Posts Tagged ‘Asian carp’

Bighead carp netted in Lake Pepin

November 26, 2012

A 47-pound bighead carp was caught in a seine net by commercial fishermen on Nov. 16, in Lake Pepin near Frontenac,  the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced on Nov. 21.

DNR file photo shows DNR supervisor Brad Parsons with a bighead carp from an earlier catch.

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

While other adult bighead carp have been found in Lake Pepin and the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, this was the largest individual carp caught to date.

“This recent find is not surprising, as bighead carp were also found in Lake Pepin in 2003 and 2007,” said Tim Schlagenhaft of the DNR’s Mississippi River team at Lake City. “It adds more evidence that Asian carp continue to work their way up the Mississippi River.”

This recent catch fits the pattern of occasional adult Asian carp captures from the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers over the past 15 years. Individual bighead carp were caught in the St. Croix River in 1996, 2011, and 2012, and four silver carp were caught from the Mississippi River between Winona and La Crosse since 2008. Read the full DNR news release.
–DNR News Release

Fracking, conservation and Asian carp

October 18, 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.

Does fracking contaminate water?
Read a good q-and-a discussion of allegations that hydraulic fracturing of deep rock formations by gas and oil drilling operations contaminates groundwater. The review in the journal Nature focuses on a site in Wyoming where the EPA last year said it found evidence of contamination. Read a Bloomberg article on a recent EPA report concluding that its latest round of tests on Wyoming wells showed results consistent with previous findings that fracking probably caused groundwater contamination. Read the EPA report released Oct. 10.

Minnesota DNR calls for water conservation
Drought conditions are straining Minnesota’s water resources. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging everyone to adopt water conservation measures.

“Water is essential to our economy, our natural resources, and our quality of life,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “We are in the second year of a drought, and it is time for all of us to take water conservation more seriously.”

DNR is asking agricultural, commercial and industrial water users to stop outdoor irrigation and to implement conservation measures. Everyone who holds a DNR permit for water appropriation should review and abide by their permit conditions and begin conserving water as soon as possible.

“The drought conditions are sobering and call for a collaborative response,” Landwehr said. “At a time that per capita water consumption is decreasing nationwide, Minnesota’s water use per resident is actually increasing. We will need to work together to meet these challenges.”

Public water suppliers have been contacted by the DNR and reminded to implement appropriate conservation measures contained in their water supply plans. These could include water audits, leak detection, and promoting water conservation to their customers.
–DNR News Release

Howard Buffett calls for conservation compliance 
Farmer-philanthropist Howard Buffett said that stronger government action is needed to encourage farmers into compliance with better fertilizer, tillage and other conservation and environmental practices.

“We have a whole culture based on yield,” said Buffett, 55, who owns farmland in his native Nebraska, Illinois and Arizona as well as South Africa. One of several issues that caused a stalemate in this year’s farm bill discussions in Congress was over making conservation compliance a requirement for eligibility for federal crop insurance.

“Government has the biggest club, and if it doesn’t use it, there will be less good conservation practices,” Buffett said. Buffett, son of Omaha financier Warren Buffett, has emerged as a force in world agriculture through his foundation, which finances experimental work in Africa and other countries.
–The Des Moines Register

DNA suggests Carp have passed barrier to L. Michigan 
Even as Michigan lawmakers lambaste the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not moving fast enough to develop a permanent plan to stop Asian carp from swimming up the Chicago canal system and into Lake Michigan, genetic evidence that the fish are on the march continues to grow.

Tthe Army Corps announced it would send fishing crews onto the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River. The agency also will fish for Asian carp on a six-mile stretch of river in downtown Chicago.

The announcement was triggered after three separate sampling trips on the waterway showed DNA evidence of silver carp, which can be shed from a live fish from things such as mucus and feces.

The agency also announced that 17 of 57 samples taken on just one trip last month on the Chicago River near downtown tested positive for silver carp. Crews will be on the river  with electro-fishing boats and other sampling tools to chase the elusive fish.

The Army Corps maintains that a positive sample does not necessarily mean the presence of live fish. Officials note it could get in the water by some other means, such as barge bilge water, bird droppings or even the toilet flush of someone who happened to eat Asian carp for lunch.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

EPA funds Lake Superior mercury research
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $1.4 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Minnesota Department of Health to reduce mercury exposure risk for women and children who live along Lake Superior’s north shore. Excessive blood mercury levels have been documented in infants in this area. The funding will be used to improve health screening and to develop more effective fish consumption advisories.

The Grand Portage Chippewa Tribe and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinics in Grand Portage and Grand Marais, Minn., will participate in the project. Physicians affiliated with the clinics will survey consenting female patients of childbearing age about fish consumption and test blood mercury levels. Patients will also be counseled to promote safe fish consumption choices.

The work supported by the grant will build on an earlier EPA-funded study which was completed last year by MDH. In that study, 1,465 newborns in the Lake Superior Basin – including 139 infants from Wisconsin and 200 from Michigan – were tested for mercury in their blood. The study found that 8 percent of the infants had mercury levels higher than those recommended as safe by EPA.
–EPA News Release

UM seeks ‘greener’ lawns
Advocates of sustainability have often demonized lawn care for squandering water, adding fertilizers and herbicides to the environment, and increasing our carbon footprint through gas-powered mowing. But a new research project from the University of Minnesota could make both environmentalists and homeowners happier in the future.

Funded by a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 5-year project is part of a national research effort aimed at improving specialty crops. Researchers will be investigating ways to develop turf grasses that require less water and mowing, and that stay green without extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers.
–The Line

Water, science and the environment

September 17, 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.

Hypoxia Task Force looks to reduce nitrogen
The drought has temporarily done this year what several state and federal programs have tried to do in terms of reducing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the fluctuating levels of hypoxia in the Gulf will surely rise next year if rains return to the Mississippi River basin.

The federal government’s Hypoxia Task Force met to continue its quest for long-term strategies for reducing nitrate loads in the Gulf by as much as 45%.

Success would appear frustratingly slow for the state-federal task force with numerous presentations Tuesday about the need to expand and coordinate water-quality monitoring, as well as better examine the value and economics of applying different practices on the land. Still, Chairwoman Nancy Stoner, EPA’s acting administrator for water quality, stressed gains have been made for the task force, now in its 15th year.

“We’re picking up a lot of momentum but it takes awhile to make the kinds of changes we’re talking about,” Stoner said. “It will take some time to see some results but the first thing to do is to agree upon the approaches and changes to be made,” Stoner said.
–The Progressive Farmer

Don’t miss our Oct. 4 lecture on nitrogen
Register now to attend a free, public lecture in St. Paul on the serious problem of nitrogen pollution of both water and air. Read q-and-a interview, conducted by Freshwater, with the lecturer, Purdue University agricultural economist Otto Doering.

Asian carp and the presidential race
President Obama has promised billions more dollars in aid and has cracked the whip on the US Army Corps of Engineers to finish a study on the great Great Lakes Asian carp.

Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama’s rival in the election, says the administration is moving too slowly. He has suggested that “America put a man on the moon” in less time than it’s taking to protect the Great Lakes from an invasion of the big fish migrating up the Mississippi River watershed, threatening to broach Lake Michigan at Chicago.

Sure, encroaching carp aren’t in the league with jobs or foreign policy when it comes to national priorities. But the political debate over what to do about the disruptive Asian carp population also isn’t just about the ecology and hydrology of the world’s biggest freshwater system. It’s also about the 64 electoral votes locked up in four Great Lakes battleground states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Army Corps completes Asian carp survey
A study of 18 canals, ditches and other waterways that could link the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds found none was a likely pathway to the lakes for Asian carp, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday, Sept. 14.

