Posts Tagged ‘loons’

Study: Erosion steals tons of soil

April 18, 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.

Study says soil erosion is increasing
A new study by the Environmental Working Group suggests that soil erosion from Iowa farm fields is significantly worse than federal data indicate, and that the U.S. is losing ground in the decades-old fight to control erosion and the water pollution it produces.

The chief author of the study was Craig A. Cox, who delivered a Feb. 24 lecture on agricultural pollution at the University of Minnesota. The lecture was sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the university’s College of Biological Sciences. To learn more:

Sediment is strangling Lake Pepin
On a sweet spring day last week, Mike McKay looked out from a bluff above this breathtaking sweep of the Mississippi River and pointed out a scrubby little island that grows just a bit bigger every year.

“There’s a saying in our house,” he said. “The river giveth and the river taketh away.”

 For the past several decades, the river has mostly given to the lake he loves — up to a million tons of mud each year, enough to bury the Foshay Tower from top to bottom.

 At that rate, within this century the northern third of Lake Pepin will become a marsh, with a narrow channel dredged through its center for barge traffic. This grim accumulation represents a looming threat to one of Minnesota’s scenic jewels. But it also signals a much bigger problem that in the past 70 years has fundamentally changed long stretches of state’s two great rivers, the Mississippi and the Minnesota.

 Now, for the first time, a clear picture is emerging of the source of most of that sediment — the heart of Minnesota’s farm country. It foreshadows exactly who will be asked to take on most of the responsibility for protecting one of the state’s most treasured lakes and returning the rivers to health.
–The Star Tribune

Ice Out/Loon In party set April 21Freshwater celebrates spring April 21
This year’s ice-out on Lake Minnetonka was declared Thursday, April 14. Now plan to celebrate that event – a sure sign of spring – with the Freshwater Society.

 Freshwater is hosting a party and fund-raiser from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, at Bayview Events Center in Excelsior. The party celebrates ice going out on the lake and – further proof of spring – visits to the lake by migrating loons.

 The party will feature food, drink, bluegrass music, talks on loons and ice-out, a loon-calling contest, a raffle and a silent auction. The silent auction features scores of items: vacation getaways in Colorado and at the North Shore, fly fishing lessons, boat trips on Lake Minnetonka, Twins tickets, art objects, an antique boat motor and much more.

 Go to for information and to register to attend the event.

 Indian tribes press for water rights
Sardis Lake, a reservoir in southeastern Oklahoma young enough to have drowned saplings still poking through its surface and old enough to have become a renowned bass fishery, is not wanting for suitors.

 Oklahoma City and fast-growing suburbs like Edmond want to see the water flowing through their shower heads someday. So do the water masters of Tarrant County, Tex., 200 miles to the south, who are looking to supply new subdivisions around Fort Worth and are suing for access.

 Now another rival has arrived: the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, who were exiled to southeastern Oklahoma 175 years ago and given land in the area.

 Gregory Pyle, chief of the Choctaw nation, said his tribe would sue to win some of the water if necessary. “All this water was controlled originally by the Indian tribes in this area,” Mr. Pyle said. “It is all Choctaw and Chickasaw water.”

 The tribes want the state to recognize them as joint owners. The issue has been increasingly on the minds of city planners in fast-developing cities as they contemplate the prospect of tapping other existing water sources.
–The New York Times

 A glass of beer, some Cajun music – and science
Learn about the Mississippi River’s disappearing delta – and what can be done to restore it – in an informal, happy-hour setting.  Chris Paola, a University of Minnesota professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, will talk about his research on the delta and the efforts to control the river that have diminished it during A Sip of Science at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the Aster Café in Minneapolis.

A Sip of Science is combination of science, music, conversation and food and drink. It is sponsored by the National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics at the university, and it is held at the Aster Café, 125 SE Main St., Minneapolis.

Paola will focus on how to restore and protect the remaining river delta – 3 million acres of coastal wetlands – while providing the flood protection and navigational services the United States needs. His talk is titled “The Delta Dilemma: Man vs. Nature on the Mississippi.”  Cajun music will be provided by Eric Mohring and Gary Powell.

 Wolves may be removed from endangered list
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it’s trying again to remove gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan from the federal threatened and endangered species lists, enabling those states to launch their own wolf-management plans.

 Several earlier proposals to remove federal protections have been blocked by challenges from environmental and animal rights groups.

 Hoping for a different result this time, the federal agency has tweaked its draft rule to respond to procedural concerns identified by courts. The proposal also addresses emerging information that two species of wolves coexist in the western Great Lakes area.

