Posts Tagged ‘kirschenmann’

Litigation, a fishing limit and Lutsen pumping

November 14, 2011

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

Met Council joins state in suit against 3M
The Metropolitan Council has put a $1 billion price tag on a small part of the cleanup of chemicals made by the 3M Co.

The council gave that estimate as it announced it was joining the state of Minnesota’s lawsuit against 3M for damage to the environment.

The council estimates it will cost $1 billion to remove a chemical used in the production of the fabric protection treatment known as Scotchgard and other 3M products from the water discharged by the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant near Pig’s Eye Lake in St. Paul.

The cleanup will be required when state officials decide how much of the pollutant – PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonate – should be allowed in Pool 2, a section of the Mississippi River between the Ford Dam in St. Paul and Hastings.

The standards are needed to protect fish and the people who eat them, said Dave Verhasselt, spokesman for the state Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

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

Your support is vital to our work.

Fred KirschenmannKirschenmann lecture available on video
Did you miss the Nov. 10 lecture by Fred Kirschenmann on water and the future of agriculture?

Don’t worry. You can watch it on video.

Kirschenmann is a distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

Weatherguide calendar photo contest set
The first signs of winter are everywhere. Take a photo that captures those signs – the freeze-up of ponds, the migration or hibernation of animals, early-season snowfalls — and enter it in a new Freshwater Society contest. The winning photo will be printed in the 2013 Minnesota Weatherguide
Environment Calendar.

The deadline for submission is Dec. 31. The winner will be announced in January. Get details on the contest and how to enter.

Limit put on East Coast forage fish catch
A fishing oversight group voted  to sharply reduce the allowable East Coast catch of menhaden, an oily forage fish that does not show up on dinner plates but is vital, scientists say, to the ocean ecosystem.

Millions of pounds of menhaden are caught along the Atlantic Seaboard each year, but the population is now at 10 percent of historic levels.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which includes representatives from 15 Eastern states and the federal government, voted to reduce the menhaden harvest by as much as 37 percent compared with 2010 levels after a review found the species had been overfished and needed to rebuild.

Millions of pounds of menhaden are caught along the Atlantic Seaboard each year, most by Omega Protein, a company that grinds it and reduces it to fish meal and oil that goes into fertilizer, feed for  livestock and farmed fish, pet food and even dietary supplements. But menhaden — which is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and is also known as bunker or pogy, depending where you live — is also an ecological building block, serving as a crucial food for larger fish like tuna, striped bass and bluefish, as well as birds and marine mammals.

“There’s really not much in the ocean that is as healthy to eat, pound for pound, as menhaden,” said Peter Baker, director of Northeast fisheries at the Pew Environment Group, which supported the catch reduction. “If these other species don’t have menhaden in their diet it becomes less nutritious and they’re more susceptible to disease.”
–The New York Times

DNR allows Lutsen resort to keep pumping
The owners of Lutsen Mountain ski area on Minnesota’s North Shore can pump water out of the Poplar River to make snow for skiers this winter even though the river has dropped to unusually low levels.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said Lutsen Mountain Corp. can pump water from the drought-stricken river because the alternative, shutting off the water supply, could force the ski hill to close.

The issue became public in May when the News Tribune first reported the ski hill had been in violation of its water use permit for years. It is the only commercial use of designated trout stream water in the state in winter.

DNR officials last spring appeared to be moving toward requiring the company to instead pump its snowmaking water from Lake Superior — more than a mile away — a move the company said is too expensive.

The 2011 Legislature then intervened, stopping the DNR from cracking down on Lutsen and allowing the company to pump up to 150 million gallons per year, about 2 million gallons per day during the snowmaking season, out of the Poplar River that runs through the ski area.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Drought may deter spring floods
In much of Minnesota, the last three autumns brought vivid color and a lot of talk about spring flooding to come. This year — not so much of either, thanks to a drought.

In addition to reducing the potential for calamitous flooding, dry conditions have also helped farmers and public agencies zip through their chore lists.

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has been restoring shoreline plantings in areas along Lake Minnetonka where recent high water kept them from taking root. The district also has been able to carry out some controlled burns of unwanted vegetation and dredging of silted-in retention ponds, said spokeswoman Telly Mamayek.
–The Star Tribune

The energy and expense of quenching California’s thirst
The aqueduct stretched across the desert like an endless blue freight train, carrying its cargo of Colorado River water to a concrete building at the base of a craggy-faced mountain.

Inside the plant, adorned with the seal of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a set of massive pumps hoisted the water 441 feet high, disgorging it into a tunnel and the final leg of its journey from the Arizona border to a Riverside County reservoir.

The Julian Hinds Pumping Plant is one of the hydraulic hearts of California’s vast water supply system, built early in the last century to push water from where it is to where it isn’t, no matter how many hundreds of miles of desert, mountains and valleys are in the way.

Defying geography on such a grand scale takes energy. A lot of it. It’s also expensive. And it’s going to become more so, driving up Southern California water rates and forcing the region to consider more mundane sources closer to home.

The volume of water propelled uphill on one recent day at Hinds weighed the equivalent of more than four World Trade Center towers and required six 12,500-horsepower motors driven by electricity, much of it from Hoover and Parker dams on the Colorado.
–The Los Angeles Times

Comment sought on Carver, Bevens creeks
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking comments on a draft report concerning pollution in Carver and Bevens creeks, located west of the Twin Cities metro area, in the Lower Minnesota River watershed. According to the report, the creeks carry excess sediment and other fine material that limit the growth and reproduction of aquatic plants and fish. The sediment comes primarily from erosion in the stream channel and runoff from the surrounding landscape. The report calls for reducing sediment in Carver Creek by as much as 86 percent and up to 83 percent in Bevens Creek.

The MPCA report, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load report or TMDL, is part of a nationwide effort to clean up pollution in lakes and streams. The purpose of the report is to assess conditions in the impaired water bodies, identify the sources of the problem, and specify changes needed to return water conditions to an acceptable level. After reviewing comments from the public and obtaining approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the MPCA and other local organizations will work out a specific plan for improving water quality in Carver and Bevens creeks.

