Archive for January, 2011

Water and the environment: Week of Jan. 31

January 31, 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.

Flooding predicted throughout Minnesota
The forecast for spring flooding statewide came down to two words:

Look out.

Offering their first formal long-range regional outlook of the season, Dan Luna, a National Weather Service meteorologist, and other officials said all the state’s rivers are expected to close roads, including major highways, foul up sewer systems and back up into basements again this spring. That’s almost certain to mean detours for metro-area commuters and hours of sandbagging and sump-pumping for residents from Fargo-Moorhead to Afton.

“Every river in the state of Minnesota is at risk of flooding this spring,” Luna said, noting how the third straight wet autumn was followed by snowfall that has been twice the norm (or more) over nearly the entire state. He said 3 to 6 inches of frozen water now rests atop frozen ground across Minnesota.
–The Star Tribune

Ex-MPCA head Brad Moore joins mining firm
A former head of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, who also held a top position at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, has been hired by PolyMet Mining Co. as the firm’s executive vice president of environmental and governmental affairs.

Duluth native Brad Moore will assume “overall responsibility for the Company’s effort to complete environmental review and obtain permits necessary for construction and operation of the’’ proposed PolyMet copper mining operation between Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes, the company announced.

Moore served as PCA commissioner from 2006 to 2008 and as assistant commissioner for operations of the DNR from 1999 to 2006. He also worked in several policy positions at DNR and the Minnesota Department of Public Service (now the Department of Commerce.)

 Moore’s “existing knowledge of the project and the process mean that he can step in immediately to effectively help the environmental review and permitting process move forward to completion,’’ said LaTisha Gietzen, PolyMet’s vice president of public, governmental and environmental affairs, in a statement on the hiring.

 Moore has most recently worked for Barr Engineering as Senior Advisor, Public and Governmental Affairs where he advised several companies, including PolyMet, on environmental strategy.
–The Duluth News Tribune

 Dow, Nature Conservancy sign $10 million deal
Dow Chemical Co. pledged to make environmental protection a primary consideration in all its business decisions and to operate its plants in more nature-friendly ways in partnership with a leading conservation group.

 The Michigan-based chemical company said it had entered a five-year, $10 million collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, which will advise Dow and provide technical assistance on reducing its ecological footprint. Executives said they hoped to lead the way to a new era in which corporations and environmental advocates would become less confrontational and work together for sustainable economic growth.

 “Most people believe it’s a choice — it’s either grow the economy or protect the environment . . . the classic zero-sum game in which someone has to lose,” Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris said in a joint appearance before the Detroit Economic Club with Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. Dow intends to “demonstrate that protecting nature can be a profitable global priority and can be a smart business strategy,” Liveris said.
–The Associated Press

 Report: Population growth threatens Colorado ag land
Increasing water demands could dry up more than a half million acres of agricultural land in Colorado over the next several years.

That’s one of the findings of a new state report on the outlook for Colorado’s water supplies to 2050. The report by the Colorado Water Conservation Board updates one released in 2004 that identified water needs to 2030.

The report says if water use follows current trends, large volumes will be shifted away from agricultural uses, drying up as many as 700,000 irrigated acres. The report found that Colorado will have look to conservation, reusing water, local water projects and developing new water supplies to meet the state’s needs.
–The Associated Press

Jordan gravel pit plan draws concern
A proposed gravel pit near Jordan has created a dust storm over concerns that the city’s water, air and roads could be damaged by the operation.

 Officials in Sand Creek Township also oppose it because of possible groundwater contamination they believe could result from the digging.

 The proposed pit would be on about 80 acres in Sand Creek in the 17000 block of Valley View Drive, just north of Jordan near Hwy. 169. After the mining is done, the pit would be turned into a pond. 

“There’s a ton of issues out there,” said Cy Wolf, chairman of the Sand Creek Township board. “But that’s the biggest fear we have out there, Sand Creek flooding over.” If the polluted river were to flood, it could flow into the pond and contaminate it. From there, some fear, it could seep into the groundwater.
–The Star Tribune

Endangered status proposed for two freshwater mussels
In these parts, freshwater mussels often conjure up images of invasives, infestations and lake devastation. And that’s understandable. In October, zebra mussels were found in Gull Lake, and Brainerd’s best-known lake was designated as infested waters.

It was the second time in less than four months that zebra mussels were discovered in a popular Minnesota lake. In July, the DNR found them in Lake Minnetonka. 

But not all mussels are bad. In fact, nearly all freshwater mussels are a positive for Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams. And according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, two are in need of protection. 

The USFWS has proposed Endangered Species Act protection for the sheepnose and the spectaclecase, two freshwater mussels found in river systems in Minnesota.
-The Brainerd Dispatch

 Anti-zebra mussel bacteria holds promise
A bacteria that can kill zebra and quagga mussels has raised hopes for private and public organizations fighting to control the environmentally hazardous species.

New York State Museum researchers Daniel Molloy and Denise Mayer discovered a bacteria strain — Pseudomonas fluorescens — that can kill zebra and quagga mussels without killing other native species in the ecosystem.

“The eureka moment did not come, interestingly enough, when we discovered the bacteria could kill zebra and quagga mussels, but came when we discovered the lack of sensitivity among non-target species,” Mayer said in a phone interview.

Scientists have found plenty of agents capable of killing the mussels, but in most instances they’ve also killed everything else in an ecosystem, Mayer said.
–The Tahoe Daily Tribune 

USDA approves genetically modified alfalfa
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that he would authorize the unrestricted commercial cultivation of genetically modified alfalfa, setting aside a controversial compromise that had generated stiff opposition.

In making the decision, Mr. Vilsack pulled back from a novel proposal that would have restricted the growing of genetically engineered alfalfa to protect organic farmers from so-called biotech contamination. That proposal drew criticism at a recent Congressional hearing and in public forums where Mr. Vilsack outlined the option.

 Mr. Vilsack said that his department would take other measures, like conducting research and promoting dialogue, to make sure that pure, nonengineered alfalfa seed would remain available.
–The New York Times

Got milk? Got antibiotics?
Each year, federal inspectors find illegal levels of antibiotics in hundreds of older dairy cows bound for the slaughterhouse. Concerned that those antibiotics might also be contaminating the milk Americans drink, the Food and Drug Administration intended to begin tests this month on the milk from farms that had repeatedly sold cows tainted by drug residue.

