Posts Tagged ‘agricultural certainty’

White Bear Lake levels and a Freshwater app

June 4, 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.

Newsletter available electronically
A new Freshwater Society newsletter is available. Check it out on our website. The 12-page newsletter can be downloaded as a PDF, or you can page through it in electronic-magazine form.

It includes articles on:

• U.S. Geological Survey research linking a big decline in the water level in White Bear Lake to groundwater pumping.

• A free Freshwater app now available for smartphones.

• A column by Gene Merriam urging consumers to demand more-sustainable food.

G. Tracy Mehan III

G. Tracy Mehan III

Clean Water Act lecture set June 25
Forty years ago this autumn, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly overrode President Richard Nixon’s veto and enacted the Clean Water Act. The act dramatically reduced pollution from industry and sewage treatment plants that must obtain federal permits to discharge their wastes. But the legislation was much weaker in dealing with today’s biggest water-quality challenge: Polluted runoff from multiple, diffuse sources, especially from agriculture. 

G. Tracy Mehan III, an environmental consultant who was the top water-quality official in the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, will deliver a free, public lecture in St. Paul on the Clean Water Act’s successes, political obstacles to strengthening the law and avenues that can lead to progress.

The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. It will be at 7 p.m. in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. The lecture is titled The Clean Water Act After 40 Years: What Has It Accomplished? How Do We Fulfill Its Promise?

Learn more and register to attend.

Ag Department names ‘Certainty’ committee
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has announced the membership of an advisory committee that will help develop the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program.

The new program is the result of an agreement between Gov. 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 will provide recommendations to MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

Members are:
• Douglas Albin, farmer and chairman of Yellow Medicine County Corn Growers. • Dennis Berglund, CEO and general manager, Control Crop Consulting.
• Nathan Collins, president, Swift County Farm Bureau and Murdock City Council member.
• Elizabeth Croteau-Kallstad, executive director, Cannon River Watershed Partnership.
• Dean Fairchild, assistant vice president, Mosaic Company.
• Dennis Fuchs, district administrator, Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District.
• Kirby Hettver, farmer and member of Chippewa County Corn and Soybean Growers.
• Jim Kleinschmit, rural communities Program director, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
• Bob Lefebvre, executive director, Minnesota Milk Producers Association.
• Mike Myser, mayor of Prior Lake.
• Doug Peterson, president, Minnesota Farmers Union.
• James Riddle, supervisor, Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District.
• Kris Sigford, water quality director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
• Tony Thompson, farmer and member of North Heron Lake Game Producers Association.
• Bill Zurn, farmer and past president of Minnesota Soybean Growers.
–Minnesota Agriculture Department News Release

Oklahoma enacts water conservation
When looking at the numbers in their water plans, many states and cities fret about how to cover projected gaps between demand and supply. With the governor’s signature on May 21, Oklahoma’s political leadership has placed a big bet on conservation.

The Water for 2060 Act, introduced by House Speaker Kris Steele, sets a goal that the state will consume no more freshwater in the year 2060 than is currently used, even as the population is expected to grow by 28 percent to 4.8 million people.
–Circle of Blue

Class-action Atrazine deal announced
Swiss chemicals company Syngenta announced a proposed $US 105 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by communities in six Midwestern U.S. states who claimed that atrazine — one of the most widely used herbicides in the nation — had contaminated their drinking water.

The plaintiffs, representing 16 communities in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio, asked for money to cover the cost of installing treatment systems to filter out the weed-killing chemical, which has been used since 1959 in the United States, primarily for corn, sorghum, and sugar cane.

Money from the settlement fund will be available to any community water system in the U.S. that shows a measurable level of atrazine in its supply. It is estimated that close to 2,000 such systems, mostly in the Midwest, will be eligible.
–Circle of Blue

Cities, environmentalists seek action on farms 
Minnesota farms send far more sediment into the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers than do the state’s cities. But what to do about it?

That question resurfaced May 29, when environmental, city, business and farm interests called on state regulators to make farmers do a better job of reducing that runoff. Otherwise, they said, communities across much of Minnesota, and the taxpayers who live there, could be hit with more than $1 billion in added infrastructure-related expenses to cut their own.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Crop insurance subsidies cost billions
Federal subsidies for crop insurance cost U.S. taxpayers $11 billion last year, according to a new analysis of government records by the Environmental Working Group. Across the country, more than 10,000 individual farming operations got subsidies worth between $100,000 and more than $1 million apiece.

In Minnesota, federal subsidies for crop insurance premiums totaled more than $526 million, and farmers paid about $318 million in premiums, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Read the Environmental Working Group report. Read a Star Tribune article about it.

MPCA warns of toxic blue-green algae
When the summer sun shines and temperatures climb, conditions are ripe for Minnesota lakes to produce harmful algal blooms. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is again reminding people some types of algae can harm pets, livestock and even people.

Algae are microscopic aquatic plants and are a natural part of any aquatic ecosystem. Under the right conditions, some forms of algae, particularly a type called “blue-green algae,” can pose harmful health risks. People or animals may become sick if exposed to these blooms. In extreme cases, dogs and other animals have died after exposure to lake water containing toxic blue-green algae.

Most algae are harmless. However blue-green algae, when sunlight and warmth cause them to “bloom” in dense populations, can produce toxins and other chemicals. There are many types of blue-green algae. They are found throughout Minnesota, but thrive particularly in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich lakes. Often blown toward downwind shorelines, it is in these blooms that humans and animals most often come in contact with blue-green algae, and where the risk of algal toxins is greatest.
–MPCA News Release

Viruses found in unfiltered Wis. Water 
A new study of 14 Wisconsin communities that do not disinfect their water revealed the presence of human viruses in drinking water in nearly one-quarter of all samples taken.

The results suggest that people in municipalities that don’t treat their water systems may be exposed to waterborne viruses and potential health risks, the study concluded.

The authors calculated that water that isn’t disinfected was responsible for 6% to 22% of gastrointestinal illnesses reported during the study period. At one time during the study, when norovirus was commonly found in tap water, the researchers attributed up to 63% of the cause of illness to dirty drinking water in children younger than 5.

The likely virus source was leaking wastewater sewers, the study concluded.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Minnesota Waters members absorbed 
Minnesota Waters, a lakes and rivers organization that ended operations, is being absorbed by Conservation Minnesota, another nonprofit group.

“Their members and network and their brand are going to be part of Conservation Minnesota going forward,” said Paul Austin, executive director of Conservation Minnesota. No Minnesota Waters staff will join Conservation Minnesota, he said.

Some Minnesota Waters work is being assumed by other organizations, such as the Freshwater Society. Other functions will continue under Conservation Minnesota, which will contact the new membership to establish how best to serve it and to protect its interests, Austin said.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Minnehaha Creek clean-up set July 8 
Volunteers are being recruited from across the Twin Cities to clean up Minnehaha Creek at a free, family-friendly event.

On Sunday, July 8,  Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is teaming up with the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company’s “Canoes for a Cause” campaign to host the 6th annual Minnehaha Creek Clean-up at Lake Hiawatha at 46th Street and 28th Avenue South in Minneapolis. The goal this year is to collect two tons of trash. For more information, visit www.minnehahacreek.org.

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