Posts Tagged ‘lake vermilion state park’

Loons, Gulf oil, feedlot pollution

June 14, 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.

Gulf oil spill could impact Minnesota loons
Could Minnesota’s state bird, the common loon, become a victim of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico more than 1,200 miles away?

 A state Department of Natural Resources expert says it is a real possibility.

 Unknown numbers of nonbreeding, juvenile loons from Minnesota reside in the Gulf, awaiting the time when they will be old enough to breed and return north. Juvenile loons spend three years in the Gulf before they are sexually mature and migrate to Minnesota, said DNR nongame lake wildlife expert Pam Perry. 

“We have juvenile loons down there right now, and we don’t know what will happen to them,” she said. “Oil can have a direct impact on their mortality, but it can also disrupt the food chain. We certainly have a lot of concerns.” 

Mature loons residing in Minnesota are raising their young, but come late October and early November, they will migrate to the Gulf Coast, as well as the shores of Florida, where they will spend the winter. During that time, they will molt, or grow new feathers, and spend their time feeding in the Gulf, Perry said.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Estimate of Gulf oil flow doubled
A government panel essentially doubled its estimate of how much oil has been spewing from the out-of-control BP well, with the new calculation suggesting that an amount equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster could be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico every 8 to 10 days.

 The new estimate is 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day. That range, still preliminary, is far above the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.

 These new calculations came as the public wrangling between BP and the White House was reaching new heights, with President Obama asking for a meeting with BP executives and his Congressional allies intensifying their pressure on the oil giant to withhold dividend payments to shareholders until it makes clear it can and will pay all its obligations from the spill.

 The higher estimates will affect not only assessments of how much environmental damage the spill has done but also how much BP might eventually pay to clean up the mess — and they will most likely increase suspicion among skeptics about how honest and forthcoming the oil company has been throughout the catastrophe.
–The New York Times

 Gulf oil plumes unprecedented in ‘human history’
Vast underwater concentrations of oil sprawling for miles in the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged, crude-belching BP PLC well are unprecedented in “human history” and threaten to wreak havoc on marine life, a team of scientists said, a finding confirmed for the first time by federal officials.

 Researchers aboard the F.G. Walton Smith vessel briefed reporters on a two-week cruise in which they traced an underwater oil plum 15 miles wide, 3 miles long and about 600 feet thick. The plume’s core is 1,100 to 1,300 meters below the surface, they said.

“It’s an infusion of oil and gas unlike anything else that has ever been seen anywhere, certainly in human history,” said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia, the expedition leader.

 Bacteria are breaking down the oil’s hydrocarbons in a massive, microorganism feeding frenzy that has sent oxygen levels plunging close to what is considered “dead zone” conditions, at which most marine life are smothered for a lack of dissolved oxygen.
–The New York Times 

Scientists skeptical of Gulf sand berms
The frenzied response to the BP oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico has featured any number of wing-and-a-prayer options from engineers and elected officials. But the debate over a sand-barrier plan that skeptical scientists are referring to as “The Great Wall of Louisiana” has been the most politically charged.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and angry parish presidents have hammered the Obama administration in past weeks over what they characterize as a glacial federal approval process for the state’s plan to construct 128 miles of sand berms, dredging up 102 million cubic yards of seabed in the process, to bolster the state’s barrier islands and absorb oil before it reaches sensitive coastal marshes. 

The Army Corps of Engineers gave final approval last week to a scaled-down version of the project after rejecting the state’s original proposal, which could have cost as much as $950 million and taken as long as nine months to build. 

But as Jindal and other politicians celebrate the partial victory, coastal researchers warn that the project can’t be built in time to help — even if it had been approved when first proposed last month. And scientists warn that it may have unforeseen consequences. 

The berm system could reroute the spill up the Mississippi Delta, and it would be unlikely to survive even a mild storm during the current hurricane season.
–The Los Angeles Times 

Media struggle to get close to oil spill
When the operators of Southern Seaplane in Belle Chasse, La., called the local Coast Guard-Federal Aviation Administration command center for permission to fly over restricted airspace in Gulf of Mexico, they made what they thought was a simple and routine request.

 A pilot wanted to take a photographer from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans to snap photographs of the oil slicks blackening the water. The response from a BP contractor who answered the phone late last month at the command center was swift and absolute: Permission denied.