 After a public comment period, the agency will review feedback and publish a final decision later this year that likely will get another court challenge. 

“No matter what we put out there, they probably will challenge it,” said Laura Ragan, a wildlife biologist for the agency’s Midwest region. “My hope is we have come up with something that is solid and can withstand that litigation.”

 Collette Adkins Giese, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, maintained it’s still premature to lift wolf protections.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Appeals Court overturns invasives conviction
A minnow isn’t a fish, in the eyes of the state of Minnesota, and as a result, Kim Douglass Barsness is off the hook.

 At least that’s according to a ruling issued by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

 The case involves Barsness, a Baudette resident, who was caught by a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer in May 2009 harvesting minnows in Upper Red Lake, according to the appellate decision.

 Barsness had a permit to harvest minnows, but he was using equipment with orange DNR tags labeled “INF (infested) WTR (waters) ONLY,” the decision said.

 The labels are part of a DNR effort designed to stop the spread of an invasive species called the spiny water flea.

Upper Red Lake is not infested with the spiny water flea, and the DNR said Barsness wasn’t supposed to use equipment labeled for infested waters in Upper Red Lake, according to the ruling.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

TVA to close 18 coal-fired generators
In a sweeping legal settlement, the Tennessee Valley Authority has agreed for the first time to reduce its overall capacity to generate coal-fired electricity, promising to close 18 of its coal-burning generators over the next six years while spending $3 billion to $5 billion on pollution controls on any remaining units that use coal.

The accord, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, will bring about one of the most significant cuts in coal-fired power generation by any utility that relies heavily on coal in its fuel mix. The closings will eliminate 16 percent of the authority’s coal-fired capacity, and the accord holds out the prospect that some or all of another 18 units will shut down as well, for a total loss of as much as a third of the authority’s coal-burning capacity.

By the end of 2017, the utility’s emissions of nitrogen oxides, a crucial component in smog and ground-level ozone, will be reduced by at least 69 percent, and sulfur dioxide emissions will be cut by 67 percent, the E.P.A. said, compared with 2008 levels.
–The New York Times

Could Coon Rapids dam stop silver carp?
The original question was simple:

After decades of serving as an effective barrier — separating fish downstream from those up — why is the Coon Rapids Dam no longer considered a formidable barrier?

 It is to most fish down the stream, but not to the silver carp, that fish also known as the “flying carp.”

This giant jumping fish, the one that leaps four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and even 10 feet out of the water when a motorized boat passes and the one that now inhabits many areas of the lower Mississippi River from Iowa to Louisiana and its tributaries east and west, is already in Minnesota and pointed toward…Mille Lacs Lake.

 That is, of course, if it can get over the Coon Rapids Dam spillway and into the upper portion of the Mississippi. A study commissioned by the Department of Natural Resources and the Three Rivers Park District from Stanley Consultants, Inc., says this could happen.

 It will definitely happen, the study points out, if the present dam is not upgraded soon and could still happen even after repairs and the planned preventative modifications are put into place.
–The Coon Rapids Herald


Nitrogen-skimping corn is ‘holy grail’
Marc Albertsen, the bespectacled, 62-year-old research director at Pioneer Hi-Bred, DuPont Co.’s seed-development unit, was catching up on paperwork one morning in July 2007 when he got a call from an assistant, Sharon Cerwick.

“Marc,” Cerwick said, “you’d better come out here and see this.”

Cerwick had been in the field inspecting rows of experimental corn planted next to Pioneer’s headquarters in Johnston, Iowa. The corn had been genetically engineered by Albertsen and his colleagues in hopes of achieving a new trait: more efficient use of nitrogen. That’s at the top of the corn growers’ wish list because the cost of ammonium nitrate fertilizer has soared 130 percent to $450 a ton since 2002. Albertsen and other seed scientists have been trying to build nitrogen-efficient stalks for at least five years, but their supercorn is still five to 10 years away.

 “You’re talking about our holy grail,” said Pamela Johnson, a National Corn Growers Association board member with 1,200 acres in Floyd, Iowa.

 In the field, Albertsen discovered one row of corn whose leaves were afflicted by a V-shaped yellowing, the telltale sign of nitrogen deficiency. The other row — the plants that had been engineered for nitrogen efficiency — was green and thriving. Both had been planted in severely nitrogen-deficient soil, but the genetically engineered plants seemed unaffected.

 Tougher Lake Tahoe invasives ruled eyed
Lake Tahoe regulators aim to get tough when it comes to people attempting to evade inspectors trying to protect the lake from aquatic invaders attached to boats launching into the lake.

