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law making it easier for developers to build on wetlands throughout the state.

Under the new law, developers proposing a project on wetlands either would have to create new wetlands equal to the amount they destroy or pay the Department of Natural Resources to protect other wetlands throughout the state.

“What we are going to sign today is a great example of how government can be a true partner to economics development instead of a barrier,” Walker said. “There is a balance out there. I want clean air, clean water and clean land. The two can go hand in hand.”

Walker said the balance could be achieved because the bill still allows development and expansion of wetlands under the new agreement with DNR, while at the same time eliminating government barriers to economic development in the state.
 –The Badger Herald

St. Croix bridge bill passed 
Decades of debate over the proposed St. Croix River crossing ended with a five-minute vote in the U.S. House, which approved the plan overwhelmingly and sent it to President Obama for his signature.

The 339-80 vote easily surpassed the two-thirds needed to fast-track the project, a move made necessary after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton gave Congress a March 15 deadline before reallocating state funding.

“This is it!” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, who carried the bill in the House. “After decades of bureaucratic holdups and frivolous lawsuits from radical environmentalists, the people of the St. Croix River Valley will finally have their bridge.”

A unanimous Senate approved the same measure last month, belying the discord that underlies the $690 million project. Congressional action was needed to exempt the bridge from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a landmark law from the 1960s sponsored by former U.S. Sen. and Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale lobbied against the bridge, calling it “a brutal assault on one of the most magnificent rivers in America.”
–The Star Tribune

Guilty verdict in zebra mussel case
George Wynn, the 54-year-old Fargo man believed to have caused the zebra mussel infestation of Rose Lake near Vergas, was convicted for transferring water equipment with invasive species attached.

Wynn’s case is one of the first of its kind in Minnesota after a 2011 law change that allows the state to prosecute people who transfer invasives on any kind of water equipment, not just boats and trailers. Wynn’s offending piece of water equipment was a boat lift, which is believed to have been moved from the mussel-infested Lake Lizzie to Rose Lake.

Wynn’s charges, however, stem from his moving of the lift from Rose Lake to a different area without cleaning the lift, which was clearly covered in mussels by that time. Wynn faced fines and fees of $500, as well as a restitution charge of an additional $500.

He was also placed on probation for a year. Assistant County Attorney Heather Brandborg said that $500 was all the DNR requested in restitution costs, and The Journal could not reach DNR representatives who could comment further role on the department’s costs in the case. However, the DNR reported in October 2011 that costs of treating the lake could run about $14,000.
–The Fergus Falls Journal

Farmer-led council works to protect Whitewater
Farmers in the Whitewater Watershed are taking the lead in water quality improvement through the Farmer-Led Council of the Whitewater River Watershed.

The council is the first of its kind in Minnesota. It’s modeled on similar efforts in Iowa where farmers gather to determine what they need to do to clean up impaired streams in their watershed.

Jim Frederick of Lewiston chairs the council. He’s involved because he wants to leave an environmental legacy and wants the land to be in better shape when he’s done farming than when he began.

Improving the land ties with improving water quality. The Whitewater River and its tributaries are impaired for nitrates, fecal coliform and turbidity, which is a measure of the water’s clarity.
–AgriNews

USGS tracks phosphorous through groundwater 
Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have, for the first time, demonstrated how aquifer composition can affect how excessive levels of phosphorous (an essential nutrient contained in fertilizers) can be carried from fertilized agricultural fields via groundwater to streams and waterways.

This finding will allow for more informed management of agriculture, ecosystem, and human water needs.

“Until now, studies of phosphorus transport to streams have been focused on surface-water pathways because it was previously assumed that phosphorus does not dissolve into soil water and is not mobilized to groundwater,” explained USGS researcher Joseph Domagalski. “Farmers and resource managers can use the study information to better manage the application of fertilizer on agricultural fields and minimize phosphorus contamination in downstream water bodies.”
–USGS News Release

 

Lubber lecture, conservation conference set

February 21, 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.

Don’t forget: Two Freshwater events coming up
Mindy Lubber, an international leader in efforts by investors to lead and pressure multinational companies to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices, will deliver a free, public lecture March 1 in St. Paul.

Mindy Lubber

Mindy Lubber

The lecture, “Investing in Sustainability: Building Water Stewardship Into the Bottom Line,” is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

Register to attend. Learn about the lecture series and view video of previous speakers. Lubber is president of Ceres, a 22-year-old Boston-based nonprofit that works with companies like Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss and IBM to encourage the firms to make their products and processes more water- efficient and less vulnerable to climate change.

Lubber, a former regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, will speak at 7 p.m.  in the theater of the Student Center on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus.

