moose

Researchers call for preserving wolves on Isle Royale

If you’ve ever been to Isle Royale, if you ever have seen a moose in the wild, or a wolf in the wild, you should read a May 8 New York Times op-ed calling for the National Park Service to maintain a wolf population on the island.

The op-ed was written by John A. Vucetich, a population biologist, and Rolf O. Peterson, a wildlife ecologist, both at Michigan Tech University, and Michael P. Nelson, an environmental ethicist at Oregon State University.

A 55-year Michigan Tech study of wolves and moose on Isle Royale is the longest such predator-prey research in the world. Earlier this year, a winter count showed the wolf population – suffering from the long-term effects of inbreeding – appeared to have declined to eight animals.

Researchers believe no wolf pups were born on the island in 2012.

In the New York Times op-ed, the three researchers support either of two options:  introducing new wolves to the existing population, or replacing the existing wolves when the they die out on the island.

The researchers  note that “two of the architects of modern-day thinking about wilderness, the wildlife biologists Aldo Leopold and Adolph Murie, supported the idea of introducing wolves to Isle Royale in the 1940s — to conserve a habitat being overrun by moose — before wolves had arrived on their own.”

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Researcher seek carp-specific toxin

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.

Asian carp researchers seek ‘bio-bullet’ 
Biologist Jon Amberg has spent the last two years obsessed with fish guts, laboring over a singular challenge: Develop a poison pill that will kill Asian carp and leave other fish unscathed.

Voracious and freakishly resilient, the fish has left a trail of destruction on its decades-long migration up the Mississippi River and into Illinois, seemingly undeterred by the ordinary ammo of invasive species warfare.

Now, designer drugs and engineered poisons, often called “bio-bullets,” have become increasingly popular among scientists trying to create sniper-shot solutions to unyielding problems, from malignant pests in rivers and fields to tumors in human bodies.

“If you look at Asian carp as being kind of like a cancer, we’re in essence developing a drug to be able to target it without killing the ‘cells’ around it,” said Amberg, who works for theU.S. Geological Survey in La Crosse, Wis.

Akin to chemotherapy, attempts to chemically control Asian carp today would require dumping thousands of gallons of pesticide into waterways, possibly harming other aquatic life. By contrast, an Asian carp bio-bullet would theoretically deliver toxins specifically to silver and bighead carp in a digestible microsize particle, about the width of a human hair.
–The Chicago Tribune

Save these dates:
 Thursday, April 12. The Freshwater Society celebrates spring with an  Ice Out/Loon In party and fund-raiser at the Lafayette Club. Don’t miss the loon-calling  competition. Get more information.

 Tuesday, April 19. Dick Osgood, Executive Director of the Lake Minnetonka Association, will present a state-of-the-lake status report on challenges facing Lake Minnetonka. The presentation will focus particularly on aquatic invasive species.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. at the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Drive in Excelsior. It is sponsored by the South Tonka chapter of the League of Women Voters. Co-sponsors are: the Freshwater Society, the Lake Minnetonka Association, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and Minnesota Waters.

Conservation inextricably linked to Farm Bill
Brian DeVore from the Land Stewardship Project recently wrote a fine Star Tribune op-ed on the federal Farm Bill and crop insurance. The column argues that crop insurance, as it currently is structured, encourages farmers to plant crops on marginal land. DeVore encourages Congress to, once again, make compliance with minimum conservation standards a requirement for the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance.

Read DeVore’s Star Tribune op-ed. Read the longer article in the Land Stewardship Project Letter from which the op-ed was adapted. Read a column on the same subject last fall by Freshwater society president Gene Merriam.

Pelicans recovering in Minnesota
Flocks of giant white birds are catching the eyes of birders and outdoor enthusiasts across Minnesota as once-rare American White Pelicans return to their summer nesting grounds at 16 sites across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The pelicans were driven to near extinction in the early 20th century from human pressures. There were no reports of nesting pelicans in Minnesota for 90 years, from 1878 until 1968.

However, conservation efforts led by the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program along with federal regulations have helped pelican populations make a slow and steady comeback. In Minnesota, there are estimated to be about 22,000 pairs of pelicans that nest at 16 sites on seven lakes across the state.

“The Prairie Pothole Region of western Minnesota hosts 22 percent of the global population of this species, making it a stewardship species,” said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, DNR nongame wildlife specialist.
–DNR News Release

Live Asian carp seized at Canadian border
Canadian authorities say 14,000 pounds of live Asian carp were seized at the U.S.-Canadian border, the third such seizure in less than two months.

Canadian border patrol agents at the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, in Canada made the seizure Feb. 28, The Detroit News reported. The seizure, the fifth in the last year, involved fish from farms in the southern United States bound for markets in Toronto, where the invasive species is popular in Asian cuisine, officials said.

Possessing live Asian carp in Ontario has been illegal since 2005, and while it is legal to possess live carp in the United States, transporting them across state lines is prohibited.
 –UPI

MPCA offers truckers loans to cut air pollution 
With diesel fuel prices climbing to $4 per gallon, low-interest loans are available to help Minnesota long-haul truckers save money, stay cool this summer and reduce pollution on overnight rest stops.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers loans at 4 percent to owner-operated long-haul truckers and small trucking companies to purchase idle-reduction devices.

These auxiliary power units, or APUs, are either small, 15-horsepower diesel engines or battery pack systems that can run air conditioning, heaters and electricity to power laptops while the truck’s main engine is shut off.

Paul Ahles, long-haul truck owner-operator, used his new APU on an older truck for nine months and estimated he’s saving $500 per month in fuel idling costs even after deducting a loan payment and fuel and maintenance costs.

Ahles averages about 266 hours of idling per month. Long-haul trucks consume about one gallon of fuel per hour while idling. But a diesel APU will use only one-fifth as much.
–The Brainerd Dispatch

Cottage Groves OKs 3M filtration plan 
The Cottage Grove City Council recently approved a 3M site plan proposal to construct a filtration facility to clean chemically-tainted water before it is re-used or pumped into the Mississippi River.

Seven groundwater extraction wells pump millions of gallons of 3M-manufactured perfluorochemical-tainted water per day from underneath a former 3M dumpsite near the Woodbury-Cottage Grove border. From there it is piped six miles south to the 3M Cottage Grove facility. There, it flows untreated into the Mississippi River.

As part of a 2009 Minnesota Pollution Control decision related to cleanup of east metro PFC groundwater contamination, 3M has proposed to build a carbon filtration facility to clean that water before it is re-used at the Cottage Grove facility or piped into a river cove.
–The South Washington County Bulletin

Moose hunt to continue this fall
Minnesota hunters will still have the chance to shoot moose this fall, state officials announced.

