Panel to explore invasives on Sept. 16

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.

Panel on invasives set Sept. 16
Minnesota Waters will sponsor a panel discussion on two of Minnesota’s most troublesome invasive species – zebra mussels and Asian carp – at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16.

The event, which will be held at the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Road, Excelsior, is free and open to the public.

The panel will include experts from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center in La Crosse, Wis., and from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Daniel Molloy, a retired State University of New York at Albany scientist who discovered a naturally occurring strain of bacteria that kills zebra and quagga mussels also will take part in the discussion. The Douglas County Lakes Association is seeking state funding for research on a commercial pesticide based based on the bacteria. Minnesota Waters is sponsoring a five-day visit by Molloy to Minnesota.

View a video of a presentation by Molloy.

Council disagrees on zebra mussel research
Members of the council charged with distributing Legacy Amendment funds for the outdoors disagreed whether a proposal to research bacteria that can kill zebra mussels should be considered for funding.

The Douglas County Lakes Association asked the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for $350,000 to research the possibility that a product called Zequanox, made of a dead form of a soil bacteria, could be used in a lake setting to control zebra mussels, an invasive species. Zebra mussels have taken over in dozens of lakes and rivers in Minnesota.

Several members of the council said it wouldn’t be appropriate to use Legacy money to fund research.

“Our constitutional mandate is to fund on-the-ground projects that are going to accomplish things. Research is not part of that,” said David Hartwell, the council’s chairman.

Other members suggested the company that’s trying to bring Zequanox to market, Marrone Bio Innovations, find private investors to finance the research.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Freshwater-Park Service win mentoring grant
Minnesota FarmWise, an innovative program to encourage conservation and protect clean water in the Minnesota River Valley, has won a $15,000 challenge grant in the Minnesota Idea Open.

The Freshwater Society and the National Park Service will use the grant to form a farmer-to-farmer mentoring program to encourage practices aimed at reducing soil erosion and the runoff of fertilizers and pesticides into the streams and rivers that lead to the Mississippi River.

View a video about the mentoring program. Read the Minnesota Idea Open announcement of the grant.

Dayton calls Asian carp summit
Gov. Mark Dayton has called a meeting for Monday (Sept. 12) on the Asian carp, with an invitation list that stretches from Sen. Amy Klobuchar to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Canadian Consulate.

Dayton is trying to solve a basic obstacle to stopping the disruptive invasive species: Everyone and no one is in charge.

The meeting is designed to tell the state’s congressional delegation, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and numerous federal agencies about Minnesota’s plans to deal with the carp before it’s too late.

The carp are making their way up the Mississippi River from Missouri. While an enormous effort is focused on keeping them from entering the Great Lakes from the Illinois River through a canal in Chicago, no one has figured out how to protect Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The carp are not in Minnesota yet — in quantity — but individual fish are found from time to time, and recent DNA testing has shown that at least some are likely present in the St. Croix River.
–The Star Tribune

Sea Grant gets $400,000 to fight invasives
Everyone knows Smokey Bear’s reminder that only you can prevent forest fires, and now Minnesota Sea Grant wants to add zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and fish-killing VHS virus to your instinctive guilt list.

The University of Minnesota Duluth-based Sea Grant program now has an extra $400,000 to hammer home the message.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Minnesota Sea Grant the money as part of the 2011 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding approved by Congress and President Obama. The Sea Grant money is earmarked to slow the rate at which people spread invasive species through everyday activities like fishing, boating or tossing an unwanted pet fish into a pond.

The new money is on top of $1.55 million Sea Grant received from the Great Lakes initiative last year.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Goodhue OKs sand mining moratorium
Goodhue County commissioners unanimously approved a proposal that will temporarily block a controversial kind of sand mining in the southeastern Minnesota county.

About 200 people filled a public hearing room in Red Wing for a meeting that lasted nearly three hours and included public comments from 20 people in support of the moratorium. No one spoke in opposition.

Commissioner Jim Bryant said the moratorium will give county officials time to assemble an advisory board to study the potential health, environmental and financial impacts of sand mining around the county.

“Is this really a good fit for us here?” Bryant said. “Maybe for some. Maybe in some areas but maybe not in other areas.”