 But the testing plan met with fierce protest from the dairy industry, which said that it could force farmers to needlessly dump millions of gallons of milk while they waited for test results. Industry officials and state regulators said the testing program was poorly conceived and could lead to costly recalls that could be avoided with a better plan for testing.

 In response, the F.D.A. postponed the testing, and now the two sides are sparring over how much danger the antibiotics pose and the best way to ensure that the drugs do not end up in the milk supply.
–The New York Times

Climate threatens Kenya, Ethiopia
The increased frequency of drought observed in eastern Africa over the last 20 years is likely to continue as long as global temperatures continue to rise, according to new research published in Climate Dynamics.

This poses increased risk to the estimated 17.5 million people in the Greater Horn of Africa who currently face potential food shortages.

 Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California, Santa Barbara, determined that warming of the Indian Ocean, which causes decreased rainfall in eastern Africa, is linked to global warming. These new projections of continued drought contradict previous scenarios by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting increased rainfall in eastern Africa. 

This new research supports efforts by the USGS and the U.S. Agency for International Development to identify areas of potential drought and famine in order to target food aid and help inform agricultural development, environmental conservation, and water resources planning. 

“Global temperatures are predicted to continue increasing, and we anticipate that average precipitation totals in Kenya and Ethiopia will continue decreasing or remain below the historical average,” said USGS scientist Chris Funk.
–USGS News Release

Oregon rules seek to promote graywater use
Oregon has a new proposal to allow reuse of household and business wastewater for irrigation — and, yes, it excludes wastewater from toilets.

The draft “graywater” regulations require homeowners, schools, businesses, apartment complexes and others to apply for permits costing at least $50 a year before installing irrigation systems using water from showers, baths, sinks or washers.

That’s tougher than California, which decided in 2009 not to require permits for the simplest graywater systems.

But the costs and paperwork in Oregon should be lower than the patchwork of local regulation and permits in place now, regulators say.
–The Oregonian

Silt building up at mouth of Mississippi
River pilots and exporters are warning that the mouth of the Mississippi River is silting in, threatening a major commercial route, because there is not enough money to pay for dredges that normally keep the channel open.

Seizing on the State of the Union speech, they said the muddy picture on the Mississippi undermines President Barack Obama’s goal of making the United States more competitive. In his speech, Obama told Americans he was focused on “doubling our exports … because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home.”

The Mississippi River is a major thoroughfare to the world’s markets for grain, soybeans, pig iron, coal and many other products for 29 states and Canada. About 60 percent of U.S. grain exports cross the mouth of the Mississippi.

But to keep the cargo flowing, the river needs constant tinkering.

The Mississippi carries huge amounts of silt and sediment down river — about 200 million tons a year — and unless it is stirred up by dredges the river clogs up — and that’s what’s happening now.

–The Associated Press

 

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Water and the environment: Week of Jan. 23

January 25, 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.

Report examines  Legacy Amendment spending
Money raised through Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment has been put to work quickly and generally has been spent well, according to a report.

 But there is still room for improvement, according to the analysis by Conservation Minnesota.

 The non-profit watchdog group, which reviews Legacy spending every year, said money is going to good uses, but it questioned some decisions and promised to monitor them closely in the future.

 Conservation Minnesota said several projects last year raised alarms.

 For example, it said then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a pair of parks and trails bonding projects that were then funded by Legacy money. In addition, the Legislature borrowed money from two environmental cleanup funds to help solve budget problems, and promised to repay the amounts in a couple of years.

 Language in the 2008 amendment said Legacy money should not be used to replace existing state spending.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 MCEA analysis questions water-quality grants
Minnesota is spending clean-water funds from the 2008 Legacy Amendment without clear evidence that the money will make the most dramatic improvements in water quality, according to an analysis released by a nonprofit environmental group.

It’s one of several reports being prepared by environmental groups who have adopted a watchdog role over the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be provided by the 25-year sales tax increase voters approved in 2008.

The latest report says the state Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), which funds projects primarily related to agricultural pollution, spent $16.8 million on 123 projects between 2007 and 2010.

But many of the projects – which ran the gamut from school rain gardens to livestock feedlot clean-ups – did not address the source of pollution that was identified in the grant application or explain how the impact would be measured.

For example, a $40,000 project to install rain gardens at a school in Medford, Minn., said it would address high fecal bacteria counts in the nearby Straight River. Michael Schmidt of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, which produced the analysis, said most fecal bacteria in rivers comes from agricultural feedlots, not school kids.
–The Star Tribune

 MPCA takes comment on pesticide permitting
Public comments are now being accepted for a proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)/State Disposal System (SDS) Pesticide General Permit.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will accept comments through Feb. 17, 2011.

In 2009, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NPDES permits were required for all biological and chemical pesticide applications that leave a residue in water when such applications are made in or over, including near, waters of the United States.

In accordance with that federal ruling, the MPCA drafted a NPDES/SDS Pesticide General Permit covering anyone who discharges a pesticide to a water of the state under one of the following pesticide use patterns:

  • Mosquito and Other Flying Insect Pest Control,
  • Forest Canopy Pest Control,
  • Aquatic Nuisance Animal Pest Control, and 
  • Vegetative Pests and Algae Control.

A draft permit is available for review on line at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/news/data/index.cfm?PN=1
–MPCA News Release 

700 water mains break daily in US
Anita Kramer had no idea that a 72-inch water main in her Maryland neighborhood was a ticking time bomb that was about to flood her home and ruin many of her most cherished possessions.

In the wake of the water main break, Kramer’s basement kitchen was a mess. Appliances were covered in dirt, as was the floor. Dark water and mold stains marked the baseboards and walls.

“It’s not the money value of what you lost,” she said about the pipe burst. “You put your heart into doing something … the memories you lose — it was a hard experience.”

Kramer’s disaster was just one of an average 700 water main breaks nationwide that experts say occur each day. They warn that this is the latest sign of an aging water delivery infrastructure that results in property loss, inconvenience, and threats to public health.

 The nation’s drinking water system is so troubled, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a grade of D minus, in its 2009 Report Card of America’s Infrastructure.
–CNN

 Mississippi corridor rules may be stalled
DNA year of work-group sessions, drafts, redrafts and heated debate on regulating development along the Mississippi River may have been for naught. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, ordered by the Legislature to establish new rules for a 72-mile stretch of the river, missed a key deadline, meaning its authority to make the rules has expired.

Restarting the process would require the Legislature to grant the DNR more time, which some say is highly unlikely. Moreover, legislation was introduced last week to eliminate the rulemaking process altogether. 