 “We were questioned extensively. Who was on the aircraft? Who did they work for?” recalled Rhonda Panepinto, who owns Southern Seaplane with her husband, Lyle. “The minute we mentioned media, the answer was: ‘Not allowed.’ ”
–The New York Times 

State completes Lake Vermilion park deal
With Gov. Tim Pawlenty completing a land deal for a new Minnesota state park, visitors could make their first trips there yet this year. 

Pawlenty and U.S. Steel Executive Vice President John Goodish signed documents transferring about 3,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota to the state for Lake Vermilion State Park. 

The state paid U.S. Steel $18 million for the property on Lake Vermilion’s eastern shore and has an additional $2 million available to begin developing the park, a process that will take six or more years. 

That $20 million was set aside by the Legislature two years ago, but an additional $30 million or so for future development costs still must be approved. 

The event in the governor’s reception room culminates a process that began three years ago when Pawlenty announced plans for the park, the first major new one in Minnesota since Tettegouche in 1979.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

St. Paul brewery well flows again
St. Paul’s old Schmidt Brewery is once again selling water that has remained deep under the Earth’s surface for 35 millenia.

 For 50 cents a gallon, people can now draw water from the brewery’s 1,050-foot-deep well. The well was drilled in 1980, and its water was later gauged by a University of Minnesota geology professor to be about 35,000 years old.

A pair of vending machines on the West Seventh side of the building at 882 W. Seventh St. will dispense as many gallons as residents need.

 But if 50 cents is too much, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 19, the brewer’s old Rathskeller, or German drinking hall, will be open to the public. At that time, David Kreitzer, who represents the building’s owners, said he will start offering free water for several days, followed by half-price water for a number of weeks.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

MPCA, farmer agree to $45,000 pollution penalty
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has reached an agreement with feedlot owner Joe Varner that requires him to pay $45,000 for alleged water pollution violations at his cattle farm near Clarissa in Todd County. 

 MPCA and Todd County feedlot staff inspections during 2008-2009 revealed several violations, mostly relating to pollution discharges into area waterways.  According to inspection reports, Varner failed to correct identified pollution hazards which allowed manure-contaminated sediment and runoff to discharge into two road ditches, one of which leads directly to area streams and rivers.  These discharges were not reported and no attempt was made to recover them once they had left the property.  The feedlot also exceeded its county-permitted limit of 712 head of cattle, and failed to obtain a required national pollution discharge elimination system permit once the number of cattle exceeded 1,000 head.  

Of the $45,000 civil penalty, up to $15,000 may be abated if Varner proves he spent that amount to correct the pollution hazards that allowed the discharges from his property.  If this is not done to the satisfaction of the MPCA, then the final $15,000 will be due in March 2012.  Varner must also submit a list of all sites in Minnesota that contain cattle he owns, along with evidence that these sites are properly registered and permitted. 

The MPCA regulates the collection, transportation, storage, processing and disposal of animal manure.  It also provides outreach and training for feedlot operators. 
–MPCA news release 

EPA takes action against Iowa feedlots
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has taken a series of civil enforcement actions against three beef feedlot operations in Iowa for violations of the Clean Water Act, as part of a continuing enforcement emphasis aimed at ending harmful discharges of pollutants from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) into the region’s rivers and streams.

 “In some instances, we are finding harmful bacteria such as E.coli in wastewater discharged by feedlots at levels that are exponentially higher than the levels at which EPA permits municipal wastewater treatment systems to discharge their treated wastewater,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “This is just one measure of the harm that can come when feedlots fail to operate within the law.”

 Runoff from CAFOs may contain such pollutants as pathogens and sediment, as well as nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, all of which can harm aquatic life and impact water quality.
–EPA Region 7 News Release 

Cottage Grove eyes reuse of tainted water  
Cottage Grove will hold off on instituting new restrictions on midday lawn watering until city leaders meet with state officials about finding a way to reuse millions of gallons of water being pumped out of south Washington County’s aquifers as part of 3M’s efforts to clean up contaminated groundwater. 

Under pressure from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to lower the city’s per capita water usage, public works officials proposed a ban on residential irrigation between noon and 4 p.m. for properties on the city’s water system, as well as an amendment to the city’s water conservation ordinance that would have allowed the public works director to impose emergency regulations in extreme conditions. 

