Posts Tagged ‘hypoxia’

Water, science and the environment

September 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farm tiling called major cause of hypoxia

October 12, 2010

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.

Tile drainage main cause of hypoxia, research says
Tile drainage in the Mississippi Basin is one of the great advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, allowing highly productive agriculture in what was once land too wet to farm. In fact, installation of new tile systems continues every year, because it leads to increased crop yields. But a recent study shows that the most heavily tile-drained areas of North America are also the largest contributing source of nitrate to the Gulf of Mexico, leading to seasonal hypoxia. In the summer of 2010 this dead zone in the Gulf spanned over 7,000 square miles. 

Scientists from the University of Illinois and Cornell University compiled information on each county in the Mississippi River basin including crop acreage and yields, fertilizer inputs, atmospheric deposition, number of people, and livestock to calculate all nitrogen inputs and outputs from 1997 to 2006. For 153 watersheds in the basin, they also used measurements of nitrate concentration and flow in streams, which allowed them to develop a statistical model that explained 83 percent of the variation in springtime nitrate flow in the monitored streams. The greatest nitrate loss to streams corresponded to the highly productive, tile-drained cornbelt from southwest Minnesota across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. 

This area of the basin has extensive row cropping of fertilized corn and soybeans, a flat landscape with tile drainage, and channelized ditches and streams to facilitate drainage. 

“Farmers are not to blame,” said University of Illinois researcher Mark David. “They are using the same amount of nitrogen as they were 30 years ago and getting much higher corn yields, but we have created a very leaky agricultural system. This allows nitrate to move quickly from fields into ditches and on to the Gulf of Mexico. We need policies that reward farmers to help correct the problem.” 

The research is published in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality published by the American Society of Agronomists.
–Science Daily

 Ethanol plants violate air, water rules
The rush to produce more ethanol and strengthen Minnesota’s farm economy has come with an environmental price for communities hosting the huge plants.

 Five ethanol facilities have been cited in the past 12 months for widespread air and water quality violations. They have paid more than $2.8 million in penalties and corrective actions. Alarmed state pollution control officials are scrambling to help operators understand and comply with laws.

In the most recent penalty, Buffalo Lake Energy in Fairmont will pay $285,000. It’s a new plant that began production in June 2008 with a wastewater treatment system not permitted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
–The Star Tribune

Asian carp czar talks about battle plan
In an interview with National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel, John Goss, the Obama administration’s “Asian carp czar,” outlined his game plan for keeping the invasive carp out of the Great Lakes. One long-term solution might be a poison that would kill the carp, but not harm humans or other animals.

Scientists may experiment with toxins or genetic engineering, hoping they could alter the carp’s digestive system and/or reproductive system, Goss said.
–National Public Radio

Health Dept. warns consumers on water treatment sales
The Minnesota Department of Health is reminding Minnesota residents to beware of false claims, deceptive sales pitches, and scare tactics being used by some water treatment companies to sell expensive and unnecessary water treatment systems. High profile investigations of groundwater contamination in Washington County and elsewhere in the state have resulted in a noticeable increase in the number of complaints regarding such deceptive sales activities.

In some of the worst instances, the salesperson has implied or said that he is working with the city’s water utility or the state health department. In most cases, the systems are being sold for thousands of dollars more than they would cost if bought through a reputable water treatment company.

Even legitimate water treatment systems can be very expensive and if poorly operated or maintained may have limited effectiveness and, in some cases, make the water quality worse.

If you use city water, it should be safe to drink.
–Minnesota Health Department News Release

 Legislators eye lake development rules
Confusion over regulations critical to lakefront development has led two state senators to consider legislative changes to how Minnesota manages one of its most precious natural resources. 

Court decisions have become so convoluted that laws may need to be fixed, said state Sens. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, and Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji. “I have to ask if we’re being fair to Minnesotans,” Olson said. “The court decisions are very lacking in uniformity.”

 As a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling, city residents are now forbidden from getting a zoning variance if they still have any “reasonable” existing use for their land. But for those living in unincorporated areas, the same Supreme Court all but guarantees the ability to win a variance. Mix in spotty enforcement with local politics and the result, elected officials, civil servants, landholders and advocates agree, is a morass.
–The Star Tribune 

Zebra  mussels found in Gull Lake
Zebra mussels have invaded Gull Lake, one of the Brainerd area’s more popular lakes.