The moose population remains in steady decline, but scientists and wildlife managers agree that a limited hunt of males would not significantly change the number of animals because there are plenty of bulls to impregnate cows. “I don’t think it’ll matter at all,” said Rolf Peterson, a researcher from the Isle Royale moose-wolf study who chairs the state’s moose advisory committee.

The decision by the Department of Natural Resources to issue 87 moose tags – a reduction from past years – comes as adult moose continue to die off faster than young moose are growing into their ranks. The current population in the northeastern part of the state is estimated, based on aerial surveys, at 4,230 animals, down from 4,900 last year and 8,840 in 2006.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

EPA steps back from ‘fracking’ order 
The Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn an order requiring a natural gas drilling company to provide water for two North Texas families based on accusations that the company contaminated water wells.

The EPA said its decision regarding Range Resources drilling in Parker County allows the agency to shift the focus “away from litigation and toward a joint effort on the science and safety of energy extraction.”

Range was accused of contaminating water with benzene, methane and other toxic gases through a drilling method called hydraulic fracturing. The process involves breaking up rock with chemical-laced water to free previously out-of-reach natural gas.

The Fort Worth company and the Texas Railroad Commission argued the contamination came from other natural causes.
–Business Week

Congress considers cormorant clash
To hear the fishermen around Lake Waconia tell it, the ancient black cormorants that congregate on the lake’s Coney Island in the summer are the scourge of the fishes and trees. To naturalists who see the native Minnesota birds as unloved relations of the revered loon, it’s all a big fish tale.

A congressional panel was left to sort it all out, hearing a bill by two of Minnesota’s leading outdoors-men and congressmen that would give the state wider latitude to shoot some of the federally protected birds. That’s already the standard method of culling cormorant flocks that have hurt fisheries in Leech Lake and other popular recreational areas.

Now Carver County’s Lake Waconia — the metro area’s second-largest lake — is ground zero in the battle against a bird long derided for its ability to dive, propel itself underwater and eat prized fish that humans like to put on their dinner plates.
–The Star Tribune

Low water keeps White Bear beach closed
Low water levels have closed one of the most popular swimming beaches in the north metro area for the fourth summer in a row.

The Ramsey County Parks Department recently announced Ramsey Beach off Highway 96 in White Bear Lake will be closed to swimming during the summer of 2012. Signs have been posted warning swimmers to stay out of the water.

“It’s highly likely we’re not going to open it again this summer,” said Director of Park Services and Operations Jody Yungers. “Unfortunately the water levels are too low.”

The White Bear Lake water level has dropped more than 5 feet below its ordinary high water mark since 2009. The decrease has exposed hundreds of feet of open beach and move the water line close to a dramatic drop off. Yungers said swimmers would encounter an 8-foot drop-off just a few feet from the shoreline. The drop-off would create dangerous conditions for inexperienced swimmers.
 –The White Bear Press  

 

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Watersheds; ag pollution; carp and moose

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.

Izaak Walton-Freshwater conference set March 12
Learn about how watershed districts in Minnesota are governed and what they do. And, most important, learn how citizens can work through local watershed organizations to improve water quality in the lakes, rivers and streams around them.

 On Saturday, March 12, the Izaak Walton League and the Freshwater Society will sponsor a workshop titled “Managing Water on the Land from a Watershed Perspective.”

 Tom Davenport, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expert on nonpoint-source pollution, especially agricultural pollution, will give the keynote luncheon address.

 The workshop – the latest in an annual series of Izaak Walton League summit meetings on important water and conservation issues – will begin at 8:30 a.m. and run until 4:30 p.m. at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

What are some farmers doing, things that many more could do, to prevent soil erosion and water pollution? What are some the trends in agriculture –  rapidly rising commodity prices, soaring land prices and cash rent payments to non-farmer land owners, a huge demand for corn for ethanol production — that threaten to increase pollution and erosion? And how should the federal Farm Bill be rewritten to encourage and reward conservation?

About 200 people turned out Feb. 24 to hear Craig A. Cox of the Environmental Working Group address those questions in a lecture at the University of Minnesota.

For more information, an agenda and registration details, go to the web site of the Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League.

Craig A. Cox

If you had to miss the lecture

What are some farmers doing, things that many more could do, to prevent soil erosion and water pollution? What are some the trends in agriculture –  rapidly rising commodity prices, soaring land prices and cash rent payments to non-farmer land owners, a huge demand for corn for ethanol production — that threaten to increase pollution and erosion? And how should the federal Farm Bill be rewritten to encourage and reward conservation?

About 200 people turned out Feb. 24 to hear Craig A. Cox of the Environmental Working Group address those questions in a lecture sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.

If you could not attend the talk, video and audio recordings are posted at www.freshwater.org.

Coon Rapids Dam backed as carp barrier
The Coon Rapids Dam Commission recommended the state spend $17 million to upgrade the 100-year-old dam to keep unwanted fish from migrating up the Mississippi River into popular northern Minnesota lakes.

The recommendation, backed by the state Department of Natural Resources, urges legislators to make improvements as soon as possible using state bonds, money provided by the Legacy Amendment or other funds. 

“This is the best option we have at the moment,” said Luke Skinner, supervisor of the DNR’s invasive species program. “We don’t have the luxury of time.” 

A major concern is a feared influx of high-jumping Asian carp, reducing habitat for game fish and creating a hazard to boaters and water skiers. 

Gov. Mark Dayton has included $16 million for dam repairs in his proposed $1 billion bonding bill.
–The Star Tribune

Moose decline may cut permits
Officials of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say they likely will cut the number of moose hunting permits in half for this fall’s moose season.

That follows the latest moose population survey, which shows moose numbers continuing to decline in northeast Minnesota.

Last year, 212 permits were issued for the bulls-only moose season. Minnesota Public Radio News reports the DNR is expected to reduce that to a little more than 100 permits for the season that starts in October.

DNR area wildlife manager Tom Rusch in Tower says there is no clear answer why the moose population is declining.
–The Associated Press

 Minnesota Senate OKs permitting speed-up
Throwing a nod to business, the Minnesota Senate passed a collection of regulatory streamlining measures aimed at boosting statewide job growth.

 The effort to speed up environmental review and permitting processes cleared the Republican-controlled Senate on a 49-16 vote two weeks after the House passed a slightly different version.

 The bill would make permanent four initiatives Gov. Mark Dayton required in an executive order last month. But it would add two more controversial ones: allowing permitting appeals to skip lower courts and go straight to the state Court of Appeals and allowing businesses to develop their own draft environmental reviews.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said the measure would help new and expanding businesses cut the time it takes to get the state permits they need and, accordingly, add jobs.

It would establish goals for the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency to issue or deny permits and would require agency reports tracking progress. It also would enable electronic submission of environmental review and permit documents. And it would require the state to prove federal standards are inadequate before adopting more stringent ones. 