But city council members said the amount of water saved by tacking the midday restriction on top of the city’s existing odd-even watering regulations would have been a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of gallons of water being pumped, treated and dumped into the Mississippi River during 3M cleanup efforts.
–The South Washington County Bulletin 

Army Corps to restore islands in Mississippi
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, awarded a $3.4 million contract to J.F. Brennan Co., Inc. of La Crosse, Wis., to restore islands in the Mississippi River.The project is an effort to restore lost and diminished fish and wildlife habitat in Pool 8 by restoring islands that have eroded or completely disappeared. Island loss allows more wave action in the backwaters, which can uproot plants and keep sediment suspended. Suspended sediment increases turbidity levels in the water, which reduces the amount of sunlight that penetrates the water and enables plant growth.
Phases I and II of the Pool 8 Islands habitat restoration project included building Horseshoe and Boomerang islands near Brownsville, Minn., and an island complex near Stoddard, Wis. The first stage of phase III was completed in 2006 in an area downstream of Stoddard. Stage 2 was completed in the fall 2009 and involved the construction of 12 islands in the Raft Channel area below Brownsville.Stage 3A will involve the construction of five large and three smaller islands near the raft channel area. Material to build the islands will be dredged from the vicinity of the islands and from Schnicks Bay. Most of the construction under this contract will be completed this year with three additional islands to be built in 2010.
–Army Corps of Engineers news release Climate scientists cite harassment
A few years ago, Ben Santer, a climate scientist with Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, answered a 10 p.m. doorbell ring at his home. After opening the door, he found a dead rat on his doorstep and a man in yellow Hummer speeding away while “shouting curses at me.” 

Santer shared this story last week before a congressional committee examining the increasing harassment of climate scientists, and the state of climate science. 

After the online posting in November of 1,073 stolen e-mails from climate scientists, including some from Santer, the threats took a more ominous turn,” Santer told members of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, chaired by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. Skeptics of climate change have dubbed the e-mail incident “Climategate.” 

“The nature of these e-mail threats has been of more concern,” Santer said. “I’ve worried about the security and safety of my family.”
–The Contra Costa Times

 Group promotes safer, homemade cleansers
What do you get when you mix baking soda, olive oil and borax, with a little white wine on the side?

 A green cleaning party.

 Dubbed the 21st-century equivalent of a Tupperware party by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), an environmental and health organization, the parties are a way for women to gather and create green, safe and cheap cleaning products.
–The Star Tribune

Lights pollute the night sky
Time was, the stars in the sky epitomized the very concept of countlessness. “Innumerable as the stars of night,” wrote Milton. If the poet’s contemporaries had tried enumerate the twinkling beacons above, they might have been able to make out 5,000 or more with the naked eye on a clear, moonless night. Today, a stargazing city-dweller would be lucky to identify a few dozen distinct points of light overhead, even under optimal meteorological conditions. And just one in three Americans can see the Milky Way from where they live. 

What happened to the stars? They got polluted. Polluted by light.

It’s not the stars themselves that have vanished, but rather the inky-black backdrop against which they used to be visible. Artificial light, cast upward from our cities and roads, has washed out the natural darkness. It has obscured the obscura. It has made the night false.
–The Washington Post

 Drainage information sessions set
Agricultural producers, ditch and tile contractors, watershed professionals, elected officials and citizens are invited to learn about farm drainage technology that has the ability to save groundwater, reduce runoff to local waterways, improve tile drain water quality and potentially increase crop yields.

 The technique – known as drainage management or conservation drainage – involves the installation of mechanisms in farm drainage tiles that allow water to be drained quickly from fields before spring tillage and then allow water to be held in the soil during the growing season. 

Three information sessions – from 7 to 8:30 p.m. — will be held:

  •   Wednesday, June 16, LeSueur County Environmental Services Center, 515 S. Maple Ave., LeCenter.
  •  Tuesday, June 22, Arlington Community Center, 204 Shamrock Drive, Arlington.
  •  Wednesday, June 23, Redwood Falls Community Center, 901 East Cook St., Redwood Falls.

 All the sessions are free. For information, contact Scott Sparlin at yasure@lycos.com or 507-276-2280.

 

Will Steger helps open 2010 – The Year of Water

January 18, 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 them in their entirety where they originally were published.

Will Steger helps open  2010 – The Year of Water
To educate and inspire people to value, conserve and protect Minnesota’s water resources, the Freshwater Society is launching a yearlong initiative, 2010: The Year of Water, with a free public lecture by Will Steger, noted polar explorer.

Steger will speak on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at a 2010: The Year of Water kickoff event at the Gray Freshwater Center in Excelsior.