The study was part of a broader search for ways to stop the movement of invasive species between the two basins. Of particular concern are bighead and silver carp — ravenous Asian fish that scientists say could out-compete native species for food.

Asian carp infested the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and are approaching a Chicago-area shipping canal through which they might be able to reach Lake Michigan. Under pressure from Congress and advocacy groups, the Army Corps promised to produce options for blocking their passage by the end of next year.
–The Associated Press

DNR restricts withdrawals from low streams
The ongoing drought is forcing the Department of Natural Resources to restrict water use around Minnesota.

More than a dozen industrial and recreational sites have been required to suspend pumping from state waterways.
Levels have sharply declined in rivers and other surface waters as the drought continues. DNR water permits allow a variety of customers to pump water, but those permits also require cutbacks if water levels get too low.

That’s happening now, and recently the DNR suspended numerous water pumping permits. Most are for golf courses or other recreational locations.

“Last week we sent out 16 letters. And there was one in Hubbard County, Blue Earth, one in Martin, several in Polk, to surface water users. And they were told then to stop pumping water as of last Thursday midnight,” said Julie Ekman, DNR water regulations unit supervisor.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Isaac fails to loosen drought’s grip
More than three quarters of the contiguous United States still faces abnormally dry conditions in spite of scattered relief from rains generated by tropical storm system Isaac. As seen on the U.S. Drought Monitor, exceptional drought — the worst category — persists in the very center of the nation from Nebraska south to Texas, east through Missouri and Arkansas to the Mississippi Valley. Much of Georgia is also in exceptional drought.

Drought is the nation’s most costly natural disaster, far exceeding earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and floods. FEMA has estimated that the annual average cost of drought in the United States ranges from $6 to $8 billion. (By comparison, the annual costs of flooding are in the $2 to $4 billion range.) Unlike flooding, drought does not come and go in a single episode. Rather, it often takes a long time for drought to begin to impact an area, and it can fester for months or even years.
–USGS News Release

Journal looks at conservation, climate change
A special research section of the September/October issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, “Conservation practices to mitigate the effects of climate change,” offers a compilation of works that cover the most current advances in the science of conservation practices that may alleviate some of the effects associated with a changing climate.

Follett et al. discuss the effects of climate change on soil carbon and nitrogen storage in the U.S. Great Plains. Chen et al. evaluate a selection of maize inbred lines for drought and heat stress tolerance under field conditions and identify several inbred lines that showed high tolerance to drought. Brown and Huggins quantify agricultural impacts on soil organic carbon sequestration for dryland cropping systems in different agroclimatic zones of the Pacific Northwest.
–SWCS Conservation NewsBriefs

DNR does follow-up searches for invasives
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources  biologists and divers searched lake bottoms immediately surrounding areas where zebra mussels were discovered last fall on boat lifts on Lake Irene in Douglas County and Rose Lake in Otter Tail County. The divers did not discover zebra mussels, but searches will continue later this fall when docks and boat lifts are pulled from the shores along these lakes.

“This is a good sign, but these are only preliminary inspections that will help us determine the overall outcome of our efforts,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist in Fergus Falls. “We have more field work to do this fall, sampling the waters for veligers and inspecting docks and boat lifts as folks remove them from these waters.”

Last fall, DNR biologists investigated two separate cases where localized zebra mussel populations were discovered on boat lifts. In one case, mussels were attached to rocks near the boat lift. Both boat lifts had been moved from infested waters to these lakes earlier in 2011.Due to the early detection of zebra mussels in these locations, the DNR immediately treated both areas with copper sulfate, a common chemical used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch. The treatments were conducted by a icensed aquatic pesticide contractor. The searches conducted recently were part of a follow-up plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the early detection and rapid response.
–DNR News Release

Canadian mining firm admits pollution
Canadian mining giant Teck Resources Ltd. has admitted in a U.S. court that effluent from its smelter in southeast British Columbia has polluted the Columbia River in Washington for more than a century.

Teck subsidiary Teck Metals made the admission of fact in a lawsuit brought by a group of U.S. Indian tribes over environmental damage caused by the effluent discharges dating back to 1896.

The agreement, reached on the eve of the trial initiated by the Colville Confederated Tribes, stipulates that some hazardous materials in the slag discharged from Teck’s smelter in Trail, B.C., ended up in the Upper Columbia River south of the border.
–The Canadian Press

House bill threatens BWCA protections

June 18, 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 bill threatens wilderness protection
Language in a Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, passed two months ago by the U.S. House, threatens to undo wilderness protections for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Supporters of current restrictions on motorized use of the BWCA are attempting to keep the measure, which is backed by some hunting and fishing groups, from being  attatched to the 2012 Farm Bill in the Senate. Read environmental reporter Dennis Lien’s Pioneer Press article on the controversy.

Many boaters violate laws on invasives
The first numbers are in on intensified efforts to police Minnesota boaters’ compliance with laws aimed to curb the spread of invasive species. And the numbers are not good. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said 20 percent of the boaters checked in a stepped-up enforcement effort violated the laws.

Between May 12 and June 6, the DNR issued 193 criminal citations, 463 civil citations, 975 written warnings and 267 verbal warnings. Last year about 850 citations or warnings were issued to violators of Minnesota’s AIS laws. That compares with 293 citations and warnings issued in 2010. Read the DNR news release.

Don’t forget: Clean Water Act lecture set June 25
Don’t miss the June 25 free public lecture on the federal Clean Water Act 40 years after it was enacted.

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 the lecture at 7 p.m. in the theater of the Student Center on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the university’s College of Biological Sciences.

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.

Wisconsin eyes penalties in frac sand spills 
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is weighing a penalty to be imposed on two sand mines for large spills in the St. Croix River.

In both of the spills, the mining companies were not meeting their permit conditions. Wisconsin DNR enforcement specialist Deb Dix said one site had no erosion control structures, and the other used soft sand to build a berm.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Firms join UN push for water efficiency 
The United Nations has received support from chief executive officers at 45 companies, from Levi Strauss & Co. to Coca-Cola Co. (KO), in an effort to use water more efficiently.

The companies joined the UN Global Compact in committing to improve water-management practices during a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, according to a statement. The compact is the world’s biggest organization backing sustainability measures.
Bloomberg

Public responds to mercury warnings 
Got mercury? If so, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency warns that it’s important to manage it properly to protect yourself and the environment, and to avoid significant health and legal problems.

In recent weeks since a statewide news story about a Floodwood, Minn., man trying to sell 64 pounds of mercury on Craigslist, the MPCA and county collection centers have fielded dozens of tip calls from people with mercury to turn in. One Minnesota county hazardous waste facility took in 20 pounds of mercury as a result of the news story.

Consistent with current practices and despite the one-time mercury purchase by the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, none of the people who subsequently surrendered their mercury received any payment for the hazardous waste.
–MPCA News Release

EPA approves $880 million Everglades clean-up 
Federal environmental regulators approved an $880 million state plan intended to dramatically reduce the flow of farm and suburban pollution into the Everglades. Both sides hailed the agreement as a milestone in a decades-long dispute over cleaning up the River of Grass.

If approved by two federal judges, it would commit Florida to a major expansion of projects intended to clean up storm run-off before it flows into the Everglades, adding to the $1.8 billion the state has already poured into cleanup efforts.

In a letter announcing the approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, regional administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming said the state’s plan represented “a significant and historic milestone in restoring America’s Everglades.”
–The Miami Herald

Grafton, Ill., plant to process Asian carp 
A formal agreement is in place for a new company in Grafton to process Asian Carp harvested from the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and send them to markets in China, but state assistance for the plant is not yet in place.