Dave White, NRCS chief

Dave White

And on March 29, the Freshwater Society will sponsor a conference on precision conservation.

Precision conservation is the science and philosophy of placing conservation practices at spots on the landscape where runoff, erosion and pollution are disproportionately severe and the potential for improving water quality and soil loss is disproportionately great.

Dave White, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will deliver the luncheon keynote address. Learn more and register to attend.

Peter Gleick admits deceit in climate leak
A prominent environmental researcher, activist and blogger from California admitted that he had deceitfully obtained and distributed confidential internal materials from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group based in Chicago devoted in part to questioning the reality of global warming.

Peter H. Gleick, founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, wrote in a statement published on The Huffington Post that he had posed as someone else to get the materials, which include fund-raising and strategy documents intended only for the board and top executives of the group.

Dr. Gleick distributed the documents to several well-known bloggers and activists who support the work of mainstream climate scientists and who have denounced the Heartland Institute as a center of climate change denial.

The document release, which lit up the Internet, was cast by some bloggers as the work of a whistle-blowing Heartland employee or ex-employee who had access to internal papers, when it was in fact orchestrated by Dr. Gleick, a Yale- and Berkeley-trained scientist and environmental activist who says that he was frustrated with Heartland’s anti-climate-change programs.

Dr. Gleick denied authorship of the most explosive of the documents, a supposed strategy paper that laid out the institute’s efforts to raise money to question climate change and get schools to adjust their science curricula to include alternative theories of global warming. The Institute asserted that document, which is in a different format and type style from the rest of the Heartland materials, was a fake, but implicitly acknowledged that others were legitimate and vowed to legally pursue those who stole and published them.

In his statement, Dr. Gleick said he had received the dubious strategy paper anonymously in the mail this year. He said he did not know the source of the document but said he tried to confirm the validity of the document because the disclosures in them would serve to undercut the institute’s mission.

“In an effort to do so,” he wrote, “and in a serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.”
–The New York Times

Pricing alternative zebra mussel strategies 
There’s one way to slow – really slow – the spread of invasive zebra mussels in their steady campaign to populate all of Minnesota’s waters.

The simple plan, which some have off-handedly suggested: require boat inspections at every launch. Cost: $2,300 per boat owner, on average.

Oh. Guess that won’t happen.  That sobering price tag is one of several such figures contained in a new Department of Natural Resources report examining what it would actually cost to combat the little enemy mollusks.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Snuffbox mussel is endangered 
 A small mussel that’s found in the St. Croix River and few other places has been declared endangered by the federal government.

The snuffbox mussel has disappeared from 62 percent of the streams where it was historically found. The survival of this native mussel — which can live for decades — is threatened by loss and degradation of habitat, due in part to pollution and sedimentation. Non-native zebra mussels are also a threat.

The National Park Service is raising snuffbox mussels and releasing them in the gorge area of Mississippi River Pool 2 in St. Paul, where water conditions have improved in recent years.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Obama proposes cut in EPA aid to states
 President Obama proposed a fiscal year 2013 budget containing $8.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, a $105 million decrease from fiscal 2012 achieved through cuts to state wastewater treatment and drinking water funds.

The proposed 1.2 percent decrease in EPA funding would mostly come from reduced funding for the clean water and drinking water state revolving funds, which provide capitalization grants to states for loans for water infrastructure. The president’s budget also would reduce funding for superfund cleanup efforts and eliminate a clean diesel grant program and replace it with a combination of rebates and grants. The budget proposal contains increased funding for priority programs, including a large increase for state and tribal air quality and water pollution programs.

While overall assistance to states would decline, EPA’s operating budget would increase under the budget proposal from $3.57 billion in fiscal 2012 to $3.74 billion in fiscal 2013. The proposal would increase funding for targeted water infrastructure and Chesapeake Bay restoration, while maintaining funding levels for leaking underground storage tanks programs and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
–Bloomberg

Bill seeks further permitting changes 
A House committee approved a bill to streamline the environmental review and permitting process. The bill picks up where last year’s streamlining law left off. It would allow project proposers to hire a consultant who can actually draft permits, a job currently in the hands of the Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources.

But Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said the state still would have final authority. “No matter what you do in regards to filing your application, the PCA and DNR still have to approve,” Fabian said.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Texas research downplays ‘fracking’ threat 
The concern that hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas is contaminating groundwater is overstated, claims a new report.

Researchers reviewing the available data in the US found nothing to suggest “fracking” had a unique problem. Rather, they suggest the contamination events that do arise are just as likely to afflict other types of oil and gas drilling operations.

