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.
Organic advocate Kirschenmann to lecture
Fred Kirschenmann, a national leader in the organic food and farming movement, will deliver the next free public lecture sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.
Kirschenmann will speak on “Water and the Challenges Facing U.S. and World Agriculture in the 21st Century.”
The lecture, the sixth in a series, will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus.
There are lots of ways to describe Kirschenmann: philosopher, farmer, author and advocate. Since 2000, he has been the director or a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He also is president of the board of directors of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. He wrote Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, published in 2010 by the University of Kentucky Press. This year, he was honored by the James Beard Foundation for “lifelong work on sustainable food and farming systems.”
‘Cleaning Minnesota’s Water’
Read “Cleaning Minnesota’s Water,” Minnesota Public Radio’s comprehensive package of reports on water quality in the state and the debates and sometimes conflicting strategies for improving it.
Dayton outlines Asian carp plan
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr argues that to combat the spread of Asian carp could mean taking chances.
“We may have to take some risks here,” said Landwehr, speaking at an aquatic invasive species summit at the State Capitol.
That is, taking actions against invading species that in the future, in hindsight, may be deemed less than effective, he explained. But Landwehr and other officials argued that Minnesota does not have the luxury of time.
Landwehr, Gov. Mark Dayton, and a host of state and federal officials attended the summit.
An action plan — more of draft, Dayton later described it — was presented by DNR officials.
One step called for congressional action to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers emergency authority to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Ford lock and dam on the Mississippi River if Asian carp are detected in the area.
What went wrong with carp barrier plans?
Four years ago, with the ecological dangers posed by Asian carp already well-documented, state Department of Natural Resources officials backed a $5 million plan to build an underwater sound bubble barrier across the Mississippi River as far downstream as Winona.
The following year, in 2008, the DNR was given $500,000 to start the project.
Now, sounding fresh alarms about the threat from Asian carp, the state is seeking at least $7 million in emergency funding for a barrier to be built near Prescott, Wis.
But much of the original money has never been spent.
The back story of what happened to the original initiative is one of confusion and misunderstanding — amid doubts about whether a barrier would even work — that ate away valuable time in the race to stop the spread of voracious Asian carp into Minnesota waters. Only last month the DNR unveiled evidence that the carp, which can grow to 60 pounds and outmuscle native species for food, were in the St. Croix River.
–The Star Tribune
Drought underlines ‘water-energy nexus’
The worst single-year drought in the recorded history of Texas has caused cotton crops to wither and ranchers to sell off cattle. It may also hurt power plants, which need vast amounts of water to cool their equipment.
“We will be very concerned” if it does not rain by spring, said Kent Saathoff, an official with the Texas electric grid operator.
The worries in Texas bear out what an increasingly vocal group of researchers has been warning in recent years: that planners must pay more attention to how much water is needed in energy production.
“Water and energy are really linked,” said Henrik Larsen, a water policy expert with the DHI Group, a research and consulting firm based in Denmark. “If you save water, you save energy, and vice-versa.”
–The New York Times
Chinese protest solar plant’s pollution
In a fresh indication of growing public anger over pollution, hundreds of demonstrators in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang were camped outside a solar panel manufacturing plant that stands accused of contaminating a nearby river.
The demonstration was the latest move in a four-day protest that has sometimes turned violent.
The unrest began when about 500 residents gathered outside the plant, in Haining, roughly 80 miles southwest of Shanghai. Some protesters stormed the five-year-old factory compound, overturning eight company vehicles, smashing windows and destroying offices. The next day, four police cars were damaged.
–The New York Times
Farm groups push subsidy overhaul plans
Some farm groups are rushing to put out ideas for overhauling farm subsidies as the congressional deficit-cutting supercommittee starts work.
The National Corn Growers Association has a plan that would scrap the current system of fixed, direct payments and use the money both for deficit reduction and to expand the revenue-protection program known as ACRE that was created in 2008.
Under the existing ACRE program, which relatively few farmers have signed up for, payments are triggered only when state-level farm revenue drops below the average on a combination of average yields and commodity prices.
Under the new plan, the payment trigger would be based on crop-reporting districts, which are areas within a state. That would make the program more likely to pay out to farmers — and more expensive to taxpayers.
–The Des Moines Register
MPCA approves taconite permit
Acting over the objections of environmentalists and Indian tribes, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency agreed to allow U.S. Steel Corp. to increase mercury emissions at an Iron Range mining facility without also requiring a precise schedule of reductions elsewhere.
The vote of the citizens commission that oversees the agency was unanimous and made without discussion.
The long-awaited decision moves forward a $300 million expansion of U.S. Steel’s Keetac taconite processing facility in Keewatin, Minn., that will create an estimated 160 new jobs. It also includes technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, making it the first facility in Minnesota to do so under new federal rules.
Environmentalists, however, said the decision conflicts with the state’s long-term plan to reduce mercury, a toxic metal that has polluted two-thirds of the state’s waters and can make Minnesota fish unsafe for children and pregnant women.
–The Star Tribune
Wisconsin governor takes on ballast rules
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and several other governors are joining the federal government and Canada in demanding New York reconsider shipping regulations that protect waters from invasive species but could damage Wisconsin’s economy.
In a letter sent to New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Walker joined forces with the Republican governors John Kasick of Ohio and Mitch Daniels of Indiana to argue that unless the New York Department of Environmental Conservation regulations are amended, the regulations could require the St. Lawrence Seaway to close down, resulting in thousands of maritime-related job losses in the Great Lakes states and in Canada.
New York’s regulations deal with ballast discharge. When cargo ships are not fully loaded, they have to take on water to maintain their stability. This water is stored in ballast tanks, and it may contain aquatic organisms.
When ships discharge this water in harbors, they may also discharge these organisms that could become invasive, Steven Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, said.
The New York regulations require boats to install ballast cleaning technology that will clean ballast water to a certain quality standard. The regulations also create a water quality standard 100 times stronger than the current standards given by the International Maritime Organization, which coordinates international shipping policy.
–The Badger Herald
College GOP protests bottle ban
College Republicans passed out bottled water to passers-by in protest of the College of St. Benedict’s new ban on bottled water in campus vending machines, cafeterias and sporting events. The protesters said they aren’t against sustainability but are defending the free-market system.
“Just as the government should not ban plastic bottles in America, a school administration should not ban the sale of plastic water bottles on their campus,” said Ryan Lyk, chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans, in a statement.
This fall, St. Ben’s became the first school in the state — and the ninth in the nation — to ban the sale of plain bottled water on campus. Macalester took a similar step Sept. 1.
–The Star Tribune
Denver seeks toilet mandate
Denver utility managers bothered by the city’s penchant for old-style porcelain toilets that use twice as much water as federal standards are pushing for a legislative fix.
They’ve asked lawmakers to consider setting a statewide toilet standard of 1.28 gallons per flush.
Toilets account for about a quarter of household water use, and the new standard could save 44,000 acre-feet of water a year by 2050. An acre-foot is said to be enough to serve the needs of two families of four for a year.
Toilet makers, who supported similar limits in California and Texas, have embraced the idea.
New toilets sold today use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush, in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency limits set in the 1990s.
But in Denver, an abundance of homes still have old-style fixtures that use an average volume of 3.14 gallons per flush, according to Denver Water’s latest “end-use study.”
–The Denver Post