Businessmen from China were in Grafton to meet with local investors to officially announce the plan that could mean nearly 40 new jobs in Grafton once the plant is open.

A representative of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said the state was supportive of the venture, but no specific details of a state financial plan were released. The Chinese group has entered into an agreement to buy between 30 and 40 million pounds of the fish over the course of a three year contract.
–The Alton Daily News

Iowa may offer carp a back door to Minnesota

May 14, 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.

Asian carp’s back-door route to Minnesota
There’s a back door for Asian carp to sneak into Minnesota, and fisheries officials are worried the invaders already might have found it.

Commercial fishermen recently caught dozens of Asian carp in northwestern Iowa’s Great Lakes, one of that state’s most popular vacation spots. Those waters connect with lakes and streams in southwestern Minnesota, so the haul came as an unwelcome surprise to Minnesota officials who’ve been more focused on the higher-profile fight against Asian carp infiltrating up the Mississippi.

“We view it as a big threat. … These fish don’t recognize political boundaries,” said Ryan Doorenbos, area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Windom.
–The Associated Press

Free showing of Leopold documentary
The National Park Service, the Mississippi River Fund, the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Curt Meine are sponsoring a free film screening and discussion of “Green Fire:  Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time.”

The documentary about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold will be shown from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 17, at the St. Anthony Main Theater, 115 Main St. SE, Minneapolis.

No registration is required.

Court upholds wild rice pollution rule
A bitterly contested rule established decades ago to protect Minnesota’s wild rice from pollution that comes primarily from mining has been upheld by a Ramsey County District Court.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce sued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 2010 at the height of a contentious argument over the state’s iconic plant, which has become a potent symbol in the growing controversy over the potential environmental impact of new mining projects in northern Minnesota. The controversy has pulled in environmental groups, industry, Indian tribes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and even the Minnesota Legislature.

The chamber, the state’s largest business lobbying group, accused the PCA of holding mining companies to a different standard from other industries on how much sulfate they can discharge into lakes and streams. It also argued that the sulfate rule was vague and that the PCA applied it capriciously.

But Ramsey County Judge Margaret Marrinan dismissed those claims, saying that the state’s standard is in line with the federal Clean Water Act and that the state uses it appropriately.
–The Star Tribune

BWCA land swap bill introduced
Just days after the Minnesota Legislature approved a plan to trade state land in the Boundary Waters for federal land outside the federal wilderness, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack has introduced the deal in Congress.

Cravaack, R-North Branch, introduced the bill that would order the U.S. Forest Service to trade for about 86,000 acres of state land locked inside the 1.1 million-acre federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. In exchange, the state would get a similar amount of Superior National Forest land outside the wilderness — acres that could then be mined, logged and otherwise managed for state revenue, primarily to stock the state’s public school trust fund.

The bill would direct the U.S. secretary of agriculture, who oversees the Forest Service, to conclude the exchange within one year.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Where are the mid-sized walleyes?
Something puzzling is happening on Mille Lacs Lake, the giant walleye lake in east-central Minnesota, and it’s got officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wondering what they should do.

DNR researchers are finding a lot of big females laying billions of eggs. That’s no surprise — it’s the desired result of stricter limits on size and numbers of walleye that can be taken. And the DNR is finding no shortage of young fish.

The puzzle is in the middle: Nid-size fish, those 14 to 20 inches, aren’t showing up in good numbers in test nets, said Rick Rick Bruesewitz, area fisheries supervisor in Aitkin. “We have lots of little fish out there, but they just aren’t making it into the fishery,” he said.

A report found that the number of those fish now, compared with 1987-1997, has dropped 39 percent for females and 60 percent for males.
–The Rochester Post Bulletin

NRCS targets 3 Minnesota watersheds
Minnesota State Conservationist Don Baloun announced the launch of a new National Water Quality Initiative committed to improving three impaired waterways in Minnesota.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will manage the initiative by making funds available to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in the selected watersheds. “The Water Quality Initiative will further NRCS’ partnership efforts to improve water quality using voluntary actions on private lands,” Baloun said.

Through this effort, eligible producers in Chippewa, Elm Creek, and Seven Mile Watersheds will invest in voluntary conservation actions to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities. The selected watersheds were identified with help from state agencies, partners, and the NRCS State Technical Committee.

Using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, NRCS will provide funding and advise to producers to install conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and terraces in watersheds with impairments where the federal investment can make a difference to improve water quality.
–NRCS News Release

Rains break Minnesota drought 
The drought is officially over for nearly all of Minnesota.

The new map issued by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that only about 10 percent of Minnesota remains in drought, the state’s best showing since last September. From late January until just seven weeks ago, 96 percent of the state was in a moderate to severe drought.

The shrinking remaining pockets of drought include part of the North Shore, some of northwestern Minnesota along the Canadian border and part of south-central Minnesota.

Greg Spoden of the Minnesota Climatology Working Group said the data show the drought has broken. He said the recent heavy rain has recharged dry soils, which will be good for agriculture. But because the soil has captured nearly all that precipitation, he said, it will still take some time for some larger lakes to rise to normal levels.
–The Associated Press 

Free showing of Leopold documentary
The National Park Service, the Mississippi River Fund, the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Curt Meine are sponsoring a free film screening and discussion of “Green Fire:  Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time.”

The documentary about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold will be shown from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 17, at the St. Anthony Main Theater, 115 Main St. SE, Minneapolis.

No registration is required.

Research blames cows for California smog
While people typically blame Southern California’s smog on automobiles, a new study suggests that cows might be just as responsible, if not more so.

A large fraction of the region’s smog, especially the smallest particles, is ammonium nitrate. Those particles form when ammonia, which is generated by cars with certain types of catalytic converters and by bacteria that consume cattle waste, reacts with nitrogen oxides that are produced in large quantities in automobile emissions.

Data gathered in and around the Los Angeles basin in May 2010 suggest that the region’s 9.9 million autos generate about 62 metric tons of ammonia each day. However, ammonia emissions from dairy farms in the eastern portion of the basin — home to about 298,000 cattle — range between 33 and 176 metric tons per day, researchers report in Geophysical Research Letters.
–Reuters

Groundwater pumping raises sea levels
Groundwater for irrigation, drinking and industrial use, evaporating or running into rivers and canals, could cause sea level rises, a U.S. journal reported.

Researchers writing in Geophysical Research Letters say groundwater, once pumped to the surface for use, doesn’t just seep back into the ground but eventually ends up in the world’s oceans. “Other than ice on land, the excessive groundwater extractions are fast becoming the most important terrestrial water contribution to sea level rise,” lead study author Yoshihide Wada of Utrecht University in the Netherlands said.

Sea level rise caused by groundwater pumping from 1970 to 1990 was canceled out as people built dams, where water was trapped instead of emptying into the sea, Wada said. His research shows that changed in the 1990s as populations started pumping more groundwater and building fewer dams.
–UPI

Company to pay $10,000 for water pollution
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has penalized Flame Metals Processing Corporation for improper disposal of waste and wastewater at its processing plant in Rogers.

An extensive investigation by Hennepin County’s Department of Environmental Services led the MPCA to conclude that the company sent toxic wastewater treatment sludge and filters with a potential to release toxic fumes in common waste situations to a regular solid waste landfill instead of a hazardous waste facility equipped to properly handle the waste. The company also discharged wastewater that did not meet limit requirements for discharge to the publicly owned wastewater treatment facility.

The MPCA has assessed Flame Metals a $10,000 penalty for the violations. In addition, the company will be required to implement a supplemental environmental project with a minimum investment of $90,000. The company chose to purchase new wastewater treatment equipment at a cost of $235,700. This new equipment is designed to effectively treat cyanide and help ensure wastewater discharged from the facility exceeds the requirements for discharging to the public facility.
–MPCA News Release

Army Corps promises options on carp 
Obama administration officials say a new timetable developed by the Army Corps of Engineers should speed up the search for a permanent way to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp and other invasive species.