Over objections from some Democratic-Farmer-Labor colleagues, the Senate exempted the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board from permitting requirements.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Wisconsin bill would repeal drinking water rule
Republican members of both legislative houses have pushed a bill for discussion that would effectively repeal a rule that requires municipal governments to disinfect drinking water.

The Department of Natural Resources law that went into effect Dec. 1 requires all local governments to go through certain steps to ensure the area’s water is safe for the public. 

State Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, I-Manitowoc, said the rule needed to be repealed because it only aids a small number of Wisconsinites, but all are forced to pay for its costs. 

“I can tell you a couple of villages in my district have been very extensively impacted by a rule that is a one size fits all rule,” Ziegelbauer, one of the bill’s endorsers, said. “Their drinking water is perfectly safe — they monitor it, and this new requirement would require them to put in some very expensive unnecessary equipment.”
–The Badger Herald

Air testing planned in St. Louis Park
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Department of Health and the city of St. Louis Park will hold two open houses Thursday, March 3, to answer questions about upcoming vapor intrusion testing near the Reilly Tar & Chemical Superfund site.

The open houses will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at the St. Louis Park Public Library, 3240 Library Lane. 

In late March or early April, EPA will offer free air sampling air in about 30 homes and apartment buildings in an area bounded by 32nd Street West to the north, Highway 7 to the south, Louisiana Avenue to the east and Pennsylvania Avenue to the west. 

 The sampling area is part of the 80-acre Reilly Tar & Chemical Corp. site, which was used for coal tar distillation and wood preserving from 1917 to 1972. It was sold to St. Louis Park and converted to residential and recreational uses in 1972.

Air samples will be analyzed for the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, better known as PAHs, which have been detected in the ground water and soil under the site. Breathing low levels of PAHs for long periods of time may increase some people’s risk of health problems.

 The project will involve “sub-slab” sampling under basements and slabs to test for gases that may be collecting beneath building foundations.
–EPA News Release

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EPA criticized; moose decline continues

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.

Industries criticize EPA standards for Florida
A coalition of national industry associations is warning Congress that U.S. EPA’s move to impose tougher water pollution limits in Florida could become a model for similar actions in other states and ultimately cost taxpayers and businesses billions of dollars at questionable environmental benefit.

EPA immediately fired back, rejecting the claim and noting that the numeric limits on nutrient pollution the agency imposed on Florida last year were required under a settlement agreement EPA struck with environmental groups.

The groups had filed suit alleging that federal regulators stood idly by for years as the state continuously failed to enforce the Clean Water Act, allowing phosphorus and nitrogen — components of fertilizer and byproducts of sewage and wastewater treatment — to saturate waterways, triggering soupy algae blooms that killed fish and sucked oxygen out of the water.

“While States are free to control nutrient pollution, and many are starting to, EPA has no plans to establish numeric nutrient criteria in any other states,” EPA said in a statement yesterday responding to the industry letter. “The establishment of numeric limits of nutrient pollution in Florida was due to specific legal challenges about the State of Florida’s implementation of the Clean Water Act.”
–The New York Times

Moose decline continues
Northeastern Minnesota’s moose population continues to decline, according to results of an aerial survey released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Survey results revealed lower moose numbers and the proportion of cows accompanied by calves continued a 14-year decline, dropping to a record low of 24 calves per 100 cows. The proportion of cows accompanied by twin calves was at the lowest level since 1999, which contributed to the record-low calf-to-cow ratio.

“These indices along with results from research using radio-collared moose all indicate that the population has been declining in recent years,” said Dr. Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader.

Moose numbers are estimated using an aerial survey of the northeastern Minnesota moose range.

Based on the survey, wildlife researchers estimate that there were 4,900 moose in northeastern Minnesota. Last year’s estimate was 5,500.

A study of radio-collared moose in northeastern Minnesota between 2002 and 2008 determined that nonhunting mortality was substantially higher than in moose populations outside of Minnesota.

The causes of moose mortality are not well understood. Of 150 adult moose radio-collared since 2002 in Minnesota, 114 have subsequently died, most from unknown causes thought to be diseases or parasites. Ten moose died as a result of highway vehicle accidents. Two were killed by trains. Nine deaths were clearly the result of wolf predation.
–Minnesota DNR News Release

U.S. House defeats anti-carp proposal
The U.S. House rejected a proposal to force the closure of Chicago-area shipping locks that could provide an opening to the Great Lakes for voracious Asian carp, a potential threat to native fish species and the region’s economy.

By a vote of 292-137, lawmakers defeated a budget bill amendment offered by Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan that would have denied funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to open the two navigational structures. Opponents argued successfully that the locks were vital to commerce and closing them wouldn’t necessarily prevent the unwanted carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

“It’s a great relief that we were able to defeat this amendment,” said Rep. Judy Biggert, an Illinois Republican. “Its passage would have been devastating to Chicago’s economy and cost thousands of jobs in our region. Worse, it would have been an empty gesture against the carp, doing more to kill jobs than slow down fish.”

Michigan and four other states — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania — are suing in federal court to close the locks and permanently sever the man-made link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds to prevent invasive species from migrating between them.
–The Canadian Press

MPCA urges care in manure applications
As another winter of heavy snowfall gives way to warming temperatures, rapid melting and potential for flooding pose challenges for manure management among the more than 25,000 livestock farms in Minnesota.  Many smaller operations that spread solid manure during winter must ensure that it doesn’t run off with rapid snowmelt flowing to ditches, streams and other waters.

Manure-contaminated runoff not only threatens water quality, it reduces the value of manure as a crop nutrient.  “Manure applied to snow-covered or frozen soils during conditions of snow melt or rain on frozen soils can contribute the majority of the annual nutrient losses,” says Dennis Frame, University of Wisconsin-Extension.  “There is a high potential for manure runoff this year based on current field conditions and typical weather patterns.”

If possible, farmers should refrain from spreading manure during periods of rapid snow melt.  Frame offers manure-handling suggestions in article.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency also has a fact sheet available titled, “Managing manure and land application during adverse weather conditions.”
–Minnesota Pollution Control Agency news release

Indiana bill aims at manure transport
Indiana could be in deep trouble.

The Indiana House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee had a hearing Feb. 8 concerning House Bill 1134. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville, and aims “to amend the Indiana Code concerning agriculture and animals.”

More specifically, the bill targets interstate manure transport into Indiana.

Richmond, Ind., Environmental Activist Barbara Sha Cox said it is crucial for eastern Indiana counties to take a stand.

“This should be of special interest to those in Richmond who drink water from the reservoir and everyone in the counties who have private wells,” Cox said in an Indiana Living Green press release. “As it stands now, they can dump piles of manure near waterways with no runoff protection.”

According to the press release, Ohio has been shipping and dumping excess manure into Indiana border counties

Congressman seeks to halt Chesapeake Bay plan
Money for a far-reaching pollution control plan for Chesapeake Bay would be stripped from this year’s federal budget under a proposed amendment to an important House spending bill.