The draft report may be viewed at For more information or to submit comments, contact Chris Zadak (e-mail ; phone 651-757-2837), MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd., Saint Paul, MN 55155. Comments must be received in writing at the MPCA office by Dec. 14.
–MPCA News Release

Bird Conservancy criticizes feral cats
Are feral cats becoming an invasive species?

You might think so from the letter the American Bird Conservancy sent to 50 mayors,  including Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak.

Specifically, the ABC wants the mayors to stop encouraging trap-neuter-release programs that are widely used by animal shelters and other animal protection organizations, including Animal Ark in Minnesota. The idea is that feral cats, which cannot be turned into domestic pets, are caught, neutered, and then released back into the wild. Often, they congregate in “cat colonies,” especially if a cat-loving person puts out food for them.

The programs were designed in an effort to control the explosive growth of feral cats, usually the offspring of domestic cats that have been born and raised outdoors with little or no social contact with humans. They are, in effect, wild animals that continue to breed more wild animals. Female cats start breeding at six months. One cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in just seven years.

There are now an estimated 95 million outdoor and feral cats in the United States that kill at least 532 million birds, and perhaps more, the ABC says. They are far more common in the south, but the numbers in Minnesota are growing, according to local animal shelters, because our winters are warmer.
–The Star Tribune

Park Service blocks water bottle ban
Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation.

Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled. His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials.

A spokesman for the National Park Service, David Barna, said it was Jon Jarvis, the top federal parks official, who made the “decision to put it on hold until we can get more information.” He added that “reducing and eliminating disposable plastic bottles is one element of our green plan. This is a process, and we are at the beginning of it.”
–The New York Times

First the good news: It’s all good
There seemed to be no doubt that Mike Adams was a productive journalist, even if his beat was a bit obscure: the Central Basin Municipal Water District.

In recent months, he churned out more than 20 stories on the water wholesaler based in southeast Los Angeles. He wrote about recycled water that kept the grass green on street medians and parks. About the computer system a college used to irrigate its landscaping. About a water-saving youth soccer field.

The only mystery, really, was Adams himself. The Times could not find evidence he exists.

Adams’ stories were published on the website News Hawks Review after Central Basin agreed to pay up to nearly $200,000 in taxpayer money to public relations consultant Ed Coghlan. Under the deal, Coghlan said he would produce promotional stories about the district that would be indexed on Google News.
–The Los Angeles Times

UM has role in $25 million biomass research
Can a single biofuel production system reduce water and nutrient runoff from farm fields, cut down on soil erosion and turn a profit for the farmers who grow it? University of Minnesota scientists and Extension Master Gardeners will explore this possibility as part of a new, five-year, $25 million multistate grant.

Funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, nationwide research will focus on harvesting perennial grasses—mostly native species such as bluestem and switchgrass—and using the biomass as a feedstock for a biofuel process known as pyrolysis. Interdisciplinary research teams from eight states will explore the best ways to grow, harvest, transport and distribute the biomass and biofuel.

In Minnesota, research efforts will center on the use of biochar, a nutrient-rich solid and co-product of the pyrolysis process, as a soil amendment. To help determine biochar’s viability as a commercial product for home gardeners, Master Gardeners will test its ability to increase productivity in vegetable and flower gardens. They will design, plant, maintain and collect data from research plots at three Minnesota sites: the St. Paul Campus Display Garden, the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center, and the Landscape Arboretum. In addition, Master Gardeners will share preliminary findings and results at horticulture days, open houses, field days and other public events statewide.
University of Minnesota News Release

California suit alleges pollution
California fishing and conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court, accusing farmers of illegally discharging polluted groundwater into tributaries of the San Joaquin River.

The suit is the latest move in a decades-long battle over selenium-tainted farmland and agricultural drainage problems on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The suit claims the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority allowed contaminated groundwater to co-mingle with irrigation drain water.

The mixture was then discharged without a federal wastewater permit into a canal and a slough that feed to the San Joaquin River and San Francisco Bay-Delta, the lawsuit states.
–The Associated Press

Pollution found near ‘fracking’ wells
As the country awaits results from a nationwide safety study on the natural gas drilling process of fracking, a separate government investigation into contamination in a place where residents have long complained that drilling fouled their water has turned up alarming levels of underground pollution.

A pair of environmental monitoring wells drilled deep into an aquifer in Pavillion, Wyo., contain high levels of cancer-causing compounds and at least one chemical commonly used in hydraulic fracturing, according to new water test results released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The findings are consistent with water samples the EPA has collected from at least 42 homes in the area since 2008, when ProPublica began reporting on foul water and health concerns in Pavillion and the agency started investigating reports of contamination there.
–Pro Publica

‘Fracking’ gets preliminary OK in Texas study
The University of Texas Energy Institute has released preliminary results from a study that finds no direct link between hydraulic fracturing and reports of groundwater contamination.

A team made up of experts from UT’s Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, Bureau of Economic Geology, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, School of Law and College of Communication are conducting the study.

“From what we’ve seen so far, many of the problems appear to be related to other aspects of drilling operations, such as poor casing or cement jobs, rather than to hydraulic fracturing, per se,” Dr. Charles ‘Chip’ Groat, said the project’s leader, in a news release.
–Texas Business Journal

USGS: No trend in earthquakes
The magnitude-7.2 earthquake on Oct. 23 in Turkey and the magnitude-9.0 quake that impacted Japan in March are leading many to wonder if these events are part of a larger global trend toward giant earthquakes. After combing through 110 years’ worth of global seismic records, USGS seismologist Dr. Andrew Michael concluded that the recent increase in the number of large earthquakes may just reflect random occurrence.

Using three distinct statistical tests, Dr. Michael studied whether variations in the number of large, global earthquakes could be explained as a random fluctuation, once local aftershocks of the large earthquakes are taken into account. In a recently published paper, he explains how he tested whether the intervals between earthquakes have followed a clustering pattern that would be suggestive of quakes related to each other. He then developed a specific earthquake-triggering statistical model to determine if global seismicity increased after the largest earthquakes, examining the effect of the largest earthquakes on smaller ones. Finally, he tested for clustering in the energy released by earthquakes.

In each test, he found that the apparent clustering among large earthquakes can be described as a random fluctuation and cannot be used to predict future events.
–USGS News Release

Save some water; freeze your jeans

November 6, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your support is vital to our work.

