Register now at this link so meetings with your legislators can be set up! Bus transportation provided from multiple sites outside the Twin Cities! The threats to Minnesota's waters are real this session - make your voice heard!
What are the threats? Read this from US News and World Reports: Bills on Wild Rice, Pipeline, Nitrates Advance at Capitol .)
What: Water Action Day 2018
Where: Christ Lutheran Church - 105 University Ave W, St. Paul, MN 55103 and the Capitol
When: Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Schedule: (Greater MN buses arrive throughout the morning)
- Complimentary breakfast: 8:00 – 10:00 am
- Citizen lobbying 101 (repeating sessions) 8:30, 9:25, 10:20 am
- Drop-in policy briefings (multiple topics): 9:00 - Noon
- Meetings with your representatives: throughout the day*
- Complimentary lunch: 11:00 – 1:00 pm
- Rally in the Rotunda at 2:00 pm
- Youth Summit with Governor Dayton: TBD
Why: Because now is the time to #ProtectOurWater!
* Our team will schedule small group constituent meetings with each legislator (House and Senate) to occur during the day. Participation in these meetings is highly encouraged for all Water Action Day attendees.
Bus transportation: Buses are being coordinated from multiple locations across Greater Minnesota, including Houston, Austin, Duluth, Detroit Lakes and more! Please reserve your spot on your preferred bus route when you register.
Parking: Parking information (both free and low cost) and transit information is included in your registration confirmation email.
Donations: Donations are gladly accepted to help offset the cost of this event. You may donate online by selecting the 'Donation Ticket' as you register, or day-of at the registration table.
Additional Information: Organizers will distribute additional information, including schedules, transportation options, policy highlights and more, to all participants in advance of Water Action Day.
Chicago, really? Is Chicago in the Mississippi River Watershed? Yes, at least in part. As a member of LWV Deerfield/Lincolnshire told me, the people of Chicago who get their drinking water from and rely on Lake Michigan in so many ways are also in the Mississippi River watershed because of the reversal of the Chicago River... drinking water comes from Lake Michigan and treated wastewater travels west to the Mississippi. Other rivers in Chicagoland, like the Des Plaines or Fox watersheds also flow to the Mississippi. Many Leagues in the Chicago area are members of both LWV Upper Mississippi River Region and LWV Lake Michigan Region. To these Leagues, we apologize for what I'm about to say...
The LWV Upper Mississippi River Region and LWV Lake Michigan Region are working together to sponsor an LWV water forum on June 27, the day before"the LWV US convention begins. This event, to be held at the Standard Club, is "Water: Advocating for Protection - Put your League on the Map!" . Click this link and learn more about this event, and register. And since we were all going to be together in the place where our watersheds overlap, we thought it would be a great time to have our Annual Meetings. And, as the schedules worked out, the two Annual Meetings will be held at the same time - 11:30 to 1:30 on June 27, with a buffet lunch.
Register for the event here. LWV UMRR member Leagues will be eligible for a $15 rebate per League at the door - our way to help defray costs. An email with more information will be sent to member Leagues - watch for it!
The people of Wisconsin are concerned about what’s happening to their water. This concern was shown Monday night in Stevens Point, where more than 90 people packed the Pinery Room at the Portage County Library to hear Dr. George Kraft talk about the science and policy debate around high capacity wells – read more about this event here. Dr. Kraft’s presentation was captured in an informal video on Facebook live, visit the LWV UMRR Facebook page and look under”Videos”.
Dr. Kraft is Professor Emeritus from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. His work has focused on groundwater resource sustainability, particularly about profitable agriculture and water impacts, and is involved in work to modernize Wisconsin’s groundwater pumping management policy and laws. Wisconsin’s Central Sands region is where Dr. Kraft has spent much of his career, and was the focus of his remarks Monday night.
In his talk, Dr. Kraft first talked about groundwater hydrology; explaining the connection between ground- and surface waters. When groundwater levels drop, whether from lack of recharge in dry times or from pumping from wells, surface water resources are also affected. (If the water table drops eight feet, for example, spring-fed streams that intersect the water table will also go down to the same elevation as the water table. The actual amount of drop in surface water levels depends on their normal water level elevation.) Shallower streams like minor tributaries are often dried up, and deeper water bodies will drop in water level. When the amount of cold groundwater entering a stream diminishes, the water warms. Warmer streams longer support trout and other cold-water species, meaning that groundwater depletion leads to ecological change as well.
Dr. Kraft talked about the continued expansion of farm irrigation in Wisconsin’s Central Sands. The number of high-capacity irrigation wells in this area has grown significantly, and resultant drops in the water table level have been recorded.
