The Freshwater Society and several partners are organizing a community-based farmer-to-farmer initiative designed to protect streams by supporting the voluntary adoption of conservation measures on agricultural lands. The project, MN FarmWise, has been planned over the last year by an advisory group that includes farmers and other agricultural professionals. It is a partnership between Freshwater, the National Park Service and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership. It is sponsored by The Mosaic Company Foundation. Read the Aug. 6 news release announcing the program’s launch.
Posts Tagged ‘freshwater society’
The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.
House Farm Bill lacks conservation teeth
The U.S. House Agriculture Committee passed a new 10-year, $969 billion federal Farm Bill that makes deeper overall spending cuts and does less to encourage soil and water conservation than the Senate version of the legislation.
(An earlier version of this blog posting had two incorrect headlines. It is the House bill, not the Senate legislation, that is the weaker of the two versions on conservation.)
It now appears very likely the Senate and House will not agree on a compromise bill before the November election. Scores of farm programs currently are scheduled to expire after Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. But the Senate and House almost certainly will approve a stopgap extension of those programs.
Unlike the Senate bill passed last month, the House version would not require farmers to protect wetlands and maintain soil erosion plans on marginal land as a condition of qualifying for crop insurance. The House bill also cuts $3 billion – $1 billion more than the Senate legislation — in federal payments to farmers and ranchers through the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Read a National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition analysis focusing on conservation provisions in the bill. Read New York Times and Politico articles on the House committee action. Read a 2011 column by Freshwater President Gene Merriam advocating for the conservation compliance requirement for crop insurance.
Play a game, stretch your mind
If you haven’t already looked at it, check out the expanded Freshwater web page for kids. It’s got games for kids and basic information about water that most adults can learn from, as well. Sources include the U.S. Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Parents, teachers, home-schoolers will find the page useful.
Pelican Lake zebra mussel infestation confirmed
Scuba divers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have found zebra mussels in Pelican Lake in Crow Wing County near Brainerd. They were found in two separate locations during a search of the lake on July 9.
The search was a follow-up to an intensive search last November after a single juvenile zebra mussel was found on a dock. The November search of the lake failed to turn up any additional mussels. DNR staff also asked the Pelican Lake Association to notify its members to report any suspect mussels, but no other zebra mussels were found in 2011.
–DNR News Release
Wisconsin court rejects local water rules
The Wisconsin Supreme Court dealt a blow to environmentalists concerned about water pollution from huge livestock farms, when it said communities couldn’t set stricter standards than the state.
The ruling was believed to be the first decision by a state Supreme Court in about a half-dozen cases pitting neighbors and small farmers throughout the Midwest against so-called factory farms, which can have hundreds or even thousands of animals. Similar cases have been filed in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma, and the decision was closely watched.
–The Associated Press
Duke research has implications for fracking
A study that found hydraulic fracturing for natural gas puts drinking-water supplies in Pennsylvania at risk of contamination may renew a long-running debate between industry and activists.
The report by researchers at Duke University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said a chemical analysis of 426 shallow groundwater samples found matches with brine found in rock more than one mile (1.2 kilometers) deep, suggesting paths that would let gas or water flow up after drilling.
While the flows weren’t linked to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the study found natural routes for seepage into wells or streams.
“The industry has always claimed that this is a separation zone, and there is no way fluids could flow” from the shale to the aquifers, Avner Vengosh, a professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and one of the study’s eight authors, said in an interview. “We see evidence of hydrologic connectivity.”
Heat causing Minnesota fish kills
Record-setting heat may be contributing to fish kills in lakes across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“Natural summer fish kills are not unusual,” according to Brian Schultz, DNR assistant regional fisheries manager. “In the past several days, however, we’re getting increased reports of dead and dying fish in many lakes from around the state.”
Unusually warm weather has raised water temperatures of many shallow lakes. Schultz has received reports from DNR field staff of surface water temperatures in some lakes reaching 90 degrees, with temps at the bottom only a few degrees cooler where maximum depths are less than 10 feet.
–DNR News Release
DNR completes wolf hunt rules
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource has finalized rules for Minnesota’s first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season this fall and winter.
There are several changes to what the DNR originally proposed in May as a result of input received since the proposal was announced.
