Posts Tagged ‘water pollution’

State of the River report examines Mississippi

September 27, 2012

The Friends of the Mississippi and the National Park Service have produced an in-depth review of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities area.

The report, issued Thursday, Sept. 27, examines the health and safety of the river’s water for the organisms that live in it and for the humans who drink it and swim and fish in it. The report describes the Mississippi as much cleaner than it was years ago, but still suffering from too much phosphorus, too much nitrogen and too much sediment.

It also describes a new danger: increasing concentrations of dioxins formed from triclosan, a chemical used in many anti-bacterial hand soaps, cosmetics and deodorants.

Read the 48-page State of the River report. Read a Star Tribune article about the report.

Take a shot at spending $185 million on clean water

September 6, 2012

If you had $185 million to spend protecting  and cleaning up Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and groundwater, how would you spend it?

What projects and what state agencies would you decide are worthy of taxpayer dollars? Which would you conclude are low-priority projects that maybe the state can do without?

Here’s your chance to take a stab at answering those kinds of questions.

The Clean Water Council, a 19-member group that advises the Minnesota governor and Legislature on water issues, is seeking public comment on an overall framework of budget priorities and on 64 draft funding recommendations.

This is where you and your opinions and priorities come in. Examine the draft recommendations made by a council committee, and compare what the committee proposed spending vs. the spending sought by state agencies. Comment on those 64 recommendations and on budgeting principles in the council’s on-line survey.

The council faces a Dec. 1 deadline for completing its recommendations for the expenditure of $185 million in expected sales tax revenue over the next two fiscal years.

Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers are not obliged to follow the Clean Water Council’s recommendations in appropriation decisions next year, but in the past they have given a lot of deference to the recommendations.

The $185 million represents 33 percent of the projected two-year proceeds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment that Minnesota voters approved in 2008.

Just over two-thirds of the sales tax receipts is subject to separate sets of recommendations, and will be is split between fish and wildlife habitat, parks and trails, and arts and culture.

The Clean Water Council’s request for public comment  is intended to add some citizen input to a budgeting process driven by the Clean Water Council and by the state agencies the council recommended receive the money. The agencies are: Pollution Control, Natural Resources,  Agriculture, Health, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota  Public Facilities Authority, the Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota.

Together, those agencies sought $210 million over two years. So far, the Clean Water Council’s Budget and Outcomes Committee has recommended $191 million. The committee and the full council are expected to refine and reduce that total in meetings in September, October and November.

After you have reviewed the spending and given your input to the Clean Water Council, respond to this blog and tell us what you like about the recomendations and which ones you would change.

MN FarmWise aims to clean up, protect streams

August 6, 2012

The Freshwater Society and several partners are organizing a community-based farmer-to-farmer initiative designed to protect streams by supporting the voluntary adoption of conservation measures on agricultural lands. The project, MN FarmWise, has been planned over the last year by an advisory group that includes farmers and other agricultural professionals. It is a partnership between Freshwater, the National Park Service and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership. It is sponsored by The Mosaic Company Foundation. Read the Aug. 6 news release announcing the program’s launch.

White Bear Lake levels and a Freshwater app

June 4, 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.

Newsletter available electronically
A new Freshwater Society newsletter is available. Check it out on our website. The 12-page newsletter can be downloaded as a PDF, or you can page through it in electronic-magazine form.

It includes articles on:

• U.S. Geological Survey research linking a big decline in the water level in White Bear Lake to groundwater pumping.

• A free Freshwater app now available for smartphones.

• A column by Gene Merriam urging consumers to demand more-sustainable food.

G. Tracy Mehan III

G. Tracy Mehan III

Clean Water Act lecture set June 25
Forty years ago this autumn, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly overrode President Richard Nixon’s veto and enacted the Clean Water Act. The act dramatically reduced pollution from industry and sewage treatment plants that must obtain federal permits to discharge their wastes. But the legislation was much weaker in dealing with today’s biggest water-quality challenge: Polluted runoff from multiple, diffuse sources, especially from agriculture. 

G. Tracy Mehan III, an environmental consultant who was the top water-quality official in the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, will deliver a free, public lecture in St. Paul on the Clean Water Act’s successes, political obstacles to strengthening the law and avenues that can lead to progress.

The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. It will be at 7 p.m. in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. The lecture is titled The Clean Water Act After 40 Years: What Has It Accomplished? How Do We Fulfill Its Promise?

Learn more and register to attend.

Ag Department names ‘Certainty’ committee
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has announced the membership of an advisory committee that will help develop the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program.

The new program is the result of an agreement between Gov. Mark Dayton and federal officials, with the goal of enhancing Minnesota’s water quality by accelerating adoption of on-farm water quality practices. The committee will provide recommendations to MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

Members are:
• Douglas Albin, farmer and chairman of Yellow Medicine County Corn Growers. • Dennis Berglund, CEO and general manager, Control Crop Consulting.
• Nathan Collins, president, Swift County Farm Bureau and Murdock City Council member.
• Elizabeth Croteau-Kallstad, executive director, Cannon River Watershed Partnership.
• Dean Fairchild, assistant vice president, Mosaic Company.
• Dennis Fuchs, district administrator, Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District.
• Kirby Hettver, farmer and member of Chippewa County Corn and Soybean Growers.
• Jim Kleinschmit, rural communities Program director, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
• Bob Lefebvre, executive director, Minnesota Milk Producers Association.
• Mike Myser, mayor of Prior Lake.
• Doug Peterson, president, Minnesota Farmers Union.
• James Riddle, supervisor, Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District.
• Kris Sigford, water quality director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
• Tony Thompson, farmer and member of North Heron Lake Game Producers Association.
• Bill Zurn, farmer and past president of Minnesota Soybean Growers.
–Minnesota Agriculture Department News Release

Oklahoma enacts water conservation
When looking at the numbers in their water plans, many states and cities fret about how to cover projected gaps between demand and supply. With the governor’s signature on May 21, Oklahoma’s political leadership has placed a big bet on conservation.

The Water for 2060 Act, introduced by House Speaker Kris Steele, sets a goal that the state will consume no more freshwater in the year 2060 than is currently used, even as the population is expected to grow by 28 percent to 4.8 million people.
–Circle of Blue

Class-action Atrazine deal announced
Swiss chemicals company Syngenta announced a proposed $US 105 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by communities in six Midwestern U.S. states who claimed that atrazine — one of the most widely used herbicides in the nation — had contaminated their drinking water.

The plaintiffs, representing 16 communities in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio, asked for money to cover the cost of installing treatment systems to filter out the weed-killing chemical, which has been used since 1959 in the United States, primarily for corn, sorghum, and sugar cane.

Money from the settlement fund will be available to any community water system in the U.S. that shows a measurable level of atrazine in its supply. It is estimated that close to 2,000 such systems, mostly in the Midwest, will be eligible.
–Circle of Blue

Cities, environmentalists seek action on farms 
Minnesota farms send far more sediment into the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers than do the state’s cities. But what to do about it?

That question resurfaced May 29, when environmental, city, business and farm interests called on state regulators to make farmers do a better job of reducing that runoff. Otherwise, they said, communities across much of Minnesota, and the taxpayers who live there, could be hit with more than $1 billion in added infrastructure-related expenses to cut their own.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Crop insurance subsidies cost billions
Federal subsidies for crop insurance cost U.S. taxpayers $11 billion last year, according to a new analysis of government records by the Environmental Working Group. Across the country, more than 10,000 individual farming operations got subsidies worth between $100,000 and more than $1 million apiece.

In Minnesota, federal subsidies for crop insurance premiums totaled more than $526 million, and farmers paid about $318 million in premiums, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Read the Environmental Working Group report. Read a Star Tribune article about it.

MPCA warns of toxic blue-green algae
When the summer sun shines and temperatures climb, conditions are ripe for Minnesota lakes to produce harmful algal blooms. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is again reminding people some types of algae can harm pets, livestock and even people.

Algae are microscopic aquatic plants and are a natural part of any aquatic ecosystem. Under the right conditions, some forms of algae, particularly a type called “blue-green algae,” can pose harmful health risks. People or animals may become sick if exposed to these blooms. In extreme cases, dogs and other animals have died after exposure to lake water containing toxic blue-green algae.

Most algae are harmless. However blue-green algae, when sunlight and warmth cause them to “bloom” in dense populations, can produce toxins and other chemicals. There are many types of blue-green algae. They are found throughout Minnesota, but thrive particularly in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich lakes. Often blown toward downwind shorelines, it is in these blooms that humans and animals most often come in contact with blue-green algae, and where the risk of algal toxins is greatest.
–MPCA News Release

Viruses found in unfiltered Wis. Water 
A new study of 14 Wisconsin communities that do not disinfect their water revealed the presence of human viruses in drinking water in nearly one-quarter of all samples taken.

The results suggest that people in municipalities that don’t treat their water systems may be exposed to waterborne viruses and potential health risks, the study concluded.

The authors calculated that water that isn’t disinfected was responsible for 6% to 22% of gastrointestinal illnesses reported during the study period. At one time during the study, when norovirus was commonly found in tap water, the researchers attributed up to 63% of the cause of illness to dirty drinking water in children younger than 5.

The likely virus source was leaking wastewater sewers, the study concluded.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Minnesota Waters members absorbed 
Minnesota Waters, a lakes and rivers organization that ended operations, is being absorbed by Conservation Minnesota, another nonprofit group.

“Their members and network and their brand are going to be part of Conservation Minnesota going forward,” said Paul Austin, executive director of Conservation Minnesota. No Minnesota Waters staff will join Conservation Minnesota, he said.

Some Minnesota Waters work is being assumed by other organizations, such as the Freshwater Society. Other functions will continue under Conservation Minnesota, which will contact the new membership to establish how best to serve it and to protect its interests, Austin said.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Minnehaha Creek clean-up set July 8 
Volunteers are being recruited from across the Twin Cities to clean up Minnehaha Creek at a free, family-friendly event.