 A Minnesota native who has led multiple dogsled expeditions to the North Pole, Greenland and Antarctica over the last 20 years, Steger now spends most of his time working to educate people, especially young adults, about the threat of global warming.

 Steger will speak about his first-hand observations of global warming in polar regions, the impact of climate change on water resources, the recent Copenhagen conference on climate change and the opportunities he sees for Americans to fight global warming and revitalize their economy by dramatically reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.

 Steger’s talk is the first of several initiatives planned by Freshwater Society as part of 2010: The Year of Water. Other activities include:

 A four-part lecture series, co-sponsored by Freshwater and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, in which national and local experts will discuss major water issues.

  • A water conservation curriculum that will encourage many fourth- and fifth-grade students across Minnesota to measure the water they and their families use and consider ways to use less.
  • Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality in which clubs, organizations and youth groups throughout Minnesota will be encouraged to combat phosphorus pollution of lakes and rivers by recycling leaves that, otherwise, would wash into storm sewers in the spring and fall.

The Jan. 26 opening event that features Steger’s talk on global warming begins at 7 p.m. at the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Road, Excelsior. Minn.

The event is open to the public, but seating is limited and pre-registration is required. To register, go to the Freshwater Society Web site: http://www.freshwater.org .

 Minnesota atrazine rules are adequate, ag department says
The Minnesota Agriculture Department says state regulations controlling the use of a popular agricultural weedkiller are doing their job. 

The department is reviewing the use of atrazine, which is commonly sprayed on cornfields. Nila Hines with the Agriculture Department says monitoring wells near farmland show that the amount of atrazine turning up in groundwater is declining. 

“Our environmental and human health regulations are adequate,” Hines said. “So there’s no need to change a specific label or change the registration of atrazine in Minnesota at this time.” 

Environmental groups have said atrazine levels in ground water are often too high, and that they pose a health risk. 

Samuel Yamin with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy says health studies convince him the limit should be stricter.
–Minnesota Public Radio
 To read the report on atrazine rules prepared by the Agriculture Department, the state Health Department and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and to learn how you can comment on it, click here.

 In a first, EPA sets tough nutrient limits for Florida
In a move cheered by environmental groups, the federal government proposed stringent limits on nutrient pollution allowed to foul Florida’s waterways.

 The ruling — which will cost industries and governments more than a billion dollars to comply — marks the first time the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has intervened to set a state’s water-quality standards.

The agency issued the proposed regulations after reaching a settlement in August with five environmental groups that sued the federal government in 2008 for not enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida.

 The caps on phosphorus and nitrogen levels in Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams, springs and canals would replace the state’s vague “narrative” approach to monitoring the effects of waste and fertilizer runoff, which the EPA deemed insufficient. The proposed rule includes provisions giving the EPA oversight authority to enforce the standards.
–The Miami Herald

 Evelyn Moyle, nature author and Freshwater board member, dies
Evelyn Wood Moyle, an original board member of the Freshwater Society and the co-author of a premiere guide to Minnesota wildflowers, died recently at age 95.  The Star Tribune published a complete obituary describing her longtime devotion to nature. 

With her husband, John, she created Northland Wildflowers: The Comprehensive Guide to the Minnesota Region in 1977. Tom Orjala, senior editor for regional studies and contemporary affairs for the University of Minnesota, told the Star Tribune that the guide became a bible for nature lovers in this region. “It was the book that any enthusiast had in their backpack, on the kitchen table,” Orjala said. 

In 2001, she and photographer John Gregor published a revised edition. 

Legislators to decide $18 million deal for Lake Vermilion park
The state of Minnesota has reached a deal to buy property on the east edge of Lake Vermilion for a vaunted new state park. But the price is higher than legislators have allowed, and they may not give it their blessing.

 Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that after more than two years of negotiations, U.S. Steel Corp. has agreed to sell the 3,000 undeveloped acres to the state for $18 million in cash. The company values the land at $2.3 million more and would treat that amount as a donation to the state.

 But the cash price, while lower than the $20 million in bonding the Legislature set aside for the project two years ago, is still higher than the state’s property appraisal. As a result, the Legislature must agree to lift a price cap that limits the state’s offer to 12 percent above the appraisal.

With the state facing a huge budget deficit, key legislators indicated they may resist lifting the price cap.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Mississippi Makeover open house set
Citizens can learn about the Mississippi Makeover project, the first locally led comprehensive plan for restoring the river south of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, at an open house Thursday, Jan. 28.