The claims were made at the annual AAAS conference in Vancouver, Canada. Charles “Chip” Groat, associate director of Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, led the study. “The bottom line conclusion of our study is that in the states we investigated, we found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing itself, the practice of fracturing the rocks, had contaminated shallow groundwater,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.
–BBC News

Taconite plant to pay air pollution penalty
Northshore Mining Co. has agreed to pay a $240,175 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) for air-quality violations that the MPCA says occurred at the company’s taconite-processing plant in Silver Bay. The violations were for emissions of excessive amounts of very fine dust that is unhealthy to breathe. Northshore is also taking steps to prevent future violations, including emission-control improvements at its large taconite pellet storage yard.

Between November 2010 and May 2011, ambient air quality monitors located between the taconite pellet storage yard and the Silver Bay marina measured violations of permit limits for particulate matter, or dust, smaller than 10 microns (PM10) in width, or about one-fourth the diameter of a human hair. Dust deposits were also documented at the Silver Bay marina. PM10-size dust is one of the federal and state governments’ health-based standards that help determine the levels where exposure can compromise human health.
–MPCA News Release

Sustainability pioneer sentenced to prison
A pioneer of the sustainable business movement, Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in connection with asbestos-related deaths at his former company, Eternit AG.

A court in Turin, Italy, ruled that Schmidheiny and lead Eternit shareholder Jean-Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier were partially responsible for hundreds of deaths and illnesses caused by asbestos in Eternit factories. They were also sentenced to pay damages, which reportedly could reach past 250 million euros ($330 million), to be determined in a separate civil proceeding to victims’ relatives and to a number of local authorities.

Schmidheiny announced in 1978 that Eternit would stop making products with asbestos, when he became president of its board of directors. Half of production was asbestos-free by 1984, and the company last used asbestos minerals a decade later, according to Eternit AG’s website. The company closed its Italian facilities in 1986, six years before Italy banned asbestos.

Schmidheiny is also the founder of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which provides a forum for 200 member companies with combined revenue of more than $7 trillion “to develop innovative tools that change the status quo,” according to the website of the Geneva-based group. He founded the council after Maurice Strong, then secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, appointed Schmidheiny as his principal advisor on business and industry “to represent the voice of business” at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
–Bloomburg

China faces water quality, quantity woes
China faces a tougher situation in water resources in the future as demand increases amid the country’s rapid industrialization and urbanization, an official said at a press conference. Hu Siyi, vice minister of water resources, said water shortages, serious river pollution and the deteriorating aquatic ecology are “quite outstanding” and may threaten the country’s sustainable growth. With a population of 1.3 billion people, China now consumes more than 600 billion cubic meters of water a year, or about three-quarters of its exploitable water resources, Hu said.

“Because of the grave situation, we must put in place the strictest water resources management system,” he said. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, the average per capita of water resources is only 2,100 cubic meters annually, or about 28 percent of the world’s average level.
–ChinaDaily

Precision conservation; water re-use

January 30, 2012

Precision Conservation conference set March 29

NRCS chief Dave White
Dave White

Precision conservation effectively and efficiently targets scarce resources to the spots on the landscape where they will do the most good. Learn about the latest technology — much of it

based on LiDAR scanning – that pinpoints “sweet spots” where runoff, erosion and pollution are disproportionately severe and the potential for improvement is disproportionately great.

On Thursday, March 29, the Freshwater Society will sponsor a day-long conference: “Precision Conservation: Technology Redefining Local Water Quality Practices.”

The keynote address will be delivered by Dave White, chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Dr. David Mulla, a University of Soil Scientist and a pioneer in employing modern LiDAR-based technology in the service of conservation, will describe current and emerging strategies.

The conference will focus both on technology — much of it derived from vastly improved terrain mapping developed from Light Detection and Ranging laser scanning — and the decision-making process by which policy-makers choose where to employ their time, energy and scarce financial resources.

Who should attend? Watershed District managers, Soil and Water Conservation District supervisors, county commissioners, water planners and policy-makers.

Report explores water re-use
Each day, American municipalities discharge treated wastewater back into natural sources at a rate that would fill an empty Lake Champlain within six months.

Growing pressure on water supplies and calls for updating the ancient subterranean piping infrastructure have brought new scrutiny to this step in the treatment process, which is labeled wasteful and unnecessary by a spectrum of voices.

“As the world enters the 21st century, the human community finds itself searching for new  paradigms for water supply and management,” says a report releasedby the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences.

The report investigates the potential for establishing a more resilient national water supply through the direct recycling of municipal wastewater.

