Posts Tagged ‘water sustainability’

Impaired waters; tracking CO2

January 16, 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.

List of impaired Minnesota waters grows
Minnesota is adding another 500 lakes and stretches of river to its list of impaired waters.

This new list brings the total number of impaired rivers and lakes to more than 3,600. Impaired means the waters have excess nitrogen, phosphorus, mercury, bacteria or other pollutant to support activities like swimming or fishing, or even to provide healthy habitats for fish and wildlife.

Listing these lakes and rivers is the first step in attempts to fix them. But some critics say the state isn’t doing what it takes to clean up the pollution.

Once they’re on the list, the state works with local governments and citizen groups to design clean-up plans. So far, researchers have found that about 40 percent of Minnesota’s waters are impaired. The federal Clean Water Act requires states to update their list of impaired waters every two years. Minnesota is one-fifth of the way through surveying its nearly 12,000 lakes and nearly 70,000 miles of rivers and streams.

In the nearly twenty years these efforts have been under way, about 900 clean-up plans have been approved or are being developed. But only 15 water bodies have been removed from the list because of actual clean-up.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Data base shows greenhouse gas sources
 The EPA has posted a new searchable data base of greenhouse gas emissions last year. Go to it and explore the power plants and other sources of Minnesota’s 47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide-  equivalent emissions. Read a New York Times article about the new trove of pollution data.

Research: Cut soot, methane to slow warming
 Simple, inexpensive measures to cut emissions of two common pollutants will slow global warming, save millions of lives and boost crop production around the world, an international team of scientists reported.

The climate-change debate has centered on carbon dioxide, a gas that wafts in the atmosphere for decades, trapping heat. But in recent years, scientists have pointed to two other, shorter-term pollutants — methane and soot, also known as black carbon — that drive climate change.

Slashing emissions of these twin threats would be a “win-win-win” for climate, human health and agriculture, said NASA climate scientist Drew Shindell, who led the study appearing in the journal Science.  “Even if you don’t believe climate change is a problem, these things are worth doing.”

Previous studies have noted the benefits of reducing methane and soot. But the new study looked at the specific effect of about 400 actions policymakers could take. Of those, just 14 interventions — such as eliminating wood-burning stoves, dampening emissions from diesel vehicles and capturing methane released from coal mines — would offer big benefits.
 –The Washington Post

Investors push water sustainability 
Jonas Kron is worried about water. The investment adviser at Trillium Asset Management, a $900 million fund manager that focuses on environmentally sustainable investment, fears the world’s dwindling supply of fresh water is hurting the companies he has invested in. For most of the year, Kron has led a shareholder challenge to J. M. Smucker, the strawberry jam maker that also owns Folgers coffee. Kron says the company hasn’t demonstrated it’s prepared for the market changes that are sure to come as climate change reduces the size of the world’s coffee growing area.

The conversation has been difficult in part because corporate leaders still seem unaware they need to factor water risk into their financial projections, says Kron. “We’re not talking about charity here,” says Kron. “These are investors seeking to have the company address the risks in its supply chain.”

Smucker’s says it’s hedging against potential increases in raw material prices, but Mother Nature, Kron points out, can defeat any hedge. “At a certain point, you need to deal with the fundamental, underlying fact that these are crops grown with soil, sunlight, and water, and you can’t escape the laws of nature.”

Most companies act as if the water they have today will be there tomorrow, says Brooke Barton, who runs water programs at Ceres, an environmental group in Boston that worked with Trillium and others to create an online checklist aimed at helping investors and companies assess efforts to manage water risk.
–Bloomberg

3M counter-sues Met Council over pollution 
The 3M Co. has a new tactic to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by the state of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council: If we polluted, so did you.

In a counterclaim, the company said that if it is found liable for polluting the Mississippi River, the Met Council also should pay. That’s because, 3M says, the planning agency for the seven-county Twin Cities area dumps chemicals into the river from its seven waste treatment plants.

The court document is a new twist in the legal battle over PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonate, found in the river. The state sued 3M in December 2010, saying its chemicals had damaged the environment. The Met Council joined the suit 11 months later. But 3M now argues that the chemicals are coming from treated sewage and other sources.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Cellulosic biofuels go missing 
When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel as required by law.

