The Freshwater Society blog 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.
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Asian carp DNA found north of Coon Rapids Dam
The latest round of eDNA testing for Asian carp in the Mississippi River has yielded unexpected results, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources .
Nineteen of the 48 water tests near the Coon Rapids Dam have tested positive for silver carp DNA, and three of the positive results are from above the dam. The highly sensitive tests are designed to detect DNA in the environment that comes from the mucus or excrement of invasive Asian carp. Although testing was done to detect DNA of two Asian carp species – bighead and silver – all positive results were for the leaping silver carp.
The Coon Rapids Dam, located upstream of the river’s lock and dam system, has been a significant fish barrier since it was upgraded in the 1970s, preventing a number of native species such as white bass from migrating upstream. DNR fisheries biologists are surprised by the positive eDNA results.
“We are investigating the likelihood of false positives or other sources of Asian carp DNA in the river,” said Tim Schlagenhaft, Mississippi River manager for the DNR. “A study being done in the Chicago area is providing insight into other potential sources of Asian carp DNA, where they have also been getting positive eDNA samples but have been unable to document the presence of live fish. The results of that study will help determine other potential sources of DNA in our waters. Until we can prove the DNA is from other sources, the risk is too high to assume live fish are not present.”
In recent years, the dam’s effectiveness as a fish barrier has figured prominently in the DNR’s strategy for keeping invasive Asian carp out of the Mississippi River north of the Twin Cities. The dam is about to undergo $16 million in repairs and upgrades in an effort to further improve its effectiveness as an Asian carp barrier. DNR officials said the improvements are still necessary to slow the upstream spread of Asian carp in the Mississippi River.
“The positive test results don’t change the fundamental goal of the state’s Asian carp action plan,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “We must research and implement our available options to prevent or slow the movement of Asian carp upstream in our river systems, and to manage and control their populations should they become established.”
–DNR News Release
Barriers won’t stop carp, researcher says
Physical barriers will not be effective enough to stop invasive species from damaging Minnesota waters, according to a University of Minnesota researcher.
The Coon Rapids Dam had previously been thought to be an effective barrier against Asian carp, but the Department of Natural Resources announced that it had found e-DNA evidence of the silver carp in the Mississippi River above the dam.
Peter Sorensen has studied carp for years, and helped design an acoustic-bubble carp barrier at his lab at the U of M. The fish have probably been upstream of the dam for 10 years, Sorensen said. “I think we’ve just lost the first battle,” he said. “The silver carp are here, it doesn’t mean we’ve lost the war.”
–Minnesota Public Radio
Climate talks yield modest agreement
After 72 hours of continuous wrangling, the 17th conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change wrapped up with modest accomplishments: the promise to work toward a new global treaty in coming years and the establishment of a new climate fund.
The deal on a future treaty renews the Kyoto Protocol, the fraying 1997 emissions agreement that sets different terms for advanced and developing countries, for several more years. But it also begins a process for replacing the Kyoto agreement with something that treats all countries — including the economic powerhouses China, India and Brazil — equally.
The deal on a future treaty was the most highly contested element of a package of agreements that emerged from the extended talks among 200 nations here.
–The New York Times
EPA links ‘fracking’ to contamination
For the first time, a government study has tied contamination in drinking water to an advanced drilling technique commonly known as “fracking.”
The Environmental Protection Agency released a draft study tying the technique, formally called hydraulic fracturing, to high levels of chemicals found in ground water in the small town of Pavillion, Wyo.
EPA scientists found high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, and synthetic glycol and alcohol, commonly found in hydraulic fracturing fluid.
The gas industry and other experts have long contended that fracking doesn’t contaminate drinking water. The EPA’s findings provide the first official confirmation to the contrary.
In hydraulic fracturing, companies inject chemicals deep underground at high pressure to blast fractures in formations to make the gas flow faster.
–National Public Radio
USDA pledges $50 million for the Gulf
The federal government committed $50 million to jump start a sweeping new road map for restoring the Gulf of Mexico after decades of environmental abuse.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture pledged the money to reduce runoff, improve water quality and increase wildlife habitat on agricultural lands in seven river basins that drain into the Gulf, including the San Antonio River in Texas.
“This initiative will be a powerful demonstration that the Gulf of Mexico strategy will not be another report on a shelf,” said Harris Sherman, undersecretary for natural resources and environment at the Agriculture Department.
–The Houston Chronicle
Comment sought on Lake St. Croix plan
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking comments on a water quality improvement report for the portion of the St. Croix River known as Lake St. Croix. The report, known as a Total Maximum Daily Loa study, focuses on pollution caused by excess phosphorus.
The public comment period for the TMDL begins Dec. 12 and continues through Jan. 11, 2012.