“It’s really unfortunate,” said Dan Swanson, Department of Natural Resources invasive species specialist. “It’s a premier lake, used by a lot of people for fishing, boating, swimming and other recreation.”

The infestation is a blow to the Brainerd Lakes area and Gull Lake residents, who have tried to prevent the spread of zebra mussels. The impact to infested lakes varies, but the mussels filter vast amounts of water, which can affect water clarity, vegetation growth and thus possibly fisheries. 

“What will happen is unpredictable,” Swanson said.

 The discovery underscores the likelihood that zebra mussels will continue to spread throughout Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, despite efforts to educate boaters to drain their bilges and livewells when leaving lakes. In the past two years, the tiny mussels have been found in some of the state’s bigger and more heavily used lakes, including Mille Lacs, Minnetonka, Prior and Le Homme Dieu, and in parts of the Mississippi, St. Croix and Zumbro rivers.
–The Star Tribune

 State land purchases are controversial
Some northern Minnesota counties worry they’re losing their taxable lands. The state already owns millions of acres that counties can’t tax.

 Now, flush with cash from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, the state is buying up even more land.

 County leaders say it could squeeze their ability to provide services to residents.

 About 30 miles northwest of Bemidji, there’s a small, shallow lake that’s home to loons, eagles and a handful of cabin-dwellers. 

Balm Lake also has a mile-long stretch of undeveloped shoreline, and the DNR wants to buy it. The agency wants to purchase more than 150 acres to protect the sensitive lake from further development.

The DNR would use money from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was established after Minnesota voters approved the Legacy Amendment in 2008. 

Last month, Beltrami County leaders objected to the purchase because it removes land from their tax base.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Water Resources Conference set Oct. 19-20
Civil and environmental engineering solutions to wastewater issues, surface water contaminants and aquatic management will be among the topics of the Oct. 19-20 Minnesota Water Resources Conference.

 The conference is sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center and College of Continuing Education at the Saint Paul RiverCentre, 175 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul.

 Larry B. Barber, a chief geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Central Region Office in Boulder, Colo., will kick off the conference with a talk on the “Effect of Biologically Active Consumer Product Chemicals on Aquatic Ecosystems” at 8:20 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19.

 Conference topics include emerging contaminants in lakes, rivers and groundwater; technologies such as Minnesota’s Light Detection and Ranging high-resolution mapping project; and best practices in the design and application of filtration, drainage and wastewater systems. 

For registration details, visit wrc.umn.edu or call (612) 625-2900.
–University of Minnesota News Release

 Pollution leaching from old Hubbard County landfill
Under a benign-looking lush green hill in Hubbard County lurks a growing toxic concern.

The 9-acre former Pickett Landfill, which borders the Heartland Trail and is west of County Road 4, is about to become a household word once again. It now is a massive area of groundwater contamination that stretches from 204th Street on the north, then south and east of Ferndale Loop. It once held 93,269 cubic yards of municipal solid waste.

 It opened in 1973 and closed in 1987. Since then state pollution control officials have been monitoring the site for methane gas migration and ground water quality.

 Now, leaching chemicals have reached the point of concentration where public notification is necessary and mandated by law.

Those notices will go out to affected property owners soon.
–The Park Rapids Enterprise

 Climate:  No progress since Copenhagen
With wounds still raw from the chaotic United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen last December, negotiators are making final preparations for next month’s meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in a surly mood and with little hope for progress.

 There is no chance of completing a binding global treaty to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases, few if any heads of state are planning to attend, and there are no major new initiatives on the agenda.

 Copenhagen was crippled by an excess of expectation. Cancún is suffering from the opposite.

