Asian carp

Asian lecture set April 21 at University of Minnesota

Asian carp, feared and despised as a threat to native fish and other aquatic life in the United States, are an important food source and are revered for their courage and stamina in swimming upstream in flooding rivers in China.

And,  while the carp seem to be expanding their range in the United States, they are becoming scarcer in China.

On Monday, April 21, the University of Minnesota’s River Life program will present a lecture by Brian Ickes, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist who will take a global perspective on Asian Carp. His lecture is titled “The Irony of Carp.”

The lecture will be at 7 p.m. in the Best Buy Theater, located in the University’s Northrop Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary.

Learn more about the lecture. View video of an October  2013 lecture on Asian carp and their threat to Minnesota waters.  The 2013 lecture was delivered by USGS research biologist Duane Chapman and was sponsored by the Freshwater Society, the university’s College of Biological Sciences, the Minnesota Invasive Species Research Center and the university’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.

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$18 billion price put on Great Lakes carp barrier

Keeping Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes in the Chicago area could cost $18 billion and take 25 years to put into practice, a new Army Corps of Engineers study concludes. Read a New York Times article on the research. Read the study, itself.  Watch a video of an October 2013 Freshwater lecture by USGS biologist Duane Chapman on the threat the carp pose to Minnesota.

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Grass carp reproducing in Great Lakes watershed

Scientists say that, for the first time, they have found evidence of Asian carp reproducing within the watershed surrounding one of the Great Lakes.

Duane Chapman

Duane Chapman

Four grass carp caught by a commercial fisherman in October 2012 in the Sandusky River in Ohio were extensively analyzed by U.S. Geological Survey scientists. By examining bones, known as otoliths, in the heads of the fish, the scientists determined the four carp had lived all their lives in the watershed where they were caught, rather than finding their way there from fish farms.

The evidence that grass carp successfully reproduced in the Lake Erie watershed is an indication that other species of Asian carp – silver, bighead and black carp – might also be able to reproduce in the Great Lakes.

The new research was led by Duane Chapman, a USGS biologist, and published Oct. 25 in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Read a USGS news release on the research.

On Oct. 8, Chapman presented a lecture in St. Paul on the biology of Asian carp and the threat they pose to Minnesota lakes and rivers. View video of that lecture, which was sponsored by the Freshwater Society, the University of  Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and the university’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.

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Poll backs closing locks

Sixty-three percent of Minnesota voters are concerned about Asian carp spreading into state rivers and lakes, according to a new public opinion poll commissioned by a coalition of groups fighting to keep the carp from advancing up the Mississippi River.

On the key policy question of closing the locks that allow boats to move up and down the river at Minneapolis, 63 percent of the voters responding to the poll favored the closure. But only 42 percent favored using tax dollars to compensate a handful of businesses that would be forced to use more-expensive truck or rail transportation if the locks were closed.

Fifty-eight percent supported asking recreational boaters to voluntarily quit using the locks.

The poll of 404 registered voters was conducted June 27 to June 30.

Learn more about the issue and about the Stop Carp Coalition, which commissioned the poll. Read the poll questions and responses.

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Research finds little bighead or silver carp DNA

New analyses for Asian carp DNA in water samples from the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers showed little evidence of bighead and silver carp, researchers announced in a report released Thursday, April 4, 2013.

The joint effort by scientists from the new Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota (MAISRC), U.S. Geological Survey and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also concludes that while recent captures by commercial fisheries show these invasive fish are present in Minnesota, their numbers are likely still relatively low. Read the university news release on the research. Download the full USGS report.

Studies in 2011 using this technique, which detects DNA fragments released to the environment (eDNA), showed positive results for silver carp eDNA in up to half of the samples collected from the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers. The new report documents what is considered to be the most rigorous study of Asian carp eDNA in Minnesota waters to date. It used a large number of experimental controls and techniques recently developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for use in the Illinois River and Great Lakes that include DNA sequencing as a final verification step.