Officials said the corps will present a shortlist of options by the end of 2013 for preventing the carp and other fish from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins through waterways in the Chicago area. Congress will have the authority to make a final choice.

Members of Congress and state officials said the corps’ previous plan to develop a single recommendation by late 2015 was not fast enough.
–The New York Times

Saving a Georgia river from over-use
Read a National Geographic article about a Nature Conservancy effort to help Georgia farmers pump  less irrigation water from the Flint River.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack profiled
Read a Des Moines Register profile of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the challenges he faces as Congress re-writes the half-trillion-dollar  Farm Bill.

Minnehaha Creek joining climate change study
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, in partnership with the cities of Minneapolis and Victoria, is participating in a two-year study of Minnesota’s changing weather and what it may mean to metro communities and how they manage stormwater runoff. A key component of the project is community input which is getting underway this month at a special forum. The Are We Ready? Forum is planned from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center.

Climate research, current weather patterns and projected trends show a significant increase in both the frequency and severity of rain events across Minnesota. This study will look at how these events could affect flooding potential, local water bodies and stormwater infrastructure and how they might impact land uses and development patterns. In addition to scientific analysis, this project also includes a participatory planning process to help inform local decision makers as they determine how to create effective stormwater adaptation plans for their communities.

Enforcement  increased for invasives
Anglers and boaters can expect stepped-up patrols and citations for violating the state’s aquatic invasive species laws, according to Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division assistant director.

“We are setting the expectation of the angling and boating public that they will follow the laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, that they will be checked for AIS violations, and that they will cited if a violation is found,” Smith said.

The increased patrols beganwith the walleye opener on  May 12 and continue through the Memorial Day weekend and into the summer.

Minnesota law prohibits the possession or transport of any AIS in Minnesota. Conservation officers and peace officers may stop and inspect motorists pulling boats or other marine equipment upon a “reasonable belief” that AIS are present.
–DNR News Release

South Florida cuts water use
South Florida has suffered through some dreary declines of late — home values, paychecks and the Miami Dolphins, for instance. But in the case of the public thirst for one precious commodity — fresh water — the decline has actually turned into a major money-saving plus.

The 53 water utilities serving Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties pumped about 83 million fewer gallons a day in 2010 than they did in 2000 — despite a population that grew by some 600,000 over the decade — according to a new draft analysis produced by the South Florida Water Management District.

Do the math and it adds up to South Floridians using about 20 percent less water each day for drinking, bathing and sprinkling yards per person than they did a decade ago.
–The Miami Herald

China’s groundwater threatened 
Groundwater in about 55 percent of the cities monitored across China is not safe to drink, according to a national annual report on the situation of the country’s land and resources in 2011. The outlook is not optimistic, according to the report, which was released by the Ministry of Land and Resources.

Monitoring conducted in 2011 found groundwater quality declined in parts of Gansu, Qinghai, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei and Yunnan provinces. About 200 key cities across the country were monitored in the report, which covered more than 4,700 testing sites.

The problem of groundwater pollution is spreading from cities to the countryside, according to a national pollution control plan aimed at improving water quality over the next decade.
–China Daily.com

Asian carp; ag certainty; African groundwater

April 23, 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.

Tell us what you think
You’re reading this blog. Perhaps you stumbled upon it through a search engine. Perhaps you have it bookmarked or, better yet, subscribe by email. Please tell us what you think of the blog, how you use it in your work, and how we can make it better. Respond to the blog or contact us at freshwater(at)freshwater.org. Thanks. — Pat Sweeney.

$800,000 fine is latest in Ethanol crackdown
A Minnesota ethanol plant has been hit with an $800,000 pollution penalty, the latest in a multi-year regulatory crackdown that state officials say appears to be changing the industry’s ways.

Bushmills Ethanol Inc. of Atwater, Minn., was fined for illegally discharging salt-laden wastewater into a ditch and then lying about it, the state Pollution Control Agency said.

It is the third-highest penalty against a Minnesota ethanol producer in six years, a period when 13 of the state’s 21 plants got caught polluting the air or waterways, and sometimes both. Altogether the penalties have exceeded $5.1 million.

Yet as the state collects the latest fine, a top state regulator said he is hoping the industry’s chronic environmental problems are behind it. “We don’t have any other large enforcement actions going against ethanol plants,” said Jeff Connell, manager of compliance and enforcement for the MPCA’s industrial division. “They may have turned a corner, or at least we are hopeful they have.”
–The Star Tribune

Frederickson, Aasen, Baloun praise  ‘certainty’ 
Read a Star Tribune op-ed on agriculture and water quality written by Dave Frederickson, the Minnesota commissioner of agriculture; Paul Aasen, the commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; and Don Baloun, state conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The op-ed praises a “certainty” agreement between state and federal agencies that will offer a guarantee to participating farmers who meet certain still-to-be-developed conservation standards  that they will not be obliged to meet more-rigorous standards over a 10-year period if stricter standards are adopted by state or federal agencies.

Feeding the world without destroying it, Part I
Read a Fortune Magazine transcript of a conversation between Greg Page, CEO of Cargill, and Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. The conversation at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference was about sustainability and feeding a growing world population.

Feeding the world without destroying it, Part II
Jon Foley of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment in on a quest for answers to how we can feed the world without destroying it. Read and comment on a blog about Foley’s work by Dave Peters of Minnesota Public Radio.

The Nature That We Make
Read an intriguing essay on conservation, environmentalism and human beings’ role in nature. The essay — The Nature That We Make — was published as an Earth Day 2012 reflection in the American Spectator. It was written by G. Tracy Meham III, an Arlington, Va., consultant who served in the Environmental Protection Agency under both Presidents Bush.

Another Asian carp caught in St. Croix 
A bighead carp was caught Monday (April 16) on the St. Croix River at Prescott, a sobering reminder that while millions of dollars and years of planning have been focused on keeping the invasive fish from Lake Michigan, Asian carp have been in waters along Wisconsin’s western border since at least 1996.

A commercial fisherman netting for buffalo and common carp caught the 27-pound bighead just north of the St. Croix’s confluence with the Mississippi River and contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Minnesota DNR officials held a news conference in St. Paul to announce the catch. The fish, all 34 inches of it, was iced and on display.

It was the sixth bighead carp found in Wisconsin-Minnesota border waters since 2003; the first was caught in 1996. Most of the invasive fish have been caught in or near Lake Pepin. Minnesota fisheries officials said the fish caught was likely a “loner” that swam north this spring during high water.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Great Lakes lawmakers offer anti-carp bill
Great Lakes lawmakers in both chambers of Congress introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from entering the Great Lakes and destroying the Lakes’ ecosystem.

In the Senate, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), lead sponsor, Rob Portman (R-OH), lead Republican sponsor, and cosponsors Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-M), Robert Casey (D-PA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Stop Invasive Species Act to require the speedy creation of an action plan to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through a number of rivers and tributaries across the Great Lakes region. Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced similar legislation in the House.

A bipartisan bill introduced last year, the Stop Asian Carp Act, required the Army Corp of Engineers to develop an action plan to permanently separate Lake Michigan from the Chicago Area Waterway System, long seen as the carp’s primary entry point to the Great Lakes. This bill goes further to require a plan to stop Asian carp at all potential entry points.
–Minnesota Ag Connection

Wisconsin slow to enforce phosphorus rules 
Wisconsin is not fully enforcing strict phosphorus limits adopted two years ago to reduce lake-algae blooms that make people sick, a Gannett Wisconsin Media review has found.