The amendment, filed by Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, takes aim at an Environmental Protection Agency program to reduce the flow of several major pollutants into the bay by roughly a quarter by 2025. Called a “pollution diet” by federal regulators, the plan was deemed necessary after the E.P.A. determined that states were moving too slowly to curb polluted runoff from farms and cities into the bay.

In an interview, Mr. Goodlatte called the E.P.A. plan a “power grab” that exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act and said that the agency had failed to calculate the program’s impact on jobs and the region’s economy. He argued that under the new regulations, towns and cities would be required to spend millions of dollars to upgrade their stormwater runoff systems.
–The New York Times

Macalester College tries bottled water ban
MacCares, the Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society, in conjunction with the Sustainability Office and the Social Responsibility Committee, is launching what organizers call the “full-scale test run” of a policy they eventually hope the college will implement permanently: ending the sale of bottled water on campus.

The test run was to  start on Feb. 21, and last until Mar. 13. The ban will mean that no bottled water will be sold at the Grille, the Highlander and the vending machines in the Leonard Center.

“The idea is to have a big educational campaign to make sure that people on campus understand some of the issues with bottled water and tapped water,” said Brianna Besch ’13, a member of MacCares who is helping to lead the initiative and Bottled Water Awareness Month.

The trial discontinuation is the result of concerns raised regarding the environmental and social effects of bottled water, including the waste it generates, the lack of oversight over its quality, and the commodification of what the United Nations has declared a human right. “You’re paying a lot more for something that you can almost get for free,” said Besch. “A lot of people think bottled water is healthier, but it actually has much more lax standards for quality. . . then you’ve got the waste component. It takes seventeen million barrels of oil per year to produce and transport bottled water [in the United States].”
–Mac Weekly
 

11% budget cut proposed for MPCA
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says even with an 11 percent reduction in funding, it will be able to make progress on key issues under Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal.

MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said the MPCA is also moving to streamline its permitting process. If federal cuts add significantly to state cuts, it will be harder to fulfill the agency’s mission, he said.

He says the agency will be able to absorb the reduction through normal turnover and early retirements, even as the PCA works to streamline its permitting processes.

The agency will give priority to new projects and expansions that create jobs, he said, and that means existing businesses may operate longer under expired permits — but they have to maintain the same conditions as required in their old permit.
–Minnesota Public Radio

DNR submits 25-year plan for parks and trails
Minnesota finally has a strategic blueprint for how best to spend more than $1 billion in state sales tax money during the next quarter-century to build what advocates hope will be a world-class system of parks and trails.

The state Department of Natural Resources gave its 25-year plan to the Legislature, a key step in helping future lawmakers direct those Legacy Amendment dollars to specific parks and trails projects.

The plan, sought by legislators and developed over 18 months with help from the Citizens League and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Changing Landscapes, doesn’t offer specific project recommendations.

Rather, it lays out a broad set of guidelines, developed in response to insights from more than 1,000 parks and trails enthusiasts and also stemming from the most detailed inventory of local, regional and state parks facilities ever put together in the state.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Great Lakes funding keeps shrinking
The Obama administration’s much-trumpeted Great Lakes restoration plan continues to shrink in the face of federal budget woes.

It was conceived as a 10-year, $5 billion program to do things like clean up toxic messes, restore wetlands, stem the influx of invasive species and promote native fisheries. But the funding has shrunk from $475 million in 2010 to $225 million this year if the House Appropriations Committee has its way.

That figure, included in the committee’s continuing resolution to wrap up the current year’s budget, was $75 million lower than the $300 million President Barack Obama had requested for this year. The Senate has yet to weigh in.

Obama released his 2012 budget, which includes $350 million for the restoration program next year.

Conservation groups said all the uncertainty is making it difficult to execute a comprehensive plan to restore the world’s largest freshwater system. “There are long-term projects that require some certainty of funding levels from year to year,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “It’s put people in limbo, projects in limbo and research in limbo, just awaiting congressional action.”
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Research: Human actions yield more rain, snow
An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.

In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.

As reflected in previous studies, the likelihood of extreme precipitation on any given day rose by about 7 percent over the last half of the 20th century, at least for the land areas of the Northern Hemisphere for which sufficient figures are available to do an analysis.

The principal finding of the new study is “that this 7 percent is well outside the bounds of natural variability,” said Francis W. Zwiers, a Canadian climate scientist who took part in the research. The paper is being published in the journal Nature.
–The New York Times

Rising sea levels could hurt 180 U.S. cities
Rising seas spurred by climate change could threaten 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100, a new study says, with Miami, New Orleans and Virginia Beach among those most severely affected.

Previous studies have looked at where rising waters might go by the end of this century, assuming various levels of sea level rise, but this latest research focused on municipalities in the contiguous 48 states with population of 50,000 or more.

Cities along the southern Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico will likely be hardest hit if global sea levels rise, as projected, by about 3 feet (1 meter) by 2100, researchers reported in the journal Climate Change Letters.

Sea level rise is expected to be one result of global warming as ice on land melts and flows toward the world’s oceans.
–Reuters

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Climate change, declining moose, St. Croix ruling

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.

How will climate change affect ecosystems?
Scientists have made lots of projections over the past few years about how warming temperatures and a changing climate will affect the planet. Real-world measurements have confirmed at least some of them: sea level is clearly rising, for instance, and the ice that covers the Arctic Ocean is shrinking and thinning — in the latter case, faster than anyone had expected just a few years ago.

Other measurements are a lot more difficult, though. It’s reasonable to expect, for example, that ecosystems will change as plants and animals respond to a rising thermometer — but how do you measure the change of an ecosystem that may consist of hundreds or even thousands of species?

 The answer, evident in a paper just published in the journal Global Change Biology, is that it isn’t easy — but it’s possible nevertheless. A team of scientists led by Stephen Thackeray, an expert on lake ecology at the United Kingdom’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, has combed through observations of more than 700 species of fish, birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, plankton and a wide variety of plants across the U.K. taken between 1976 and 2005, and found a consistent trend: more than 80% of “biological events” — including flowering of plants, ovulation among mammals and migration of birds — are coming earlier today than they were in the 1970s.
–Time Magazine

 Minnesota moose decline, survey indicates
Northeastern Minnesota’s moose population continues to decline, according to results of an aerial survey released by the Deparment of Natural Resources. 

Survey results revealed lower moose numbers and the proportion of cows accompanied by calves continued a 13-year decline and dropping to a record low of 28 calves per 100 cows. 

“These indices along with results from research using radio-collared moose all indicate that the population has been declining in recent years,” said Dr. Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader. 