The area in question, the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area, stretches from the Anoka County city of Ramsey to southeastern Dakota County. The rules, intended to standardize what is now a mishmash of local regulations, would dictate how tall buildings can be in the corridor and how near to the top of a bluff a structure could be built, for instance.
–The Star Tribune

Water demands, anti-tax vows collide in California 
Some of the farmers here in the rural Central Valley have been seeking a new tax levy for their water system. Dwindling groundwater, they say, is endangering the water supply. 

“None of us likes to pay taxes. But this is our water,” said Tom Hoffman, a pro-tax farmer who has 140 acres of wine grapes here and until recently sat on the local water board. 

But voters here already have rejected the proposed levy, and last fall elected a firmly antitax group of members to the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District board. “No new taxes,” said Hugh Scanlon, a newly elected Republican member. That “is the pledge I made to the people.” 

The post-election dispute in North San Joaquin is part of a debate being played out in communities nationwide, as politicians elected in last fall’s elections grapple with spending requests by local constituents. 

Without the levy, and the groundwater-recharge system it would fund, local water officials say, wells will eventually dry up and become contaminated with salt water from the nearby San Francisco Bay Delta.
–The Wall Street Journal

 Minnehaha Creek district eyes anti-invasives plan
A novel proposal to battle the spread of damaging water plants and animals would require all boats to display a red or green sticker on the lakes and streams in the watershed district that includes popular Lake Minnetonka.

 The gist is that all boats on Lake Minnetonka, which has been infested by zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and other invasive species, would be required to display red permit stickers.

Boats on clean lakes within the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District would display green stickers. 

Any boat with the wrong color sticker for the lake it’s on, or without a sticker at all, would stand out, making it easier for people to help police spot and ticket offenders. 

The Watershed District, which is known for flood control and clean water efforts, says it feels called to wade into the battle against aquatic invasive species because the state is not doing enough to stop their spread.
–The Star Tribune

 Oklahoma research reduces salt use on bridge
The salt and sand trucks are out ready to treat bridges when the snow and ice comes, but what if bridges had something inside them to prevent them from freezing?

 There is technology that does that.

Scientists have tried hot water and electric heat to make bridges less likely to freeze. Oklahoma State proved several years ago there is a system that works.

 Jeff Spitler and his colleagues at Oklahoma State University built a geothermal “smart bridge” back in 2001. It melts snow and ice with hot water that’s pumped through the bridge in the summer.

 “You know how hot concrete gets in Oklahoma gets in the summer, I don’t know if you can really fry an egg on it, but it seems like it. And we actually circulate fluid in these tubes in the bridge deck down into the ground,” Spitler said.

 The water is stored deep underground and pumped back out in the winter.
–NewsOn6.com

Solar-powered pavement could melt ice, snow
The mayors of New York and Atlanta, Georgia, suffered stinging criticism for their handling of recent winter storms, but in the near future, technology could clear city streets of ice and snow — by simply melting it away.

 America’s harsh winters cost the nation’s economy billions of dollars each year in snow removal equipment, weather damage to streets and vehicles, extra days of school and revenue lost to closed businesses.

 Scott Brusaw, a 53-year-old electrical engineer in tiny Sagle, Idaho, thinks he has a solution. So far, he’s generated interest from the federal government and General Electric in his idea for a solar-powered roadway made from super-strong glass, instead of conventional asphalt or concrete.
–CNN

 Lake Powel inspections halt zebra mussels
As the battle cry mounts to stop the spread of zebra mussels in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources would do well to check out places where they have been stopped.

One such place is Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest man-made reservoir that straddles Utah and Arizona.

At full pool, Lake Powell is 186 miles long and has 1,960 miles of shoreline. But unlike Lake Mille Lacs or Lake Minnetonka, the reservoir on the Colorado River has only five major marinas where the bulk of boaters access the lake.

 Nonetheless, Lake Powell has remained free of zebra and quagga mussels (the latter very similar to zebra mussels) because of an aggressive and mandatory boat inspection program, the use of boat decontamination stations and very stiff fines.

 Lake Powell was predicted early on to become the first major western reservoir to get the nasty mussels. It has remained mussel-free, while its neighbor to the south, Lake Mead, has had them since 2005.

 “Our program has been successful. We have not found any mussels, and Lake Powell is a huge, huge reservoir,” said Mark Anderson, aquatic ecologist for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The National Park Service oversees the national recreation area, which encircles Lake Powell and regulates it.

 Anderson said Glen Canyon staff inspected 100,000 boats last year before they launched on Lake Powell. A lesser number of “high-risk” boats were required to undergo decontamination, and 14 were found to have zebra mussels.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 States continue Asian carp suit
The Michigan attorney general who sparked the legal fight to force the federal government to take dramatic steps to protect the Great Lakes from an Asian carp invasion has left office, but a bitter regional fight that has pitted Illinois against a coalition of neighboring states will drag on.

 New Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has announced he has no plans to abandon the lawsuit initiated by his predecessor and fellow Republican Mike Cox that pushes for an emergency closure of two Chicago navigation locks. The lawsuit, backed by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania, also seeks to re-establish the natural separation between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin that the Chicago canal system destroyed over a century ago.

 The five states remain undaunted, despite the political wave that washed across the region in the midterm elections, a federal judge’s ruling in December against an emergency lock closure and the fact that Cox is no longer steering the fight.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin chef plans Asian carp entrees
Chef Jimmy Wade isn’t transforming his Heaven City Restaurant near Mukwonago into a house of flying carp just yet.

 But the adventurous chef, who hosts twice-a-year wild game dinners, is planning an “invasivore” dinner menu in February as part of his Tapas Tuesday series.

 On the menu: Carp Cakes, Smoked Carp Steak and Carp Napoleon, featuring a few invasive Asian carp species from the Illinois River that threaten to breach the Great Lakes.

 “If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em.” That’s the mantra of an emerging group of environmentally conscious foodies dubbed “invasivores” in a recent New York Times story. Wade hopes to entice them to his restaurant with surprisingly tasty invasive species entrées. He’d also be happy just to attract a crowd of adventurous diners.

 “Lots of people will try anything once,” said Wade.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wadena County feedlot faces $30,000 penalty
Dhs Farms and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently reached an agreement that required the facility to pay $30,000 for alleged feedlot violations.  The feedlot, owned by David Sabin and Marci Burkel, is located east of Menahga, in northern Wadena County’s Shell River Township. 