The open house will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Hastings High School, 200 General Sieben Drive. 

The river suffers from poor water clarity caused by sediment, algae and other suspended materials. The cloudy water is aesthetically unpleasing to people and harmful to fish, wildlife and aquatic plants. The sediment is also harming Lake Pepin by settling to the lake bottom and making the lake shallower. 

The Mississippi Makeover plan focuses on managing the river in the Hastings area and downstream, including building islands, removing rough fish and perhaps temporarily lowering water levels to stimulate plant growth and improve water clarity and river habitats. With funding from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Dakota County is coordinating this project with assistance from partners including MN Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District, and others. 

For more information about the Mississippi Makeover project, contact the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District at 651-480-7784 or www.dakotaswcd.org. 

Investment could aid copper mine near Ely
Duluth Metals has announced a partnership with one of the world’s leading copper mining companies, a deal that’s expected to provide money to start an underground mining project south of Ely. 

The new deal catapults the low-profile Duluth Metals into prominence after existing in the shadows of Polymet’s better known and more developed copper-nickel mining project. 

The new partnership is with Antofagasta PLC, a British company considered one of the world’s leading copper miners. Duluth Metals Chairman Christopher Dundas explained in a conference call that Antofagasta would provide up to $227 million for a 40 percent share of what they call the Nokomis project. 

Antofagasta has sales of more than $3 billion and operates large copper mines in Chile as well as rail transportation and water projects. Dundas said the new joint venture will not only speed up the Minnesota mining project; it may get a lot bigger.
–Minnesota Public Radio 

Michigan agency OKs Upper Peninsula mine
Michigan regulators have given final approval for construction and operation of a bitterly contested nickel and copper mine in the Upper Peninsula

The Department of Environmental Quality said  it has determined the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. project meets the requirements of the state’s mining laws. 

The mine would be built in a remote section of Marquette County called the Yellow Dog Plains. Opposition groups say it could pollute groundwater and streams, while mine officials say they’ll protect the local environment.
–The Associated Press 

Twins stadium conserves runoff
That brand new Colorado-grown turf in Target Field will be watered with good old-fashioned recycled Minnesota rain water, the Minnesota Twins announced. 

The Twins and one of their newest sponsors, Minneapolis-based Pentair Inc., said that the team’s new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis will be the first major sports facility anywhere to be irrigated and washed down with recycled rain water. 

The recycling system, designed and installed by Pentair, will collect water from Target Field’s seven acres and drain it into a 100,000-gallon cistern buried below the field. There the water will be disinfected and treated.
–The Star Tribune 

Ethanol hurting some bird populations
Government incentives for corn-based ethanol have prompted farmers to convert land for corn production, hurting some grassland bird populations in the prairie pothole region of the Upper Midwest, a University of Michigan study says. 

The study, conducted for the National Wildlife Federation by a team of graduate students, analyzes current and potential impacts of corn ethanol production on wildlife and habitat in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. 

It shows grassland being turned into cropland at an alarming rate, according to Greg Fogel, the study’s co-author. 

The report said the nation’s ethanol production has tripled since the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which mandated a large increase in domestic ethanol production. In addition, it said federal legislation in 2007 requires corn ethanol production to increase from 10.6 billion gallons last year to 15 billion gallons in 2015. The report found 31 federal incentives and mandates to encourage ethanol production.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Chicago suburbs seek L. Michigan water
In what could be the state’s largest collective gulp of Lake Michigan water in nearly two decades, 10 suburbs are seeking approval to tap the vast but closely guarded natural resource.

With groundwater supplies drying up and vulnerable to contamination, the Lake County communities that now rely on wells are casting envious eyes on that tantalizingly close supply — the sixth-largest freshwater lake in the world. They propose spending $250 million to lay about 57 miles of pipe and take other steps that would bring Lake Michigan water to the western part of Lake County.

It would be the largest diversion since the early 1990s and may spur criticism from other states that adjoin the Great Lakes, which brim with nearly 20 percent of the world’s supply of fresh water. The move comes at the same time that Michigan and other states are battling Illinois in U.S. Supreme Court over whether it’s doing enough to halt the potential invasion of Asian carp into Lake Michigan.

The carp fight has no bearing on Lake County’s request for water, but the application could fuel further animosities — especially because other states face much more stringent barriers to Great Lakes water than Illinois.
–The Chicago Tribune

 Illinois officials seek to allay carp fears
On a day when federal officials acknowledged the presence of Asian carp DNA closer to Lake Michigan than previously thought, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and state lawmakers attempted to calm fears and assure political forces around the Great Lakes that the invasive fish problem was under control.