“We changed the closing date for the late season from Jan. 6, 2013, to Jan. 31,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager. “We also tightened the wolf harvest registration requirement so we can more quickly close a zone based on harvest results.”
Another notable change is that the wolf range will be divided into three zones for the purposes of harvest targets, registration and season closure. The northeast zone and the east-central zone closely parallel the 1854 and 1837 treaty ceded territory boundaries. These zones will allow the state to allocate and manage wolf harvest in consultation with Indian bands that have court-affirmed off-reservation hunting rights. The northwest zone will be the other area open to wolf hunting. Only that portion of Minnesota where rifles are legal for deer hunting will be open for taking wolves.
–DNR News Release
Nitrate tests at Benton County Fair
Area residents who rely on their own wells for drinking water can have their water tested for nitrate contamination for free during two days of the Benton County Fair in Sauk Rapids.
The Benton Soil & Water Conservation District and Minnesota Department of Agriculture are conducting the nitrate clinic from 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 1 and 2.
The clinic will be at the SWCD’s fair booth in the Education Building. Nitrate is a common contaminant, particularly in shallow wells, dug wells and wells with damaged or leaking casings. Nitrates can come from fertilizers, animal waste and human sewage.
–The St. Cloud Times
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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
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.
Minnesota forum set on U.S. Farm Bill
Every five years, a massive federal Farm Bill allocates tens of billions of dollars to food programs for the poor, subsidies to farmers producing many crops, a fast-growing crop insurance program and incentives for farmers to practice conservation.
Learn about the Farm Bill, scheduled to be re-authorized by Congress next year or perhaps in 2013, and prospects for changes in it in an era of high commodity prices and demands for reduced federal spending. Offer your input for how the bill should be changed.
The Freshwater Society is joining the Izaak Walton League of America in planning and organizing a Monday, Aug. 22, forum in West St. Paul that will focus on the next Farm Bill to be considered by Congress. The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.
The Freshwater Society is one of several conservation groups, farm organizations and state agencies helping the Izaak Walton League plan and organize the conference. Learn more about the forum.
Register now: Festival benefits Freshwater
The Freshwater Society will receive the proceeds from a Wednesday, Sept. 7, festival and fund-raiser at Otten Bros. Garden Center and Landscaping in Long Lake.
The “Fresh for All” festival kicks off a four-day sale of recycled and re-imagined arts and crafts.
The JUNKMARKET Under Glass sale is sponsored by Otten Bros. and author and entrepreneur Sue Whitney. The Sept. 7 opening night event features food, drink, music, a silent auction of crafts and works of art, and admission to the sale.
EPA declines to set ‘dead zone’ rules
Environmentalists say the Environmental Protection Agency has shot down a request for new regulations to deal with the massive area of low oxygen that crops up every summer in the Gulf of Mexico due to the huge amount of nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer, urban runoff and sewage systems that winds up in the Gulf.
Environmental groups in Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Tennessee and Kentucky asked EPA to draw up nationwide standards for nutrient pollution.
In a recent letter, EPA said it favored keeping the current system because it would be too time consuming and costly to undertake “an unprecedented and complex set of rulemakings.”
Environmentalists, who’ve formed the Mississippi River Collaborative, said that leaving individual states to regulate nutrients would do little to solve the dead zone.
–The Associated Press
Record ‘dead zone’ so far fails to materialize
As the Midwest reeled from catastrophic flooding this spring, scientists warned of devastating consequences for the Gulf of Mexico this summer.
They feared that chemicals and waste rushing down the Mississippi would result in the largest-ever oxygen-depleted “dead zone” measured in the gulf since monitoring began in 1985.
New results are in: the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration announced that a team of scientists mapping the dead zone had just returned from a midsummer research cruise. The zone was mapped at 6,765 square miles — above average, but not as large as the 8,500 to 9,400 square miles predicted earlier. In fact, this year’s dead zone is only the 11th-largest of those recorded in the last 20 years.
But it is hardly time for a collective sigh of relief, according to Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist of the Louisiana Marine Consortium, who led the research effort. She emphasized that Tropical Storm Don had swept through the gulf as the research team was collecting data last week, stirring up the otherwise stratified waters and at least temporarily supplying oxygen to formerly depleted areas.
–The New York Times
Pawlenty: Global warming natural
Tim Pawlenty is chalking up global warming almost entirely to natural causes.