According to the researchers, while the new study consistently detected silver carp eDNA in Iowa where the fish are abundant, it detected no silver carp eDNA in the sampling areas just above and below St. Croix Falls in the St. Croix River or in the sampling areas above and below the Coon Rapids Dam or below Lock & Dam No.1 in the Mississippi River.  In contrast, no bighead carp eDNA was detected at any location, including in Iowa where this species is known to be present.

“The differences between the 2011 and 2012 eDNA testing results may be partly attributable to the evolving technology,” said Peter Sorensen, MAISRC director and leader of the research team. “As the bighead results show, this particular technique needs to be refined for detecting this species in open waters.”
–University of Minnesota News Release

 

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Bighead carp netted in Lake Pepin

A 47-pound bighead carp was caught in a seine net by commercial fishermen on Nov. 16, in Lake Pepin near Frontenac,  the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced on Nov. 21.

DNR file photo shows DNR supervisor Brad Parsons with a bighead carp from an earlier catch.

Bighead carp, members of the Asian carp family, are nonnative species that can cause serious ecological problems as they spread into new waters.

While other adult bighead carp have been found in Lake Pepin and the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, this was the largest individual carp caught to date.

“This recent find is not surprising, as bighead carp were also found in Lake Pepin in 2003 and 2007,” said Tim Schlagenhaft of the DNR’s Mississippi River team at Lake City. “It adds more evidence that Asian carp continue to work their way up the Mississippi River.”

This recent catch fits the pattern of occasional adult Asian carp captures from the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers over the past 15 years. Individual bighead carp were caught in the St. Croix River in 1996, 2011, and 2012, and four silver carp were caught from the Mississippi River between Winona and La Crosse since 2008. Read the full DNR news release.
–DNR News Release

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Fracking, conservation and Asian carp

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.

Does fracking contaminate water?
Read a good q-and-a discussion of allegations that hydraulic fracturing of deep rock formations by gas and oil drilling operations contaminates groundwater. The review in the journal Nature focuses on a site in Wyoming where the EPA last year said it found evidence of contamination. Read a Bloomberg article on a recent EPA report concluding that its latest round of tests on Wyoming wells showed results consistent with previous findings that fracking probably caused groundwater contamination. Read the EPA report released Oct. 10.

Minnesota DNR calls for water conservation
Drought conditions are straining Minnesota’s water resources. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging everyone to adopt water conservation measures.

“Water is essential to our economy, our natural resources, and our quality of life,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “We are in the second year of a drought, and it is time for all of us to take water conservation more seriously.”

DNR is asking agricultural, commercial and industrial water users to stop outdoor irrigation and to implement conservation measures. Everyone who holds a DNR permit for water appropriation should review and abide by their permit conditions and begin conserving water as soon as possible.

“The drought conditions are sobering and call for a collaborative response,” Landwehr said. “At a time that per capita water consumption is decreasing nationwide, Minnesota’s water use per resident is actually increasing. We will need to work together to meet these challenges.”

Public water suppliers have been contacted by the DNR and reminded to implement appropriate conservation measures contained in their water supply plans. These could include water audits, leak detection, and promoting water conservation to their customers.
–DNR News Release

Howard Buffett calls for conservation compliance 
Farmer-philanthropist Howard Buffett said that stronger government action is needed to encourage farmers into compliance with better fertilizer, tillage and other conservation and environmental practices.

“We have a whole culture based on yield,” said Buffett, 55, who owns farmland in his native Nebraska, Illinois and Arizona as well as South Africa. One of several issues that caused a stalemate in this year’s farm bill discussions in Congress was over making conservation compliance a requirement for eligibility for federal crop insurance.

“Government has the biggest club, and if it doesn’t use it, there will be less good conservation practices,” Buffett said. Buffett, son of Omaha financier Warren Buffett, has emerged as a force in world agriculture through his foundation, which finances experimental work in Africa and other countries.
–The Des Moines Register

DNA suggests Carp have passed barrier to L. Michigan 
Even as Michigan lawmakers lambaste the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not moving fast enough to develop a permanent plan to stop Asian carp from swimming up the Chicago canal system and into Lake Michigan, genetic evidence that the fish are on the march continues to grow.

