Posts Tagged ‘ecosystem valuation’

Legacy spending, invasives, wolves

January 9, 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.

Merriam questions spending’s impact
Ensuring water projects funded through the state’s Legacy Amendment are making a difference — and proving it to the public — is a major challenge, conservationists and those who oversee Legacy money acknowledged.

Freshwater Society president Gene Merriam

Gene Merriam

About 300 Legacy stakeholders, including conservation groups, legislators and state officials, gathered in St. Paul to hear how Legacy money has been spent so far on clean water, the outdoors and parks. The annual forum’s goal is to ask whether Legacy money is going to projects and programs as voters expected.

Most of the attention was directed at the Clean Water Fund, which receives about a third of the sales tax revenue generated from the constitutional amendment approved by Minnesota voters in 2008.

Gene Merriam, president of the Freshwater Society, pointed to several reasons to question whether past funds for water projects are being spent effectively. That included a failed cleanup plan on Lake Independence and a report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency showing only moderate improvements on the Minnesota River over the last 20 years, he said.

“That report tells us we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and have very little to show for it,” Merriam said. “We need to do better over the next two decades and better target our resources.”
–Minnesota Public Radio

EPA says air rules will save lives
The EPA estimates that new air-quality standards that limit emissions of mercury and other toxic substances from power plants will prevent up to 150 premature deaths in Minnesota. Read an EPA news release on the standards.

DNR plans crackdown on invasives
Minnesota plans to crack down on boaters, anglers and waterfront landowners who transport non-native invasive species among the state’s cherished waters.

Officials with the Department of Natural Resources announced a major increase in action – including roadside checkpoints for motorists hauling boats and piers – as well as a change in attitude about consequences.

“Warnings are going to come to an end,” said Col. Jim Konrad, the agency’s head of enforcement. “It’s time to step up and get people’s attention. I have instructed our officers that the appropriate action to take if there’s a violation is to write a citation.”

Last year, the DNR stepped up its enforcement around certain waterborne invasives, most notably zebra mussels, but Konrad said that it wasn’t enough.

In 2011, the DNR tripled its number of citations and warnings, Konrad said. Often, a warning was all that was issued for a motorist who was, for example, transporting a boat without its drain plug removed, as the law requires. Fines might not have been levied, but the DNR still tracked the data, he said, and the data showed an unacceptably lax public.

“Some of these laws have been on the books for 15 years,” Konrad said. “We found an 18 percent violation rate. That’s unacceptable.”
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

DNR plans late-season wolf hunt
Minnesota wildlife officials have begun to plan for a limited gray wolf hunting and trapping season in late 2012.

This action follows last month’s announcement that wolves will return to state management Jan. 27 following roughly 35 years of federal protection.

Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the agency is taking a “deliberate and science-based” approach to implementing initial wolf hunting and trapping seasons.

Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist, said the DNR proposal would manage wolves as a prized and high-value fur species by setting the season when pelts are prime, limiting the take through a lottery and requiring animals be registered.

This approach, he said, is different than simply allowing hunters to shoot a wolf as an “incidental take” while primarily pursuing another species such as deer.
–DNR News Release

UM research puts $ value on nature
Scientists in Minnesota are trying to do something that may be impossible: put a dollar value on nature.

Nature performs many important functions that benefit humans — not just offering beauty but cleaning water, taming floods and pollinating crops. Some researchers think it’s time to put a dollar value on those natural processes.

University of Minnesota economic researcher Steve Polasky is building on ideas first presented in the field of applied economics back in the 1960s. The idea is kind of a merger of ecology and economics to identify services that nature provides, and assign a monetary value to those services.
–Minnesota Public Radio

UM prof seeks invasive species research center
Beating back invasive species with boat inspections, dams or bubble barriers only buys time at best, a University of Minnesota professor told a legislative panel..

Instead, he said, let’s outthink ’em.

That was fisheries researcher and carp expert Peter Sorensen’s message to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee when he recommended that a world-class invasive species research center be developed at the U to study not only how to keep leaping carp, clinging zebra mussels and other weird critters out of the state but also how to get rid of those already here.

“Every species has a weakness,” he said.”Nothing is perfect. We need to find weaknesses and target them.”
–The Star Tribune

Ohio ‘quakes linked to wastewater disposal
The 4.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Youngstown Saturday (Dec. 31) occurred at an almost identical location to one a week before, a seismologist who studied the quakes said. Both earthquakes occurred close to the bottom of a 9,200-foot-deep disposal well where for months, brine and other liquid waste from natural-gas wells had been injected under pressure.

They were the 10th and 11th earthquakes to occur near the well since March, but the first to be precisely located. The finding provides further evidence to support what some scientists had suspected: that the waste, from the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing that is used to unlock natural gas from shale rock, might have migrated from the disposal well into deeper rock formations, allowing an ancient fault to slip.

Similar links between hydraulic-fracturing disposal wells and earthquakes have been suspected in recent years in Texas and Arkansas.