The Republican presidential candidate who once cut commercials advocating for cap-and-trade legislation while serving as Minnesota governor told The Miami Herald that he doesn’t believe in the science attributing climate change to humans.
“The weight of the evidence is that most of it, maybe all of it, is because of natural causes,” Pawlenty said in an interview. “But to the extent there is some element of human behavior causing some of it — that’s what the scientific debate is about. That’s why we’ve seen all this back and forth between some of those prominent scientists in the world arguing about that very point.”
Pressed to explain how his view squares with scientific research concluding human activities are very likely to blame for the warming planet, Pawlenty replied, “There’s lots of layers to it. But at least as to any potential man-made contribution to it, it’s fair to say the science is in dispute.
’87 EPA report documented ‘fracking’ contamination
For decades, oil and gas industry executives as well as regulators have maintained that a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is used for most natural gas wells has never contaminated underground drinking water.
The claim is based in part on a simple fact: fracking, in which water and toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure into the ground to break up rocks and release the gas trapped there, occurs thousands of feet below drinking-water aquifers. Because of that distance, the drilling chemicals pose no risk, industry officials have argued.
“There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one, not one, reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing. Not one,” Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, said last year at a Congressional hearing on drilling.
t is a refrain that not only drilling proponents, but also state and federal lawmakers, even past and present Environmental Protection Agency directors, have repeated often.
But there is in fact a documented case, and the E.P.A. report that discussed it suggests there may be more. Researchers, however, were unable to investigate many suspected cases because their details were sealed from the public when energy companies settled lawsuits with landowners.
–The New York Times (Part of the Times’ Drilling Down series on the risks of natural gas drilling)
Chicago hunt finds no Asian carp
Authorities hunting for Asian carp in waterways near Chicago say they didn’t find any during four days of intensive monitoring.
Crews used electric jolts to stun fish and set huge nets during stepped-up surveillance of Lake Calumet and the Calumet River this week. The efforts came after tests found DNA from the carp in the waterways beyond electric barriers meant to keep them out of the Great Lakes.
The barriers repel the fish by giving them a jolt, and are in canals connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River watershed.
Scientists fear the voracious carp could starve out prized Great Lakes sport fish if they get into the lakes.
–The Associated Press
Opinion: EPA sends ‘wake up’ to Wisconsin
In a letter to state officials, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently noted numerous deficiencies in the way Wisconsin manages water pollution. The letter is part of a review process, and state officials say some deficiencies were bound to come up. They also say that they will work to address the concerns.
But finding 75 deficiencies in the state’s management of the Clean Water Act, something the state took over in 1974, is indeed
troubling, as an attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates argued. “This is certainly one of the most dramatic statements I have seen from the EPA,” said that attorney, Dennis M. Grzezinski.
The EPA’s list of deficiencies ranged from long-standing state practices to measures advanced this year by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The letter should serve as a wake-up call to the Department of Natural Resources and to state legislators to tighten up the state water permitting process to make sure it’s in accord with the federal Clean Water Act. Legislators also should be careful that they don’t further loosen the rules as they consider Walker’s measures.
–The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Judge rejects tall tower near BWCA
AT&T Mobility cannot build a 450-foot lighted cellphone tower that would be visible from portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a Hennepin County judge ruled.
But Judge Philip Bush said the telecommunications company can build a 199-foot unlit tower on the same site that would not be visible from inside the federal wilderness.
“It would provide very similar coverage to area residents,” said Paul Danicic, executive director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, the Minneapolis-based wilderness advocacy group that fought the company’s proposal. “So we’re glad they can go ahead and do it. It’s a win-win.”
In his decision, Bush wrote that the proposed 450-foot tower and its flashing lights would materially impair the scenic and other natural resources of the wilderness and would violate the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.
bush found the tower would “have a significant, persistent and long-term negative effect on the scenic views from numerous locations within the BWCAW.”
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Pipestone manufacturer penalized for pollution
In a court settlement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Suzlon Rotor Corp. has agreed to resolve air quality, hazardous waste, solid waste, and stormwater violations at its wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Pipestone.
Under the terms of the consent decree, entered July 7 in Pipestone County District Court, Suzlon has completed corrective actions, and will pay a civil penalty of $490,000.