Tthe Army Corps announced it would send fishing crews onto the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River. The agency also will fish for Asian carp on a six-mile stretch of river in downtown Chicago.

The announcement was triggered after three separate sampling trips on the waterway showed DNA evidence of silver carp, which can be shed from a live fish from things such as mucus and feces.

The agency also announced that 17 of 57 samples taken on just one trip last month on the Chicago River near downtown tested positive for silver carp. Crews will be on the river  with electro-fishing boats and other sampling tools to chase the elusive fish.

The Army Corps maintains that a positive sample does not necessarily mean the presence of live fish. Officials note it could get in the water by some other means, such as barge bilge water, bird droppings or even the toilet flush of someone who happened to eat Asian carp for lunch.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

EPA funds Lake Superior mercury research
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $1.4 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Minnesota Department of Health to reduce mercury exposure risk for women and children who live along Lake Superior’s north shore. Excessive blood mercury levels have been documented in infants in this area. The funding will be used to improve health screening and to develop more effective fish consumption advisories.

The Grand Portage Chippewa Tribe and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinics in Grand Portage and Grand Marais, Minn., will participate in the project. Physicians affiliated with the clinics will survey consenting female patients of childbearing age about fish consumption and test blood mercury levels. Patients will also be counseled to promote safe fish consumption choices.

The work supported by the grant will build on an earlier EPA-funded study which was completed last year by MDH. In that study, 1,465 newborns in the Lake Superior Basin – including 139 infants from Wisconsin and 200 from Michigan – were tested for mercury in their blood. The study found that 8 percent of the infants had mercury levels higher than those recommended as safe by EPA.
–EPA News Release

UM seeks ‘greener’ lawns
Advocates of sustainability have often demonized lawn care for squandering water, adding fertilizers and herbicides to the environment, and increasing our carbon footprint through gas-powered mowing. But a new research project from the University of Minnesota could make both environmentalists and homeowners happier in the future.

Funded by a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 5-year project is part of a national research effort aimed at improving specialty crops. Researchers will be investigating ways to develop turf grasses that require less water and mowing, and that stay green without extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers.
–The Line

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Water, science and the environment

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.

Hypoxia Task Force looks to reduce nitrogen
The drought has temporarily done this year what several state and federal programs have tried to do in terms of reducing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the fluctuating levels of hypoxia in the Gulf will surely rise next year if rains return to the Mississippi River basin.

The federal government’s Hypoxia Task Force met to continue its quest for long-term strategies for reducing nitrate loads in the Gulf by as much as 45%.

Success would appear frustratingly slow for the state-federal task force with numerous presentations Tuesday about the need to expand and coordinate water-quality monitoring, as well as better examine the value and economics of applying different practices on the land. Still, Chairwoman Nancy Stoner, EPA’s acting administrator for water quality, stressed gains have been made for the task force, now in its 15th year.

“We’re picking up a lot of momentum but it takes awhile to make the kinds of changes we’re talking about,” Stoner said. “It will take some time to see some results but the first thing to do is to agree upon the approaches and changes to be made,” Stoner said.
–The Progressive Farmer

Don’t miss our Oct. 4 lecture on nitrogen
Register now to attend a free, public lecture in St. Paul on the serious problem of nitrogen pollution of both water and air. Read q-and-a interview, conducted by Freshwater, with the lecturer, Purdue University agricultural economist Otto Doering.

Asian carp and the presidential race
President Obama has promised billions more dollars in aid and has cracked the whip on the US Army Corps of Engineers to finish a study on the great Great Lakes Asian carp.

Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama’s rival in the election, says the administration is moving too slowly. He has suggested that “America put a man on the moon” in less time than it’s taking to protect the Great Lakes from an invasion of the big fish migrating up the Mississippi River watershed, threatening to broach Lake Michigan at Chicago.

