Posts Tagged ‘bwca’

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.

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.

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.

Save some water; freeze your jeans

November 6, 2011

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

Save some water; freeze your jeans
From the cotton field in rural India to the local rag bin, a typical pair of blue jeans consumes 919 gallons for water during its life cycle, Levi Strauss & Company says, or enough to fill about 15 spa-size bathtubs. That includes the water that goes into irrigating the cotton crop, stitching the jeans together and washing them scores of times at home.

The company wants to reduce that number any way it can, and not just to project environmental responsibility. It fears that water shortages caused by climate change may jeopardize the company’s very existence in the coming decades by making cotton too expensive or scarce.

So to protect its bottom line, Levi Strauss has helped underwrite and champion a nonprofit program that teaches farmers in India, Pakistan, Brazil and West and Central Africa the latest irrigation and rainwater-capture techniques. It has introduced a brand featuring stone-washed denim smoothed with rocks but no water. It is sewing tags into all of its jeans urging customers to wash less and use only cold water.

To customers seeking further advice, Levi Strauss suggests washing jeans rarely, if at all — the theory being that putting them in the freezer will kill germs that cause them to smell.
–The New York Times

UC Berkeley climate skeptic backs off
Remember when scientists who had cast doubt on global temperature studies boldly embarked on an effort to “reconsider” the evidence?

They have. And they conclude that their doubt was misplaced.

UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller and others were looking at the so-called urban heat island effect — the notion that because more urban temperature stations are included in global temperature data sets than are rural ones, the global average temperature was being skewed upward because these sites tend to retain more heat. Hence, global warming trends are exaggerated.

Using data from such urban heat islands as Tokyo, they hypothesized, could introduce “a severe warming bias in global averages using urban stations.”

In fact, the data trend was “opposite in sign to that expected if the urban heat island effect was adding anomalous warming to the record. The small size, and its negative sign, supports the key conclusion of prior groups that urban warming does not unduly bias estimates of recent global temperature change.”
–The Los Angeles Times

Support Freshwater; Give to the Max
Please support the Freshwater Society’s work to educate and inspire people to value, conserve and protect water resources. Make a generous contribution on Give to the Max Day, Nov. 16.

Your support is vital to our work.

Fred Kirschenmann photo

Fred Kirschenmann

Lecture set Nov. 10 on water and ag
It’s not too late. You can still register to attend a free public lecture Thursday, Nov. 10, on water and the future of U.S. and world agriculture. Fred Kirschenmann, a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, will deliver the lecture.

The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences. It will be at 7 p.m. in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus.

Get more information and register to attend. If you can not attend, view the lecture in real-time video or view archived video later.

Lecture set on Mississippi R. sediment
Get the “dirt on sediment pollution” of the Mississippi River. Dan Engstrom, a scientist in the Science Museum of Minnesota’s St. Croix Field Station will speak Thursday, Nov. 17, on his research about the sediment filling in Lake Pepin.

The 7:30 p.m. lecture at the Science Museum is sponsored by the museum, the Friends of the Mississippi River, the City of St. Paul, the National Park Service and the Capitol Region Watershed District.

The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. Contact Alyssa Johnson at the Science museum at or 651-221-4511. Admission to the museum is free for lecture-goers who enter the museum after 4 p.m.

Groups win $500 prizes for leaf clean-ups
Three groups – four fourth-grade classes in Apple Valley, youth from a Lutheran Church’s confirmation program in Blaine and a Boys and Girls Club in Sauk Rapids – have won $500 apiece for anti-pollution projects aimed at keeping leaves and other organic debris out of lakes and rivers.

The contest was sponsored by Freshwater and InCommons to encourage small neighborhood-based efforts to reduce the phosphorus pollution that leads to excessive algae growth in surface waters throughout Minnesota. The Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation also was a sponsor and contributed the prize for the Sauk Rapids winner.