But there was none to be had. Outside a handful of laboratories and workshops, the ingredient, cellulosic biofuel, does not exist.

In 2012, the oil companies expect to pay even higher penalties for failing to blend in the fuel, which is made from wood chips or the inedible parts of plants like corncobs. Refiners were required to blend 6.6 million gallons into gasoline and diesel in 2011 and face a quota of 8.65 million gallons this year.

“It belies logic,” Charles T. Drevna, the president of the National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association, said of the 2011 quota. And raising the quota for 2012 when there is no production makes even less sense, he said.

Penalizing the fuel suppliers demonstrates what happens when the federal government really, really wants something that technology is not ready to provide.
–The New York Times

Climate change, elk reduce tree cover 
Climate change in the form of reduced snowfall in mountains is causing powerful and cascading shifts in mountainous plant and bird communities through the increased ability of elk to stay at high elevations over winter and consume plants, according to a groundbreaking study in Nature Climate Change.

The U.S. Geological Survey and University of Montana study not only showed that the abundance of deciduous trees and their associated songbirds in mountainous Arizona have declined over the last 22 years as snowpack has declined, but it also experimentally demonstrated that declining snowfall indirectly affects plants and birds by enabling more winter browsing by elk. Increased winter browsing by elk results in trickle-down ecological effects such as lowering the quality of habitat for songbirds.

The authors, USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit scientist Thomas Martin and University of Montana scientist John Maron, mimicked the effects of more snow on limiting the ability of elk to browse on plants by excluding the animals from large, fenced areas. They compared bird and plant communities in these exclusion areas with nearby similar areas where elk had access, and found that, over the six years of the study, multi-decadal declines in plant and songbird populations were reversed in the areas where elk were prohibited from browsing.

“This study illustrates that profound impacts of climate change on ecosystems arise over a time span of but two decades through unexplored feedbacks,” explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. “The significance lies in the fact that humans and our economy are at the end of the same chain of cascading consequences.”
–USGS News Release

Farm Bureau call to end direct subsidies
The American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Honolulu has voted to adopt an Iowa proposal that would recommend the end of direct payments to farmers as part of the new farm bill to be written this year.

The Iowa Farm Bureau’s county delegates shook the agricultural world in August 2010 when they voted to recommend the end of direct payments, which in 2010 put $495 million into the hands of Iowa farmers. The 2011 American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Atlanta declined to follow the Iowa resolution, largely because of resistance from Southern delegates. But during the year, it became increasingly evident that direct payments, which have long been a target of opponents of farm subsidies, were vulnerable as Congress looks for ways to reduce the federal budget deficit.

“This week our national delegation of farmers agreed: The time is right to take a stand,” said Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill of Milo.
–The Des Moines Register

Washington works to clean Potomac 
Washington is starting to dig deep in a $2.6 billion underground solution aimed at helping clean up the polluted Potomac River and the ailing Chesapeake Bay, the biggest U.S. estuary.

In the U.S. capital’s biggest public works project in more than 40 years, work started this fall to cut about 16 miles (26 kilometres) of tunnels to keep overflow sewage and stormwater from running into the Potomac. The project, designed to be finished in 2025, is seen by environmentalists as part of resolving the next great water pollution challenge facing the United States — keeping fouled runoff out of lakes, streams and rivers.

The vast dig “is a dramatic piece of the puzzle to improve the water quality in the Potomac,” said Carlton Ray, head of the District of Columbia’s Clean Water Project.
–Reuters

Permits required for lake service providers 
Training and permitting requirements for people who install and remove docks and other water recreation equipment will be implemented by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this summer.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a number of new laws in 2011 related to prevention and management of aquatic invasive species. The laws apply to not only boaters and property owners, but also lake service providers and others involved with transportation of water-related equipment.

Service providers are individuals or businesses hired to install or remove water-related equipment such as boats, docks, boat lifts or structures from waters of the state. They are now required by state statute to obtain a permit from the DNR before providing any services. The DNR will begin to implement and enforce this during the 2012 open water season. All service providers must complete invasive species training and pass an examination in order to qualify for a permit.
–DNR News Release

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Studies predict water shortfall in Southwest

February 14, 2011

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

Studies predict water shortfall in Southwest
The glum projections of the growing gap between demand for water in the Southwest and the dwindling supplies have never been optimistic, but two new studies— one a research report based on satellite data, and the other an analysis of rainfall, water use and the costs associated with obtaining new water — make earlier forecasts seem positively rosy.