That’s despite the Department of Natural Resources secretary’s alarm at foul conditions in at least one Wisconsin lake last summer.

The state Legislature in 2010 approved DNR regulations intended to cut down on the amount of phosphorous running into waterways, where it causes algae to grow so thick that the water turns to green soup. The regulations are aimed at wastewater treatment plants, paper mills and factories — which are required to reapply for permits at five-year intervals.

But, only 19 permits with stricter limits have been issued since September 2010. The DNR still is evaluating applications from 201 municipal facilities and 155 industrial facilities, while hundreds more must apply for permits in the coming years.
–Gannette Wisconsin Media

Greenpeace takes on ‘cloud’ computing
In their race for the cloud, tech companies are leaving a trail of pollution from dirty energy sources, Greenpeace said in a report that accused some of the world’s biggest tech companies of failing to make clean energy a priority.

Cloud computing allows users to store and access data, programs and more on remote servers, preserving computing power. To offer this service, however, requires massive data centers that suck up electricity around the clock. Three tech companies with popular cloud offerings were singled out in Greenpeace’s report for using coal and other fossil fuel energy for their data centers.

“Three of the largest IT companies building their business around the cloud — Amazon, Apple and Microsoft — are all rapidly expanding without adequate regard to the source of electricity, and rely heavily on dirty energy to power their clouds,” Gary Cook, senior IT policy analyst at Greenpeace International, wrote as the first key finding in his report.
–The San Jose Mercury News

EPA issues air pollution rules for fracking
Oil and gas companies will have to capture toxic and climate-altering gases from wells,  storage sites and pipelines under new air quality standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rule is the first federal effort to address serious air pollution associated with the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which releases toxic and cancer-causing chemicals like benzene and hexane, as well as methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

The standards were proposed last summer in response to complaints from citizens and environmental groups that gases escaping from the 13,000 wells drilled each year by fracking were causing health problems and widespread air pollution. Industry groups said meeting the proposed standards would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and slow the boom in domestic natural gas production.

The original proposal was significantly revised, giving industry more than two years to comply and lowering the cost.
–The New York Times

Senate Ag Committee acting on Farm Bill 
The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee kicked off the massive undertaking of crafting a new farm bill on Friday (April 20), proposing to overhaul the current subsidy program as part of a broader effort to cut $23 billion in spending.

The U.S. farm law, which covers everything from food stamps and conservation programs to direct payments, expires Sept. 30.

Lawmakers in the Senate are expected to debate and then vote on the 900-page bill beginning Wednesday (April 25) in Washington. Even if the bill passes the Senate Agriculture Committee as expected, it is uncertain if the U.S. House, which has targeted cuts of as much as $33 billion including reduced spending for food stamps, will act this year.

Lawmakers in the House have not said when they will move forward on their bill.
–The Des Moines Register

 Africa’s groundwater mapped
Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater.

They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface. The team have produced the most detailed map yet of the scale and potential of this hidden resource.

Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they stress that large scale drilling might not be the best way of increasing water supplies.
–The BBC World Service

‘Saturated buffer’ cuts nitrogen loss 
Directing tile water through a grass buffer can significantly improve drainage water quality. This new conservation drainage practice, called a “saturated buffer,” removes nitrates from subsurface drainage water at low cost – without affecting farm field drainage.

A 1,000-ft. saturated buffer along Bear Creek in Story County, IA, removed 100% of the nitrate N that was diverted into it, says Dan Jaynes, a soil scientist at the USDA National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames. That amounted to 550 lbs. nitrate that never reached Bear Creek.

“We’re more than pleased,” Jaynes says. “The practice was more effective than we expected.” These are the results from the first year in a three-year saturated buffer study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
–Corn and Soybean Digest

2011 weather hurt Chesapeake Bay 
Heavy spring rains, a hot summer and two major storms caused the Chesapeake Bay’s overall health to worsen last year, scientists said, though there apparently was a slight improvement in the Baltimore area’s Patapsco and Back rivers, long considered among the bay’s most degraded tributaries.

The beleaguered bay saw its ecological grade slip from a C- in 2010 to D+ last year in an annual report card drawn up by the University of Maryland and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was the second decline in as many years, with North America’s largest estuary getting its second-worst health score, 38 percent, since scientists began making annual assessments in 1986.
–The Baltimore Sun

Precision conservation talks archived

April 11, 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.

David Mulla

David Mulla

Precision conservation talks archived
Did you miss the March 29 Freshwater Society conference on precision conservation? If you did, you missed some really exciting presentations on some of the most exciting strategies for targeting conservation and pollution-prevention practices to the places on the land where they will do the most good. But all the presentations are archived on video on the Freshwater website.Here’s the link to the lead presentation by University of Minnesota Professor David Mulla.

Report: States fail to plan for climate challenges to water 
Only nine states have taken comprehensive steps to address their vulnerabilities to the water-related impacts of climate change, while 29 states are unprepared for growing water threats to their economies and public health, according to a first ever detailed state-by-state analysis of water readiness released by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report ranks all 50 states on their climate preparedness planning, and is accompanied by an interactive online map at  showing the threats every state faces from climate change.

The new NRDC report, “Ready or Not: An Evaluation of State Climate and Water Preparedness Planning,” outlines four preparedness categories to differentiate between the nine best-prepared and most engaged states with comprehensive adaptation plans (including California, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), from those states that are least prepared and lagging farthest behind (including Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, and Texas).

“Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events are impacting our families, our health and our pocketbooks. Water is a matter of survival. It powers our lives and industries, and it keeps our natural systems healthy,” said NRDC Water & Climate Program director Steve Fleischli. “This report is both a wake-up call and a roadmap for all communities to understand how vital it is to prepare for climate change so we can effectively safeguard our most valuable resources. Preparing for the impacts of a changing climate requires that states confront reality, and prioritize climate change adaptation to reduce local water risks and create healthier communities.”

Read what the report had to say about Minnesota.
–Natural Resources Defense Council news release

Research: U.S. rivers lower in sediment 
Almost all the sediment-associated chemical concentrations found in 131 of the nation’s rivers that drain to the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts are lower than worldwide averages, according to a new study by the USGS. These coastal rivers are a significant pathway for the delivery of sediment-associated chemicals to the world’s coastal zones and oceans.

“I hope that the results of this new study will remind everyone that it is not only river water that can transport chemicals and pollutants, but also the associated sediment load,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Our citizens expect high environmental quality as compared with worldwide averages, but clean water alone will not suffice if river sediments are host to toxic heavy metals and concentrated organics that can produce dead zones.”

Though overall levels are better than worldwide averages, about half the rivers draining to the Atlantic Ocean have elevated concentrations of nutrients and trace and major elements in their sediment. About a quarter of the rivers draining to the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico also have elevated levels.
–USGS News Release

144 Asian carp netted in two Iowa lakes
A commercial fishing company caught 55 silver carp and 82 big head carp on March 28 and 29, fishing in the same general area of East Okoboji Lake where two big head carp were netted by the Iowa DNR last August during a population survey.

On April 3, one silver carp was caught by the same commercial angler in Spirit Lake. A second netting effort on April 4 in the same East Okoboji Lake location resulted in only two bighead carp and two silver carp.

Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the invasive fish had a small window last summer in which to enter the Iowa Great Lakes. Flood events in June and July allowed the fish to navigate the Little Sioux River past the Linn Grove Dam, landing at the doorstep of the Iowa Great Lakes.

Once below the Iowa Great Lakes, heavy rain events in July caused flooding conditions on the lakes that allowed these fish to enter Lower Gar Lake, which is the final lake in the chain of six glacial lakes in Dickinson County.