A 2009 MPCA inspection revealed sandblasting operations far exceeded emissions standards for airborne particles. In addition, the company failed to evaluate waste for hazardous substances, or properly manage its hazardous waste. Other hazardous waste violations included improper disposal of lead-containing damaged turbine blades in a landfill. The lead has been recovered from the landfill.
–MPCA News Release
July was 4th-hottest on record
Persistent, scorching heat in the central and eastern regions of the United States shattered long-standing daily and monthly temperature records last month, making it the fourth warmest July on record nationally, according to scientists at NOAA’s
National Climatic Data Center. The heat exacerbated drought conditions, resulting in the largest “exceptional” drought footprint in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Exceptional” is the most severe category of drought on the drought monitor scale. Drought conditions at several locations in the South region are not as long lived, but are as dry, or drier, than the historic droughts of the 1930s and 1950s.
The average U.S. temperature in July was 77.0 degrees F, which is 2.7 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average. Precipitation, averaged across the nation, was 2.46 inches. This was 0.32 inch below the long-term average, with large variability between regions. This monthly analysis, based on records dating back to 1895, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA
–NOAA News Release
BWSR announces grant availability
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources) announced that $16.6 million in competitive grants is available for projects that will protect and restore Minnesota’s streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. Funding for the competitive grants is provided by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
BWSR Executive Director John Jaschke said interested citizens should contact an eligible local government unit to find out how they can support the grant application process and participate in local efforts to protect and restore water quality.
Eligible projects include those that control stormwater runoff in urban and agricultural areas, or that will improve water quality by replacing problem septic systems, upgrading feedlots, or establishing native vegetation along shorelines in environmentally sensitive areas. Summaries of previously funded projects and more information about BWSR’s role in the Legacy Amendment is available on the BWSR website: www.bwsr.state.mn.us/citizens.html
The application period will began Aug. 8; the deadline to apply is Sept. 20.
–Board of Water and Soil Resources News Release
Ben Franklin beats invasive species rap
American founding father Benjamin Franklin was – among many things – a highly regarded scientist.
So it seems appropriate that it was science which proved him blameless in importing an invasive species of tree which has overrun thousands of acres of U.S. coastal prairie from Florida to East Texas.
While in London in the late 1700’s, it seems Ben was taken with the potential offered by the Chinese tallow tree.
Each of the tallow tree’s seeds is covered by a waxy, white tallow which can be processed to make much-needed items such as soap, candles and edible oil.
The fact that these trees tend to be quite bountiful, with each producing up to a half million seeds per year, added to its appeal.
So, Mr. Franklin packed up a batch of tree seeds and sent it back to his friends in the States for them to plant, harvest and process.–Voice of America
USGS research: Falling leaves contain mercury
Fallen autumn leaves transfer as much, if not more, hazardous mercury from the atmosphere to the environment as does precipitation each year, according to recent U.S. Geological Survey research.
Mercury is an environmental contaminant that accumulates in fish and food webs and poses a health risk to humans and wildlife. Precipitation is a major avenue by which mercury is transferred from the atmosphere into the environment, but new studies by the USGS and partners show that litterfall—the leaves and needles that drop to the forest floor each year—delivers at least as much mercury to eastern U.S. ecosystems as precipitation, and precipitation has been increasing in the Great Lakes region.
“Before these studies, we didn’t know the extent of litterfall as a mercury pathway in different types of forests across the eastern U.S.,” said USGS research hydrologist Martin Risch. “Our research found that annual amounts of mercury deposited in autumn litterfall from deciduous forests were equal to or exceeded the annual amounts deposited in precipitation.”
Most of the mercury that eventually ends up in fish and food webs comes from the air, and much of the mercury in the air comes from human sources such as coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, cement manufacturing, and incinerators. Forest canopies
naturally remove mercury from the air and incorporate the mercury into and onto the leaves and needles of trees.
–USGS News Release
Wisconsin ground water initiative debuts
The groundwater of Wisconsin’s central sands region is a vital resource that sustains a diverse regional economy comprised of rural communities, businesses, agricultural industries and fishing and recreational interests.
The region is home to businesses such as Del Monte Corp., one of the nation’s premier vegetable product centers, Lands’ End, Kimberly-Clark, Foremost Farms USA, Sentry Insurance, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Travel Guard, McCain Foods
and Golden County Foods. Farms and agri-businesses are key employers having a tremendous economic impact on the region.