“We are not in denial about the threat of this invasive species,” Durbin said at a packed news briefing at the Shedd Aquarium. “For at least the last 10 years, maybe longer, we’ve been actively dealing with this.”

Michigan’s attorney general sued Illinois in the U.S. Supreme Court last month, seeking the closing of navigational locks and dams in the Chicago region to seal off Lake Michigan from the voracious Asian carp. Environmental DNA sampling had previously indicated that the carp, which have steadily moved up Chicago’s waterways since at least the 1990s, had bypassed an electronic underwater barrier near Lockport and were within about six miles of the lake.
–The Chicago Tribune 

Group seeks limits on endocrine disruptors
Citing the decline in frogs and rise of “frankenfish,” a Bay Area environmental group filed a legal petition Monday for tighter federal standards on pollutants that disrupt the hormones of humans and wildlife. 

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Environmental Agency to beef up criteria under the Clean Water Act for pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other endocrine disruptors that leak through the water-treatment process and contaminate groundwater and drinking-water supplies. 

“We’ve found that a very small concentration of these chemicals can have profound reproductive effects,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco.
–The San Francisco Chronicle

DNR proposes five new muskie waters
In response to growing interest in muskellunge fishing, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is considering the stocking of muskie in five new waters starting in the fall of 2011.

The four lakes and a river are:  Roosevelt Lake in Cass and Crow Wing counties; Upper South Long Lake and Lower South Long Lake in Crow Wing County; Tetonka Lake in Le Sueur County; and the Sauk River Chain in Stearns County.

 “All of these waters meet or exceed the biological and physical criteria for muskie management,” said Dirk Peterson, DNR acting fisheries chief. 

The muskie is one of Minnesota’s largest fish, growing to more than 50 pounds and more than 50 inches in length. Anglers have become increasingly interested in the so-called “fish of 10,000 casts” now that 50-plus inch fish can be caught in Lake Mille Lacs, Lake Vermillion and other waters that have been stocked since the 1980s.
–DNR news release

Narrow Bering Strait has big impact on climate
At 50 miles wide, the Bering Strait, which separates Alaska from Russia, hardly seems like a major player in Earth’s climate.

But a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience concludes that this shallow strait between the North Pacific and the Arctic oceans has played a large role in climate fluctuations during recent ice ages. Depending on whether it’s closed or open, the strait dramatically changes the distribution of heat around the planet. 

When sea levels decline enough that water can no longer flow from the Pacific to the Arctic through the strait, the North Atlantic responds by growing warmer. That warmth is strong enough to melt ice sheets and temporarily reverse the glaciation of the Northern Hemisphere.
–The Christian Science Monitor 

Obsolete California dam to be razed
In what could be the largest dam removal project ever completed in California, government officials and a Monterey water company agreed to tear down the 106-foot-tall San Clemente Dam. The move is a victory for endangered steelhead trout which for decades have been blocked from their spawning grounds by the obsolete concrete structure on the Carmel River.

 The signed agreement ended more than 10 years of study and debate and sets in motion an $84 million project. The dam closure — a formidable engineering and biological enterprise — is expected to be watched by scientists and water managers around the United States.

 Built in 1921, San Clemente Dam once stored drinking water for thousands of people around the Monterey Peninsula. It irrigated golf courses and helped run clanking sardine canneries.

But today its reservoir is 90 percent silted up, choked with sand and mud. And the dam doesn’t provide electricity or flood protection.
–San Jose Mercury News

 Lake Erie studied for wind energy
The most consistent and unchecked winds in Ohio are found off the state’s northern coast: above Lake Erie.

That’s why Cuyahoga County leaders are pushing a $92 million project to build three to eight turbines three to five miles off Cleveland’s coast. 

The pilot project would, depending on the size of the turbines, produce 5 to 20 megawatts, enough electricity to power 9,000 to 12,000 houses. 

Supporters would like to see the 260-foot-high turbines operating by 2013 and want the project to be the first offshore wind development in the United States, spokesman A. Steven Dever of the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force said.
–The Akron Beacon Journal

 Wisconsin hearings set on ag runoff
Proposals to further reduce Wisconsin’s runoff pollution are the topic of public hearings statewide later this month and February. According to the state Department of Natural Resources, the updates are aimed at reducing toxic blue green algae blooms, fish kills, contaminated wells and other problems fueled by pollutants running off urban areas and farm fields and entering Wisconsin lakes, rivers and groundwater.