 Later this month, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will consider rules making it illegal to lie to boat inspectors or tamper with seals designed to show boats have been inspected and are free of invasive species such as the quagga mussel.

 The change is designed to beef up a boat inspection and decontamination program that’s been in place at the landmark alpine lake since the spring of 2008.
–The Reno Gazette Journal

Ground disposal of effluent proposed

August 16, 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.

Comment sought on ground disposal of sewage effluent
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking public comment on the proposed construction of a sewage treatment plant in East Bethel that would put treated effluent into the ground.

 The proposal is part of a plan to install sewers in the fast-growing community that now is mostly served by private septic systems.

 Under the plan from Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, about 420,000 gallons per day of effluent would flow  into two shallow earthen basins, where the effluent then would drain into the ground. Sewage entering the plant would be treated and filtered to produce effluent that would be higher quality than  the water discharged from other Metropolitan Council treatment plants.

 Jim Roth, the Metropolitan Council engineer overseeing the project, said the effluent would go into a shallow aquifer that is separated by a layer of silty till material from a deeper sand aquifer that supplies water to private wells in the area. 

Details of the project are spelled out in an environmental assessment worksheet prepared by the Pollution Control Agency. The agency is seeking public comment on that document before determining if a more comprehensive environmental review will be conducted. Comments are due by Sept. 8.

 Questions about the project can be directed to Nancy Drach at 651-757-2317 or toll-free at 1-800-657-3864.  

Pawlenty rejects DNR shoreline rules
Minnesota regulators spent years devising more protective shore land and dock rules to guide new development along state lakes.

But Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent them back to the drawing board, rejecting their revisions as “overreaching” and as undermining local control and property rights. He suggested the Legislature take up the matter next winter. 

“The rules you forwarded to me regarding these issues do not strike a proper balance between protection of our lakes and waterways and the equally important right of our citizens to enjoy them and their property,” Pawlenty wrote in a letter to Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Holsten. 

Pawlenty’s decision means decades-old standards for lakeshore construction and docks that are commonly considered out of date will be around a good while longer. If the governor had accepted the draft changes, a public hearing process would have begun soon, and new standards could have been in place next year.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Study seeks pollution hot spots for Woodbury lakes
Two Woodbury lakes are being targeted for an experimental cleanup approach this summer.

Officials are using what’s called “subwatershed assessment” on Powers and Carver lakes and other lakes across the metro area, according to Jay Riggs, manager of the Washington Conservation District.

 “This is really cutting-edge,” Riggs said. “We are trying to identify which practices to put into place.”

The technique combines old and new technologies to find the sources of runoff pollution around a lake and the cheapest way to stop them.

 Aerial photos and specialized computer software are used to identify problem areas. Then one- to three-block areas are mapped out, and homeowners are given suggestions for cutting runoff pollution.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Wind turbines planned near Manhattan
For years, New York officials have envisioned powering the region from a set of huge wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island. But well before an offshore wind farm would be up and running, giant turbines may soon be spinning much closer to the city.

Within three years, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hopes to have five wind towers, each more than 280 feet tall, operating on the west side of New York Harbor. Nearby, the City of Bayonne, N.J., plans to install an equally large turbine to power a sewage-pumping station. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs is considering placing wind turbines on or near its hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
–The New York Times

Anglers’ felt soles spread invasives
For fly fishers who pride themselves on a conservationist ethic, it hurts to discover that they may be trampling on that ethic every time they wade into a trout stream. 

Blame their boots — or, more precisely, their felt soles. Growing scientific evidence suggests that felt, which helps anglers stay upright on slick rocks, is also a vehicle for noxious microorganisms that hitchhike to new places and disrupt freshwater ecosystems. 

That is why Alaska and Vermont recently approved bans on felt-soled boots and Maryland plans to do so soon.
–The New York Times 

Satellites to track migrating loons
Ten common loons are now sporting satellite transmitters so researchers can study the migratory movements and feeding patterns of these remarkable fish-eating waterbirds as they migrate through the Great Lakes toward their winter homes farther south. 

By using satellite tracking devices implanted in the loons from Wisconsin and Minnesota, U.S. Geological Survey scientists expect to learn essential information about avian botulism needed by managers to develop important conservation strategies for the loon species.  

“This study will also help managers better understand how loons fare as they head to their wintering grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts,” said USGS scientist Kevin Kenow, of the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Cross, WI. “Right now, little is known about habitat use along their entire migratory routes.” 