On Sunday, July 8,  Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is teaming up with the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company’s “Canoes for a Cause” campaign to host the 6th annual Minnehaha Creek Clean-up at Lake Hiawatha at 46th Street and 28th Avenue South in Minneapolis. The goal this year is to collect two tons of trash. For more information, visit www.minnehahacreek.org.

A report card on Minnesota’s environment

November 21, 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.

Dayton seeks environmental report card
Trumpeting his administration’s success in speeding up permitting and environmental reviews, Gov. Mark Dayton ordered additional steps to make things even better.

With state departments now issuing 80 percent of permits within a time frame he called for in January, Dayton signed an executive order requiring the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board to recommend ways to simplify and to improve things further and to come up with an annual report card tracking the state’s performance.

“We’re feeling really good about this,” said Dayton, adding, “We’re looking for ways to do even better.”

At a Capitol press conference, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Paul Aasen said his agency has issued more than 1,300 permits within a 150-day goal set by Dayton and Republican legislators last winter as both sought ways to speed up the permitting and environmental review pace to make things easier for businesses.

Dayton and Aasen said 96 percent of permits for new or expanding projects are being issued within 150 days. Aasen, meanwhile, said permits not decided within the 150-day period typically involved complex air-quality issues.

During the legislative session, Republicans called their streamlining efforts a signature achievement, even though Dayton had required some of them in an earlier executive order.

Dayton said he wants the first EQB report card by Nov. 15, 2012. By the following Jan. 15, he wants the EQB to organize and host a followup “congress” on the state of Minnesota’s environment.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

3M, state agree on clean-up
The 3M Co. and state regulators signed off on a plan to start cleaning up groundwater in Cottage Grove that for decades has been contaminated with industrial toxins used in some of the company’s best-known consumer products.

Though it brings the long, controversial cleanup one step closer to completion, the parties still haven’t agreed on how to address a far more difficult problem: removing the contaminants, known as PFCs, from the water before it is discharged from the company’s Cottage Grove manufacturing plant into the Mississippi River. The river above Hastings is also contaminated with the toxins, and, as a result, the state Health Department has said fish there are not safe to eat.

Early this year both 3M’s groundwater cleanup and the water treatment plan were presented to east metro communities affected by contamination from PFCs, chemicals that 3M used for years in the manufacture of Post-it Notes, fire retardants and other products.

But many local residents objected to the plan. It gave 3M two years to reduce the concentrations of the most critical contaminant, called PFOS, down to the level that would protect the Mississippi — seven parts per trillion. At that level, pollution in the river would gradually improve, eventually making the fish safe to eat again.

But even with the best available technology, company officials said, 3M has been able to get the PFOS level down only to 100 to 500 parts per trillion.
–The Star Tribune

Dec. 6 book-signing by Darby Nelson
Darby Nelson, a Freshwater Society board member, will talk about  and read excerpts from his new book, For Love of Lakes,  in a book-signing event at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 6, in theStudent Center Theater on the University of  Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus. Read his introduction to  the book. Please RSVP for the event.

House passes ban on state ballast water rules
The U.S. House has approved a bill that would set a national policy for cleansing ship ballast water to kill invasive species while prohibiting states from imposing tougher requirements.

The measure that passed the Republican-controlled chamber would adopt an international standard limiting the number of live organisms in ballast water. Vessel operators would have to install technology to comply.

The shipping industry says an existing patchwork of more than two dozen state and tribal policies is unworkable because vessels move constantly from one jurisdiction to another. New York rules scheduled to take effect in 2013 would be 100 times tougher than the House standards.

Environmentalists say the House measure isn’t strong enough to prevent more invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes. They say they hope to derail it in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
–The Associated Press

Groups seek lock closing as Asian carp barrier
More than a dozen conservation and environmental groups urged a state-federal panel to endorse closing two navigation locks in the Twin Cities to keep Asian carp from moving farther up the Mississippi River.

“The ability to temporarily and permanently close the locks at St. Anthony Falls and the Ford dam needs to be of the highest priority in any final Asian carp plan,” said the letter signed by the 14 organizations.

The letter was given to Gov. Mark Dayton, who convened the panel to identify strategies the state can adopt to limit the statewide impact of those fish, which already have been caught in border waters in recent years. Genetic material from one type, silver carp, has even been found as far upriver as the Ford dam, between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The groups’ request was echoed by Paul Labovitz, National Park Service superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a 72-mile stretch of river corridor winding through the Twin Cities metro area.

The Department of Natural Resources will prepare responses the panel can consider next month.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

UM researchers study common carp
Fitted with electrofishing equipment, the boat eased into the cattails along North St. Paul’s Casey Lake, two University of Minnesota technicians standing at the bow with dip nets ready to scoop up stunned common carp.

In short order, they did, plopping them into a pail so that small radio tags could be inserted into the largest ones, enabling researchers to track their movements.

That outing, on a recent sunny afternoon, was just one of a half-dozen ways U scientists are researching one of the state’s most vexing creatures. Brought to Minnesota in the 19th century, common carp have taken over thousands of shallow lakes and wetlands, rooting on the bottom for food and turning many of them into mud holes that no longer sustain ducks and other species.

Now, though, relief could be on the way.

Led by professor Peter Sorensen, U scientists are trying to figure out what makes these carp tick: where they go, when and why, and what attracts and repels them.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Research offers hope for oil sands
Several years ago, Paul Painter, a professor of polymer science at Pennsylvania State University, saw a news report about the deaths of hundreds of ducks that landed on a tailings pond near an oil sands mine in the Canadian province of Alberta. The ducks had become coated with residual petroleum floating on the pond, which was filled with wastewater from the process used to extract oil from the strip-mined sands.

“It wasn’t that I’m a rabid environmentalist,” Dr. Painter said recently. “It just occurred to me that we were working with something that might prove useful.”

That something was an ionic liquid, a salt that, unlike ordinary table salt, is liquid at temperatures below the boiling point of water. Dr. Painter had been using ionic liquids to try to get nanoparticles to mix with polymers, but he realized that they could also be used to help separate different materials — in this case, oil from sand.

Dr. Painter has since demonstrated in the laboratory that ionic liquids have the potential for greatly reducing the amount of water used in the oil sands industry. If he can scale up the process, and if it is adopted, it could go a long way to making the oil sands industry more environmentally sound.
–The New York Times

National Geographic documents river preservation
The November National Geographic magazine has a beautiful article on America’s Wild and Scenic Rivers. It quotes former Vice President Walter Mondale, a co-sponsor of the legislation that preserves the rivers, on the St. Croix River. Read the article here.

Arsenic taints Iowa wells
Hundreds of Iowans across the state are drinking tap water polluted with poisonous arsenic as health workers move to rein in the problem.

The problem is so widespread that health officials statewide gathered last week in Des Moines to discuss remedies. Large public water supplies routinely test for arsenic. But health officials are now stepping up efforts to encourage private well owners to pay for their own tests, which cost about $20.

The element occurs naturally in Iowa’s soil. It leaches into ground water, which is the source of tap water for 55 percent of Iowans.

Drinking large amounts of arsenic over decades could lead to cancer of the skin, bladder, lungs, liver and prostate, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Short-term exposure to very high levels can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and skin problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(In Minnesota, the state Health Department estimates that about 10 percent of all wells have levels of naturally occurring arsenic that exceed a 10 parts per billion health standard. Learn more.)
–The Des Moines Register

DNR makes grants for habitat
Twenty grants totaling $1.83 million have been awarded to conservation groups to improve state habitat.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages the Conservation Legacy Partners program to provide competitive grants from $5,000 to $400,000 to local, regional, state, and national nonprofit organizations, including government entities. The grants are for work to enhance, restore, or protect the forests, wetlands, prairies, and habitat for fish, game, or wildlife in Minnesota.

The grants are made possible by Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment dollars.
–DNR News Release

Long Prairie packing plant pays pollution penalty
Long Prairie Packing Co., LLC, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently reached an agreement that requires the company to pay $52,000 for alleged water quality violations. The violations occurred between fall 2009 and spring 2010 at the company’s facility in Long Prairie, Minn.

According to MPCA staff inspection reports, the company improperly stockpiled and land applied industrial byproducts, and failed to maintain a required 600-foot land application setback from surface waters at seven sites. Some of the land applications occurred within farmed wetlands. The company also failed to notify the MPCA or immediately recover blood-contaminated leachate which spilled out of a dumpster and a large storage tote; improperly stored more than 500 gallons of used oil; and operated parts of the facility without a required federal and state industrial stormwater permit.

Of the $52,000 civil penalty, half will be paid to the MPCA, and half will be spent on completing a supplemental environmental project. Long Prairie Packing Co. plans to construct an industrial anaerobic digester near the plant that will reduce the amount and toxicity of pollutants entering area waters, and significantly reduce the land application of industrial byproducts.
–MPCA News Release

Groundwater use threatens rivers
Great Plains river basins are threatened by pumping of groundwater from aquifers, risking a bleak future for native fish in many streams, U.S. researchers say.

Unlike alluvial aquifers, which can be replenished with rain and snow, these regional aquifers were created by melting glaciers during the last Ice Age, the researchers say, and when that water is gone, it’s gone for good.

“It is a finite resource that is not being recharged,” Jeffrey Falke, a researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study, said.

“That water has been there for thousands of years, and it is rapidly being depleted. Already, streams that used to run year-round are becoming seasonal, and refuge habitats for native fishes are drying up and becoming increasingly fragmented.”
–UPI

Mormons criticize groundwater pipeline
An attorney for the LDS Church called a proposal for tapping ground water in the dry regions of Nevada and pumping it to Las Vegas a disaster with good intentions.

“It’s the cotton candy of good intentions with nothing good at its core,” attorney Paul Hermonskie said. “It does not provide the protection my client must have.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is just one of hundreds of protestors who have lined up against the proposal for tapping groundwater aquifers in eastern Nevada. Hermonskie was among several who testified during a closing hearing convened by the Nevada State Engineer’s Office.

Hearings first began in September in which hundreds of documents were submitted and more than 80 people have testified.