What is the effect of this? Dr. Kraft showed pictures of lakes and streams where water levels have dropped, which is especially dramatic in dry years. This isn’t just happening in Wisconsin – Minnesota has similar geologic terrains and similar problems. Dr. Kraft talked about the approach that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is taking in the Straight River Groundwater Management Area- read about that here. A second project in Minnesota relating to water use and depletion was reported on in this blog earlier – the Little Rock Creek study.
So, will the irrigation wells run out of water, too? Dr. Kraft said that there’s probably plenty of water for irrigation wells for years to come. Central Wisconsin is a water-rich area, receiving more than 30 inches of rain a year. Groundwater is recharged by the rain, and the aquifers here are deep. The groundwater resource will sustain heavy pumping for the foreseeable future, but the impacts on surface water will continue. It is up to the people of Wisconsin to balance theses competing values.
While Dr. Kraft’s talk focused on water quantity, water quality is also an issue in central Wisconsin. Both are addressed by the Center for Watershed Science and Management at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. Dr. Paul McGinley is the Director of this Center, Dr. Kraft is an emeritus member and Kevin Masarik, a doctoral student at UW Madison, is also part of the team. Another hydrologist will soon be hired to round out the team. Support for the Center’s staff comes primarily from UW Extension, so outreach to citizens, lake associations and others is a major part of their work.
Nitrate contamination is a real problem in Wisconsin, affecting more than 25% of all private wells. Here’s a video presentation where Kevin Masarik explains what nitrate is and explores the effects of nitrate on the environment, drinking water and groundwater. In this video, Masarik discusses data found in Wisconsin’s Well Water Viewer, which can be found at this link.
Wisconsin’s groundwater has been the subject of other posts on this blog. See “Protecting Wisconsin Well Owners and Providing Safe Water” at https://www.lwvumrr.org/blog/protecting-wisconsin-well-owners-and-providing-safe-water and “When it Hits the Fan – Groundwater Quality and Public Health” at https://www.lwvumrr.org/blog/when-it-hits-the-fan-groundwater-quality-and-public-health .
On Thursday, March 8, League of Women Voters of Brainerd (Minnesota) hosted Anna Bosch of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in a discussion of water quality on the Upper Mississippi. (The Mississippi River headwaters are in northern Minnesota and the river travels nearly a third of its length inside Minnesota. When Minnesotans talk about the “Upper Mississippi”, they mean the stretch of the river that flows from the Headwaters to just north of the Twin Cities.) Anna talked about work the MPCA is doing to identify water quality problems and threats in the Upper Mississippi, and to work with local governments to protect and improve water quality. Click here for the document that Anna used as the basis for her talk.
The first 350 miles of the river flow through forests and wetlands. Only 4% of the land is developed in this part of the basin, and 13% is in crop and pasture. Water quality in this area is very good, and the focus of the efforts here are on protecting water quality. Not only is there significant protection to the river offered by the surrounding forests but the river is spring-fed; these groundwater contributions sustain both flow and water quality in the river.
In a previous blog post, we discussed problems with groundwater depletion, stream warming and stream flow loss as well as increasing levels of nitrate in both surface and groundwater. When Anna spoke, she pointed out similar issues in the Crow Wing River Watershed. Here, lands that had been in tree plantations are being cleared and replaced by crops, primarily irrigated potatoes. This conversion removes protection for the river. Cultivating the land can increase sedimentation; fertilizers used on the crops can increase nitrate in surface and groundwater, and irrigation lowers groundwater levels which impacts the flow of groundwater into the river. This combination of changes has significant impacts on the river, and those downstream who rely on it for drinking water. According to MPCA, “for every 10% decrease in forest cover … the cost of water treatment for downstream communities increases by 20%.”
The Upper Upper Mississippi is a river with excellent water quality in the river and most of the lakes in its watershed. It flows through the land of cabins and resorts; recreational fishing and water recreation in winter and summer is a major industry. Land uses here are changing which will result in changes in this river. Numerous challenges face Minnesotans as they balance growth and development with recreational uses and drinking water needs.
Text following from USEPA Press Release Dated March 7, 2018
CHICAGO (March 7, 2018) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the release of the United States’ domestic action plan for reducing phosphorus, a major contributor to harmful algal blooms, in Lake Erie. The plan outlines federal and state efforts to achieve the binational phosphorus reduction targets adopted by the United States and Canada in 2016 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
"Today’s action plan is a significant step in fulfilling our commitment to protecting the health of Lake Erie,” said Great Lakes National Program Manager and Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp. “EPA is working with federal and state partners to ensure local communities and economies continue to benefit from this vital resource.”
The United States committed to reduce phosphorus nutrient sources by 40 percent, a reduction of 7.3 million pounds. Today’s action plan summarizes the actions federal agencies and states are taking across the Lake Erie basin and provides a mechanism for tracking progress.