In addition to the loons with satellite transmitters, about 70 other loons will have geolocator tags, which will record daily location, temperature, light levels and water-pressure data that will log the foraging depths of these diving birds. 

Movement of loons from previous studies using satellite transmitters can be followed online.  Loon movements from the current study will be available later this summer. To see a video on the project, click here.
–USGS News Release 

Origin of Chicago’s Asian carp murky
In the wake of a government news release that pointed a finger at humans for planting an Asian carp near Lake Michigan, facts are coming to light that indicate Illinois officials may have stretched their own science to sell a whopper of a fish tale. 

When netting crews hunting for Asian carp above an electric barrier on the Chicago canal system in June pulled a three-foot long, 20-pound mature bighead carp from Lake Calumet – just six miles south of Lake Michigan – the question was: How did it get there? 

If it swam on its own, that would spell trouble for Lake Michigan because it could indicate that the electric fish barrier about 35 miles downstream from the lake was not doing its job, and more fish had perhaps breached this last line of defense.

If it were determined that the fish got there with human help, then it could more easily be explained as an isolated find, and not evidence that additional steps should be taken on the canal system to protect the Great Lakes.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 Michigan spill feeds pipeline opposition
Environmental groups and landowners, upset by last month’s oil spill in Michigan, are urging the Obama administration to deny a proposal for an oil pipeline that would go from the Montana-Canada border to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. 

Alberta-based TransCanada’s proposed 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline would link up with its existing 2,151-mile Keystone pipeline, which began operations in June, and go through Montana, South Dakota,  Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

 Opponents say last month’s spill underscored the dangers of the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels. A pipeline ruptured on July 25 and spilled nearly a million gallons of crude oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. 

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and the Natural Resources Defense Council opposed the Keystone XL project even before the Michigan spill, but the incident has increased scrutiny and elevated concerns.
–USA Today

UN chief urges multiple, small steps on climate
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said that he doubted that member states would reach a new global climate change agreement in December at a conference in Mexico. 

Mr. Ban, who was the head cheerleader for reaching a deal during the 2009 conference in Copenhagen, suggested that a better approach might consist of small steps in separate fields that built toward wider consensus rather than aiming for one sweeping pact.

 “Climate change, I think, has been making progress, even though we have not reached such a point where we will have a globally agreed, comprehensive deal,” Mr. Ban said at a news conference.
–The New York Times 

 Mercury limits set for cement industry
The Environmental Protection Agency set the first limits for mercury emissions from cement factories. The rules will cut mercury emissions and particulate matter 92 percent a year starting in 2013, the agency said. Manufacture of Portland cement, the type most widely used, is the third-biggest source of mercury air pollution in the country, the agency said. Mercury, which can harm childhood development of the brain and is linked to asthma, heart attacks and premature deaths, is released when cement components are heated in a kiln, according to agency documents. The EPA estimated that the rules would yield $6.7 billion to $18 billion in environmental and health benefits and cost companies as much as $950 million a year.
–Bloomberg News Service

Save a reef, saute a lionfish
If you can’t beat it, eat it. That’s the edict coming from scientists who are trying to combat the spread of invasive lionfish in Atlantic and Caribbean waters. 

A native of South Pacific and Indian Oceans and popular aquarium specimen, lionfish were likely released off Florida back in the 1980s and have since spread as far as North Carolina and South America.

Brilliant maroon with a “mane” of long, venomous spines, the lionfish is a voracious eater, with no match to its predatory prowess in foreign territory. Scientists fear its rapid reproduction and aggressive appetite will pummel already overfished native stocks of snapper and grouper because they compete for the same food. The spiny swimmers might also dine on algae-eating parrot fish, causing algae to grow out of control and cover reefs.

  The American appetite for seafood may be the best hope against the interloper. Thus the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) has partnered with chefs and spear fishermen to launch an Eat Lionfish Campaign. Fortunately, the lionfish is said to be scrumptious: a delicate white fish rivaling the taste of grouper and snapper.
— Audubon Magazine

White Bear Lake hits record low
The parched state of the lake is an everyday topic in the city of White Bear Lake. 

The lake recently hit a record low — more than 5 feet below its normal level — and residents are trying to figure out how to refill the 2,200-acre body of water. 

“It’s the talk of the town,” said Mike Parenteau, a board member for the lake’s conservation district.

His group recently accepted a $5,000 grant from the White Bear Lake Homeowners Association to study recharge possibilities. 

