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  • 12 Jan 2015 11:18 AM | Anonymous

    Des Moines Water Works to Sue Counties


    The board of the state's largest water utility has voted unanimously to sue three northern Iowa counties, holding them responsible for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water. Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Bill Stowe says there have been significant peaks in nitrate levels throughout the last three years.

    Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works, discusses why the state's largest water utility is suing counties in Iowa.
    Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works, discusses why the state's largest water utility is suing counties in Iowa.
    Credit Photo by John Pemble

    “Unfortunately in a context where there’s a lot of discussion about volunteerism and conservation practices that will take flight voluntarily by farmers learning more about it,” Stowe says. “We’re still seeing the public water supply in central Iowa directly risked by high nitrate concentrations.”

    The five-member board says it will file a notice of intent to sue Calhoun, Buena Vista and Sac counties, which oversee 10 drainage districts that were designed to move water out of farm fields downstream. The suit will allege the drainage districts move contaminants like nitrates the Water Works must remove when levels exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits.

    “There is no evidence that the regulatory scheme ultimately sought by Des Moines Water Works will improve water quality,” says Tom Oswald, the president of the Iowa Soybean Association.

    A notice of intent Friday notifies the county supervisors and state officials that a lawsuit will be filed in 60 days.

     

  • 23 Dec 2014 1:09 PM | Anonymous

    Oregon Department of Agriculture to Monitor Water Quality and Require Farmers to Reduce Pollution


    http://www.capitalpress.com/Water/20141222/farm-regulators-increase-scrutiny-of-water-quality


    Capital Press

    Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press Julie DiLeone, rural lands program supervisor for the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, explains the importance of streamside vegetation during a recent field tour of Johnson Creek near Portland, Ore. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is expanding a program aimed at water quality compliance among landowners, which may drive them to seek help from soil and water conservation districts.


    Increased scrutiny of water quality by Oregon's agriculture experts may convince landowners to voluntarily improve stream conditions on their properties.

    A project aimed at restoring riparian habitat along several creeks in Oregon’s Multnomah County has hit a roadblock.

    Despite numerous entreaties from the local soil and water conservation district, most landowners have refused free streamside tree planting that would reduce temperatures in the creek.

    “Some people are just not interested in having someone else working on their property,” said Julie DiLeone, rural lands program supervisor for the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.

    Even though the trees are planted at no charge, people are reluctant to have crews come onto their land and to relinquish control over the management of streamsides, she said.

    Only about 25-30 percent of stream miles targeted by the district are enrolled in the restoration program, DiLeone said.

    “We don’t know if that’s going to be enough or not” to bring down temperatures, she said.

    Increased scrutiny of water quality by Oregon’s agriculture regulators may help the state’s soil and water conservation districts overcome such resistance among landowners.

    The Oregon Department of Agriculture plans to expand its oversight of streams and rivers that flow through agricultural lands next year, which may spur interest in voluntary riparian improvement projects, experts say.

    “If more people come in the door, at least in our district, that’s great because we have the capacity to help more people,” said Laura Masterson, an organic farmer and board member of the East Multnomah S&WCD.

    For decades, the agency’s strategy for compliance with the federal Clean Water Act on farmland was largely complaint-driven, said John Byers, manager of ODA’s agricultural water quality program.

    This method is only reliable to a point, however, since some water quality problems undefined like manure piles near waterways or streams denuded of vegetation undefined may never be reported, he said.

    “Neighbors don’t always want to turn in neighbors,” said Byers.

    About two years ago, ODA decided to “self-initiate” compliance with water quality rules, relying on publicly available information like aerial photographs and topographical maps, to identify potential problem areas and notify the landowners.

    Since the agency doesn’t have the resources to conduct in-depth monitoring of the whole state, the new approach was first tested in Wasco and Clackamas counties.

    “We can’t be out on everybody’s ground in every month of the year,” said Doug Krahmer, a blueberry farmer and member of the Oregon Board of Agriculture, which advises ODA.