 Delegates in Tianjin, China, at the last formal meeting before the Cancún conference opens Nov. 29, are hung up over the same issues that caused the collapse of the Copenhagen meeting. Even some of the baby steps in the weak agreement that emerged from last year’s meeting, a slender document known as the Copenhagen Accord, have been reopened, to the dismay of officials who thought they had been settled.
–The New York Times

 Swackhamer to lecture on water
Nationally recognized freshwater expert and environmental chemist Deborah Swackhamer will deliver the University of Minnesota’s annual Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Lecture at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4. The lecture will be at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Cowles Auditorium, 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

 Swackhamer’s lecture, “Drop by Drop: Everyday Solutions to Toxic Water,” will address the threats facing our freshwater resources and the achievements we’ve made in turning the tide toward sustainability.

From the loss of natural buffers and filters such as wetlands, to the introduction of endocrines and industry and consumer-induced toxins, the planet’s rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater reserves are under increasing stress. The good news is that concern for our finite water supply is beginning to take center stage in town halls and legislative chambers. Swackhamer will also offer an update on Minnesota’s 25-year plan for a sustainable water future.
–University of Minnesota News Release

Higher rivers suggest global warming
Rainfall is intensifying, rivers are rising and water flow into the ocean is increasing rapidly, a new UC Irvine study shows — a possible “warning sign” of higher sea levels and global warming.

 Satellite and surface measurements over 13 years revealed an 18 percent increase in the flow of water from rivers and melting polar ice sheets into the world’s oceans, according to the study, likely one of the first of its kind, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 “Those are all key indications of what we call water-cycle acceleration,” said Jay Famiglietti, a UC Irvine Earth System Science professor and lead investigator on the study. “That is a very important and anticipated outcome of climate change.”

 Planetary warming includes higher ocean temperatures, which increase evaporation; higher air temperatures drive more evaporation as well, Famiglietti said.

 That means more fuel for monsoons, hurricanes and storms over land.
–The Orange County Register

 White House to get solar panels
Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced plans to install solar panels on the White House roof, kicking off a three-day federal symposium focused on targeting sustainability efforts throughout the federal government.

 “Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy,” Chu told an audience of federal employees. “It should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future.” 

The Department of Energy aims to install solar panels and a solar hot water heater by the end of next spring as part of a demonstration project showcasing the availability and reliability of the country’s solar technologies. In a press release, DOE officials emphasized the growing industry and the availability of tax credits for those who install panels.

The news comes less than a month after environmentalist Bill McKibben led a rally demanding that President Obama install solar panels and presenting White House officials with a solar panel from former President Carter’s White House.
–The New York Times

 Research: Genetically modified corn benefits non-GMO crop
Transgenic corn’s resistance to pests has benefitted even non-transgenic corn, a new study led by scientists from the University of Minnesota shows.

The study, published in the Oct. 8 edition of the journal Science, found that widespread planting of genetically modified Bt corn throughout the Upper Midwest has suppressed populations of the European corn borer, historically one of corn’s primary pests. This areawide suppression has dramatically reduced the estimated $1 billion in annual losses caused by the European corn borer, even on non-genetically modified corn. Bt corn, introduced in 1996, is so named because it has been bred to produce a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kills insect pests.

Corn borer moths cannot distinguish between Bt and non-Bt corn, so females lay eggs in both kinds of fields, said the study’s chief author, University of Minnesota entomology professor William Hutchison. Once eggs hatch in Bt corn, young borer larvae feed and die within 24 to 48 hours. Because it is effective at controlling corn borers and other pests, Bt corn has been adopted on about 63 percent of all U.S. corn acres.
-University of Minnesota News Release

L.A. archdiocese pursues sustainability
God created earth and said, “Let there be light.”

 The Archdiocese of Los Angeles created an enviro-friendly committee that says, let’s make sure that light comes from energy-efficient bulbs.

 Hoping to lead its 5 million parishioners toward conservation, the archdiocese this week announced it wants all of its 288 churches to go as green as, well St. Jude’s robe.

“The foundation of our approach to the environment is Gospel-based,” said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese. “The question for us is, `How do the commandments to love God and neighbor find expression in our relationship to the environment?”‘

The newly formed Creation Sustainability Ministry, a committee of community members and environmentalists, has been charged with guiding parishes into sustainability.
–The Los Angeles Daily News

Tennessee gov. opposes mountain-top mining
For the first time a state government has submitted a petition to the federal government to set aside state-owned mountain ridgelines as unsuitable for coal surface mining.

 Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and the state of Tennessee filed a petition with the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, asking that the agency initiate a study and public dialogue on the suitability of state-owned lands in the Northern Cumberland Plateau for surface mining, also called mountaintop removal mining.

 Much of the 500 miles of ridgeline covered by the petition is part of Tennessee’s 2007 Connecting the Cumberlands conservation initiative and is located in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties.

 “These lands are managed by the state of Tennessee for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing and other outdoor recreational activities,” said Governor Bredesen. “This petition asks the federal government to help us prevent mining on these ridgelines to protect their important cultural, recreational and scientific resources.”
–Environmental News Service

 EPA issues drinking water sustainability plan
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy as part of its efforts to promote sustainable infrastructure within the water sector.

 The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy emphasizes the need to build on existing efforts to promote sustainable water infrastructure, working with states and water systems to employ robust, comprehensive planning processes to deliver projects that are cost effective over their life cycle, resource efficient, and consistent with community sustainability goals. The policy encourages communities to develop sustainable systems that employ effective utility management practices to build and maintain the level of technical, financial, and managerial capacity necessary to ensure long-term sustainability. 

 Download the Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy (PDF).
–EPA News Release 

 Red River flood-relief levee welcomes ducks
The fields of soybeans, corn and sugar beets in the Red River valley are crisscrossed by a network of ditches built and rebuilt by farmers and the government to speed spring runoff and plant crops early. 

Early planting makes for a better harvest, but rapid spring runoff increases flooding for cities downstream.

“The trick is to strike that balance,” said Jon Roeschlien, administrator for Bois de Sioux watershed district. “How do we balance [agricultural] drainage and flood protection?”

Roeschlien, who oversaw construction of what’s called the North Ottawa project, thinks he has the answer. 

The permanent levee completed last year surrounds three square miles of farmland about 20 miles south of Breckenridge. Essentially, it’s a shallow man-made lake holds all of the spring runoff from 75 square miles upstream. Gates can release the water slowly after the spring flood passes. 

Roeschlin said the $19 million project in the southern Red River valley is a bargain, given the flood damage it eliminates downstream. It also will create much needed wildlife habitat.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Dubuque launches water sustainability pilot
IBM and the City of Dubuque, Iowa, announced the launch of the Smarter Sustainable Dubuque Water Pilot Study.

  Dubuque is in the process of installing smart water meters throughout the city.  Initially 300 volunteer citizens in Dubuque have joined the program to understand water consumption and conservation.  Over the next several months, data will be collected and analyzed, providing information and insight on consumption trends and patterns that will enable both the volunteers and city management to conserve water and lower costs.

The study’s goal is to demonstrate how informed and engaged citizens can help make their city sustainable. By providing citizens and city officials with an integrated view of water consumption, the project will encourage behavior changes resulting in conservation, cost reduction and leak repair. 

Dubuque has implemented a city-wide water meter upgrade project and has worked with local manufacturer A.Y. McDonald to integrate a device called an Unmeasured Flow Reducer. This locally manufactured device is designed to augment the water meter in providing the most accurate measurement possible during low-flow use. The new system will allow consumers to identify waste and consider corrective measures which will translate into better water utilization and energy savings.
–IBM and City of Dubuque News Release

 

Climate, nitrogen flow and ‘sneaker males’

June 22, 2009

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of regional, national and international articles and research about water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to the original sources.

Climate change research regionalizes U.S. impact

Man-made climate change could bring parching droughts to the Southwest and pounding rainstorms to Washington, put Vermont maple sugar farms out of business and Key West underwater over the next century, according to a federal report released. 

The report, a compilation of work by government scientific agencies, provided the most detailed picture yet of the United States in 2100 — if nothing is done to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

It found that a warmer world, with average U.S. temperatures increasing four to 11 degrees, would significantly alter natural ecosystems and urban life. More than before, scientists broke down those effects to the regional level. 

To read the full report, click here. To read the Midwest-specific analysis and predictions, click here.

–The Washington Post 

Farm groups oppose climate change bill

Minnesota farmers thought they’d be wearing the white hats.