At issue is the divisive proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to take ground water so it can supply the future needs of customers in the Las Vegas area. As many as 126,000 acre-feet of groundwater would be tapped to fill the proposed 300-mile, $3.5 billion pipeline that proponents say is necessary to keep the tourism industry — and the economy — of Las Vegas and Nevada afloat.
–The Deseret Sun

Canadian report urges higher water prices
Canadian provinces should consider charging higher fees for water to encourage its water-reliant natural resource industries to use the resource more efficiently, a new report suggests.

The natural resource sectors — agriculture, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, pulp and paper and thermal electricity generation — use more than four litres of water for every litre used by all other sectors combined, including drinking water, said the report released Thursday by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

“And many of them depend on water to do their business,” said Marc Parent, vice-chair of the, round table.
–CBC News

Arsenic, Asian carp and a climate poll

September 6, 2011

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

Arsenic often found in water samples
About 20% of untreated water samples from public, private, and monitoring wells across the nation contain concentrations of at least one trace element, such as arsenic, manganese and uranium, at levels of potential health concern, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

“In public wells these contaminants are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and contaminants are removed from the water before people drink it,” said Joe Ayotte, USGS hydrologist and lead author on the study. “However, trace elements could be present in water from private wells at levels that are considered to pose a risk to human health, because they aren’t subject to regulations.”

Trace elements in groundwater exceed human health benchmarks at a rate that far outpaces most other groundwater contaminants, such as nitrate, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds. Most trace elements, including manganese and arsenic, get into the water through the natural process of rock weathering. Radon, derived from naturally occurring uranium in aquifers, also occurs frequently at high levels in groundwater. Human activities like mining, waste disposal, and construction also can contribute to trace elements in groundwater.

Arsenic was found above the EPA human health benchmark in 7% of wells. (The Minnesota Health Department estimates that 10 percent of wells in the state have arsenic in excess of the health standard.)
Read the USGS full report.
–USGS News Release

No Asian carp caught in St. Croix
A commercial fishing operator and state fisheries employees failed to catch a single Asian carp in the St. Croix River in nine days on the water.

“That’s very good news,” said Tom Landwehr, Department of Natural Resources commissioner. “It most likely means there are a small number of fish in there.”

Water samples from the St. Croix tested positive last month for genetic material from silver carp, suggesting the invasive, leaping Asian species may be in the river as far north as the dam at St. Croix Falls.

The commercial operator from Illinois, with experience catching Asian carp, set nets at various places from the river’s mouth at Prescott, Wis., to the dam at St. Croix Falls over four days last week. The DNR also used nets and electro-fishing for five days and didn’t find an Asian carp.

Landwehr said experts believe the environmental DNA (eDNA) testing used to detect the carp is accurate, but it’s impossible to determine how many carp might be in the river. “They searched everywhere that looked like good carp habitat,” Landwehr said. Failing to find fish might give officials a bit more time to deal with the problem, he said.
–The Star Tribune

Poll: Climate change worry drops
Worldwide fears about climate change have receded in the past four years, as other environmental issues such as air and water pollution, water shortages, packaging waste and use of pesticides have been given more attention, according to a new report issued by Nielsen Co. In an Internet survey of more than 25,000 respondents in 51 countries, 69% said they are worried about climate change, up from 66% in 2009, but down from 72% in 2007.

Meanwhile, 77% of respondents named air pollution as a main concern, while 75% cited water pollution. For 73% of those surveyed, pesticides were seen as a serious problem, Nielsen said. “Focus on immediate worries such as job
security, local school quality, crime and economic well-being have all diminished media attention for climate stories in the past two years,” said Maxwell Boykoff, senior visiting research associate at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.
–Market Watch

USGS offers on-line water quality modeling
The USGS has released an online, interactive decision support system that provides easy access to six newly developed regional models describing how rivers receive and transport nutrients from natural and human sources to sensitive waters, such as
the Gulf of Mexico.

Excessive nutrients in the nation’s rivers, streams and coastal areas are a major issue for water managers, because they cause algal blooms that increase costs to treat drinking water, limit recreational activities, threaten valuable fisheries, and can be toxic to humans and wildlife.

Each region and locality has a unique set of nutrient sources and characteristics that determine how those nutrients are transported to streams.

For example, the decision support system indicates that reducing wastewater discharges throughout the Neuse River Basin in North Carolina by 25 percent will reduce the amount of nitrogen transported to the Pamlico Sound from the Neuse River
Basin by three percent; whereas a 25 percent reduction in agricultural sources, such as fertilizer and manure, will reduce the amount of nitrogen by 12 percent.

The new USGS regional models were developed using the SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes) modeling framework. Results detailing nutrient conditions in each region are published in the Journal of American Water Resources Association.
–USGS News Release

AGs press to close L. Michigan to Asian carp
Six attorneys general in the Great Lakes region called for a multi-state coalition that would push the federal government to protect the lakes from invasive species such as Asian carp by cutting off their artificial link to the Mississippi River basin.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the officials invited colleagues in 27 other states to join a lobbying campaign to separate the two watersheds, contending they have as much to lose as the Great Lakes do from migration of
aquatic plants and animals that can do billions in economic damage and starve out native species.

“We have Asian carp coming into Lake Michigan and zebra mussels moving out of the Great Lakes and into the heart of our country, both of which are like poison to the ecology of our waters,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said. “This is not just a Great Lakes issue. By working together, we hope to put pressure on the federal government to act before it’s too late.”

Also signing the appeal were attorneys general from Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It was being sent to their counterparts across the Mississippi basin as well as Western states such as Nevada, where Lake Mead and other waterways have been infested by zebra mussels believed to have been transported from the Great Lakes by unwitting recreational boaters.

Five of the Great Lakes states are suing the Army Corps over its operation of a Chicago-area waterway network that creates
an artificial pathway between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, a Mississippi River tributary.
–The Associated Press

Iowa Farm Bureau rejects conservation rule
The Iowa Farm Bureau’s policy conference reversed itself. After lengthy debate and a multitude of motions, the group approved a resolution stating that compliance with conservation programs not bea condition for purchasing federally subsidized insurance programs.

The new resolution reads “the Iowa Farm Bureau supports conservation compliance; however, eligibility for federal crop
insurance should not be subject to farm program conservation requirements.”

If federal direct payments to farmers are eliminated by congress, as is widely expected, federal agriculture and
environmental regulators would be left without a compliance requirement if conservation compliance were not added to insurance eligibility. Such compliance was linked to farm insurance for decades but removed in 1996.

The county delegates spent the largest chunk of their debate on conservation issues, matching concerns voiced earlier by
conservationists that wholesale changes in the Farm Bill would imperil hard-won advances in conservation and environmental practices in agriculture.

The delegates had approved the linkage resolution by voice vote, but when the matter was brought for the final consideration that normally is routine, a tallied vote went 57-36 in favor of removing the compliance requirement.
–The Des Moines Register

How many species? Would you believe 8.7 million?
In the foothills of the Andes Mountains lives a bat the size of a raspberry. In Singapore, there’s a nematode worm that dwells only in the lungs of the changeable lizard.

The bat and the worm have something in common: They are both new to science. Each of them recently received its official scientific name: Myotis diminutus for the bat, Rhabdias singaporensis for the worm.

These are certainly not the last two species that scientists will ever discover. Each year, researchers report more than
15,000 new species, and their workload shows no sign of letting up. “Ask any taxonomist in a museum, and they’ll tell you they have hundreds of species waiting to be described,” says Camilo Mora, a marine ecologist at the University of Hawaii.

Scientists have named and cataloged 1.3 million species. How many more species there are left to discover is a question that has hovered like a cloud over the heads of taxonomists for two centuries.
–The New York Times

UM sponsors raingarden documentary
“A Neighborhood of Raingardens,” a documentary depicting the transformation of a Minneapolis neighborhood through a community raingarden project, will premiere Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. at the St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis.The
60-minute film, sponsored in part by the Institute on the Environment, follows the initiative from inception to fruition.
–University of Minnesota News Release

Land use/biofuels conference set
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, will host a one-day conference on land use change and biofuel sustainability on Sept. 14 on the university’s St. Paul Campus. There is a $125 fee, $95 for students and representatives of nonprofit organizations.

Get more information.

Projects honored for pollution prevention
Three projects have won Minnesota Governor’s Awards for Pollution Prevention.

The awards honor Minnesota’s businesses, nonprofits, governmental agencies and other institutions demonstrating a commitment to pollution prevention, resource efficiency and sustainable practices.

They were:

  • The City of St. Paul’s Public Pools Green Initiative, which worked with Creative Water Solutions and
    USAquatics to reduce chemical use in public swimming pools. Water use for pool
    backwash was reduced by 30,000 gallons every two weeks, and the city saved $40,000
    in overtime costs and $36,000 in chemical costs.
  •  Recycling and Waste Reduction Initiatives, a partnership between Fairview Health Services, Merrick Inc., Partnership Resources Inc., PPL Industries, and Minnesota Waste Wise, developing an environmentally friendly way to handle material used to cover operating room supplies during sterilization in Fairview Health Services buildings.
  •  From Roofs to Roads, a coalition public, private and nonprofit partners — Solid Waste Management
    Coordinating Board, Dem-Con, Minnesota Asphalt Pavement Association and
    Commercial Asphalt Company –worked to recycle roofing shingles. Some of the
    shingles now are used in paving asphalt.

To learn more about the award winners, go to the Governor’s Awards  webpage.

Floating environmental classroom launched
Just in time for back-to-school season, Living Lands & Waters (LL&W) is launching a floating classroom that will bring students out on the river to learn about life on the nation’s waterways. This new, 150-foot barge features a handicapped-accessible classroom that can host up to 60 students at a time, as well as sleeping quarters for the eight-person LL&W crew. LL&W premiered the floating classroom at a dedication hosted on the Mississippi River by long-time partner Cargill on Sept.1 in St. Paul.

The primary goal of the floating classroom is to give participants – specifically young people – the tools and experience to teach others about the need to preserve and protect natural resources. This classroom will bring kids of all ages on board for workshops on a variety of topics related to their studies in history, biology and economics among others, using the river as a teaching tool.

