EPA floats new water-quality strategy

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.

EPA  floats new water-quality strategy
The Environmental Protection Agency floated a draft strategy to improve water quality nationwide, one that bluntly recognizes that today’s pollution sources are often difficult to target with traditional Clean Water Act controls.

“Despite our best efforts and many local successes, our aquatic ecosystems are declining nationwide. The rate at which new waters are being listed for water quality impairments exceeds the pace at which restored waters are removed from the list,” EPA acknowledged. 

When the landmark water law was enacted in 1972, traditional “point sources” of pollution —think industrial discharge pipes fouling waters — were the big problem. 

But times have changed — the strategy notes that “Over the last 30 years, stressors have shifted” and that “recent surveys found that nutrient pollution, excess sedimentation, and degradation of shoreline vegetation affect upwards of 50 percent of our lakes and streams.” 

“In addition, recent National Water Quality Inventories have documented pathogens as a leading cause of river and stream impairments. Sources of these stressors vary regionally, but the main national sources of water degradation are: agriculture, stormwater runoff, habitat, hydrology and landscape modifications, municipal wastewater, and air deposition. EPA’s strategy must now meet these shifting needs and priorities,” EPA noted. 

The EPA is taking comments on the draft plan until Sept. 17.
–The Hill

CNN profiles Windom farmer Tony Thompson
CNN this week broadcast a long profile of Tony Thompson, a Windom corn and soybean farmer who is an avid environmentalist. The profile focused on Thompson’s efforts to reduce his farm’s contributions to the pollution that each year causes an oxygen-deprived “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last March, Thompson was one of the panelists in a daylong workshop on agriculture and water quality sponsored by the Izaak Walton League and the Freshwater Society.  

Invasive cattails out-compete natives
Walk along most any lake or wetland in southern Minnesota and chances are you’ll see lots of cattails.

But look closer, and you may not like what’s happening.

Where native cattails once stood, sprinkled among bullrush, smartweed and other plants, now there’s almost certainly a vast lawn of narrow-leaved cattails or their hybrid offspring. These relative newcomers are taller, with narrower, darker-green leaves and slimmer “corn-dog” spikes at the tops.

 They outcompete the natives, upsetting the ecological balance by creating a monoculture that’s inhospitable to other plants, animals and birds.

 “It’s just a matter of them finding every last little wetland spread over the landscape,” said Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Hardwood Ecology. “Especially over the last decade, you can’t find any native cattails without driving hours from the Twin Cities.”
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Muskie stocking plan is controversial
The idea seems simple: Stock muskies in five new Minnesota waters to boost muskie fishing opportunities in the state.

 “Muskie anglers are the fastest-growing segment of our angling public,” said Tim Goeman, Department of Natural Resources regional fisheries manager in Grand Rapids. A long-range DNR plan calls to add eight new muskie waters by 2020.

 But the proposal is steeped in controversy, pitting anglers against fellow anglers.
–The Star Tribune 

Opinion: Swackhamer lauds sustainability planning
Last year, the Minnesota Legislature wisely decided it needed a long-term roadmap for the sustainable management of our state’s water supply. Legislators wanted a big, bold plan that would go beyond simply meeting regulatory obligations and improving waters one lake at a time — they wanted a plan to ensure that the state’s waters would be preserved and protected for generations to come. Before committing the billions of dollars of taxpayer money expected from the 25-year 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, legislators wanted a way to make sure Minnesotans would get their money’s worth. 

In July 2009, I was charged with overseeing the creation of this roadmap, a project known as the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework. Due to the Legislature in January, the framework will offer a comprehensive suite of policy recommendations and targeted investments designed to protect our health, our quality of life and Minnesota’s habitats and ecosystems for generations to come. 

The framework is not a line-by-line spending plan to restore and protect Minnesota’s water supply. Nor is it a plan to approach the issue pond-by-pond through grants to community groups and agencies or by funding new projects. Instead, it will be the country’s first long-term approach to the sustainable management of a state’s water supply, an approach that, all told, will have taken more than 18 months and the expertise of hundreds of Minnesotans from around the state to develop.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Open houses on L. Minnetonka zebra mussels
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will host open houses – Tuesday, Aug. 31, and Wednesday, Sept. 1 – to keep the public informed about the zebra mussel infestation on Lake Minnetonka. The meetings will allow residents and lake users to ask questions regarding potential impacts, regulations and actions that can be taken to protect boats and equipment, and to prevent the spread of zebra mussels. 

A short overview presentation will be given at the beginning of the open houses. The meetings will be:

  •  Tuesday, August 31,  from 7 to 9 p.m., Southshore Community Center, 5735 Country Club Road, Shorewood.
  • Wednesday, September 1, from7:00 to 9:00 p.m., Gillespie Center, 2590 Commerce Boulevard, Mound.

–Minnesota DNR

 Oily waste from BP spill headed to landfills
The cleanup of history’s worst peacetime oil spill is generating thousands of tons of oil-soaked debris that is ending up in local landfills, some of which were already dealing with environmental concerns.

The soft, absorbent boom that has played the biggest role in containing the spill alone would measure more than twice the length of California’s coastline, or about 2,000 miles. More than 50,000 tons of boom and oily debris have made their way to landfills or incinerators, federal officials told The Associated Press, representing about 7 percent of the daily volume going to nine area landfills.

 A month after the oil stopped flowing into the Gulf, the emphasis has shifted toward cleanup and disposal of oily trash at government-approved landfills in coastal states.

 Environmental Protection Agency officials say the sites meet federal regulations, are equipped to handle the influx of waste and are being monitored closely, although three sites have state environmental issues. State records show two are under investigation and one was cited in May for polluting nearby waters.
–The Associated Press

 States take Asian carp case to court
After months of lawsuits and political wrangling, the Asian carp issue moved to the courtroom, setting up a much anticipated legal showdown for control of Chicago’s waterway system.

In a three-hour hearing in federal court in Chicago, attorneys from five Great Lakes states laid out the broad strokes of a complex legal argument to close Chicago-area shipping locks to stop Asian carp before they reach Lake Michigan.

Calling the fish’s threat a “biological tipping point” for invasive species entering the Great Lakes, Michigan’s assistant attorney general, Robert Reichel, said the Army Corps of Engineers needs to act immediately to keep Asian carp from irreparably harming the lakes’ estimated $7 billion annual commercial and recreational fishing industry.

“What the corps is doing today, maintaining routine operations of the locks … is creating a risk where harm will follow,” Reichel told U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow.

Attorneys from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota are asking Dow to grant an emergency injunction to close the shipping locks, a vital and lucrative shipping corridor linking the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.
–The Chicago Tribune

Pollution threatens Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon faces grand challenges from water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution and insufficient funding, warned a report from an independent organization dedicated to preserving the nation’s parks.

The National Parks Conservation Association pointed to power generation, mining and aircraft as potential culprits threatening one of the world’s natural wonders — one that draws 4.5 million visitors a year and pumps upward of $1 billion into economies of the Southwest.

“This park has severe threats to its most important and basic resources,” said Ron Tipton, NPCA’s senior vice president for policy. “And they are not being adequately addressed” by federal officials.
–The Salt Lake Tribune

Climate change melts Asian glaciers
Many of Asia’s glaciers are retreating as a result of climate change.

This retreat impacts water supplies to millions of people, increases the likelihood of outburst floods that threaten life and property in nearby areas, and contributes to sea-level rise.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with 39 international scientists, published a report on the status of glaciers throughout all of Asia, including Russia, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.

This report is the 9th in the series of 11 volumes to be published as the USGS Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World.
–USGS News Release