Book-signing set; win $500; Jackson defends EPA

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.

Book-signing honors Breneman and Seeley
Don Breneman and Mark Seeley, the authors of a new book, Voyageur Skies, will be guests at a book-signing event on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Gray Freshwater Center.

The book features 120 photos by Breneman of Voyageurs National Park in all seasons, plus text by Seeley of weather conditions and climate trends in the park. Gene Merriam, Freshwater Society president, wrote a forward for the book.

The book-signing will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Freshwater Society.

An exhibit of photos from Voyageurs Skies opens Oct. 1 at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum.

The 140-page Voyageur Skies is published by the Afton Historical Society Press.

Breneman is a retired University of Minnesota Extension photographer. Seeley is a professor in the university’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, and he is a weekly commentator on Minnesota Public Radio.

Enter now to win $500 for fighting pollution
Do you want to reduce urban runoff and pollution that flow into lakes and rivers? Do you have a good idea for how you and your friends and neighbors could work together to clean up soil, grass clippings and leaves from streets and storm drains? And could you use $500?

Then we have a contest for you.

The Freshwater Society and InCommons are sponsoring a Work For Water “micro challenge” that will award two $500 prizes for the best short-term community projects to protect our waters from the pollution found in the leaves, grass and soil that wash into streets. Enter here.

In addition to the two statewide prizes, a grant from the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation, will provide two additional $500 prizes for the best ideas coming from entrants in the 14 counties the foundation serves in Central Minnesota.

The contest began Sept. 20, and entries will be accepted until Oct. 11. The winner will be announced Oct. 18. The project must be completed by Nov. 12.

Who can enter? Individuals, church groups, Scout troops, service clubs, neighborhood groups, lake associations, school organizations and classrooms. What kind of project can you suggest? Almost anything you can accomplish by Nov. 12. Be imaginative, and have fun. The main requirement is that the person submitting the entry must be 18 years old.

EPA’s Lisa Jackson defends her agency.
Across an often contentious three-hour congressional hearing, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson vigorously defended her agency’s policies promoting cleaner air and water, and rejected suggestions by Republican lawmakers that the EPA is a chief factor in the country’s stagnant economic recovery.

“The American people have a right to know whether the air they breathe is healthy or unhealthy,” Jackson said during her appearance before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Time and again, she dismissed the notion that stubbornly high unemployment should prompt policymakers to roll back robust environmental protections.

“It is analogous to a doctor not giving a diagnosis to a patient because the patient might not be able to afford the treatment,” she said.

GOP members cast Jackson as an über-regulator, oblivious to the economic hardship her policies have created in their home districts. “We have focused on cracking down on the private sector, on the job generators,” lamented Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif.
–Fox News

Diverse group works to improve Root River
The Root River Field to Stream Partnership has brought together a diverse group of people and organizations in pursuit of water quality answers.

Farmers, farmer organizations, the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Monsanto and the Nature Conservancy are working together on the field-to-stream project.

The project includes in-field and stream side monitoring in three subwatersheds of the Root River Watershed. The goal is to determine if what flows off farm fields and through tile drainage ends up in the water.

The Root River Watershed is a diverse and complex watershed of more than a million acres, said Joe Magee, TMDL and water plan coordinator for the Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District.

Lessard council urges carp spending
Despite misgivings, an outdoors advisory panel agreed to set aside $3 million to explore ways to keep Asian carp from moving into state waters.

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council included the amount as part of $95.6 million in projects it’s recommending to the Legislature next session.

The amount is less than one-third of what the state Department of Natural Resources wanted to build and operate an experimental underwater acoustic bubble barrier where the St. Croix River empties into the Mississippi River. The 12-member council added restrictions, including approval of any eventual action plan and a requirement that border projects obtain matching funds from elsewhere.

But it tried its best to avoid doing even that.

Several members of the panel, which recommends outdoors restoration and protection projects funded with Legacy Amendment sales-tax dollars, questioned whether the emergency proposal from the DNR would be effective and worth the money.

Council members Jim Cox, Ryan Bronson, Les Bensch and Wayne Enger said the state has been aware of the Asian carp threat for a decade, had interjected itself late in the annual allocation process and was proposing to spend millions of dollars on a relatively untested concept.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Carp: It’s what may be for dinner
Minced Asian carp tacos? How about spaghetti with carp sauce?

Illinois officials hope serving the invasive species on a plate is the creative solution to two big problems: controlling the plankton-gobbling carp from entering the Great Lakes and record numbers of people facing hunger. But the idea has major obstacles, mainly overcoming people’s nose-crinkling response to eating a fish that grows to 100 pounds and is able to sail out of the water — a trait spotlighted in YouTube videos.

“We are in unchartered water here,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris McCloud. “Why remove them and put them into a landfill when you can take them and use them for good? If we can get past the name ‘carp’ and the perception … we can prove this is going to be a highly nutritious, cheap meal.”