“Law and practice have always been that water goes back into a river or into groundwater or the ocean before it returns for further treatment,” said Brent Haddad, founder and director of the  Center for Integrated Water Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a member of  the committee that wrote the report. The critical question, he said, is “whether that natural stage of treatment is actually an efficient stage of treatment.”
–The New York Times

Don’t forget: Mindy Lubber to lecture March 1 
Mindy Lubber, an international leader in efforts by investors to lead and pressure multinational companies to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices, will deliver a free, public lecture March 1 in St. Paul.

The lecture, “Investing in Sustainability: Building Water Stewardship Into the Bottom Line,” is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

Register to attend. Learn about the lecture series and view video of previous speakers. Lubber is president of Ceres, a 22-year-old Boston-based nonprofit that works with companies like Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss and IBM to encourage the firms to make their products and processes more water- efficient and less vulnerable to climate change.

As part of that work, Lubber directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, an alliance of 100 institutional investors who manage $10 trillion in assets. In 2011, she was voted one of “the 100 most influential people in corporate governance” by Directorship Magazine.

Lubber’s lecture will focus on the risks businesses and their shareholders face as a result of a population-driven demand for increased water use colliding with a fixed global supply, aggravated by more pronounced droughts and flooding resulting from climate change. She will offer specific examples of companies that are changing their business models to become more sustainable.

Minnesota joins effort to protect L. Winnipeg
Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba are planning to work together to fix an expanding dead zone in Lake Winnipeg.

The lake is a major fishery in Manitoba, but it’s health is declining because of nutrients like phosphorus flowing in through the Red River. The nutrients cause large algae blooms.

The problem has been building for decades, said Lance Yohe, Red River Basin Commission executive director.

“The new research is indicating we’re getting closer and closer to a tipping point where the lake would start to deteriorate rather fast,” he said. “If we solve the problem and make progress, this is the best tool to do that.” The Red River drains a large area, and the first step is to identify where nutrients are coming from, Yohe said.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Carver County joining zebra mussel fight
Beginning May 15, all boats entering Lake Minnewashta in Carver County will be inspected for zebra mussels in the most ambitious effort yet in the state to prevent the invasive pests from infesting a lake.

It marks the first time that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has authorized a local government to take over such a program, with authority to require inspections and deny boat launching if necessary.

County commissioners voted 3-2to pay half of the $31,000 cost for daily inspections. The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District will pay the rest.

The partnership could become a model for other lakes in the southwest metro county, as well as those in other counties. It comes at a time when some lakeshore owners and others are desperately trying to devise local efforts to stop zebra mussels, which have infested about two dozen lakes in the state, including heavily trafficked Lake Minnetonka in 2010.
–The Star Tribune

Tons of Asian carp seized in Canada
Almost 6.3 tonnes of Asian carp, an invasive species no one wants in the Great Lakes, has been seized at the Windsor-Detroit border in the last three weeks. That’s alarming, University of Windsor professor and aquatic invasive species expert Hugh MacIsaac said.

“The Americans have put $78 million into trying to detect where the fish are and to make sure they don’t get into the Great Lakes at Chicago,” said MacIsaac. “And here on the other hand we still have people shipping these things around as though it’s legal and advisable, and it’s neither.”

Since 2005, it’s been illegal to possess live Asian carp in Ontario. Over fives tonnes of Asian carp, some of them alive, was seized on the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor. That came about two weeks after nearly 1.2 tonnes of live Asian carp was seized at the border Jan. 9, Ministry of Natural Resources spokeswoman Jolanta Kowalski said.
–Postmedia News

MPCA seeks comment on Anoka County lakes
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking feedback on a draft water quality improvement report for Peltier Lake, Centerville Lake, and the lakes in the Lino Lakes chain (George Watch, Marshan, Reshanau, Rice and Baldwin lakes) in Anoka County.

The MPCA has identified these lakes as impaired because of their high levels of phosphorus. Lakes with excess phosphorus are prone to algal overgrowth, which interferes with swimming, fishing and recreation.

The MPCA, in partnership with the Rice Creek Watershed District, has determined that the phosphorus levels in Peltier Lake must be reduced by up to 85 percent to meet state water quality standards. For this chain of lakes, much of the phosphorus load comes from internal sources, such as rough fish (carp) and decaying vegetation. Therefore, the studies recommend managing populations of fish and aquatic plants in the lakes to control the internal phosphorus load.

Local initiatives to improve the management of stormwater will also reduce the flow of phosphorus into Peltier Lake. Focus on this upstream lake will be critical for success in restoring the downstream lakes. Part of the study included an evaluation of historic phosphorus levels in Peltier Lake.

The MPCA has proposed assessing Peltier Lake in comparison to its natural background level of phosphorus, rather than using the more stringent state water quality standard. George Watch, Marshan, Rice and Baldwin lakes, since they are downstream of Peltier, would also use the natural background condition as their standard.