    In mid-2015, ODA intends to roll out the program in six to 12 new “strategic implementation areas” once Byers prioritizes where water quality improvements are most needed.

    The decision is heartening for conservationist groups like the Oregon Environmental Council, which say the program will help ODA defend its water compliance efforts in the future.

    “It sounds like the outreach they did has been really effective,” said Allison Hensey, agriculture and watersheds program director at OEC. “I really hope they will do a lot more in the future now that they’ve worked out a few kinks and learned some things.”

    Water quality degradation from agricultural activity is often related to a lack of vegetation, as bare ground can cause sediment runoff into streams and a lack of trees and shrubs may destabilize streambanks and raise water temperatures, Byers said.

    The new compliance approach has worked in Clackamas and Wasco counties, where ODA sent letters to landowners letting them know water conditions on their properties were being evaluated, he said.

    The agency also told landowners of particular water quality concerns and advised them to fix the problem, he said. For example, ODA had significant or serious concerns about four parcels in Wasco County, and the notice convinced the owners to take action.

    “It’s about compliance, not enforcement,” Byers said. “We have that regulatory backstop but we have been successful in not having to use it.”

    ODA simply tells landowners they can’t pollute but the solution is up to them. For technical assistance, though, they can seek help from their local soil and water conservation district.

    Although the districts can help landowners achieve compliance, it’s important to note they don’t have a regulatory function, said Masterson, who also serves on the Oregon Board of Agriculture.

    The distinction is important because people shouldn’t be afraid to come to districts for help, she said. “That firewall is critical.”

    While there has been concern that landowner requests for assistance may overwhelm some smaller districts, it’s probably wise to cross that bridge when we come to it, said Krahmer, a board member of the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District. “To date, there has been no evidence that is the case.”

  • 25 Nov 2014 2:06 PM | Anonymous

    Farm Practices Can Affect Runoff and Flooding

    By Kevin Strauss, Zumbro Watershed Partnership

     

    If you lived here in 2010, you probably remember the September 22-24 rains and the devastating 2010 Zumbro River Flood. The deluge dropped 8-10 inches of rain on wet soils, leading to over $64 million in damage and the loss of over 80 homes in southeast Minnesota along several rivers. And while there’s been a lot of coverage about the impacts of the flood on the communities of Pine Island, Zumbro Falls, and Hammond, there’s been less coverage of flood impacts on area farmers and on what some local farmers are doing to “Slow the Flow” of rainwater to let it soak into their fields and reduce future flooding events.

     

    The Problem:

    First, the bad news, in Dodge, Olmsted, Goodhue, and Wabasha Counties, farmers sustained thousands of dollars in crop damage, not to mention soil erosion, new gullies, and the new sand that covered floodplain fields.

     

    The speed with which rainfall goes from land to river depends on what the rain runs into. Rain that falls on grassland, pasture, forests, wetlands, and what Mazeppa Farmer Rod Sommerfield calls “healthy farm soil,” tends to soak into the soil and move slowly to the river. But rain that lands on most row crop fields and cities hard surfaces (pavement and roofs) flows quickly to the river. If too much rain flows too quickly to the Zumbro River, we get a flood.

     

    According to the National Weather Service, flooding events in southeastern Minnesota are becoming larger and more frequent over the last 100 years. From 1891 to 1930, the Zumbro had one major flood. From 1931 to 1970 it had six major floods. From 1971 to 2010, it had 7 major floods.

     

    One problem with flooding for rural landowners is that they can do everything “right” on their own land by using cover crops and building erosion control structures, but that might not be enough. According to Jim Hruska, retired Dodge Soil and Water Conservation District technician, if upstream landowners don’t control their runoff, downstream farmers are hit hard by overwhelming runoff from upstream farms.

     

    “You can’t stop a flood once it reaches Zumbro Falls,” said Pine Island Crop and Dairy Farmer Rick Alberts, who saw his fields flood in 2010. “We need to capture water on all the little creeks and gullies upstream.”