Moose populations are estimated using an aerial survey of the northeast Minnesota moose range. Based on the survey, wildlife researchers estimate that there were 5,500 moose in northeastern Minnesota. The estimate, while not statistically different from last year’s 7,600, reinforces the inference that the moose population is declining.
–DNR news release 

Supreme Court rules against DNR on St. Croix mansion
The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with broadcasting executive Rob Hubbard in his fight with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources over building a 10,000-square-foot house on the St. Croix River.

 The court ruled that the DNR, which oversees the lower portion of the federally protected riverway, had no authority to overturn the city of Lakeland’s approval of the project.

 Hubbard said the ruling vindicates what he has argued since the case began almost four years ago.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

DNR downplays court ruling’s impact
Is the crown jewel of regional rivers in trouble? 

No, said the deputy commissioner of the state agency that no longer will be able to veto local government shoreline decisions along the St. Croix River.

 Larry Kramka said the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that takes away the state’s ability to govern “setback variances” on waterfront construction won’t lead to significant new development pressure on the river. 

“All of the requirements remain in effect,” said Kramka, of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The only part that was found illegal was that the DNR had a veto.”
–The Star Tribune

 Close Chicago canal, invasive species expert says
Unless Congress or federal agencies decide to permanently wall off the infamous Sanitary and Ship Canal from the Great Lakes, it will continue to be a superhighway for invasive species, a scientist warned at a Congressional hearing.

 The canal already has helped to spread invasive species such as Asian carp between the  Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, and there are other species waiting to invade in both directions, said David Lodge, director of the Center for Aquatic Conservation at the University of Notre Dame. Lodge is among the scientists conducting DNA testing for Asian carp in the canal.

“This is not just about Asian carp,” he told members of a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee in Washington, D.C.
–The Detroit Free Press

 U.S. proposes $78.5 million anti-carp plan
Federal authorities presented a $78.5 million plan intended to block Asian carp, a hungry, huge, nonnative fish, from invading the Great Lakes.

 The threat has grown increasingly tense throughout the region in recent months as genetic material from the fish was found near and even in Lake Michigan.

In a meeting in Washington with leaders of some Great Lakes states, officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies laid out an “Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework” to ensure that the fish, known to take over entire ecosystems, do not establish themselves in the lakes.
–The New York Times 

California eyes 43-mile tunnel for water
A giant tunnel – not a canal – has emerged as the leading option to ship Sacramento River water across the Delta to thirsty Californians from the Silicon Valley to San Diego.

 Officials guiding the Bay Delta Conservation Plan chose the tunnel for more detailed study at a meeting in Sacramento. The plan is an effort to secure California water supplies from environmental problems, flood risk and rising sea levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. 

About 25 million Californians and 2 million acres of farmland depend on the Delta today for at least some of their water supplies.
–The Sacramento Bee

Disinfectant reduces fish virus transmission
A disinfection solution presently used for salmon eggs also prevents transmission of the virus that causes viral hemorrhagic septicemia or VHS — one of the most dangerous viral diseases of fish — in other hatchery-reared fish eggs, according to new U.S. Geological Survey-led research. 

VHS has caused large fish kills in wild fish in the U.S., especially in the Great Lakes region, where thousands of fish have died from the virus over the last few years.  The disease causes internal bleeding in fish, and although in the family of viruses that includes rabies, is not harmful to humans. Thus far, the virus has been found in more than 25 species of fish in Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, St. Clair, Superior and Ontario, as well as the Saint Lawrence River and inland lakes in New York, Michigan and Wisconsin.
–USGS News Release

 Nitrate limits working in Europe
The implementation of legislation to prevent nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters is proving effective, a European Commission report says.

 However, in some regions, nitrate concentrations exceed water quality standards and farmers must adopt sustainable practices, said the report on the implementation of the nitrates directive. It reported that between 2004 and 2007, nitrate concentrations in surface water including rivers, lakes and canals remained stable or fell at 70 per cent of monitored sites. Quality at 66 per cent of groundwater monitoring sites was stable or improving. 

But the report revealed a number of regions where nitrate levels were “worrying” in groundwater sites, including parts of Estonia, southeast Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, several parts of France, northern Italy, northeast Spain, southeast Slovakia, southern Romania, Malta and Cyprus.
–The Irish Times 

UN climate scientist faces scrutiny
Just over two years ago, Rajendra K. Pachauri seemed destined for a scientist’s version of sainthood: A vegetarian economist-engineer who leads the United Nations’ climate change panel, he accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the panel, sharing the honor with former Vice President Al Gore. 

 But Dr. Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are now under intense scrutiny, facing accusations of scientific sloppiness and potential financial conflicts of interest from climate skeptics, right-leaning politicians and even some mainstream scientists. Senator John Barrasso,  a Wyoming Republican, called for Dr. Pachauri’s resignation. 

Critics, writing in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere, have accused Dr. Pachauri of profiting from his work as an adviser to businesses, including Deutsche Bank and Pegasus Capital Advisors, a New York investment firm — a claim he denies.
–The New York Times 

U.S. consolidates climate-change team
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will create a new  climate change office to gather and provide data to governments, industry and academia as part of a broad federal effort to prepare for long-term changes to the planet, officials said.

The new unit, to be known as the NOAA Climate Service, will assemble the roughly 550 scientists and analysts already working on the issue at the agency into a cohesive group under a single leader.

 The climate service is designed to be analogous to the National Weather Service, also part of NOAA, which celebrates its 140th birthday this month. Officials said they hoped the reorganization would shore up the profile of government climate science and perhaps drive the creation of new businesses like those that repackage and sell weather and census data.
–The New York Times

Two slots on Clean Water Council are open
The Minnesota Clean Water Council, which advises the governor and Legislature on water policy, has two vacancies. One is for a member representing an environmental organization to complete a four-year term expiring on Jan. 3, 2011. The second vacancy is for a representative of tribal governments. 

Council members are appointed by the Governor. The application deadline for the slot reserved for environmental organizations is Tuesday, Feb. 23. Information about the Clean Water Council and this vacancy can be found on the Secretary of State’s Open Commissions and Appointments web site, along with the application forms. Information about the Clean Water Council; its members, publications, and past meeting agendas and minutes can be found on the council’s web site at Clean Water Council. 

The vacancy for the tribal representative will be posted in March on the Secretary of State’s Open Commissions and Appointments web site.
–Clean Water Council news release 

California company eyes Mojave groundwater
More water could exist below privately owned valleys in the eastern Mojave Desert than in all of Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, according to a geological study released by the company that hopes to tap the vast supply.

The study by CH2M Hill, a Colorado-based environmental consulting firm, also estimated that rain and snowmelt add about 32,000 acre-feet of water a year into the aquifer below the Cadiz Valley and nearby areas. That’s more than three times as much as previous estimates, a company official said.

“We always believed that this is a significant water resource, but having these findings, we are now able to point to the science behind it,” said Courtney Degener, investor relations manager for the Los Angeles-based Cadiz Inc.