The MPCA report, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load report, or TMDL, may be viewed on line. For more information or to submit comments, contact Chris Zadak (email chris.zakak@state.mn.us ; phone 651-757-2837), MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., Saint Paul, MN 55155-4194.
–MPCA News Release

DNR begins moose count 
Recent snowfall in northeastern Minnesota has allowed for the start of the 2012 aerial moose survey, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The annual survey, which has been conducted every year since 1960, provides critical data needed to determine the size of the moose population and to set the number of moose hunting permits.

Observers from the DNR Fish and Wildlife Division, the 1854 Treaty Authority, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa gathered in Ely to begin the survey, which is expected to last two to three weeks, depending on the weather.

Forty-nine survey plots randomly scattered across the survey area will be flown. This includes the addition of nine specially selected “habitat” plots that will be studied to determine how moose respond to recent wildfires, prescribed burns and timber management.
–DNR News Release

Research: PFCs impact immune systems 
Children exposed to the same common household chemicals that have contaminated groundwater near a number of 3M Co. sites in the St. Paul suburbs have weakened immune systems that make them more vulnerable to infections, according to research.

The study is the first to confirm the suspected link between immune function and PFCs, a family of compounds used in everything from Teflon pans to microwave popcorn bags.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), it’s the latest in a growing number of scientific studies raising questions about the health implications of the compounds, which have become ubiquitous in the environment, animals and people.

The chemicals are of particular concern in the east metro area, where groundwater and drinking water were contaminated after 3M made and used the compounds for decades at its Cottage Grove plant to make products like Scotchgard, nonstick cookware and firefighting foam. 3M stopped using the chemicals in 2002.

But many people who live nearby have elevated levels of the compounds in their blood — significantly higher than do the Scottish children who were studied in the research published by JAMA. That means their immune systems could be even more affected, Minnesota health officials said.
–The Star Tribune

Garden chart recognizes warmer winters
It’s still too cold for Japanese maples and flowering dogwoods, but warmer winters have shifted the Twin Cities into a new plant-hardiness zone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

The Twin Cities used to be Zone 4A, which meant winter temperatures plunged as low as 30 degrees below zero. Now the USDA places the Twin Cities in Zone 4B, which means winter temperatures drop as low as minus 25 degrees.

The move to a slightly balmier zone comes after the USDA recalculated its map with newer weather data for the first time since 1990. Two decades of gradually warmer winters have shifted most of Minnesota – and much of the United States – one notch higher on the USDA’s plant-hardiness charts.

The zones depict the lowest winter temperatures for each region and are used to advise gardeners which plants are safe to buy. “The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States,” said Kim Kaplan of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.
 –The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Mercury pollution; $$ for Great Lakes

December 25, 2011

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.

Mercury pollution worse near cities
Atmospheric deposition of mercury is about four-times higher in lakes near several major U.S. cities compared to lakes in remote areas, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Atmospheric deposition is the predominant pathway for mercury to reach sensitive ecosystems, where it can accumulate in fish and harm wildlife and humans. Coal-fired power plants and industries are among the primary sources of mercury emissions.

Mercury emissions can travel far in the atmosphere, and the relative importance of local, regional, or international mercury emissions to natural waters is generally unknown.

This is the first study to quantify the relation between mercury fallout and distance from major urban centers. The study included lakes nearby, and remote from Boston, Mass., Albany, N.Y., Montreal, Canada, New Haven, Conn., Tampa and Orlando, Fla., Chicago, Ill., Minneapolis, Minn., Denver, Colo., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Portland, Ore.

To better understand geographic patterns of mercury deposition, the USGS analyzed sediment cores from 12 lakes with undeveloped watersheds near to (less than 30 miles) and remote from (more than 90 miles) several major urban areas in the United States. Mercury deposition in the near-urban lakes greatly exceeds amounts found in remote lakes.

The full report can be found in the journal Environmental Pollution.
–USGS News Release

Congress Oks $300 million for Great Lakes
Congress is pressing ahead with a scaled-back version of the ongoing Obama administration’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

A coalition of conservation groups welcomed the news that both the House and Senate had approved $300 million in the upcoming budget for the program that is focusing on cleaning up toxic hot spots, halting the onslaught of invasive species and restoring sensitive areas such as wetlands. The budget bill is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama in the coming days.

The $300 million for the program’s third year is about the same amount of federal money dedicated to the program this year, but well under the $475 million that was approved in the first year of what was designed to be a 10-year, $5 billion restoration plan for the world’s largest freshwater system.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

EPA issues air pollution rules on mercury
The Environmental Protection Agency released far-reaching air pollution regulations, 21 years after they were first mandated by Congress and six days after they were signed by the agency.

