coon rapids dam

Sediment, Asian carp and a Legacy forum

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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Cities want ag to share pollution costs
Already hamstrung by tight budgets, communities across much of Minnesota are bracing for what could be an $843 million bill – this one aimed at reducing the amount of sediment reaching Lake Pepin on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

And many resent having to pay so much for what amounts to a relatively small bump in water quality. Especially while agriculture, a much larger source of sediment, is let off the hook.

“This kind of thing is just beyond the pale for what is acceptable and what we feel is how we should be spending our taxpayers’ money,” said Klayton Eckles, Woodbury’s city engineer.

The developing urban-rural tiff will get new legs soon when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency releases a study explaining the sediment problem, establishing goals and outlining ways to reduce the amount of silt getting into Lake Pepin, the widening of the Mississippi River southeast of the Twin Cities.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Lock closing sought as carp deterrent 
A coalition of conservation groups says it is not too late to stop Asian carp in the Mississippi River.

That runs counter to the recent discovery of genetic material from the fish above a pair of dams that might have served as barriers.

“The eDNA testing, it indicates that there are some fish in place. But in terms of a breeding population, that is not likely to be the case. It could be the case,” said Irene Jones of Friends of the Mississippi River. “But usually you find them in much larger numbers when they start to breed. There is something called an invasion front, which is where the breeding population has reached. Right now the invasion front, it’s in Iowa.”

Friends of the Mississippi River joins with the Izaak Walton League, the Minnesota Seasonal Recreation Property Owners and the Minnesota Conservation Federation in calling for locks in St. Paul and Minneapolis to close. The coalition wants the two Mississippi River locks to stay closed until a plan is in place to stop the fish.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Legacy Amendment forum set Jan. 5
 Fourteen environmental groups will sponsor a Thursday, Jan. 5, forum on the 2008 Legacy Amendment that raised the sales tax to protect, enhance and restore water and the environment in Minnesota.

The Legacy Stakeholder’s Forum, an annual event, will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Paul. It will include presentations and panel discussions involving legislators, policy-makers and members of the Clean Water Council and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

The forum will attempt “follow the money” and evaluate what the public is getting for its money.

Participation is free,  but space is limited. To register, send an email to Noreen Tyler  at the Izaak Walton League.

Sponsors include: Anglers for Habitat, Audubon Minnesota, the Conservation Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Minnesota Land Trust, the Nature Conservancy, Parks & Trail Council of Minnesota, Pheasants Forever, Sportsmen for Change and the Trust for Public Land.

Peter Gleick offers water policy guides
Pacific Institute President Dr. Peter Gleick presented a set of recommendations to Congress for a more effective and sustainable 21st-century national water policy.

Dr. Gleick, one of the world’s leading experts on freshwater issues, testified before the Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that coordinated federal planning for water is needed in the face of new water challenges such as climate change, unregulated or inadequately regulated pollutants, and decaying physical water infrastructure.

“Growing human populations and demands for water, unacceptable water quality in many areas, weak or inadequate water data collection and regulation, and growing threats to the timing and reliability of water supply from climate change call for fundamental changes in federal policy,” said Dr. Gleick. “The water crisis around the nation and around the world is growing, presenting new direct threats to our economy and environment – but it also offers opportunities for better and coordinated responses.” His full testimony is available on the Pacific Institute website.
–Western Farm Press

Facebook, Greenpeace reach truce on coal
Facebook and Greenpeace have called a truce over a clean energy feud that had the environmental group using the social network’s own platform to campaign against it.

Greenpeace and Facebook said that they will work together to encourage the use of renewable energy instead of coal.

Last year, Facebook opened a data center in Prineville, Ore., using the area’s cool nights and dry air to save energy while keeping its systems from overheating. It also received generous tax breaks for adding jobs to the economically struggling region.

But Greenpeace wasn’t happy that Facebook picked site for its data center that’s served by a power company that generates most of its electricity from coal. It started a campaign to get the social network operator to use renewable energy. It attracted some 700,000 supporters on Facebook. Greenpeace said it was ending the campaign and declared victory on its “Unfriend Coal” Facebook page.
–The Associated Press

DNR offers habitat-improvement grants
Organizations and governments now can apply for fish and wildlife habitat improvement grants.   The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is accepting Conservation Partners Legacy grant applications for projects ranging from $5,000 to $400,000.

Funds must be used to enhance, restore, or protect the forests, wetlands, prairies, and habitat for fish, game, or wildlife in Minnesota. A total of $3.48 million of funding is available.

Application deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 at 5p.m.  The request for proposals is available on the CPL grants web page.