The winners were:

• Four fourth-grade classes at Cedar Park Elementary School in Apple Valley, where students operated a drop-off site at the school that allowed Apple Valley residents to recycle leaves.
• About 130 youth and a nearly equal number of parents from Christ Lutheran Church in Blaine, who raked leaves from yards, parks and streets in neighborhoods around the church on Oct. 12.
• Members of the Raymond Park Boys and Girls Club in Sauk Rapids, who raked leaves in and around the park for two purposes: to keep the leaves out of the nearby Mississippi River, and to mulch vegetable and flower gardens.

State, feds negotiating BWCAW land swap
A deal is close that could end a decades-long dispute over state land within the federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
An advisory committee of state and federal officials, environmental groups, logging and mining interests and local government land officials has met quietly several times in the past year to forge a compromise on a combination land trade and purchase.

They’ll meet again in Sandstone as they near agreement on how to handle nearly 87,000 acres of state land locked inside the 1.1 million-acre BWCAW.

Under the deal, the state would trade about 43,000 acres inside the BWCAW for Superior National Forest federal land outside the wilderness.

The federal government also would purchase another 40,000 or so acres of state land in the BWCAW directly from the state. The money — estimated at about $80 million — would go into the state’s permanent school trust fund that funnels interest earned to school districts across the state.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Pollution lingers at closed Wisconsin mine
Fourteen years after mining operations ended, water samples on the site of the Flambeau mine near Ladysmith show high levels of toxic pollutants.

In the most recent tests, state records show that copper and zinc levels have exceeded state toxicity standards for surface waters, potentially threatening fish and other aquatic life.

The findings come as mining regulation looms as a legislative issue this fall, and the Flambeau mine has been cited as a model of mineral extraction without environmental harm. Lawmakers are poised to rewrite mining laws and ease restrictions after Gogebic Taconite, based in Hurley, put plans on hold this year for a $1.5 billion iron ore mine until regulations are streamlined.

Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources and the Flambeau Mining Co., a subsidiary of Kennecott Mineral Co., say pollution problems haven’t been ignored – the company has been removing contaminated soil from the property since 2003.
Nevertheless, DNR testing revealed that 41% of 94 samples taken in 2010 and 2011 had more copper and zinc than standards set by the state to protect aquatic life. The samples were taken from a small stream, a pond and ditches.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

3M says river clean-up is working
The Mississippi River above Hastings is no longer impaired by a compound once used in some of 3M Co.’s best-known products, according to a study released by the company.

It shows that after half a century of pollution that has spawned enormous concerns in the east metro area, the company’s 2002 decision to stop using the compound known as PFOS, and its subsequent multimillion-dollar cleanup effort, are starting to pay off, said 3M officials and environmentalists.

“I would sure as hell hope so, after all the money and effort that went into it,” said Trevor Russell, program director for Friends of the Mississippi River.

The study measured contamination levels in fish and water in the river, not in groundwater and drinking water in the east metro area, which have also been contaminated by PFOS and similar compounds.

Nonetheless, 3M officials said they hope the results will influence the outcome of a lawsuit the state filed against the company last year over future clean-up costs and persuade the state to relax stringent rules on how much of the compound will be allowed to go into the river.
–The Star Tribune

Research: Chesapeake clean-up is working
Efforts to reduce pollution of the Chesapeake Bay are starting to pay off, a major new study says, finding that despite weather-driven ups and downs, the “dead zone” that stresses fish and shellfish every summer has actually shrunk, on average, in recent years.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science teased from 60 years’ worth of water-quality measurements what they described as one of the first clear signs of progress in the costly 27-year-old campaign to clean up the bay.

“It’s a leading indicator of the kind of change we had hoped would occur,” said Donald F. Boesch, president of the UM environmental research center, who has reviewed the study. “The gains aren’t huge, obviously. We haven’t gotten anywhere close to the targets we want to reach, but we’re headed in the right direction.”