Major provisions of the proposed rule changes seek to reduce the potential of croplands, pastures and winter grazing areas that contribute phosphorus to Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and groundwater. Farmers would have to meet a maximum average level of phosphorus allowed to come off their fields, with that average calculated over an eight-year period.

The DNR estimates that 80 percent of farmers will meet the average with little or no change in their practices.
–The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald 

MPCA investigating Carver County
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is investigating how Carver County’s environmental staff allowed an illegal septic system to operate at the county-owned Waconia ballroom for 18 months.

 The MPCA inquiry, which began recently, is directed at the county’s Office of Environmental Services, which last year told the County Board that the system was legal and had passed inspections.

 The office accepted a compliance inspection report in 2008 even though it was prepared by the same man who installed the system about 30 years ago. Questions were raised almost immediately about the accuracy of the report, with critics claiming that the septic system was too close to the area groundwater to be legal.
–The Star Tribune

Tougher water enforcement; bow fishing for invasives

October 19, 2009

EPA chief Lisa P. Jackson announces a tougher effort to enforce water quality rules. An Illinois man, confronted with a river full of jumping Asian carp, develops a new sport: extreme aerial bow fishing. And cleaner air sometimes means dirtier water, the New York Times reports in the latest installment in its Toxic Waters series. Follow the links to read those articles and more.

EPA chief pledges stepped-up water enforcement
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing that the agency is stepping up its efforts on Clean Water Act enforcement.

 The Clean Water Action Enforcement Plan is a first step in revamping the compliance and enforcement program. It seeks to improve the protection of our nation’s water quality, raise the bar in federal and state performance and enhance public transparency.

“The safety of the water that we use in our homes — the water we drink and give to our children — is of paramount importance to our health and our environment. Having clean and safe water in our communities is a right that should be guaranteed for all Americans,” said Administrator Jackson. “Updating our efforts under the Clean Water Act will promote innovative solutions for 21st century water challenges, build stronger ties between EPA, state, and local actions, and provide the transparency the public rightfully expects.”

The plan announced outlines how the agency will strengthen the way it addresses the water pollution challenges of this century. These challenges include pollution caused by numerous, dispersed sources, such as concentrated animal feeding operations, sewer overflows, contaminated water that flows from industrial facilities, construction sites, and runoff from urban streets.
–EPA news release

Extreme aerial bow fishing for invasive carp
The sound and vibration of a boat engine make the fish fly.

The Illinois River and other waterways flowing into the Mississippi have become infested with invasive Asian fish species commonly called silver carp, which can turn a leisurely ride on a johnboat into the aquatic version of the running of the bulls. The carp can jump out of the water by the hundreds, sometimes soaring 10 feet in the air and often landing in the boat. They have loosened fishermen’s teeth, broken their jaws and left them scarred.

This unlikely and often violent meeting of quaint pastime and airborne fish is a problem for wildlife officials. For Chris Brackett, a guide on the Illinois River, it is a business opportunity.
–The N.Y. Times

Cleaner air yields dirtier water
MASONTOWN, Pa. — For years, residents here complained about the yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power plant, which left a film on their cars and pebbles of coal waste in their yards. Five states — including New York and New Jersey — sued the plant’s owner, Allegheny Energy, claiming the air pollution was causing respiratory diseases and acid rain.

So three years ago, when Allegheny Energy decided to install scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions, environmentalists were overjoyed. The technology would spray water and chemicals through the plant’s chimneys, trapping more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year before they escaped into the sky.

 But the cleaner air has come at a cost. Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north. (From the New York Times Toxic Waters series.)
–The New York Times

 Canada’s rivers in trouble, environmental group says
Serious action is required to keep Canada’s rivers flowing and to prevent them from being drained by expanding cities, soaring energy demands and climate change, says a new report.

“Flow regimes in some of Canada’s most important rivers, such as the South Saskatchewan and the St. Lawrence, have been modified to the extent that ecosystems are in serious trouble,” said the report, Canada’s Rivers at Risk, produced by WWF-Canada, an environmental organization. “Soon, many others — including some of the planet’s increasingly scarce, large, free-flowing rivers like the Skeena, the Athabasca, and the Mackenzie — could be in trouble, as well, as demands on the waters grow and climate change intensifies.” 