Sure, encroaching carp aren’t in the league with jobs or foreign policy when it comes to national priorities. But the political debate over what to do about the disruptive Asian carp population also isn’t just about the ecology and hydrology of the world’s biggest freshwater system. It’s also about the 64 electoral votes locked up in four Great Lakes battleground states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Army Corps completes Asian carp survey
A study of 18 canals, ditches and other waterways that could link the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds found none was a likely pathway to the lakes for Asian carp, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday, Sept. 14.

The study was part of a broader search for ways to stop the movement of invasive species between the two basins. Of particular concern are bighead and silver carp — ravenous Asian fish that scientists say could out-compete native species for food.

Asian carp infested the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and are approaching a Chicago-area shipping canal through which they might be able to reach Lake Michigan. Under pressure from Congress and advocacy groups, the Army Corps promised to produce options for blocking their passage by the end of next year.
–The Associated Press

DNR restricts withdrawals from low streams
The ongoing drought is forcing the Department of Natural Resources to restrict water use around Minnesota.

More than a dozen industrial and recreational sites have been required to suspend pumping from state waterways.
Levels have sharply declined in rivers and other surface waters as the drought continues. DNR water permits allow a variety of customers to pump water, but those permits also require cutbacks if water levels get too low.

That’s happening now, and recently the DNR suspended numerous water pumping permits. Most are for golf courses or other recreational locations.

“Last week we sent out 16 letters. And there was one in Hubbard County, Blue Earth, one in Martin, several in Polk, to surface water users. And they were told then to stop pumping water as of last Thursday midnight,” said Julie Ekman, DNR water regulations unit supervisor.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Isaac fails to loosen drought’s grip
More than three quarters of the contiguous United States still faces abnormally dry conditions in spite of scattered relief from rains generated by tropical storm system Isaac. As seen on the U.S. Drought Monitor, exceptional drought — the worst category — persists in the very center of the nation from Nebraska south to Texas, east through Missouri and Arkansas to the Mississippi Valley. Much of Georgia is also in exceptional drought.

Drought is the nation’s most costly natural disaster, far exceeding earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and floods. FEMA has estimated that the annual average cost of drought in the United States ranges from $6 to $8 billion. (By comparison, the annual costs of flooding are in the $2 to $4 billion range.) Unlike flooding, drought does not come and go in a single episode. Rather, it often takes a long time for drought to begin to impact an area, and it can fester for months or even years.
–USGS News Release

Journal looks at conservation, climate change
A special research section of the September/October issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, “Conservation practices to mitigate the effects of climate change,” offers a compilation of works that cover the most current advances in the science of conservation practices that may alleviate some of the effects associated with a changing climate.

Follett et al. discuss the effects of climate change on soil carbon and nitrogen storage in the U.S. Great Plains. Chen et al. evaluate a selection of maize inbred lines for drought and heat stress tolerance under field conditions and identify several inbred lines that showed high tolerance to drought. Brown and Huggins quantify agricultural impacts on soil organic carbon sequestration for dryland cropping systems in different agroclimatic zones of the Pacific Northwest.
–SWCS Conservation NewsBriefs

DNR does follow-up searches for invasives
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources  biologists and divers searched lake bottoms immediately surrounding areas where zebra mussels were discovered last fall on boat lifts on Lake Irene in Douglas County and Rose Lake in Otter Tail County. The divers did not discover zebra mussels, but searches will continue later this fall when docks and boat lifts are pulled from the shores along these lakes.

“This is a good sign, but these are only preliminary inspections that will help us determine the overall outcome of our efforts,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist in Fergus Falls. “We have more field work to do this fall, sampling the waters for veligers and inspecting docks and boat lifts as folks remove them from these waters.”

