Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota DNR’

Hurricane’s legacy; Red River forum

December 10, 2012

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

Planners worry Sandy’s lessons will be lost
One month after Superstorm Sandy hit the northeastern United States, causing tens of billions of dollars in damages to property and infrastructure and claiming the lives of more than 100 people, leading urban planners, academics and government scientists worry that the event will dim into memory and the havoc and devastation it created will be overshadowed by society’s attempt to return to normal.

Furthermore, they say, ignoring questions about how to reduce the region’s vulnerability to rising sea levels and more frequent, intense storms will ensure that in the decades to come, the region will continue to experience massive infrastructure collapse and possibly more fatalities.

“What can we do to take advantage of this horrible disaster, in which people lost their lives, millions of damages were done?” said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “How can we have this be something more than just another disaster? How can it have a legacy that does justice to the people that lost their lives? How can we have the next Sandy be something for which we are better prepared?”

Lubchenco provided the opening remarks at a New York City event focused on the potential engineering, ecological and public policy responses to the rising sea levels and more frequent, intense storms brought about by climate change.
–Scientific American

Public forum set on L. Winnipeg, Red River
On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Consulate General of Canada will sponsor a free, public forum in Minneapolis on threats facing Lake Winnipeg and the north-flowing Red River. The Freshwater Society is a co-sponsor of the forum.

The forum at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute is intended for scientists, teachers, students, policy-makers, public officials and anyone interested in learning about the health of the Red River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Watershed.

The forum, which will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Learn more and register to attend..

DNR updating threatened and endangered list
Between Jan. 29 and Feb. 7, the Minnesota DNR will conduct five public hearings – in Rochester, New Ulm, Bemidji, Duluth and Plymouth – on a proposed revision of the state’s list  of endangered and threatened species. Learn more.

Texas cities lock up groundwater supplies
Amid a persistent drought that has rattled Texans about water supplies, cities and investors are jockeying to purchase millions of gallons of underground water and pipe it to rapidly growing communities.

The Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency is among the latest to enter the fray, paying to secure water it isn’t expected to use for a decade or more.

The agency isn’t alone. The rush to secure water rights across Central Texas means millions are being paid each year for unpumped water. “If you’re a city, you still have to make sure industry will keep coming to town. It’s a matter of economic life or death to you. You have to make decisions, and the easy answers are gone,” said Robert Cullick, a consultant on water and public infrastructure projects.

James Earp, assistant city manager for the city of Kyle, said that if the city’s population grows as expected, Kyle’s current water portfolio couldn’t support any new residents by about 2026. That was a driving force in its support for securing groundwater rights.
–The Austin American-Statesman

Los Angeles storm water before high court
The Supreme Court gave a skeptical hearing to a Los Angeles lawyer who sought to absolve the county’s flood control district of responsibility for polluted storm water that flows into the Pacific Ocean.

“Doesn’t common sense suggest” the flood control district is responsible? asked Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “The storm sewer system in Los Angeles hasn’t been shut down, right? You don’t question that there was an actual discharge [of pollutants]. What is it monitoring if not discharges … for which you’re responsible?”

The justices tried to sort out a complicated regulatory dispute over the highly polluted water that flows down the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers in the days after a heavy rainstorm. They sounded split on how to rule, however.

They could free Los Angeles County from any liability on the grounds that its two monitoring stations in the rivers do not point to the source of the pollution. The county made just that argument. Or they could send the case back to a judge in California to hold further hearings aimed at pinpointing who is to blame for the polluted runoff.
–The Los Angeles Times

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DNR sued over White Bear Lake drop

November 28, 2012
Dry land where White Bear Lake shallows used to be

Dry land replaces White Bear Lake shallows

A new lawsuit accuses the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of failing to properly regulate groundwater pumping by a number of communities ringing White Bear Lake.

The suit, filed in Ramsey County District Court by an organization representing White Bear residents and businesses, comes as the lake has reached an all-time record low level.