John Armbruster, a seismologist with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University, said that the epicenter of the quake was about 100 meters, or 110 yards, from that a 2.7-magnitude quake on Dec. 24. There were a few reports of minor damage from the earthquake, but none from any of the earlier quakes.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reached an agreement with the owner of the disposal well, D&L Energy, to halt operations indefinitely and issued a moratorium on further development of disposal wells in the area until the analysis of the 4.0 quake was completed.
–The New York Times

Forestville park expanded
Add 454 picturesque acres of limestone cliffs, cold-water trout streams and rare habitats to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in southeastern Minnesota.

The Department of Natural Resources announced the state bought the addition to the 2,973-acre state park for $1.75 million, culminating five years of collaboration with the Nature Conservancy and a local family that has owned the land since 1947.

The park is about 45 minutes southeast of Rochester in the driftless bluffland region that escaped glaciation, giving the area a steep topography unlike any other in the Midwest. In addition, the park lies in the porous-rock karst region, and its namesake Mystery Cave – with more than 12 miles of subterranean passages – owes its existence to eroded limestone.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

MPCA urges low-salt diet for roads, sidewalks
For years doctors have told people to stick to a low-salt diet. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, our waters should follow the same advice.

When snow and ice start to accumulate on Minnesota roads, parking lots, and sidewalks, one of the more common reactions is to apply salt, which contains chloride, a water pollutant. When snow and ice melt, most of the salt goes with it, washing into our lakes, streams and rivers. Once in the water, there’s no way to remove the chloride, and it becomes a pollutant.

According to Brooke Asleson, MPCA project manager for the Twin Cities Metro Area chloride project, “Salt is a real threat to water quality. It only takes one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water. We are trying to spread the word that less is more when it comes to applying road salt because at high concentrations, chloride can harm the fish and plant life in our waters.”
–MPCA News Release

Army Corps weighs in on Asian carp debate
A new Army Corps of Engineers study of Chicago-area waterways has stirred the debate over whether to sever the connection between Lake Michigan and inland waterways that was created by the construction of canals a century ago. The study is part of the Corps’s nearly decade-long process aimed at preventing invasive species, including voracious Asian carp, from spreading between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River ecosystems.

But how to achieve that environmental goal has become bound up with varying predictions of what the future of shipping in the Midwest, and even farther South, will be.

Advocates of separating the waterway system from Lake Michigan said that the study bolstered their case because it found that in 2008 only 12 percent of Chicago-waterways cargo moved between Chicago-area waterways and the lake, the great majority of it to and from industries in nearby northwest Indiana. Opponents have argued that closing off the lake would block a vital shipping route.
–The New York Times

Scientists train a big gun against the round goby
Scientists want to know if an underwater cannon can protect valuable Great Lakes fish from a greedy predator.

The round goby (GOH’-bee) is an exotic species that hangs around spawning beds, gobbling up eggs of native varieties such as lake trout and whitefish that are important to the fishing industry.

Biologists plan to use a seismic gun to chase gobies from several Lake Michigan reefs that are popular spawning areas. The experiment is to begin next fall.

Researchers hope the shell-shocked gobies will stay away long enough for native fish eggs to hatch and escape.
–The Associated Press

Meetings set on impaired waters
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will hold a series of public meetings throughout the state in January to discuss the more than 500 impairments that are proposed to be added to the draft list of the state’s impaired lakes and stream segments.

The meetings will be held:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 11, 1-3 p.m., MPCA Office, 714 Lake  Ave., Detroit Lakes
  • Thursday, Jan. 12, 1-3 p.m., MPCA Office, 520  Lafayette Road N., St. Paul
  • Wednesday, Jan. 18, 1- 3 p.m., MPCA Office 7678 College Road, Baxter
  • Thursday, Jan. 19, 1-3 p.m., MPCA Office, 525 Lake  Ave., Duluth
  • Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2-4 p.m., McKinneys on Southside,  300  14th St. S., Benson
  • Wednesday, Jan. 25, 1-3 p.m. Blue Earth County  Public Library, 100 E. Main St., Mankato

Updated every two years, the draft 2012 list contains 2,171 impairments that require Total Maximum Daily Load “cleanup” studies. The inventory of all impaired waters now totals 3,638, which includes impairments in need of TMDLs, those with completed TMDLs that have not yet been restored, and impairments due to natural sources.

Four impairments are proposed to be removed from the list as a result of water-quality-improvement activities in the watershed.

The proposed 2012 Impaired Waters list and methodology for listing will be available on the MPCA’s Impaired Waters web page  before the first public meeting. The list will be formally on public notice from Jan. 23 through Feb. 27, 2012. Submit questions, comments, or requests for additional information to Howard Markus at MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., Saint Paul, MN 55155, call Markus at 651-757-2551, or email him at howard.markus@state.mn.us.
–MPCA News Release

Report: Chesapeake clean-up not a job-killer
A report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation concludes that storm water and sewage plant upgrades intended to help nurse the environmentally-battered bay back to health would create nearly 250,000 jobs.