Each workshop will be customized with the teacher to correspond with in-class curriculum. LL&W staff and classroom members will also participate in river clean-ups during their day-long journey on the river.

The floating classroom was made possible by the  support of five LL&W partners: Cargill, ADM, AEP River Operations,
Caterpillar, and Ingram Barge Company, as well as several unions whose members donated many hours of labor to help complete this project in time for the upcoming school year.
–Cargill News Release

British firm developing zebra mussel poison
Cambridge University spinout, BioBullets Ltd, has won a £500k grant from the Technology StrategyBoard to advance commercialisation of its pest control technology for water treatment plants and power facilities.

The company estimates that zebra mussels fouling the plants costs industry billions every year – $5bn in the US alone. Other
invasive species for which the company is developing pesticides cost the UK £2bn a year.

It has patented technologies for the environmentally-friendly control of the pests.

BioBullets has produced and is currently testing a control product for fouling by invasive mussels in shrimp farms. Scientists call it a toxic Malteser.

The products greatly increase toxicity of active ingredients by microencapsulation in edible coatings that the mussels actively filter from the water. Uneaten material rapidly degrades to harmless concentrations.
–Business Weekly

Peterson scales back Red River flood request
Come hell, high water or partisan priorities, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson had pledged for months he’d secure $500 million in the 2012 farm bill toward water-retention projects in the Red River Valley.

Not so fast.

Facing the harsh reality of federal spending constraints, the veteran Democrat acknowledged he needs to scale back his plans.

“It’s going to be more difficult, and that’s why I have to be ealistic in what we can accomplish,” Peterson said, reflecting a significant hift in tone from previous months.

Peterson says he’s now hoping to get at least $300 million uaranteed toward boosting regional flood mitigation – but even that’s not a certainty.

This fall, a special committee of Congress will outline spending cuts for the federal budget.

However much the committee demands from agriculture will influence how much the Red River Valley might get for its water projects, Peterson said.
–In Forum

Wisconsin court hears dairy case
A long-running battle between the residents of one Rock County community and thereach of big dairy will come to a head when the first case to test the state’s livestock siting law will be heard before the state Supreme Court.

The law, which was approved in 2004 under former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and a Republican-controlled Legislature, for
the first time outlined state standards for location, odor and air emissions, manure spreading and storage, and runoff management for new farms of all sizes or those that are looking to expand.

The law gave local governments the option of using the new state standards or adopting their own siting ordinances as long as they weren’t more restrictive than the state’s.

And that is the problem, say the eight families from the town of Magnolia who brought John Adams v. Wisconsin.

When their town board tried to place groundwater and manure-spreading stipulations on Larson Acres Inc., Rock County’s largest dairy farm, it was ultimately overruled by the Livestock Facility Siting Review Board.
–The Capital Times

Nitrate in the Mississippi; carp DNA in St. Croix

August 15, 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.

Research: Nitrate increasing in Mississippi
The nitrate flowing down the Mississippi River each year and feeding the algae-rich, oxygen-poor “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico increased 9 percent over about the last three decades, a new U.S. Geological Survey analysis concludes.

At Clinton, Iowa — the water sampling site closest to Minnesota for which data were analyzed — the average load of nitrate transported by the river increased 67 percent between 1980 and 2008, to about 242 million pounds per year.

Major findings of the new research were:

  • Despite years of effort by scientists and policy-makers aimed at reducing the nitrogen flowing into the river and then the Gulf, the volume increased, to about 1.9 billion pounds per year in 2008.
  • At Clinton, Iowa, and at Hermann, Mo., on the Missouri River, a tributary of the Mississippi, the average amount of nitrate in the water at any one time and the amount carried downstream on an annual basis increased dramatically. At six other sites in Iowa, Illinois, and Louisiana, nitrate concentrations stayed the same or increased to a lesser degree.
  • Sampling showing that nitrate concentrations increased more in the Mississippi and its tributaries during periods of low water – when much of the rivers’ volume comes from the inflow of groundwater — suggests that nitrate-contaminated groundwater is a significant contributor to nitrate pollution in the rivers. And, because groundwater moves slowly, that means strategies already put into place to reduce nitrate in the rivers may take years to pay dividends.

The new USGS research, published in the journal “Environmental Science & Technology,” did not attempt to determine the source of the nitrate in the rivers. But 2008 modeling by the USGS estimated these sources for nitrogen flowing to the Gulf:

  • Farm fields, primarily corn and soybeans, 66 percent.
  • Pasture and range land, 5 percent.
  • Municipal sewage effluent and urban storm water, 9 percent.
  • Atmospheric deposition, 16 percent.
  • Natural land, 4 percent.

The latest USGS research, led by Lori A. Sprague, used sophisticated statistical analysis to evaluate the results of about 3,000 water samples collected at the eight sites between 1980 and 2008 and to even out the big differences that high and low water levels produced in calculations of the total volumes of nitrate carried downriver on an annual basis.

In a USGS news release announcing publication of the new research, Sprague said: “Applying this new model to decades of USGS water quality data allows us to distinguish between the effects of natural changes in precipitation and streamflow and the effects of purposeful changes in the management of nitrate in the basin.”

In an interview, Sprague said she could not say why the analysis showed such a big increase in average nitrate concentrations, and average annual nitrate loads, at Clinton, Iowa.

Read the full report in Environmental Science & Technology. Read a USGS news release on the research. Read a Star Tribune article on it.

Silver carp DNA found in St. Croix
DNA from the invasive silver carp has been found at 22 sites in the St. Croix River, a development that has deepened despair about the imminent arrival of the notorious leaping fish and doubts that state and federal officials can do anything to stop it.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that 22 of 50 water samples taken between St. Croix Falls and Franconia tested positive for silver carp DNA. The samples did not test positive for the other three species of Asian carp that are believed to moving upriver from Illinois, and another 50 samples from the Mississippi River were negative.

The results are not conclusive evidence that the fish are living and breeding in the St. Croix — none has been found in the river — or that they are absent from the Mississippi, DNR officials said. The DNA could have come from dead carp, live carp someone dumped in the river or fish pellets used in hatcheries.

Still, it ratchets up the fear considerably, they said.

“This is disappointing news,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

The four species of Asian carp have caused enormous ecological damage in the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, where they are well established. The carp eat 40 percent of their body weight every day in plankton and bugs, squeezing out every other creature up the food chain, from sunnies to fish-eating birds.
–The Star Tribune

FAQ on Asian carp
Read a question-and-answer primer on Asian carp from Minnesota Public Radio.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Farm Bill forum on Aug. 22
Register now for the forum on the next federal Farm Bill that the Izaak Walton League of America will host Saturday, Aug. 22, in West St. Paul. The Freshwater Society is helping plan and organize the event.

The forum is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. View the agenda.

Attend the forum, and let your voice be heard on what the next Farm Bill should offer — for farmers, and for the environment.

Report: Canada’s tar sands to increase pollution
The Canadian government has long fought efforts by politicians and environmentalists in other countries, including the United States, to characterize oil sands production as “dirty oil.” But an analysis quietly released late last month by its environmental agency indicates that the tar-like deposits will become an increasingly significant source of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade.

Canada’s Emissions Trends,” a peer-reviewed report by the agency, Environment Canada, forecasts that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands will triple to 92 million metric tons, or 101 million short tons, by 2020 from a base level of 30 million metric tons, or 33 million short tons, in 2005.

The vast majority of oil produced from the deposits is shipped to the United States. The study indicates increased emissions from oil sands will more than offset emission reductions in other areas like electricity generation.
–The New York Times

Panel gives conditional OK for ‘fracking’
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to release vast supplies of natural gas trapped in shale deposits can be conducted in an environmentally responsible way, a federal energy panel has concluded, but only if major steps are taken, including greater transparency by the gas-drilling industry, the close monitoring of groundwater quality, and the adoption of rigorous emissions standards.

The Department of Energy panel – the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee – created in May at the direction of President Obama to study the controversial fracking procedure, released its findings in a report.

The report was hailed by the gas industry as showing that environmental concerns about fracking were exaggerated, but it came under quick fire from environmental groups, who called the panel heavily tilted toward the oil and gas industry and accusing it of “advocacy-based science.” They said the findings could undercut environmental studies already under way.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Fracking’ yields sand boom in Wisconsin
The oil boom has come to western Wisconsin.

But instead of roustabouts and oil rigs, the region is moving big into the business of sand – a special type that’s used to extract oil and natural gas from hard-to-reach subterranean deposits.

At least 20 sand mines and sand processing plants that cater to the oil and gas industry are operating or in the planning stages, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Geologist Bruce Brown of the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey calls the business the “bright star” of the state’s mining industry.

“So many people have come so fast that it’s been like a gold rush out there,” Brown said.

But the projects have also sparked controversy over potential environmental threats.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Residents seek zebra mussel inspections
Residents around three lakes that are a quick boat-trailer pull from zebra mussel-infested Lake Minnetonka are digging into their own pockets to staff public boat launches to protect their lakes from the spread of the dreaded aquatic creatures.

They want all boats headed for Lake Minnewashta, Lotus Lake or Christmas Lake inspected for aquatic invasive species before they are launched into the water. They have raised thousands of dollars and, in addition to relying on volunteers, they are paying college students and interns from the Department of Natural Resources.

To streamline their efforts, they are seeking permission from Carver County and the city of Chanhassen to combine inspections for all three lakes at Lake Minnewashta Regional Park. That’s where boaters heading to nearby Christmas Lake or Lotus Lake would get a punch-in code to raise boat ramp gates on those lakes.

Their proposal, conjuring up images of closed ramps that run against Minnesota’s long-standing open lakes access, has stirred emotions and sparked letters to the editor suggesting elitism on the part of lake homeowners.
–The Star Tribune

Zebra mussels explode in Mille Lacs
Huge Lake Mille Lacs — Minnesota’s most popular fishing hot-spot — rocked gently, but beneath the surface was bedlam.

There, on the lake bottom, a population explosion of tiny zebra mussels is occurring that could change the great lake forever.