 The company wants to use the aquifer about 40 miles east of Twentynine Palms to store water from the Colorado River and then pump out a combination of stored and natural water at a volume of 50,000 acre-feet each year — enough to meet the needs of about 400,000 people.
–The Press-Enterprise 

China’s water pollution doubles in new report
China’s government unveiled its most detailed survey ever of the pollution plaguing the country, revealing that water pollution in 2007 was more than twice as severe as official figures that had long omitted agricultural waste. 

The first-ever national pollution census, environmentalists said, represented a small step forward for China in terms of transparency. But the results also raised serious questions about the shortcomings of China’s previous pollution data and suggested that even with limited progress in some areas, the country still had a long way to go to clean its waterways and air. 

The pollution census, scheduled to be repeated in 2020, took more than two years to complete. It involved 570,000 people, and included 1.1 billion pieces of data from nearly 6 million sources of pollution, including factories, farms, homes and pollution-treatment facilities, the government announced at a news conference.
–The New York Times

U.S. considers protection for coral
The Obama administration will consider federal protection for 82 coral species threatened by warming water temperatures.

The National Marine Fisheries Service said that it has found “substantial scientific or commercial information” that Caribbean and Indo-Pacific corals may be threatened or endangered.

 Environmentalists have predicted the corals — found near Florida, Hawaii and U.S. territories — could be wiped out by midcentury if the government does not take steps to protect them from warming waters, rising ocean acidity and pollution.

The announcement in the Federal Register launches a formal status review by federal biologists.
–The New York Times

 Rural-urban video conferences planned
As part of a cooperative effort with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, Minnesota Rural Partners Inc. is hosting a series of videoconferences through May 2010 to encourage conversations across the state about rural – urban connections that impact individual lives, communities, and work.  

 The goal is to foster increased innovation and job growth by leveraging the strengths of rural and urban areas.

The USDA’s Rural Development program aims to improve housing, create jobs and improve the lives of residents of rural communities. Minnesota Rural Partners is a 10-year-old nonprofit organization that works to strengthen rural-urban partnering, increase community entrepreneurship and support continued broadband deployment in rural communities. 

“We want to get Minnesotans talking and thinking about the interdependence between rural and urban areas, as well as future opportunities arising from stronger rural-urban connections,” said Jane Leonard, president of Minnesota Rural Partners. 

The videoconferences will culminate in a Symposium on Small Towns and Rural-Urban Gathering at the University of Minnesota, Morris, on June 9 and 10.  

Participants are asked to register for videoconferences in advance at http://blog.rurb.mn/videoconferences/. Information on the video conferences is available there.

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Atrazine, mercury and top water issues

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

Spikes in weed killer concentrations found

For decades, farmers, lawn care workers and professional green thumbs have relied on the popular weed killer atrazine to protect their crops, golf courses and manicured lawns.

But atrazine often washes into water supplies and has become among the most common contaminants in American reservoirs and other sources of drinking water.

Now, new research suggests that atrazine may be dangerous at lower concentrations than previously thought. Recent studies suggest that, even at concentrations meeting current federal standards, the chemical may be associated with birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems.

An investigation by The New York Times has found that in some towns, atrazine concentrations in drinking water have spiked, sometimes for longer than a month. But the reports produced by local water systems for residents often fail to reflect those higher concentrations.

–The New York Times

 

Atrazine disrupts rat reproduction, study finds

The common and highly-used herbicide atrazine can act within the brain to disrupt the cascade of hormone signals needed to initiate ovulation, finds a study with rats published online in the journal Biology of Reproduction. Ovulation is a complex process that begins in the brain and ends with the release of eggs from the ovary. This new study finds that exposure to atrazine can interrupt this process but once the exposure ends, normal function resumes in a few days. The results shed new light on the way atrazine affects the female reproductive system and the persistence of these effects when adults are exposed.

–Environmental Health News

Learn about freshwater mussels

Join the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance on August 28-29 for a fascinating presentation on the mussel world in Minnesota. Mike Davis and Bernard Sietman of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, experts in this field will give a close-up view of this rarely seen and understood native species.

 •    At 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, there will be a presentation at the Ney Nature Center outside of Henderson (28003 Nature Center Lane).

•    At 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, take a mussel hike in the Le Sueur River at Red Jacket Park (2.5 miles south of Mankato off of State Highway 66).  Be prepared to get wet and dirty!

 Mike Davis has worked for the MN DNR since 1987 and specializes in freshwater mussel ecology, in particular on the Mississippi River. As part of the mussel conservation effort, Mike has played a major role in the federal plan to revive the endangered Higgins Eye mussel. Today, the Higgins Eye is one of the 25 of 48 mussel species listed as either: Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern in Minnesota.

 Found across the globe, freshwater mussels or clams reach their greatest diversity in North America at around 300 species. Mussel populations have seen a decline in abundance and diversity because of human influences. This devastating loss is the result of dam construction, stream channelization, water pollution and sedimentation, over harvesting, and the introduction of exotic zebra mussels.

Mussels are considered to be the biological indicators of a river’s health and increasingly being regarded as the aquatic “canaries of the coal mine.” They are an important part of the ecosystem by providing food for fish, birds, and mammals. They have evolved a unique parasitic reproductive system with fish serving as the host during the larval stage of the mussel.

--The Jordan Independent
 

 Household pesticide use underestimated

Pesticides and fertilizers from homes are a major and overlooked source of water pollution, according to new research from the University of California, Davis. Previous estimates may have underestimated water pollution from homes by up to 50%, the study says.

Researchers monitored homes in eight different neighborhoods in California, and say that the estimates likely extend to households across the country.

Pesticides, particularly for ant control, were the most common source of pollution. Surprisingly, pesticides made from organophosphate chemicals, which have been off the market in California since 2002, turned up in many of the samples.

“We expected to find pesticides, but I think we were surprised at how consistently we found them,” says Lorence Oki, a landscape expert who lead the research.

–USA Today

 

Mercury taints every stream tested by USGS

Scientists detected mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

About a quarter of these fish were found to contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of people who consume average amounts of fish, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than two-thirds of the fish exceeded the U.S. EPA level of concern for fish-eating mammals.

“This study shows just how widespread mercury pollution has become in our air, watersheds, and many of our fish in freshwater streams,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers.”

Some of the highest levels of mercury in fish were found in the tea-colored or “blackwater” streams in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana — areas associated with relatively undeveloped forested watersheds containing abundant wetlands compared to the rest of the country. High levels of mercury in fish also were found in relatively undeveloped watersheds in the Northeast and the Upper Midwest. Elevated levels are noted in areas of the Western United States affected by mining. Complete findings of the USGS report, as well as additional detailed studies in selected streams, are available online.