The report is aimed at countering claims that the multi-state, multi-billion restoration directed by the Environmental Protection Agency will be harmful to the economy and result in job losses, the foundation’s president said.

“That is not borne out by the facts,” William C. Baker said in a statement. “Whether the target is EPA or the bay pollution limits, it is essential that the public understand that environmental regulations will create jobs to reduce pollution, and sustain jobs that depend on clean water.”
–The Associated Press

 Ford sets 30% water reduction goal
Ford enters 2012 with plans to further reduce the amount of water used to make vehicles and continue showing efficiency is not only inherent in its vehicle lineup, but also in its manufacturing practices.

A new goal calls for Ford to cut the amount of water used to make each vehicle 30 percent globally by 2015, compared with the amount of water used per vehicle in 2009.

Ford is also developing year-over-year efficiency targets as part of its annual environmental business planning process and has established a cross-functional team spanning several divisions to review water usage more holistically.
–PR Newswire

San Francisco gets bargain on Yosemite water
The going rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is about $2,500 a month. That’s the same amount the city pays to use eight miles of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park as a reservoir.

The $30,000 annual fee was set by federal law in 1913 and has not been changed since. But now, as the federal government struggles with budget problems, a Central Valley congressman is pushing to increase the city’s Hetch Hetchy rent by a thousandfold, to $34 million a year.

Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from Tulare, said the current low rent amounts to a federal subsidy for San Francisco’s water and electricity supply and is unfair to farmers in his heavily agricultural district, whose water supply is diminished.
–The New York Times

Missed the Daily lecture? View the video

June 14, 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.

Gretchen C. Daily

Gretchen C. Daily

Ecosystem valuation: Putting a price on nature to save it
We all live on a crowded planet that is getting more crowded all the time. So how should we practice conservation, keep plant and animal species from going extinct and preserve the economic, social and aesthetic  benefits that nature provides to humans?

The answer, according to ecologist Gretchen C. Daily, cannot be to create many new reserves where the environment is protected in a natural state, untouched by humans.  Instead, Daily told a University of Minnesota audience on June 13, the answer has to be look for ways the plants and animals we most need can survive in coexistence with agriculture and other human activities.

And the answer to protecting nature in the face of human population growth,  Daily said, almost certainly will involve putting a price on everything  we get  from nature so the environment’s value is recognized upfront in every decision-making process, rather than after ecosystems have been irreparably damaged.  

In a lecture titled “Harmonizing People and Nature: A New Business Model,” Daily, a Stanford University biologist, described the emerging science of ecosystem valuation, a blend of ecology and economics. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

View video of Daily’s presentation, listen to audio of the talk or download a podcast.

EPA delays greenhouse gas rule
Facing intense opposition from Congressional Republicans and industry over a broad range of new air-quality regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency said that it was delaying by two months the release of a proposed rule on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other major pollution sources.

 The rule would have a major impact on the nation’s efforts to reduce emissions of gases blamed for climate change,  and its postponement is the latest step by the E.P.A. to slow the issuing of regulations that critics say will slow economic growth, drive up energy costs and reduce employment.

 Its delay is a tacit admission that the regulations pose political, economic and technical challenges that cannot be addressed on the aggressive timetable that the agency set for itself early in the Obama administration.
–The New York Times

 USGS: Humans put out more CO2 than volcanoes
On average, human activities put out in just three to five days, the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that volcanoes produce globally each year. This is one of the messages detailed in a new article “Volcanic Versus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide” by Terrance Gerlach of the U.S. Geological Survey appearing in this week’s issue of Eos, from the American Geophysical Union. 

 “The most frequent question that I have gotten (and still get), in my 30 some years as a volcanic gas geochemist from the general public and from geoscientists working in fields outside of volcanology, is ‘Do volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities?’ Research findings indicate unequivocally that the answer to this question is “No”—anthropogenic CO2 emissions dwarf global volcanic CO2 emissions,” said Gerlach.

 Gerlach looked at five published studies of present-day global volcanic CO2 emissions that give a range of results from a minimum of about one tenth of a billion, to a maximum of about half a billion metric tons of CO2 per year. Gerlach used the figure of about one-quarter of a billion metric tons of volcanic CO2 per year to make his comparisons. The published projected anthropogenic CO2 emission rate for 2010 is about 35 billion metric tons per year.
–USGS News Release

St. Paul unveils river revival plan
In a dazzling effort to invigorate St. Paul’s 17 miles along the Mississippi River, the city has devised a breathtaking long-term vision for transformation of the river banks from the Minneapolis border to Pig’s Eye Lake. 

Among the goals are a massive upgrade to the Watergate Marina to include a restaurant and canoe outfitter, a swimming pool on a barge east of downtown and a Riverview Balcony promenade at the former West Publishing site to physically and visually connect downtown to the riverfront with eateries and walkways. 

Mike Hahm, St. Paul Parks and Recreation director, called the voluminous plan “an epic vision not just for transforming parks but the city and its relationship and connection with the riverfront.”

 He said “underutilized is the most generous” way to describe the city’s tie to the river now.