“It’s a solid carpet of zebra mussels,” shouted Tom Jones, bobbing in the lake in his scuba gear after surfacing from a dive Friday in the gray-green waters.

Jones, a large lake specialist with the Department of Natural Resources, and coworkers dived this month in Mille Lacs to document the growth of the invasive mussels, first found in the 200-square-mile lake in 2005.

What they found stunned them.
–The Star Tribune

DNR tracks 24 ‘sentinel lakes’
After hauling in a rakeful of aquatic plants, Sean Sisler ticked off their names faster than many people can list their relatives.

Eurasian watermilfoil. Canadian waterweed. Coontail. Duckweed.

All were on the double-headed rake Sisler had just tossed to the bottom of Peltier Lake, which lies just outside Centerville north of the Twin Cities, and pulled to the surface.

Sisler, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources employee, is part of a larger effort to gather data about plants, fish, water temperature and water quality in 24 so-called sentinel lakes in Minnesota. With that information, scientists believe they’ll be better able to track changes in lake ecology and make quicker assessments about those causes – whether from something as defined as agricultural or urban land-use changes or as complex as global climate change.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Two charged in Chicago-area tainted water
For nearly two decades, the former mayor of Crestwood, who ruled the village of 11,000 with an iron fist, hid from regulators and residents the fact that they were drinking contaminated water, federal authorities said, announcing indictments against two former water department officials.

But Chester Stranczek, whose attorney confirms he’s the “Public Official A” mentioned in the 23-count indictment, has not been charged — and likely will not ­— face criminal charges, his attorney said, because Parkinson’s disease dementia has left him unfit to stand trial.

Facing felony charges are Frank Scaccia, 59, Crestwood’s former certified water operator, and Theresa Neubauer, 53, former water department clerk and supervisor and currently Crestwood’s police chief. Both are accused of lying to environmental regulators for more than 20 years about using a tainted well to supplement the village’s drinking water supply from Lake Michigan, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced in a press release.

The village told residents and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency it was only using Lake Michigan water after 1985, when it discovered a village well had been tainted by vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen. But regulators later discovered the village continued to use the well for as much as 20 percent of its water from 1985 to 2007.
–The Chicago Sun-Times

Sewage frequently taints Hudson River
Sewage routinely contaminates the Hudson River throughout the year, rendering the waterway unsuitable for swimming and other recreational activities for at least one and a half days a week, a report based on four years of water testing shows.

The comprehensive study, released by the environmental group Riverkeeper, shows that the recent sewage spill as a result of a fire at a treatment plant in Manhattan reflects a widespread and regular problem along the 155-mile river. Despite much improvement in water quality since passage of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, the group said, 21 percent of water samples taken have unacceptable levels of bacteria because of problems like discharges from aging and failing sewage treatment plants, sewage overflows caused by rain and poorly maintained septic systems.
–The New York Times

Forum on 2012 Farm Bill set Aug. 22

August 8, 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.

Minnesota forum set on U.S. Farm Bill
Every five years, a massive federal Farm Bill allocates tens of billions of dollars to food programs for the poor, subsidies to farmers producing many crops, a fast-growing crop insurance program and incentives for farmers to practice conservation.

 Learn about the Farm Bill, scheduled to be re-authorized by Congress next year or perhaps in 2013, and prospects for changes in it in an era of high commodity prices and demands for reduced federal spending. Offer your input for how the bill should be changed.

 The Freshwater Society is joining the Izaak Walton League of America in planning and organizing a Monday, Aug. 22, forum in West St. Paul that will focus on the next Farm Bill to be considered by Congress. The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.

 The Freshwater Society is one of several conservation groups, farm organizations and state agencies helping the Izaak Walton League plan and organize the conference. Learn more about the forum. 

Register now: Festival benefits Freshwater
The Freshwater Society will receive the proceeds from a Wednesday, Sept. 7, festival and fund-raiser at Otten Bros. Garden Center and Landscaping in Long Lake.

  The “Fresh for All” festival kicks off a four-day sale of recycled and re-imagined arts and crafts.

 The JUNKMARKET Under Glass sale is sponsored by Otten Bros. and author and entrepreneur Sue Whitney.  The Sept. 7 opening night event features food, drink, music, a silent auction of crafts and works of art, and admission to the sale.

 For more information, visit Whitney’s JUNKMARKET Style or the Otten Bros. web sites. Register to attend the Fresh for All festival.

EPA declines to set ‘dead zone’ rules
Environmentalists say the Environmental Protection Agency has shot down a request for new regulations to deal with the massive area of low oxygen that crops up every summer in the Gulf of Mexico due to the huge amount of nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer, urban runoff and sewage systems that winds up in the Gulf.

Environmental groups in Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Tennessee and Kentucky asked EPA to draw up nationwide standards for nutrient pollution.

 In a recent letter, EPA said it favored keeping the current system because it would be too time consuming and costly to undertake “an unprecedented and complex set of rulemakings.”

 Environmentalists, who’ve formed the Mississippi River Collaborative, said that leaving individual states to regulate nutrients would do little to solve the dead zone.
–The Associated Press

 Record ‘dead zone’ so far fails to materialize
As the Midwest reeled from catastrophic flooding this spring, scientists warned of devastating consequences for the Gulf of Mexico this summer.

 They feared that chemicals and waste rushing down the Mississippi would result in the largest-ever oxygen-depleted “dead zone” measured in the gulf since monitoring began in 1985.

New results are in: the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration announced that a team of scientists mapping the dead zone had just returned from a midsummer research cruise. The zone was mapped at 6,765 square miles — above average, but not as large as the 8,500 to 9,400 square miles predicted earlier. In fact, this year’s dead zone is only the 11th-largest of those recorded in the last 20 years.

 But it is hardly time for a collective sigh of relief, according to Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist of the Louisiana Marine Consortium, who led the research effort. She emphasized that Tropical Storm Don had swept through the gulf as the research team was collecting data last week, stirring up the otherwise stratified waters and at least temporarily supplying oxygen to formerly depleted areas.
–The New York Times

Pawlenty: Global warming natural
Tim Pawlenty is chalking up global warming almost entirely to natural causes.

The Republican presidential candidate who once cut commercials advocating for cap-and-trade legislation while serving as Minnesota governor told The Miami Herald that he doesn’t believe in the science attributing climate change to humans.

 “The weight of the evidence is that most of it, maybe all of it, is because of natural causes,” Pawlenty said in an interview. “But to the extent there is some element of human behavior causing some of it — that’s what the scientific debate is about. That’s why we’ve seen all this back and forth between some of those prominent scientists in the world arguing about that very point.”

 Pressed to explain how his view squares with scientific research concluding human activities are very likely to blame for the warming planet, Pawlenty replied, “There’s lots of layers to it. But at least as to any potential man-made contribution to it, it’s fair to say the science is in dispute.
–Politico

’87 EPA report documented ‘fracking’ contamination
For decades, oil and gas industry executives as well as regulators have maintained that a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking,  that is used for most natural gas wells has never contaminated underground drinking water.

The claim is based in part on a simple fact: fracking, in which water and toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure into the ground to break up rocks and release the gas trapped there, occurs thousands of feet below drinking-water aquifers. Because of that distance, the drilling chemicals pose no risk, industry officials have argued.

“There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one, not one, reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing. Not one,” Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, said last year at a Congressional hearing on drilling.

t is a refrain that not only drilling proponents, but also state and federal lawmakers, even past and present Environmental Protection Agency directors, have repeated often.

But there is in fact a documented case, and the E.P.A. report that discussed it suggests there may be more. Researchers, however, were unable to investigate many suspected cases because their details were sealed from the public when energy companies settled lawsuits with landowners.

–The New York Times (Part of the Times’ Drilling Down series on the risks of natural gas drilling)

 Chicago hunt finds no Asian carp
Authorities hunting for Asian carp in waterways near Chicago say they didn’t find any during four days of intensive monitoring.

Crews used electric jolts to stun fish and set huge nets during stepped-up surveillance of Lake Calumet and the Calumet River this week. The efforts came after tests found DNA from the carp in the waterways beyond electric barriers meant to keep them out of the Great Lakes.

The barriers repel the fish by giving them a jolt, and are in canals connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River watershed.

Scientists fear the voracious carp could starve out prized Great Lakes sport fish if they get into the lakes.
–The Associated Press

 Opinion: EPA sends ‘wake up’ to Wisconsin
In a letter to state officials, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently noted numerous deficiencies in the way Wisconsin manages water pollution. The letter is part of a review process, and state officials say some deficiencies were bound to come up. They also say that they will work to address the concerns.

But finding 75 deficiencies in the state’s management of the Clean Water Act, something the state took over in 1974, is indeed
troubling, as an attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates argued. “This is certainly one of the most dramatic statements I have seen from the EPA,” said that attorney, Dennis M. Grzezinski.

The EPA’s list of deficiencies ranged from long-standing state practices to measures advanced this year by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The letter should serve as a wake-up call to the Department of Natural Resources and to state legislators to tighten up the state water permitting process to make sure it’s in accord with the federal Clean Water Act. Legislators also should be careful that they don’t further loosen the rules as they consider Walker’s measures.
–The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Judge rejects tall tower near BWCA
AT&T Mobility cannot build a 450-foot lighted cellphone tower that would be visible from portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a Hennepin County judge ruled.

But Judge Philip Bush said the telecommunications company can build a 199-foot unlit tower on the same site that would not be visible from inside the federal wilderness.

“It would provide very similar coverage to area residents,” said Paul Danicic, executive director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, the Minneapolis-based wilderness advocacy group that fought the company’s proposal. “So we’re glad they can go ahead and do it. It’s a win-win.”

In his decision, Bush wrote that the proposed 450-foot tower and its flashing lights would materially impair the scenic and other natural resources of the wilderness and would violate the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.

bush found the tower would “have a significant, persistent and long-term negative effect on the scenic views from numerous locations within the BWCAW.”
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Pipestone manufacturer penalized for pollution
In a court settlement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Suzlon Rotor Corp. has agreed to resolve air quality, hazardous waste, solid waste, and stormwater violations at its wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Pipestone.