When the climate-change debate began, many growers were intrigued. They control millions of green acres, the dawn of carbon credits promised new revenue and biofuels showed green could be profitable.

“We are the ones that are growing the crops, and we are the ones that have control over the carbon capture,” said Doug Albin, a corn and soybean farmer near Clarkfield. “So we were trying to figure out if there’s anything we could do to help.”

 It hasn’t worked out that way. As global-warming legislation is being rushed through Congress, nearly every farm group in America now opposes it. Even the Farmers Union, which remains gung-ho about carbon-credit trading, said it would “very much like to support climate-change legislation.” But it won’t, as written.

 A pair of bruising battles has hardened the lines. First came a fight over measuring the carbon footprint of corn-based ethanol. It’s not part of the cap-and-trade bill, but it was a big part of the climate-change debate. When regulators took a hard line against ethanol, the once-hopeful farm sector soured.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 3M wins groundwater suit

The 3M Co. won a landmark court case when a jury ruled against claims of Washington County residents suing the company over chemicals in their groundwater.

 For 3M, it was a triumphant end to a five-year case that once loomed as one of the largest environmental lawsuits in Minnesota history.

 “Obviously, we are pleased with the verdict. It was supported by the evidence,” 3M spokesman Bill Nelson said.

 The jury delivered the unanimous verdict with surprising speed — deliberating four hours to decide a case that involved five weeks in court, 35 witnesses, eight law firms and more than 300 exhibits.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Nitrogen flow to Gulf reduced from 2008

The amount of nutrients delivered from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in April and May of 2009 to the northern Gulf of Mexico was the tenth- highest measured (about 295,000 metric tons of nitrate-nitrogen) by the U.S. Geological Survey in three decades.

 The amount of nutrients delivered in the spring is a primary factor controlling the size of the hypoxic zone that forms during the early summer in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which is the second largest hypoxic zone in the world. Hypoxic zones are areas where oxygen levels drop too low to support most aquatic life in the bottom and near-bottom waters.

In 2008, the hypoxic zone exceeded 20,000 square kilometers, an area similar in size to the state of New Jersey. This spring’s delivery of nitrogen was about 23 percent lower than what was measured in 2008, but still about 11 percent above the average from 1979 to 2009. The amount of nutrients delivered to the Gulf each spring depends, in large part, on precipitation and the resulting amounts of nutrient runoff and streamflow in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin. Streamflows in spring 2009 were about 17 percent above average over the last 30 years.

In previous years, preliminary nutrient fluxes were estimated through June, and were provided in July. Researchers have reported that the May nutrient fluxes are more critical than June nutrient fluxes in determining the extent of the hypoxic zone for that summer. Thus, the USGS is now releasing preliminary estimates of the nutrient flux in mid-June to better address the needs of researchers predicting the size of the hypoxic zone.

–U.S. Geological Survey

 Ruffed grouse count up significantly

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts are significantly higher than last year across most of their range, according to a report released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

 “Counts have been increasing steadily since 2005 but this is the substantial annual increase we’ve been hoping for,” said Mike Larson, DNR research scientist and grouse biologist. “Drumming counts this year are as high as counts during recent peaks in the population cycle.”

 Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 2.0 drums per stop statewide. Last year’s average was 1.4 drums per stop. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.

–Minnesota DNR 

Beware the round goby ‘sneaker’ males

Scientists have found the existence of two types of males of a fiercely invasive fish spreading through the Great Lakes, which may provide answers as to how they rapidly reproduce.

 The research, published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, looks at the aggressive round goby, a bottom-dwelling fish which infested the Great Lakes watersheds around 1990. Presently, they are working their way inland through rivers and canal systems and can lead to the decline of native species through competition and predation.

Researchers at McMaster University discovered evidence that in addition to round goby males which guard the nest from predators and look after their offspring, there exists what scientists call “sneaker” males – little males that look like females and sneak into the nests of the larger males.

–Science Daily.com

 Good and bad news on fish in upper Mississippi

The current health and status of the Upper Mississippi River and its resources, such as fish species, are profiled  in a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal and state partners.