Overall, the study assessed the flow of 10 Canadian rivers that drain into the Pacific, the Arctic, the Hudson Bay and the Atlantic, and the impact of economic development, infrastructure and hydroelectric dams in the water basins.
–CanWest News Service

 EPA told to limit endocrine testing
The Office of Management and Budget has instructed U.S. EPA to use existing toxicity data rather than require companies to conduct new tests to determine whether chemicals can damage the human endocrine system.

At issue in the White House directive is the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program created by the 1998 Food Quality Protection Act to identify chemicals that can disrupt reproductive systems. 

EPA started the program in April with the announcement of the first 67 pesticides for screening with a “Tier 1” goal of identifying possible endocrine disruptors and requiring that they be tested by their manufacturers. The program’s second tier is aimed at determining safe exposure levels for such chemicals.
–The New York Times 

Carver County septic system gets pricier
For several years, Carver County officials have been trying to force Lowell and Janet Carlson to replace the septic system at their Norwood-Young America farm, eventually threatening them with a jail sentence earlier this month if they did not comply.

 It turns out, however, that the septic system the county approved and wanted the Carlsons to install in 2006 apparently would have been illegal, according to people the Carlsons brought in to help them replace the system.

As a result, the couple will have to install an even more costly mound system to keep themselves out of the Carver County jail.
–The Star Tribune

Lake Vermillion park negotiations dormant
Back in 2008, funding for Lake Vermilion State Park was one of the signature accomplishments of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s legislative maneuvering, a prize for which he had twisted arms and played hardball in last-minute negotiation with legislators. 

When the session was over, the governor had agreed not to veto funding for the Central Corridor Light Rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul. In exchange, DFL leaders approved $20 million in bonding authority for the “acquisition and development” of nearly 3,000 acres of land, including five miles of pristine shoreline, along Lake Vermilion. 

It was to be Minnesota’s first new state park since 1979. Today, however, the chances that Lake Vermilion State Park will ever happen are remote, and steadily diminishing. Negotiations between the Minnesota DNR and property owner U.S. Steel over the purchase of the land are, according to both sides, lying dormant.
–St. Paul Legal Ledger

Faucet snails found in Twin lakes
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is in the process of designating Upper and Lower Twin lakes in Hubbard and Wadena counties as “infested waters” because the faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata) has been found there. The snail has been linked to waterfowl deaths at Lake Winnibigoshish and the Upper Mississippi pool system in southeastern Minnesota. 

A local resident of Lower Twin Lake first noticed the snails attached to his boat and brought them to the attention of local DNR staff. Trained DNR and U.S. Geological Survey staff later verified them as faucet snails.

 New regulations will take effect at the lake to help stop the movement of the faucet snail to other waters. Once designated as “infested waters,” state law prohibits the transport of water from Upper and Lower Twin without a permit. It also prohibits anglers or commercial bait harvesters from harvesting bait from these waters.
–Minnesota DNR news release

 USGS assesses risk of giant invasive snakes
Five giant non-native snake species would pose high risks to the health of ecosystems in the United States should they become established here, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report.

 The USGS report details the risks of nine non-native boa, anaconda and python species that are invasive or potentially invasive in the United States. Because all nine species share characteristics associated with greater risks, none was found to be a low ecological risk. Two of these species are documented as reproducing in the wild in South Florida, with population estimates for Burmese pythons in the tens of thousands.

Based on the biology and known natural history of the giant constrictors, individuals of some species may also pose a small risk to people, although most snakes would not be large enough to consider a person as suitable prey. Mature individuals of the largest species—Burmese, reticulated, and northern and southern African pythons—have been documented as attacking and killing people in the wild in their native range, though such unprovoked attacks appear to be quite rare, the report authors wrote.
–Science Daily

Midwestern governors want CO2 pipeline
Midwestern states are working with energy companies to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to carbon capture and storage: finding ways to transport the gas from its industrial source to its final resting place.

The Midwestern Governors Association announced a goal to site and permit by 2012 at least one interstate pipeline to ferry global warming pollution from the region’s power plants to suitable underground storage sites.

The goal was among several laid out in the Midwestern Energy Infrastructure Accord aiming to transform the region’s coal-rich states into hubs for CCS technology (Greenwire, Oct. 7).

 An early step in the accord involves the development of a pipeline that would move carbon dioxide from capture-ready coal plants in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast for use in enhanced oil recovery.
–The New York Times