Environmental reporter Josephine Marcotty writes about our place in nature through her coverage of the outdoors, wildlife, pollution and sustainability.

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Public can weigh in on Lake Pepin

Posted by: Josephine Marcotty Updated: February 28, 2012 - 3:42 PM

The Mississippi River from Fort Snelling to Lake Pepin used to be clear enough to grow all kinds of water plants and fish. But in the last 100 years, it changed. Now, the state has completed a two-decade long analysis of where most of the sediment that clouds the water is coming from -- the Minnesota River.

Starting this week the public has a chance to weigh in on the the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's analysis. It's a critical point in the long, long process to clean up the river under the guidance of the Federal Clean Water Act.Once this public comment period closes on April 27  the hard part starts. Each county, town and township in this great watershed will have to figure out how to do their part in reducing sediment run off.

To learn more you can attend an open house on the report March 29, from noon to 9 p.m., at the St. James Hotel in Red Wing. 



Star Tribune photo


 Nearly half of the state drains into lower part of the Mississippi, along with  parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin --  nearly 50,000 square miles in all. To get there, water flows through hundreds of miles of ditches, streams and rivers  from northern Minnesota, the rich farmland of the southern part of the state and from the Twin Cities. The sediment that pours in as well, which is rapidly filling in Lake Pepin and killing plant and aquatic life, comes from all sorts of land uses.

But the vast majority comes from land that drain the vast corn and soybean fields in central and western Minnesota. Here is how much sediment must be reduced -- the proverbial pollution diet -- in order to restore the river to what it once was, according to the state's analysis, or Total Maximum Daily Load.

• 60 percent from the Minnesota River during high and very high flows; 50 percent during average and low flows

• 50 percent from the Cannon River

• 20 percent from the Upper Mississippi River

• 25 percent from urban runoff

• 20 percent from smaller rivers and streams in Minnesota and Wisconsin that flow directly into the river.

The deadline for comments, which must be in writing, is 4:30 p.m. on April 27. Submit them to  Bob Finley, 12 Civic Center Dr., Ste. 2165, Mankato, MN 56001 (fax 507-389-5422, email robert.finley@state.mn.us). Finley can be reached by phone at 507-344-5247 or 800-657-3864.

Written comments must include a statement of your interest in the report; a statement of the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the draft report you believe should be changed; and specific reasons for your position.

Feds have plan to fight bat pandemic

Posted by: Josephine Marcotty Updated: May 17, 2011 - 11:54 AM

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today unveiled a national management plan to address the threat posed by
white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than a million hibernating bats in eastern North America since it was
discovered near Albany, New York in 2006.
“Having spread to 18 states and four Canadian provinces, white-nose syndrome threatens far-reaching ecological and
economic impacts,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.




A brown bat photographed in Wisconsin


The National Plan for Assisting States, Tribes and Federal Agencies in Managing White-Nose Syndrome in Bats provides a coordinated national management strategy for investigating the cause of the syndrome and finding a means to prevent the spread of the disease, which has not yet reached Minnesota or the upper Midwest. The service considered approximately 17,000 comments received on the draft plan made available to the public in October 2010.
Since the syndrome was first documented, the service has been leading a national response that now includes more
than 100 state and federal agencies, tribes, organizations and individuals.
Interior Department agencies have invested more than $10.8 million in this effort since 2007. This includes more than $3 million in research funding that is supporting ongoing research projects looking for methods to control or
cure the disease.
Researchers working with the U.S. Geological Survey have identified Geomyces destructans, a fungus new to science,
as the presumed causative agent.
In addition to research, the national response has also developed decontamination protocols to reduce the transmission of the fungus, surveillance strategies, and technical white-nose syndrome diagnostic procedures.
Bat populations are at risk in some areas of the country as a result of white-nose syndrome. Ecologists and natural
resource managers are concerned because of the critical role that bats play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and in
agricultural systems. A recent analysis published in Science magazine’s Policy Forum showed that pest-control
services provided by insect-eating bats save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources last year stepped up its summer bat monitoring program to target the two caves in the state with large bat populations -- Soudan Mine in northern Minnesota and Mystery Cave in
southeastern Minnesota. 
It hasn't been detected in the Upper Midwest, but the disease traveled more than 500 miles in about two years --
perhaps spread by bats but also possibly spread by humans who have visited caves.
Wildlife officials in Wisconsin have begun an aggressive bat survey to determine whether populations have been
affected by white nose syndrome yet. So far it hasn't been confirmed there.


Details on the national plan can be found at http://www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome.



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