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.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||