65 environmental projects throughout Minnesota selected for $45.8 million in funding

(St. Paul, MN, July 15, 2014) – The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) met on July 10 and selected 65 environment and natural resources projects totaling $45.8 million to recommend to the Minnesota Legislature for funding. The recommendations are the result of a competitive, multi-stage process for allocating funds available next year from the Minnesota Lottery-generated Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF). If approved by the legislature the projects will begin in July 2015.

 

The LCCMR’s 2015 Request for Proposal (RFP) sought projects across several priority issue areas, including water quality, invasive species, climate change, renewable energy, natural resource management, habitat protection, outdoor recreation, and environmental education. The 65 projects being recommended for funding address this spectrum of issue areas and will collectively benefit every region of the state. Some highlights include:

  • A new research center at the University of Minnesota dedicated to providing science-based solutions for preventing and controlling terrestrial invasive species – including introduced plants, animals, insects, and diseases – that threaten the health of the state’s prairies, forests, wetlands, and agricultural resources.
  • Development of a comprehensive, statewide framework for transitioning Minnesota away from fossil fuels and toward a long-term sustainable energy future.
  • Acceleration of the Minnesota Biological Survey, Minnesota Geological Atlas, the updating of the National Wetlands Inventory, and other related surveying and monitoring efforts that are acquiring essential information for understanding Minnesota’s plants, pollinators, animals, water and groundwater resources, and wetlands;
  • Research, analysis, and planning efforts to inform water management for sustainability and protect water quality from challenges posed by groundwater overuse, drainage systems, and nutrient and sediment runoff.
  • Protection, enhancement, and restoration of lands for unique natural areas and parks and trails around the state, including regional parks in the metro area, scientific and natural areas throughout the state, the Mesabi Trail in northern Minnesota, and several state parks and trails. One project involves the reintroduction of American bison at Minneopa State Park, which will provide a unique recreational opportunity for visitors while assisting with national genetic preservation efforts for the species.
  • Research and data collection on Minnesota habitat and wildlife species including bats, turtles, elk, loons, white pelicans, and other species in order to inform species preservation and habitat management efforts.
  • Research into potential impacts and control methods for emerald ash borer, Canada thistle, and an emerging pine disease.

 

A total of approximately $46.3 million is available from the ENRTF for recommendation by the LCCMR for 2015. The Commission chose to reserve some funds to consider for addition to some of the recommended projects at its November or December meeting. Following those meetings, the LCCMR’s recommendations will next go before the 2015 Legislature for consideration and approval during the legislative session beginning January 6. Recommended projects will begin work on July 1, 2015, when the funds become available.

 

In response to the LCCMR’s 2014 proposal process, 152 proposals requesting a total of approximately $126.3 million were received. Combined requests amounted to nearly $3 requested for every $1 available, making for a very competitive process. Of the original 152 proposals received, 76 were requested to give presentations and answer questions before the LCCMR. From this reduced pool, 65 proposals received a recommendation for some portion of the funds available.

 

The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund is a permanent dedicated fund in the Minnesota state treasury that was established by 77% voter approval of a constitutional amendment in 1988. The amendment directs forty percent of the net proceeds of the Minnesota Lottery, or approximately seven cents of every dollar spent on playing the lottery, into the ENRTF. The ENRTF is intended to provide a long-term, stable source of funding for innovative and far-sighted activities that protect and enhance Minnesota’s environment and natural resources for the benefit of current citizens and future generations. Up to 5.5% of the existing market value of the ENRTF can be expended each year.

 

Additional information on the LCCMR’s 2015 proposal recommendations and proposal process can be found online at: www.lccmr.leg.mn.

 

Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR)

The LCCMR is made up of 17 members (5 Senators, 5 Representatives, 5 citizens appointed by the governor, 1 citizen appointed by the Senate, and 1 citizen appointed by the House). The function of the LCCMR is to make funding recommendations to the Minnesota State Legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The LCCMR developed from a program initiated in 1963. Since then over $800 million has been appropriated to approximately 1,900 projects recommended to protect and enhance Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.

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Night fishing on Mille Lacs Lake opens July 21

Mille Lacs Lake anglers may fish at night beginning Monday, July 21 at 10 p.m., according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“We’re pleased we can open the lake to night fishing,” said Brad Parsons, central region fisheries manager for the DNR. “Evening and night launches can resume operation, and boats can travel and fish at night. In addition to walleye, anglers can again seek muskellunge and bow fish during prime nighttime hours.”