–U.S. Gelogical Survey new release

 

Water issues top concerns worldwide

What is the latest and most important environmental concern these days? Global warming? Disappearing ice caps and rain forests? Reliance on non-renewable energy?

Wrong. According to a new survey sponsored by Molson Coors Brewing Co, water pollution ranked No. 1, followed by fresh water shortages, depletion of natural resources, air pollution and loss of animal and plant species.

The survey was commissioned by Circle of Blue, a nonprofit affiliate of the Pacific Institute, a water and climate think tank. It polled people in 15 countries, including the United States, Mexico, China and India, about their views on water issues including sustainability, management and conservation.

Molson Coors, maker of Coors Light and Molson Canadian beers, sponsored the survey as a first step in trying to understand how people in international markets — where it hopes to expand its business — view water.

–Reuters

 

Minneapolis arsenic cleanup continues

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that cleanup of arsenic-contaminated soil at nearly 500 South Minneapolis homes will begin after Labor Day.  This project is supported by $20 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.   Residents pay nothing for the cleanup.

From 2004 to 2008, an EPA Superfund team cleaned up 197 properties with arsenic levels above 95 parts per million, or ppm, at the South Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination Site. The work beginning in September targets properties with lower levels of contamination.

The South Minneapolis Superfund site encompasses a number of neighborhoods near the intersection of 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue where the CMC Heartland Lite Yard was located from about 1938 to 1968.  A pesticide containing arsenic was produced there and material from an open-air railcar-unloading and product-mixing operation is believed to have been wind-blown into nearby neighborhoods.  Since 2004, EPA has collected soil samples from more than 3,000 properties in the area.

For more information on the South Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination Superfund Site, click here.

–EPA news release

 

Plastic breaks down – and pollutes – in oceans

Amidst waves and wildlife in the world’s oceans, billions of pounds of Styrofoam, water bottles, fishing wire and other plastic products float in endless circles.

This bobbing pollution is more than just an eyesore or a choking hazard for birds. According to a new study, plastic in the oceans can decompose in as little as a year, leaching chemical compounds into the water that may harm the health of animals and possibly even people.

“Most people in the world believe that this plastic is indestructible for a very long time,” said Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University in Chiba, Japan. He spoke this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C.

–Discovery News

 

Nestle gets OK  to bottle Colorado water

The world’s largest beverage company has won approval from officials in Colorado to extract and bottle spring water from the mountains of south central Colorado.

Nestle Waters North America may draw 65 million gallons of water a year from a spring in Chaffee County to sell under its Arrowhead brand, county commissioners decided.

The proposal elicited fierce opposition from many residents, who feared the company would deplete the local aquifer and that its trucks hauling the water to Denver would snarl traffic on mountain roads. Others supported the project, saying it could spur economic development in the rural area.

In a concession, Nestle agreed to draw water from one, not two, springs and to place conservation easements on its land and allow access on its property to anglers.

–The Los Angeles Times

 

Wyoming groundwater drops, report says

Some areas of the Powder River Basin have experienced significant groundwater drawdown – as much as 625 feet between 1993 and 2006 in some areas, according to a new report.

But what the report is missing is analysis to determine whether the impact is in line with federal modeling conducted in 2002.

However, some say the raw data reveals obvious impacts to groundwater supplies.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council issued a statement suggesting that the monitoring data proves the actual groundwater drawdown – largely from the development of coalbed methane gas – far exceeds predictions made by federal officials in 2002.

About 600 million barrels of water are pumped from coal aquifers in the Powder River Basin each year in the production of coalbed methane gas, according to the state. Some of the water is used in irrigation and to water livestock, but a majority of the water – which belongs to the state – is not put to a specific beneficial use.

–The Casper Star-Tribune

 

Panel OKs continued moose hunt

Minnesota’s moose may be in trouble, but they can still be hunted.

Despite fears that the population is crashing, a special committee reporting to the Department of Natural Resources recommended that the population will hold its own “for the foreseeable future.”

And despite the threat to the species posed by what the committee called “the long-term threat” of climate change, it recommended that moose hunting continue in the northeastern part of the state.

The committee was formed, in part, because moose numbers have declined dramatically in northwestern Minnesota during the past two decades and appear to be dropping in northeast Minnesota.

–The Star Tribune

 

Lead poisoning provokes Chinese riot

Hundreds of Chinese villagers have broken into a factory that poisoned more than 600 children, reports say.

Villagers tore down fencing and smashed coal trucks at the lead smelting factory in Shaanxi Province.

Local authorities have admitted that the plant is responsible for poisoning the children. More than 150 were in hospital.

Air, soil and water pollution is common in China, which has seen rapid economic growth over the past few decades.

–BBC News

 

Army Corps builds world’s largest pump

New Orleans sits smack dab between the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain, and when a hurricane comes rolling in, those bodies of water tend to spill into the streets. This summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started construction on a barrier that can block a 16-foot swell blown in from the Gulf and a massive pumping station that will blast floodwaters back to sea.

The $500-million station—the newest installment of a $14-billion federal project to fortify the Big Easy against the type of fierce storm the city sees once in 100 years—will protect the 240,000 residents living in New Orleans, a high-risk flood area because of its nearby shipping canals. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is one of the city’s most trafficked industrial waterways, but it provides a perfect path from the Gulf for a 16-foot storm surge to flood homes and businesses. When a major storm threatens, the waterway’s new West Closure Complex will mount a two-point defense. First, operators will shut the 32-foot-tall, 225-foot-wide metal gates to block the surge. Then they’ll fire up the world’s largest pumping station, which pulls 150,000 gallons of floodwater per second. And unlike the city’s notorious levees, the WCC won’t break when residents need it most. “This station is designed to withstand almost everything,” including 140mph winds and runaway barges, says Tim Connell, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’s project manager for the complex.

–Popular Science

 

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Endocrine-disruptors and birds moving north

Every week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of regional, national and international news articles and research reports on water and the environment. Go to the Freshwater web site to read the latest digest, or click on the links below to read the original articles. If you see something that interests you, let us know by posting a comment.

Database tracks impacts of endocrine-disruptors

An electronic database has gathered the latest science on some of the most controversial chemicals in use, offering a handy look into potential health effects when babies are exposed while developing in the womb.

The interactive Web site, called “Critical Windows of Development, ” has compiled an array of data from hundreds of scientists studying low doses of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Theo Colborn, a scientist often credited with discovering in the early 1990s that environmental pollutants were mimicking and altering hormones, led the effort to create the database. She said her intent is to give scientists, policymakers, journalists and others immediate access to the information in a user-friendly, visually interesting way.

“This puts information directly at our fingertips with the utmost ease,” said Gail Prins, a physiology professor at University of Illinois at Chicago and one of a few dozen scientists who have previewed the Web site. “By making it electronic, the worldwide availability is a tremendous step forward in data dissemination.”
–Scientific America

L.A. mayor urges tiered water rates to spur conservation
Calling the ongoing three-year drought a crisis, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for severe water-use restrictions and a tiered rate system that would reward customers who conserve and punish those who don’t with higher bills.