According to MPCA and Wadena County feedlot staff inspection reports for 2009 and 2010, the feedlot was permitted to hold a maximum of 300 head of feeder cattle, but had more than 1,700 head housed there during two inspections that took place nearly a year apart.  When a feedlot exceeds 1,000 head of cattle, it is required to obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.  Dhs Farms failed to obtain the NPDES permit, and failed to notify local zoning authorities of its expansion.

 The facility also allowed manure and manure-contaminated runoff to discharge into area waters, failed to notify the MPCA of the discharges, and failed to keep records on file of manure transfers for land application.

 In addition to paying the $30,000 civil penalty, Dhs Farms is completing a series of corrective actions.
–MPCA News Release

$26 million available to retire flood-prone land

January 17, 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.

$26 million available for flood-prevention easements 
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that $26 million is available to retire marginal or damaged cropland in southern Minnesota that is frequently or occasionally flooded.

 The highest priority sites will result in restoration of wetlands and grasslands through the RIM-WRP partnership. Most of the money will be focused in floodplain areas in the 29 counties that sustained damages as identified in the federal disaster declaration, resulting from record rainfalls on Sept. 22-23, 2010.

 The total amount includes $10 million in state dollars appropriated for flood recovery in the 2010 special legislative session, which is expected to leverage $16 million in federal dollars.

 “The primary goal of these state and federal dollars is to provide additional flood relief and protection on privately owned lands adjacent to water bodies,” said John Jaschke, BWSR Executive Director. “But the restored floodplains and grasslands will also provide multiple benefits for wildlife habitat and water quality.”

 Counties where the money is available are:  Blue Earth, Brown, Carver, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Jackson, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Pipestone, Redwood, Rice, Rock, Sibley, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan, Winona, Yellow Medicine.

 RIM-WRP is a local-state-federal partnership that combines the state’s Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve conservation easement program with the USDA Wetlands Reserve Program.
–BWSR-NRCS  News Release

California water official invokes ‘reasonable’ use
A newly appointed Delta water overseer wants to use the state constitution to enforce farm water conservation, contending that even small improvements could result in big savings.

 Craig Wilson is California’s first Delta watermaster, a position created by sweeping water reforms lawmakers passed at the end of 2009.

 In his first report to regulators, Wilson will argue  that farmers who use water inefficiently are violating the constitution’s requirement that its use be “reasonable.”

 His recommendations, if adopted, would mark the first time the doctrine has been applied so broadly.
–The Contra Costa Times

 Amendment’s sales tax funds environmental work
In the two years since Minnesota voters amended the state Constitution to dedicate millions to the environment and arts, following the money trail has been tough.

 Almost $457 million in Legacy Amendment funding has been sent to Minnesota groups and agencies even while the state tackles its $6.25 billion budget shortfall. But a state-run website to help citizens follow the money is at least two months behind schedule, and not all of the money has been distributed.

 Aware that legislators might be tempted to hijack Legacy funds to help with the budget, outdoors and arts groups are voicing concerns about the future even as they complete reports about how Legacy money has been spent so far, and prepare recommendations for the next round of grants.
–The Star Tribune

BP oil spill panel calls for sweeping regulation
The presidential panel investigating the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico recommended that Congress approve substantial new spending and sweeping new regulations for offshore oil operations at a time when the appetite for both is low.

Releasing its final report, the commission found that the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill arose from a preventable series of corporate and regulatory failures. It warned that unless industry practices and government regulation improved, another such accident was inevitable.

 “If dramatic steps are not taken,” said Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida and a co-chairman of the commission, “I’m afraid at some point in the coming years another failure will occur, and we will wonder why did the Congress, why did the administration, why did the industry allow this to happen again.”
–The New York Times

 EPA halts mountain-top mine project
The Environmental Protection Agency revoked the permit for one of the nation’s largest mountaintop-removal coal mining projects, saying the mine would have done unacceptable damage to rivers, wildlife and communities in West Virginia.

Arch Coal’s proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County has been the subject of controversy since the Bush administration approved its construction in 2007, issuing a permit required under the Clean Water Act. Environmentalists and local residents strongly opposed the sprawling project, and the Obama administration moved last year to rescind the permit, prompting lawsuits by West Virginia and the coal company.

 The agency’s action is certain to provoke an outcry from West Virginia politicians, the coal industry and other businesses that have raised objections to what they consider economically damaging regulatory overreach by the E.P.A.

The coal mining project would have involved dynamiting the tops off mountains over an area of 2,278 acres to get at the rich coal deposits beneath.
–The New York Times

Report: Coon Rapids dam could halt Asian carp
A $16 million upgrade could turn the 97-year-old Coon Rapids Dam into an effective barrier against Asian carp migrating up the Mississippi River, a consultant reported.

 A dam with new gates, a repaired underwater apron and revised operating rules to keep upstream water at summer levels year-round could make the dam 99 to 100 percent effective at stopping the carp from jumping upriver to Minnesota’s prime game fish lakes, said Martin Weber, principal water resources engineer for Stanley Consultants.

 Weber reported his findings to the Coon Rapids Dam Commission, a panel of public officials and citizens established by the Legislature.
–The Star Tribune

Great Lakes research looks beyond Asian carp
While public attention has been riveted on the Asian carp’s progress toward Lake Michigan, scientists are mapping out just what the next invasion might be and what, if anything, could be done to stop it.

A team of university and government researchers has identified 75 species that could find their way into the Great Lakes basin over time. Some of them are bad actors.

The next invasion could arrive in the murky ballast waters of ocean-going ships. It could come via the aquarium trade, sold at a pet store and later released. The next invader, experts say, could arrive in a truck selling bait, fish or water lilies for country ponds or urban water gardens. It could even arrive as live food at market.
–The Grand Rapids Press

New Hampshire not running out of water, after all
When state and federal officials recently looked at the history of water levels in New Hampshire wells, they found what appeared to be an alarming problem: In 2006, water in the average drilled well was 13 feet lower than it had been in 1984.

 That’s a decline of about 7 inches a year, measured in almost 60,000 wells found in every part of the state.  This leads to an obvious conclusion: New Hampshire is draining its underground aquifers dry.

 Obvious, but wrong.

 “The water table isn’t getting lower and lower … despite how that seems,” said Brandon Kernen, of the state Department of Environmental Studies, who co-authored a report titled “Preliminary Assessment of Trends in Static Water Levels in Bedrock Wells in New Hampshire, 1984 to 2007.”
–The Nashua Telegraph

L.A. meets renewable energy goal
The City of Los Angeles had 20 percent of its power supplied via renewable energy resources in 2010, according to a release from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Hitting the mark fulfilled a promise made by Villaraigosa in 2005 to quadruple the amount of power coming from renewable sources.