“While it confirms the presence of both species, this commercial seine haul does not tell us how many Asian carp are in the lakes. Nor does it get us any closer to knowing at what level these fish will be a problem,” Hawkins said.
–Iowa DNR News Release

Federal ballast water rules target invasives 
Nearly a quarter-century has passed since an oceangoing ship from Europe docked somewhere in the Great Lakes and discharged ballast water carrying tiny but tenacious zebra mussel larvae from Europe.

Within a few years after they turned up in Lake St. Clair, between Lakes Huron and Erie, the small freshwater mussels and their larger and even more destructive cousins, quagga mussels, had coated lakebeds throughout the region, clogging intake valves and pipes at power, water treatment and manufacturing plants.

The filter-feeding mussels have since helped to upend the ecosystems of the Great Lakes, fouling beaches, promoting the growth of poisonous algae and decimating some native fish populations by eating the microscopic free-floating plant cells on which their food web depends.
–The New York Times

Spawning steelhead get lift from DNR 
In an unprecedented move because of low water levels, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries officials began transporting steelhead from the Knife River fish trap upstream past the Second Falls on the Knife River to assist the fish on their spawning migrations.

The fish are being transported about 5½ miles in tanks on trucks.

“We were urged strongly to do this by the Lake Superior Steelhead Association,” said Don Schreiner, DNR Lake Superior area fisheries supervisor at French River. The steelhead association advocates for steelhead, or rainbow trout, that live in Lake Superior and migrate up North Shore streams each spring to spawn.

With low water flows this year, it’s more difficult for fish to clear the falls as they move upstream. The DNR would continue to move steelhead only if flows remain low, Schreiner said.
–The Duluth News Tribune

World food demand strains energy, water 
The northern region of Gujarat State in western India is semi-arid and prone to droughts, receiving almost all of its rain during the monsoon season between June and September.

But for the past three decades, many crop and dairy farms have remained green—even during the dry season.

That’s because farmers have invested in wells and pumps, using massive amounts of electricity to extract water from deep aquifers. The government has artificially propped up the agricultural sector through power subsidies and price supports.

The pumping hasn’t occurred without dire environmental impacts. Groundwater tables have fallen precipitously, 600 feet below the ground in some places, requiring even more powerful pumps to bring water to the surface. Over-consumption has taxed the power grid, constraining the electricity available for others.
–National Geographic

Navajo, Hopi may face choice on water rights
Arizona’s two senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, traveled to the Navajo reservation meet with Navajo and Hopi tribal leaders about a proposed water rights accord that would settle the two tribes’ claims to the Little Colorado River system.

Mr. Kyl and Mr. McCain have introduced a bill known as the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement, which would require the tribes to waive their water rights for “time immemorial” in exchange for groundwater delivery projects to three remote communities.

The tribes must sign off on the settlement, along with 30 other entities including Congress and the president, before the bill becomes law.
–The New York Times

Minnesota, Mississippi TMDL comment extended 
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has extended the public comment periods for reports about water quality in the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Due to a high level of interest, the public comment period has been extended to May 29, 2012, for the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) draft reports about Minnesota River turbidity and South Metro Mississippi River total suspended solids.

The comment period for the reports began Feb. 27 with a notice in the State Register.

The TMDL reports focus on turbid water caused primarily by sediment. Turbidity is caused by suspended and dissolved matter, such as clay, silt, organic matter, and algae. High turbidity results in poor water quality for aquatic habitat, recreation, industrial use, and human consumption.

The two documents are available for public review and comment on the MPCA’s TMDL Projects and Staff Contacts webpage.
–MPCA News Release

$5.2 million slated for water protection
Reducing phosphorus in lakes, protecting water resources, and addressing failing septic systems are among the projects funded by $5.2 million in financial aid recently approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. As funded by the Clean Water Partnership (CWP) program, 10 agency partners across Minnesota will receive grants and/or loans to investigate pollutants in lakes and rivers and take action to protect waters from those pollutants. View the projects.
–MPCA News Release

Invasive species decal required for boaters
A new required decal is now available for Minnesota boaters to help remind them of the state’s aquatic invasive species laws, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced.

The free decals are available at:

  •  DNR offices.
  •  Deputy registrar offices where licenses are sold.
  •    Large sporting goods shops.
  •  DNR watercraft inspectors and conservation officers.

The decals will also be included in envelopes with new and renewal watercraft licenses mailed from the DNR. The decal should be attached to all types of watercraft including canoes, kayaks and duckboats before launching on, entering into, or operating on any Minnesota waters.

The two-piece, gray-and-black decals detail new state laws that watercraft users must follow in order to avoid spreading aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas.
 –DNR News Release

Maryland eyes banning arsenic in chicken feed
The state Senate signed off on a bill to ban chicken feed containing arsenic, bringing Maryland a step closer to being the first state to prohibit the additive.

The chamber approved a version of the measure 32-14, sending it back to the House of Delegates for final authorization.

The bill bans the use of roxarsone, a chemical used to help the birds grow and fight parasites. Supporters of the legislation say the arsenic additive contaminates chicken meat and waste, polluting soil and the Chesapeake Bay.

But opponents say the legislation isn’t necessary because Pfizer Inc., the company that makes roxarsone, voluntarily suspended the sale of the chemical.
–The Associated Press

Researcher seek carp-specific toxin

April 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.

Asian carp researchers seek ‘bio-bullet’ 
Biologist Jon Amberg has spent the last two years obsessed with fish guts, laboring over a singular challenge: Develop a poison pill that will kill Asian carp and leave other fish unscathed.

Voracious and freakishly resilient, the fish has left a trail of destruction on its decades-long migration up the Mississippi River and into Illinois, seemingly undeterred by the ordinary ammo of invasive species warfare.

Now, designer drugs and engineered poisons, often called “bio-bullets,” have become increasingly popular among scientists trying to create sniper-shot solutions to unyielding problems, from malignant pests in rivers and fields to tumors in human bodies.

“If you look at Asian carp as being kind of like a cancer, we’re in essence developing a drug to be able to target it without killing the ‘cells’ around it,” said Amberg, who works for theU.S. Geological Survey in La Crosse, Wis.

Akin to chemotherapy, attempts to chemically control Asian carp today would require dumping thousands of gallons of pesticide into waterways, possibly harming other aquatic life. By contrast, an Asian carp bio-bullet would theoretically deliver toxins specifically to silver and bighead carp in a digestible microsize particle, about the width of a human hair.
–The Chicago Tribune

Save these dates:
 Thursday, April 12. The Freshwater Society celebrates spring with an  Ice Out/Loon In party and fund-raiser at the Lafayette Club. Don’t miss the loon-calling  competition. Get more information.

 Tuesday, April 19. Dick Osgood, Executive Director of the Lake Minnetonka Association, will present a state-of-the-lake status report on challenges facing Lake Minnetonka. The presentation will focus particularly on aquatic invasive species.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. at the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Drive in Excelsior. It is sponsored by the South Tonka chapter of the League of Women Voters. Co-sponsors are: the Freshwater Society, the Lake Minnetonka Association, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and Minnesota Waters.

Conservation inextricably linked to Farm Bill
Brian DeVore from the Land Stewardship Project recently wrote a fine Star Tribune op-ed on the federal Farm Bill and crop insurance. The column argues that crop insurance, as it currently is structured, encourages farmers to plant crops on marginal land. DeVore encourages Congress to, once again, make compliance with minimum conservation standards a requirement for the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance.

Read DeVore’s Star Tribune op-ed. Read the longer article in the Land Stewardship Project Letter from which the op-ed was adapted. Read a column on the same subject last fall by Freshwater society president Gene Merriam.