Lawn watering would be restricted to two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays, and could be cut to one day a week by summer if the drought continues, Villaraigosa said. The mayor made his announcement on a rainy winter day, but L.A.’s current wet weather is not expected to ease the drought. Restrictions could be imposed as early as March but would have to be approved by the City Council and commissioners at the city’s Department of Water and Power.

The increased conservation measures are proposed because the Metropolitan Water District, a major wholesale water supplier to Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California, has warned that the worsening drought may force it to cut water deliveries by 15% to 25%.
–The Los Angeles Times

Northeastern moose count holds steady
Northeastern Minnesota’s 2008 moose survey estimates a population of 7,600 animals. This is similar to last year’s count, but related factors suggest that the population is continuing to decline.

“The raw survey numbers were similar,” said Mark Lenarz, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife researcher overseeing moose research. “But a historically low calf survival rate, a steadily declining hunter-success ratio, and a higher than normal non-hunting mortality rate all continue to suggest a downward trend in the moose population.”

Minnesota’s 2008 non-hunting mortality moose rate was 17 percent, down 3 percent from the 20 percent average rate reported during the past seven years. Elsewhere in North America, between 8 and 12 percent of moose generally die from causes other than hunting.
–Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Climate change drives birds north
Nearly 60% of the 305 bird species found in North America in winter are on the move, shifting their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles. Audubon scientists analyzed 40 years of citizen-science Christmas Bird Count data — and their findings provide new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a serious impact on natural systems. Northward movement was detected among species of every type, including more than 70 percent of highly adaptable forest and feeder birds.

Only grassland species were an exception – with only 38 percent mirroring the northward trend. But far from being good news for species like Eastern Meadowlark and Henslow’s Sparrow, this reflects the grim reality of severely-depleted grassland habitat and suggests that these species now face a double threat from the combined stresses of habitat loss and climate adaptation.
–Audubon

China vows to wring more production from water
China, faced with widespread water shortages exacerbated by its worst drought in decades, aims to cut the amount of water it uses to produce each dollar of national income by 60 percent by 2020, state media said.

The target, unveiled by Water Resources Minister Chen Lei, underlines Beijing’s growing concern over chronic water shortages that it fears could undermine its ability to feed itself and crimp economic growth in the long run.

“We must take strict measures to preserve water resources in the face of the severe lack of water worsened by factors such as overuse, pollution and drought,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Chen as telling a conference on Saturday.
–Reuters

New fish consumption advisory set
Twin Lake in Robbinsdale and Crystal in Hennepin County has been found to have levels of a perfluorochemical (PFC) in fish, similar to the higher levels previously measured in lakes Calhoun, Elmo and Johanna. The PFOS (perfluorooctonate sulfate) levels in these fish place them in the one meal per month consumption category, given no impact from other contaminants.

“Our concern with consuming fish is any long-term exposure to contaminants,” said Patricia McCann, fish consumption advisory coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health . “Our advice for how often it is safe to eat fish is set at a level that is protective of human health over many years of continuous fish eating.” The advisory is updated annually to reflect new fish contaminant data.

The Health Department is in the process of analyzing the fish tissue data from this latest round of lake sampling by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for PFCs as well as data on additional lakes from the Department of Natural Resources for mercury and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs).
–Minnesota Department of Health

Florida review predicts ground water decline
Aquifer levels will drop seriously in Northeast Florida within 20 years if a growing population doesn’t waste less water, new estimates by water managers warn.

That change could draw saltier water into some wells JEA uses to supply its customers, making them unacceptable for public use, say the projections by scientists at the St. Johns River Water Management District. It could also have far-reaching effects on the region’s natural environment, from harming plants to lowering lake volumes in Putnam and southern Clay counties.

“This is a fairly significant projected impact,” said Hal Wilkening, director of the agency’s resource management department. “When we look at it cumulatively … this is not going to be sustainable.”
–Jacksonville Times-Union

Economy threatens ethanol industry
Barely a year after Congress enacted an energy law meant to foster a huge national enterprise capable of converting plants and agricultural wastes into automotive fuel, the goals lawmakers set for the ethanol industry are in serious jeopardy.

In the meantime, plans are lagging for a new generation of factories that were supposed to produce ethanol from substances like wood chips and crop waste, overcoming the drawbacks of corn ethanol. That nascent branch of the industry concedes it has virtually no chance of meeting Congressional production mandates that kick in next year.
–The New York Times

Pentagon pays to offset birds’ habitat loss
The Pentagon has been funding Texas A&M University to pay landowners near a Texas military post to protect endangered bird species on their land under a secretive program designed to free the military to conduct training activities that would damage the birds’ habitats inside the post’s boundaries, documents show.

Despite complaints that the program is a boondoggle for the landowners, some federal officials are pushing to replicate it at other military sites and in federal highway projects. The program’s effectiveness has been questioned by several military officials, federal wildlife authorities and an independent consulting firm, which recommended that the Army cancel it.
–The Washington Post

West Virginia ground water study is late
A study into the effects of coal slurry on groundwater has missed three deadlines and is still months from completion, and West Virginia lawmakers are running out of patience.

Department of Environmental Protection Director Randy Huffman bore the brunt of legislators’ frustration Tuesday, as they said even the appearance of foot-dragging on a public health issue is inexcusable.
–The Associated Press

California drought spurs talk of cooperation
The potential for unprecedented water shortages this year may spur farmers, environmentalists and urban water planners, to find common ground that has so far eluded them, according to speakers at an irrigation conference in Sacramento.

During panel discussions at the 47th annual California Irrigation Institute conference last week, several speakers stressed the urgent need to resolve the state’s pressing water problems.

“Too often, we talk at one another instead of with one another, and that is not conducive to arriving at what can be some longer-term progress and solutions,” farmer Mark Borba of Riverdale told the conference. “People are tired of fighting.”
–California Farm Bureau Federation

Pollution ruins Vietnamese oyster farms
Nearly 3,000 hectares of oyster farms in Long Son Village of Vung Tau City has been destroyed due to polluted water, causing a property damage worth tens of billions of Vietnam dong for local people, said an officer of the village.

Bui Duc Binh, vice chairman of the island village, told the Daily on Tuesday that the water source of the Van and Rang rivers, where nearly 500 families of the village are cultivating oyster, has been polluted since August last year. The polluted water has killed most of oysters.

Binh said the villagers early this year had lodged some 400 complaints to the city government to demand a probe into the water pollution situation.

He said that the city’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment then had conducted inspections at the rivers to find out the cause of pollution, and pinpointed the culprits being some 25 companies in Tan Thanh District discharging untreated wastewater into the two rivers.
–VietNamNet

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