     

    Alberts would like to see more “mini-dams” or embankments up higher in the watershed, uphill from his farm. These dams, usually installed at the head of gullies create temporary ponds and slow the water as it drains to the Zumbro River. This slow release of water is less likely to erode soils, carry pollutants, or add additional water to rain-swollen rivers and streams.

     

    According to Alberts one of the reasons that we don’t see more of these small dams on farmland is the cost. According to Olmsted County Soil and Water Conservation District staff, these structures can cost $30,000 and even though the State of Minnesota offers a 75% cost share, (when funding is available), that still means a landowner would have to come up with the remaining amount to hold that water on their farm.

     

    Healthier Soils Could Reduce Flooding, Erosion

    In some cases, farmers assume that the only way to reduce runoff is to take at least some land out of production by constructing ponds or installing terraces and grassed waterways. But according to one Wabasha-area farmer, there are ways to both farm the land and soak up rainfall.

     

    While many farmers saw rutted fields, eroded waterways, and damaged dams after the September 2010 rains, Rod Sommerfield, a row crop farmer near Mazeppa was pleasantly surprised by when he saw his fields after the rain.

     

    “The water didn’t run. It just soaked into the ground. No gullies, no erosion,” said Sommerfield.

     

    “Since 1988, we’ve had four big rain events (over 6 inches). In the first three events, with 6-7 inches of rain, we saw thousands of gallons of water flow over our dam’s spillway. So when we got 13 inches of rain in September (2010), I thought we’d see a lot of damage. But when I got to the dam, there wasn’t any water flowing over the spillway,” said Sommerfield.

     

    What changed?

     

     Sommerfield’s farming methods.

     

    Starting in 2000, he had started farming his over 500 acres of conventional corn and soybean fields differently. Using strip-till and no-till farming practices that increase his soil’s organic material, increase water permeability, and increase overall “soil health” he has made his soil more porous and helped his soil particles stick together so it doesn’t wash out of the field and into the river.

     

    “Healthy soil infiltrates 85 percent of the water that rains on it, so only 15 percent runs off, “ said Sommerfield. “Unhealthy soil might only infiltrate 15 percent of a rainstorm, letting 85 percent run off.”

     

    What’s more, according to Sommerfield, he’s seeing that healthier soil means up to 50 percent lower input costs for crop returns that rival the other conventional methods farmers use in the region.

     

    Healthier farm soils are good for the farmer and good for the Zumbro River, so why is this kind of farming so rare? It’s more work to farm the way that Sommerfield farms. It can also take four years of lower crop returns to go from conventional, unhealthy, low organic material soil to healthier, higher organic material soil. When row crop prices are at record highs, it can be hard to convince farmers to change farming operations that could be perceived to only benefit neighbors “downstream.”



  • 21 Oct 2014 9:52 AM | Anonymous

    RAKE FOR THE SAKE OF OUR RIVERS AND LAKES

     

    Megan Duffey Moeller – Storm Water Educator, City of Rochester Public Works Department

     

    No matter how pretty, autumn’s falling leaves are not welcomed by their aquatic neighbors. If they fall or are raked onto the street, they will get washed into storm sewers and carried into our lakes and streams. As they decompose, phosphorus is released (the nutrient that turns our lakes and rivers green with algae) and oxygen is removed from the water. Just five 20-pound bags of leaves contain about one pound of phosphorus, which over time can fuel as much as 1,000 pounds of noxious algae blooms (Source: Freshwater Society).

     

    In natural settings, phosphorus in fallen leaves is recycled back into the soil. But this recycling system is bypassed in urban areas where hard surfaces are connected to storm sewers. Even when residents live blocks away from a lake or river, the runoff from their yard and street eventually reaches local water bodies.

     

    Keeping streets clean is one helpful way to keep our water clean. Raking leaves from the curbs and cleaning off storm drains will prevent leaves from traveling to waterways. In addition to degrading water quality, leaves can be a traffic hazard and they can cause flooding if they obstruct drainage ways or plug culverts, storm drains, or inlets and outlets to storm ponds. 