During the past two decades, increasing business development, population growth and an expanding recreational market have led to concerns regarding the long-term quality and availability of groundwater in the central sands region. In particular, concerns have been raised regarding how the agricultural industry affects the region’s groundwater.
In response to these concerns, the University of Wisconsin — through the Wisconsin Institute of Sustainable Agriculture — is launching the Central Wisconsin Water Initiative. The initiative will be led by Dr. Sam Kung, professor of soil science at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will feature a team of scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplines.
–The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune
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 them in their entirety where they originally were published.
Will Steger helps open 2010 – The Year of Water
To educate and inspire people to value, conserve and protect Minnesota’s water resources, the Freshwater Society is launching a yearlong initiative, 2010: The Year of Water, with a free public lecture by Will Steger, noted polar explorer.
Steger will speak on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at a 2010: The Year of Water kickoff event at the Gray Freshwater Center in Excelsior.
A Minnesota native who has led multiple dogsled expeditions to the North Pole, Greenland and Antarctica over the last 20 years, Steger now spends most of his time working to educate people, especially young adults, about the threat of global warming.
Steger will speak about his first-hand observations of global warming in polar regions, the impact of climate change on water resources, the recent Copenhagen conference on climate change and the opportunities he sees for Americans to fight global warming and revitalize their economy by dramatically reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.
Steger’s talk is the first of several initiatives planned by Freshwater Society as part of 2010: The Year of Water. Other activities include:
A four-part lecture series, co-sponsored by Freshwater and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, in which national and local experts will discuss major water issues.
- A water conservation curriculum that will encourage many fourth- and fifth-grade students across Minnesota to measure the water they and their families use and consider ways to use less.
- Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality in which clubs, organizations and youth groups throughout Minnesota will be encouraged to combat phosphorus pollution of lakes and rivers by recycling leaves that, otherwise, would wash into storm sewers in the spring and fall.
The Jan. 26 opening event that features Steger’s talk on global warming begins at 7 p.m. at the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Road, Excelsior. Minn.
The event is open to the public, but seating is limited and pre-registration is required. To register, go to the Freshwater Society Web site: http://www.freshwater.org .
Minnesota atrazine rules are adequate, ag department says
The Minnesota Agriculture Department says state regulations controlling the use of a popular agricultural weedkiller are doing their job.
The department is reviewing the use of atrazine, which is commonly sprayed on cornfields. Nila Hines with the Agriculture Department says monitoring wells near farmland show that the amount of atrazine turning up in groundwater is declining.
“Our environmental and human health regulations are adequate,” Hines said. “So there’s no need to change a specific label or change the registration of atrazine in Minnesota at this time.”
Environmental groups have said atrazine levels in ground water are often too high, and that they pose a health risk.
Samuel Yamin with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy says health studies convince him the limit should be stricter.
–Minnesota Public Radio
To read the report on atrazine rules prepared by the Agriculture Department, the state Health Department and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and to learn how you can comment on it, click here.
In a first, EPA sets tough nutrient limits for Florida
In a move cheered by environmental groups, the federal government proposed stringent limits on nutrient pollution allowed to foul Florida’s waterways.
The ruling — which will cost industries and governments more than a billion dollars to comply — marks the first time the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has intervened to set a state’s water-quality standards.
The agency issued the proposed regulations after reaching a settlement in August with five environmental groups that sued the federal government in 2008 for not enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida.
The caps on phosphorus and nitrogen levels in Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams, springs and canals would replace the state’s vague “narrative” approach to monitoring the effects of waste and fertilizer runoff, which the EPA deemed insufficient. The proposed rule includes provisions giving the EPA oversight authority to enforce the standards.
–The Miami Herald
Evelyn Moyle, nature author and Freshwater board member, dies
Evelyn Wood Moyle, an original board member of the Freshwater Society and the co-author of a premiere guide to Minnesota wildflowers, died recently at age 95. The Star Tribune published a complete obituary describing her longtime devotion to nature.