Last fall, DNR biologists investigated two separate cases where localized zebra mussel populations were discovered on boat lifts. In one case, mussels were attached to rocks near the boat lift. Both boat lifts had been moved from infested waters to these lakes earlier in 2011.Due to the early detection of zebra mussels in these locations, the DNR immediately treated both areas with copper sulfate, a common chemical used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch. The treatments were conducted by a icensed aquatic pesticide contractor. The searches conducted recently were part of a follow-up plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the early detection and rapid response.
–DNR News Release

Canadian mining firm admits pollution
Canadian mining giant Teck Resources Ltd. has admitted in a U.S. court that effluent from its smelter in southeast British Columbia has polluted the Columbia River in Washington for more than a century.

Teck subsidiary Teck Metals made the admission of fact in a lawsuit brought by a group of U.S. Indian tribes over environmental damage caused by the effluent discharges dating back to 1896.

The agreement, reached on the eve of the trial initiated by the Colville Confederated Tribes, stipulates that some hazardous materials in the slag discharged from Teck’s smelter in Trail, B.C., ended up in the Upper Columbia River south of the border.
–The Canadian Press

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House bill threatens BWCA protections

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.

House bill threatens wilderness protection
Language in a Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, passed two months ago by the U.S. House, threatens to undo wilderness protections for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Supporters of current restrictions on motorized use of the BWCA are attempting to keep the measure, which is backed by some hunting and fishing groups, from being  attatched to the 2012 Farm Bill in the Senate. Read environmental reporter Dennis Lien’s Pioneer Press article on the controversy.

Many boaters violate laws on invasives
The first numbers are in on intensified efforts to police Minnesota boaters’ compliance with laws aimed to curb the spread of invasive species. And the numbers are not good. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said 20 percent of the boaters checked in a stepped-up enforcement effort violated the laws.

Between May 12 and June 6, the DNR issued 193 criminal citations, 463 civil citations, 975 written warnings and 267 verbal warnings. Last year about 850 citations or warnings were issued to violators of Minnesota’s AIS laws. That compares with 293 citations and warnings issued in 2010. Read the DNR news release.

Don’t forget: Clean Water Act lecture set June 25
Don’t miss the June 25 free public lecture on the federal Clean Water Act 40 years after it was enacted.

G. Tracy Mehan III, an environmental consultant who was the top water-quality official in the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, will deliver the lecture at 7 p.m. in the theater of the Student Center on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the university’s College of Biological Sciences.

The lecture is titled The Clean Water Act After 40 Years: What Has It Accomplished? How Do We Fulfill Its Promise?   Learn more and register to attend.

Wisconsin eyes penalties in frac sand spills 
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is weighing a penalty to be imposed on two sand mines for large spills in the St. Croix River.

In both of the spills, the mining companies were not meeting their permit conditions. Wisconsin DNR enforcement specialist Deb Dix said one site had no erosion control structures, and the other used soft sand to build a berm.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Firms join UN push for water efficiency 
The United Nations has received support from chief executive officers at 45 companies, from Levi Strauss & Co. to Coca-Cola Co. (KO), in an effort to use water more efficiently.

The companies joined the UN Global Compact in committing to improve water-management practices during a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, according to a statement. The compact is the world’s biggest organization backing sustainability measures.
Bloomberg

Public responds to mercury warnings 
Got mercury? If so, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency warns that it’s important to manage it properly to protect yourself and the environment, and to avoid significant health and legal problems.

In recent weeks since a statewide news story about a Floodwood, Minn., man trying to sell 64 pounds of mercury on Craigslist, the MPCA and county collection centers have fielded dozens of tip calls from people with mercury to turn in. One Minnesota county hazardous waste facility took in 20 pounds of mercury as a result of the news story.

Consistent with current practices and despite the one-time mercury purchase by the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, none of the people who subsequently surrendered their mercury received any payment for the hazardous waste.
–MPCA News Release

EPA approves $880 million Everglades clean-up 
Federal environmental regulators approved an $880 million state plan intended to dramatically reduce the flow of farm and suburban pollution into the Everglades. Both sides hailed the agreement as a milestone in a decades-long dispute over cleaning up the River of Grass.