 Good news — the report indicates that almost all fish species known from the Upper Mississippi River over the past 100 years still presently occur in the river. Bad news — five species of non-native carp make up one half of the weight of all fish, while the other half of the scale is made up of nearly 150 native fish species. These non-native fish harm the ecosystem by destroying habitat and competing for food and space with native species.

–USGS web site

 Wisconsin DNR issues controversial pumping permit

After years of pilot programs and numerous stopgap measures, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued the Crystal, Fish and Mud Lake District a controversial five-year permit that will allow it to continually pump water from its lakes to the Wisconsin River.

 For the residents living in the lake district, the permit represents the culmination of nearly 10 years and about $600,000 spent devising a way to lower the lakes encroaching upon their homes.

 The permit will allow the district to pump 24 hours a day, seven days a week until Fish Lake is lowered about 3 feet to its normal high-water mark.

 However, opponents of the permit view it as eroding environmental standards and potentially damaging the quality of the lower Wisconsin River.

–The Wisconsin State Journal

 Wisconsin crayfish harvested for perch bait

Jim Hansen waded into the chocolate milk-colored Root River, pulled up one of his nine mesh traps and examined the dripping, snapping, writhing contents – crayfish destined to lure Lake Michigan perch to anglers’ fishhooks.

 Some clung valiantly to the sides of the trap, like shipwrecked sailors clutching a life raft. As Hansen tipped the trap toward a white plastic bucket, one critter fell into the water.

 “Oh, we didn’t want him anyway. We’ll get him tomorrow,” Hansen said.

 The 65-year-old Mount Pleasant man, as well as other wild bait harvesters elsewhere in the state, is busy trapping the invasive species that panfish love to eat.

–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Suit challenges de-listing of wolves

Five groups sued the government for removing more than 4,000 gray wolves in the upper Great Lakes region from the endangered list, prolonging a dispute over whether the predator can survive without federal protection.

 Despite the wolf’s comeback from near-extinction in the region over the past two decades, some activists insist it remains vulnerable. The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeks an injunction returning Great Lakes wolves to the endangered list while the case is heard.

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections last month, as the Obama administration upheld a Bush-era finding that the wolf could survive under state management. The animal protection and environmental groups disagreed.

Management plans crafted by Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin presently do not allow wolves to be hunted or trapped, although farmers and pet owners can kill wolves attacking domestic animals.

–The Associated Press

 USDA kills 4.9 million animals

The number of animals poisoned, shot or snared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than doubled last year, and environmentalists who are critical of the killings are renewing their effort to cut the program’s funding.

 The USDA’s Wildlife Services division killed more than 4.9 million animals during the 2008 fiscal year, some of them pests that threaten crops. That’s more than double the 2.4 million animals killed the previous year, but the agency contends the increase is due to more accurate counting methods.

 Wildlife Services, which released the annual death count last week, reported that 90 percent of animals killed in 2008 included crows, blackbirds, magpies and three species of invasive birds: European starlings, sparrows and pigeons.

–The Associated Press

 U.S., Canada to revise Great Lakes pact

The United States and Canada say they will update a key agreement to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species, climate change and other established and emerging threats to the world’s biggest surface freshwater system.

 Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which was last amended in 1987, is no longer sufficient.

 She announced the deal to revise it — something environmental groups have been pushing for — with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon during a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. The treaty created an international commission to settle water-related disputes between the two countries.

–The Associated Press

 Chemicals, human hormones don’t mix

First organic food — free of pesticides — had the spotlight. Then consumers learned about buying cosmetics without parabens. Just last month Minnesota banned the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups.

The mounting health cautions might seem tedious — does every little thing cause cancer? — but a common thread weaves through the concerns. Numerous everyday products are made with chemicals that may disrupt people’s endocrine system, which is also known as the hormone system.

–The Star Tribune

EPA sets hearing in Ashland, Wis., cleanup

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a cleanup plan for polluted soil, ground water and sediment at the Ashland/Northern States Power Lakefront Superfund site in Ashland, Wis. A public comment period runs June 17 to July 16.

  A formal public hearing where comments on the plan will be accepted is set for 7 p.m., Monday, June 29, at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.