 The biggest contributor has been the Pine Tree Wind Power Plant in the Tehachapi Mountains, which contributed half of the energy in the renewable segment. Other renewable sources included small hydro-electric, geothermal/biofuels and solar.
–Los Angeles Business
 

Schad named deputy DNR commissioner 
A veteran natural resource professional has been promoted to deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources by new DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

Dave Schad, 53, has served in the DNR since his student worker days in 1981, most recently as director of the agency’s Fish and Wildlife Division. Previously he was the agency’s Wildlife Section chief; he has also served as wildlife operations manager, regional wildlife manager, area wildlife supervisor, and statewide wetland wildlife coordinator and statewide forest wildlife program coordinator.
–KARE-TV

USGS may study White Bear Lake water levels
A detailed study of White Bear Lake water levels has landed federal money and officials are now working to finalize a study plan and secure local matching funds.

United States Geological Survey (USGS) officials will conduct a meeting next month to discuss plans for a study characterizing groundwater and surface water interactions in White Bear Lake. The study is estimated to cost approximately $200,000, with the federal government paying half and local public and private entities providing a match.

The February meeting will involve state, county and local government officials, representatives from local water governing boards, business leaders, and representatives from private associations and foundations. The various entities, called Groundwater and Surface Water Interaction Partners, will be asked to collectively supply around $100,000 and provide information gathering assistance.
–Vadnais Heights Press

 USGS weighs in on red-winged blackbirds’ deaths
Large wildlife die-off events are fairly common, though they should never be ignored, according to the U.S. Geological Survey scientists whose preliminary tests showed that the bird deaths in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve and those in Louisiana were caused by impact trauma.

Preliminary findings from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center’s Arkansas bird analyses suggest that the birds died from impact trauma, and these findings are consistent with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s statement.

The State concluded that such trauma was probably a result of the birds being startled by loud noises on the night of Dec. 31, arousing them and causing them to fly into objects such as houses or trees. Scientists at the USGS NWHC performed necropsies—the animal version of an autopsy—on the birds and found internal hemorrhaging, while the pesticide tests they conducted were negative.

In 2010, the USGS NWHC documented eight die-off events of 1,000 or more birds. The causes: starvation, avian cholera, Newcastle disease and parasites. Such records show that, while the causes of death may vary, events like the red-winged blackbird die-off in Beebe, Ark., and the smaller one near Baton Rouge, La., are more common than people may realize.
–USGS News Release

 

A new DNR commissioner; Farm Bureau sues EPA

January 11, 2011

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

Dayton names Landwehr to lead DNR
Few state agency jobs are as daunting as the top one at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Tom Landwehr knows that, but he is still looking forward to tackling it.

 “Its pretty intimidating, awe-inspiring and exciting all at the same time,” said Landwehr, Gov. Mark Dayton’s pick Thursday to be the new DNR commissioner, replacing Mark Holsten.

Landwehr, 55, brings loads of experience to the job.

He has a master’s degree in business, taught at the University of Minnesota’s School of Natural Resources and worked s a DNR scientist and wildlife manager for 17 years. After leaving the agency in 1999, he was state conservation director for Ducks Unlimited in Minnesota and Iowa until 2003. Since then, he’s been assistant state director for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

He’ll need all those skills to navigate his way at the DNR, which oversees hunting, angling, parks, timber and mining pursuits, balancing competing economic, environmental and conservation interests that all have zealous constituencies.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Farm Bureau sues EPA over Chesapeake plan
It didn’t take long for the Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” to get challenged in court.

The American Farm Bureau Federation filed suit, contending that the plan unveiled less than two weeks ago by the Environmental Protection Agency is “dangerous and unlawful,” in the words of the national farm group’s president.

The suit, joined by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, was filed in federal court in that state, but could affect whether the cleanup plan is enforced in Maryland and the rest of the region.

 The farm groups contend that the EPA overstepped its legal authority under the Clean Water Act by specifying pollution reductions for farms, municipalities and other sources within the 64,000-square mile watershed – something the suit argues is the purview of the states, not the federal government. 

The suit also asserts that the “total maximum daily load,” as the diet is officially known, is based on erroneous information about pollution sources, that the EPA relied on computer models “unsuitable” for simulating the impacts on bay water quality and that the agency did not allow adequate time for public comment and review before imposing its diet. 

“We all want a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay,” farm bureau president Bob Stallman said in a statement. “This lawsuit is about how we get there. Farm Bureau believes EPA’s ‘diet’ for the Chesapeake is dangerous and unlawful.”  A farm bureau federation official told The Virginian-Pilot that the intent of the lawsuit is to force EPA to “start over” in assigning state-by-state pollution reductions to restore the bay.
–The Baltimore Sun

U.S. to lower fluoride-in-water recommendation
In a remarkable turnabout, federal health officials say many Americans are now getting too much fluoride because of its presence not just in drinking water but in toothpaste, mouthwash and other products, and it’s causing splotches on children’s teeth and perhaps more serious problems. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced plans  to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in nearly 50 years, based on a fresh review of the science. 

The announcement is likely to renew the battle over fluoridation, even though the addition of fluoride to drinking water is considered one of the greatest public health successes of the 20th century.

 The U.S. prevalence of decay in at least one tooth among teens has declined from about 90 percent to 60 percent. The government first began urging municipal water systems to add fluoride in the early 1950s. Since then, it has been put in toothpaste and mouthwash. It is also in a lot of bottled water and in soda. Some kids even take fluoride supplements. Now, young children may be getting too much.
–The Associated Press

 MPCA seeks  comment on Fillmore County dairy plan
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency seeks comments on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet prepared for Johnson’s Rolling Acres proposed dairy expansion in Fillmore County.  Comments must be in writing and accepted by 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 9.

Richard Johnson proposes to expand his dairy operations from 870 to 1,400 cows and 110 to 500 heifers, with a decrease in calves from 40 to 30.  Johnson plans to build a new barn, change an existing manure-storage basin, add a manure-storage basin, and expand areas used to store feed and bedding material.  In addition, the expansion would include features to collect and store silage leachate and rainwater to prevent pollutants from washing into nearby streams.  The dairy is located in Norway Township in northeast Fillmore County, near Peterson.

After expansion, the dairy would generate 11 million gallons of liquid manure a year.  Johnson plans to apply manure from the storage basins to cropland twice a year.  The dairy would have three manure-storage basins with a total storage capacity of 21.1 million gallons.