The United States branch of the Stockholm Environment Institute, based in Somerville, Mass., just released an extended analysis of water demand and future supplies that estimates that the cumulative shortfall over the next century in the Southwest, without the adoption of adaptation strategies, will be 1.815 billion acre feet. And that’s without factoring in a climate-change-driven reduction in supply.
–The New York Times

River cities brace for spring floods
Ice is still on the rivers, but the flood fight is on.

With near-historic crests predicted for the third year in a row, people along the state’s flood-prone waterways are sandbagging, strengthening their defenses, and watching with confidence, wariness and weariness.

Fargo-Moorhead, the epicenter of recent flood fights, have both declared states of emergency. Fargo will launch a drive to fill 3 million sandbags to hold off the Red River in North Dakota.

Along the Minnesota, the Mississippi, the St. Croix, and even along tributary creeks, communities are buying sandbags, hiring levee builders, planning for volunteers and prodding residents to buy flood insurance.
–The Star Tribune

Federal aquaculture rules proposed
The federal government issued the nation’s first policy guidelines for aquaculture, opening the way for farm-raised seafood to be produced in federal waters as long as the operations do not threaten wild fish stocks or saltwater ecosystems.

 The guidelines, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, offer general standards that regional fishery councils will have to meet when they propose fish farms.

 Aquaculture has been growing rapidly worldwide, and in 2009, farmed fish and shellfish surpassed wild-caught stocks as the major source of seafood worldwide.

 NOAA estimates that 84 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is now imported, and half of that is produced through aquaculture.
–The New York Times

Ex-Sens. Frederickson, Lessard join DNR
Gov. Mark Dayton announced that former GOP state Sen. Dennis Frederickson will be southern director for the Department of Natural Resources. He also announced that former Sen Bob Lessard will be a senior adviser to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. Chris Niskanen, the outdoors writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will also be communications director for the DNR. 

Frederickson served as a state Senator from 1980 – 2010. He decided against running for reelection. Lessard served in the Minnesota Senate from 1976 – 2003. He was a member of the DFL Party and the Independence Party during his time in office. 

Niskanen is a prominent outdoors writer who worked for the Pioneer Press for 17 years. 

“We went out and found the very best people we could to lead us into the future,” said Landwehr in a news release. “I’m very excited about leveraging their skill and experience to better reach out to the people of Minnesota and represent their needs and concerns.”
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Apple Valley, Burnsville agree on runoff
After years of looking for ways to deal with water pollution, Burnsville and Apple Valley have reached an agreement to create a large holding pond to collect storm runoff. 

Apple Valley will build the new Whitney pond this summer on land owned by Burnsville in Lac Lavon Park. The pond, expected to be completed by November, also will have a walking trail around it. 

“It’s a great partnership between the two cities,” said Terry Shultz, Burnsville’s director of parks, recreation and natural resources. “It will greatly improve the water quality of Keller Lake and Crystal Lake.” 

The two lakes are on the state’s list of impaired waterways, Shultz said, and the new Whitney pond will allow the cities to lower the phosphorous levels in those lakes.
–The Star Tribune

Hugo-area drainage dispute lingers
The century-old Judicial Ditch No. 2 in Hugo is the problem that refuses to die.

 A lawsuit filed against the Rice Creek Watershed District is the latest in a long line of legal conflicts over the drainage ditch, which has been making headlines for more than a decade because of flooding, farmers’ complaints and bickering between government agencies.

 The watershed district voted in December to alter a small dam in the ditch. In January, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Hugo farmer Fran Miron sued the district.

The DNR claims the district needs DNR permission to do anything that will affect the water level of nearby Rice Lake. Miron is asking the court to force the district to either maintain the ditch according to its original specifications or pay for any land that is adversely affected by failing to do so.

An attorney for the district said attempts have been made to compromise with the DNR, including offers to let the DNR take over the dam, and that the Miron claim was made once before and already addressed by the court.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 U.S. House chided on bottled water
If the Potomac River, which supplies water to the nation’s capital, had run dry, Congress might be able to explain itself. But it hasn’t.  