The study, published in the current issue of the scientific journal Estuaries and Coasts, appears to explain away recent research finding no real improvement in the “dead zone,” where oxygen levels in the bay drop so low each summer that fish and shellfish struggle to survive. The oxygen gets sucked out of the water by the breakdown of massive algae blooms that grow every spring, fed by sewage, farm and urban runoff and air pollution.
–The Baltimore Sun

EPA outlines study of ‘fracking’
The Environmental Protection Agency released the outlines of its long-awaited probe into whether hydraulic fracturing — the unconventional drilling technique that’s led to a boom in domestic natural gas production — is contaminating drinking-water supplies.

Investigators will try to determine the impact of large-scale water withdrawals, aboveground spills of drilling fluids, and the fracturing process itself on water quality and quantity in states where tens of thousands of wells have been drilled in recent years.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water, along with sand and chemical additives, deep underground to extract natural gas trapped in shale rock. Energy companies have greatly expanded their use of fracking as they tap previously unreachable shale deposits, including the lucrative Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania and neighboring states.

The industry has long contended that fracking is safe, but environmentalists and some residents who live near drilling sites say it has poisoned groundwater. The EPA study, mandated by Congress last year, is the agency’s first look at the impact of fracking in shale deposits.

EPA will examine drilling sites in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota and Texas. The earliest results will be available in 2012.
–The Associated Press

Wisconsin DNR approves mega-dairy
The Department of Natural Resources said that it is giving final approval for a company to move forward with plans to construct a 4,300-cow dairy farm in Adams County, a project that had sparked controversy for the potential environmental effects of so many cows.

But the DNR also imposed conditions designed to protect groundwater and local waterways from manure and heavy water use.
The decision means that Richfield Dairy, which is owned by Milk Source Holdings, can move forward with the $35 million dairy farm in Richfield Township, which will employ about 40 people.

With Richfield Dairy, Milk Source will own five dairy farms with about 26,500 cows, according to the company. In addition, it owns a separate 9,200-calf operation near De Pere.

The conditions added by the DNR include installing groundwater monitoring wells, a leak detection system and more conditions on spreading manure and process wastewater. There will also be limits on monthly and annual groundwater withdrawals.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 65,000 pounds of Asian carp caught
Workers along the Illinois River are hunting for invasive fish to turn into organic fertilizer, fillets and other commercial products.
The hope is to reduce the population of Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes.

Originally imported to cleanse ponds in the South, Asian carp made it into Mississippi River waterways and have traveled north. The voracious fish can starve other species by consuming their food.

State fish biologist Ken Clodfelter told a group of fishermen in north central Illinois that he watched workers catch 65,000 pounds of Asian carp in two days, the (LaSalle) News-Tribune reported. Workers loaded the carp into air-conditioned trailers to be taken to Schafer Fisheries in Thompson, which processes an estimated 30 million pounds of carp every year.
–The Associated Press

Fighting erosion on the Le Sueur
When Dave Johnson moved into his home along the Le Sueur River, he wasn’t worried about erosion.
Johnson says, “Not at all, there were lots of trees along here…”

Seven years and a couple floods later, he’s lost about 40 feet of his backyard.

Johnson says, “All we could do is watch and step back further every time more ground fell into the river”

As the banks got closer to homes along the river, Johnson and some of his neighbors decided to take action.

Blue Earth County Soil and Water Conservation District Jared Bach says, “Homeowners got together, came to the soil and water office to discuss a possible fix to stop the erosion.”

After receiving funding from clean water land and legacy tax money, the soil and water conservation office with the support of homeowners, the county, and DNR decided to do a state of the art toe wood sod mat stabilization project.
–KEYC-TV, Mankato

Invasive bugs eat invasive kudzu
Patti Bennett was looking out the window of her home office one morning two years ago when a swarm of green bugs flew out of the neighboring kudzu patch.

The invasive Kudzu vine has finally met its match. The problem? It’s killer–the kudzu bug–is an invasive species, too. WSJ’s Valerie Bauerlein reports from Griffin, Ga.