     

    Fall leaves aren’t only a problem on the streets. Residents should not dump large piles of leaves onto hillsides, drainage ways, or public lands. Unless they are actively managed, piles of leaves cannot decompose readily. As they slowly rot, they can attract nuisance insects and animals. They can also block runoff or get washed downstream with storms, becoming a nuisance for the people and places below.

     

    What you can do to help “Keep It Clean” this Fall:

    · Keep leaves out of the street, storm drains, and public lands.

    · Mulch leaves in your yard or make a backyard compost site for them.

    · Remove debris from the storm drain if rain is on its way. This will help prevent the drain from being clogged.

    · Grass, like leaves, will decompose and release phosphorus into the waterways. Sweep up clippings from all hard surfaces including sidewalks, driveways, and the streets.

     

  • 23 Sep 2014 10:40 AM | Anonymous

    Most Zumbro Watershed Counties Get Low Grades for Riverbank Protection

                 According to the Environmental Working Group, a community and environmental health research nonprofit, many Zumbro Watershed Counties get low grades for enforcement of the buffer zone rule, the requirement to maintain 50 feet of perennial plants on river and stream banks.

    Minnesota implemented the rule to reduce sediment, erosion, and chemical pollution from corn and soybean farm fields that sometimes extend to the edge of our public waterways. A grass “buffer” acts as a filter to keep soil and agricultural chemicals out of area rivers and lakes. But it only works if farmers install the buffers, and in about 1/3 of cases, farmers only install buffers if county staff remind them about the requirement and enforce violations. But in an era of budget cuts, county staff may not have time for yet another duty. There is currently no penalty for counties who don’t enforce the buffer ordinance.

    Dodge county led the region with a B, Olmsted County got a C and both Goodhue and Wabasha counties received a D in the report.  You can download and read the report at: http://www.ewg.org/research/broken-stream-banks

     

  • 18 Sep 2014 2:00 PM | Anonymous
    While Agriculture Industry Pollution is the overwhelming source of fertilizer and soil pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, state agriculture industry groups are fighting back against the EPA's attempts to regulate these sources of pollution.


    Currently agricultural businesses are exempt from the federal Clean Water Act, but that could change once the public realizes that farm pollution (mostly from chicken farms and other high-density animal feedlots) is responsible for over 60% of pollution in Chesapeake Bay.

     


    http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/24035/

    In late July, Washington Post reporter Darryl Fears wrote an article, “Alarming ‘dead zone’ grows in Chesapeake” that summarized the concern of Virginia and Maryland officials who “said the expanding area of oxygen-starved water is on track to become the bay’s largest ever.”

    A dead zone is created when excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus enter a waterway in quantities sufficient to lead to the rapid growth of algae, competing with other aquatic life for the available oxygen. As Fears puts it, “dead zones suck out oxygen from deep waters and kill any marine life that can’t get out of the way.”

    The water quality problems in the Chesapeake Bay have a long history. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture June 2014 Economic Research Report Number 166, “An Economic Assessment of Policy Options To Reduce Agricultural Pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay” by Marc Ribaudo, Jeffrey Savage and Marcel Aillery, the situation in 1976 was such that “Congress directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to undertake a comprehensive study of the Bay’s condition and what measures would be necessary to restore it to its former health.”

    Despite 30 years of work to improve the water quality, “a 2007 evaluation concluded that insufficient progress was being made toward load reductions.” As a result, the “U.S. EPA established a Total Maximum Daily Load for the Bay…. It sets emission limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment across the Bay jurisdictions that are believed necessary to meet applicable water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers and embayments.”

    According to the USDA report, “Agriculture is the largest contributor of nutrients and sediment to the Bay. Crop production and animal operations contributed about 38 percent of total nitrogen loads, 45 percent of total phosphorus loads and 60 percent of total sediment loads in 2007.”

