Meetings set on Minnesota's water resources

Report documents impacts of land retirements
The U.S Geological Survey and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources have released a report on a study of the water-quality impacts of programs that took agricultural land out of production near three streams in the Minnesota River Basin.

The study, partially funded by the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, assessed water-quality and biological characteristics in the streams using data collected in 2006–08.

 In general, the research found that total nitrogen, suspended-sediment, chlorophyll-a, and fish resource quality in streams improved with increasing land retirement. Index of biotic integrity scores increased as riparian land-retirement percentages increased.  Data and analysis from this study can be used to evaluate the success of agricultural land retirement programs for improving stream quality and may have implications for prioritizing land in retirement programs in the Minnesota River Basin and other basins, the researchers concluded.

Public meetings set on water issues
Minnesotans will have the chance to voice their opinion in person on how the state should invest resources to protect clean water at statewide public meetings beginning Jan. 19, 2010 coordinated by the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center.

The meetings, called “listening sessions,” will be facilitated by staff from the Water Resources Center and Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and are a chance for people to voice their opinions on a range of water-related issues from boating and water recreation, to priorities for cleaning up polluted lakes and streams.

The meetings are scheduled as follows:

  • Jan. 19 —   Holiday Inn and Suites, 75 S. 37th Ave, St. Cloud.
  • Jan. 21 —   Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska.
  • Feb. 3  —   University of Minnesota, Crookston’s University Youngquist Auditorium, 2900 University Ave., Crookston.
  • Feb. 4  —  Northland Auditorium, 14250 Conservation Dr., Baxter.
  • Feb. 10 —  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Building, 525 S. Lake Ave., Duluth.
  • Feb. 11  —  Holiday Inn South, 1630 S. Broadway, Rochester.
  • Feb. 16  —  Best Western Marshall Inn, 1500 E. College Dr., Marshall.

From 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., each meeting will focus on concerns of professionals associated with local government units, soil and water conservation districts and watershed districts. Citizens, community leaders and elected and appointed officials will have a chance to share their concerns from 4 to 6 p.m.
–University of Minnesota news release

Wright County lake to be lowered for ducks
To some, it’s an angler’s paradise just a short drive from St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, with the promise of trophy-sized panfish lurking beneath the surface.

To others, it’s a once-thriving resting spot for migrating waterfowl that has been almost destroyed by rising water levels and pollution.

In the next several years, Wright County’s Pelican Lake will be the focus of an ambitious restoration effort by the state Department of Natural Resources that will permanently lower its water level by 2 feet and regain acres of wetland long ago drained for farming.

The project has the support of duck hunters who say it will restore rapidly disappearing waterfowl habitat. But some anglers worry it will mean the demise of their favorite fishing spot.
–The St. Cloud Times

Who should bear brunt of Red River flooding?
Although the Red River’s swollen waters have long tormented this city and the region straddling North Dakota and Minnesota, the severity of flooding last spring galvanized leaders here to come up with a solution in a $1 billion water diversion project. But as memories of the floods of 2009 — the images of farmhouses surrounded by miles of water — begin to fade, there are signs that the consensus may be tested.

The project would create a large-scale diversion channel, essentially sending some part of the water off on a man-made path, around the neighbor cities of Fargo and Moorhead, Minn. The sensitive question, though, is where the water should go. Residents of the small, sugar beet farm towns near Fargo fear that any diversion would, in sparing the larger cities, send extra floodwaters straight for them.

 “There’s only one place for it to go — our way — and we can’t take anymore, believe me,” said Ann Manley, the mayor of Perley, Minn., population 111, one of the towns sprinkled along the river, some of which found themselves isolated for nearly two months last spring because of floodwaters.
–The New York Times

Asian carp fight threatens Great Lakes states’ unity
Asian carp, the voracious, nonnative fish whose arrival near Lake Michigan is threatening to cause havoc in the Great Lakes, are now setting off strife on land as well.