If approved by two federal judges, it would commit Florida to a major expansion of projects intended to clean up storm run-off before it flows into the Everglades, adding to the $1.8 billion the state has already poured into cleanup efforts.

In a letter announcing the approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, regional administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming said the state’s plan represented “a significant and historic milestone in restoring America’s Everglades.”
–The Miami Herald

Grafton, Ill., plant to process Asian carp 
A formal agreement is in place for a new company in Grafton to process Asian Carp harvested from the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and send them to markets in China, but state assistance for the plant is not yet in place.

Businessmen from China were in Grafton to meet with local investors to officially announce the plan that could mean nearly 40 new jobs in Grafton once the plant is open.

A representative of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said the state was supportive of the venture, but no specific details of a state financial plan were released. The Chinese group has entered into an agreement to buy between 30 and 40 million pounds of the fish over the course of a three year contract.
–The Alton Daily News

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Iowa may offer carp a back door to Minnesota

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.

Asian carp’s back-door route to Minnesota
There’s a back door for Asian carp to sneak into Minnesota, and fisheries officials are worried the invaders already might have found it.

Commercial fishermen recently caught dozens of Asian carp in northwestern Iowa’s Great Lakes, one of that state’s most popular vacation spots. Those waters connect with lakes and streams in southwestern Minnesota, so the haul came as an unwelcome surprise to Minnesota officials who’ve been more focused on the higher-profile fight against Asian carp infiltrating up the Mississippi.

“We view it as a big threat. … These fish don’t recognize political boundaries,” said Ryan Doorenbos, area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Windom.
–The Associated Press

Free showing of Leopold documentary
The National Park Service, the Mississippi River Fund, the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Curt Meine are sponsoring a free film screening and discussion of “Green Fire:  Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time.”

The documentary about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold will be shown from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 17, at the St. Anthony Main Theater, 115 Main St. SE, Minneapolis.

No registration is required.

Court upholds wild rice pollution rule
A bitterly contested rule established decades ago to protect Minnesota’s wild rice from pollution that comes primarily from mining has been upheld by a Ramsey County District Court.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce sued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 2010 at the height of a contentious argument over the state’s iconic plant, which has become a potent symbol in the growing controversy over the potential environmental impact of new mining projects in northern Minnesota. The controversy has pulled in environmental groups, industry, Indian tribes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and even the Minnesota Legislature.

The chamber, the state’s largest business lobbying group, accused the PCA of holding mining companies to a different standard from other industries on how much sulfate they can discharge into lakes and streams. It also argued that the sulfate rule was vague and that the PCA applied it capriciously.

But Ramsey County Judge Margaret Marrinan dismissed those claims, saying that the state’s standard is in line with the federal Clean Water Act and that the state uses it appropriately.
–The Star Tribune

BWCA land swap bill introduced
Just days after the Minnesota Legislature approved a plan to trade state land in the Boundary Waters for federal land outside the federal wilderness, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack has introduced the deal in Congress.

Cravaack, R-North Branch, introduced the bill that would order the U.S. Forest Service to trade for about 86,000 acres of state land locked inside the 1.1 million-acre federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. In exchange, the state would get a similar amount of Superior National Forest land outside the wilderness — acres that could then be mined, logged and otherwise managed for state revenue, primarily to stock the state’s public school trust fund.

The bill would direct the U.S. secretary of agriculture, who oversees the Forest Service, to conclude the exchange within one year.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Where are the mid-sized walleyes?
Something puzzling is happening on Mille Lacs Lake, the giant walleye lake in east-central Minnesota, and it’s got officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wondering what they should do.

DNR researchers are finding a lot of big females laying billions of eggs. That’s no surprise — it’s the desired result of stricter limits on size and numbers of walleye that can be taken. And the DNR is finding no shortage of young fish.