Awards for this second round of grants are expected to be announced in early April. Grant funds are provided annually from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which is a portion of the revenue generated by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Constitutional Amendment sales tax.
–DNR News Release

Canada withdrawing from Kyoto Protocol
Canada said that it would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Under that accord, major industrialized nations agreed to meet targets for reducing emissions, but mandates were not imposed on developing countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa. The United States never ratified the treaty. Canada did commit to the treaty, but the agreement has been fraying.

Participants at a United Nations conference in Durban, South Africa, renewed it but could not agree on a new accord to replace it.

Instead, the 200 nations represented at the conference agreed to begin a long-term process of negotiating a new treaty, but without resolving a core issue: whether its requirements will apply equally to all countries.

The decision by Canada’s Conservative Party government had long been expected. A Liberal Party government negotiated Canada’s entry into the agreement, but the Conservative government has never disguised its disdain for the treaty.
–The New York Times

Comment sought on hog feedlot 
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency invites comments on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) prepared for Matt Holland’s proposed swine facility expansion in southwestern Steele County.

Written comments must be received by the MPCA by 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2012.

Holland proposes to double his swine operation from 2,400 to 4,800 finishing hogs. He also maintains a beef herd of 20 cow-calf pairs on pasture. For the expansion, Holland plans to build a total confinement barn with a manure pit underneath.

The feedlot is located in Berlin Township, 1.26 miles west of Ellendale. After expansion, the feedlot would generate 1.9 million gallons of liquid manure a year. Holland plans to remove manure from the pits beneath the barns once a year in the fall for application to nearby cropland. The feedlot would have two manure-storage basins with a total storage capacity of 2.5 million gallons, reducing the likelihood of overflow or emergency applications during the winter.

Although the feedlot is surrounded by land zoned for agriculture, 41 homes are located within one mile of the feedlot and manure-application sites. The closest home is about one-third mile from the feedlot. Based on a computer modeling study, the MPCA expects the expanded feedlot to comply with state air-quality standards, with odors below levels usually considered unpleasant.

Copies of the EAW are available on the MPCA web site. Send questions and comments on the Holland EAW to Charles Peterson, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., Saint Paul, or  Charles.peterson@state.mn.us MN 55155.
–MPCA News Release.

Speed-up set in Chicago sewage overflow plan
Nearly four decades after officials broke ground on the Deep Tunnel, federal and state authorities unveiled a legal settlement intended to finally complete the Chicago area’s massive flood- and pollution-control project.

Relief from swamped basements and sewage overflows into local streams still is years away, though.

Most of the settlement adds legal teeth to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s latest construction schedule for the Deep Tunnel, which has been repeatedly delayed by funding woes and engineering hurdles. The deal brokered by the U.S. and Illinois Environmental Protection agencies and U.S. Department of Justice imposes deadlines to finish sections, but the entire system won’t be completed until 2029.
–The Chicago Tribune

Bird Conservancy seeks windmill rules
American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect millions of birds from the negative impacts of wind energy by developing regulations that will safeguard wildlife and reward responsible wind energy development.

The nearly 100-page petition for rulemaking, prepared by ABC and the Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to  issue regulations establishing a mandatory permitting system for the operation of wind energy projects and mitigation of their impacts on migratory birds.

The proposal would provide industry with legal certainty that wind developers in compliance with a permit would not be subject to criminal or civil penalties for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The government estimates that a minimum of 440,000 birds are currently killed each year by collisions with wind turbines.

The petition is available online.
–American Bird Conservancy news release

Bill coming due for water infrastructure
The overdue bill for water systems is reaching alarming size, with economic consequences that will weigh on U.S. businesses for years to come. An economic analysis on unmet public water and wastewater system needs commissioned by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) paints a grim future for the U.S. economy.

The costs associated with unreliable delivery and inadequate treatment, the analysis shows, will combine to cut the nation’s gross domestic product by as much as $416 billion over the next decade if current spending levels remain unchanged.

Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure is the second of four ASCE-commissioned assessments of infrastructure spending. The analysis examines the economic consequences of aging drinking water, wastewater and wet weather management systems on businesses and households based on existing capital spending trends.

Lacking any new investment in this infrastructure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 estimate of a $55 billion shortfall in maintenance and upgrade needs could balloon to $84 billion by 2020, and nearly double to $144 billion by 2040.
–Engineering News-Record

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Atrazine, dairy pollution and sewage rules

EPA considers new rules on atrazine
TheEnvironmental Protection Agency plans to conduct a new study about the potential health risks of atrazine,  a widely used weedkiller that recent research suggests may be more dangerous to humans than previously thought.