Fred Kirschenmann photo

Fred Kirschenmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The winners were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2011

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

Thousands of oceans just light years away
Water is everywhere on Earth, but nobody has ever been able to determine conclusively how it got here. Scientists know that the early Earth was far too hot to hold water or water vapor, but then, in relatively short geological time, the oceans appeared.

In a discovery that researchers say sheds important new light on that age-old question, a European team reported that it has found a very cold reservoir of water vapor in space that could explain where the water came from.

The region they discovered is at the outer reaches of a dusty disk surrounding a star 175 light-years away. The star and disk are in the early stages of forming planets, much as Earth was formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

The scientists’ conclusion from the new finding: Life-giving H2O was almost certainly delivered to Earth via comets and asteroids known to originate in these cold but water-filled zones, which were assumed to also be present when our solar system was forming.
–The Washington Post

Oct. 25 deadline for $500 clean-up contest
Do you want to reduce urban runoff and pollution that flow into lakes and rivers? Do you have a good idea for how you and your friends and neighbors could work together to clean up soil, grass clippings and leaves from streets and storm drains? And could you use $500?

Then we have a contest for you.

The Freshwater Society and InCommons are sponsoring a Work For Water “micro challenge” that will award two $500 prizes for the best short-term community projects to protect our waters from the pollution found in the leaves, grass and soil that wash into streets. Enter here.

In addition to the two statewide prizes, a grant from the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation, will provide two additional $500 prizes for the best ideas coming from entrants in the 14 counties the foundation serves in Central Minnesota.

Fred Kirschenmann photo

Fred Kirschenmann

Lecture on water and ag set Nov. 10
Don’t miss the Nov. 10 free public lecture on water and the future of agriculture by Fred Kirschenmann, a national leader in the organic food and farming movement.

His lecture, sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, is the sixth in a series. It will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. Seating is limited. Please register to reserve your place.

There are lots of ways to describe Kirschenmann: philosopher, farmer, author and advocate. Since 2000, he has been the director or a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He also is president of the board of directors of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. He wrote Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, published in 2010 by the University Press of Kentucky. This year, he was honored by the James Beard Foundation for “lifelong work on sustainable food and farming systems.”

View video of past lectures in the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources.

DNA evidence puts Asian carp in Twin Cities
Water samples from the Mississippi River downstream from the Ford Dam in Minneapolis have tested positive for genetic material from silver carp, indicating the invasive Asian species may be present in the Twin Cities stretch of the river, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Known as environmental DNA (eDNA) testing, the results are a chemical indication that some silver carp are in the river, but they do not provide any information on the possible number of fish present, their size or whether they are breeding.

The Mississippi River eDNA testing was conducted in September by the National Park Service and the DNR after similar testing in June indicated the presence of silver carp in the St. Croix River.

The DNR will immediately hire a commercial fisherman to begin netting and searching for Asian carp below the Ford Dam, also known as Lock and Dam 1. No Asian carp were discovered this summer in the St. Croix River after a nine-day search by DNR biologists and a commercial fisherman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean some fish aren’t present.

“The eDNA tests are very sensitive, but they can only tell us that DNA is present in the water,” said Tim Schlagenhaft, Mississippi River biologist. “In other states where DNA testing has resulted in positive samples, the fish have proven very difficult to subsequently capture, and we expect this to the case in the Mississippi River if the fish are in present in low numbers.”

In the most recent round of Mississippi River eDNA testing, 14 of 49 samples were positive for silver carp.

Read Pioneer Press and Star Tribune reports on the new test results. Read a q-and-a interview with Schlagenhaft published in the October Freshwater Society newsletter.
–DNR News Release

Drainage blamed for Minnesota R. flow increase
A comprehensive new study pinpoints agriculture — specifically, half a century of artificial field drainage — as the primary force behind the massive runoff of sediment that is adding pollution to the Mississippi River and threatening the future of Lake Pepin.

The study, presented at a conference in St. Paul, identifies with new precision the sources of sediment that is slowly filling in Lake Pepin, one of the state’s recreational jewels, and coursing down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, where it contributes to a massive “dead zone” that cannot sustain aquatic life.

Scientists said it’s the latest in a growing body of evidence indicating that transformation of the land from prairie and wetlands to corn and soybeans — not, as some have argued, more rain and natural erosion — has accelerated the rate of sedimentation.

“It’s the weight of the evidence,” said Peter Wilcock, a geography professor from Johns Hopkins University.
He was not involved the study but attended the University of Minnesota’s annual Water Resources Center conference, where it was presented.
–The Star Tribune

DNR questions Christmas Lake gate
A new electronic gate — installed at a cost of $30,000 — is ready to drop its arm across the public boat ramp on Christmas Lake in Shorewood, if the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources approves its use in an experiment aimed at stopping the spread of zebra mussels.

“The next boating season is just seven months away. So there is no let up on the urgency,” said Joe Shneider, president of the Christmas Lake homeowners association.

Residents around Christmas Lake, as well as Lotus Lake and Lake Minnewashta in Chanhassen, want to work with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to require all boats launching at the lakes to first pass inspections for aquatic invasive species. But the plan would require boaters to travel to a centralized inspection point before entering the lakes, and the DNR says there’s no legal way to compel them.

As a first-of-its-kind grass-roots attempt to let boats launch into a lake only after an inspection — and to close ramps outside of inspection hours — the proposal is being watched by lake associations around the state and by anglers, some of whom oppose more ramp controls.
–The Star Tribune

Opinion: EPA chief rips Republican critics
Read a Los Angeles Times op-ed commentary in which Lisa Jackson accuses Congressional Republicans of trying to cripple regulation of air and water pollution. She writes:

“Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws… Using the economy as cover, and repeating unfounded claims that “regulations kill jobs,”  they have pushed through an unprecedented rollback of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our nation’s waste-disposal laws, all of which have successfully protected our families for decades. We all remember “too big to fail”; this pseudo jobs plan to protect polluters might well be called “too dirty to fail.”