In an urgent effort to close down Chicago-area passages that could allow the unwanted fish to reach Lake Michigan, the State of Michigan is suing the State of Illinois and other entities that govern the waterways here. Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin have filed documents in recent days supporting Michigan’s move, and Indiana says it will soon do the same.

The new rift between these Midwestern states, which would reopen a nearly century-old legal case in the United States Supreme Court over Great Lakes waters, comes at a particularly sensitive moment — just as the numerous entities with interests in the Great Lakes had united in what lakes advocates consider some of their most significant progress in decades.
–The New York Times

Reducing road salt to save the lakes
Can a lake-loving state with snow-cursed highways go on a low-salt diet?

Joe Wiita in Prior Lake thinks so, and he’d like your city to mix up a batch of his anti-icing cocktail and try it on a street near you.

Amid rising concern over the effects that road salt has on Minnesota’s lakes, streams and groundwater, Wiita and other public works officials around the state are whipping up new brews to spread on pavement, moistening rock salt so it sticks better, and working to establish a less-is-more culture while striving to keep motorists safe and happy.
–The Star Tribune

EPA outlines Chesapeake Bay demands
The Obama administration warned that Maryland and other states that drain into the Chesapeake Bay face federal sanctions, including roadblocks to growth, if they fail to meet new cleanup goals – though federal officials said they’re counting on not having to wield the rod.

Environmental activists, in turn, questioned the administration’s resolve to do what is needed to restore the bay in the wake of the states having repeatedly failed to meet cleanup goals and compliance deadlines during the past 26 years.

In a long-awaited announcement that had been seen as a test of whether the Obama administration was serious about the bay cleanup, the EPA sent a letter to Maryland, the District of Columbia and the five other states in the bay watershed outlining the potential consequences of failure.
–The Baltimore Sun

Manure: A resource and a pollution problem
Day and night, a huge contraption prowls the grounds at Frank Volleman’s dairy in Central Texas. It has a 3,000-gallon tank, a heavy-duty vacuum pump and hoses and, underneath, adjustable blades that scrape the surface as it passes along.

In function it is something like a Zamboni, but one that has crossed over to the dark side. This is no hockey rink, and it’s not loose ice being scraped up. It’s cow manure.

 Lots of cow manure. A typical lactating Holstein produces about 150 pounds of waste — by weight, about two-thirds wet feces, one-third urine — each day. Mr. Volleman has 3,000 lactating Holsteins and another 1,000 that are temporarily “dry.” Do the math: his Wildcat Dairy produces about 200 million pounds of manure every year.
–The New York Times

Massive project seeks to link China’s 4 main rivers
Surveying the rubble of their recently demolished village, the huddle of Chinese peasant-farmers is in an openly mutinous mood, their list of gripes and grumbles against the local government spilling out one after the other.

“The land they gave us isn’t fit for beggars,” spits one old man squatting on his homespun wooden stool, “And the new houses have leaking roofs,” adds another, “And there’s no security,” complains a third, “last week someone stole my chickens.”

The men from what remains of Machuan village in Henan, central China are seated at the “ground zero” of China’s latest feat of mega-engineering, a project so vast that it dwarfs the Three Gorges Dam in cost, scale and perhaps even controversy.

Scheduled to be finished in 2050, the plan to link China’s four main rivers and redirect trillions of gallons of water from China’s tropical southern mountains to its arid northern plains will have taken 100 years from conception to completion.
–The Telegraph

Air Force commits to conservation
The U.S. Air Force plans to spend $2.3 billion over the next six years on energy and water conservation and an expanded use of renewable energy projects.

The capital investment strategy is expected to reduce energy intensity at air force facilities by 30% by 2015, according to a release. 

Other goals for 2015 include reducing potable water usage by 16%; increasing on-base renewable energy to 3% of all electricity use; and increasing renewable energy to 10.5% of all electricity.