Asian carp, ethanol and 'fracking'

DNR staffer holds bighead carp
DNR supervisor Brad Parsons holds carp caught April 18. (DNR photo)

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.

Asian carp caught in St. Croix
A rogue bighead carp was pulled from the Lower St. Croix River , adding to fears the invasive creatures are slowly working their way into Minnesota border waters.

A commercial fisherman netting for buffalo and common carp caught the 27-pound fish  just north of the St. Croix’s confluence with the Mississippi River and contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, agency officials said.

 It was the seventh bighead carp found in eastern border waters since 1996 but the sixth since 2003. DNR officials stressed the fish appears to be a loner that swam north and there’s no indication yet of a reproducing population in Minnesota portions of the Mississippi or St. Croix rivers.

 “Large migratory river fish — that’s what they do … they migrate,” said Brad Parsons, DNR central region fisheries manager.

“It’s alarming, but it’s one fish,” added DNR communications director Chris Niskanen. 

Bighead and silver carp, another type of Asian carp noted for its leaping abilities, have been on the agency’s radar for years because of the threat they pose to the state’s $2.7 billion fishing industry.

Imported from Asia four decades ago to control algae and other problems in Southern fish farms, they eventually escaped or were released into the wild and have been slowly making their way up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to southeastern Minnesota and South Dakota. They consume huge amounts of tiny plankton, upsetting the food chain and pushing out native fish, eventually making up 90 percent of some area’s fish biomass.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Flood waters may have helped carp reach St. Croix
A 27-pound bighead carp’s journey up the Mississippi River might have been eased by floodwaters, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources expert said. 

Luke Skinner, invasive species supervisor for the DNR, said the fish a commercial fisherman caught in the St. Croix River might have used high water to find its way to where the two rivers merge.

The DNR is concerned about the invasive fish disrupting Minnesota’s river ecosystems.

 “It is cause for alarm because now we’re finding something pretty high up in the river, and we just don’t have a lot of ways to slow their spread, especially big river systems like this that are prone to flooding,” Skinner told MPR’s Morning Edition.

 All the locks, dams and gates are open this spring to allow high water to flow through, Skinner said. But even when the locks are closed, fish can get in. Skinner said there needs to be more fish barriers that would prevent invasive fish species from spreading. Listen to an MPR question-and-answer interview with Skinner.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Lamberton ethanol plant faces water penalties
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has announced that Highwater Ethanol in Lamberton has agreed to pay a $150,000 penalty to resolve alleged violations of the company’s MPCA-issued environmental permits at its production facility.

The agreement covers violations that have occurred since the facility began production in August 2009.  From startup until recently, the company’s operations have resulted in numerous violations of the facility’s air quality and water quality permits.

 The most serious violations involved the facility’s wastewater-treatment system.  Part of the system includes an on-site constructed pond which is permitted to receive only reject water from the reverse osmosis treatment system, yet unpermitted discharges were made to the pond repeatedly from other components of the facility.  This caused the capacity of the pond to be exceeded.  To get rid of the excess the company applied wastewater from the pond onto cropland, a treatment method for which the facility is not permitted. 

There were also a number of violations of the facility’s air quality permit, including failure to conduct monitoring at required intervals, maintain required operating parameters, maintain monitoring records, and submit required data to the MPCA.
–MPCA News Release

 Aging levees guard cities
Faced with epic floods in the late 1960s, dozens of communities across Minnesota hurriedly shaped dirt, clay, sand, gravel or whatever else was available into temporary walls to hold off the floodwaters.

 In most cases, those levees were supposed to be removed once the water receded.

 But more than 40 years later, ”emergency” levees remain the primary line of defense against floods, protecting hundreds of homes and businesses in numerous towns and cities. In an era of rising water and falling budgets, officials are viewing them with both thankfulness and nervousness.

 “We’re lucky they did it,” said Dale Graunke, mayor and lifelong resident of Delano, which late last month held off the fourth-highest crest on the South Fork of the Crow River. “But we don’t know the material. And if that levee breaks, 47 homes would be inundated. It’s all over the place.”
–The Star Tribune

 Obama acknowledges concern on ‘fracking’
President Barack Obama acknowledged concerns about natural gas drilling and groundwater contamination as part of a wide-ranging monologue on energy production at a town hall meeting.

 Obama has said natural gas should be part of a “clean energy standard” going forward but noted concerns about pollution. Although he didn’t mention hydraulic fracturing by name, the practice that has allowed new gas plays in the U.S. is increasingly controversial because of alleged links to groundwater contamination.

“We have a lot of natural gas here in this country,” Obama said. “The problem is, is that extracting it from the ground — the technologies aren’t as developed as we’d like and so there are some concerns that it might create pollution in our groundwater, for example.

 “So we’ve got to make sure that if we’re going to do it, we do it in a way that doesn’t poison people,” he added.

Maryland to study septic system pollution
Gov. Martin O’Malley created a task force to figure out how to curb pollution of the Chesapeake Bay from septic systems, saying he hoped the study would help overcome “fears” of the legislation he had introduced this year that would have banned major housing developments relying on them.

“We must find a way to grow in a clean, green, more sustainable way,” O’Malley said prior to signing an executive order establishing the task force. He held the signing ceremony at the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center on the Severn River, where household septic systems account for roughly 30 percent of the nitrogen fouling the water.

Currently, about 411,000 Maryland households are on septic systems. Although a relatively small source of nitrogen pollution baywide compared with sewage plants or farm runoff, septic leakage of the harmful nutrient could increase by 36 percent over the next 25 years if nothing is done, state officials project. 

O’Malley’s bid to curb major housing developments on septic systems failed to get out of committee in Annapolis after rural lawmakers, farmers and developers raised an outcry, warning that it would throttle growth and cost jobs in the state’s rural and suburban counties.
–The Baltimore Sun 

Florida governor ask EPA to back off
The day after the Florida House passed a bill to ban implementation of water quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration, Gov. Rick Scott asked the agency to rescind a January 2009 determination that the federal rules are necessary for Florida.

Opponents of the federal requirement say the state is better equipped to decide how best to comply with the federal Clean Water Act, which is intended to manage nitrogen and phosphorous pollution of lakes, rivers, streams and bays. They say the EPA standards will be costly to implement, don’t address specific conditions of local waterways and provide little biological benefit.

 According to Scott’s office, the petition sent to the EPA details eight pollution control measures already in place Florida that mirror EPA recommendations for effective water pollution control.

 “Florida is one of the few states that has a comprehensive program in place to address excess nutrients, and we continue to lead the nation in developing innovative tools to ensure the health of our state’s waterways,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to working with the EPA to reach an agreement that will promote clean water standards in the way that makes the most sense for our state.”

The U.S. EPA released pollution standards for Florida waterways in December 2010 as part of a 2009 legal settlement with environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, who sued the agency for not enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida.
–The Miami Herald