Opinion: Farm Bill should retain conservation
Read a Des Moines Register editorial on the federal Farm Bill. It calls on Congress to maintain some spending for conservation programs, and to make conservation compliance a requirement for subsidized crop insurance. Freshwater Society President Gene Merriam makes the same argument about crop insurance in Freshwater’s current newsletter.

Legacy money eyed for a stadium
A Republican leader says some of his colleagues in the Minnesota Legislature are considering a plan that would rely on a portion of the state’s Legacy funds to pay for a new Vikings Stadium.

It’s an option they say must be considered as Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers continue to discuss how to pay for a stadium. Other options include ticket taxes, a sports memorabilia tax, slot machines at the state’s horse tracks or a new casino in downtown Minneapolis.

But critics say voters didn’t intend to use that money for professional sports stadiums when they approved a higher sales tax in 2008.

“I certainly think that taking a look at the Legacy money to fund a stadium is something that should be on the table,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, an assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House.

There isn’t an organized effort by legislative leaders to tap the Legacy funds yet, Daudt said. But there is increasing talk among members and GOP staff that this may be the only way that the Republican-controlled House and Senate pass a Vikings stadium bill.

Daudt said the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund could generate about $50 million annually to finance the stadium. He said that would be enough to pay both the state’s and Ramsey County’s share but is unsure if that would be the plan.

“You certainly can’t argue that the Minnesota Vikings and these sports teams in the state of Minnesota aren’t a part of the state’s heritage and certainly part of the state’s legacy,” Daudt said
–Minnesota Public Radio

‘Wonder fish’ to environmental pariah
The Asian carp infesting the major rivers of America didn’t sneak into the country in the ballast of ocean freighters, as so many invasive species have. They didn’t slowly invade through freighter locks and into the Great Lakes, as the sea lamprey did.

Decades ago, federal and state officials purposefully imported carp, which they believed were “the wonder fish.”

The carp were imported because officials were eager to find a safer way than chemicals to control weeds, algae, sewage and parasites. Grass carp eat as much as three times their body weight in weeds each day, replacing the toxic chemicals commonly used for weed control.

But during the past four decades, not only have the Asian carp escaped into the wild, they also have expanded their reign to rivers and lakes across America — as state and federal officials have stood idly by.
–The Cleveland Plain Dealer

China faces groundwater pollution
More than half of the groundwater monitored in 182 Chinese cities by the Ministry of Land and Resources was classified as bad, meaning the health of individuals could be harmed, the China Daily reported, citing a report by the ministry.

Groundwater at 57.2 percent of the 4,110 monitoring stations in 182 cities was classified as bad last year, the newspaper reported. The quality of groundwater in most northern and eastern parts of China was worse last year than it was in 2009, according to the report. The ministry’s report didn’t identify locations, according to the newspaper.

Household sewage, industrial pollution, and the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides has caused further deterioration of groundwater, the newspaper reported, citing Ma Chaode, former director of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s fresh-water program in China.

EPA approves strict Oregon standards
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved Oregon’s new standards for toxic water pollution, the strictest in the United States.

The new standards, approved by the EPA’s Seattle office, are designed to protect tribal members and others who eat large amounts of contaminated fish.

Oregon’s current water quality standards are built on an assumption that people eat 17.5 grams of fish a day, about a cracker’s worth and typical of most states. The proposed standard boosts that to 175 grams a day, just shy of an 8-ounce meal.

The change dramatically tightens Oregon’s human health criteria for a host of pollutants, including mercury, flame retardants, PCBs, dioxins, plasticizers and pesticides.

That could boost cost for industry such as paper mills and for municipal sewage treatment plants, increasing sewer rates.
–The Portland Oregonian

Cost rises for ‘Erin Brockovich’ clean-up
PG&E Corp. said that replacing underground drinking water in Hinkley, Calif., that was contaminated by utility operations decades ago will cost much more than the $54 million the company had set aside for the project.

The town’s underground drinking water supply was contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical, after PG&E’s utility used the substance at its natural gas pumping station there to control algae and protect metal equipment from rust.
The groundwater problem in Hinkley was made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich.”

Last week, the state agency overseeing the cleanup of Hinkley’s contaminated groundwater ordered PG&E to provide a new, permanent source of drinking water to Hinkley residents. Rather than continue to supply bottled water to residents, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for the Lahontan Region told PG&E it would have to provide a permanent water replacement system for all properties served by wells that are near an underground plume of hexavalent chromium and that have been “impacted” by the plume.
–Fox Business

Mercury in fish; food sustainability

October 17, 2011

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

Mercury levels in fish increase
Mercury emitted from American smokestacks has been declining for years. But contamination levels in loons, walleyes and some other species have actually increased in the past decade, according to the largest report yet on mercury in the Great Lakes region.

The report, released by the Great Lakes Commission, was based on 35 research studies and samples from tens of thousands of fish, birds and other animals. It concludes that the forests, lakes and wetlands that characterize the Great Lakes make the region particularly sensitive to mercury pollution.

Even more important, the authors conclude, the nature and extent of the region’s mercury problem is more severe than was previously known — and, for reasons that are not understood, appears to be getting worse for some species.

The report found that mercury levels are higher in fish in inland lakes than those in the big lakes. That was true of walleye from northern Minnesota and other heavily forested areas with wetlands.

Six of the 15 most commonly eaten fish had mercury levels higher than the EPA recommends for human consumption. And many species, including loons, showed sensitivities to mercury at much lower concentrations than had been known.
–The Star Tribune

Article offers food sustainability prescription
Feeding a world with 9 billion people by mid-century, and feeding them while easing some of the environmental degradation that worldwide agriculture already wreaks on the Earth, is doable, but difficult.

That’s the message of “Solutions for a cultivated planet,” a major article in the Journal Nature.

Jonathan Foley, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, was the lead author in an international team of scientists who wrote the article. It was published on-line on Oct. 12; it will be the cover story in the Oct. 20 print edition.

The article calls for five changes in the way the world raises and treats its food:

— Halt the expansion of agriculture into tropical rainforests, partly by paying compensation for the ecosystem services those regions provide.
—  Increase crop yields in cultivated areas of Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
— Use fertilizers and water more strategically.
— Shift diets to include less meat.
— Reduce the one-third of the world’s food that ends up being wasted, spoiled or eaten by pests.