“I thought, ‘What the hell is that headed at my house?’ It was like a horror movie,” says Ms. Bennett, a 53-year-old insurance underwriter who lives about an hour from Atlanta. She killed hundreds of bugs with spray, while thousands more released a musty, bittersweet odor in defense.

She scooped some bugs into a Tupperware container of alcohol and handed them to the local Home Depot specialist, an exterminator and a county agricultural agent.

Ms. Bennett was one of the first people in the South to report seeing Megacopta cribraria, an insect native to Asia that likely stowed away on a flight in 2009 and entered the U.S. through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, entomologists say.

Often a new bug brings nothing but bites and headaches for entomologists who race to limit the damage. But battle lines are being drawn over Megacopta cribraria.
–The Wall Street Journal

Research Council weighs in on Chesapeake TMDL

May 9, 2011

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


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National Research Council reviews Chesapeake clean-up
The new national strategy for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay is better than the one used over the past 30 years, but is lacking in science, accounting and fairness, a study by the National Academy of Sciences concludes.

 The study is depicted as an independent review of a blueprint pushed by the Obama administration to put the Bay on a “pollution diet” over the next 15 years and restore healthy water quality after 2025.

Supporters and critics of the Obama initiative found something to like in the report, prepared by nine scientists from across the country, including one from the University of Virginia.

 Supporters latched onto its bottom-line message: A federally led strategy to cut the Bay’s three most troubling pollutants – nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment – through two-year progress reports and detailed cleanup plans from six states and the District of Columbia is more likely to succeed than the old system of politically expedient promises and little transparency.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation said the report shows that, after decades of empty pledges and missed deadlines, government overseers finally are on the right track.

 Critics said they were heartened to see some of their concerns validated in print, including a reliance on incomplete computer models and a system of analyzing data that “cannot on the whole be viewed as accurate,” according to the report.

 For example, in determining if farms are reducing polluted runoff, the report notes how farmers who took action on their own and without government money were not counted as helping the Bay in computer models.

 The report also points out that “nearly all states have insufficient information to evaluate their progress in reducing nutrient pollution,” and that few states even check to see if farm or stormwater improvements are actually working.
–The Virginia Pilot

 EPA joins effort to regulate Renville beet co-op
Federal pollution authorities have quietly stepped in to help Minnesota force a huge sugar beet processor near Renville to end its long history of fouling streams that lead to the state’s most troubled river.

 Southern Minnesota Sugar Beet Cooperative has tangled repeatedly with the state Pollution Control Agency over its processing plant near the Minnesota River, and it has been fined numerous times in the past 15 years for air and water quality violations.

 Now, in an unusual step, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken the lead on legal action against the farmer-owned co-op and has initiated a discussion with executives about what it will take to address its chronic problems.

Co-op officials did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.

Taken one by one, the plant’s violations are not egregious, state officials said. But their ongoing nature, environmental advocates say, illustrates the limits of the state’s ability to enforce state and federal air and water quality laws.
–The Star Tribune

Forest Service retains motorized limits on lakes near BWCAW
A debate simmering since the 1978 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act was passed by Congress has quietly ended with a formal decision by the U.S. Forest Service that favors conservation groups.

 Jim Sanders, supervisor of the Superior National Forest, which includes the BWCAW, recently rendered a decision that will keep the number of motorboat permits on three chains of lakes in the Ely and Gunflint Trail areas at low levels.

 Local home and cabin owners on the Moose-Newfound-Sucker, Birch-Farm and Saganaga-Gull Lake-Sea Gull River chains of lakes, along with the Forest Service, had sought increased motor permits for the lakes to offer easier access for property owners. The lakes are adjacent to the federal wilderness.

 But a series of challenges and lawsuits from 1999 to 2006 by conservation groups opposed the increase, saying the landowners should be required to compete with everyone else who wants a day-use permit to operate a motorboat on the chain of lakes.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Opinion: Ag has role in preserving L. Pepin
It’s an essential truth that too few Minnesotans contemplate as they gaze over the state’s rolling fields or across their landscaped back yards. Human development has radically altered the state’s landscape.