And while White Bear Lake residents fret, folks a few miles west in Shoreview are marveling at Snail Lake’s rebound. Last summer, the 150-acre lake was 5 feet below its normal level, too, but in the past four months, it has risen almost 4 feet.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 California delays vote on $11.1 billion water bond
California lawmakers have voted to delay putting an $11.1 billion water bond to voters, extending a battle to rework the biggest effort in decades to upgrade the state’s water system.

The legislators also agreed to lengthen the terms of California’s nine water commissioners appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a change that some critics of the governor say could give him influence over the direction of the state’s water projects after leaving office in January. The commissioners’ terms would have ended at a various times over the next few years; they will now all hold their positions until May 2014.

 The postponement — approved by narrow majorities in both statehouse chambers — is part of a broader struggle to improve California’s ailing water system. The Golden State’s frequent droughts and growing population place special demands on an aging water system, which itself causes major environmental damage.

 The bond, part of a set of water-related bills approved by the legislature last year, is a test case for how well California can balance environmental concerns with water demand from farmers, consumers and businesses. The bills called for projects including ecosystem restoration, water conservation, groundwater monitoring and construction of water storage, such as dams and reservoirs.

Some of those projects are moving forward, but the bond requires the approval of California’s voters. Lawmakers agreed to move that vote from Election Day in November to 2012, due to fears that voters would reject the measure.
–The Wall Street Journal

Mexico, U.S. in talks on water storage
The powerful earthquake that rattled Mexicali, Mexico, on Easter Sunday also has stirred serious international talks over the future of the Colorado River, the Las Vegas Valley’s primary water source.

Federal officials from the United States and Mexico met at the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s office in downtown Las Vegas to discuss a shortage and water-sharing agreement between the two nations.

The talks have been ongoing since early 2008, but the 7.2 magnitude quake on April 4 seemed to create more urgency on the Mexican side because widespread infrastructure damage might prevent that nation from using its full Colorado River allocation.

 Lorri Gray-Lee has been taking part in the discussions as director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado River region.

 She said Mexico wants to be able to store a part of its annual river allocation in Lake Mead for future use once the earthquake damage has been repaired.
–Las Vegas Review-Journal

Huge California solar complex proposed
Thousands of acres of farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley have been removed from agricultural production, largely because the once fertile land is contaminated by salt buildup from years of irrigation.

But large swaths of those dry fields could have a valuable new use in their future — making electricity. 

Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide land for what would be one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres. 

At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.
–The New York Times

China struggles with environmental challenges
This year, China will leapfrog Japan to become the second-biggest economy on Earth, behind only the USA, predicts Ting Lu, a China economist with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. Next month, China starts broadcasts on CNN and other networks of an image-boosting commercial featuring stars such as basketballer Yao Ming and China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei. 

Back at ground level, though, in what remains a developing country, China’s people and government are struggling to deal with a series of natural disasters that some environmentalists believe are the deadly, man-made consequences of favoring economic growth over environmental protection. 

The latest tragedy occurred when heavy rain triggered landslides that blocked a river in Zhouqu County, an ethnically Tibetan area in northwestern Gansu province, forcing floodwater to sweep through the county seat.
–USA Today

 MPCA levies $45,000 pollution penalty
Universal Circuits, which operates a Maple Grove circuit-board-manufacturing plant, has agreed to pay a $45,000 penalty for alleged environmental violations.

 The alleged violations were discovered in 2007 and 2008, during inspections by Hennepin County Department of Environmental Services staff.  Hennepin County referred the violations to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for enforcement. 

The manufacturing process at Universal Circuits’ Maple Grove facility uses hazardous materials and generates hazardous wastes containing or including sulfuric, hydrochloric and nitric acid and several other corrosive etching and cleaning chemicals; solvent waste containing xylene; and copper, lead, cyanide-containing and other wastes. 

 During their inspections of the facility, Hennepin County staff documented conditions indicating that Universal Circuits had failed to recover spilled hazardous wastes as rapidly and thoroughly as possible. Hennepin County staff also documented that industrial waste or other pollutants had breached a trench inside the building, resulting in a discharge from the facility to the soil.

 The company has since corrected all alleged violations.
–MPCA News Release

 EPA takes on eight Iowa feedlots
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has taken a series of civil enforcement actions against eight beef feedlot operations in northwest 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 into the region’s rivers and streams.

All eight of the most recent enforcement actions involve administrative compliance orders issued to medium-sized Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, which are feedlots that confine between 300 and 999 cattle and whose discharge is facilitated by a man-made conveyance.
–EPA Region 7 News Release

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 or 507-276-2280.