If you subscribe to Nature, read the article here. Otherwise: read a University of Minnesota news release describing the article, read a Star Tribune article about it, listen to a National Public Radio report, or read a 2010 Freshwater Society interview with Foley about agriculture and the environment.

Organic food, ag leader to lecture
Fred Kirschenmann, a national leader in the organic food and farming movement, will deliver the next free public lecture sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

Kirschenmann will speak on “Water and the Challenges Facing U.S. and World Agriculture in the 21st Century.”

The lecture, the sixth in a series, will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in the theater of the
Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. Seating is limited. Please register to reserve your place.

There are lots of ways to describe Kirschenmann: philosopher, farmer, author and advocate. Since 2000, he has been the director or a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He also is president of the board of directors of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. He wrote Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, published in 2010 by the University of Kentucky Press. This year, he was honored by the James Beard Foundation for “lifelong work on sustainable food and farming systems.”

Deadline is Oct. 25 to win $500
Do you want to reduce urban runoff and pollution that flow into lakes and rivers? Do you have a good idea for how you and your friends and neighbors could work together to clean up soil, grass clippings and leaves from streets and storm drains? And could you use $500?

Then we have a contest for you.

The Freshwater Society and InCommons are sponsoring a Work For Water “micro challenge” that will award two $500 prizes for the best short-term community projects to protect our waters from the pollution found in the leaves, grass and soil that wash into streets. Enter here.

Mexico may send drinking water north
Mexico ships televisions, cars, sugar and medical equipment to the United States. Soon, it may be sending water north.

Western states are looking south of the border for water to fill drinking glasses, flush toilets and sprinkle lawns, as four major U.S. water districts help plan one of two huge desalination plant proposals in Playas de Rosarito, about 15 miles south of San Diego.

Combined, they would produce 150 million gallons a day, enough to supply more than 300,000 homes on both sides of the border.
The plants are one strategy by both countries to wean themselves from the drought-prone Colorado River, which flows 1,450 miles from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez. Decades of friction over the Colorado, in fact, are said to be a hurdle to current desalination negotiations.
–The Associated Press

Good news on the turtle front
baby turtleA baby turtle, about the size of a quarter, has caused a big stir and reasons for optimism with researchers at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

A Blanding’s turtle hatchling was discovered Oct. 6, at a study site in Martin County in south-central Minnesota. Until now, the youngest turtle identified in this population was estimated to be 14 years old.

“It’s encouraging and exciting,” said Laurinda Brown, DNR nongame wildlife specialist. “It shows us that some successful reproduction is still occurring here despite significant losses of suitable nesting habitat.”

Brown is part of a research team that has been studying the Blanding’s turtle population since 2007. She said that although these turtles can live to be 80 years old, they have been hit hard by the loss of wetland and upland habitat through the years, drastically limiting their ability to reproduce. This has resulted in a reduction of local Blanding’s turtle populations. Since 1984, Blanding’s turtles have been classified as a threatened species in Minnesota, making it illegal to possess, sell, harm or harass the turtles.
–DNR News Release

Cities move away from fluoride
A growing number of communities are choosing to stop adding fluoride to their water systems, even though the federal government and federal health officials maintain their full support for a measure they say provides a 25 percent reduction in tooth decay nationwide.

Last week, Pinellas County, on Florida’s west coast, voted to stop adding fluoride to its public water supply after starting the program seven years ago. The county joins about 200 jurisdictions from Georgia to Alaska that have chosen to end the practice in the last four years, motivated both by tight budgets and by skepticism about its benefits.

Eleven small cities or towns have opted out of fluoridating their water this year, including Fairbanks, Alaska, which acted after much deliberation and a comprehensive evaluation by a panel of scientists, doctors and dentists. The panel concluded that in Fairbanks, which has relatively high concentrations of naturally occurring fluoride, the extra dose no longer provided the help it once did and may, in fact, be harmful.
–The New York Times

Zebra mussels again linked to a boat lift
Biologists at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are concerned zebra mussels may be hitchhiking on boat lifts.

The DNR says a second case recently was discovered on the northeast corner of Lake Irene in Douglas County. A localized population of zebra mussels was found on a lift.

A similar case was discovered at Rose Lake in Otter Tail County in late September.

At Lake Irene, the DNR was called in to investigate zebra mussels found on a boat lift recently removed from the water. The DNR suspects the pests were transported to the lake this summer when the boat lift was moved in from an infested lake.

The DNR plans to treat the small area with copper sulfate, used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch.
–The Associated Press

DNR updates list of infested lakes
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has updated its website to show the additional lakes and sections of rivers that were designated as waters infested with invasive species during the summer and fall.

“The continued spread of aquatic invasive species highlights the urgency for increased awareness and vigilance by people moving water-related equipment such as boats, docks, boat lifts and water toys,” said Jay Rendall, DNR invasive species prevention coordinator. “Extra effort is needed to clean, drain and dry all equipment to prevent further spread from infested waters.”

Here is a recap of the lakes and bodies of water that have been added to the list:

Zebra mussels: Six water bodies have been designated as infested with zebra mussels. They include Rose Lake in Otter Tail County, where zebra mussels were discovered in late September; Brophy Lake, which is part of a chain of lakes that were previously designated near Alexandria; and four lakes downstream – Cowdry (Cowdrey), Lottie (Taylor), North Union Lake (Union) and Stoney (Stony). (Lake Irene in Douglas County, a recently confirmed infestation, will be designated in a subsequent DNR Commissioner’s order.)

Eurasian watermilfoil: Seven additional waters have been confirmed to have Eurasian watermilfoil. They are: Clearwater in Crow Wing County; Circle Lake in Rice County; Otter and Sylvia lakes in Stearns County; and Locke, John and Silver lakes in Wright County.

Faucet snails: Two lakes – First Crow Wing and Second Crow Wing — and an additional portion of the Crow Wing River in Hubbard County were designated as infested because of the presence of faucet snails. The snail has been linked to waterfowl deaths at Lake Winnibigoshish, Bowstring Lake and the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota.