The rules require coal- and oil-fired power plants to lower emissions of 84 different toxic chemicals to levels no higher than those emitted by the cleanest 12% of plants. Companies have three years to achieve the standards, and EPA has made clear a fourth year and perhaps even more time are also available to them.

“We’re delighted,” says Janice Nolen of the American Lung Association. “After waiting 21 years, it looks like we may actually have a rule that will help to save 11,000 lives a year and reduce exposure all across the country to a bunch of really toxic substances.”

The EPA rules govern multiple toxics, including mercury, arsenic, nickel, selenium and cyanide.

Power plants are responsible for half of the mercury and more than 75% of the acid gas emissions in the United States, the EPA says. The EPA estimates that about half the nation’s power plants already have pollution control technologies in place. This rule will “level the playing field” in the agency’s words, by ensuring that the rest, about 40% of all coal-fired plants, take similar steps.
–USA Today

Mankato Free Press looks at Minnesota River
The Mankato Free Press recently published a five-part series on water quality in the Minnesota River. Take a look at the fine work by reporter Tim Krohn. It is called “From Amber Waves to Muddy Waters.”

Anti-carp precautions urged
A combination sound/bubble or electric barrier would be installed at the Ford dam in the Twin Cities as part of a suite of options endorsed to limit the spread of Asian carp and other invasive creatures into Minnesota rivers and lakes.

In a short meeting at the state Capitol, a panel of state, federal and city officials gave its blessing to an action plan prepared over the past couple of months by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Besides installing the barrier to stop or hamper the invasive fish from moving up the Mississippi River, the plan seeks federal authorization to close locks at the Ford dam or just upstream at Upper St. Anthony Falls if Asian carp are found nearby. There also would be studies on whether to install other barriers, including a permanent one at St. Anthony Falls and a sound/bubble barrier at the mouth of the St. Croix River.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Wolves coming off ‘threatened’ list
Minnesota’s gray wolves will be removed from the federal government’s threatened species list and returned to state management in January.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Dec. 21, 2011, that it will publish a final de-listing rule in the Federal Register on Dec. 28. After a 30-day period, the Minnesota DNR will re-assume management of the gray wolf.

As it did after previous de-listing rules in 2007 and 2009, DNR will again manage the state’s wolf population by state statute, rule and provisions of a wolf management plan.

Minnesota has a population of about 3,000 gray wolves, the largest population in the lower 48 states. This is roughly twice the number required in the federal government’s wolf recovery plan.

The state wolf plan is designed to protect wolves and monitor their population while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. It splits the state into two management zones with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf’s core range.

The plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota.
–DNR News Release

Joe Beattie honored by SWCD group
Hastings High School teacher Joe Beattie received the distinguished Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award from the Soil and Water Conservation District state convention for incorporating soil and water conservation education programs into his classes. Beattie teaches 11th- and 12th-grade biology courses at Hastings High School.

“Joe has students learn by being outdoors rather than just in the classroom,” said Laura Jester, Watershed Conservationist with the SWCD. “He constantly has his students performing actual restoration, identification and collection activities of our natural environment. These valuable real-world activities are helping shape and develop future conservationist and environmental leaders.”
–The Hastings Star Gazette

Zebra mussels spreading in L. Minnetonka
Minnehaha Creek Watershed District researchers have found that zebra mussels have become more prominent on the east side of Lake Minnetonka and are spreading to western areas of the lake. These findings, based on data collected from June through September 2011, complete the first year of a three-year study to monitor and measure zebra mussels’ spread throughout the lake.

“The expansion and increased density of zebra mussels are concerning,” said MCWD Water Quality Technician Kelly Dooley. “In just a year, this invasive species has spread to nearly all of Lake Minnetonka’s eastern bays and is moving west. We have been working closely with the DNR and our community partners in efforts to prevent their spread. But we need the public’s continued help to prevent the spread of zebra mussels so we can save Minnesota lakes – one of the state’s most valuable assets.”

Once established, zebra mussels spread rapidly, litter beaches with their sharp shells, damage boats and equipment, and alter the food chain of local lakes, rivers and streams.
The three-year study being conducted by the MCWD, with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Blue Water Science, began after zebra mussels were first detected in Wayzata Bay in 2010. Early in 2011, the MCWD placed two monitoring devices at each of 32 sites from Grays Bay to Halsted Bay to measure the spread of this invasive species. The findings will help create a more accurate map of where the invasive species are located in the lake.