Lake St. Croix is a natural lake in the lower 25 miles of the St. Croix River. Its watershed is about 7,760 square miles with 44 percent of that area located within Minnesota and the rest within Wisconsin.
The lake is a highly valued resource that provides exceptional recreational opportunities and supports a highly diverse ecology of aquatic and terrestrial species. However, over the years algal blooms that deplete oxygen in the water have occurred due to excess phosphorus loading. This affects fish and other aquatic life and diminishes the enjoyment and use of the lake.
The findings in the report are largely based on the results of past lake and nutrient loading studies. To meet water quality standards, the phosphorus load will need to be reduced by 122 metric tons per year. Reductions will need to come from various sources, including runoff from agricultural and urban lands and discharges from wastewater-treatment facilities.
The draft report may be viewed on the Lake St. Croix TMDL webpage. For more information, or to submit comments, contact Chris Zadak, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., Saint Paul, MN 55155; email firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 651-757-2837.
–MPCA News Release
Wisconsin GOP unveils mining bill
Assembly Republicans finally released a draft of a bill designed to streamline Wisconsin’s mining regulations, introducing language that calls for state regulators to make a permit decision within a year and severely limits environmentalists’ ability to challenge it.
The bill is designed to jump-start Florida-based Gogebic Taconite’s plans to mine iron ore in the Penokee Hills, just south of Lake Superior. The measure will almost certainly undergo multiple changes — Republicans in the state Senate are calling it a starting point — but it’s already triggered one of the fiercest environmental debates the state has seen in years.
Republicans insist the mine will create thousands of good-paying jobs that will last for generations. Minority Democrats and conservationists say the job figures are exaggerated and fear pollution from the mine will ruin one of the most pristine regions in the state.
–The Associated Press
Wisconsin experiences sand mining boom
A controversial natural gas mining technique called “fracking” is creating a boom in Wisconsin sand mines with more than 20 new mines proposed, including some as large as 500 acres or more.
While the mines bring jobs, they also bring dust, traffic and other problems the state Department of Natural Resources and local governments aren’t prepared to deal with, residents and government officials said at a recent conference on “frac sands.”
“The state is woefully unprepared for this,” said state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma. “We’re regulating sand mines like we regulate gravel pits. There is a big difference between a one-acre gravel pit and a 900-acre sand mine.”
While sand companies and others tout the economic benefits of the mines, the boom has left some families and the rural towns in which they live dealing with changed landscapes, blowing silica dust, around-the-clock noise and glaring lights, heavy truck traffic and water pollution.
–The Wisconsin State Journal
Algae plague Lake Erie
As the general manager of a marina in Ottawa County’s Catawba Island Township, Jack Madison saw a recurring theme during last summer’s algae outbreak along the Lake Erie shore.
“Mothers kept their kids [and people kept their dogs] out of the water … It is important that people don’t view Lake Erie as a place to stay away from,” said Mr. Madison, one of dozens to hear testimony and react in a standing-room-only hearing from scientists, environmental advocates and state officials.
The hearing at the Lake Erie Islands Regional Welcome Center on St. Rte. 53 was assembled by members of the Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to address the harmful algae blooms that plagued Western Lake Erie late last summer and how to best combat them in the future. Speakers gave their testimony to the committee surrounded by the center’s large replica of the Marblehead Lighthouse, mounted walleye and brochures for the area’s fishing, camping and boating attractions.
There have been annual outbreaks of algae in Lake Erie’s western basin since 1995, however, last summer’s outbreak was especially acute. Legislators vowed to take action by springtime to help avoid an escalating problem next year.
–The Toledo Blade
Human effect of 3M pollution easing
The 3M cleanup is working. Levels of a chemical pollutant found in some Washington County residents are dropping, following a seven-year, $50 million effort by 3M Co.
A study by the state Department of Health found that the amount of perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, has dropped between 13 percent and 26 percent. In a conference call, Dr. Jessica Nelson, bio-monitoring program coordinator for the department, called the study “good news.”
The study measured the amount of PFCs in 164 people in 2008, then checked the same individuals last year. The sampled adults live in Oakdale, Lake Elmo and Cottage Grove, where drinking water contains traces of PFCs.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Air pollution angers Chinese
The statement posted online along with a photograph of central Beijing muffled in a miasma of brown haze did not mince words: “The end of the world is imminent.”
The ceaseless churning of factories and automobile engines in and around Beijing has led to this: hundreds of flights canceled since Sunday because of smog, stores sold out of face masks, and many Chinese complaining on the Internet that officials are failing to level with them about air quality or make any improvements to the environment.
Chronic pollution in Beijing, temporarily scrubbed clean for the 2008 Summer Olympics, has made people angry for a long time, but the disruptions it causes to daily life are now raising questions about the economic cost, and the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the population.
–The New York Times