Spiny waterfleas: Two waters were added in the vicinity of Lake of the Woods because spiny waterfleas are present. Spiny waterfleas can spread when boats, fishing or bait harvesting gear become contaminated with egg-laden females or when water from the infested lakes and rivers is transported. They can collect in masses, sticking to fishing lines, downrigger cables and anchor lines. The masses can resemble gelatin or cotton batting with tiny black spots, which are the creatures’ eyes or eggs.

View the list of infested waters.
–DNR News Release

Two endangered whooping cranes shot
Whooping crane chicks have definite personalities. Chick L10 was shy but blossomed into a rascal, and Chick L8 had an early tendency toward being a bit of a bully, but eventually learned to get along with his peers.

Whooping crane Chick L8 was hatched on June 4, 2010. When he was about a month old, he became a “meanie” toward other chicks and could not be walked with any other cranes. He had to live and exercise by himself for a long time and was the last bird to be socialized with the rest of his cohorts. But it turns out that Chick L8 was just a late bloomer, and he eventually learned to live peaceably with others. Chick L8 has a sister, who was also released in Louisiana.

Both of these gangly, adolescent whooping cranes were shot and killed in Louisiana on Monday, October 10, 2011, and though two alleged shooters have been identified, the world of whooping crane scientists, managers, caretakers, volunteers, and birders is in mourning — once again.

Tragically, these are the sixth and seventh shooting deaths of reintroduced endangered U.S. whooping cranes in 2011.
–U.S. Geological Survey News Release

Texans to vote on $6 billion for water
Allan Ritter pushed a bill to make 25 million Texans pay an extra $3.25 a year to help provide water for decades. Then, with a record drought devastating farms and ranches, the state representative’s party leaders waded in.

“We couldn’t get the votes,” said the Republican from Nederland who heads the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives. Lawmakers who run the chamber sought to oblige Governor Rick Perry’s pledge not to boost taxes instead.

“You couldn’t get the votes in the House to raise revenue for anything last session,” Ritter said. Since 1996, when lawmakers mandated statewide water planning, Texans haven’t agreed on how to pay for needed work. This year, as crops withered and cattle went to early slaughter, pressure rose for action to protect the economy and sustain a surging population. Perry called on citizens to pray for rain six months after the drought began. On Nov. 8, voters will decide on letting the state carry as much as $6 billion in water-related debt.
–Bloomberg News Service

Gore ties global warming to pollution
It’s been more than five years since Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” put global warming at the forefront of the national debate.

And the former vice president’s passion for the subject appears intact.

Gore arrived on the Wayne State University campus and delivered a rousing address tying the fight to combat climate change to other environmental issues — particularly, efforts to help the Great Lakes region rebound from decades of industrial pollution.

If anything, the intensity of Gore’s arguments might have increased in recent years.

As an example, Gore drew a parallel between high levels of phosphorous scientists believe are pouring into the Great Lakes and resulting in harmful algal blooms with the carbon emissions believed to be affecting the ozone layer.
–The Detroit News

Met Council may sue 3M over pollution
The Metropolitan Council is considering legal action against 3M Co. after state regulators said the agency may have to spend millions of dollars on wastewater treatment plants to clean up a toxic pollutant connected to the corporation’s manufacturing sites.

The development brings yet another player into the decades-long battle over perfluorochemical (PFC) contamination in the Mississippi River and groundwater in the east metro area, which already has cost 3M millions of dollars in cleanup and remediation.

PFCs are industrial compounds widely used in the manufacture of household products, but which are viewed as an emerging environmental health concern. In high concentrations the compounds are toxic, especially the one at issue in the Met Council’s plants, known as perfluorooctane sulfanate or PFOS.

3M stopped using the compounds in 2002, but last year the Minnesota attorney general filed suit against the company after 3M and the state were unable to reach agreement on future cleanup costs and water treatment related to many years of contamination in the east metro area.

Now, the council is considering joining in that lawsuit, as the city of Lake Elmo did after it was filed.
–The Star Tribune

Suit challenges ozone inaction
Five health and environmental groups sued the Obama administration over its rejection of a proposed stricter new standard for ozone pollution, saying the decision was driven by politics and ignored public health concerns.

The groups said that President Obama’s refusal to adopt the new standard was illegal and left in place an inadequate air quality rule from the Bush administration. Near the end of his presidency, George W. Bush overruled the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisory panel and set the permissible ozone exposure at 75 parts per billion.

The current E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, wanted to set the standard at 70 parts per billion, near the maximum level recommended by the advisory panel. But President Obama rejected that proposal on Sept. 2, saying that compliance would be too costly and create too much regulatory uncertainty for industry. He ordered the E.P.A. to conduct further scientific studies and come up with a new proposal in 2013.
–The New York Times

Wisconsin DNR reviews dairy’s water permit
The Department of Natural Resources said it will reconsider a key permit for a large dairy farm proposed in Adams County after the agency received an analysis by a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point hydrogeologist who concluded the farm is likely to reduce local water supplies.

The DNR had made a preliminary determination that groundwater pumping by the 4,200-cow Richfield Dairy would not harm local conditions.

And a spokesman for the company developing the farm also emphasized that the pumping of more than 50 million gallons of water annually won’t be more than the irrigation now used for potatoes on the same land.

The Richfield Dairy is being developed by Kaukauna-based Milk Source, which owns the state’s largest dairy farm, Rosendale Dairy, in Fond du Lac County. It operates two other farms and a third is slated to open early next year.

If Richfield Dairy is constructed, 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.

At Richfield Dairy, the company needs DNR permits for a high-capacity well and wastewater discharge, along with an environmental assessment of the project. Approvals on all three are pending, according to the DNR.

The DNR said it is reconsidering the permit for the high-capacity well after George Kraft of UW-Stevens Point said the farm would harm local water bodies and draw down the aquifer.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Heron Lake water management fee opposed
More than 20 people who live within the outline of a proposed Water Management District in the Heron Lake Watershed provided comment to members of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources regarding additional fees they could be assessed if a WMD plan is approved.

The nearly two-hour public hearing at times grew heated as people expressed their displeasure at “another tax,” and the prospect of a plan being implemented by an HLWD board consisting of five appointed, rather than elected, members.