And that has left one group calling out the U.S. House for spending $860,000 last year on bottled water — money it says could have gone toward installing fountains of perfectly potable water. 

 A report from the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International found that between April 2009 and March 2010, House lawmakers spent an average of $2,000 per member on bottled water. 
–FoxNews.com

 Climate change tracked in Wisconsin
Recent findings from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin researchers suggests the effects of climate change have been accelerating over the past 60 years and could drastically transform the state’s idyllic landscape in the future. 

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, a group of experts and scientists from across the state, released the report as the culmination of nearly three-and-a-half years of research. 

Using data from the past 60 years and as far back as the 1800s, researchers tracked ongoing trends of climate change distributed across the state to make projections as to what the climate is going to look like in 50 years, said Lewis Gilbert, associate director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Gilbert said the results of this statistical analysis were combined with global climate models that had been scaled down to better reflect the size of the state.
–The Badger Herald 

Research: Algae affect fish hormonally
Fertilizer runoff from farms can feed blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, which are deadly to pets and livestock. As if that weren’t enough to worry about, new research suggests for the first time that the blooms also could disrupt reproduction in aquatic wildlife through estrogenic effects (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es103538b).

 Until now, most studies of Microcystis aeruginosa, the most common bloom-forming cyanobacterium, have focused on the bacterium’s 80 or so microcystin toxins, says Ted Henry, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Plymouth, in the U.K. The toxins can cause massive internal bleeding and liver damage in mammals and fish.

 Henry, Emily Rogers of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and their colleagues stumbled on the estrogenic actions when they were looking for genes that turn on when fish encounter Microcystis. They hoped that these genes could serve as biomarkers for bloom events in lakes when biologists observe fish die offs. “We wanted to develop a short list of genes that would determine whether a fish had been exposed to Microcystis or not,” Henry says.
–Chemical & Engineering News

Study links atrazine to frog sex changes

March 9, 2010

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

Atrazine alters frogs’ gender, study finds
A new study has found that male frogs exposed to the herbicide atrazine — one of the most common man-made chemicals found in U.S. waters — can make a startling developmental U-turn, becoming so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

 The study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, seems likely to add to the attention focused on a weedkiller that is widely used on cornfields. The Environmental Protection Agency, which re-approved the use of atrazine in 2006, has already begun a new evaluation of its potential health effects.

 Its manufacturer, Swiss agri-business giant Syngenta, says research has proven that the chemical is safe for animals and for people, who could be exposed to trace amounts in drinking water. 

But in recent years, a series of scientific studies have seemed to show atrazine interfering with the hormone systems that guide development in fish, birds, rats and frogs. In many cases, the result has been “feminized” males, with behaviors or body parts more like those of females.
–The Washington Post 

U of Iowa aims to hire 10 sustainability profs
University of Iowa officials are working to draw 10 experts on water sustainability to tenure-track positions by the fall of 2011. With searches underway now, five of the 10 may be here by July 1.

The water-sustainability hirings will be the first group of the 100 new tenure-track positions that the UI  Strategic Plan will create. 

A committee overseeing the hirings has been working for more than a year on the new initiative. UI administration are searching to fill five slots soon, while various departments will begin the process of hiring the other five next fall. The first round of candidates began visiting campus in February. 

“For [water sustainability] to be studied, and talked about, and investigated across campus, we think, is an outstanding opportunity,” said Larry Weber, director of the UI’s hydroscience labs.

The 10 new positions will cost roughly $1 million plus start-up costs, UI Provost Wallace Loh said.
–The Daily Iowan

 Everglades restoration threatened
It started out so big, so bold and with so much promise for healing the River of Grass that environmentalists proclaimed it the holy grail of Everglades restoration.

But 20 months after Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled his $1.75 billion bid to buy out the U.S. Sugar Corp., the grail is at serious risk of slipping away — rather, what’s left of it. 

Crist remains confident his landmark land buy will survive. “It’s a done deal,” he told The Miami Herald. “It’s got to be done.” 

Others, even supporters like Drew Martin, Everglades chairman for the Sierra Club, are less certain. “There is no question it’s hanging by a thread,” he said.
–The Miami Herald

Conservation easements go unchecked
Minnesota is preparing to pay more landowners to set aside thousands of acres for conservation, but it appears state officials have little idea how much they have already spent on such projects over the years and have rarely monitored how the land was being used. 