In past years, the Mille Lacs Lake night closure, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., began the Monday after the May opener and continued through mid-June. This year’s regulations extended the closure to Dec. 1 to help ensure state-licensed anglers did not catch more walleye than the lake’s safe harvest limit allowed. If that limit was reached, anglers would have had to release all walleye instead of being allowed to keep two. The possession limit is two fish 18- to 20-inches. One fish may be longer than 28 inches.

“So far, anglers have caught about 10,000 pounds of walleye,” Parsons said. “That number will increase once night fishing resumes, but catch rates have been low enough to alleviate concerns that anglers will catch more than the 42,900 pounds of walleye the harvest limit allows.”

Anglers have caught fewer walleye because walleye are feeding on an abundance of perch in Mille Lacs this year and reduced fishing pressure. Cool temperatures and rain have kept the water temperatures down, which lowers mortality of released fish. Fish are more likely to die after being released in warmer water even if properly handled.

“The DNR is not removing the night closure because Mille Lacs Lake has recovered,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief. “More young walleye still need to survive their first year and keep growing from year to year into larger walleye. Conditions this year combined for a slow bite, allowing DNR to re-open an activity that helps the Mille Lacs area economy and is a tradition among many fishing families.”

For more information, visit the Mille Lacs Lake Web page at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake. People interested in receiving email updates about Mille Lacs Lake can subscribe to the Hooked On Mille Lacs Update list at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslakenews.

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New high school team helping revitalize trap shooting at LP Sportsmen’s Club

The trap house is scheduled to be re-built in the coming months. It still has the original roof from when the trap range was still at the Todd County fairgrounds in 1956.

LPSC plans to make several changes to range

By Taylor Lunemann, Staff Writer
Published:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 1:36 PM CDT
The growth of trap shooting in the Minnesota State High School League is leading to a resurgence at the Long Prairie Sportsmen’s Club.

After the LPGE High School formed a trap shooting team earlier this year and the Long Prairie Lions donated a brand new trap shooting machine, the LPSC is hoping to see traffic like they first did 40 years ago when they first moved the trap range there.

Dan Bokinskie, part owner of the LPSC, said in the 70’s and 80’s there was never a shortage of people coming out to shoot. “We would have 5-6 squads lining up to shoot and it would be like that until dark, when we couldn’t even see the target anymore.” That was right after the trap range was moved from the fairgrounds to the current property in 1974-75.

The property used to be an old saw mill and farm before being cleared by several members of the LPSC to form the trap range. The current roof of the trap house was built in 1956 and was moved from the fairgrounds and remains used today. The trap installed at the time used an underground pulling method, but was upgraded shortly after mechanical failures.

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MINNESOTA ENVIRONMENTAL FUND ANNOUNCES CORDELIA PIERSON AS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Mike Harley POSTED BY: 

Executive Director

As many of you know, Environmental Initiative is one of more than twenty local environmental nonprofit organizations that belong to the Minnesota Environmental Fund. We’ve been a member since 2004 and have directly benefited from Minnesota Environmental Fund’s efforts to provide education and a vital payroll giving choice to employees who wish to support environmental causes through workplace giving campaigns. It’s amazing what a few dollars per paycheck can do to help Environmental Initiative realize our mission.

I’m proud to announce  Cordelia Pierson has recently been named Minnesota Environmental Fund’s new executive director. She succeedsExecutive Director, Cordelia Pierson Ed Marek who led the organization for more than a decade. I had the opportunity to be directly involved in the hiring process for this extremely important position. I worked with a handful of other leaders from Minnesota Environmental Fund’s member organizations to support the search over the past several months. This experience was a strong reminder for me about the importance of Environmental Initiative’s involvement in the Minnesota Environmental Fund and with our fellow environmental organizations more broadly.

Cordelia brings more than twenty years of nonprofit and financial management experience to the organization as a former nonprofit executive director, board president, and program director. Most recently, Cordelia served as the executive director for the newly established, Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership, where she led fundraising, organizational development, and riverfront land protection and revitalization efforts. I’m so impressed with Cordelia’s passion and dedication to Minnesota, to our special places, and our natural resources. She understands and greatly appreciates the importance of place and the need to build relationships with companies, organizations, and employees who are willing to invest financially to make our communities healthy and beautiful places to live.

I hope you will join me in welcoming Cordelia to the Minnesota Environmental Fund!

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New Report: Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power Finally Within Reach

July 10, 2014 – Over 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic coast already designated for wind energy development could generate over 16,000 megawatts of electricity (MW), enough to power over five million homes, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation released today with the support of over 40 cosponsoring organizations and leaders from business, labor, state, and local governments. Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power also contains a new analysis showing how the strong, consistent winds offshore can provide power to coastal states right when we need it most, bringing down energy costs and local pollution.