The EPA, with consultation from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is proposing an estimated $83 million to $97 million cleanup project that includes:

  •  Removing soil from the most contaminated areas of Kreher Park and the Upper Bluff/Filled Ravine, thermally treating the soil on-site and re-using it or disposing of it off-site.
  • Using barriers to contain and stop the movement of contaminants in groundwater, possibly treating the groundwater in-place and adding wells to extract and treat ground water.
  •  Digging up wood waste and contaminated sediment near the Chequamegon Bay shore and dredging contaminated sediment offshore, covering the offshore cleanup area with 6 inches of clean material and treating contaminated sediment after removal or disposing of it off-site.

 The Ashland/NSP Lakefront Superfund site includes several properties within the city of Ashland, including Kreher Park, and about 16 acres of sediment and surface water in Chequamegon Bay. Environmental concerns stem from a manufactured gas plant that operated in the area from 1885 to 1947.

Find more site information at http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/ashland/index.htm.
–EPA News Release

Obama stuns environmentalists with national forest stance

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama wooed environmentalists with a promise to “support and defend” pristine national forest land from road building and other development that had been pushed by the George W. Bush administration.

But five months into Obama’s presidency, the new administration is actively opposing those protections on about 60 million acres of federal woodlands in a case being considered by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

 The roadless issue is one of several instances of the administration defending in court environmental policies that it once vowed to end.

Its position has been a disappointment to environmentalists who had hoped for decisive action in rolling back Bush-era policies.

–Los Angeles Times

 Pollution studied through tiny microorganisms

With a $165,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, Melissa Lobegeier will soon begin a second study focused on water quality, and this time, she will focus her research in the Clinch and Powell Rivers of southwestern Virginia, where pollution from mining is a concern.

 An assistant professor of geosciences at Middle Tennessee State University, Lobegeier will examine two types of microorganisms that are indicators of pollution; namely, thecamoebians and foraminifera, which are hard-shelled, single-celled organisms that tend to be very well preserved because of their hard shells. While a lot remains unknown about them because it’s difficult to keep them alive in the lab, Lobegeier says they are believed to catch food particles by sticking protoplasm out through holes in the shells. Their reproductive cycle is something of a puzzle.

 “They have an asexual phase where they reproduce by splitting up their protoplasm up into a whole lot of juveniles and then regrow,” she says. “And then they have a sexual phase where that asexual generation produces the egg and the sperm, which then they release from their shell. And they come together to form the next juveniles, who reproduce asexually.”

–Science Blog

 “Green” rating system developed for fish

Quick: Which fish has a smaller carbon footprint: yellowfin or barramundi? What about halibut or salmon? Oysters or clams?

 Those are questions that even the most earnest chef would probably have a hard time answering. Even if he could know, just keeping track would be a full-time job.

Chefs have plenty of other things to do. And so at their behest, Washington, D.C.-based seafood distributor ProFish soon will unveil a rating system that helps chefs compare the environmental impacts of popular fish from sea to table.

 The program, called Carbon Fishprint, gives each fish a score based on whether it was farmed or wild, how it was caught, and the amount of energy used in harvesting and shipping.

–The Washington Post

 Lake Tahoe project aims to end invasive species spread

This summer, researchers will begin a project aimed at halting the spread of invasive species in Lake Tahoe. While the Tahoe Keys are the focus, the work is important for all who live around the lake, take advantage of its recreational opportunities, appreciate its beauty or depend on tourism for their livelihood.

Most of us are familiar with the efforts to keep destructive quagga mussels out of the lake. While we’re winning that battle for now, other invaders — such as the aquatic plants Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed and the warm water fish largemouth bass and bluegill — are already established.

–The Tahoe Daily Tribune

 Hearing proposed for Arizona gas storage bill

The collapse of two salt water wells in southeast New Mexico is reason enough to kill a bill exempting a proposed natural gas storage facility in Eloy from Arizona groundwater protection rules, the project’s opponents say.

 Supporters, however, say that it’s not fair to compare the two operations because they’re significantly different, and that the Arizona gas storage site can be designed to make sure a collapse doesn’t happen.