Atrazine — a herbicide often used on corn fields, golf courses and even lawns — has become one of the most common contaminants in American drinking water.

For years, the E.P.A. has decided against acting on calls to ban the chemical from environmental activists and some scientists who argued that runoff was polluting ecosystems and harming animals.

More recently, new studies have suggested that atrazine in drinking water is associated with birth defects, low birth weights and reproductive problems among humans, even at concentrations that meet current federal standards.
–The New York Times

Complaints persist about Thief River Falls dairy
Eye-watering plumes from a dairy feedlot north of Thief River Falls are a “health hazard,” say authorities, and when the wind shifts nearby families and children must escape the foul air by evacuating, sometimes in the dead of night. Local elected officials have joined a chorus of residents to demand the site be closed, but for two years feedlot owners have sidestepped cleanup orders they consider “a joke.”

The source of the rancid stench, Excel Dairy, still has a permit to operate, and some who’ve endured the nauseating, rotten-egg smelling hydrogen sulfide rising off manure lagoons are wondering why state authorities aren’t more forceful in stopping it.
–Minnpost.com

Petition challenges MPCA oversight of sewage
An environmental group petitioned the federal government to force the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to do what it characterizes as a better job issuing permits required by the federal Clean Water Act.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy contends the state agency hasn’t taken necessary actions against straight-pipe septic systems that dump raw sewage directly into lakes and rivers. It also says the agency has repeatedly issued weaker permits than required by federal law to governments and businesses discharging phosphorus into those water bodies, resulting in excessive algal growth.

The petition asks the Environmental Protection Agency to require the MPCA to correct those matters or take away its authority to issue National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System water permits.

“We’re kind of calling for the ref to say, ‘Just a minute. You have some markers you need to meet here,’ ” said Kris Sigford, the advocacy group’s water quality director.

An MPCA spokeswoman said the agency has not had a chance to review the petition in detail, but she added that it appears the issues already have been addressed by Minnesota courts and the Legislature.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Airlines required to monitor drinking water quality
U.S. airlines will be required to regularly disinfect and monitor on-board drinking water systems under a new rule.

The Environmental Protection Agency has for the first time tailored existing public water monitoring regulations to commercial aircraft.

The change, five years in the making and affecting 63 airlines and 7,300 planes, will replace interim systems for monitoring bacteria and other pathogens that could sicken passengers.

The EPA expects the annual cost to the industry to be about $7 million.
–Reuters

Fight over septic system ends short of jail
A Chanhassen couple, faced with going to jail after a six-year battle with Carver County over their septic system, decided to throw in the towel.

The decision by Janet and Lowell Carlson to fix the septic system will keep them from going to jail Oct. 16 for contempt of court. Carver County District Judge Richard Perkins last week gave them one final chance to make the repairs, estimated to cost at least $10,000.

After the Carlsons bought their farm in 2003, the county ordered them to upgrade the system, saying that it did not have the required 36 inches of separation between its drain field and groundwater on the property. The couple objected, contending there was no indication that the system was leaking or polluting the groundwater.
–The Star Tribune

Obama orders federal sustainability push
Urging the government to “lead by example,” President Obama ordered federal agencies to set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut energy use, save water and recycle more.

The order calls for a 30% cut in vehicle fuel use by 2020, a 50% increase in recycling by 2015 and the implementation of high-efficiency building codes.

It also instructs agencies to set goals within 90 days to reduce the heat-trapping gases scientists blame for global warming.

The measures echo a Los Angeles sustainability program launched under the direction of then-Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley, who now heads the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
–The Los Angeles Times

Big phosphorus reductions needed
Storm water carries so much phosphorus into a chain of lakes in Maple Grove and Plymouth that it may take 20 years to get the three lakes off the state’s impaired waters list.

That’s the finding of a new report to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency which describes the extent of the pollution in each lake and what can be done to reverse it. The report begins the process of cleaning up the lakes as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

In Eagle Lake, a 291-acre lake popular for fishing and swimming, phosphorus would have to be reduced by 40 percent to meet Clean Water standards for swimming, the report says.
–The Star Tribune

DNR plans new mineral leases
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will hold the state’s 31st sale of metallic minerals exploration and mining leases, tentatively scheduled for January 2010. The lease sale plans are being announced at this time in order to give mining companies, public interest groups and other interested parties additional time to review the areas under consideration.

The areas under consideration for the lease sale cover portions of Aitkin, Benton, Carlson, Itasca, Morrison, Pine and St. Louis counties. The lands being considered have been offered in previous metallic minerals lease sales, but based on the interest shown by industry, new geologic data, and exploration techniques developed during the past few years, officials think there may be potential for the discovery of mineral resources within these lands.