A U.S. Geological Survey study concluded water from the lake is flowing into a groundwater aquifer beneath the lake, and the study blamed increased municipal pumping from the aquifer for much of the loss.

Read the lawsuit. Read Pioneer Press, Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio reports on the litigation. Read an extensive report on the USGS research published in June 2012 by the Freshwater Society.

Conservation wins one in Senate’s Farm Bill

June 25, 2012

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

Senate restores conservation to crop insurance
The U.S. Senate, on a bipartisan vote, approved a 10-year, nearly $1 trillion Farm Bill that will cut $24 billion from current spending levels. The bill includes a provision requiring farmers comply with  minimum conservation standards in order to qualify for crop insurance subsidies. Many environmental organizations, including the Freshwater Society, had urged lawmakers to restore the conservation compliance measure dropped from the federal crop insurance program in 1996. Read a New York Times article on the bill that emerged from the Senate. Read a column from last fall in which Freshwater President Gene Merriam supported restoring the conservation requirement. Both Minnesota Senators voted for the amendment restoring the conservation requirement.

DNR holds off on roadside stops for invasives
First-ever random roadside checks of Minnesota boaters planned for this spring and early summer — part of a crackdown to slow the spread of invasive species — have been delayed because of legal concerns by some county attorneys.

“Some are just not buying into whether the legal authority is there,” said Jim Konrad, Department of Natural Resources enforcement chief.

Otter Tail County Attorney David Hauser is among those who have concerns. “Our Supreme Court has found random stops for DWI are not constitutional,” Hauser said. “We’ve asked the DNR, before we proceed with these stops, let’s look at this.”
–The Star Tribune

Minneapolis steps up invasives restrictions 
Park leaders in Minneapolis have imposed new restrictions on boat traffic on city lakes, a drastic effort to prevent the spread of invasive species that surprised anglers and conservation leaders.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board unanimously approved an emergency resolution that will require boats entering its lakes to be inspected, chaining off boat launches during weekday afternoons and other times when inspectors aren’t present.

The new rules go beyond state law — which doesn’t require boat checks unless an inspector is there — making it the most stringent such measure by a Minnesota city. “We’re concerned about the loss of access and that we might end up with different restrictions across the state depending on who owns it,” said Steve Hirsch, director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ ecological and water resources division. “We need to be consistent.”

He said the DNR hasn’t determined if the city’s steps are legal.
–The Star Tribune

How big will that Dead Zone be? It’s hard to say 
A team of NOAA-supported scientists is predicting that this year’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone could range from a low of approximately 1,197 square miles to as much as 6,213 square miles.

The wide range is the result of using two different forecast models. The forecast is based on Mississippi River nutrient inputs compiled annually by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The smaller dead zone forecast, covering an area slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island, comes from researchers from the University of Michigan. Their predicted size is based solely on the current year’s spring nutrient inputs from the Mississippi River which are significantly lower than average due to drought conditions throughout much of the watershed. The larger dead zone forecast, the equivalent of an area the size of the state of Connecticut, is from Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University scientists.

The Louisiana forecast model includes prior year’s nutrient inputs which can remain in bottom sediments and be recycled the following year. Last year’s flood, followed by this year’s low flows, increased the influence of this “carryover effect” on the second model’s prediction.
–USGS News Release

 How old is that groundwater? Pretty old
A portion of the groundwater in the upper Patapsco aquifer underlying Maryland is over a million years old. A new study suggests that this ancient groundwater, a vital source of freshwater supplies for the region east of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, was recharged over periods of time much greater than human timescales.

“Understanding the average age of groundwater allows scientists to estimate at what rate water is re-entering the aquifer to replace the water we are currently extracting for human use,” explained USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “This is the first step in designing sustainable practices of aquifer management that take into account the added challenges of sea level rise and increased human demand for quality water supplies.”