The puzzle is in the middle: Nid-size fish, those 14 to 20 inches, aren’t showing up in good numbers in test nets, said Rick Rick Bruesewitz, area fisheries supervisor in Aitkin. “We have lots of little fish out there, but they just aren’t making it into the fishery,” he said.

A report found that the number of those fish now, compared with 1987-1997, has dropped 39 percent for females and 60 percent for males.
–The Rochester Post Bulletin

NRCS targets 3 Minnesota watersheds
Minnesota State Conservationist Don Baloun announced the launch of a new National Water Quality Initiative committed to improving three impaired waterways in Minnesota.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will manage the initiative by making funds available to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in the selected watersheds. “The Water Quality Initiative will further NRCS’ partnership efforts to improve water quality using voluntary actions on private lands,” Baloun said.

Through this effort, eligible producers in Chippewa, Elm Creek, and Seven Mile Watersheds will invest in voluntary conservation actions to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities. The selected watersheds were identified with help from state agencies, partners, and the NRCS State Technical Committee.

Using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, NRCS will provide funding and advise to producers to install conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and terraces in watersheds with impairments where the federal investment can make a difference to improve water quality.
–NRCS News Release

Rains break Minnesota drought 
The drought is officially over for nearly all of Minnesota.

The new map issued by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that only about 10 percent of Minnesota remains in drought, the state’s best showing since last September. From late January until just seven weeks ago, 96 percent of the state was in a moderate to severe drought.

The shrinking remaining pockets of drought include part of the North Shore, some of northwestern Minnesota along the Canadian border and part of south-central Minnesota.

Greg Spoden of the Minnesota Climatology Working Group said the data show the drought has broken. He said the recent heavy rain has recharged dry soils, which will be good for agriculture. But because the soil has captured nearly all that precipitation, he said, it will still take some time for some larger lakes to rise to normal levels.
–The Associated Press 

Free showing of Leopold documentary
The National Park Service, the Mississippi River Fund, the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Curt Meine are sponsoring a free film screening and discussion of “Green Fire:  Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time.”

The documentary about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold will be shown from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 17, at the St. Anthony Main Theater, 115 Main St. SE, Minneapolis.

No registration is required.

Research blames cows for California smog
While people typically blame Southern California’s smog on automobiles, a new study suggests that cows might be just as responsible, if not more so.

A large fraction of the region’s smog, especially the smallest particles, is ammonium nitrate. Those particles form when ammonia, which is generated by cars with certain types of catalytic converters and by bacteria that consume cattle waste, reacts with nitrogen oxides that are produced in large quantities in automobile emissions.

Data gathered in and around the Los Angeles basin in May 2010 suggest that the region’s 9.9 million autos generate about 62 metric tons of ammonia each day. However, ammonia emissions from dairy farms in the eastern portion of the basin — home to about 298,000 cattle — range between 33 and 176 metric tons per day, researchers report in Geophysical Research Letters.
–Reuters

Groundwater pumping raises sea levels
Groundwater for irrigation, drinking and industrial use, evaporating or running into rivers and canals, could cause sea level rises, a U.S. journal reported.

Researchers writing in Geophysical Research Letters say groundwater, once pumped to the surface for use, doesn’t just seep back into the ground but eventually ends up in the world’s oceans. “Other than ice on land, the excessive groundwater extractions are fast becoming the most important terrestrial water contribution to sea level rise,” lead study author Yoshihide Wada of Utrecht University in the Netherlands said.

Sea level rise caused by groundwater pumping from 1970 to 1990 was canceled out as people built dams, where water was trapped instead of emptying into the sea, Wada said. His research shows that changed in the 1990s as populations started pumping more groundwater and building fewer dams.
–UPI

Company to pay $10,000 for water pollution
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has penalized Flame Metals Processing Corporation for improper disposal of waste and wastewater at its processing plant in Rogers.

