Each week, the Freshwater Society posts links to some of the best regional, national and international coverage of water and the environment. Follow the links to the publications where the articles originally appeared, and let us know your reaction to the research and policy issues they report.
Soybean farmers object to river research
What started as a $600,000 project to improve water quality in rural Minnesota is in jeopardy after soybean growers protested, causing funders to reconsider and send the money to more cooperative states.
The controversy centers around a $5 million initiative that Monsanto Co., which produces seeds and herbicide, announced last December in an attempt to reduce fertilizer runoff and sediment in the Mississippi River. It planned to work with farmers and conservation groups to measure whether different methods of fertilizing, tilling, and filtering runoff improved stream water quality or affected crop yields.
But now the Nature Conservancy, which is overseeing the studies, says objections by the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association have made it likely that at least $125,000 of the three-year grant destined for southeastern Minnesota will be diverted to similar projects in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin — where soybean farmers have not objected.
–The Star Tribune
Environmental Education Week set
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has declared the week of April 12 – 18, 2009, as Environmental Education Week.
The state designation coincides with the National Environmental Education Foundation’s efforts to increase the educational impact of Earth Day by creating a full week of educational preparation, learning and activities in K-12 classrooms, nature centers, zoos, museums and aquariums. National Environmental Education Week is the largest organized environmental education event in the United States.
In support of Environmental Education Week’s 2009 theme, “Be Water Wise!,” more than 2,000 partner organizations around the country will participate with a week’s worth of environmentally-themed lessons, field trips and special events.
For more information about Environmental Education Week programming around the country, visit www.eeweek.org.
–Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Environmentalism caught fire from the Cuyahoga
Environmentalists observing 2009 as “The Year of the River” are celebrating the remarkable return to health of the Cuyahoga River over the last four decades.
But before there was a Cuyahoga comeback, the Cuyahoga was a catalyst.
When the oily, murky and sluggish waterway caught fire in June 1969, it not only caught the attention of a previously indifferent industrial nation — it also ignited an already smoldering ecological movement.
–The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Zebra mussel shells found in Prior Lake
Empty zebra mussel shells have been discovered in Prior Lake, prompting state officials to ask boaters and anglers using the popular southwest metro lake to take extra precautions.
A homeowner recently found about a dozen empty shells of the invasive mussel along the southeastern shore of lower Prior Lake, the Department of Natural Resources said.
Officials, however, aren’t certain whether the shells came from live mussels in the lake or were brought there on equipment and fell off. The DNR said its staff soon will search the lake for more of them. If any are found, it said, the lake will be designated as infested.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Research challenges biological maxim
Scientists have produced strong new evidence challenging one of the most fundamental assumptions in biology: that female mammals, including women, are born with all the eggs they will ever have.
In a provocative set of experiments involving mice, Chinese researchers have shown for the first time that an adult mammal can harbor primitive cells in her ovaries that can become new eggs and produce healthy offspring, they reported yesterday.
While much more research is needed to confirm and explore the findings, the work raises the tantalizing possibility that it could someday lead to new ways to fight a woman’s biological clock, perhaps by stockpiling her egg-producing cells or by stimulating them to make eggs again.
–The Washington Post
Drought lowers White Bear Lake
Gary Christenson’s dock stretches for 340 feet.
It’s still a few yards shy of getting wet in White Bear Lake.
“We think the dock will be 600 feet this year,” said the geologist, who lives on the lake’s northwest shore. “Six hundred feet – then I give up. Then I quit.”
Christenson’s dock is an extreme example of what a long, mild drought, combined with White Bear’s small watershed, has done to the east metro’s largest body of water.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
PBS to air ‘Poisoned Waters’ documentary
Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency chief for the Obama Administration, asserted at a forum for the PBS Frontline documentary “Poisoned Waters” that new legislation is needed to strengthen the EPA’s authority to control pollution and protect local rivers, streams and wetlands across America.
Jackson, speaking at the National Press Club, said that court decisions had left “murkiness” about the EPA’s authority to enforce some mandates of the Clean Water Act. She said EPA would seek new legislation to “clarify” its authority to take action on smaller waterways.
The two-hour documentary, to be aired on PBS on April 21, shows sobering evidence of America’s failure over the past 35 years to contain water contamination from agricultural waste, stormwater run-off, and now, a new wave of chemicals, known as endocrine disrupters, most of which have no safety standard set by the EPA. The danger to human health from these chemicals in the environment and in drinking water systems was underscored Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
–PR News Wire
Invasive ash borers found near Minnesota border
Minnesota inspectors are poring over the southeastern tip of the state for signs of emerald ash borers, an invasive beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in 10 other states.