 That would change dramatically as other anticipated amenities include a climbing wall area to be flooded with ice in the winter, a skate park, mountain bike paths, the unearthing of an existing stream from the Ford Plant to the river and a National Parks Service headquarters at Island Station, the former energy plant near where Shepard Road meets Randolph Avenue.
–The Star Tribune

Minnesota Idea OpenShare your ideas for saving water
Minnesotans have good ideas—it’s time someone listened.  The Idea Open brings everyday Minnesotans together to help solve our state’s most critical issues. This year the Idea Open is looking for answers to the question “How would you use $15,000 to help your community become aware of and address water issues in Minnesota?”  

Starting June 21, people from all over Minnesota will be able to submit ideas to the Challenge. In the meantime, check out www.MNIdeaOpen.org to sign up for updates and connect on Facebook and Twitter. The Idea Open is a venture of Minnesota Community Foundation, in  partnership with Pentair and its foundation on Challenge II.
–Idea Open News Release

 EPA offers to back off Florida regulation
The uproar over a federal effort to force Florida to clean up its rivers and lakes kicks up a notch as state officials air their strategy to avoid the controversial pollution regulations by writing a new set of their own.

In a groundbreaking dispute between federal and state officials, Florida officials want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to abandon its pollution-prevention rules and give the state back legal responsibility for cleaning up its waters, even though the state hasn’t rewritten its rules yet.

The EPA, which has antagonized many in Florida by not being accessible for discussion and debate, said in a written statement that Florida’s latest gambit may succeed — but only if the state actually writes its new rules and they pass muster. If that happens, the federal agency “will promptly initiate rulemaking to repeal” its pollution limits, set to take effect early next year, wrote Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator.
–The Orlando Sentinel

Flooding may have spread Asian carp downstream
While scientists have been battling to keep a ravenous, invasive fish species out of the Great Lakes, some worry that spring floods along the Mississippi River may be spreading the Asian carp downstream.

 Duane Chapman, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist and Asian carp expert, says the fish are likely to show up in places where Mississippi floodwaters intruded. They can weigh up to 100 pounds grow 4 feet long and live for 25 years.

 They could be crowding out food sources of native species for decades.

 “I think there is a very serious issue here,” said Chapman. “We may now be finding them in lakes, ponds, bayous, anywhere the river water went. Those things will be full of carp now.”

 Asian carp is a term applied to several related species of carp that were brought to the United States in the 1970s to control algae in catfish farms in the South. Floods washed them into the Mississippi River in the 1980s. 

Since their escape into the wild, the carp have established themselves in the Mississippi and Missouri river basins. They endanger native fish by greedily eating aquatic vegetation and robbing local species of their food supply.
–The Associated Press

 Research: Rockies snowpack declining
A U.S. Geological Survey study suggests that snowpack declines in the Rocky Mountains over the last 30 years are unusual compared to the past few centuries. Prior studies by the USGS and other institutions attribute the decline to unusual springtime warming, more precipitation falling now as rain rather than snow and earlier snowmelt.

 The warming and snowpack decline are projected to worsen through the 21st century, foreshadowing a strain on water supplies. Runoff from winter snowpack – layers of snow that accumulate at high altitude – accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the annual water supply for more than 70 million people living in the western United States.

 “This scientific work is critical to understanding how climate change is affecting western water supplies,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “It helps land managers adapt to changing conditions on the ground, assists water managers with planning for the future, and gives all of us a better understanding of the real impacts that carbon pollution is having on our resources and our way of life.” 

USGS scientists, with partners at the Universities of Arizona, Washington, Wyoming, and Western Ontario, led the study that evaluated the recent declines using snowpack reconstructions from 66 tree-ring chronologies, looking back 500 to more than 1,000 years. The network of sites was chosen strategically to characterize the range of natural snowpack variability over the long term, and from north to south in the Rocky Mountains.
–USGS News Release

 Babbitt blasts Obama on environment
Already under criticism over the economy, President Obama is now taking heat from fellow Democrats on another key issue: the environment.

 Former Interior secretary Bruce Babbitt visited the National Press Club on Wednesday to question whether Obama is willing to take to congressional Republicans who want to open more acreage to logging and energy exploration.

 “I am returning to the public stage today because I believe that this Congress, in its assaults on our environment, has embarked on the most radical course in our history,” said Babbitt, who served in the Clinton administration.

 A former governor of Arizona, Babbitt added: “Therefore, it is imperative that President Obama take up the mantle of land and water conversation — something that he has not yet done in a significant way.”
–USA Today

 Stingless wasps unleashed on ash borers in St. Paul
The emerald ash borer was reunited with an old nemesis from the homeland as part of Minnesota’s attempts to impede the tree killer.

 State Department of Agriculture scientists released nearly 2,500 stingless Chinese wasps onto infested ash trees in Langford Park in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood. More releases are planned at four sites in Minneapolis over the summer.

 The gnat-size wasps are the natural predator to the ash borer in their native Asia. Here, scientists call the wasps a “biocontrol agent.” Thousands of them will be let loose on trees this summer.