Pelicans recovering in Minnesota
Flocks of giant white birds are catching the eyes of birders and outdoor enthusiasts across Minnesota as once-rare American White Pelicans return to their summer nesting grounds at 16 sites across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The pelicans were driven to near extinction in the early 20th century from human pressures. There were no reports of nesting pelicans in Minnesota for 90 years, from 1878 until 1968.

However, conservation efforts led by the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program along with federal regulations have helped pelican populations make a slow and steady comeback. In Minnesota, there are estimated to be about 22,000 pairs of pelicans that nest at 16 sites on seven lakes across the state.

“The Prairie Pothole Region of western Minnesota hosts 22 percent of the global population of this species, making it a stewardship species,” said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, DNR nongame wildlife specialist.
–DNR News Release

Live Asian carp seized at Canadian border
Canadian authorities say 14,000 pounds of live Asian carp were seized at the U.S.-Canadian border, the third such seizure in less than two months.

Canadian border patrol agents at the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, in Canada made the seizure Feb. 28, The Detroit News reported. The seizure, the fifth in the last year, involved fish from farms in the southern United States bound for markets in Toronto, where the invasive species is popular in Asian cuisine, officials said.

Possessing live Asian carp in Ontario has been illegal since 2005, and while it is legal to possess live carp in the United States, transporting them across state lines is prohibited.
 –UPI

MPCA offers truckers loans to cut air pollution 
With diesel fuel prices climbing to $4 per gallon, low-interest loans are available to help Minnesota long-haul truckers save money, stay cool this summer and reduce pollution on overnight rest stops.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers loans at 4 percent to owner-operated long-haul truckers and small trucking companies to purchase idle-reduction devices.

These auxiliary power units, or APUs, are either small, 15-horsepower diesel engines or battery pack systems that can run air conditioning, heaters and electricity to power laptops while the truck’s main engine is shut off.

Paul Ahles, long-haul truck owner-operator, used his new APU on an older truck for nine months and estimated he’s saving $500 per month in fuel idling costs even after deducting a loan payment and fuel and maintenance costs.

Ahles averages about 266 hours of idling per month. Long-haul trucks consume about one gallon of fuel per hour while idling. But a diesel APU will use only one-fifth as much.
–The Brainerd Dispatch

Cottage Groves OKs 3M filtration plan 
The Cottage Grove City Council recently approved a 3M site plan proposal to construct a filtration facility to clean chemically-tainted water before it is re-used or pumped into the Mississippi River.

Seven groundwater extraction wells pump millions of gallons of 3M-manufactured perfluorochemical-tainted water per day from underneath a former 3M dumpsite near the Woodbury-Cottage Grove border. From there it is piped six miles south to the 3M Cottage Grove facility. There, it flows untreated into the Mississippi River.

As part of a 2009 Minnesota Pollution Control decision related to cleanup of east metro PFC groundwater contamination, 3M has proposed to build a carbon filtration facility to clean that water before it is re-used at the Cottage Grove facility or piped into a river cove.
–The South Washington County Bulletin

Moose hunt to continue this fall
Minnesota hunters will still have the chance to shoot moose this fall, state officials announced.

The moose population remains in steady decline, but scientists and wildlife managers agree that a limited hunt of males would not significantly change the number of animals because there are plenty of bulls to impregnate cows. “I don’t think it’ll matter at all,” said Rolf Peterson, a researcher from the Isle Royale moose-wolf study who chairs the state’s moose advisory committee.

The decision by the Department of Natural Resources to issue 87 moose tags – a reduction from past years – comes as adult moose continue to die off faster than young moose are growing into their ranks. The current population in the northeastern part of the state is estimated, based on aerial surveys, at 4,230 animals, down from 4,900 last year and 8,840 in 2006.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

EPA steps back from ‘fracking’ order 
The Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn an order requiring a natural gas drilling company to provide water for two North Texas families based on accusations that the company contaminated water wells.

The EPA said its decision regarding Range Resources drilling in Parker County allows the agency to shift the focus “away from litigation and toward a joint effort on the science and safety of energy extraction.”

Range was accused of contaminating water with benzene, methane and other toxic gases through a drilling method called hydraulic fracturing. The process involves breaking up rock with chemical-laced water to free previously out-of-reach natural gas.

The Fort Worth company and the Texas Railroad Commission argued the contamination came from other natural causes.
–Business Week

Congress considers cormorant clash
To hear the fishermen around Lake Waconia tell it, the ancient black cormorants that congregate on the lake’s Coney Island in the summer are the scourge of the fishes and trees. To naturalists who see the native Minnesota birds as unloved relations of the revered loon, it’s all a big fish tale.

A congressional panel was left to sort it all out, hearing a bill by two of Minnesota’s leading outdoors-men and congressmen that would give the state wider latitude to shoot some of the federally protected birds. That’s already the standard method of culling cormorant flocks that have hurt fisheries in Leech Lake and other popular recreational areas.

Now Carver County’s Lake Waconia — the metro area’s second-largest lake — is ground zero in the battle against a bird long derided for its ability to dive, propel itself underwater and eat prized fish that humans like to put on their dinner plates.
–The Star Tribune

Low water keeps White Bear beach closed
Low water levels have closed one of the most popular swimming beaches in the north metro area for the fourth summer in a row.

The Ramsey County Parks Department recently announced Ramsey Beach off Highway 96 in White Bear Lake will be closed to swimming during the summer of 2012. Signs have been posted warning swimmers to stay out of the water.

“It’s highly likely we’re not going to open it again this summer,” said Director of Park Services and Operations Jody Yungers. “Unfortunately the water levels are too low.”

The White Bear Lake water level has dropped more than 5 feet below its ordinary high water mark since 2009. The decrease has exposed hundreds of feet of open beach and move the water line close to a dramatic drop off. Yungers said swimmers would encounter an 8-foot drop-off just a few feet from the shoreline. The drop-off would create dangerous conditions for inexperienced swimmers.
 –The White Bear Press  

 

Aquatic invasives draw legislative flurry

March 12, 2012

Invasives spur rare unanimity at Capitol
From electric barriers to a proposed research center at the University of Minnesota, aquatic-invader legislation is gaining traction at the state Capitol. Millions of state dollars are almost certain to follow.

More than a dozen bills have been introduced so far this session to address a looming problem for boaters and other water enthusiasts: the spread of invasive creatures such as Asian carp and zebra mussels into lakes and rivers. Those and other invaders on the horizon can alter aquatic ecosystems and disrupt popular activities, including fishing, boating and waterskiing.

The state has responded to the threats before, but never with so much muscle or variety.

With genetic evidence of silver carp found in two Twin Cities-area rivers last year and three Asian carp caught earlier this month in the Mississippi River near Winona, a renewed sense of urgency has taken hold. The recent netting was the farthest upstream that a silver carp has been caught.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Anti-carp bills seek review of closing locks
Five members of the Minnesota congressional delegation introduced legislation aimed at slowing the spread of invasive Asian carp in state waters.

Their proposal would order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct feasibility studies on both the temporary and permanent closings of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Dam and to complete the studies within six months and a year, respectively, of the bill becoming law.

Depending on the findings, the corps would then be given broader authority to close the navigation lock at the Minneapolis dam. If Asian carp were found nearby, it would require the dam to be closed until effective controls were put in place.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Dayton calls for $$ for Coon Rapids Dam
Read an op-ed in the Outdoor News in which Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton calls for state spending to repair the Coon Rapids Dam as a deterrent to Asian carp migration up the Mississippi River.

Three important dates
Mark your calendar for three important upcoming events:

 On Saturday, March 17, the Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League will sponsor a Watershed Solutions Summit at Normandale Community College in Bloomington. Protection of the Great Lakes and the federal Farm Bill are among issues on the agenda.