    A report by the Environmental Integrity Project undefined DC Office, “Poultry’s Phosphorus Problem” says, in Maryland’s Eastern Shore watersheds, the contribution of agriculture is even greater than for the Chesapeake Bay basin as a whole. In the report, EIP writes, “agriculture is the source of 60 to 73 percent of the nitrogen and 68 to 84 percent of the phosphorus in the Eastern Shore watersheds.” Much of that comes from the 1,339 chicken farms that call the Eastern Shore home. These farms generate “over 1 billion pounds of manure containing an estimated 30.2 million pounds of phosphorus in Eastern Shore watersheds.”

    In late 2013, a couple of farm-related organizations and a home builder association filed an appeal of a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that the EPA was operating within its legal authority to work with the states contributing water to the Chesapeake Bay to set limits on the discharge of nutrients and sediments into the bay.

    While point sources of pollution such as industrial plants and municipal wastewater treatment plants can be regulated by the EPA, agricultural discharge of water is exempt from regulation by the EPA. In general, agricultural activity is a nonpoint source of pollution. Water coming off agricultural land can, however, be regulated by the states, thus the lawsuit against the current process by which the EPA sets the limits for the affected states which the states then allocate among polluters, including agriculture. Some in the agricultural community believe the appeal of the Philadelphia Court’s decision questions the authority of the EPA to effectively determine where farms can operate and homes can be built.

    Whether or not the appellants prevail in the legal courtroom, they are likely to lose in the court of public opinion when John Q. and Jane Public read about the extent to which agriculture contributes to the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. A change in public opinion could lead to action by Congress that would eliminate agriculture’s exemption under the Clean Water Act.

    A better solution would be for agricultural organizations to get out ahead of the problem by designing and implementing programs and systems that will enable agriculture to meet increasingly stringent nutrient and sediment discharge limits. This likely will require public financial support, but with a proactive strategy to solving pollution problems that affect everyone, the chances of gaining that support are enhanced.

    Editor’s note: Ray is the director of the University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center. Schaffer is a Research assistant professor at APAC.

    Tags:

    - See more at: http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/24035/#sthash.555L5TOy.dpuf

    Chesapeake Bay, EPA and agriculture

    In late July, Washington Post reporter Darryl Fears wrote an article, “Alarming ‘dead zone’ grows in Chesapeake” that summarized the concern of Virginia and Maryland officials who “said the expanding area of oxygen-starved water is on track to become the bay’s largest ever.”

    By: Daryll E. Ray and Harwood Schaffer, Agweek

    In late July, Washington Post reporter Darryl Fears wrote an article, “Alarming ‘dead zone’ grows in Chesapeake” that summarized the concern of Virginia and Maryland officials who “said the expanding area of oxygen-starved water is on track to become the bay’s largest ever.”

    A dead zone is created when excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus enter a waterway in quantities sufficient to lead to the rapid growth of algae, competing with other aquatic life for the available oxygen. As Fears puts it, “dead zones suck out oxygen from deep waters and kill any marine life that can’t get out of the way.”

    The water quality problems in the Chesapeake Bay have a long history. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture June 2014 Economic Research Report Number 166, “An Economic Assessment of Policy Options To Reduce Agricultural Pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay” by Marc Ribaudo, Jeffrey Savage and Marcel Aillery, the situation in 1976 was such that “Congress directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to undertake a comprehensive study of the Bay’s condition and what measures would be necessary to restore it to its former health.”

    Despite 30 years of work to improve the water quality, “a 2007 evaluation concluded that insufficient progress was being made toward load reductions.” As a result, the “U.S. EPA established a Total Maximum Daily Load for the Bay…. It sets emission limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment across the Bay jurisdictions that are believed necessary to meet applicable water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers and embayments.”

    According to the USDA report, “Agriculture is the largest contributor of nutrients and sediment to the Bay. Crop production and animal operations contributed about 38 percent of total nitrogen loads, 45 percent of total phosphorus loads and 60 percent of total sediment loads in 2007.”