 Monika Chandler, biological control program coordinator, said since the state didn’t have to pay for the wasps, the cost is minimal. “They work for free,” she said of the wasps. “Once you get your bugs out there, they’re self-sustaining.”
–The Star Tribune

UN report: Climate change will impact food production
Climate change will have major impacts on the availability of water for growing food and on crop productivity in the decades to come, warns a new FAO report.

Climate Change, Water, and Food Security is a comprehensive survey of existing scientific knowledge on the anticipated consequences of climate change for water use in agriculture.

These include reductions in river runoff and aquifer recharges in the Mediterranean and the semi-arid areas of the Americas, Australia and southern Africa — regions that are already water-stressed. In Asia, large areas of irrigated land that rely on snowmelt and mountain glaciers for water will also be affected, while heavily populated river deltas are at risk from a combination of reduced water flows, increased salinity, and rising sea levels.
–United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization news release

USDA funds ag-carbon project
With the Obama administration looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Agriculture Department is trying to perfect methods for farmers and landowners to get paid for emission-saving practices.

A $2.8 million project in Iowa and Illinois that the USDA is helping fund will study methods of cutting back on the amount of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas that escapes from farmland as a result of farmers using nitrogen fertilizer.

The three-year project will involve 100 farmers in the two states.

The USDA will use this and other projects to attempt to quantify how much greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by various methods and how much farmers and landowners could earn in emission-reduction credits for different practices, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
–The Des Moines Register 

California groups to sue over ag runoff
Thirty years after toxic farmland runoff poisoned and malformed thousands of birds in a now infamous incident at a Central Valley reservoir, environmentalists contend the federal government has done little to stop the flow of hazardous contaminants into California’s second largest river and the important estuary downstream.

Several conservation and fishing groups announced that they intend to sue the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and large agricultural irrigators for violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

“This is a huge pollution problem that should have been corrected decades ago,” said Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Time has run out.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle

Invasive species headline Duluth aquarium
The story of the Great Lakes might be better if it didn’t include a chapter on invasive species — critters such as sea lampreys, quagga mussels and gobies that are creating economic and ecological harm across the region.

 But that unseemly chapter is still one that needs telling, and the Great Lakes Aquarium on Duluth’s harbor front is diving in.

 The new “Aquatic Invaders” exhibit opens June 30 at the aquarium, where officials hope the educational mission that’s become synonymous with lake trout, river otters and sturgeon can transfer to invasive species.

 Work on the exhibit started as the aquarium readies tanks and space for live round gobies, sea lampreys and goldfish to go along with dead and replica zebra mussels.
–The Duluth News Tribune

 Comments sought on Buffalo Creek
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency  is seeking comments on a water quality improvement report for Buffalo Creek, a major tributary to the South Fork Crow River.  The report, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load,  focuses on pollution caused by excess bacteria.  A public comment period begins June 13, and continues through July 13, 2011.

Buffalo Creek runs primarily through Renville and McLeod counties and flows into the South Fork Crow River near the city of Glencoe.

Buffalo Creek was placed on Minnesota’s list of impaired waters in 2008, because of excess bacteria levels, particularly fecal coliform.  This TMDL study indicated that bacteria will need to be reduced by 40-75 percent in parts of the creek for it to meet water quality standards. 

The Buffalo Creek TMDL draft report is available online or at the MPCA’s St. Paul office, 520 N. Lafayette Road.
–MPCA News Release

 Take a bear a day and call in the morning
University of Minnesota researchers think lessons learned from hibernating black bears will help save human lives in a unique study that could someday improve the odds of surviving a heart attack.

Despite starving for four to six months, a bear’s heart and other muscles remain strong and healthy, said Paul Iaizzo, a University of Minnesota professor who has studied hibernating bears for a dozen years. He is convinced that putting critically ill patients in the same sort of state of hibernation could save lives.

“You’re trying to protect the vital organs and the loss of skeletal muscle,” Iaizzo said. “And that’s exactly what the bear will do here at the den. So they could be the ideal model for that [intensive care unit] patient.”

Black bears are amazing physical specimens. They crawl into a hole in the ground in late fall. They don’t eat or drink anything for four to six months. Then they climb out in the spring strong and healthy.
–Minnesota Public Radio

G. Daily to lecture; EPA unveils new water rules

May 2, 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 the date;  Gretchen Daily to lecture June 13
What is a wetland worth? Is it only the price a buyer might pay for the land at the moment? Or does the wetland’s value include the future flood damage or water pollution it may prevent? How do you put a value on any individual natural site’s contribution to keeping plant and animal species from going extinct decades into the future?

Gretchen Daily

Those are the kinds of questions Stanford University ecologist Gretchen Daily has devoted her career to asking and answering.

 Daily, a global leader in efforts to protect the environment by attaching monetary value to all the services that natural systems provide to humans, will deliver a free public lecture in St. Paul on Monday, June 13.