The exact time and place of the lease sale will be announced by legal notice at least 30 days prior to the sale.

A map showing the general areas under consideration is available from the DNR Division of Lands and Minerals, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4045, by phone at 651-259-5959, or by visiting the DNR Web site.
–Minnesota DNR news release

Hydropower plans submitted for Coon Rapids Dam
Renewed efforts are being made to explore whether the Coon Rapids Dam can once again be used to generate electricity.

The dam produced electricity for Northern States Power (NSP) from 1914 to 1966, at which time operations stopped because it was no longer economical to generate electricity at the dam.

Over the years, studies have been undertaken  from time to time to look at whether it would be feasible to return the dam to hydroelectric use, but not to the point of a project being submitted for approval to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Now, two competing applications for preliminary permits have been submitted to the FERC to study the feasibility of a hydroelectric power project at the dam.

One is from Three Rivers Park District and the other is from BOSTI Hydroelectric LLC, Golden Valley.
–ABC Newspapers

Suburbs seek to emulate Burnsville rain gardens
Even now, with fall rushing toward winter, the handsome gardens along Rushmore Drive in Burnsville draw the eye with their maroon sedums, purple asters and waving ornamental grasses.

All the gardens are near the curb, and all drop a foot or two below street level at their lowest point.

They’re rain gardens.
–The Star Tribune

California agencies adopt water diets
As the state enters its fourth straight year of drought, water agencies are putting in place permanent rules to reduce use even after the rains and snow return.

Their directives are aimed at new and renovated developments, businesses and homes.

“There is not a Californian who won’t be affected,” said Tim Quinn, executive director for the Association of California Water Agencies.

By January, cities statewide are supposed to have regulations that limit the amount of water used for landscape irrigation in future commercial and residential projects. In particular, the developers will have to abide by a water “budget” for each property.
–The San Diego Union-Tribune

Restoring Wisconsin’s wild rice beds
It was silent, except for the sound of rice seed falling on water as still as a mirror.

John Patrick dug his hand into the 50-pound sack of wild rice, stood up in the canoe and threw, repeating the action until the white bag was empty. Some of the seed, which had been harvested a few days before, floated on the surface of Jackson Box Flowage in Douglas County, while some sank to the brown, nutrient-rich bottom.

“You can see it falling down. They’re like missiles heading straight into the muck,” said Patrick, a Bad River tribal member and wild rice assistant for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Wild rice seeds spiral down, where they grab hold of the bottom, germinate and grow tall above the water until someone or something comes along to dislodge them – a human harvesting the tasty grain, or a duck, muskrat, goose or even white-tailed deer looking for a meal.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Florida ag dept. challenges deal on nutrients
Florida’s agriculture commissioner wants to undo a deal between environmental groups and the federal government that would rewrite an important water pollution rule.

Commissioner Charles Bronson asked a federal judge last week to let the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services join an ongoing lawsuit and fight the agreement.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed in August to set clear-cut numeric limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus – the nutrients that feed algae in the St. Johns River – allowed in Florida’s rivers and creeks. Florida uses rules that describe what’s allowed, but not nutrient numbers.

Agriculture officials say what’s planned is scientifically unsound and could put some farmers out of business by raising costs to manage fertilizer and animal manure.
–The Florida Times-Union

Carleton, Mac and UM honored for sustainability

Carleton College is one of only 26 higher education institutions nationwide to receive an A- on the College Sustainability Report Card 2010.

The group rated Carleton an “A” in the categories of food and recycling, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, and investment priorities. The report card graded Carleton a “B” in administration, climate change, and energy and green building.

Carleton was one of three Minnesota higher education institutions to receive an overall “A-“ grade, joined by Macalester College and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, on the top-performers list. Carleton has received a top grade of “A-“ the last three years, the only Minnesota school to earn that distinction.
–Carleton news release

Exxon appeals verdict in gasoline leak
Exxon Mobil Corp., the oil company found responsible for a 26,000-gallon leak of gasoline into the groundwater of a northern Baltimore County neighborhood in 2006, filed an appeal  of a trial verdict that awarded $150 million to a group of residents affected by the spill.

“We agree with the jury’s finding that this incident was an unfortunate accident and not a fraudulent or intentional act,” said Kevin M. Allexon, a spokesman for the company. “We believe, however, that compensation should be limited to actual harm caused by the spill, and the jury’s verdict goes well beyond reasonable compensation.”

Neighbors of the Jacksonville service station from which the leak originated filed suit against Exxon when it became clear that the area’s groundwater, which supplies homeowners’ wells and household needs, had been contaminated by the leak.
–The Baltimore Sun

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