The existing and proposed dairy facilities are surrounded by land zoned for agriculture, though 25 residences are located within one mile of the proposed expansion and manure-application sites.  Based on a computer modeling study, the MPCA expects the new facility to comply with state air quality standards, with odors below levels usually considered unpleasant.

The expansion area and manure application sites include sinkholes and exposed or shallow bedrock, which can lead directly to groundwater used for drinking wells.  Federal and state laws require setbacks to prevent bacteria from manure draining to groundwater through sinkholes and exposed bedrock.

The EAW provides information about how the proposed project could affect the environment and helps determine whether an Environmental Impact Statement, a more comprehensive environmental review, is needed.  Interested parties may comment on the EAW during the public notice period through Feb. 9.

The EAW is available and on the MPCA Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us. Send questions and comments on the Johnson’s Rolling Hills EAW to Charles Peterson, planner principal for Environmental Review and Feedlot Section, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., Saint Paul, MN 55155 or charles.peterson@state.mn.us.
In addition to the environmental worksheet, this project requires a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System Permit.  This permit will also be available for comment through Feb .9.  Comments on the permit, which must be in writing, should go to Steven Schmidt, pollution control specialist, MPCA, 18 Wood Lake Drive S.E., Rochester, MN 55904 or steven.schmidt@state.mn.us.
–MPCA News Release

 Minnehaha district considers rules on invasives
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed district is proposing tough new rules to help curb the spread of invasive species like milfoil and zebra mussels. The district wants to require anything, including boats, personal watercraft, and docks, to be inspected before being allowed in the water.

 Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Administrator Eric Evenson agrees there are already rules in place to curb invasive species, “The problem is that they’re not being enforced by the local police departments.”

While the exact plan is still being developed, one idea would be to label each lake as infested or un-infested. Boats based on infested lakes would carry a red sticker, boats on un-infested lakes would carry a green sticker. All boats would be inspected before getting a sticker, and any boat moving from a red lake to a green lake would require re-inspection.
–KSTP-TV

New Jersey adopts fertilizer limits
New Jersey adopted the nation’s toughest restrictions on fertilizer as part of a package of bills signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie to protect the fragile Barnegat Bay from further pollution.

Runoff from fertilizer applied to lawns and farms eventually makes its way into waterways and contributes to water pollution and fish-killing algae blooms.

 The bills require upgrades to malfunctioning storm drains, force contractors to loosen soil that becomes hard-packed.

A key provision requires that at least 20 percent of nitrogen in fertilizer sold in New Jersey be the slow-release type to prevent it from easily washing into waterways.
–The Associated Press

Potty training for pigs?
Taiwan’s environmental authorities said they are planning to promote potty training for pigs to help curb water and waste pollution.

The Environmental Protection Administration made the pledge following the success of a pig farm in southern Taiwan, where the breeder started to potty-train his 10,000 pigs in late 2009, it said in a statement.

To keep his animals from defecating in nearby rivers, the breeder has established special “toilets” smeared with faces and urine to attract the pigs, it said.

This reduced the amount of waste water by up to 80 percent. As well as making the farm cleaner and less smelly, it also helped reduce illness among the pigs and boosted their fertility by 20 percent, it added.
–The Times of India

 EPA approves Klamath pollution plan
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved California’s water quality improvement plan for restoring salmon fisheries and water quality in the Klamath River. The plan calls for massive pollution reductions for the California portion of the river, including a 57% reduction in phosphorus, 32% in nitrogen, and 16% in carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand. 

The plan also calls for annual reductions in the river’s reservoirs of more than 120,000 pounds of nitrogen, and 22,000 pounds of phosphorus.

The Klamath River, a federally protected “Wild and Scenic River,” flows 255 miles southwest from Oregon through northern California, and empties into the Pacific Ocean. The Klamath River drains an extensive watershed covering over 12,600 square miles, and has been called the “Everglades of the West.” The Klamath River and its tributaries support the highest diversity of anadromous fishes of any river in California, including salmon, cutthroat trout, steelhead and sturgeon. Upstream in Oregon, the river hosts the state’s most robust population of redband and bull trout. In 2002, a massive die-off of more than 33,000 salmon brought national attention to this area.
–U.S. EPA News Release

 Green jeans: Levi’s saves water
Back in 2007, Levi’s did a cradle-to-grave assessment of the resources required for its famous 501 denim and found out something surprising: its jeans were practically made of water. The San Francisco-based company discovered that over the lifetime of its jeans, from the cotton fields needed to make the fabric to consumers’ tossing their dirty dungarees in the washing machine, each pair used up 3,480 L of water, which is the equivalent of running a garden hose for 106 minutes.

 There wasn’t much Levi’s could change about cotton farming or consumer hygiene, but company executives realized they could use ozone processing to reduce the amount of washing needed to soften jeans before they’re sold — i.e., the wash in stonewashed. The result is Levi’s Water‹Less jeans, a new line that hits stores in January. On average, the jeans, which will cost the same as conventional ones, use 28% less water in the finishing process. Multiply that by the more than 1.5 million pairs of Water‹Less jeans Levi’s expects to sell this spring and the savings add up to approximately 16 million L of water.
–Time.com

Deferred maintenance slows barge traffic
BELLE VERNON, Pa.—Barges nearly two football fields long, piled high with coal, float smoothly down the lower Monongahela River here—until they reach the 75-year-old Charleroi Locks and Dam, where many get waylaid at the gate.

 The lone functioning lock is set in crumbling concrete. Pieces of steel hang loose, threatening to gouge barges as they pass. Part of the river is blocked by construction. For barge operators, Charleroi is a choke point on the river.

“You can be here for two hours up to 12 hours—that’s right out of my pocket,” said Michael Somales, general manager of river operations for Consol Energy Inc., a Pennsylvania company that carries coal from Appalachia downriver to power plants along the Ohio River Valley.

In 1994, when the Army Corps of Engineers started a project to replace two aging locks at Charleroi, completion was expected by 2004. Now, the work is estimated to drag on until 2023, according to the Corps, which blames insufficient funding and design complications.

The problems at this aging and deteriorating lock some 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh are typical of much of the nation’s waterway infrastructure, which hampers U.S. shippers and the economy as a whole.
–The Wall Street Journal

3M sued by state; Aasen to lead MPCA

January 3, 2011

State sues 3M over perfluorochemicals in water
3M Co. must pay for polluting Minnesota’s water, according to the Minnesota attorney general’s office.