Learn more at the MCWD web site.
–Minnehaha Creek Watershed District news release

LCCMR director Susan Thornton fired
The head of a Minnesota state office that helps direct how lottery proceeds are spent for special environmental and natural resources projects was fired,  prompting questions about the legality of the firing and accusations that House Republicans orchestrated it for political purposes.

Susan Thornton, director of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources since 2008, was called into House Speaker Kurt Zellers’ office and told she was being terminated Jan. 2 so the commission could go in a different direction, according to several commission members and DFL legislators.

Neither Thornton nor Zellers could be reached for comment.

The commissioners and some DFL legislators said they were shocked to hear of the firing. They said the commission, which hired Thornton, had expressed no concerns about her work performance and retains authority over that position.

“If the commission is the only entity that can hire her, it’s the only entity that can fire her,” said Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, a legislative member of the commission.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Bioluminescencent bacteria measure pollution

Read a fascinating New York Times article on marine biologist Edith Widder’s use of glow-in-the-dark bacteria to measure pollution in river sediment.

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

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

Panel to explore invasives on Sept. 16

September 12, 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.

Panel on invasives set Sept. 16
Minnesota Waters will sponsor a panel discussion on two of Minnesota’s most troublesome invasive species – zebra mussels and Asian carp – at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16.

The event, which will be held at the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Road, Excelsior, is free and open to the public.

The panel will include experts from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center in La Crosse, Wis., and from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Daniel Molloy, a retired State University of New York at Albany scientist who discovered a naturally occurring strain of bacteria that kills zebra and quagga mussels also will take part in the discussion. The Douglas County Lakes Association is seeking state funding for research on a commercial pesticide based based on the bacteria. Minnesota Waters is sponsoring a five-day visit by Molloy to Minnesota.

View a video of a presentation by Molloy.

Council disagrees on zebra mussel research
Members of the council charged with distributing Legacy Amendment funds for the outdoors disagreed whether a proposal to research bacteria that can kill zebra mussels should be considered for funding.

The Douglas County Lakes Association asked the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for $350,000 to research the possibility that a product called Zequanox, made of a dead form of a soil bacteria, could be used in a lake setting to control zebra mussels, an invasive species. Zebra mussels have taken over in dozens of lakes and rivers in Minnesota.

Several members of the council said it wouldn’t be appropriate to use Legacy money to fund research.

“Our constitutional mandate is to fund on-the-ground projects that are going to accomplish things. Research is not part of that,” said David Hartwell, the council’s chairman.

Other members suggested the company that’s trying to bring Zequanox to market, Marrone Bio Innovations, find private investors to finance the research.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Freshwater-Park Service win mentoring grant
Minnesota FarmWise, an innovative program to encourage conservation and protect clean water in the Minnesota River Valley, has won a $15,000 challenge grant in the Minnesota Idea Open.

The Freshwater Society and the National Park Service will use the grant to form a farmer-to-farmer mentoring program to encourage practices aimed at reducing soil erosion and the runoff of fertilizers and pesticides into the streams and rivers that lead to the Mississippi River.

View a video about the mentoring program. Read the Minnesota Idea Open announcement of the grant.

Dayton calls Asian carp summit
Gov. Mark Dayton has called a meeting for Monday (Sept. 12) on the Asian carp, with an invitation list that stretches from Sen. Amy Klobuchar to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Canadian Consulate.

Dayton is trying to solve a basic obstacle to stopping the disruptive invasive species: Everyone and no one is in charge.

The meeting is designed to tell the state’s congressional delegation, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and numerous federal agencies about Minnesota’s plans to deal with the carp before it’s too late.

The carp are making their way up the Mississippi River from Missouri. While an enormous effort is focused on keeping them from entering the Great Lakes from the Illinois River through a canal in Chicago, no one has figured out how to protect Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The carp are not in Minnesota yet — in quantity — but individual fish are found from time to time, and recent DNA testing has shown that at least some are likely present in the St. Croix River.
–The Star Tribune

Sea Grant gets $400,000 to fight invasives
Everyone knows Smokey Bear’s reminder that only you can prevent forest fires, and now Minnesota Sea Grant wants to add zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and fish-killing VHS virus to your instinctive guilt list.

The University of Minnesota Duluth-based Sea Grant program now has an extra $400,000 to hammer home the message.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Minnesota Sea Grant the money as part of the 2011 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding approved by Congress and President Obama. The Sea Grant money is earmarked to slow the rate at which people spread invasive species through everyday activities like fishing, boating or tossing an unwanted pet fish into a pond.

The new money is on top of $1.55 million Sea Grant received from the Great Lakes initiative last year.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Goodhue OKs sand mining moratorium
Goodhue County commissioners unanimously approved a proposal that will temporarily block a controversial kind of sand mining in the southeastern Minnesota county.