 Native prairie has been plowed under and paved over, wetlands misguidedly filled in. Beneath it all are vast networks of drainage tile to quickly move rainwater off the land.

 All of this was done with good intentions.

 Minnesota’s rich soil has helped feed the world and now, through ethanol, is helping fuel it. The growing communities derided by some as sprawl are home to the citizens who come here or stay here because of the high quality of life.

 There is, however, a high price to be paid for this undeniable change in land use, as a newly finalized state plan to clean up a 64-mile stretch of the Mississippi River makes abundantly clear.

 The so-called “south-metro” portion of the nation’s premiere river, which winds through the Twin Cities down to Lake Pepin, is choking on the sediment swept downstream by the tributaries that drain half the state — an issue spotlighted last year in the documentary “Troubled Waters.
–The Star Tribune

 Wisconsin deploys invasive hit squad
Authorities in Wisconsin will release an invasive species this month to kill another invasive species.

More than 1,000 tiny stingless wasps the size of a grain of rice will be let go at Riveredge Nature Center in the Town of Saukville later in May in the hope that they destroy another insect – the highly destructive emerald ash borer.

This is the first time Wisconsin has experimented with the wasps to kill emerald ash borers, and it will become the 10th state to experiment with the insect.

Officials in Wisconsin said that the wasps present no threat to the public.

 The emerald ash borer was first detected in 2008 in nearby Newburg on the Ozaukee-Washington county line. Since then, they have been found in Cudahy, Franklin, Oak Creek, Green Bay, Kenosha and Victory in Vernon County.

Wisconsin has an estimated 700 million ash trees.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 Hoyt Lakes taconite plant penalized
Mesabi Nugget Delaware, LLC and Steel Dynamics, Inc. recently agreed to pay a $12,500 civil penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for alleged water quality permit violations at their iron nugget production facility in Hoyt Lakes, Minn.  The permittees have since fulfilled all of the settlement’s required corrective actions.

In 2005, the Mesabi Nugget/Steel Dynamic Hoyt Lakes facility received a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit that authorizes treated wastewater discharge to state surface waters.  The facility uses water for a variety of purposes, including cooling and air emissions control.  Prior to discharge, treated wastewater must meet specific effluent limits.

The MPCA alleges that Mesabi Nugget did not meet the permit’s effluent limits, effluent volume restrictions and various reporting requirements.

For a comprehensive list of enforcement actions by the MPCA, visit the agency’s website at
–Minnesota Pollution Control Agency news release

Fishing is big business in Minnesota
A ripple spreads when a bobber plops in calm water. Waves of economic impact roll over Minnesota when all its anglers do the same.

 “Though often perceived as a pleasant pastime, fishing is more than that,” explained Dirk Peterson, fisheries chief of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “It’s an economic engine that supports 43,000 Minnesota jobs, generates $2.8 billion in direct annual expenditures and contributes more than $640 million a year in tax revenues to the treasuries of our state and federal government.”

These figures, Peterson said, are based on a 2007 study that analyzed the economic impact of the nation’s 39 million licensed anglers, including 1.4 million in Minnesota.
–Minnesota DNR news release

Faster rising seas predicted
Global sea levels will rise faster than expected this century, partly because of quickening climate change in the Arctic and a thaw of Greenland’s ice, an international report said.

 The rise would add to threats to coasts from Bangladesh to Florida, low-lying Pacific islands and cities from London to Shanghai. It would also raise the cost of building tsunami barriers in Japan.

 Record temperatures in the Arctic will add to factors raising world sea levels by up to 5.2 feet by 2100, according to a report by the Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), which is backed by the eight-nation Arctic Council.

 “The past six years [until 2010] have been the warmest period ever recorded in the Arctic,” the report said.

 “In the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 metres [3 feet] to 1.6 metres [5.2 feet] by 2100 and the loss of ice from Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet will make a substantial contribution,” it added.
–The Washington Post

Unexpected population growth predicted
The population of the world, long expected to stabilize just above 9 billion in the middle of the century, will instead keep growing and may hit 10.1 billion by the year 2100, the United Nations projected in a report.

