Conservation $$, Asian carp, declining aquifers

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

$56.3 million in conservation projects OK’d
Minnesota’s ailing wetlands and shallow lakes could get a boost after the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council gave preliminary approval to $56.3 million in conservation projects.

Two projects receiving the most funding focus on restoring wetlands and shallow lakes.

The Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Wetlands Reserve Program, which matches federal money to restore private-land wetlands, received approval for $6.9 million. A joint program between Ducks Unlimited and the Department of Natural Resources to restore 19 shallow lakes was approved for $6.5 million.

 The council gave preliminary approval to 22 conservation projects that will be funded with one-third of the tax money from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. 

The other 20 projects fund enhancement, protection and restoration of trout streams, native prairies and grasslands, shore land areas, forests and lakes.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Catfish vs. bullheads in Lake Nakomis
Three thousand channel catfish will be introduced to Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis starting in the spring in a “bio-manipulation” experiment aimed at cleaning up the water by altering the lake’s food chain.

The channel catfish are expected to eat black bullheads, whose feeding habits are fouling the lake.

 “There is a high density of black bullheads in Lake Nokomis — we are estimating between 200 and 400 pounds of bullheads per lake acre,” said Steve McComas, owner of Blue Water Science in St. Paul. “We kind of ignored them over the years, but they can have a huge impact on water quality.”
–The Star Tribune

 Michigan sues Illinois, Army Corps over Asian carp
The state of Michigan is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to net the problem of Asian carp before the fish make their way into Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes. 

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced he is filing a lawsuit, asking the high court to close the Chicago-area locks and waterways leading to the Great Lakes to prevent Asian carp from ruining the $7-billion annual fishing and tourism industry. 

“With DNA within six miles of Lake Michigan, now is the time to do it,” Cox said, even blaming the Bush and Obama administrations – among other public officials – and accusing them of foot-dragging. “They haven’t acted quickly enough.” 

Cox’s suit targets the state of Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
–The Detroit Free Press

EPA offers $13 million to halt Asian carp
Less than two weeks after fishery experts spent about $3 million to poison the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in a desperate attempt to beat back an Asian Carp invasion of Lake Michigan, the federal government has announced it will throw another $13 million at the problem. 

That money will come from the recently passed $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and much of it will go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so the agency can build emergency berms and plug various waterways in the Chicago area to keep the carp from riding floodwaters into the lake. 

“The challenge at hand requires the immediate action we’re taking today,” Environmental Protection Agency boss Lisa P. Jackson said in a news release. “EPA and its partners are stepping up to prevent the environmental and economic destruction that can come from invasive Asian carp.”
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 The economic impact of flying carp
William Contos has piloted barges on the Chicago canal connecting the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes for a quarter century, hauling salt that melts ice off the city’s roads and coal that feeds its power plants.

 Denny Grinold also depends on the water, running a charter salmon-fishing outfit in Grand Haven, Michigan. Both men’s livelihood is at risk from the Asian carp, a non-native fish that threatens to enter Lake Michigan through the canal.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm in a Dec. 2 letter urged “emergency action” to close the canal’s locks. Contos and other opponents say that would imperil shipping jobs, air quality and the waterway’s century-old role of keeping sewage out of the city’s drinking water. 

If Asian carp reach Lake Michigan and thrive, it could hurt the region’s $7.09 billion sport fishing industry and bond ratings for the communities that rely on Michigan’s $16.3 billion tourism industry.

 California groundwater declines
California’s two main river basins and the aquifers beneath its agricultural heartland have lost nearly enough water since 2003 to fill Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir, new satellite data show.

 Depleted aquifers account for two-thirds of the loss measured, most of it attributed to increased groundwater pumping for irrigation of drought-parched farmland in California’s fertile but arid Central Valley, scientists said.