    A report by the Environmental Integrity Project undefined DC Office, “Poultry’s Phosphorus Problem” says, in Maryland’s Eastern Shore watersheds, the contribution of agriculture is even greater than for the Chesapeake Bay basin as a whole. In the report, EIP writes, “agriculture is the source of 60 to 73 percent of the nitrogen and 68 to 84 percent of the phosphorus in the Eastern Shore watersheds.” Much of that comes from the 1,339 chicken farms that call the Eastern Shore home. These farms generate “over 1 billion pounds of manure containing an estimated 30.2 million pounds of phosphorus in Eastern Shore watersheds.”

    In late 2013, a couple of farm-related organizations and a home builder association filed an appeal of a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that the EPA was operating within its legal authority to work with the states contributing water to the Chesapeake Bay to set limits on the discharge of nutrients and sediments into the bay.

    While point sources of pollution such as industrial plants and municipal wastewater treatment plants can be regulated by the EPA, agricultural discharge of water is exempt from regulation by the EPA. In general, agricultural activity is a nonpoint source of pollution. Water coming off agricultural land can, however, be regulated by the states, thus the lawsuit against the current process by which the EPA sets the limits for the affected states which the states then allocate among polluters, including agriculture. Some in the agricultural community believe the appeal of the Philadelphia Court’s decision questions the authority of the EPA to effectively determine where farms can operate and homes can be built.

    Whether or not the appellants prevail in the legal courtroom, they are likely to lose in the court of public opinion when John Q. and Jane Public read about the extent to which agriculture contributes to the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. A change in public opinion could lead to action by Congress that would eliminate agriculture’s exemption under the Clean Water Act.

    A better solution would be for agricultural organizations to get out ahead of the problem by designing and implementing programs and systems that will enable agriculture to meet increasingly stringent nutrient and sediment discharge limits. This likely will require public financial support, but with a proactive strategy to solving pollution problems that affect everyone, the chances of gaining that support are enhanced.

    Editor’s note: Ray is the director of the University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center. Schaffer is a Research assistant professor at APAC.

    Tags:

    - See more at: http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/24035/#sthash.555L5TOy.dpuf

    Chesapeake Bay, EPA and agriculture

    In late July, Washington Post reporter Darryl Fears wrote an article, “Alarming ‘dead zone’ grows in Chesapeake” that summarized the concern of Virginia and Maryland officials who “said the expanding area of oxygen-starved water is on track to become the bay’s largest ever.”

    By: Daryll E. Ray and Harwood Schaffer, Agweek

    In late July, Washington Post reporter Darryl Fears wrote an article, “Alarming ‘dead zone’ grows in Chesapeake” that summarized the concern of Virginia and Maryland officials who “said the expanding area of oxygen-starved water is on track to become the bay’s largest ever.”

    A dead zone is created when excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus enter a waterway in quantities sufficient to lead to the rapid growth of algae, competing with other aquatic life for the available oxygen. As Fears puts it, “dead zones suck out oxygen from deep waters and kill any marine life that can’t get out of the way.”

    The water quality problems in the Chesapeake Bay have a long history. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture June 2014 Economic Research Report Number 166, “An Economic Assessment of Policy Options To Reduce Agricultural Pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay” by Marc Ribaudo, Jeffrey Savage and Marcel Aillery, the situation in 1976 was such that “Congress directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to undertake a comprehensive study of the Bay’s condition and what measures would be necessary to restore it to its former health.”

    Despite 30 years of work to improve the water quality, “a 2007 evaluation concluded that insufficient progress was being made toward load reductions.” As a result, the “U.S. EPA established a Total Maximum Daily Load for the Bay…. It sets emission limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment across the Bay jurisdictions that are believed necessary to meet applicable water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers and embayments.”

    According to the USDA report, “Agriculture is the largest contributor of nutrients and sediment to the Bay. Crop production and animal operations contributed about 38 percent of total nitrogen loads, 45 percent of total phosphorus loads and 60 percent of total sediment loads in 2007.”