An extensive investigation by Hennepin County’s Department of Environmental Services led the MPCA to conclude that the company sent toxic wastewater treatment sludge and filters with a potential to release toxic fumes in common waste situations to a regular solid waste landfill instead of a hazardous waste facility equipped to properly handle the waste. The company also discharged wastewater that did not meet limit requirements for discharge to the publicly owned wastewater treatment facility.

The MPCA has assessed Flame Metals a $10,000 penalty for the violations. In addition, the company will be required to implement a supplemental environmental project with a minimum investment of $90,000. The company chose to purchase new wastewater treatment equipment at a cost of $235,700. This new equipment is designed to effectively treat cyanide and help ensure wastewater discharged from the facility exceeds the requirements for discharging to the public facility.
–MPCA News Release

Army Corps promises options on carp 
Obama administration officials say a new timetable developed by the Army Corps of Engineers should speed up the search for a permanent way to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp and other invasive species.

Officials said the corps will present a shortlist of options by the end of 2013 for preventing the carp and other fish from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins through waterways in the Chicago area. Congress will have the authority to make a final choice.

Members of Congress and state officials said the corps’ previous plan to develop a single recommendation by late 2015 was not fast enough.
–The New York Times

Saving a Georgia river from over-use
Read a National Geographic article about a Nature Conservancy effort to help Georgia farmers pump  less irrigation water from the Flint River.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack profiled
Read a Des Moines Register profile of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the challenges he faces as Congress re-writes the half-trillion-dollar  Farm Bill.

Minnehaha Creek joining climate change study
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, in partnership with the cities of Minneapolis and Victoria, is participating in a two-year study of Minnesota’s changing weather and what it may mean to metro communities and how they manage stormwater runoff. A key component of the project is community input which is getting underway this month at a special forum. The Are We Ready? Forum is planned from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center.

Climate research, current weather patterns and projected trends show a significant increase in both the frequency and severity of rain events across Minnesota. This study will look at how these events could affect flooding potential, local water bodies and stormwater infrastructure and how they might impact land uses and development patterns. In addition to scientific analysis, this project also includes a participatory planning process to help inform local decision makers as they determine how to create effective stormwater adaptation plans for their communities.

Enforcement  increased for invasives
Anglers and boaters can expect stepped-up patrols and citations for violating the state’s aquatic invasive species laws, according to Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division assistant director.

“We are setting the expectation of the angling and boating public that they will follow the laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, that they will be checked for AIS violations, and that they will cited if a violation is found,” Smith said.

The increased patrols beganwith the walleye opener on  May 12 and continue through the Memorial Day weekend and into the summer.

Minnesota law prohibits the possession or transport of any AIS in Minnesota. Conservation officers and peace officers may stop and inspect motorists pulling boats or other marine equipment upon a “reasonable belief” that AIS are present.
–DNR News Release

South Florida cuts water use
South Florida has suffered through some dreary declines of late — home values, paychecks and the Miami Dolphins, for instance. But in the case of the public thirst for one precious commodity — fresh water — the decline has actually turned into a major money-saving plus.

The 53 water utilities serving Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties pumped about 83 million fewer gallons a day in 2010 than they did in 2000 — despite a population that grew by some 600,000 over the decade — according to a new draft analysis produced by the South Florida Water Management District.

Do the math and it adds up to South Floridians using about 20 percent less water each day for drinking, bathing and sprinkling yards per person than they did a decade ago.
–The Miami Herald

China’s groundwater threatened 
Groundwater in about 55 percent of the cities monitored across China is not safe to drink, according to a national annual report on the situation of the country’s land and resources in 2011. The outlook is not optimistic, according to the report, which was released by the Ministry of Land and Resources.

Monitoring conducted in 2011 found groundwater quality declined in parts of Gansu, Qinghai, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei and Yunnan provinces. About 200 key cities across the country were monitored in the report, which covered more than 4,700 testing sites.

The problem of groundwater pollution is spreading from cities to the countryside, according to a national pollution control plan aimed at improving water quality over the next decade.
–China Daily.com

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