The state sued 3M in Hennepin County for allowing PFCs — perfluorochemicals — to leach into groundwater in Washington County over several decades. The company also allegedly discharged PFCs into the Mississippi River.

The lawsuit does not ask for specific damages. But potential damages would be in the tens of millions of dollars, which would make the case one of the largest environmental suits in Minnesota history.

 Attorney General Lori Swanson said her office agreed with 3M in May to try to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. Those negotiations failed.

 “3M polluted and damaged our waters with these chemicals,” Swanson said. “The lawsuit asks the company to make right the problems caused by its contamination of our waters.”

 The suit takes a novel approach by claiming the PFCs hurt the environment — but not people.

That makes it different from a landmark 2009 lawsuit. That suit filed by a group of Washington County residents alleged the PFCs harmed people who drank the water.

 In that trial, lawyers pointed out that mega-doses of PFCs have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects and thyroid problems in mice. But a judge ruled, in effect, that the traces of PFCs were so small that no one was hurt.

 The trial ended in a jury decision that supported 3M.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Aasen named to lead MPCA
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton filled three prominent jobs in his administration, naming heads for the education and health departments as well as a potentially controversial choice for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The new education commissioner will be Brenda Cassellius, who grew up in a Minneapolis housing project, began her career as a social studies teacher in St. Paul and has been a school administrator in the Twin Cities and Memphis. The choice for health commissioner, Dr. Edward Ehlinger, is the longtime leader of the student health service at the University of Minnesota.

 MPCA Commissioner-designate Paul Aasen was director of government relations and policy for Gov. Jesse Ventura and more recently a director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Aasen’s appointment was lauded by officials from the Freshwater Society and the Minnesota Farmers Union, but his involvement in environmental litigation may make him a controversial selection for some Republicans.
–The Star Tribune 

 EPA announces massive Chesapeake clean-up plan
The Environmental Protection Agency established an aggressive “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay, spelling out steps that six states and the District must take by 2025 to put the troubled estuary on the path to recovery.

The legally enforceable road map – more than 200 pages long, with more than 3,000 pages of appendices – will affect a variety of activities in the region, including how pig and chicken farms dispose of waste and the way golf course operators fertilize their fairways.

 The plan is “the largest water pollution strategy plan in the nation,” said Shawn M. Garvin, the agency’s regional administrator for the mid-Atlantic region. It is intended to fundamentally change the tenor of the long-failed Chesapeake cleanup. The EPA once preached cooperation with state efforts it was supposed to oversee. Now, it is playing cop, promising legal punishments if the states don’t live up to their pledges to cut pollution.

 Some state and local officials warned the plan could be costly and hard to execute, particularly at a time when state budgets are under immense pressure.
–The Washington Post

China plans $30 billion water conservation effort
The Chinese government is expected to spend about 200 billion yuan ($30.10 billion) on water conservation projects in 2011, a tenth more than in 2010, the state-run China Daily reported.

 Priority will be given to improving irrigation to ensure grain security and projects to combat drought and floods, the newspaper said.

 It cited Water Resources Minister Chen Lei as telling a government meeting that some of the investment would come from a 10 percent levy on income earned from the leasing of land. The newspaper did not elaborate.

 Other funds would go toward renovating water supply infrastructure for main agriculture regions and ensuring safe drinking water for 60 million rural people, the newspaper added.

Over the next 10 years, Chen said he hopes the country can double its current average annual investment in water conservation construction,” it said.

The government has invested about 700 billion yuan on water conservation over the past five years, the newspaper said.
–Reuters

Heron Lake ethanol plant to pay $60,000 penalty
 The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that Heron Lake BioEnergy, LLC has agreed to pay a $66,000 penalty to resolve alleged violations of the company’s state-issued environmental permits at its ethanol production facility in Heron Lake in southwest Minnesota.

The agreement covers violations that date back to when the company began construction of the facility in October 2005.  During subsequent operations beginning in September 2007, the facility violated the conditions of both its air quality and water quality permits on a number of occasions. 

The air quality violations covered in the agreement include exceedances of permitted emissions limits, failure to conduct monitoring as required by the permit, failure to maintain emissions-control equipment as required, and failure to report or certify data to the MPCA as required. 

Water quality violations covered in the agreement include failure to obtain prior MPCA approval to use chemical additives in wastewater processing, failure to provide specified holding times for samples, failure to monitor for specified pollutants at the frequency required, exceedances of permitted effluent limits, and failure to install or maintain required flow-monitoring equipment prior to discharging. 
–MPCA News Release

Granite Falls ethanol plant seeks expansion
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency  has completed an Environmental Assessment Worksheet for a proposed expansion of the Granite Falls Energy ethanol facility at Granite Falls, Minn.  The EAW will be available for the public to comment through January 26th, 2011.    

Granite Falls Energy, LLC proposes to expand its existing fuel-ethanol production facility by increasing its permitted capacity to produce un-denatured ethanol from 49.9 million gallons per year to 70 MMGY.  The expansion would be achieved by adding additional equipment to support ethanol production.  The additional equipment will be located within the facility’s current property boundary.  The primary fuel for the facility will be natural gas.

The expansion requires modification of the facility’s wastewater permit  and air emission permit.  The draft modified permits will be placed on public notice on or shortly after the start of the public comment period for the EAW, and will remain open for comment for 30 days.

A public information meeting will be held January 10, 2011, at 7:00 p.m., in the auditorium of the Minnesota West Technical and Community College in Granite Falls.  MPCA staff will also be available for one hour before the meeting to answer questions in an open-house format. 

The EAW is a review of how a proposed project could potentially affect the environment.  The EAW also helps the MPCA determine if an Environmental Impact Statement, a more in-depth environmental review, is needed. 

Written comments on the GFE expansion project EAW must be received by 4:30 p.m. January 26th, 2011.  Comments should be sent to Steve Sommer, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4194.

Copies of the EAW are available for review on the MPCA’s website at www.pca.state.mn.us/news/eaw/index.html
–MPCA News Release

China making electricity from desert sand
Scientists are testing out the nation’s first sand heat power plant, which went into operation December 10 in the desert in Wuhai, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, according to a Xinhua news report .

 During the day, air in the ground-level greenhouse is heated by the sun, forcing hot air to rise up through the brick chimney and drive a turbine positioned at the top of the plant.

 Then after the sun falls, heat absorbed by surrounding sand continues to heat greenhouse air, keeping the turbine running, according to Wei Yili, a professor specializing in solar power at Inner Mongolia’s University of Science and Technology.