 On Thursday, March 29, the Freshwater Society and a number of co-sponsors will host a conference on precision conservation.

 On Thursday, March 12, Freshwater will host an Ice Out/Loon In party and fund-raiser. There will be music, food, drink, a silent auction and a loon-calling competition.

When will the ice break up on Lake Minnetonka? 
The winter we had, and the temperatures we’re getting, are bringing us closer to the breakup every day.

The surest indicator of an early ice-out is a balmy winter in December, January and February. And the 26.3 degree average temperature we had in those months makes it the fourth-balmiest winter on record.

In ice-out records going back to 1855, the earliest ice-out on Lake Minnetonka was March 11, and the latest was May 8. Last year, ice-out came on April 14, the median date for ice-out.

Check out a year-by-year record and a calendar showing how many times ice-out has occurred on specific dates.

Give some thought to water beneath our feet
 Did you know that this week – March 11 through 17 – is National Groundwater Awareness Week? Spend a few moments to learn more about this precious resource.

Firm to phase out coal tar driveway sealant 
Coal-tar residues that can contaminate stormwater ponds may become a thing of the past thanks to a voluntary phase-out by Eagan-based Jet-Black International, one of the nation’s larger franchisers of pavement seal-coating services.

The company decided to voluntarily phase out coal-tar-based sealers late this winter in response to scientific data showing that coal-tar-based sealers are an important source of contamination to stormwater-collection systems in Minnesota.

The switch to an asphalt-based formulation will help keep harmful chemicals out of Minnesota’s surface waters. The phase-out calls for all 25 of Jet-Black’s Minnesota franchises to voluntarily phase out coal-tar-based sealants in 2012, with a complete change to an asphalt emulsion sealant by the start of the 2013 season.

“Jet-Black stepped up and took action to phase out coal tar in their sealant,” MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said. “When an industry leader embraces science-based recommendations like this, it really helps.”
–MPCA News Release

EPA to re-test ‘fracking’ pollution 
 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to work with the Wyoming state government to retest water supplies after a federal report last year concluded natural gas drilling likely polluted a local aquifer.

The EPA has been investigating an aquifer near natural gas drilling in Pavillion, Wyoming, for years after residents complained their drinking water smelled and tasted odd. It concluded in a December draft report done without broad input from the state that chemicals including benzene, alcohols and glycols likely migrated up into the aquifer from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations.

Wyoming politicians and the oil and gas industry criticized the report when it came out. Matt Mead, the governor of Wyoming which produced 10 percent of U.S. natural gas in 2010, called for more sampling, more data, and more participation in the study by state regulators.
–Reuters

Wisconsin iron mine plan dropped 
The state Senate rejected mining legislation, prompting a prominent mining company to say it was abandoning a project after months of often bitter debate that pitted conflicting claims of economic development against environmental protection.

“Senate rejection of the mining reforms . . . sends a clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining. We get the message,” said a statement from Bill Williams, president of Gogebic Taconite LLC. “(We are) ending plans to invest in a Wisconsin mine.”

Top Republican leaders said they considered the measure dead. At stake were an estimated 600 to 700 jobs at a large open pit mine in northern Wisconsin. Bob Seitz, a lobbyist representing Gogebic, said: “This isn’t an attempt to negotiate anything because that’s done.” He said that the company made numerous concessions, and wasn’t willing to go any further.

“We let something slip away,” said Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon). His comments came shortly after Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) voted with all Democrats to reject the bill, 17-16.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Climate change and groundwater demand
Climate change has been studied extensively, but a new body of research guided by a San Francisco State University hydrologist looks beneath the surface of the phenomenon and finds that climate change will put particular strain on one of our most important natural resources: groundwater.

SF State Assistant Professor of Geosciences Jason Gurdak says that as precipitation becomes less frequent due to climate change, lake and reservoir levels will drop and people will increasingly turn to groundwater for agricultural, industrial, and drinking water needs. The resource accounts for nearly half of all drinking water worldwide, but recharges at a much slower rate than aboveground water sources and in many cases is nonrenewable.

“It is clear that groundwater will play a critical role in society’s adaption to climate change,” said Gurdak, who co-led a United Nations-sponsored group of scientists who are now urging policymakers to increase regulations and conservation measures on nonrenewable groundwater.

The scientists recently released a book of their research, titled “Climate Change Effects on Groundwater Resources,” that is the result of a global groundwater initiative by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). They will soon make their case to international policymakers at the March 12-17 World Water Forum in Marseille, France.
–Science Codex

Some good news on world drinking water
Close to nine out of every 10 people in the world now has access to clean, safe drinking water, finds a report issued by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The new statistic means that the world has achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water in advance of the 2015 deadline.

The safe drinking water target is part of the Environmental Sustainability Goal. Between 1990 and 2010, more than two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells. By 2010, 89 percent of the world’s population, or 6.1 billion people, used improved drinking water sources, exceeding the target of 88 percent.

“Today we recognize a great achievement for the people of the world,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “This is one of the first MDG targets to be met. The successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament to all who see the Millennium Development Goals not as a dream, but as a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of the poorest people.”
–Environmental News Service

Conserving Mower County – one farm at a time 
One could say Justin Hanson has a full-time job in persistence. Without that trait, he would likely be doing something else. As a man who persuades farmers to retire farmland for conservation projects, he’s no stranger to the word “no.”

“We spend a lot of time failing,” Hanson said about his job. “It’s like baseball — you miss more than you hit.” So he keeps swinging.

Hanson is a resource specialist with the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District, and though he’s all about preserving the land and protecting the water, he knows he wouldn’t have a job without farmers. His job relies on their land, which is also why his job may become increasingly difficult.
–Austin Daily Herald

Even Antarctica beset by invasive species 
Alien species are invading Antarctica from as far away as the Arctic — and could fundamentally alter ecosystems in the world’s last relatively untouched continent, an international team of scientists has reported.

The risks from these biological interlopers — seeds and plant material carried in on the shoes and clothing of well-meaning scientists, ecotourists and support staff — will increase as the icy content continues to thaw because of climate change, the scientists reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

People think of Antarctica as a pristine wilderness, but that is fast changing, said lead author Steven Chown of Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

Over the last few decades, human activity there has increased dramatically. During the 2007-08 summer season, about 33,000 tourists and 7,000 scientists (including support personnel) made landfall there, bringing unintended ecological consequences, Chown said.
–The Los Angeles Times

EPA underestimated cost of Florida water rule 
Federal environmental officials underestimated the cost of implementing their new water pollution rules for Florida, just as critics have been saying, a National Research Council panel concluded in a report.

The committee of scientists was not asked to offer its own estimate but wrote that whatever the expense turns out to be it would be small compared to the ultimate cost of restoring Florida’s waters.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which commissioned the study, issued a statement saying it already is incorporating some of the report’s recommendations in its economic analysis. It noted that the scientists also found critics’ estimates of much higher costs also were faulty.
–The Associated Press

Anti-mining petition delivered by dog sled
A former Minnesota legislator finished a 360-mile dog-sled trip to the State Capitol and delivered anti-sulfide mining petitions to Gov. Mark Dayton.

Frank Moe, a former DFL state representative from Bemidji, began the trip March 1, and ended it with an event on the State Capitol steps.

He said Dayton accepted the petition, which contained almost 13,000 signatures, and asked several questions about it.

State, federal and other operations are preparing a detailed environmental review of a proposed copper-nickel mining project in northeastern Minnesota.

Environmental groups pointing to problems elsewhere with such sulfide-mining operations oppose allowing it in the region because it could pollute watersheds leading to the federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior. But supporters of PolyMet’s proposal argue that safeguards can be added, allowing crucial jobs to be created in that area.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

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