With her husband, John, she created Northland Wildflowers: The Comprehensive Guide to the Minnesota Region in 1977. Tom Orjala, senior editor for regional studies and contemporary affairs for the University of Minnesota, told the Star Tribune that the guide became a bible for nature lovers in this region. “It was the book that any enthusiast had in their backpack, on the kitchen table,” Orjala said.
In 2001, she and photographer John Gregor published a revised edition.
Legislators to decide $18 million deal for Lake Vermilion park
The state of Minnesota has reached a deal to buy property on the east edge of Lake Vermilion for a vaunted new state park. But the price is higher than legislators have allowed, and they may not give it their blessing.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that after more than two years of negotiations, U.S. Steel Corp. has agreed to sell the 3,000 undeveloped acres to the state for $18 million in cash. The company values the land at $2.3 million more and would treat that amount as a donation to the state.
But the cash price, while lower than the $20 million in bonding the Legislature set aside for the project two years ago, is still higher than the state’s property appraisal. As a result, the Legislature must agree to lift a price cap that limits the state’s offer to 12 percent above the appraisal.
With the state facing a huge budget deficit, key legislators indicated they may resist lifting the price cap.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Mississippi Makeover open house set
Citizens can learn about the Mississippi Makeover project, the first locally led comprehensive plan for restoring the river south of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, at an open house Thursday, Jan. 28.
The open house will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Hastings High School, 200 General Sieben Drive.
The river suffers from poor water clarity caused by sediment, algae and other suspended materials. The cloudy water is aesthetically unpleasing to people and harmful to fish, wildlife and aquatic plants. The sediment is also harming Lake Pepin by settling to the lake bottom and making the lake shallower.
The Mississippi Makeover plan focuses on managing the river in the Hastings area and downstream, including building islands, removing rough fish and perhaps temporarily lowering water levels to stimulate plant growth and improve water clarity and river habitats. With funding from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Dakota County is coordinating this project with assistance from partners including MN Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District, and others.
For more information about the Mississippi Makeover project, contact the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District at 651-480-7784 or www.dakotaswcd.org.
Investment could aid copper mine near Ely
Duluth Metals has announced a partnership with one of the world’s leading copper mining companies, a deal that’s expected to provide money to start an underground mining project south of Ely.
The new deal catapults the low-profile Duluth Metals into prominence after existing in the shadows of Polymet’s better known and more developed copper-nickel mining project.
The new partnership is with Antofagasta PLC, a British company considered one of the world’s leading copper miners. Duluth Metals Chairman Christopher Dundas explained in a conference call that Antofagasta would provide up to $227 million for a 40 percent share of what they call the Nokomis project.
Antofagasta has sales of more than $3 billion and operates large copper mines in Chile as well as rail transportation and water projects. Dundas said the new joint venture will not only speed up the Minnesota mining project; it may get a lot bigger.
–Minnesota Public Radio
Michigan agency OKs Upper Peninsula mine
Michigan regulators have given final approval for construction and operation of a bitterly contested nickel and copper mine in the Upper Peninsula.
The Department of Environmental Quality said it has determined the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. project meets the requirements of the state’s mining laws.
The mine would be built in a remote section of Marquette County called the Yellow Dog Plains. Opposition groups say it could pollute groundwater and streams, while mine officials say they’ll protect the local environment.
–The Associated Press
Twins stadium conserves runoff
That brand new Colorado-grown turf in Target Field will be watered with good old-fashioned recycled Minnesota rain water, the Minnesota Twins announced.
The Twins and one of their newest sponsors, Minneapolis-based Pentair Inc., said that the team’s new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis will be the first major sports facility anywhere to be irrigated and washed down with recycled rain water.
The recycling system, designed and installed by Pentair, will collect water from Target Field’s seven acres and drain it into a 100,000-gallon cistern buried below the field. There the water will be disinfected and treated.
–The Star Tribune
Ethanol hurting some bird populations
Government incentives for corn-based ethanol have prompted farmers to convert land for corn production, hurting some grassland bird populations in the prairie pothole region of the Upper Midwest, a University of Michigan study says.
The study, conducted for the National Wildlife Federation by a team of graduate students, analyzes current and potential impacts of corn ethanol production on wildlife and habitat in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
It shows grassland being turned into cropland at an alarming rate, according to Greg Fogel, the study’s co-author.