 Growth in Africa remains so high that the population there could more than triple in this century, rising from today’s one billion to 3.6 billion, the report said — a sobering forecast for a continent already struggling to provide food and water for its people.

 The new report comes just ahead of a demographic milestone, with the world population expected to pass 7 billion in late October, only a dozen years after it surpassed 6 billion. Demographers called the new projections a reminder that a problem that helped define global politics in the 20th century, the population explosion, is far from solved in the 21st.
–The New York Times

 Mercury in fish a danger; PFOS not so much
Fish taken in 2010 from nine of Minnesota’s 10 largest walleye lakes had levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) that were either very low or undetectable, suggesting those lakes have very little or no contamination from perfluorochemicals (PFCs).

That is one of the early findings from new data for fish contamination recently received by the Minnesota departments of Health, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

 The results of the PFC testing mean that advice on how much fish can be eaten safely from those walleye lakes will not be impacted by perfluorochemicals. That’s good news for Minnesotans who like to catch and eat fish from those waters, said Pat McCann, MDH fish advisory program manager.

 “Minnesotans can continue to enjoy the benefits that come from eating fish from some of their favorite lakes without concern for PFCs,” McCann said. “People should continue to follow the existing consumption advice for those lakes, which is based on mercury.”

 The walleye lakes tested were Kabetogama, Rainy, Vermilion, Mille Lacs, Lake of the Woods, Leech, Winnibigoshish, Cass and Upper Red Lake. The 10th largest walleye lake is Lake Pepin, part of the Mississippi River, which had been previously tested and had levels of PFCs that led to recommendations to limit consumption for some species. Perfluorochemicals are a family of man-made chemicals that have been used for decades to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. 

For more background on perfluorochemicals in Minnesota, go to:
–Minnesota Health Department news release

UM to commercialize storm water device
The University of Minnesota finalized an agreement with Upstream Technologies, a Minneapolis startup company that aims to commercialize a device that will improve sediment control for urban storm water.

The device was developed at the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory, a research unit within the university’s College of Science and Engineering. Researchers nicknamed the device the “SAFL Baffle” and are finding it to be a cost-effective method for preventing harmful sediments carried by storm water from reaching Minnesota lakes and streams.

As water makes its way into storm sewers after a rainstorm, and eventually into lakes and rivers, it picks up sediments like sand and gravel along the way. These sediments sometimes contain nutrients that can interrupt the biological balance of lakes and streams and can be harmful to plant life.

“Urban runoff hits the road, goes into the storm sewers and ends up in receiving water bodies like lakes and rivers,” said John Gulliver, a civil engineering professor in the U of M’s College of Science and Engineering and co-inventor of the SAFL Baffle. “Cities are required to treat urban runoff and are trying to figure out how to deal with this.”

The SAFL Baffle is installed in a sump — a vertical cylinder that connects two or more sewer pipes. There are usually 30 to 40 sumps in the sewer system on a given street. The Baffle slows down water rushing into the sump and prevents it from picking up sediments that have settled there during low-flow periods.
–University of Minnesota news release 

Groups sue over Chicago sewage disposal
With no end in sight to Chicago’s chronic water pollution problems, environmental groups filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the routine dumping of human and industrial waste into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

 The 12-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, is the latest salvo in a long-running dispute about the river, which engineers reversed away from Lake Michigan at the beginning of the last century to block Chicago’s sewage from flowing into its source of drinking water.

Environmental groups accuse the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of repeatedly violating the federal Clean Water Act by allowing sewage to pour out of overflow pipes during rainstorms. During the most intense downpours, district officials open locks separating the Chicago River from Lake Michigan and allow a noxious mix of runoff and disease-causing waste to flow into the lake.

 The groups are asking for a court order to stop the district from dumping sewage into area waterways immediately, but the lawsuit does not specify how that should happen.
–The Chicago Tribune