While the bulk of the phosphorus reductions will come from sources in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, all five states in the basin are committed to taking action to reduce nutrient loadings and minimize problems of excessive algal growth. The U.S. plan presents a coordinated approach to link and expand the efforts across the states to achieve the nutrient goals in the basin. Additionally, the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania each submitted individual action plans that describe specific phosphorus reduction measures in more detail.
Excessive algal growth poses substantial threats to both Lake Erie’s ecosystem and human health. More than 10 million people rely on the lake for clean drinking water, swimming and fishing opportunities. In the last decade, harmful and nuisance algal growth in the lake has increased significantly due to storms that deliver high levels of nutrients from major rivers. Recurring algal blooms and associated “dead zones” (oxygen-depleted areas created when algae die and decompose) threaten drinking water quality and Lake Erie’s critical $12.9 billion tourism industry and world class fishery.
EPA engaged stakeholders in the development of the domestic action plan in August and September 2017 through in-person engagement sessions with targeted stakeholder groups.
The U.S. Action Plan can be accessed here: www.epa.gov/glwqa/
The full suite of U.S., state and Canada-Ontario domestic action plans can be accessed here: https://binational.net/annexes/a4/
Did you know that lakes and streams dry up when groundwater levels fall? It's all a system, you know, and each supports the other. The LWV Upper Mississippi River Region April Board and educational meeting will be held in Stevens Point, WI, on April 2. LWV Stevens Point Area has set up Dr. George Kraft to talk about groundwater-surface water interactions, and what that means for both resources when people mess around with the system. This event in Stevens Point will help us understand how this works, and what it means in terms of policy options and decisions.
UMRR's Board meets at locations around the watershed on the first Monday of each even-numbered month. We partner with local Leagues to co-host an educational event with each meeting.
In October, we met at the Mississippi Headwaters in northern Minnesota, and had a speaker from the Minnesota Department of Health talk about nitrate in drinking water. December's meeting was in Dubuque, and a speaker from the Great River Museum joined us.
April 2 the Board will be meeting in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The Board meeting will be in the afternoon at the Portage County Library. Our agenda will be posted on this website, and all are welcome. But the big show will be in the evening - Dr. George Kraft, UW Professor Emeritus, will talk about the science and policy implications of heavy groundwater use. This meeting is free and open to the public. Join us!
Many thanks to LWV Stevens Point for their work in setting this up!
Join with Leagues from across the country for on June 27, 2018 from 2-8 PM for WATER; ADVOCATING FOR PROTECTION- PUT YOUR LEAGUE ON THE MAP! This exciting event will be held in the Chicago Loop adjacent to Lake Michigan, the second largest Great Lake by volume and the only Great Lake entirely in the US.
Two years ago, LWV Lake Michigan Region and LWV Upper Mississippi River Region joined with other Leagues to host a Water Caucus at the LWV US convention in Washington, DC. Hundreds of LWV conventioneers attended that Water Caucus. Building on that momentum, these two Inter League Organizations are hosting the 2018 Water Forum on June 27 in Chicago, the day before the LWV US convention, titled "Water: Advocating for Protection - Put your League on the Map!" Click here to register!
In this afternoon of potent talks, you will learn what LWV has done in the past, and is doing currently, to leverage LWV’s power and connections to protect water. This proud history gives us a firm foundation to address today’s problems at all levels of government and has given our country a strong legal foundation of water regulations and agencies that protect water. Now more than ever, we need to maintain and leverage the momentum of the Clean Water Act at a time of changing regulations and funding.
We will be meeting at the historic Standard Club which was established in 1869 and is five star rated club., located at 320 South Plymouth Court, one block from State Street, three blocks from Michigan Avenue. Rooms are available to workshop attendees at the Standard Club - these rooms are discounted for our attendees, and can be used for the duration of the LWV US convention, which is being held at the the Hilton Chicago just 10 blocks away.
This will be a day focused on water protection, what Leagues around the country are doing in their local areas, and the threats posed by the unraveling of the safety net for water users provided in the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Come to Chicago for this event - stay for LWV US Convention!
Schedule for the Day
11:30-1:30 - Annual Meetings for LWV Upper Mississippi River Region and LWV Lake Michigan Region, buffet luncheon included. While this is intended for member Leagues of these two ILO's, others who are interested in the work being done are welcome to attend.
2:00 - Welcome - Krista Grimm, President, LWVLMR
2:10 - LWV History of Water Protection - Jeanette Neagu, LWVLMR Board Member
2:20 - LWV Takes on Today’s Water Issues – Lightning Round
Introduction Gretchen Sabel, Chair, LWVUMRR
Speakers from 6 local Leagues from around the country share their success in advocating
for the common good on water issues
3:30 - Break
3:45 - Threats Abound, What Tools Do We Have?
