USDA Invites Applications for Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Projects | The Water Information Program

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: On March 29, 2013 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking applications to provide assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Funding is available from USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today’s announcement is one part of the Department’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy. “The Obama Administration continues its commitment to help our nation become more energy independent by partnering with agricultural producers and rural small businesses as they build renewable energy systems and reduce energy usage,” said Vilsack.  “These investments will not only help our farmers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs, but also provide a new potential revenue source and stabilize their operations’ bottom lines.” REAP, authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, (Farm Bill) is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption and help meet the Nation’s critical energy needs.  USDA is accepting the following applications:

Arctic or Turkish Pamukkale?

Impressive huh? Especially since it looks like the Arctic. In actuality, it is Pamukkale Turkey. The limestone reacts with the water to create travertine that gives the surrounding ridges their snowy white appearance. It was 40 degrees Celsius when this picture was taken by “jeff”. It was a popular Roman hangout in the day known for its healing waters.

Keynote Address:, by Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher, on March 21, 2013

COMMISSIONER Daniel Gallagher of SEC gives insights on the new evolving financial market structures of the 21century. It would seem we CAN NOT rely on heavy regulations of trading and markets nor hastily crafted Frank-Dodd strictures. Here is Gallaghers conclusion on present status of HR and warning on excessive regulation of institutions, markets, transactions & keeping USA competitive edge. “And, I am very happy to report, a bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives just two days ago strikes precisely the appropriate balance, requiring that the SEC and CFTC jointly issue rules on OTC derivatives that show deference to broadly equivalent foreign regulatory regimes. The House bill provides, in pertinent part, that the joint SEC-CFTC rules “shall provide that a non-U.S. person in compliance with the swaps regulatory requirements of a G20 member nation, or other foreign jurisdiction as jointly determined by the Commissions, shall be exempt from United States swaps requirements … unless the Commissions jointly determine that the regulatory requirements of the G20 member nation or other foreign jurisdiction are not broadly equivalent to United States swaps requirements.”20 * * * Returning to my larger point: Much of America’s post-war prosperity has been driven by our free market economy and vibrant capital markets. More recent experience in other parts of the world, Europe included, underscores that connection. We must not take the vitality of our capital markets for granted. We must instead foster them, and in the process protect investors, whether large or small, domestic or foreign. We must all regulate in a balanced manner — smartly. Smart regulation today requires, at a minimum, that we keep pace with the evolution of global markets, but that we do so without adding unnecessary costs — that we avoid imposing layers of complex, overlapping, and, to that extent, incoherent regulation. We must not look in isolation at the potential benefits of regulation, but also in each instance at whether they are sufficient to justify the costs that they entail. And we can, I submit, increasingly keep pace with developments in the industries and markets we regulate, while reducing the burdens we impose on those we regulate, by deferring to our peer regulators in appropriate situations. ” Link to entire address @

Bombay duck is dying. Blame fishing, warming

An article from The Times of India explores the effects of climate change & ocean waters warming on fish stocks and the fishing and culinary industries. Here is an excerpt from the article followed by a link for those who want to read more. “…Of most concern perhaps is the fate of the state’s famous Bombay duck. As with other fish, catch rose through the 1960s and ’70s due to increased mechanized fishing. But the five-year average of annual landings of the fish has reduced by more than a third from 30,000 tonnes in the 1980s to around 20,000 tonnes now, according to CMFRI. Fishing pressures may also be causing this fish to mature earlier, producing fewer eggs. Only a few, low-value species saw an increase.: sardine (taarla) catch went up by 142%, mackerel (bangda) by 133% and tuna by 70%. Until the late 1990s, sardines and mackerel were rarely found north of Ratnagiri. If the decline continues, the new home for Bombay duck, albeit a different species, may be West Bengal; catch of the fish has increased in that state as well as in Orissa as fisheries in the east have developed in recent years. Silver pomfret has also been severely affected, with its five-year average of annual landings dropping almost 80% from 24,000 tonnes in the 1980s to just over 5,000 tonnes in recent years, said Deshmukh. In fact, of 25 important fish stocks in the state, only two species are still abundant, found a CMFRI assessment from 2007 to 2011. More than half are in decline. The drop in stocks is due to overfishing and the increased demand for certain seafood. Fish stocks here can sustain around 8,000 boats with reasonable profit, according to CMFRI estimates, but the actual number of boats plying the region is over 17,000. Of these, around 5,600 are trawlers ”almost twice” the optimal number. Boats are also catching younger, smaller fish, giving populations less of a chance to reproduce. Climate change may add to the pressures on local stocks. Larger fish tend to be more sensitive to environmental changes…”