Most of the approximately 75 people in attendance were residents of Jackson County, where county commissioners voted against the WMD plan earlier this year. Both the Nobles and Murray county boards of commissioners approved the proposal in July.
–The Worthington Daily Globe

Target promises seafood sustainability
The second largest discount retailer in the U.S. announced that it will sell only sustainable, traceable fish by 2015. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. operates 1,762 stores, many of which are converting to incorporate PFresh markets that sell fresh and frozen foods, including fish.

In 2010, Target stopped selling farmed salmon, Chilean sea bass and orange roughy due to various sustainability issues. It currently sells 50 different brands of fish certified by either the Marine Stewardship Council or the Global Aquaculture Alliance.

“We thought this larger commitment to fully eliminate anything that’s not certified by 2015 would be the right thing to do to encourage our guests to make the right decisions,” said Shawn Gensch, vice president of marketing for Target’s sustainability initiatives.

Target is partnering with the nonprofit marine conservation group FishWise to reach its sustainability goals. According to FishWise executive director Tobias Aguirre, the group will assess all Target seafood products with vendor surveys to understand how the seafood is caught or farmed and will evaluate the environmental impacts associated with each product.
–The Los Angeles Times

Conservation fund focus of political fight
The 50,000 drivers who cruise daily along Interstate 25 between Denver and Colorado Springs drive through ranch and farm land marked by dramatic buttes and the presence of wild animals, a vista that might have been very different but for a little-known federal program.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Congress created in 1965, helped pay for this open space, along with large swaths of land in other areas across the country. But there is a fight looming in Washington as Congress plans to drastically cut the program’s budget, and President Obama, who had accepted cuts in the past, appears ready to oppose them.

The White House has warned it will veto the House Interior spending bill, in part because of its cuts to the conservation fund program. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a telephone interview that the bill would bring conservation “as close to zero as it’s been in modern times.”

The fund is supposed to receive $900 million each fiscal year out of U.S. offshore oil and gas revenue to pay for federal land acquisitions. But with the exception of fiscal 1998, its funding has consistently fallen well short of that mark. The 2011 operating plan provided $300.5 million, and although Obama asked for $900 million for fiscal 2012, the pending House appropriations bill for Interior allocates just under $95 million.
–The Washington Post

Agricultural dust causes EPA dust-up
A Republican amendment targeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s nonexistent farm dust regulations laid the groundwork for a surprising, and possibly precedent-setting, parliamentary maneuver from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The question now, is how do Reid and Democrats — particularly Midwesterners up for reelection next year — deal with the amendment the next time it comes up? After all, congressional Republicans have made their push to label EPA regulations as job killers a centerpiece in their fight against the jobs strategies from President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders.

“This will not go away. We will keep bringing it up every chance we get,” Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) told POLITICO. Reid is “going to have to deal with me at some point. He can’t be king forever.”

Reid moved to stop the GOP’s ability to offer motions allowing for amendments to be offered to a bill even after a filibuster has already been defeated if two-thirds of senators allow. Republicans contend Reid made his move because there was a good chance the 67 votes were there for Johanns’s amendment.

The land of 10,000 logos
Nicole Meyer has her free time mapped out for the next 27 years. That’s how long she estimates it will take her to reach her goal of designing a logo a day for every lake in Minnesota.

“One thing is for sure: I don’t have to worry about running out [of lakes],” she said. “There’s almost an endless supply of them.”

A Wisconsin native who fell in love with the state while attending the University of Minnesota, Meyer started the project as a way of reconnecting with the area while working at an advertising agency in Arizona. Now back in Minneapolis, she’s determined to keep it going.

Every day, she picks a lake, researches it, designs its logo and posts it on the web site.

Lake associations have expressed interest in buying the rights to the logos of their lakes for T-shirts or signs, and Meyer is considering their offers. But the point of this has never been to make money, she insisted.
–The Star Tribune

Minnehaha Creek honors Watershed Heroes
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District  is honoring a company, a state agency, several nonprofit organizations and several individuals as Watershed Heroes for protecting water resources.

The honorees, who will receive their awards at a ceremony on Nov. 17, are:

Solution Blue  Inc., a St. Paul firm that specializes in sustainable design.
— Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, which underground storm water holding tanks and a water-pervious  driveway and parking lot at the Minneapolis Veterans Home.
—  Minnesota Waters, a statewide non-profit organization that has taken a leadership role in confronting aquatic invasive species.
— Youth of Pierson Lake Association, a youth organization that  caught and removed about 35,000 pounds of carp from Pierson Lake.
— Lake Action Alliance, a coalition of the Christmas Lake Homeowners Association, the Lake Minnewashta Preservation Association and the Lotus Lake Association that has worked to protect its lakes and others against zebra mussels.
— Bob and Jan Halverson, who sold their 112-acre farm in Minnetrista to the watershed district  for less than its appraised value as a gift to the community.  The district  plans to conserve most of the land to protect Halsted Bay on Lake Minnetonka’s Halsted Bay.

Organic ag leader F. Kirschenmann to lecture

September 19, 2011

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

Organic advocate Kirschenmann to lecture
Fred Kirschenmann, a national leader in the organic food and farming movement, will deliver the next free public lecture sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

Fred Kirschenmann

Kirschenmann will speak on “Water and the Challenges Facing U.S. and World Agriculture in the 21st Century.”

The lecture, the sixth in a series, will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus.

There are lots of ways to describe Kirschenmann: philosopher, farmer, author and advocate. Since 2000, he has been the director or a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He also is president of the board of directors of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. He wrote Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, published in 2010 by the University of Kentucky Press. This year, he was honored by the James Beard Foundation for “lifelong work on sustainable food and farming systems.”

‘Cleaning Minnesota’s Water’
Read “Cleaning Minnesota’s Water,” Minnesota Public Radio’s comprehensive package of reports on water quality in the state and the debates and sometimes conflicting strategies for improving it.

Dayton outlines Asian carp plan
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr argues that to combat the spread of Asian carp could mean taking chances.

“We may have to take some risks here,” said Landwehr, speaking at an aquatic invasive species summit at the State Capitol.

That is, taking actions against invading species that in the future, in hindsight, may be deemed less than effective, he explained. But Landwehr and other officials argued that Minnesota does not have the luxury of time.