 An Arizona State Senate committee plans a hearing on the proposed Eloy facility on Monday afternoon. The House has already passed the bill, which supporters say is needed to ensure adequate long-term natural gas supplies and which opponents fear risks groundwater contamination

–Arizona Daily Star

 Joshua trees could disappear from S. California

A breeze stirs the silence at Joshua Tree National Park as a red-tailed hawk takes flight from the spiky arm of one of the namesake plants in search of breakfast.

It’s a scene that national parks protector Mike Cipra has witnessed many times. Still, he can’t contain his enthusiasm on this early morning outing, despite the gloomy topic he’s discussing with a visitor — the probable extinction of the Joshua tree in the park that bears its name.

 The ancient plants are dying in the park, the southern-most boundary of their limited growing region, scientists say. Already finicky reproducers, Joshua trees are the victim of global warming and its symptoms — including fire and drought — plus pollution and the proliferation of non-native plants. Experts expect the Joshuas to vanish entirely from the southern half of the state within a century.

–The Press Enterprise

 U-Haul customers give $1 million to offset emissions In April of 2007, U-Haul began partnering with The Conservation Fund to facilitate customers’ donations at checkout in order to offset carbon emissions generated from in-town and out-of-town moves. In just two years, more than 287,000 U-Haul customers have elected to offset their emissions. The Conservation Fund has used those donations to plant 133,000 trees that are expected to trap 156,000 tons of carbon dioxide as they mature.

“By leveraging our human, technical, financial and business resources, U-Haul and our customers have made a real difference in protecting the environment and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions,” stated John “J.T.” Taylor, president of U-Haul International, Inc. “U-Haul customers should be applauded for their support of The Conservation Fund, and for benefiting the communities where we live and serve.”

–PR Newswire

Sustainable practices yield profits, study says

A series of scandals over the years have taught Western companies an important lesson about operating in developing countries: Any indication that a company or one of its suppliers is exploiting workers or damaging the environment in these regions can have devastating effects on a company’s reputation—world-wide. The result is fleeing customers and investors.

 But here’s a lesson many executives have yet to learn: A commitment to improving social and environmental conditions in the developing countries where a company operates is the key to maximizing the profits and growth of those operations.

 That’s the conclusion we drew after studying more than 200 companies. As a group, the companies most engaged in social and environmental sustainability are also the most profitable.

–The Wall Street Journal

 Veterans want inquiry into Camp Lejeune water contamination

Kidney cancer, Mike Edwards says, came so close to killing him five years ago that he saw a stairway to heaven and smelled the brimstone of hell.

Now, Edwards and thousands of other veterans are caught in a kind of purgatory. They believe decades of drinking-water contamination at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base sickened them or their family members.

But they may never know the truth.

 Federal officials acknowledge that, from the 1950s to 1985, up to 500,000 people at Lejeune might have been exposed to high doses of chemicals that probably cause cancer and other illnesses.

 A new report offers little hope of answers. No amount of study, it said, is likely to conclusively prove the contamination made anybody sick.

–The Sun News

 Alaska lake dumping permit upheld by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has upheld a federal government permit to dump waste from an Alaskan gold mine into a nearby lake, even though all its fish would be killed.

 By a 6-3 vote, the justices say a federal appeals court wrongly blocked the permit on environmental grounds.

Environmentalists fear that the ruling could set a precedent for how mining waste is disposed in American lakes, streams and rivers.

 The Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 issued a permit for waste disposal at the proposed Kensington mine north of Juneau. Under the plan, tailings — waste left after metals are extracted from ore — would be dumped into Lower Slate Lake.

–The Star Tribune

 Hudson River PCB-sludge to be dumped in Texas

Later this month, the first trainloads of PCB-tainted sludge dredged from the Hudson River will arrive and, in the eyes of critics, will turn a stretch of West Texas into New York’s “pay toilet.”

 They argue that burying dirt so toxic that General Electric Co. will spend at least six years and an estimated $750 million to dig it up will only create a new mess for future generations to clean up.

 But for 15 new jobs and the little bit of money it’ll bring local businesses, the folks who live near the site are willing to take the risk, however remote, of tainting the area’s groundwater by taking out somebody else’s trash.

–The Star Tribune