Under the terms of the consent decree, entered July 7 in Pipestone County District Court, Suzlon has completed corrective actions, and will pay a civil penalty of $490,000.

A 2009 MPCA inspection revealed sandblasting operations far exceeded emissions standards for airborne particles. In addition, the company failed to evaluate waste for hazardous substances, or properly manage its hazardous waste. Other hazardous waste violations included improper disposal of lead-containing damaged turbine blades in a landfill. The lead has been recovered from the landfill.
–MPCA News Release

July was 4th-hottest on record
Persistent, scorching heat in the central and eastern regions of the United States shattered long-standing daily and monthly temperature records last month, making it the fourth warmest July on record nationally, according to scientists at NOAA’s
National Climatic Data Center. The heat exacerbated drought conditions, resulting in the largest “exceptional” drought footprint in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“Exceptional” is the most severe category of drought on the drought monitor scale. Drought conditions at several locations in the South region are not as long lived, but are as dry, or drier, than the historic droughts of the 1930s and 1950s.

The average U.S. temperature in July was 77.0 degrees F, which is 2.7 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average. Precipitation, averaged across the nation, was 2.46 inches. This was 0.32 inch below the long-term average, with large variability between regions. This monthly analysis, based on records dating back to 1895, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA
provides.
–NOAA News Release

BWSR announces grant availability
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources) announced that $16.6 million in competitive grants is available for projects that will protect and restore Minnesota’s streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. Funding for the competitive grants is provided by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

 BWSR Executive Director John Jaschke said interested citizens should contact an eligible local government unit to find out how they can support the grant application process and participate in local efforts to protect and restore water quality.

 Eligible projects include those that control stormwater runoff in urban and agricultural areas, or that will improve water quality by replacing problem septic systems, upgrading feedlots, or establishing native vegetation along shorelines in environmentally sensitive areas. Summaries of previously funded projects and more information about BWSR’s role in the Legacy Amendment is available on the BWSR website: www.bwsr.state.mn.us/citizens.html

 The application period will began Aug. 8; the deadline to apply is Sept. 20.
–Board of Water and Soil Resources News Release

Ben Franklin beats invasive species rap
American founding father Benjamin Franklin was – among many things – a highly regarded scientist.

 So it seems appropriate that it was science which proved him blameless in importing an invasive species of tree which has overrun thousands of acres of U.S. coastal prairie from Florida to East Texas.

 While in London in the late 1700’s, it seems Ben was taken with the potential offered by the Chinese tallow tree.

Each of the tallow tree’s seeds is covered by a waxy, white tallow which can be processed to make much-needed items such as soap, candles and edible oil.

 The fact that these trees tend to be quite bountiful, with each producing up to a half million seeds per year, added to its appeal.

 So, Mr. Franklin packed up a batch of tree seeds and sent it back to his friends in the States for them to plant, harvest and process.–Voice of America

USGS research: Falling leaves contain mercury
Fallen autumn leaves transfer as much, if not more, hazardous mercury from the atmosphere to the environment as does precipitation each year, according to recent U.S. Geological Survey research.

Mercury is an environmental contaminant that accumulates in fish and food webs and poses a health risk to humans and wildlife. Precipitation is a major avenue by which mercury is transferred from the atmosphere into the environment, but new studies by the USGS and partners show that litterfall—the leaves and needles that drop to the forest floor each year—delivers at least as much mercury to eastern U.S. ecosystems as precipitation, and precipitation has been increasing in the Great Lakes region.

“Before these studies, we didn’t know the extent of litterfall as a mercury pathway in different types of forests across the eastern U.S.,” said USGS research hydrologist Martin Risch. “Our research found that annual amounts of mercury deposited in autumn litterfall from deciduous forests were equal to or exceeded the annual amounts deposited in precipitation.”

Most of the mercury that eventually ends up in fish and food webs comes from the air, and much of the mercury in the air comes from human sources such as coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, cement manufacturing, and incinerators. Forest canopies
naturally remove mercury from the air and incorporate the mercury into and onto the leaves and needles of trees.
–USGS News Release

Wisconsin ground water initiative debuts
The groundwater of Wisconsin’s central sands region is a vital resource that sustains a diverse regional economy comprised of rural communities, businesses, agricultural industries and fishing and recreational interests.

The region is home to businesses such as Del Monte Corp., one of the nation’s premier vegetable product centers, Lands’ End, Kimberly-Clark, Foremost Farms USA, Sentry Insurance, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Travel Guard, McCain Foods
and Golden County Foods. Farms and agri-businesses are key employers having a tremendous economic impact on the region.

During the past two decades, increasing business development, population growth and an expanding recreational market have led to concerns regarding the long-term quality and availability of groundwater in the central sands region. In particular, concerns have been raised regarding how the agricultural industry affects the region’s groundwater.

In response to these concerns, the University of Wisconsin — through the Wisconsin Institute of Sustainable Agriculture — is launching the Central Wisconsin Water Initiative. The initiative will be led by Dr. Sam Kung, professor of soil science at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will feature a team of scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplines.
–The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune

 

 

Good news/bad news on western water use

June 27, 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.

Good news/bad news on western water use
Water conservation efforts in the western US over the past 20 years appear to be paying off.

Major communities that rely partly or completely on the Colorado River for their water have reduced per-capita demand on the river an average of 1 percent or more each year between 1990 and 2008, according to a new study. In all, that’s some 2 million acre-feet of water saved – enough to supply Los Angeles for about three years.

But as populations grow, per-capita efficiency isn’t enough. Communities are still siphoning ever-larger amounts of water from the river.

 During the study period, the volume of water drawn from the Colorado River – by 100 municipal and regional water authorities – grew by 5 percent, even as the amount they drew from all sources rose by 10 percent, according to the report, which was issued by the Pacific Institute, a water-resource policy group based in Oakland, Calif.

 The increased demand was fueled by a population that blossomed from around 25 million in 1990 to 35 million by the end of the study period.
–The Christian Science Monitor

 Oceans are in great peril, report concludes
The state of the oceans is declining far more rapidly than most pessimists had expected, an international team of experts has concluded, increasing the risk that many marine species — including those that make coral reefs — could be extinct within a generation.

 The scientists, who gathered in April at the University of Oxford, cited the cumulative impact of the stresses on the oceans, which include ocean acidification related to growing carbon dioxide emissions, a global warming trend that is reducing the polar ice caps, pollution and overfishing.

‘‘This examination of synergistic threats leads to the conclusion that we have underestimated the overall risks and that the whole of marine degradation is greater than the sum of its parts, and that degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted,’’ they wrote in the report.

 The April workshop, organized by the International Program on the State of the Ocean in concert with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, brought scientists from a broad range of disciplines together to talk about the problems in the marine environment and what steps can be taken to arrest the collapse of ocean ecosystems.
–The New York Times

Western Wisconsin well still controversial
A Crawford County landowner’s proposal to drill a high-capacity well for “emergency water bottling purposes” still worries some neighbors, despite proposed government restrictions designed to mitigate the well’s environmental impacts.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued responses to dozens of comments generated by the landowner’s application to drill the high-capacity well. The agency attached a dozen proposed conditions that limit how much water can be extracted and how it can be used.

 Landowner Darrell Long said in his application that he would use the well sporadically to sell bulk water during emergencies, such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

But neighbors fear he has bigger plans. 

Their concerns stem in part from Internet advertisements in which Long offers bulk spring water under the name Mount Sterling, the name of the nearest municipality.
–The La Crosse Tribune 

EPA criticizes House legislation
U.S. EPA warned of the potential dire consequences of legislation being fast-tracked through the House that would give states final say on rules concerning water, wetlands and mountaintop-removal mining.

In a four-page legal analysis (pdf), EPA said the measure sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) “would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality.”

GOP House leaders expect to bring the bill to a floor vote this summer.

EPA said the Mica-Rahall bill would “significantly undermine” the agency’s role of overseeing states’ establishment and enforcement of water pollution limits and permits. It said the measure would hinder EPA’s ability to intervene on behalf of downstream states harmed by pollution coming from a state upstream. And it said the bill would prevent EPA from protecting local communities from ill-conceived mountaintop-removal and similar projects allowed to go forward under Army Corps of Engineers-issued permits.
–The New York Times 

Engineers: Maintenance of  U.S. dams neglected
As the U.S. and China endure record-breaking floods this spring, there is a risk that is being overlooked amidst the inundated towns, evacuations and rising waters. Dams in the U.S. boast an average age of 50 years, and the American Society of Civil Engineers continues to give the nation’s dams a D grade overall in terms of maintenance. Will it take the catastrophic collapse of a dam—like the five in the 1970s in the U.S. that killed hundreds—before the infrastructure is repaired?

The nation’s more than 80,000 dams have served us well—restraining less-than-epic floods and generating billions of kilowatt-hours of electricity for regional grids. In fact, massive dams across the western U.S., like Grand Coulee in Washington state, still provide the vast majority of “renewable” electricity in the U.S., some 7 percent. At the same time, hydropower can help balance more intermittent renewable resources, such as wind power. For example, water can be held back water to cope with “wind droughts,” prolonged periods of little or no wind such as an 11 day wind drought in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year.

But these dams of legend are old. And old dams are in danger of failure—more than 4,000 in the U.S. alone are at high risk of imminent failure, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
–Scientific America

 Dairy penalized for water pollution
BGR Dairy has agreed to pay a $12,075 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and take corrective actions to address alleged compliance violations at its dairy feedlot operation near Lake Park, in Becker County.

 In November 2010, MPCA staff conducted a compliance inspection at the facility.  They observed noncompliant conditions that included a manure spill next to one of two liquid manure storage areas, lack of depth markers and damage to the liquid-manure-storage areas, three paddocks being used as open lots without MPCA approval and containing pools of manure-contaminated runoff, an unauthorized drain, and an unpermitted barn and associated open lot without runoff controls.  These deficiencies had not been reported to the MPCA as required.  In addition, a review of aerial photos in January 2011 showed an unpermitted expansion of the feed storage area pad occurred between 2008 and 2009.