Landwehr, Gov. Mark Dayton, and a host of state and federal officials attended the summit.

An action plan — more of draft, Dayton later described it — was presented by DNR officials.

One step called for congressional action to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers emergency authority to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Ford lock and dam on the Mississippi River if Asian carp are detected in the area.
–ECM Publishers

What went wrong with carp barrier plans?
Four years ago, with the ecological dangers posed by Asian carp already well-documented, state Department of Natural Resources officials backed a $5 million plan to build an underwater sound bubble barrier across the Mississippi River as far downstream as Winona.

The following year, in 2008, the DNR was given $500,000 to start the project.

Now, sounding fresh alarms about the threat from Asian carp, the state is seeking at least $7 million in emergency funding for a barrier to be built near Prescott, Wis.

But much of the original money has never been spent.

The back story of what happened to the original initiative is one of confusion and misunderstanding — amid doubts about whether a barrier would even work — that ate away valuable time in the race to stop the spread of voracious Asian carp into Minnesota waters. Only last month the DNR unveiled evidence that the carp, which can grow to 60 pounds and outmuscle native species for food, were in the St. Croix River.
–The Star Tribune

Drought underlines ‘water-energy nexus’
The worst single-year drought in the recorded history of Texas has caused cotton crops to wither and ranchers to sell off cattle. It may also hurt power plants, which need vast amounts of water to cool their equipment.

“We will be very concerned” if it does not rain by spring, said Kent Saathoff, an official with the Texas electric grid operator.
The worries in Texas bear out what an increasingly vocal group of researchers has been warning in recent years: that planners must pay more attention to how much water is needed in energy production.

“Water and energy are really linked,” said Henrik Larsen, a water policy expert with the DHI Group, a research and consulting firm based in Denmark. “If you save water, you save energy, and vice-versa.”
–The New York Times

Chinese protest solar plant’s pollution
In a fresh indication of growing public anger over pollution, hundreds of demonstrators in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang were camped outside a solar panel manufacturing plant that stands accused of contaminating a nearby river.

The demonstration was the latest move in a four-day protest that has sometimes turned violent.

The unrest began when about 500 residents gathered outside the plant, in Haining, roughly 80 miles southwest of Shanghai. Some protesters stormed the five-year-old factory compound, overturning eight company vehicles, smashing windows and destroying offices. The next day, four police cars were damaged.
–The New York Times

Farm groups push subsidy overhaul plans
Some farm groups are rushing to put out ideas for overhauling farm subsidies as the congressional deficit-cutting supercommittee starts work.

The National Corn Growers Association has a plan that would scrap the current system of fixed, direct payments and use the money both for deficit reduction and to expand the revenue-protection program known as ACRE that was created in 2008.

Under the existing ACRE program, which relatively few farmers have signed up for, payments are triggered only when state-level farm revenue drops below the average on a combination of average yields and commodity prices.

Under the new plan, the payment trigger would be based on crop-reporting districts, which are areas within a state. That would make the program more likely to pay out to farmers — and more expensive to taxpayers.
–The Des Moines Register

MPCA approves taconite permit
Acting over the objections of environmentalists and Indian tribes, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency agreed to allow U.S. Steel Corp. to increase mercury emissions at an Iron Range mining facility without also requiring a precise schedule of reductions elsewhere.

The vote of the citizens commission that oversees the agency was unanimous and made without discussion.

The long-awaited decision moves forward a $300 million expansion of U.S. Steel’s Keetac taconite processing facility in Keewatin, Minn., that will create an estimated 160 new jobs. It also includes technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, making it the first facility in Minnesota to do so under new federal rules.

Environmentalists, however, said the decision conflicts with the state’s long-term plan to reduce mercury, a toxic metal that has polluted two-thirds of the state’s waters and can make Minnesota fish unsafe for children and pregnant women.
–The Star Tribune

Wisconsin governor takes on ballast rules
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and several other governors are joining the federal government and Canada in demanding New York reconsider shipping regulations that protect waters from invasive species but could damage Wisconsin’s economy.

In a letter sent to New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Walker joined forces with the Republican governors John Kasick of Ohio and Mitch Daniels of Indiana to argue that unless the New York Department of Environmental Conservation regulations are amended, the regulations could require the St. Lawrence Seaway to close down, resulting in thousands of maritime-related job losses in the Great Lakes states and in Canada.

New York’s regulations deal with ballast discharge. When cargo ships are not fully loaded, they have to take on water to maintain their stability. This water is stored in ballast tanks, and it may contain aquatic organisms.

When ships discharge this water in harbors, they may also discharge these organisms that could become invasive, Steven Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, said.

The New York regulations require boats to install ballast cleaning technology that will clean ballast water to a certain quality standard. The regulations also create a water quality standard 100 times stronger than the current standards given by the International Maritime Organization, which coordinates international shipping policy.
–The Badger Herald

College GOP protests bottle ban
College Republicans passed out bottled water to passers-by in protest of the College of St. Benedict’s new ban on bottled water in campus vending machines, cafeterias and sporting events. The protesters said they aren’t against sustainability but are defending the free-market system.

“Just as the government should not ban plastic bottles in America, a school administration should not ban the sale of plastic water bottles on their campus,” said Ryan Lyk, chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans, in a statement.

This fall, St. Ben’s became the first school in the state — and the ninth in the nation — to ban the sale of plain bottled water on campus. Macalester took a similar step Sept. 1.
–The Star Tribune

Denver seeks toilet mandate
Denver utility managers bothered by the city’s penchant for old-style porcelain toilets that use twice as much water as federal standards are pushing for a legislative fix.

They’ve asked lawmakers to consider setting a statewide toilet standard of 1.28 gallons per flush.

Toilets account for about a quarter of household water use, and the new standard could save 44,000 acre-feet of water a year by 2050. An acre-foot is said to be enough to serve the needs of two families of four for a year.

Toilet makers, who supported similar limits in California and Texas, have embraced the idea.

New toilets sold today use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush, in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency limits set in the 1990s.

But in Denver, an abundance of homes still have old-style fixtures that use an average volume of 3.14 gallons per flush, according to Denver Water’s latest “end-use study.”
–The Denver Post