IJC releases proposed Adaptive Management Plan & webinar schedule | Save Our Sodus

Adaptive Management task force have come to conclusions on how to manage the Great Lakes as a resource in lieu of atmospheric changes we are experiencing today and their effects on us. ‘Instead of fighting nature, we need to figure out better ways to comfortably live alongside its changes.’ As lake levels will change our ability to adapt to these changes is a topic of debate – we can adapt to changes or struggle to maintain the status quo through engineering. The following is an excerpt from SODUS on the upcoming webinar focus on these changes in the Great Lakes:

The bi-national Adaptive Management Plan responds to changing climate and the limited ability to alter lake levels through regulation of flows from Lake Superior and Lake Ontario. “Our climate is changing and increases in temperature and alterations in patterns of precipitation are likely to affect water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River,” says U.S. co-chair of the Adaptive Management Task Team, Debbie Lee. “There is strong evidence that in the future we will experience extreme water levels – both high and low – that are outside the historical range seen over the past century. Indeed, we have seen record low water levels this past January on Lakes Michigan and Huron.”
The most recent IJC studies on lake levels – the International Upper Great Lakes Study and the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study – both concluded that adaptive management is the best way to address the uncertainties associated with climate change and the potential impacts from extreme water levels. Adaptive management uses the information obtained from long-term monitoring and modelling to support the evaluation of plans, policies and practices and adjust them as knowledge improves or as conditions change. “The proposed Adaptive Management Plan is based on working collaboratively with Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River partners to gather and share critical information over time, assess the information with state-of-the art tools, develop adaptation strategies, measure our collective success in managing the impacts of extreme water levels and adapt accordingly”, explains Canadian co-chair, Wendy Leger. “We believe it is a cost-efficient and effective way to support decision-making aimed at reducing the risk to communities, the economy and the environment from extreme water levels.”
The Adaptive Management Task Team is seeking input from the public on the draft Adaptive Management Plan between March 15 and April 15, 2013. Following public comment, the Task Team will revise the Plan and forward it to the IJC for its consideration.

Marine Matters: All About Alewives – Free Press Online – Rockland, ME

The article by Melissa Waterman in The Free Press has a great history of how this issue evolved with Mainers  – herring v small mouth bass. Here is an excerpt on where the issue stands today – adaptive management for alewives  and small mouth bass. A great example of mistakes and progress made – maybe Congress could learn something from this story.

U.S. EPA ruled that blocking alewives from the river violated the federal Clean WaterAct. The agency ordered Maine‘s attorney general to take appropriate action “to authorize passage of river herring [alewives and blueback herring] to portions of the St. Croix River above Grand Falls Dam.” Then-Attorney General William Schneider told the EPA that alewife controls were a fishery management issue, not a Clean Water Act issue, thus the EPA’s ruling was irrelevent.

Enter the Passamaquoddy Indian tribes. In 2012, the chiefs of the Maliseet, Micmac, and Penobscot tribes in Maine and New Brunswick sent a letter to the IJC calling for the immediate opening of the river to the migratory fish. In Febuary 2013, Representative Madonna Soctomah introduced L.D. 72, an emergency bill that would open the Grand Falls Dam fishway by May 1. A counter-bill, L.D. 584, proposed by the LePage administration, would follow the precepts of the IJC’s “adaptive management plan,” opening the river gradually over time, with monitoring of any ecological impacts.