BGR Dairy has taken steps to correct the alleged deficiencies and must complete all corrective actions by Dec. 1, 2011.  These include allowing no more than 50 head of cattle to have access to two open lots and closing two lots, submitting a complete application for a NPDES/SDS discharge permit, submitting complete plans for managing wastewater from the feed storage area and open lots, and repairing and installing depth markers in the liquid-manure-storage areas.
–MPCA News Release

 EPA offers new advice on rising sea levels
From his government office in Virginia Beach, Clay Bernick can see the future, and that future looks a rather lot like the movie “Waterworld.” 

The sea level is rising in Virginia Beach and the entire area known as Hampton Roads because of the warming climate, and the area also happens to be sinking for other geological reasons. 

Within 50 years, a big part of Virginia Beach’s identity — its beach — could be lost if nothing is done, said Bernick, the city’s environment and sustainability administrator. Large pieces of land could also be lost to the ocean in Norfolk within a few generations. 

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, outside of greater New Orleans, Hampton Roads is at the greatest risk from sea-level rise for any area its size.
–The Washington Post

Mississippi R. levee repairs could cost $2 billion
The federal levee system that prevented an estimated $62 billion in losses during Mississippi River flooding last month sustained a good bit of damage itself, Corps of Engineers officials say.

The corps estimates it’ll take $1 billion to $2 billion to repair and rebuild the Mississippi River & Tributaries Project, which stretches from Illinois to Louisiana and is the world’s largest flood-control system. The work will include repairing 1,000 sand boils, or seepage areas, and restoring the Missouri levees blown up by the corps to purposely inundate the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.

“If we don’t restore the system by the next flood season, all the damages that did not happen from the catastrophic flooding this year might happen,” said Maj. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, president of the Mississippi River Commission, which oversees the corps’ work.

 But some environmentalists are suggesting a rethinking of the existing levee concept, while a Knoxville advocate for clean water said the levee system is contributing to historic contamination in the Gulf of Mexico.
–The Knoxville News Sentinel/Memphis Commercial Appeal

 California groups oppose pesticide plan
Twenty-five environmental and pubic health groups asked Gov. Jerry Brown to abandon the state’s new plan for eradicating agricultural pests and explore a less toxic approach, such as crop rotation or planting neighboring crops that deter insects.

 The plan, announced by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, would abandon the traditional practice of assessing the environmental effects of attacking pests one by one, and instead publish a $3-million comprehensive impact report on eradicating all flies, worms, moths and other insects at once.

 Such a comprehensive report would reduce oversight, according to Nan Wishner of the California Environmental Health Initiative.  “This is a huge state, with many ecosystems and bio-regions, with many threatened or endangered species, and it’s impossible to assess in detail all the implications of all possible pesticides for any pest or future pest” in one report, she said. 
–The Los Angeles Times

 Roseville bans coal tar driveway sealants
Roseville residents could face a fine or imprisonment if they are found guilty of violating a new ordinance passed by the city council.

Coal-tar-based driveway sealants are now banned in the city because they contain carcinogens that can end up in the water.

According to a statement released by the city, approximately 2-4 years after the sealants are laid down on driveways and parking lots they can begin to flake off and be carried to storm water ponds. Because the carcinogens are toxic and damage aquatic life, sediments containing them must be disposed of in a hazardous materials landfill, which taxpayers are ultimately responsible for in terms of cost.

The recommendations to ban coal-tar-based sealants came to the council from city staff and the Public Works, Environment and Transportation Commission. Other communities that are already banning the sealants include Maplewood and White Bear Lake.
–KSTP-TV

 MPCA seeks comment on two Scott County Lakes
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking feedback on a draft water quality improvement report for Cedar and McMahon lakes in Scott County.  The lakes were identified as impaired because they contain high levels of phosphorus. Though phosphorus occurs naturally, lakes with excess phosphorus are prone to frequent algal overgrowth.

The MPCA determined that the largest sources of phosphorus in the two lakes are the release of phosphorus attached to sediment particles, decaying vegetation from invasive species like curlyleaf pondweed, and runoff from the lakes’ watersheds.  In Cedar Lake, bottom-feeding carp also stir up sediment, releasing phosphorus into the water.

 The draft report concludes that the phosphorus level of Cedar Lake must be reduced by 85 percent and that of McMahon Lake by 81 percent.

The draft report may be viewed at the MPCA web site.
–MPCA News Release

 Taconite firm seeks Wisconsin law changes
Gogebic Taconite says that it won’t proceed with a proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin until the Legislature rewrites laws to speed the state’s review process to construct mines.

 A company official, J. Matthew Fifield, said that Gogebic is poised to spend $20 million to $30 million on the next phase of the project — but only if legislation addressing the specific needs of open-pit mining of iron ore is signed into law, he said.

 “For us to move forward, we need iron mining laws,” said Fifield.

The project would employ 700 workers with an average base pay of $60,000. It would also have a two-year economic impact during construction of $2 billion, according to the company.

 Mining legislation foundered this spring in Madison as deliberations on the two-year budget, collective bargaining for public employees and other issues muscled Gogebic’s interests out of the way.

 Wisconsin’s mining laws were written decades ago to address sulfide mining, which uses chemicals to extract minerals in rock. Iron ore mining relies on water, magnets and mechanical power to extract iron.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 Research notes birth defects near mining
Birth defects are more likely to occur in Appalachian counties with mountaintop removal coal mining — including Eastern Kentucky — than in other counties in the region, according to a new study.

The study, published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research, suggests that birth defects could result from air and water pollution created by mountaintop removal, including mercury, lead and arsenic, which have been shown to pose risks to fetal development.

The study stops short of blaming mountaintop removal for birth defects. But its authors said they tried to account for other possible causes, such as higher rates of smoking, less education and poorer prenatal care among expectant mothers in mining counties. The common factor seemed to be proximity to the blasting of mountains to remove coal, they said.
–The Lexington Herald-Leader

Texas egg producer faces record penalty

May 23, 2011

Texas egg producer faces record $1.9 million penalty
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department announced that Mahard Egg Farm, a Texas corporation, will pay a $1.9 million penalty to resolve claims that the company violated the Clean Water Act in Texas and Oklahoma.

The civil penalty is the largest amount to be paid in a federal enforcement action involving a concentrated animal feeding operation. The company will also spend approximately $3.5 million on remedial measures to ensure compliance with the law and protect the environment and people’s health.

“By working with DOJ and our state partners in Texas and Oklahoma, we have reached a significant settlement that reflects the seriousness of Mahard’s violations,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Large animal feeding operations that fail to comply with our nation’s environmental laws threaten public health and the environment and put smaller farming operations at a disadvantage.”

The Clean Water Act complaint, filed jointly with the settlement by the United States and the states of Texas and Oklahoma, alleges that Mahard operated a facility without a permit and discharged pollutants into area waterways. Mahard also allegedly discharged pollutants or otherwise failed to comply with the terms of its permits at six other facilities, including its newest facility near Vernon, Texas, where it also failed to comply with the Texas Construction Storm Water Permit and to ensure safe drinking water for its employees.
–EPA News Release

 Dayton, GOP on collision course on environment
The first bill that DFL Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican Legislature agreed on was to streamline environmental review and permitting. Since then, they’ve been able to agree on little else. And now a whole host of measures affecting the environment are appearing in a budget bill, which the governor is expected to veto.

 The Legislature’s proposed environment budget would cut 66 percent from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s general fund budget. That amounts to a cut of the agency’s total budget of about two percent, according Republican legislative leaders. 

The MPCA says that cut would mean the loss of so many staff members it would be impossible to meet some of the short timelines required in the streamlining law signed early in the year by Dayton. 

The chief author of the budget bill in the House, Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), doesn’t buy that. He pointed out that most of the MPCA’s budget comes from fees and not the general fund. He said it’s time for the MPCA to focus on priorities.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Landwehr, Aasen criticize budget cuts
Read an op-ed column that Minnesota DNR Commissoner Tom Landwehr and Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Paul Aasen jointly wrote for the Grand Forks Herald. In it, they decry big budget cuts proposed for both agencies.

 Chicago plans for a hotter, wetter future
The Windy City is preparing for a heat wave — a permanent one.

 Climate scientists have told city planners that based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of this century. 

So, Chicago is getting ready for a wetter, steamier future. Public alleyways are being repaved with materials that are permeable to water. The white oak, the state tree of Illinois, has been banned from city planting lists, and swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South have been given new priority. 

Thermal radar is being used to map the city’s hottest spots, which are then targets for pavement removal and the addition of vegetation to roofs. And air-conditioners are being considered for all 750 public schools, which until now have been heated but rarely cooled.
–The New York Times

 Calls for major shift in U.S. flood policy
As the Mississippi River reaches historic crests, the flood control system designed to protect property is instead destroying crops, homes and businesses that will cost billions of dollars and require months of recovery efforts, flood experts and conservationists say.

That has prompted them to call for a major shift in federal policy that since the 1920s has tried to limit Mississippi River flooding through a massive system of levees, release valves, floodways and drainage basins. The shift would let the river run more freely but would probably force the relocation of communities to convert developed areas into open space.

“We need some retreat from our rivers,” said Larry Larson, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers. This year’s flooding, along with overflows of the Mississippi in 1937 and 1973, show the limits of control systems in protecting communities from intense rains and increased flows into the river caused by development and farming. “They need to re-evaluate the entire system,” Larson said.
–USA Today

Get your feet wet in the flood
Can’t get enough information on the downriver flooding on the Mississippi?

The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment has a great Facebook page that is aggregating lots of coverage – photos, science, human interest coverage – on the great flood of 2011. Go to http:www.facebook.com/RiverLifeUMN. 

Proposed western Wisconsin well draws ire
Residents of a small town in western Wisconsin have raised a large red flag about a high-capacity well proposed near their community.

 At the center of their concern, both real and symbolic, is a tinkling trout stream.

 The groundswell of opposition to the project may carry regional and statewide significance.

 First the proposal: Darrell Long of Lima, Ohio, has applied to construct a high-capacity well on 45 acres he owns near the Village of Mount Sterling in Crawford County.