An infestation of the small, metallic-green beetle was discovered near the Wisconsin town of Victory along the Mississippi River, only a mile southeast of the Minnesota-Iowa border and 20 miles south of La Crosse, Wis. It was the first appearance in western Wisconsin.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Proposed 30,000-cow feedlot raises water worries
Scott Collins’ family has been farming in arid eastern Washington since his great grandfather first homesteaded the 1,500-acre, dry-land wheat farm more than a century ago.
But the 58-year-old Collins fears he may be the last of four generations on the farm.
That is because the groundwater he and his family depend on could be in jeopardy if a proposed cattle feedlot and other industrial-sized projects like it are built in his rural Franklin County.
–The New York Times
ADM plans to bury C02 deep underground
The drillers have gnawed through a mile of rock here, almost down to a 600-million-year-old layer of sandstone where they hope to bury about 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — equal to the annual emissions of 220,000 automobiles.
The $84-million project, of which $66.7 million comes from the Energy Department, will help determine whether storing greenhouse gases underground, so-called sequestration, is a viable solution for global warming.
The project by Archer Daniels Midland Co., in which greenhouses gases from a corn mill will be buried beneath shale, is important because it’s the furthest along of the seven federally sponsored partnerships nationwide to study the matter.
–The Los Angeles Times
Assault planned on invasive pondweed
When common carp were purposely introduced to Minnesota lakes sometime before 1900, they apparently brought along another visitor that today is just as reviled as the big rough fish: a water plant called curly-leaf pondweed.
A century after the aggressive pondweed was discovered in state waters, agencies from cities to watershed districts to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have declared war on the invader. Now, the results of contrasting eradication efforts in three conjoined lakes in Eden Prairie and Bloomington could help shape future efforts to contain curly-leaf pondweed.
Near the end of this month or early in May, herbicide will be applied to Southeast Anderson Lake in Bloomington in the first of four annual chemical treatments to kill pondweed.
–The Star Tribune
Texas report calls for linking energy and water
A joint report from the University of Texas and an environmental group urges state planners to conserve both water and energy.
The report released Monday claims that improving water conservation will cut power demand and that upgrades in energy efficiency will decrease water needs, allowing Texas to utilize “finite supplies of both” and cut consumers’ costs.
One recommendation in the report, which the Environmental Defense Fund helped prepare, requires studies to determine how much water is available for use at new fossil-fueled or concentrated solar power plants.
–The Associated Press
Oregon Zoo tries to restore native frogs
The small, elegantly colored frogs raised in a humid backroom at the Oregon Zoo have already defied the odds. Now, they will try to defy a grim fate.
About 120 rare Oregon spotted frogs, raised from eggs and overwintered to grow as large as possible, will be released into a wetland near Olympia. If they survive, the frogs could be the first wave in restoration of threatened native frogs that have been losing their battles for survival.
Once common from southwest British Columbia to northwest California, rana pretiosa — precious frog — has been decimated by habitat loss and invasive species such as the American bullfrog. But a partnership of scientists, state officials and zoos hopes to counter the dismaying trend.
A year ago, biologists gathered portions of the frogs’ gelatinous egg masses from Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Mount Adams in Washington state and delivered them to the Oregon Zoo and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, Wash., for rearing.
–The Portland Oregonian
Antarctica glaciers lose huge chunks of ice shelves
Antarctica’s glaciers are melting more rapidly than previously known because of climate change, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report prepared in close collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey.
The USGS study documents for the first time that one ice shelf has completely disappeared and another has lost a chunk three times the size of Rhode Island. This research is part of a larger ongoing project that is for the first time studying the entire Antarctic coastline.
“This study provides the first insight into the extent of Antarctica’s coastal and glacier change,” Salazar noted. “The rapid retreat of glaciers there demonstrates once again the profound effects our planet is already experiencing-more rapidly than previously known– as a consequence of climate change. The scientific work of USGS, which is investigating the impacts of climate change around the world, including an ongoing examination of glaciers, is a critical foundation of the Administration’s commitment to combat climate change.”
The USGS study focuses on Antarctica, which is the earth’s largest reservoir of glacial ice. In a separate study published in today’s Geophysical Letters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that ice is melting much more rapidly than expected in the Arctic as well, based on new computer analyses and recent ice measurements.
–U.S. Geological Survey