So what’s the fuss all about? Alewives are a good source of bait for lobster traps, but they are only available for a short time in the spring. And the Conservation Law Foundation is not known for bringing suits on behalf of lobster bait. No, alewives have a more profound significance to the Gulf of Maine. Alewives are a primary source of food for salmon, codfish and even the smallmouth bass so favored by fishing guides. Ted Ames, co-founder of the Penobscot East Resource Center in Stonington, has argued for several years that restoring the populations of prey fish such as alewives and blueback herring will do much to restore the groundfish populations that once were found along the coast of Maine.

The alewives also act as a conduit from the land to the sea. As they move out into the Gulf of Maine, they transport in their flesh nutrients and minerals gained in the rivers into the ocean, a living representation of an indelible link between the two realms. Providing the alewives of the St. Croix River with access to their spawning grounds appears to make a lot of sense, both from the perspective of the fish and from ours.

Chinese Political Will to Clean up Water and Rivers lacking

A river in Rui'an, Zhejiang province, China

Gu Yongqiang explores the technology of remediation, quality of water and rivers, and the will of the people and politicians to make their waters “Boatable, fishable swimmable, drinkable” again. From my studies on the IJC and other organizations the key ingredient to getting anything done in politics is political will. This is lacking with many macro goals, e.g., finding clean energy, prevention of starvation worldwide, elevating the quality of life for many suffering in the world today, providing clean drinking water around the world. Here is a blurb from Tim Haab and a link to “In China You Don’t Dare Swim in much less Drink the Water” by

Tim Haab writes:

Boatable, fishable, swimmable, drinkable?

Local environmentalists say that China has enough money and technological prowess to clean up its rivers. The missing ingredient for an environmental campaign? Official motivation. Local governments depend on polluting factories to buoy local economies; local bureaucrats know their promotions are contingent on keeping growth rates high. Still, Chinese citizens are no longer sated simply by economic advancement and have taken to Weibo to express their dissatisfaction.

Fish Smell? Not in Polluted Waters

Organically fish smell but metals contaminating the environs that fish live in destroy their ability to smell. A Canadian study demonstrates that fish can recover their sense of smell with remediation of lakes and streams. Here is an excerpt from Scientific America explaining this restorative process: Greg Pyle, a professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, said he suspects that impaired sense of smell “has meaningful and profound effects” on many fish species. It may be jeopardizing entire populations of fish, including some endangered species. “We’ve tested everything from leeches to water fleas to several species of fish,” Pyle said. “Every species and every metal we’ve observed has had effects at low, environmentally relevant concentrations.” Most contaminated lakes have a metallic mix, making it hard to tease out which pollutants are to blame. In the latest study, Pyle and his team of researchers took yellow perch that lived in Ontario lakes contaminated with mercury, nickel, copper, iron and manganese, and put them in a cleaner lake. Within 24 hours of basking in the clean water, the fish regained their sense of smell. This shows “fish from metal contaminated lakes have the ability to recover once the lake recovers,” the authors wrote in the paper published in last month’s Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety journal. The researchers used wild fish from two lakes with metal contamination (Ramsey and Hannah lakes) and from a cleaner one (Geneva Lake). Ramsey and Hannah, located in Sudbury, Ontario, are polluted from more than a century of mining, particularly with nickel. Hannah Lake is one of the worst-polluted lakes in the area, while Ramsey is similar to other North American lakes near industrial areas. Geneva Lake is far enough northwest to escape most contaminants. Just as the clean lake revived the sense of smell for the Ramsey and Hannah fish, Geneva Lake’s perch had decreased smell after just 24 hours of hanging out in the dirtier lakes. Their response times to substances that smelled like their food dropped 75 to 59 percent.