This new study from the USGS, the Maryland Geological Survey and the Maryland Department of the Environment documents for the first time the occurrence of groundwater that is more than one million years old in a major water-supply aquifer along the Atlantic Coast.
–USGS News Release

Big firms call for sustainable water use, pricing 
It’s not often that you get 45 of the world’s most powerful CEOs calling on governments to push up the price of a key resource.

But this is exactly what happened when companies ranging from Coca Cola, Nestle, Glaxo SmithKline, Merck and Bayer signed a special communiqué at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development highlighting the urgency of the global water crisis and calling on governments to step up their efforts and to work more actively with the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders to address it.

Of particular importance is their call to establish a “fair and appropriate price” of water for agriculture, industry, and people.

Gavin Power, deputy director the UN Global Compact, which is overseeing the collaboration, said that it was in companies’ long-term interest to preserve water supplies and that in many countries water is not treated with respect because it is too cheap.
–The Guardian

Springs are Florida’s canary in the coal mine
Invasive species and diminished flow caused by a recent drought and groundwater pumping are afflicting Florida’s artesian springs. Read a New York Times report on Florida’s emerging realization that its springs are vulnerable.

Sea level rising fast on East Coast
Rates of sea level rise are increasing three-to-four times faster along portions of the U.S. Atlantic Coast than globally, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report published in Nature Climate Change.

Since about 1990, sea-level rise in the 600-mile stretch of coastal zone from Cape Hatteras, N.C. to north of Boston, Mass. — coined a “hotspot” by scientists — has increased 2 – 3.7 millimeters per year; the global increase over the same period was 0.6 – 1.0 millimeter per year.

Based on data and analyses included in the report, if global temperatures continue to rise, rates of sea level rise in this area are expected to continue increasing.
 –USGS News Release

DNR report recommends 200 monitoring wells

October 9, 2009

The Twin Cities need about 200 new monitoring wells, at a cost of nearly $9 million over four years, for state agencies to keep track of how much water we have, how fast we are using it and how good or bad is its quality.

That’s the recommendation of a new report to the Minnesota Legislature prepared by the Department of Natural Resources.

Last spring, the Legislature directed the DNR to “develop a plan for the development of an adequate groundwater monitoring network of wells in the 11-county metropolitan area.” And lawmakers told the DNR to submit its plan by Oct. 1.

The 11 counties covered by the law are: Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey Scott, Sherburne, Washington and Wright.

At present, the DNR has 177 observation wells in those counties, and water levels in the wells are monitored about 10 times a year.

The new plan – prepared by the DNR in consultation with the U.S. Geological Survey and a number of state agencies – recommends installing about 60 “nests” of wells drilled into the overlapping aquifers that lie under the Twin Cities.

For example, a nest of wells in Minneapolis probably would include four closely spaced wells, ranging in depth from about 60 feet to 900 feet. And each well would be monitored electronically monitored in real time, yielding measurements of water levels on a daily or hourly basis.

The new wells would not supplant separate wells used, or planned, by the Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Department of Health or the Department of Agriculture to monitor water quality. But the DNR plan calls for gathering substantially more water quality information from the new wells than currently is collected from DNR observation wells.

The $8.9 million four-year cost the DNR estimated for the new monitoring wells includes $5.5 million for drilling the wells and installing monitoring instrumentation; $1.4 million for technical support, including computer modeling of groundwater supplies; and $2 million for developing a web-based means to store and disseminate data on water quality and quantity.

In 2008, the DNR told a legislative committee that, on a statewide basis, the agency would need 6,000 more wells, at a cost of $120 million, to adequately monitor groundwater. Dave Leuthe, the DNR administrator who led the team that recommended 200 new wells for the 11 counties, said:

“It is an adequate network. I think the 6,000 was probably viewed as somewhat more of a desired network.”

Part of the law asked the DNR to estimate the cost of building and operating the proposed 11-county monitoring system on a “cents per gallon” basis.

The estimated four-year cost of drilling and operating the wells, spread over the approximately 140 billion gallons of ground water pumped each year in the 11 counties, comes to .0000001589 cents per gallon per year, or $15.89 per million gallons.