Minnegram Summer 2013

Director's Corner

Features

  • Minnesota’s reputation for weather extremes will intensify with climate change, bringing more extreme variation in the drought and flood cycle. And it’s a trend that will have an enormous impact on the state’s water resources management, says climatologist Mark Seeley.

  • If the plants come back, so will the bugs and the fish and the birds… the goal is to develop an ‘ecological design’ for restoration after the sediments have been cleaned up.

  • Throughout Minnesota, cities struggle with the goal of reducing nutrient inputs to urban lakes. The nearly completed Prior Lake Street Sweeping Study took a new look at an old practice, examining the potential of enhanced street sweeping as a source reduction BMP. The study is unique in several aspects: (1) it examined the effect of both percentage tree canopy and sweeping frequency (once, twice, and four times per month); (2) sweeping was done from snowmelt through snowfall, and therefore included autumn leaf fall (most previous studies did not); (3) tree leaves were analyzed separately from the finer sediments; and (4) costs were computed for each of nearly 400 sweeping runs.

  • As water flows, so do pollutants, sometimes flowing freely over a surface and directly into a water body, or perhaps soaking deep into the groundwater, not to resurface until 50 years or more in the future. Thus, measurable results from efforts to curb nitrate levels in water bodies may also not be seen for years. Kronholm wants to encourage patience when waiting for positive results. “Flow paths determine the length of time from fertilizer application to introduction of excess fertilizer into a stream bed,” says Kronholm, who hopes that his research will create realistic expectations within the farming community and regulatory agencies. High nitrate levels that were years in the making will take years to abate. Kronholm, who was recently awarded the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, feels that farmers are often given a bad rap, when many farmers are trying BMPs voluntarily, often at their own expense. “Hopefully, my research will help scientists, legislators, famers and other stakeholders set realistic goals and expectations for reducing nitrate levels in our water.”

  • Recently the USACE called upon a group of researchers, including Dr. Deborah Swackhamer and Marc Dettman from the University of Minnesota, to determine how adaptive management is currently being utilized in the USACE, and also to make recommendations for improving adaptive management practices within the USACE. The research team conducted several interviews of USACE personnel in an effort to determine how adaptive management is being used in a variety of USACE natural resource management projects.

News

  • While the news from Washington was unpleasant, the news from St Paul was much better. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) decided to keep 50% of our current fiscal year funding as part of the sequester budget cuts, to stave off furloughs of their employees. It meant we could not fund all our research projects, and affected student funding. In addition, the USGS cancelled this year's national competitive grants program. We are working hard to have the Congress reinstate full funding of the national Water Resources Research Institute program in FY14. Any support you might offer to your senators or representative would be appreciated!