Goodhue County is particularly strategic for its deposits of “frac” sand, round grains of sand that are used in fracture mining. It is highly sought after for its size and strength. Frac sand has perfectly round grains that look like brown sugar crystals.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Wisconsin report inconclusive on sand mining
There is little conclusive information on possible negative health effects of a pollutant linked to Wisconsin’s burgeoning sand mining industry, the Department of Natural Resources said in a new report.

The DNR made no formal recommendations, but environmentalists, citizens’ groups and others called for regulation while business groups urged a hands-off approach.

Crystalline silica comes from many sources, but worries about it as a source of ambient air pollution has grown with a boom in sand mining in western Wisconsin.

The sand is coveted by the petroleum industry, which is using it with water and chemicals under pressure to extract oil and natural gas from hard-to-reach deposits. Exposure to crystalline silica in enclosed settings can be a human carcinogen and is known to cause silicosis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs.

During mining and processing, tiny bits of silica are kicked up in the air. One question examined in the report is whether crystalline silica poses health risks for people living around such facilities.

“A recurring theme in the literature review and survey is that very little conclusive information exists regarding sources, controls or levels of silica present in ambient air,” the report concludes.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Track loon migrations on your computer
Loon migratory movements from current and previous studies using satellite transmitters can be followed online at the U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center web site.

Several common loons breeding in the Upper Midwest are sporting satellite transmitters in order for researchers to study the migration of these fish-eating water birds through the Great Lakes toward their southern winter homes. By using satellite tracking devices implanted in the loons from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Michigan Upper Peninsula, USGS scientists expect to learn information about avian botulism essential for managers to develop loon conservation strategies.

“This study will also help managers better understand how loons fare as they head to their wintering grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts,” said USGS scientist Kevin Kenow of UMESC in La Crosse, Wisc. “This is the second year of the study. Ten loons radiomarked in 2010 provided insight into use of the Great Lakes during fall and spring migration and revealed wintering sites. Another 21 loons were radiomarked this past July over a broader area of the Upper Midwest.”
–USGS News Release

Illinois denies permit for mega-dairy
State regulators announced that they have denied a permit related to a proposal to build the largest dairy in the state near Galena, saying they were worried the facility would pollute groundwater in the area.

The action by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency means the dairy sponsors have to make changes to correct deficiencies or submit a new plan, IEPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson said.

California dairyman A.J. Bos has proposed putting up to 5,500 head of cattle in a concentrated animal feeding operation at Tradition Dairy, near the small town of Nora, about 30 miles east of Galena in northwestern Illinois.
–The Chicago Tribune

Mississippi levies mostly held in flood of 2011
James Parker steps onto a sandy ledge to get a clearer view of where the Mississippi River almost cut Presidents Island in two, tearing out a half-mile-wide chunk of land and leaving water and flocks of geese on a place where cotton formerly grew.

Parker, crew chief for the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission, says he’ll never forget the first time he saw this testament to the raw power of the Mississippi.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought it was going to cut all the way through (the island).”

Ever since the historic flood of 2011 receded, officials up and down the Mississippi have identified places where the mighty river sought out new channels and made initial efforts to change course during the high water this spring.

The Corps of Engineers’ $13 billion flood-control system along the river largely held, preventing an estimated $62 billion in damage.
–The Memphis Commercial Appeal

Building owners look to re-use water
Building owners and managers are discovering a great untapped resource: the water that flows out of—and off—homes and commercial structures.

Some wastewater from buildings is reused after treatment at municipal plants, but much of it ends up flowing back into the environment. And buildings rarely are equipped to capture rainwater. A slew of technologies hitting the market, though, are enabling more homes and businesses to reuse much of their wastewater, without it ever leaving the site, and to put the rain to use as well.

That saves building owners money by allowing them to purchase less water from municipal sources. And it benefits communities by conserving water.

The techniques range from a simple sand filtration system for the home costing only a few hundred dollars to a mini water-treatment plant for commercial buildings that costs as much as $1 million. What they have in common is a goal of recycling everything from sink water to rain runoff, and reusing it for nonpotable purposes such as toilet flushing and lawn watering.
–The Wall Street Journal