The report said the nation’s ethanol production has tripled since the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which mandated a large increase in domestic ethanol production. In addition, it said federal legislation in 2007 requires corn ethanol production to increase from 10.6 billion gallons last year to 15 billion gallons in 2015. The report found 31 federal incentives and mandates to encourage ethanol production.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Chicago suburbs seek L. Michigan water
In what could be the state’s largest collective gulp of Lake Michigan water in nearly two decades, 10 suburbs are seeking approval to tap the vast but closely guarded natural resource.
With groundwater supplies drying up and vulnerable to contamination, the Lake County communities that now rely on wells are casting envious eyes on that tantalizingly close supply — the sixth-largest freshwater lake in the world. They propose spending $250 million to lay about 57 miles of pipe and take other steps that would bring Lake Michigan water to the western part of Lake County.
It would be the largest diversion since the early 1990s and may spur criticism from other states that adjoin the Great Lakes, which brim with nearly 20 percent of the world’s supply of fresh water. The move comes at the same time that Michigan and other states are battling Illinois in U.S. Supreme Court over whether it’s doing enough to halt the potential invasion of Asian carp into Lake Michigan.
The carp fight has no bearing on Lake County’s request for water, but the application could fuel further animosities — especially because other states face much more stringent barriers to Great Lakes water than Illinois.
–The Chicago Tribune
Illinois officials seek to allay carp fears
On a day when federal officials acknowledged the presence of Asian carp DNA closer to Lake Michigan than previously thought, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and state lawmakers attempted to calm fears and assure political forces around the Great Lakes that the invasive fish problem was under control.
“We are not in denial about the threat of this invasive species,” Durbin said at a packed news briefing at the Shedd Aquarium. “For at least the last 10 years, maybe longer, we’ve been actively dealing with this.”
Michigan’s attorney general sued Illinois in the U.S. Supreme Court last month, seeking the closing of navigational locks and dams in the Chicago region to seal off Lake Michigan from the voracious Asian carp. Environmental DNA sampling had previously indicated that the carp, which have steadily moved up Chicago’s waterways since at least the 1990s, had bypassed an electronic underwater barrier near Lockport and were within about six miles of the lake.
–The Chicago Tribune
Group seeks limits on endocrine disruptors
Citing the decline in frogs and rise of “frankenfish,” a Bay Area environmental group filed a legal petition Monday for tighter federal standards on pollutants that disrupt the hormones of humans and wildlife.
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Environmental Agency to beef up criteria under the Clean Water Act for pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other endocrine disruptors that leak through the water-treatment process and contaminate groundwater and drinking-water supplies.
“We’ve found that a very small concentration of these chemicals can have profound reproductive effects,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco.
–The San Francisco Chronicle
DNR proposes five new muskie waters
In response to growing interest in muskellunge fishing, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is considering the stocking of muskie in five new waters starting in the fall of 2011.
The four lakes and a river are: Roosevelt Lake in Cass and Crow Wing counties; Upper South Long Lake and Lower South Long Lake in Crow Wing County; Tetonka Lake in Le Sueur County; and the Sauk River Chain in Stearns County.
“All of these waters meet or exceed the biological and physical criteria for muskie management,” said Dirk Peterson, DNR acting fisheries chief.
The muskie is one of Minnesota’s largest fish, growing to more than 50 pounds and more than 50 inches in length. Anglers have become increasingly interested in the so-called “fish of 10,000 casts” now that 50-plus inch fish can be caught in Lake Mille Lacs, Lake Vermillion and other waters that have been stocked since the 1980s.
–DNR news release
Narrow Bering Strait has big impact on climate
At 50 miles wide, the Bering Strait, which separates Alaska from Russia, hardly seems like a major player in Earth’s climate.
But a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience concludes that this shallow strait between the North Pacific and the Arctic oceans has played a large role in climate fluctuations during recent ice ages. Depending on whether it’s closed or open, the strait dramatically changes the distribution of heat around the planet.
When sea levels decline enough that water can no longer flow from the Pacific to the Arctic through the strait, the North Atlantic responds by growing warmer. That warmth is strong enough to melt ice sheets and temporarily reverse the glaciation of the Northern Hemisphere.
–The Christian Science Monitor
Obsolete California dam to be razed
In what could be the largest dam removal project ever completed in California, government officials and a Monterey water company agreed to tear down the 106-foot-tall San Clemente Dam. The move is a victory for endangered steelhead trout which for decades have been blocked from their spawning grounds by the obsolete concrete structure on the Carmel River.