About 200 people filled a public hearing room in Red Wing for a meeting that lasted nearly three hours and included public comments from 20 people in support of the moratorium. No one spoke in opposition.

Commissioner Jim Bryant said the moratorium will give county officials time to assemble an advisory board to study the potential health, environmental and financial impacts of sand mining around the county.

“Is this really a good fit for us here?” Bryant said. “Maybe for some. Maybe in some areas but maybe not in other areas.”

Goodhue County is particularly strategic for its deposits of “frac” sand, round grains of sand that are used in fracture mining. It is highly sought after for its size and strength. Frac sand has perfectly round grains that look like brown sugar crystals.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Wisconsin report inconclusive on sand mining
There is little conclusive information on possible negative health effects of a pollutant linked to Wisconsin’s burgeoning sand mining industry, the Department of Natural Resources said in a new report.

The DNR made no formal recommendations, but environmentalists, citizens’ groups and others called for regulation while business groups urged a hands-off approach.

Crystalline silica comes from many sources, but worries about it as a source of ambient air pollution has grown with a boom in sand mining in western Wisconsin.

The sand is coveted by the petroleum industry, which is using it with water and chemicals under pressure to extract oil and natural gas from hard-to-reach deposits. Exposure to crystalline silica in enclosed settings can be a human carcinogen and is known to cause silicosis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs.

During mining and processing, tiny bits of silica are kicked up in the air. One question examined in the report is whether crystalline silica poses health risks for people living around such facilities.

“A recurring theme in the literature review and survey is that very little conclusive information exists regarding sources, controls or levels of silica present in ambient air,” the report concludes.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Track loon migrations on your computer
Loon migratory movements from current and previous studies using satellite transmitters can be followed online at the U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center web site.

Several common loons breeding in the Upper Midwest are sporting satellite transmitters in order for researchers to study the migration of these fish-eating water birds through the Great Lakes toward their southern winter homes. By using satellite tracking devices implanted in the loons from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Michigan Upper Peninsula, USGS scientists expect to learn information about avian botulism essential for managers to develop loon conservation strategies.

 
“This study will also help managers better understand how loons fare as they head to their wintering grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts,” said USGS scientist Kevin Kenow of UMESC in La Crosse, Wisc. “This is the second year of the study. Ten loons radiomarked in 2010 provided insight into use of the Great Lakes during fall and spring migration and revealed wintering sites. Another 21 loons were radiomarked this past July over a broader area of the Upper Midwest.”
–USGS News Release

Illinois denies permit for mega-dairy
State regulators announced that they have denied a permit related to a proposal to build the largest dairy in the state near Galena, saying they were worried the facility would pollute groundwater in the area.

The action by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency means the dairy sponsors have to make changes to correct deficiencies or submit a new plan, IEPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson said.

 
California dairyman A.J. Bos has proposed putting up to 5,500 head of cattle in a concentrated animal feeding operation at Tradition Dairy, near the small town of Nora, about 30 miles east of Galena in northwestern Illinois.
–The Chicago Tribune

Mississippi levies mostly held in flood of 2011
James Parker steps onto a sandy ledge to get a clearer view of where the Mississippi River almost cut Presidents Island in two, tearing out a half-mile-wide chunk of land and leaving water and flocks of geese on a place where cotton formerly grew.

Parker, crew chief for the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission, says he’ll never forget the first time he saw this testament to the raw power of the Mississippi.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought it was going to cut all the way through (the island).”

Ever since the historic flood of 2011 receded, officials up and down the Mississippi have identified places where the mighty river sought out new channels and made initial efforts to change course during the high water this spring.

The Corps of Engineers’ $13 billion flood-control system along the river largely held, preventing an estimated $62 billion in damage.
–The Memphis Commercial Appeal

Building owners look to re-use water
Building owners and managers are discovering a great untapped resource: the water that flows out of—and off—homes and commercial structures.

Some wastewater from buildings is reused after treatment at municipal plants, but much of it ends up flowing back into the environment. And buildings rarely are equipped to capture rainwater. A slew of technologies hitting the market, though, are enabling more homes and businesses to reuse much of their wastewater, without it ever leaving the site, and to put the rain to use as well.

That saves building owners money by allowing them to purchase less water from municipal sources. And it benefits communities by conserving water.

The techniques range from a simple sand filtration system for the home costing only a few hundred dollars to a mini water-treatment plant for commercial buildings that costs as much as $1 million. What they have in common is a goal of recycling everything from sink water to rain runoff, and reusing it for nonpotable purposes such as toilet flushing and lawn watering.
–The Wall Street Journal


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