 The findings have major implications for the economy as the Central Valley is home to one-sixth of all irrigated U.S. cropland, said Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, and member of the research team.–Reuters

 New MCEA head is ‘farm kid’ who went to Harvard
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s new executive director is a lawyer with both public- and private-sector experience. But perhaps equally important, he is a self-described farm kid from Red River Valley who grew up outdoors.

Growing up, Scott Strand knew that his father and his uncle, who farmed together, worried about the effect of agricultural chemicals on the environment. The farm Strand was raised on was between Ada and Twin Valley, where his family grew sugar beets and feed grains, and also raised some cattle and hogs. He graduated from Ada High School at age 16 and then enrolled in Harvard University. He subsequently attended law school at the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated in 1982.

After law school, Strand returned to Minnesota and joined the state Attorney General’s office, where he rose to the position of deputy counsel. He represented the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, but also did other work, including serving on the team that represented the state in litigation against Big Tobacco. After that, he joined Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, but for the past several years has had a solo practice in St. Paul.
–Finance and Commerce 

USDA documents climate change impact
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, released “The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems” at the climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

 The report provides an accessible summary of findings contained in a U.S. scientific assessment project commissioned by the USGCRP and released in May 2008. New information has been added to provide additional detail on the original findings. 

Based on a wealth of source and review literature, the report concludes that climate change is already affecting U.S. agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so.
–USDA news release 

Nutrients upset predator-prey stream balance
Human activity is increasing the supply of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, to stream systems all over the world.  The conventional wisdom—bolstered by earlier research—has held that these additional nutrients cause an increase in production all along the food chain, from the tiniest organisms up to the largest predators.  A long-term, ecosystem-scale study by a team of University of Georgia researchers, however, has thrown this assumption into question.  

The researchers—a team from the UGA Odum School of Ecology and department of entomology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences—found , unexpectedly, that while nutrient enrichment did indeed cause a steady increase in the production of organisms lower on the food chain, organisms at the top of the food chain did not benefit.  

Their study, “Long-term nutrient enrichment decouples predator and prey production,” published  in the early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by the National Science Foundation.  It documents the effects of long-term nutrient enrichment of a headwater stream in a forested area at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in North Carolina.  For the first two years of the study, the results were as expected: the production of both prey (the organisms low on the food chain) and predators (in this case salamanders and macroinvertebrates) increased.  But with continued addition of nutrients, things began to change.  While the prey continued to increase at the same rate, the production of predators leveled off, signifying a ‘decoupling’ of the typical relationship between predators and prey. 

Maintaining patterns of energy flow between predators and prey is a critical aspect of healthy ecosystems. “What we found was a dead end in the food chain,” said Amy Rosemond, assistant professor at the Odum School, and one of the lead researchers.  “This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of trophic decoupling, or break in the food chain, between the levels of prey and predator on this scale.  This kind of disruption of the food web wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen before now.” 
–University of Georgia news release 

Environmental groups threaten to sue Perdue
A pair of environmental groups said they plan to sue Perdue Farms and an Eastern Shore chicken grower for alleged water pollution violations. The Assateague Coastkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance filed notice of their intent to seek legal action in 60 days against the Salisbury-based poultry company and the owners of a farm near Berlin that raises 80,000 birds under contract to Perdue. 

The groups contend that a drainage ditch feeding into the Pocomoke River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, is being polluted with chicken manure washing off the farm. They released aerial photographs taken since late October showing what they said was an uncovered pile of manure and wood shavings. A pair of water-filled trenches lead from the pile to a grassy ditch nearby.

 The groups say water sampled from the ditch downstream of the farm in recent weeks contained high levels of bacteria associated with animal waste, nutrients and arsenic, a toxic metal. Alan and Kristin Hudson, the farm owners named in the groups’ notice, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. But Perdue spokesman Luis Luna said the environmental groups’ news release was “full of errors and misstatements.” He said the pile in their pictures is not manure because the Hudsons told Perdue they hadn’t removed any manure from their chicken houses in the past 20 weeks.
–The Baltimore Sun