The signed agreement ended more than 10 years of study and debate and sets in motion an $84 million project. The dam closure — a formidable engineering and biological enterprise — is expected to be watched by scientists and water managers around the United States.
Built in 1921, San Clemente Dam once stored drinking water for thousands of people around the Monterey Peninsula. It irrigated golf courses and helped run clanking sardine canneries.
But today its reservoir is 90 percent silted up, choked with sand and mud. And the dam doesn’t provide electricity or flood protection.
–San Jose Mercury News
Lake Erie studied for wind energy
The most consistent and unchecked winds in Ohio are found off the state’s northern coast: above Lake Erie.
That’s why Cuyahoga County leaders are pushing a $92 million project to build three to eight turbines three to five miles off Cleveland’s coast.
The pilot project would, depending on the size of the turbines, produce 5 to 20 megawatts, enough electricity to power 9,000 to 12,000 houses.
Supporters would like to see the 260-foot-high turbines operating by 2013 and want the project to be the first offshore wind development in the United States, spokesman A. Steven Dever of the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force said.
–The Akron Beacon Journal
Wisconsin hearings set on ag runoff
Proposals to further reduce Wisconsin’s runoff pollution are the topic of public hearings statewide later this month and February. According to the state Department of Natural Resources, the updates are aimed at reducing toxic blue green algae blooms, fish kills, contaminated wells and other problems fueled by pollutants running off urban areas and farm fields and entering Wisconsin lakes, rivers and groundwater.
Major provisions of the proposed rule changes seek to reduce the potential of croplands, pastures and winter grazing areas that contribute phosphorus to Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and groundwater. Farmers would have to meet a maximum average level of phosphorus allowed to come off their fields, with that average calculated over an eight-year period.
The DNR estimates that 80 percent of farmers will meet the average with little or no change in their practices.
–The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald
MPCA investigating Carver County
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is investigating how Carver County’s environmental staff allowed an illegal septic system to operate at the county-owned Waconia ballroom for 18 months.
The MPCA inquiry, which began recently, is directed at the county’s Office of Environmental Services, which last year told the County Board that the system was legal and had passed inspections.
The office accepted a compliance inspection report in 2008 even though it was prepared by the same man who installed the system about 30 years ago. Questions were raised almost immediately about the accuracy of the report, with critics claiming that the septic system was too close to the area groundwater to be legal.
–The Star Tribune
Michael Osterholm, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota and an international expert on infectious diseases, will speak Oct. 8 in a forum on groundwater quality and sustainability.
The forum, sponsored by three League of Women Voters chapters and the Freshwater Socitey, is free and open to the public. It will be at 7 p.m. in the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Road, Excelsior, Minn.
Osterholm, a passionate advocate for protecting the groundwater most Minnesotans depend on for their drinking
water, will speak on the intimate connection between ground and surface waters and the contamination threats our underground aquifers face from all the drugs and personal care products we put in or on our bodies, and all the chemicals we use in industry and agriculture.
Osterholm is director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and director of the Minnesota Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. If you have followed national reports of the H1N1 flu epidemic, you have seen or heard him quoted.
One of Osterholm’s passions is protecting and restoring the streams and underground water resources in the Karst regions of southeastern Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. He has worked to restore three trout streams that flow through his Prairie Song Farm in Iowa.
He also is a member of the Guardianship Council, a Freshwater Society advisory group that in 2008 produced an extensive report on the quality and sustainability of both ground and surface waters in Minnesota.
His lecture is sponsored by three League of Women Voters chapter – South Tonka, Wayzata-Plymouth and Eastern Carver County — and the Freshwater Society. It is the second lecture in a series. In the first lecture May 21, Freshwater Society President Gene Merriam and Glenn Skuta of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency talked about surface water pollution.
Osterholm will talk about the contamination of drinking water by industrial chemicals and agricultural fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. He will talk about the difference in quality between groundwater that, in some places, is thousands of years old and the water, in other places, that fell as rain or snow in the last decade. And he will talk about a new class of pollutant – endocrine disruptors – that threaten to interfere with the hormonal systems that regulate the lives of fish, animals and humans.