 The property is set among the scenic bluffs and valleys of the Driftless Area. The proposed well is 500 feet from the North Branch of Copper Creek, a Class 1 trout stream.

The well would withdraw a maximum of 500,000 gallons of groundwater per day.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Share your ideas for saving water
Minnesotans have good ideas—it’s time someone listened.  The Idea Open brings everyday Minnesotans together to help solve our state’s most critical issues. This year the Idea Open is looking for answers to the question “How would you use $15,000 to help your community become aware of and address water issues in Minnesota?”  

Starting June 21, people from all over Minnesota will be able to submit ideas to the Challenge. In the meantime, check out www.MNIdeaOpen.org to sign up for updates and connect on Facebook and Twitter. The Idea Open is a venture of Minnesota Community Foundation, in proud partnership with Pentair and its foundation on Challenge II.
–Idea Open News Release

 Opinion: Time to end farm subsidies
Farm subsidies could finally be on the chopping block.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently acknowledged that corn and ethanol “subsidies need to be phased out” over time. And on a swing through Iowa, Mr. Vilsack suggested that the Obama administration will support some cuts in next year’s budget.

 On the right, Sen. Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, has called for an end to sugar subsidies, and the budget plan from Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would reduce agricultural handouts — which often go to large corporate farmers — by $30 billion over 10 years.

 This is good news. Agricultural subsidies cost taxpayers more than $15 billion each year, and until those subsidies are eliminated, farming in America will never be sustainable.

 Times have changed since Mark Twain described farmers as “fast rising from affluence to poverty.” Today’s farmers are earning record profits. Coupled with record federal deficits, the case for eliminating agricultural subsidies has probably never been more palatable. 

Over the last two decades, the nation’s appetite for food from “sustainable” farms has grown immensely. Sustainability is a buzzword, but at its optimum it aspires to maximize the benefits of farming while minimizing its negative impacts. Americans are starting to demand such practices — and they’re willing to pay for them.
–The Baltimore Sun

 Compliance with invasive rules is spotty
Many anglers still have a lot to learn about preventing the spread of invasive species to Minnesota lakes.

Compliance with the state’s new invasive species regulations during the first weekend of the fishing season was poor on some key lakes — including Lake Mille Lacs and Gull Lake.

Jim Tischler, a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer who worked both lakes, was dismayed at the poor compliance and confusion among anglers. Both lakes, among the most popular in the state, are infected with zebra mussels.

“People are getting the idea of pulling their drain plug, but they just don’t really understand the requirements for draining their bait water, and having other water with them if they want to keep their bait [when they leave the lake],” Tischler said.

 The law says boaters must drain their boats, live wells, bait wells and bilges when they leave any water, and they must also drain portable bait buckets when they leave infested waters.
–The Star Tribune

Christmas Lake homeowners want mussel inspections
In another grass-roots attempt to stop the spread of zebra mussels from Lake Minnetonka, homeowners on nearby Christmas Lake are angling to have a code-activated gate installed on the lake’s solitary boat ramp.

 “There are huge numbers of lake homeowners who don’t feel the Department of Natural Resources is doing enough,” said Joe Shneider, president of the 140-member Christmas Lake Homeowners Association.

 “We can’t just do what we have done in the past, which is monitor and communicate and educate, because it’s just not enough.”

Christmas Lake is one of the cleanest, clearest lakes in the metro area because it is deep, spring-fed and gets no farm runoff.

 The lake’s boat ramp on Hwy. 7 in Shorewood is a stone’s throw from Lake Minnetonka, where zebra mussels were discovered last summer. Many boaters take a ride or fish on Lake Minnetonka and then, without having to be inspected for unwanted aquatic plants and animals, go on to Christmas Lake, Shneider said.
–The Star Tribune

 Glacier park steps up invasives inspections
Glacier National Park will step up its boat inspection and permit program this summer in response to the rapid westward migration of aquatic invasive species on recreational watercraft. The consequences of such an infestation could be devastating to the Park’s ecosystems and the local economy.

Visitors can still launch most motorized and trailered watercraft in the Park, but a thorough inspection is required upon every entry to the Park. Hand-propelled watercraft are not required to obtain a permit, but Park managers encourage all boaters to thoroughly clean, drain and dry their watercraft or fishing equipment before coming to the Park.
–Hungry Horse News

Colorado begins 62-mile water pipeline
As much as 100 million gallons a day of Arkansas River water trapped in a reservoir for southern Colorado and downriver states is about to take a left turn — to Colorado’s biggest water project in decades.

 Construction crews began work on the $2.3 billion Southern Delivery System. It is designed to pump water uphill and north from Pueblo Reservoir — through a 62-mile pipeline — to sustain Colorado Springs, which owns the rights to the river water, and other growing Front Range cities.

 The cities embarked on this project because water supplies have emerged as a constraint on population growth.

 Three 15,000-horsepower pumps are to propel the water through a pressurized 66-inch-diameter steel pipeline. Moving water to the planned end points — two 30,000 acre-foot reservoirs to be built east of Colorado Springs — requires an elevation gain of 1,600 feet.
–The Denver Post

Pennsylvania told to oversee  ‘fracking’
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked Pennsylvania to do a better job sampling, monitoring and regulating Marcellus Shale wastewater discharges near public drinking water sources.

The EPA also has reminded the state Department of Environmental Protection that any new methods for disposing of drilling wastewater must comply with federal rules.

 The federal agency directed six of the major Marcellus Shale drilling companies in Pennsylvania to disclose, by May 25, how and where they will dispose of or recycle wastewater now that they can no longer use municipal sewage treatment facilities. 

Range Resources, Atlas Resources LLC, Talisman Energy USA, Cabot Gas and Oil CVorp.. SWEPI LP and Chesapeake Energy Corp. account for more than half of the Marcellus gas drilling in the state. 

The EPA said it is getting involved in regulatory and enforcement actions usually overseen by the DEP because it wants to ensure that Marcellus Shale gas development and production are done in ways to protect public health and the environment.
–Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Or just turn off the faucet
Budweiser is asking adult men across America to help save one million gallons of water by not shaving in the days and weeks leading up to World Environment Day (June 5).  As part of Budweiser’s ongoing commitment to water conservation, the Grow One. Save a Million. program allows consumers to get involved and save roughly 5 gallons of water for each shave they skip.

Consumers 21 years of age and older can visit Budweiser’s Facebook page to make a pledge and share the program with friends.  Participants can commit to a range of options, from a few days to multiple weeks.  Women can get involved by recruiting male friends or family members.  The page also features a daily tracker of the gallons saved to date.
–Budweiser news release

Web site predicts areas of water stress
Water services provider Veolia Water has launched GrowingBlue.com, a site that uses animated maps, infographics and case studies to help municipalities, businesses and consumers better understand water challenges in 180 countries.

The site includes water availability scenarios for 2050 and explanations of the link between water and economic prosperity, societal stability and environmental sustainability. 

According to new data presented on the web site, almost half of the world’s economy and 4.8 billion people, roughly half the world’s expected population, could be located in regions facing water limitations by 2050.

 In rapidly developing countries such as China and India, water scarcity will begin to materially risk growth. In these two areas alone, 2.7 billion people will live in areas of high water stress by 2050.
–environmental leader


DNR working on catfish management
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is looking for the public’s help in gathering data on catfish angling and consumption as part of a project to enhance management of the fish.

 The project includes DNR tagging catfish to get a better idea of their population and movement. It also will draw upon catfish anglers who are willing to answer a few survey questions and keep diaries of their angling efforts. The angler diaries will provide valuable information that is not typically obtained in standard creel surveys, because many catfish anglers fish at night.

 Two surveys are currently online. One survey, which is a statewide survey, asks 10 questions about anglers’ catfish consumption. The other survey is a continuation of an earlier 12-question survey launched in 2009 and aimed at catfish anglers who fish in the Twin Cities metro region.
–DNR News Release

Artist Christo’s project hinges on sheep
Nearly 20 years after the artist Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, proposed draping a river canyon in southern Colorado in miles of translucent fabric, a federal thumbs up or down on the project may hinge on one factor above all others: the happiness of several hundred bighorn sheep.

 Crucial to the federal government’s decision, expected in August or September, will be a final environmental impact statement on the $50 million installation, known as “Over the River,” that federal land managers plan to unveil in coming weeks.

Some wildlife experts worry that sheep could be displaced or even harmed if the fabric is unfurled over 5.9 miles of the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City. Last week the Colorado Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to urge federal officials to reject the proposal, citing in part its concerns about the bighorn, Colorado’s state animal.
–The New York Times

 China acknowledges dam’s problems
China’s landmark Three Gorges Dam project provides benefits to the Chinese people, but has created a myriad of urgent problems from the relocation of more than a million residents to risks of geological disasters, the Chinese government said. 

The statement from China’s State Council, or cabinet, marked a rare acknowledgment of the issues that have shadowed the world’s largest dam, an engineering feat designed to tame the Yangtze River that snakes from the Tibetan plateau to Shanghai. 

“At the same time that the Three Gorges project provides huge comprehensive benefits, urgent problems must be resolved regarding the smooth relocation of residents, ecological protection, and geological disaster prevention,” the statement said, which appeared on the government’s website.

Premier Wen Jiabao presided over the meeting that produced the statement, which also said problems existed for down-river transport, irrigation and water supplies.
–Reuters

DNR launches Facebook pages
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has launched four Facebook pages that will appeal to fans of fishing, hunting, the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine, and Minnesota state parks and trails.

 The four Facebook pages represent the DNR’s desire to connect with the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.

 With more than 500 million users worldwide, Facebook is an ideal tool for outdoor recreation fans to tap into the latest DNR news and interact online with others who click the “Like” button on the agency’s four pages. Facebook will give hunters, anglers and campers the opportunity to share their experiences with others who enjoy outdoor recreation.

 “Facebook is a great way for our hunting and fishing license buyers, readers of the Conservation Volunteer magazine, and users of our state parks and trails to learn about the outdoors and share their great experiences in Minnesota,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.
–DNR News Release