 Her talk – titled “Harmonizing People and Nature: A New Business Model — will be the fifth lecture in the Moos Family Speaker Series co-sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. She will present the lecture at 5 p.m. in the theater of theSt. PaulStudentCenteron the university’s St. Paul Campus. 

 Stricter U.S. water controls proposed
The Obama administration announced that it will impose stricter pollution controls on millions of acres of wetlands and tens of thousands of miles of streams.

The new guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency, which will be codified in a federal regulation later this year, could prevent the dumping of mining waste and the discharge of industrial pollutants to waters that feed swimming holes and drinking water supplies. The specific restriction will depend on the waterway.

The question of which isolated streams and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act has been in dispute for a decade. The Supreme Court has issued two decisions, and the George W. Bush administration issued guidance in 2003 and 2008 limiting the scope of the act.

 EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a telephone news conference with reporters that although the new rules will expand the waterways enjoying federal protection, “this is not some massive increase, as far as we can tell.”

 The policy change is likely to affect tributaries flowing into water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), who chairs the water and wildlife subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined 13 other senators last month in urging President Obama to expand the application of federal law to such waterways.
–The Washington Post

 Opinion: New water rules praised
The Obama administration’s new guidelines for the Clean Water Act are an important first step in restoring vital legal safeguards to wetlands and streams threatened by development and pollution.

The guidelines are opposed by the usual suspects — real estate interests, homebuilders, farmers, the oil companies. They were welcomed, rightly so, by conservationists and others who have watched in despair as enforcement actions dropped and water pollution levels went up.

 For nearly three decades, the 1972 act was broadly interpreted by the courts and federal regulators as shielding virtually all the waters of the United States from pollution and unregulated development — seasonal streams and small, remote wetlands, as well as lakes and large navigable waters. The basic idea was that small waters have some hydrological connection to larger watersheds and should be protected against pollution that would inevitably find its way downstream.

 Then came two Supreme Court decisions that left uncertain which waterways were protected by the law.
–The New York Times 

Ag and EPA heads talk about soil and water
Read an op-ed column that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson jointly wrote for the Des Moines Register. In it, they say: “If we are going to solve the major environmental challenges of our time – combating climate change, reducing soil erosion and ensuring an ample supply of clean water for our families and food production – farmers need more than just a seat at the table. They need to help lead the way.”

DNR offers drain plug reminders
A bright-yellow warning sticker has been created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to help remind boaters to “check the drain plug.”

Invasive species regulations, which went into effect last year, now require boaters to remove the plug and drain the bilge and live well before transporting a watercraft. The DNR developed the sticker because some boaters forget to put their drain plug back in place before re-launching their boats.

 DNR conservation officers say that some boaters have reported near-misses.

 “I’m told that one angler returned to the dock after parking his truck and trailer, only to find his boat nearly filled with water,” said Tim Smalley, Minnesota DNR boating safety specialist. “This is something new that boaters need to incorporate into their boat launch routine.”

 Bpaters can obtain the stickers at no charge by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367. They are also available by emailing boatandwater.dnr@state.mn.us  and requesting the “Drain Plug Sticker.”
–DNR News Release

 Salmon struggling to survive in L. Michigan
Forty years ago, fisheries biologists in Michigan dazzled the nation when they took salmon from the Pacific Ocean and planted them in the Great Lakes. Their success transformed the lakes into a sport-fishing paradise and created a multi-billion dollar industry. But now invasive species have changed the food web in the lakes. Salmon are struggling to find food, and the state might end one of its stocking programs.
–National Public Radio

Douglas County, MN, board acts on zebra mussels
Douglas County Commissioners are plunging right in.

 The board approved a list of action items to try to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species – specifically zebra mussels – in Douglas County lakes.

Currently, seven lakes are infested with zebra mussels: Lakes Darling, Carlos, L’Homme Dieu, Geneva, Victoria, Jessie and Alvin.

With a 4-0 vote, the county board authorized moving forward to:

  •   Take the position that no further lakes in the county shall become infested with zebra mussels or other aquatic invasive species.
  • Appoint Dave Rush, director of the county’s land and resource management department to serve as a zebra mussel “czar” to implement board-directed action to control, contain and eradicate zebra mussels.
  •  Sign a letter of intent with county lake associations indicating a united front to address zebra mussel containment and eradication.
  •  Commit an unspecified amount of funding to develop and place signage at lake access points. The Douglas County Citizen’s Committee recommended signage costs of about $1,500. The signs, stating “Don’t Move a Mussel,” would inform water-craft owners about pulling the boat’s drain plug, draining live wells and bait buckets and washing watercraft and trailers.
  •  Commit an unspecified amount of funding to establish a watercraft decontamination facility – also referred to as a washing station. A washing station would offer a spot at a lake access for watercraft owners to use hot water to wash off their boat, limiting the chance of transporting zebra mussels to another lake. With the Department of Natural Resource’s permission, the DCCC recommended a $26,000 washing unit be placed at the north access on Lake Geneva as part of a pilot project. That access has the space for a wash station and the Geneva Lake Association reportedly supports the concept.