Introduction Judy Beck, LWVUMRR & LWVLMR Board Member
The Internet of Water, Speaker from US Geological Survey (invited)
4:45 - Discussion & Wrap Up
Banquet and Keynote:
5:00 - Networking for Banquet Attendees
6:00 - Banquet, with Keynote speaker Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Mr. Learner and the ELPC litigates and advocates for the environment, leading progress on regional issues - most recently getting the Ohio EPA to reverse it's position and designate Lake Erie as "impaired". The Ohio EPA’s reversal of its position is the key first step. The next steps will be enforceable pollution limits and meaningful actions to reduce agricultural runoff of phosphorus and nitrates, principally from fertilizer and manure, into the Maumee River system that flows into Maumee Bay and causes algae blooms in western Lake Erie. Under Mr. Learner's leadership, ELPC is fighting back and playing to win. ELPC’s effective strategic litigation and public advocacy are more vital than ever to confront the current Administration’s anti-environmental agenda in the Midwest.
Attendees can register for each segment of the day separately - click here to access the registration page. We hope that as many people as possible attend both the workshop and banquet - there's even a price break for those who attend both!
Below - Howard Learner and the staff of the Environmental Law and Policy Center
Algae stinks. It clogs up waterways and secretes toxins that are dangerous to humans and our pets. It’s also a vital part of ecosystems, a necessary base of the food chain. When nutrient pollution, particularly phosphorus, increases in a water body, excessive algae growth occurs, which results in stinky, dangerous problems.
Algae blooms form dense mats on lakes, rivers and streams, affecting drinking water sources and water recreation. An 2014 algae bloom in Toledo, Ohio, (shown above) shut down their water supply, leaving the city of more than 400,000 people without water for several days. Circle of Blue, a website devoted to water issues, provides background information on toxic algae blooms. We wrote about that in this blog post in January 2017.
Rivers and streams in Wisconsin are affected, too. At the LWV UMRR Annual Meeting in May, 2017, Kim Wright from Midwest Environmental Advocates talked about excessive algae that chokes the Red Cedar River in Menomonie –read about what she said and see the video of Kim’s presentation here.
Thanks to the 2007 and 2016 “Pontoons and Politics” efforts of the Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards an advocacy group in central Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Legislature appropriated funds for the Department of Natural Resources to develop a plan to address nutrient pollution, and the resulting algae blooms, on the river. This article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides more information on this work, as well as a video on the dangers of blue green algae.
This plan is now open for public comment. It calls for a significant reduction of phosphorus to the Wisconsin River, to be achieved over time. The DNR website for this project provides copies of the plan and information on how to comment. This work is mandated by Clean Water Act provisions requiring states to list water bodies whose use is impaired by pollution, detail its sources and suggest limits on future pollution.
On January 20, 2018, people gathered in Boscobel, Wisconsin to talk and learn about the unique geology of the Driftless area,* and how this fragility requires extra protection. The main focus of this session was the advent of large animal feeding operations in the Driftless area and what these can mean to water resources. The sessions at this workshop were video'ed by Daniel Folkman, who has made them available to the public on his YouTube feed. Thanks, Daniel, for your work!
Blog editor's note: This workshop was aimed at opposing the expansion of large animal agriculture in the Driftless area. The talks are not balanced by other viewpoints, and do not necessarily represent the views of LWV Upper Mississippi River Region. We present this here to share this information with our audience. The purpose of LWV Upper Mississippi River Region is to protect and enhance water quality in the Mississippi River, it's tributaries and groundwater in the watershed. We believe that ALL activities in the watershed should be protective of this precious resource.
*The Driftless area is found where Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois intersect. Here, deep valleys and steep slopes make the landscape dramatically different from other Midwestern vistas. This area was not covered by glaciers like the rest of the region, so the soil is much more shallow and bedrock is exposed in many areas. Water resources are abundant here, both surface and groundwater, but the shallow soil means that there is little protection for the water from land surface activities. The Mississippi River is the heart of this region, flowing from north to south. This Wikipedia reference provides a more detail on this region.
Please join LWV Upper Mississippi River Region and the Land Stewardship Project in a workshop for farmland owners, retired farm men & women, and those inheriting a farmland investment. "Farmland Ownership and Rental: Managing for Stewardship". What is your vision for your farmland?
Key discussion points at these workshops: - What is the farmland legacy you will leave for the next generation? - Enhancing the productive value of farmland. - Balancing short-term returns with investing in farmland as a productive asset. - What’s the relationship between soil health, water quality & climate change? - Creating opportunities for young farmers on the land.
If you are an owner of farmland who rents out the land for farming, this event is for you! Lunch provided. Two dates for this workshop are currently scheduled and more may be added. Registration links:
Golden Valley: https://landstewardshipproject.org/events/item/1124
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||