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.
First silver carp caught in Minnesota
A silver carp and a bighead carp were caught in a seine net by commercial fishermen in the Mississippi River near Winona, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Silver and bighead carp, members of the Asian carp family, are nonnative species that can cause serious ecological problems as they spread into new waters.
The silver carp caught March 1 weighed about 8 pounds. It represents the farthest upstream discovery to date of the species, known for its tendency to leap from the water when startled.
“A silver carp discovery this far upstream is discouraging, but not surprising,” said Tim Schlagenhaft of the DNR’s Mississippi River Team at Lake City. “This is further evidence that Asian carp continue to move upstream in the Mississippi River.”
No established populations of bighead or silver carp are known in Minnesota. However, individual Asian carp have been caught by commercial fishermen in recent years. Three silver carp (two in pool 8 near La Crosse, one in pool 9) were caught between 2008 and 2011. One bighead carp was caught in the St. Croix River in 1996 and one in 2011. Between 2003-2009, six bighead carp were caught in the Mississippi River between Lake Pepin and the Iowa border.
–DNR News Release
Ag ‘certainty’ candidates sought
Candidates are being sought to serve on an advisory committee to help develop the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program. The new program is the result of a January 17 agreement by Governor Mark Dayton and federal officials, with the goal of enhancing Minnesota’s water quality by accelerating adoption of on-farm water quality practices.
The committee, being formed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, will provide recommendations to MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson regarding the development of the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification, as well as its particular features and focus. The committee will be convened and staffed by MDA, and will serve at Commissioner Frederickson’s discretion.
Committee composition will be established by Commissioner Frederickson, with membership from the following:
- Two farmers or ranchers.
- Two representatives of general farm organizations.
- Three representatives of commodity or livestock organizations.
- One representative of agriculture-related business.
- One representative of crop consultants or advisors.
- Two representatives of environmental organizations.
- Two representatives of conservation organizations.
- Two representatives of local government units.
In addition, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the University of Minnesota Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will be invited to provide technical support.
–MPCA News Release
Legacy $$ sought for zebra mussel fight
Zebra mussels are a form of biological pollution spreading rapidly across Minnesota lakes. So does that make the fight to combat them worthy of Legacy Fund money?
Some residents of lakeshore communities in the west metro think so, and they’re mobilizing to persuade lawmakers to direct some of the $90 million raised each year for the Clean Water Legacy Fund toward zebra mussels, arguing that they’re the most urgent environmental problem facing the state’s lakes.
“We see this as the threat of our time, and prevention needs to happen,” said Terrie Christian, president of the Association of Medicine Lake Area Citizens in Plymouth. “If we wait until afterwards, it’s going to cost the state and all citizens a lot more, and our lakes are going to be wrecked.”
For Christian and other lake advocates, the invasive fingernail-sized mussels are just as detrimental to clean water as too much silt or fertilizer or other pollutants. They’ve infested about 30 lakes across the state, including heavily trafficked Lake Minnetonka.
Once introduced in a lake or stream, the mussel populations explode and cannot be stopped because they have no natural predators. For now, the best solution to slowing their spread is to inspect and, if necessary, decontaminate all boats that leave infested waters, a daunting and costly proposition.
–The Star Tribune
Wisconsin wetlands bill signed
Following months of controversy, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law making it easier for developers to build on wetlands throughout the state.
Under the new law, developers proposing a project on wetlands either would have to create new wetlands equal to the amount they destroy or pay the Department of Natural Resources to protect other wetlands throughout the state.
“What we are going to sign today is a great example of how government can be a true partner to economics development instead of a barrier,” Walker said. “There is a balance out there. I want clean air, clean water and clean land. The two can go hand in hand.”
Walker said the balance could be achieved because the bill still allows development and expansion of wetlands under the new agreement with DNR, while at the same time eliminating government barriers to economic development in the state.
–The Badger Herald
St. Croix bridge bill passed
Decades of debate over the proposed St. Croix River crossing ended with a five-minute vote in the U.S. House, which approved the plan overwhelmingly and sent it to President Obama for his signature.
The 339-80 vote easily surpassed the two-thirds needed to fast-track the project, a move made necessary after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton gave Congress a March 15 deadline before reallocating state funding.
“This is it!” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, who carried the bill in the House. “After decades of bureaucratic holdups and frivolous lawsuits from radical environmentalists, the people of the St. Croix River Valley will finally have their bridge.”
A unanimous Senate approved the same measure last month, belying the discord that underlies the $690 million project. Congressional action was needed to exempt the bridge from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a landmark law from the 1960s sponsored by former U.S. Sen. and Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale lobbied against the bridge, calling it “a brutal assault on one of the most magnificent rivers in America.”
–The Star Tribune
Guilty verdict in zebra mussel case
George Wynn, the 54-year-old Fargo man believed to have caused the zebra mussel infestation of Rose Lake near Vergas, was convicted for transferring water equipment with invasive species attached.
Wynn’s case is one of the first of its kind in Minnesota after a 2011 law change that allows the state to prosecute people who transfer invasives on any kind of water equipment, not just boats and trailers. Wynn’s offending piece of water equipment was a boat lift, which is believed to have been moved from the mussel-infested Lake Lizzie to Rose Lake.
Wynn’s charges, however, stem from his moving of the lift from Rose Lake to a different area without cleaning the lift, which was clearly covered in mussels by that time. Wynn faced fines and fees of $500, as well as a restitution charge of an additional $500.
He was also placed on probation for a year. Assistant County Attorney Heather Brandborg said that $500 was all the DNR requested in restitution costs, and The Journal could not reach DNR representatives who could comment further role on the department’s costs in the case. However, the DNR reported in October 2011 that costs of treating the lake could run about $14,000.
–The Fergus Falls Journal
Farmer-led council works to protect Whitewater
Farmers in the Whitewater Watershed are taking the lead in water quality improvement through the Farmer-Led Council of the Whitewater River Watershed.
The council is the first of its kind in Minnesota. It’s modeled on similar efforts in Iowa where farmers gather to determine what they need to do to clean up impaired streams in their watershed.
Jim Frederick of Lewiston chairs the council. He’s involved because he wants to leave an environmental legacy and wants the land to be in better shape when he’s done farming than when he began.
Improving the land ties with improving water quality. The Whitewater River and its tributaries are impaired for nitrates, fecal coliform and turbidity, which is a measure of the water’s clarity.
USGS tracks phosphorous through groundwater
Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have, for the first time, demonstrated how aquifer composition can affect how excessive levels of phosphorous (an essential nutrient contained in fertilizers) can be carried from fertilized agricultural fields via groundwater to streams and waterways.
This finding will allow for more informed management of agriculture, ecosystem, and human water needs.
“Until now, studies of phosphorus transport to streams have been focused on surface-water pathways because it was previously assumed that phosphorus does not dissolve into soil water and is not mobilized to groundwater,” explained USGS researcher Joseph Domagalski. “Farmers and resource managers can use the study information to better manage the application of fertilizer on agricultural fields and minimize phosphorus contamination in downstream water bodies.”
–USGS News Release