–Alexandria Echo Press

 Montana eyes boat inspections in invasives fight
Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public comment on a new rule that would require vessels launched on Montana waters to be inspected at designated aquatic invasive species inspection stations operated by FWP.

Under the proposed rule, personnel at the stations would search the exterior of the vessel, livewells, bait buckets, bilge areas and trailers. If invasive species are found on a vessel, state officials would decontaminate it. The vessel would then be required to pass a second inspection before it can be launched on state waters. FWP has performed watercraft inspections since 2004.
–Hungry Horse News

Bad news on carp’s survival chances in L. Michigan
Some distressing news emerged at the end of a news conference at which federal officials went to great lengths to assure the public they are doing everything they can to protect the Great Lakes from an Asian carp invasion: the idea that Lake Michigan has become too sterile in recent years to support the giant fish may not hold water. 

New lab studies show that Asian carp, which normally make their living sucking plankton suspended in the water, also have a penchant for noshing on the noxious algae blooms that have exploded on the lake bottom in recent years. 

Plankton populations in Lake Michigan have plummeted in the past decade because of the invasion of plankton-loving quagga mussels, which now blanket the bottom of the lake from Wisconsin to Michigan. The mussels have dramatically increased the lake’s water clarity, and that has led to growth of sunlight-dependent algae, called Cladophora, on the lake bottom. 

Tests are now under way to determine whether this algae, which regularly washes ashore and smothers some of the lake’s prized shorelines, including Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach, has enough nutrition to sustain the fish as they migrate up the lake shorelines toward the rivers in which they need to spawn.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MPCA seeks citizen water monitors
For the past 10 years, Watonwan County farmer Norman Penner has been making weekly visits to a small bridge over the Watonwan River, about 1,000 feet from his home near Darfur, Minn.

 Penner, who grows corn and soybeans and raises beef cattle, is a volunteer for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizen Stream Monitoring Program.  Penner and 1,700 other volunteers across the state take regular readings of water clarity at assigned lakes or streams.  The information the volunteers collect aids in the MPCA’s efforts to improve water quality and ensures a long-term, continuous data record for water scientists. 

Water clarity, measured using a transparency tube (for streams) or a Secchi disk (for lakes) is a simple test that helps water resource professionals understand the health of a water body. 

This year marks Penner’s 10-year anniversary monitoring water clarity on the Watonwan River.  Penner enjoys noticing how clarity patterns change during the seasons. 

“In spring, after planting, I notice a lot of sediment in the water after a hard rain,” he observed.  “Into the summer, as the crops grow, that doesn’t happen nearly as much, and there is very little change even after a heavy rain.  You notice things like that when you’ve been monitoring for a while.” 

The MPCA is currently recruiting volunteers for the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program and Citizen Lake Monitoring Program.  Volunteers are asked to take readings of water clarity at a designated site every week from April through October.  

To learn more about becoming a volunteer, call Laurie Sovell (for the streams program) or Johanna Schussler (for the lakes program) at the MPCA at 651-757-2227 or toll-free at 800-657-3864.  More information is available at http://www.pca.state.mn.us.
–MPCA News Release

 Small earthquake hits Minnesota
A rare earthquake rippled in and around Alexandria in western Minnesota early Friday (April 29), prompting numerous middle-of-the-night calls to emergency dispatchers and acting as a seismic alarm clock for one royal wedding fan. 

The temblor at 2:20 a.m. measured 2.5 in magnitude, falling into the “weak” category, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no reports of damage or injury.

 The quake probably “felt like a truck rumbling by or thunder,” said USGS geophysicist John Bellini.

Bellini said the agency collected several dozen “felt reports” on its website from citizens in Alexandria and nearby communities such as Brandon, Carlos and Garfield. 

While there is a margin of error in pinpointing any epicenter, the USGS put this one on the southwestern edge of Alexandria, near the town’s airport.
–The Star Tribune

 Questions follow farmed tilapia boom
AGUA AZUL, Honduras — A common Bible story says Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish, which scholars surmise were tilapia.

 But at the Aquafinca fish farm here, a modern miracle takes place daily: Tens of thousands of beefy, flapping tilapia are hauled out of teeming cages on Lake Yojoa, converted to fillets in a cold slaughterhouse and rushed onto planes bound for the United States, where some will appear on plates within 12 hours.

 Americans ate 475 million pounds of tilapia last year, four times the amount a decade ago, making this once obscure African native the most popular farmed fish in the United States. Although wild fish predominate in most species, a vast majority of the tilapia consumed in the United States is “harvested” from pens or cages in Latin America and Asia.

 Known in the food business as “aquatic chicken” because it breeds easily and tastes bland, tilapia is the perfect factory fish; it happily eats pellets made largely of corn and soy and gains weight rapidly, easily converting a diet that resembles cheap chicken feed into low-cost seafood.
–The New York Times

 What’s a shark worth? A lot, it turns out
Sharks can be worth far more when they are swimming around the reef than when they are in a bowl of soup — as much as nearly $2 million each, in fact, according to the results of a study.