 The plant, co-developed with Spain’s Technical University of Madrid, has an operational lifespan of about 70 years, much longer than that of wind farms and solar plants, which typically stand 20 to 25 years.
–Global Times

 Legacy logo celebrates  environment funding
If you wonder where all the money from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment is going, a new logo will tell you.

 The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Monday unveiled it’s new Legacy logo designed by Bernadette Stephenson of St. Cloud, one of 76 entries submitted as part of a state-wide contest.

 “The decision was tough because we had so many great entries to consider,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “We feel this logo is memorable, distinctive, and sophisticated. It also clearly illustrates the four funds.”

 The logo had to illustrate the clean water, outdoor heritage, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage funds that were established following passage of the Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The contest was mandated by the 2010 Legislature.
–The Star Tribune

 GOP lawmaker  targets environmental  rules
It was a campaign theme almost as common as no-new-taxes for Republican candidates from Tom Emmer on down: Minnesota environmental regulators are paralyzing Minnesota farmers and business owners with needlessly complicated and time-consuming regulations.

Emmer lost the race for governor, but Republicans won a majority of seats in the state House and Senate. And Republican Rep. Tony Cornish is making sure that environmental regulation will be one of the first topics of discussion in the 2011 legislative session that starts next week.

“The regulations are so complex and so time-delaying it’s killing businesses,” said Cornish, a fifth-termer from rural Good Thunder.

Cornish asked for hearings in committees overseeing agriculture and the environment and said he has received a commitment for a hearing, probably before the end of January, from Rep. Denny McNamara, chairman of the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
–The Mankato Free Press

 L. Tahoe boat inspection rules praised
A watercraft inspection program prevented the introduction of aquatic invasive species into Lake Tahoe in 2010, according to regional officials.

Watercraft inspectors managed by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, in cooperation with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, performed more than 8,000 boat inspections during the 2010 boating season, officials revealed this week. A total of 19,000 watercraft launches occurred with Tahoe-specific inspection seals.

Of those 11 watercraft containing aquatic invasive species were intercepted and decontaminated, officials confirmed.

“We’re very happy with the watercraft inspection program thus far,” said Patrick Stone, TRPA’s senior wildlife and fisheries biologist and lead for early detection monitoring of invasive mussels. “Investigations conducted around Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake and Echo Lake confirmed that quagga and zebra mussels have not established in our lakes. These results are a credit to the inspection program.”
–The Tahoe Daily Tribune

L.A. poised to capture urban runoff
It is one of the Southland’s enduring contradictions. The region that laid pipe across hundreds of miles and tunneled through mountains to import water also built an extensive storm drain system to get rid of rainfall as quickly as possible.

That’s exactly what happened recently, when tens of billions of gallons of runoff that could lessen the region’s need for those faraway sources were dumped into the Pacific. Enough water poured from Los Angeles streets to supply well over 130,000 homes for a year.

As Southern California’s traditional water supplies diminish under a variety of pressures, all that runoff sheeting across sidewalks and roads into the maws of storm drains is finally getting some respect.
“This isn’t wastewater until we waste it,” said Noah Garrison, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council who co-wrote a 2009 paper on capturing and reusing storm water.

The report concluded that the region could increase local supplies by an amount equal to more than half of Los Angeles’ annual water demand by incorporating relatively simple water-harvesting techniques in new construction and redevelopments. These include installing cisterns and designing landscaping to retain runoff and let it seep into the ground.

Los Angeles is poised to adopt an ordinance that takes a step in that direction. Most new and redeveloped commercial, industrial and larger apartment projects would have to be designed to capture the runoff generated by the first three-quarters of an inch of rain. New single-family homes would have to install a rain-harvesting device, such as a rain barrel or a hose that diverts water from gutters to landscaping.
–The Los Angeles Times

Biologists try scents in battling lampreys
In the never-ending battle to prevent blood-sucking sea lamprey from wiping out some of the most popular fish species in the Great Lakes, biologists are developing new weapons that exploit three certainties in the eel-like parasites’ lives: birth, sex and death.

Researchers are beginning the third and final year of testing lab-refined mating pheromones — scents emitted by male lampreys to attract females. They’re also working on a mixture with the stench of rotting lamprey flesh, which live ones detest, and another that smells of baby lampreys, which adults love. If proven effective, the chemicals will be deployed across the region to steer the aquatic vermin to where they can be trapped or killed.

Early results appear promising. Yet no one expects the lures and repellents to finally rid the lakes of the despised invader and enable fisheries managers in the U.S. and Canada to end a battle that has cost more than $400 million over five decades. Especially when a single spawning female lays up to 60,000 eggs.
–The Chicago Tribune

 Washington State cuts environmental funding
The bad economy can be hard on the environment as well as people.

 Earlier this month state lawmakers, faced with declining revenue from taxes and fees, reduced the state Department of Ecology’s budget by $5.8 million. They’d already reduced cut $38.9 million from the agency’s budget earlier this year and in 2009, as the effects of the Great Recession set in. Next year, even more could be taken out as Gov. Chris Gregoire is proposing more trims.

 Environmentalists say the cuts are “heartbreaking” and will make it difficult to clean up waterways and other areas, but others say the cuts are necessary in a time when education and health care funding is also being slashed.

 “As the (income) dollars shrink, what we can provide shrinks,” said Erik Fairchild, the agency’s budget policy manager. “It’s less public health protection, less environmental protection, less field presence, less technical assistance (and) reduced loans and grants” for projects such as sewage treatment plants.

Ecology department operating budgets were on the rise before the economic crisis hit in late 2008, increasing from $402 million for the 2005-07 budget period to $457 million for 2007-09 and $440 million in the current budget.
–The Seattle Post- Intelligencer 

Huge copper mine planned in Arizona
When former miner Roy Chavez heard about plans to develop the nation’s largest copper mine near Superior, Ariz., he thought it might be the salvation of the economically struggling town where he’d grown up and served as mayor.

But as he learned more about the proposal to tap an ore body more than 7,000 feet deep with a method known as “block cave” mining, he changed his mind. Now he fears that the project would be environmentally destructive and limit Superior’s ability to develop tourism and other industries.

“Mining is the nature of the beast in this area. I support the industry and the livelihood it provides,” said Chavez, who comes from a mining family and worked in the Magma Copper mine nearby until it closed in 1996. “But there’s a situation here with this project that just doesn’t sit well with us.”
–The Washington Post