Zebra mussels in court; water conflicts loom

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.

West Metro zebra mussel fight goes to court
The ice went out on Christmas Lake, and soon a new gate will go up at its only public boat ramp, signaling the start of what may be the most contentious boating season yet in Minnesota’s two-decade fight over zebra mussels and other invasive species.

The gate, installed in November, is more than a method to keep invasive species out of one of the most pristine and exclusive lakes in the metro area. Some see it as a challenge to individual privacy and a virtual Minnesota birthright — unfettered access to any lake or river in the state.

Those two imperatives — protecting the lakes and keeping them open to all — are at the heart of a lawsuit filed last week by three west-metro lake associations against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The associations claim the state has failed to devise a comprehensive plan against invasive species and has thwarted their efforts to protect the lakes they treasure.
–The Star Tribune

Intelligence report: Water conflicts possible 
The American intelligence community warned in a report that problems with water could destabilize countries in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia over the next decade.

Increasing demand and competition caused by the world’s rising population and scarcities created by climate change and poor management threaten to disrupt economies and increase regional tensions, the report concludes.

Prepared at the request of the State Department, the report is based on a classified National Intelligence Estimate completed last October that reflected an increasing focus on environmental and other factors that threaten security. An estimate reflects the consensus judgment of all intelligence agencies.
–The New York Times

Save these dates:

 March 29. The Freshwater hosts a conference on precision conservation, the science and philosophy of putting conservation practices into place at spots on the landscape where are most  effective and provide the most return on investment. Learn more.  April 12. The Freshwater Society’s Ice Out/Loon In party and fund-raiser celebrates spring.  The event will be from 5:30 to 8;30 p.m. at the Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach. There will be music, food, a silent auction and – where else can you find this? – a loon-calling contest.

Medicine drop box
Medicine drop box

Hennepin County accepts unneeded drugs
Prescription and non-prescription drugs are a significant source of water pollution. Don’t flush them down the toilet or pour them down a sink. Hennepin County has installed self-service drop boxes for unneeded and outdated drugs in a number of places throughout the county.

Learn more about where you can find the drop boxes and what you can – and cannot – dispose of in them.

Eden Prairie backs water conservation 
Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens is asking residents to join the “Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.” It is a friendly, online competition between residents of cities across the nation to see who can be the most “water-wise.

All residents have to do is log on to mywaterpledge.com and make an online pledge on behalf of Eden Prairie. By making the pledge, residents promise to follow a series of conservation measures for their homes, yards and cars, things like washing only full loads of laundry, fixing leaky faucets and walking or biking short distances.

Iowa State offers advice on nitrate loss 
As Corn Belt farmers face challenges to reduce nitrate loss in surface and groundwater by 40-45%, Iowa State University (ISU) research confirms what many growers fear: “The right application of nitrogen (N) is [just] the first step,” says Matt Helmers, ISU associate professor, agricultural and biosystems engineering.
–Corn and Soybean Digest

Research: Fracking causes air pollution
People living within a half-mile of oil- and gas-well fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants five times above a federal hazard standard, according to a new Colorado study.

The University of Colorado Denver School of Public Health analysis is one of a string of studies in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado that highlight the air-quality impacts of drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. “Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural-gas development that has focused largely on water,” said Lisa McKenzie, the study’s lead author.

The analysis found volatile organic chemicals at five times the level below which the emissions are considered unlikely to cause health problems, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Hazard Index.
–The Denver Post

Metro-outstate fight looms on park funding
 A bitter battle is brewing between park agencies in the Twin Cities and in outstate Minnesota over how much each should get from the nearly $40 million state Parks and Trails Legacy Fund.

More than 60 percent of the sales tax money comes from the seven-county metro area, but only about 40 percent is being used for parks and trails there. The rest goes to the state Department of Natural Resources and to regionally important parks and trails outstate.

“This wasn’t a fund just created for outstate parks, for gosh sakes,” said Carver Commissioner Tom Workman, who used to serve in the Legislature. “We’ve got to take a stand here.”

Carver County and nine other county and local governments with metro regional parks want a bigger piece of the pie. So far, three metro cities and three county boards have passed identical resolutions, including Carver County and Bloomington’s City Council.  –The Star Tribune

Sturgeon recovering in Lake of the Woods
Lake sturgeon populations in both the United States and Canadian waters of Lake of the Woods and Rainy River have met short-term recovery goals, and fisheries managers now are setting their sights on the long term.

“The Rainy River-Lake of the Woods population is probably one of the most robust, healthiest recovering populations of lake sturgeon in North America,” said Tom Mosindy, fisheries assessment biologist for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in Kenora, Ont. “It’s definitely a good news story.”

Mosindy is chairman of the Border Waters Sturgeon Management Committee, which includes representatives from the MNR, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Rainy River First Nations Indian band in Ontario. He shared findings of the recovering sturgeon population with partners during a joint Ontario-Minnesota fisheries meeting in Fort Frances, Ont.
–The Grand Forks Herald

Court expands property owners’ recourse against EPA 
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favor of an Idaho couple who were prevented from building their dream home after the Environmental Protection Agency barred them from building on their land. The agency claimed the property was protected wetlands under the federal Clean Water Act.

The ruling gives property owners the right to challenge an EPA compliance order from the time it is issued, rather than waiting for the agency to begin enforcement actions.

The decision comes in the case of Chantell and Mike Sackett, who purchased two-thirds of an acre of land near the shore of Priest Lake, Idaho. In 2007, they broke ground on a planned three-bedroom house, but three days later, EPA officials arrived and asked to see their permit for filling in wetlands. The couple, who had only building permits, said they had no idea that they needed a permit from the EPA because there were other houses nearby.
 –National Public Radio