The department launches a campaign to change the fish’s image and demonstrate how to work with the ultra-bony meat. Officials have enlisted Louisiana chef Philippe Parola, who’s become a national advocate for the fish he calls silverfin. He plans to fry up the fish that tastes something like mahi mahi, so audience members can taste samples.
–The Associated Press

Research: Earth getting more acidic
Human use of Earth’s natural resources is making the air, oceans, freshwaters, and soils more acidic, according to a U.S. Geological Survey – University of Virginia study available online in the journal, Applied Geochemistry.

This comprehensive review, the first on this topic to date, found the mining and burning of coal, the mining and smelting of metal ores, and the use of nitrogen fertilizer are the major causes of chemical oxidation processes that generate acid in the Earth-surface environment.

These widespread activities have increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing the acidity of oceans; produced acid rain that has increased the acidity of freshwater bodies and soils; produced drainage from mines that has increased the acidity of freshwater streams and groundwater; and added nitrogen to crop lands that has increased the acidity of soils.

Previous studies have linked increased acidity in oceans to damage to ocean food webs, while increased acidity in soils has the potential to affect their ability to sustain crop growth.
–USGS News Release

Groundwater pumping raises seas
Groundwater mining — pumping aquifers faster than they can be replenished — can have nasty consequences. Mining the Ogallala Aquifer (also called the High Plains aquifer), for example, has infamously run the White River dry where it once gushed over Texas’ Silver Falls.

Most of the groundwater sprayed on thirsty croplands across America makes its way into streams and rivers. Even though much of the water seeps into the soil first, the vast majority never makes its way back into the aquifer. Instead, it heads toward the sea, where it eventually contributes a surprising share of global sea level rise, reports Leonard Konikow, a hydrogeologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

In a rigorous new analysis of global groundwater depletion published earlier this month, Konikow estimated that global aquifers lost 4,500 cubic kilometers between 1900 and 2008 — enough to raise global sea level by about 12.6 millimeters. That’s a little more than 6 percent of the total sea level rise that took place over that time.
–Discovery News

Dayton to name mining contact
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is looking to fill a new position of state mining coordinator to oversee all aspects of mining expansion in the state.

Dayton was asked by mining industry officials to appoint the new position, and the governor appears poised to do so in coming days.

The position will offer a single and first point of contact for industry officials and others seeking answers to questions on state regulations and state involvement in both taconite and copper-nickel mining projects.

The person in the new position will act as a facilitator for mining projects.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Obama budget cuts farm programs
When it comes to farm policy, Congress often ignores White House proposals. It passed the 2008 Farm Bill over President George W. Bush’s veto and it’s possible both parties will ignore some of the ideas put forth in President Barack Obama’s Economic Growth

Obama didn’t ignore agriculture, however. He wants to eliminate or reduce these ag programs:

  • Eliminate Direct Payments. The White House says they’re not needed at a time of high farm income, adding that “Economists have shown that direct payments have priced young Americans out of renting or owning the land needed to enter into farming.” It would save $3 billion per year.
  • Crop Insurance. The Administration is looking for more cuts here. It says currents costs are $8 billion per year, with $2.3 billion going to insurance companies and $5.7 billion to farmers as premium subsidies. USDA has already trimmed $600 million a year from support for insurers and hasn’t touched subsidies of farmer premiums. Obama’s deficit cutting plan would trim another $200 million a year from insurance companies, arguing that they would still have a return on investment of 12%. Farmer premium subsidies for coverage at the 50% catastrophic level would not change but premium subsidies on higher levels over coverage would be shaved by two basis points, or $200 million per year (a 3,.5% cut from current levels).
  •  Conservation. Obama would cut conservation programs by $200 million a year “by better targeting conservation funding to the most cost-effective and environmentally- beneficial programs and practices.” Even with those cuts, conservation assistance is projected to grow by $60 billion over the next 10 years.

USGS notes Arizona groundwater decline
Arizona has depleted its groundwater over the past 70 years enough to fill Lake Powell nearly three times, according to the first federal study of the state’s groundwater since the 1980s.

Knowing that fact and others contained in the U.S. Geological Survey’s report will help policy makers better understand the state’s limited water resources, said Fred Tillman, a Tucson-based hydrologist who served as the study’s lead author.

“It’s critical that we are vigilant about our groundwater use,” he said.

The study, which covers 1940 through 2007, establishes a baseline measurement of levels in the state’s aquifers prior to development, allowing researchers and policy makers to assess how population growth has affected the state’s groundwater.
–Cronkite News

Schools wring water from air conditioning
Two Houston universities are tapping into one of the city’s defining features – air conditioning – to conserve water in the midst of a historic drought.

Rice University is recycling 12 million gallons of water per year, 5 percent to 6 percent of its annual water consumption, by harvesting condensate water, or gray water, from air-conditioning units on campus. The initiative will save the university about $80,000 to $100,000 per year.

Across town at the University of Houston, officials started recycling water for three science buildings five years ago and plan to expand the initiative to new buildings being constructed.

“In a typical year, adding water to the cooling tower is our biggest portion of our water consumption,” said Richard Johnson,, director of energy and sustainability at Rice. “So, to the extent to which we can find ways to find water to recycle to use in our cooling tower, it means that we need less water from the city of Houston.”
–The Houston Chronicle