    A report by the Environmental Integrity Project undefined DC Office, “Poultry’s Phosphorus Problem” says, in Maryland’s Eastern Shore watersheds, the contribution of agriculture is even greater than for the Chesapeake Bay basin as a whole. In the report, EIP writes, “agriculture is the source of 60 to 73 percent of the nitrogen and 68 to 84 percent of the phosphorus in the Eastern Shore watersheds.” Much of that comes from the 1,339 chicken farms that call the Eastern Shore home. These farms generate “over 1 billion pounds of manure containing an estimated 30.2 million pounds of phosphorus in Eastern Shore watersheds.”

    In late 2013, a couple of farm-related organizations and a home builder association filed an appeal of a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that the EPA was operating within its legal authority to work with the states contributing water to the Chesapeake Bay to set limits on the discharge of nutrients and sediments into the bay.

    While point sources of pollution such as industrial plants and municipal wastewater treatment plants can be regulated by the EPA, agricultural discharge of water is exempt from regulation by the EPA. In general, agricultural activity is a nonpoint source of pollution. Water coming off agricultural land can, however, be regulated by the states, thus the lawsuit against the current process by which the EPA sets the limits for the affected states which the states then allocate among polluters, including agriculture. Some in the agricultural community believe the appeal of the Philadelphia Court’s decision questions the authority of the EPA to effectively determine where farms can operate and homes can be built.

    Whether or not the appellants prevail in the legal courtroom, they are likely to lose in the court of public opinion when John Q. and Jane Public read about the extent to which agriculture contributes to the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. A change in public opinion could lead to action by Congress that would eliminate agriculture’s exemption under the Clean Water Act.

    A better solution would be for agricultural organizations to get out ahead of the problem by designing and implementing programs and systems that will enable agriculture to meet increasingly stringent nutrient and sediment discharge limits. This likely will require public financial support, but with a proactive strategy to solving pollution problems that affect everyone, the chances of gaining that support are enhanced.

    Editor’s note: Ray is the director of the University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center. Schaffer is a Research assistant professor at APAC.

    Tags:

    - See more at: http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/24035/#sthash.555L5TOy.dpuf
  • 08 Sep 2014 11:21 AM | Anonymous

    Greenspace: Photo essay to focus on changes to Zumbro River


    Posted: Monday, September 8, 2014 10:41 am


    "Nothing endures but change."

    Good old Heraclitus of Ephesus might have been onto something there.


    Change is a constant. At least that's what you'll see during Brenda Wiech's presentation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Cascade Meadow.

    As part of a thesis project, Wiech, a visual artist living in Mazeppa, has photographed the changes to the waterways of the Zumbro River Valley, examining how the watercourses have changed during the last 150 years to give us the fast-moving river we have today.

    "I have photographed old farms and plowed up waterways," Wiech said. "It's a mixture of the towns and the landscapes."

    Wiech said she has focused her project on how the changes in the towns have affected the landscape.

    For example, cities like Mazeppa and Zumbro Falls used to have their own grocers, butcher shops and mercantiles. But today those towns serve more as bedroom communities for Rochester or the Twin Cities. That change has also come with more large-scale farming instead of individual farmers. And that has changed the land.

    Those individual farmers tended to have a variety of fields on their land. Some were row crops, which tend to promote faster-moving water across the landscape, and some were fields with grasses for livestock. Those grasses tended to slow the water during runoff events.

    But today, that land is planted more and more with row crops. Small waterways in the fields have been plowed under, meaning the water has nowhere it can be absorbed.

    "If you plow up this waterway, it took billions of years to create that," Wiech said. "You'll never be able to replace that. And suddenly the ground doesn't absorb the water anymore."

    Kevin Strauss, education coordinator with the Zumbro Watershed Partnership, said the facts back up what Wiech sees in her photographs.