A continuing inventory of the properties, ordered by a state panel, shows that the Department of Natural Resources now has more than 1,000 such “conservation easements” across Minnesota, but has not inspected many properties in years. 

Use of conservation easements has grown since the practice started in the 1970s, exploding in recent years.
–The Star Tribune 

Minnesota DNR  lacks land management $$
The Department of Natural Resources continues to buy land for wildlife areas, parks, trails and other natural areas even though it lacks adequate resources to manage and maintain its current land, according to a report released by the legislative auditor.

 The report notes that the DNR or citizens advisory groups have recommended significant acquisitions of land and conservation easements in recent years — including a 64 percent increase in wildlife management areas, land open to public hunting.

 “Despite these ambitious proposals, DNR does not appear to have adequate resources to manage and maintain its current land holdings,” the report said.
–The Star Tribune

 EPA enforcement slows
The Environmental Protection Agency is riling many businesses with proposals to regulate greenhouse gases for the first time, but data suggest it has been slow out of the gate under President Barack Obama in enforcing existing regulations on traditional pollutants. 

In fiscal 2009, the EPA’s enforcement office required polluters to spend more than $5 billion on cleanup and emission controls—down from $11.8 billion the previous year, according to a report recently published by the agency. The report, which examines the EPA’s performance in enforcing limits on pollutants like sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and soot, covers the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, a period that covers the last 3½ months of President George W. Bush’s watch and the first 8½ months of Mr. Obama’s. 

Defendants in agency enforcement cases committed to cut pollution by about 580 million pounds in fiscal 2009, down from 3.9 billion pounds in fiscal 2008, according to the report.
–The Wall Street Journal

Obama adviser defends climate science
The disclosure of research “missteps” hasn’t shaken the consensus that manmade emissions from burning fossil fuels are contributing to climate change, President Barack Obama’s top science adviser said.

 The release of scientists’ e-mails and errors in a report by a United Nations climate panel show researchers are human, John Holdren said at an energy conference in Washington’s Maryland suburbs.

The errors don’t alter the reality that carbon dioxide emissions are warming the earth, he said. 

Opponents of limits on emissions from burning coal and oil have seized on the miscues to challenge Obama’s plan to put a price on gases that cause global warming. Climate-change legislation has stalled in the Senate and more than 80 lawmakers are seeking to curb the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new greenhouse-gas limits. 

“Fossil-fuel and biomass burning, and land-use change are almost certainly responsible for a large part of the changes that are being observed,” Holdren said. “Nothing in the recent controversies cast doubt on any of those fundamental propositions.”
–bloomberg.com 

Take time to test your well
National Ground Water Awareness Week, sponsored annually by the National Ground Water Association, is March 7-13.

The majority of public water systems in the United States use groundwater as their primary source to provide drinking water to an estimated 90 million persons. An additional 15 million U.S. homes use private wells, which also rely on groundwater.

 Owners of private wells are responsible for ensuring that their well water is safe from harmful groundwater contaminants. These contaminants can occur naturally, but are usually the result of local land use practices (e.g., fertilizer and pesticide use), manufacturing processes, and leakage from nearby septic systems. The presence of contaminants in drinking water can lead to illness, disease, and other health problems.

NGWA uses this week to stress the importance of yearly water testing and well maintenance (4). Private well owners can take simple steps to reduce well water contamination risks. These precautions include ensuring that the well is located away from potential contamination sources (e.g., septic and waste-water systems, animal enclosures, and chemical storage areas) and conducting an annual maintenance check of the well.

 Additional information about Ground Water Awareness Week, well maintenance, water testing, and well water treatment is available from the Centers for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/index.html, from the Environmental Protection Agency at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/privatewells/whatyoucando.html  and from NGWA at http://www.wellowner.org.
–Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

 World Bank warns of groundwater crisis in India
About 60 per cent of aquifers in India will be in a critical condition in another 15 years if the trend of indiscriminate exploitation of ground water continues, the World Bank has said in a report.

 In its latest report on the country’s ground water level, the bank has expressed concern over the rate of depletion of water table in the country and has called for immediate corrective measures.