 For the study, researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science considered the expenditures of divers who travel from around the world to the tiny Pacific nation of Palau to dive with the mainly gray reef and reef whitetip sharks that inhabit its waters, which were declared a shark sanctuary in 2009. 

As a remote country of more than 300 islands — Manila, 530 miles away, is the closest city of consequence — Palau does not have many attractions beyond diving, so spending by international tourists on airfare, lodging and diving makes up an important part of the nation’s economy.

 The economic logic is straightforward: diver tourism contributes about 39 percent of the country’s gross domestic product of $218 million, and 21 percent of divers chose their vacation there specifically to see the sharks, meaning that tourism to view sharks contributes about 8 percent of G.D.P., the study said.

 The researchers concluded that the roughly 100 sharks that inhabit the prime dive sites were each worth $179,000 annually to the island nation’s tourism industry, and that each shark had a lifetime value of $1.9 million.
–The New York Times

 California eyes Mexico for desalination
After more than a decade of public debate, Southern California water officials are considering Mexico for controversial desalination plants.

With efforts to build large-scale ocean desalination plants along the coast of California taking longer than anticipated, Southern California water agencies are looking more seriously at financing a desalination plant across the border in Mexico. 

Water agencies representing southern California, Arizona and Nevada are in discussions with the Mexican government about sharing a desalination plant in Rosarito Beach, just south of San Diego. But it’s the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that are the most serious, based on interviews with officials. 

Construction could begin in as little as two years on a plant producing up to 75 million gallons of fresh water daily. That is more than 50 percent larger than the biggest facility currently planned for California – within San Diego County in Carlsbad – which has been delayed by lawsuits and permitting for more than a decade.
–Natural Resources News Service

 China plans $612 billion in water spending
Climate change is threatening China’s water supply, a government official said.

 “China faces an imbalance between the supply and demand of water to support its rapid social and economic development, while protecting the natural environment and ecosystems,” Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei told a roundtable meeting on climate change in China, the country’s English newspaper, China Daily, reports.

 Global climate change could further exacerbate existing problems over water security, water supply and farming irrigation, Chen said. 

While China has the world’s largest population, figures from China’s Ministry of Water Resources indicate the country’s per capita water resources are only 28 percent of the global average. 

Chen said China has a water shortage of 40 billion cubic meters a year, with two-thirds of cities experiencing increased scarcity of water. 

The Chinese government is expected to invest $612 billion in water conservancy projects over the next 10 years.
–UPI.com 

Forest Service plots fight against invasive plants in BWCA
Superior National Forest officials asked for public comments on a new plan to battle invasive species on land in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

 The plan is to attack the invading plants at critical spots using herbicides, people power and education.

 While its remote location has helped keep the relative abundance of invasive plant species down in the BWCAW, the Forest Service has identified about 1,000 known sites totaling 13 acres for treatment in St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties within the 1.1 million-acre wilderness.

 Most of the problem spots are near campsites and portages, indicating the plants probably moved in as seeds by hitchhiking with unsuspecting campers. 

Invading species can choke out native plants and can affect entire ecosystems, including wildlife that is dependent on native species. 

For more information on the plan, or to comment, go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/superior, and select Land and Resource Management” then “Projects.” Look for “BWCAW Non-native Invasive Plant Management Project.”
–The Duluth News-Tribune

 Judge OKs EPA regulation of Florida pollution
Aiming a legal shot directly across the bow of Gov. Rick Scott’s anti-regulation agenda, a Miami federal judge cleared the way for the federal government to do something he contends the state has failed to do for decades: Enforce water pollution standards tough enough to protect the Everglades.

In the latest in a string of blistering rulings, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold reiterated frustration at repeated delays and “disingenuous” legal maneuvers by state lawmakers and agencies he charged have weakened rules intended to reduce the flow of phosphorus into the River of Grass.

“Protection of the Everglades requires a major commitment which cannot be simply pushed aside in the face of financial hardships, political opposition, or other excuses,’’ Gold wrote. “These obstacles will always exist, but the Everglades will not — especially if the protracted pace of preservation efforts continues at the current pace.”

Specifically, Gold’s order would strip authority from the state to issue critical pollution discharge permits for the state’s $1.2 billion network of nutrient-scrubbing marshes and give it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That may sound minor but it potentially has major implication in ongoing, high-stakes legal battles between the state and the federal government over setting the bar for what level of damaging nutrients can be released , not only in the Everglades but in lakes, streams and coastal waters statewide — at least if his ruling stands up on appeal.
–The Miami Herald

Dubuque settles sewer suit
The city of Dubuque agreed to pay $205,000 in fines and to install $3 million in sewer system improvements over the next three years to settle a federal water pollution lawsuit.

A court agreement settled the lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The state of Iowa will get half the fine money. Dubuque has also agreed to spend about $260,000 to install pavement designed to reduce runoff.

Dubuque’s violations of pollution limits date to the 1970s, the EPA reported.
–The Des Moines Register