Falling rivers, disappearing prairies, Girl Scouts

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.

Girl Scout service project to protect water 
On Oct. 13, thousands of Girl Scouts in 49 counties in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin will celebrate the Girl Scouts’ centennial with a service project aimed at protecting lakes and rivers.

Some 36,000 girls, assisted by 18,000 adults, will clean up leaves, grass clipping and other debris from streets and storm sewer grates in their neighborhoods.

The project – the Girl Scouts’ Centennial Day of Service – is a Community Clean-Up for Water Quality. It is sponsored by 3M and was planned and organized by the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys in partnership with the Freshwater Society and the Friends of the Minnesota Valley.

The goal is to prevent excess algae growth in lakes and river by eliminating the phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment that result from the breakdown of organic matter and flow – untreated — through storm sewers to surface waters.

Learn more about the Girl Scouts’ Centennial Day of Service.

Minnesota streams near record lows 
The drought has pushed river levels in some parts of Minnesota to near record lows, forcing the state Department of Natural Resources to suspend water pumping permits for dozens of businesses and other users.

Falling river levels also have transformed many streams, including the Minnesota River, which is dramatically low near Mankato, with a daily flow of 265 cubic feet per second, about a third of what it should be this time of year.

At about 1 foot, the water level is the third-lowest on record. Normally the river might be 10 feet deep in spots, and the length of a football field or more across. But near downtown Mankato, the river is now more sand than stream.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Star Tribune documents loss of prairie lands
Read a fine Star Tribune article on the transformation of prairie lands in Minnesota and the Dakotas into corn and soybean fields. The piece was written by environmental reporter Josephine Marcotty.

IATP gets grant for Great Lakes work 
The U.S. Environmental Agency awarded a $150,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy for a project to reduce releases of toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes basin. This is one of three GLRI grants focused on pollution prevention that EPA is announcing during National Pollution Prevention Week.

“This EPA grant will be used to help businesses replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives and to prevent pollution in the Great Lakes basin,” said EPA Regional Administrator/Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy will use the grant to provide businesses that use toxic chemicals with “green chemistry” tools and information about safer alternatives. Workshops will be held for businesses throughout the Great Lakes region.
–EPA News Release

Cover crops needed after drought 
Drought-decimated corn crops are likely to leave residual nitrate in soils after harvest, making this year ideal for farmers to plant cover crops, says a Purdue Extension agronomist.

Cover crops can “scavenge” residual nitrate and recycle it through biomass. The process helps reduce nutrient loss through leaching and runoff, and makes some of those nutrients available for the next cash crop.

“This year is a great example of when a cover crop is needed to trap the much larger amount of residual nitrate that will be present after the poor corn crop,” said Eileen Kladivko, Purdue University professor of agronomy. “Farmers who lose residual nitrogen also are losing the opportunity to trap that nitrogen and keep it in their fields for subsequent crop use.”
–Pork Network

DNR to lease mineral rights
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is making plans to offer leases in October for metallic minerals exploration and mining in three northeast Minnesota counties.

Lease sale plans were published in the Environmental Quality Board Monitor and the State Register on Sept. 17. Notice of the intent to hold the sale was previously announced in July.

The leases under consideration are in Aitkin, St. Louis and Lake counties. The public lease sale will be held Oct. 24. Most of the potential tracts have been offered for lease multiple times in the past. Other tracts will be offered for the first time.

It is the state’s 33rd sale of mining leases since 1966. A list of properties offered for leasing can be reviewed by visiting the DNR website. Areas not considered for mineral exploration and mining leases are state parks, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other protected lands.
–DNR News Release

Kentucky coal company accepts pollution penalty 
One of Kentucky’s largest surface coal-mining companies has agreed to pay $575,000 in a case that involved thousands of alleged instances of fraudulent or improper water-pollution discharge reports.

International Coal Group, or ICG, has reached an agreement in principle with the state and environmental groups to settle claims against the company, according to a status report on the lawsuit the state Energy and Environmental Cabinet filed in Franklin Circuit Court.

The report said ICG would pay Eastern Kentucky PRIDE $335,000 to rid homes of illegal “straight pipe” sewage discharges, which have fouled water quality in some areas of Eastern Kentucky. ICG also will pay the state $240,000 to assess the impact of surface mining on waterways.
–The Lexington Herald Leader

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