    "Our river systems have become high pressure systems," Strauss said. "From 1910 to 1980, the flow through the Zumbro Rover has increased 40 percent."

    And if the average flow has increased, then like the circulatory system of someone with high blood pressure, any event that stresses that system will cause a problem.

    "It cuts the banks and causes erosion," he said. "The increased pressure, it either digs a deeper river or wider river. And this is happening in every river in southern Minnesota."

    And, like Wiech said, those secondary waterways used to help alleviate that stress. But today, we see topsoil erosion and increased flooding.

    "I hope that viewers are inspired by the knowledge I can bring forth," Wiech said. "I hope my work educates them and inspires them to take their own power to make positive changes."


    http://www.postbulletin.com/life/lifestyles/greenspace-photo-essay-to-focus-on-changes-to-zumbro-river/article_3922cad5-612f-5041-9ff2-cb993da34d00.html

  • 08 Sep 2014 11:15 AM | Anonymous


    Back Roads: Watershed campaign is sign of things to come


    By John Weiss, Rochester Post-Bulletin


    SALEM CORNERS undefined A web of water weaves through southeastern Minnesota. It's an intricate system of springs, tiny creeks, streams and rivers that makes up the 912,337-acre Zumbro River watershed.

    The Zumbro River is how Native Americans and early settlers often traveled. Power generated by the river or the transportation paths it offered were reasons why many towns were founded along its banks.

    At normal water levels, the Zumbro River is a place where thousands of people canoe, kayak, fish and enjoy nature. At flood stage, the river is a dangerous, devastating force of nature.

    Yet for many people, the river is nearly invisible.

    Most people can't define what a watershed is (it's all the land that drains into a river system), said Kevin Strauss, education coordinator for the Zumbro Watershed Partnership.

    That's why the Partnership has launched a public relations campaign based around a "Slow the Flow" theme. The Partnership is trying to get people in cities and rural areas to slow how much water rushes into the river, especially after rain, he said.

    Today's Zumbro is more "flashy" than in the past. It rises quickly because there's not enough grasslands and wetlands to slow down runoff.

    "We're really, really good at draining water," Strauss said.

    But that comes at a cost. The number of major floods, even taking the amount of rainfall into account, has risen dramatically in the past few decades, he said. The average flow is of the Zumbro River is 50 percent higher than a century ago.

    The first step of the Partnership's campaign is simply letting people know which creeks and rivers are where, alerting them that they live in a watershed. It goes back to a basic biological truism undefined you won't try to save a plant or animal if you don't know it exists, Strauss said.

    The Partnership was awarded a Legacy Amendment grant to put up more than 120 signs in Dodge, Goodhue and Olmsted counties (Wabasha County wasn't interested) telling passing drivers that they are crossing a certain creek or river. It has also put up bigger signs at places such as the main picnic area of Oxbow Park north of Byron with more details about the watershed and why there are more floods, he said.

    Many think that because they don't live on the banks of a stream or river, they have no impact on it, he said.

    But everything comes down to water. What you put on the land and how you use the land, no matter where, can affect the water with sediment or pollution.

    "Little bits of these problems happen all over the watershed," he said.

    The partnership plans to get people thinking about what it means to live in a watershed, he said. Little things, such as rain barrels, can help, but what's needed is large groups working together to change government policies.

    For now, however, there are the signs, the first signs of things to come.


    http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/back-roads-watershed-campaign-is-sign-of-things-to-come/article_3eff4c5d-d730-5e44-9efe-ee1b1f4c8ad3.html

  • 04 Sep 2014 5:27 PM | Anonymous

    http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2014/08/31/Corporate-farms-get-blame-as-key-water-pollution-culprit.html 

     

    Researchers in Ohio are trying to figure out where excess phosphorus is coming from in western Lake Erie. While a small amount of the chemical may be coming from urban source, the majority seems to be coming from crop fields and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). 

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Zumbro Watershed Partnership, Inc.
1485 Industrial Drive NW, Room 102
Rochester, MN 55901



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