Around 29 per cent of ground water blocks in the country are semi-critical, critical or overexploited and the situation is deteriorating rapidly. By 2025, an estimated 60 per cent of ground water blocks will be in a critical condition. Climate change will further strain ground water resources, the report said.

India is the largest user of ground water in the world, with an estimated use of 230 cubic km of ground water every year––more than a quarter of the global level. Now,  ground water supports around 60 per cent of irrigated agriculture and more than 80 per cent of rural and urban water supplies.

“Out of a total of 5,723 ground water blocks in the country, 1,615 are classified as semi-critical, critical or overexploited, and regulatory directives have been issued by the Central Ground Water Authority for 108 blocks.  However, neither the authority nor the state ground water agencies have the resources or the personnel to oversee the enforcement of these regulations.”
The Deccan Herald

 Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration
Who has the right to bodies of water, in our state, our country, our world? What are the issues involved in making water available to us? How does gender affect the right to water?

These are just some of the questions a group of women began asking a couple of years ago. Their inquiry has blossomed into a project called Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration, which includes a visual arts exhibit, with music, dance and poetry performances, a two-day symposium and multiple lectures.

“Bringing awareness, gathering unity and encouraging legislation about the global fresh water crisis-and the part that women play” is what all of this activity is about, said Liz Dodson, board member on the Women’s Caucus for Art and coordinator of the project. “We can see [the crisis] especially in Africa, where women are the ones who need to gather fresh water for their families. Here, in Minnesota, it’s about women being part of water management efforts.”

The month-long WWR project began on Feb. 26 at a reception at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus. At the center of the WWR project is the exhibit of work by around 50 women artists from Minnesota and around the world. Displayed in the Nash Gallery of the Regis Center for Art, their artwork is inspired by the symbolism and deep meaning of water.

Throughout the month of March, events will be held to challenge people to think analytically and emotionally about global and local water rights.
–Minnesota Women’s Press

Methane being released undersea
Climate scientists have long warned that global warming could unlock vast stores of the greenhouse gas methane that are frozen into the Arctic permafrost, setting off potentially significant increases in global warming.

Now researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and elsewhere say this change is under way in a little-studied area under the sea, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, west of the Bering Strait.

Natalia Shakhova, a scientist at the university and a leader of the study, said it was too soon to say whether the findings suggest that a dangerous release of methane looms.
–The New York Times

 Wind turbines in Lake Michigan?
Halfway up Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, wooded bluffs rise next to dunes, ice-fringed winter beaches, and steel-gray water stretching as far as the eye can see.

 Pentwater, a resort town whose year-round residents number fewer than 1,000, sits in the middle of some of the most prized lakefront in the region. So when a Norwegian-American company recently proposed putting up as many as 200 wind turbines in the water, many residents were appalled.

 “People are very up in arms about this,” says Juanita Pierman, Pentwater’s village president. “We still need to find alternative forms of energy, but I’m not sure putting windmills two or three miles out in the lake is going to do it.
–The Christian Science Monitor

 E.U. eases resistance to genetic modification
The European Commission began a new push to allow farmers in Europe to grow more biotech crops, clearing a genetically modified potato for cultivation despite persistent public opposition to the technology.

 In the first such decision in more than a decade, the commission approved the Amflora potato produced by the German company BASF for cultivation inside the 27-country European Union. John Dalli, the bloc’s health commissioner, said the potatoes could be planted in Europe, with some conditions, as soon as next month.

 The potato is engineered to be unusually rich in a starch suitable for making glossy paper and other products, as well as for feeding animals.

 Currently the only other biotech crop grown in Europe is a type of corn produced by Monsanto, which was approved in 1998.
–The New York Times

 USDA seeks water quality proposals
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking project proposals that will improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi River in 41 eligible watersheds in 12 states.

The Request for Proposals  for the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, through which up to $75 million will be available for partnership projects, was published in the Federal Register.Proposals are due by May 1. The RFP explains the procedures for potential partners to sign agreements with USDA for projects that meet with the initiative’s objectives. 

In Minnesota, three watersheds are eligible to participate: the Root, Middle Minnesota and Sauk. 

For more information about the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, including the RFP and the eligible watersheds, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi.html.
–USDA news release