 

“American offshore wind power is finally within reach,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “With areas offshore that can power five million homes currently available for leasing, we’ve reached a critical moment for state leaders to seize this golden opportunity and create a clean energy future powered by American workers that can protect our wildlife and communities from the dangers of climate change.”

 

Catching the Wind highlights key progress made to date in America’s pursuit of offshore wind power, finding a strong correlation between proactive state efforts and tangible steps forward in advancing offshore wind power:

  • America’s First Offshore Wind Projects are on Track for Construction in 2015. Two leading projects, Cape Wind in Massachusetts and the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, are within sight of the finish line. Permits and/or leases and power contracts in hand and plans announced by the developers to begin offshore construction next year.
  • Areas Already Designated for Offshore Wind Development Could Power Over 5 Million American Homes. As a result of significant federal leadership, there is a massive, local clean power opportunity currently available to state energy planners with the capacity to power the equivalent of all households in New Jersey and South Carolina combined. What’s needed now is action by state leaders to drive offshore wind markets and spur critical project contracts forward.
  • Offshore Wind Power Could Save Millions as Part of a Diverse Energy Portfolio. Diversifying the east coast’s energy mix is critical for protecting ratepayers from price spikes in the volatile fossil fuel markets. The report highlights a new 2014 study finding a $350 million per year reduction in energy costs from adding 1,200 MW of offshore wind energy to New England’s grid.
  • Offshore Wind Power Will Spark Massive Job Creation in the United States. In Europe, 70 offshore wind projects across 10 countries are currently supporting over 58,000 jobs in both coastal and inland communities. Today, offshore wind power is a booming global industry with over $20 billion in annual investments projected for the next 10 years.
  • Offshore Wind Power Can Help States Meet New Carbon Pollution Limits. Coastal states have a massive untapped pollution-free energy source sitting right off their shores that can play a major role in meeting the carbon emission reduction targets required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan released last month.
  • Offshore Wind Power is an Environmentally Responsible Energy Choice: As decades of experience in Europe indicates, strong environmental requirements can ensure that offshore wind power is sited, constructed, and operated in a manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife. This immense clean energy source offers an incredible opportunity to reduce pollution that threatens current and future generations of people and wildlife.

 

“With the Commonwealth’s support, New Bedford is now poised to play a central role in the nation’s burgeoning offshore wind energy industry.” Said Mayor Jon Mitchell of New Bedford, Massachusetts. “Construction is underway on a first-of-its-kind $100 million port facility specially designed to support the staging and assembly of offshore wind turbines. Strong state commitments to offshore wind power are needed to maximize this tremendous opportunity to build a national industry and grow jobs not only for our city but across the region.”

 

“It’s time to launch an American offshore wind industry that can join the 58,000 people already working on offshore wind in Europe,” said Mayor Keith Summey of North Charleston, South Carolina. “The winds are right here ready to be harvested, the technology is already proven, and we have workers ready to do the job. Let’s get to work.”

 

In five recommendations, the report challenges Atlantic Coast leaders to move forward with the following key actions in order to build the long term market certainty needed to fully launch offshore wind power for America:

 

1.     Set a bold goal for offshore wind power in state energy plans.

2.     Take action to ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power by: passing and implementing policies to directly advance offshore wind power and reduce pollution across the electricity sector; pursuing regional market-building opportunities; and supporting key federal incentives.

3.     Advance critical contracts for offshore wind projects, including facilitating and approving necessary power purchase contracts and rate recovery proposals and pursuing regional procurement opportunities.

4.     Ensure an efficient, environmentally responsible leasing process by working closely with the federal government and key experts and stakeholders to ensure transparency and strong protections for coastal and marine wildlife as offshore wind development moves forward.

5.     Invest in key research, initiatives, and infrastructure helpful for advancing offshore wind development including baseline environmental data, stakeholder engagement initiatives, opportunities to maximize local supply chain and job creation, and upgrades to transmission or port facilities.

 

“The Utility Workers Union of America strongly supports an all of the above National Energy Policy, including the development of the offshore wind sector,” said Ed Good, Legislative Director of the Utility Workers Union of America. “From the iron ore mined to manufacture the steel foundations to the actual delivery of offshore wind power, this is a tremendous opportunity for working families, communities, and business job growth. UWUA currently has members with the necessary skill sets to safely and efficiently operate, maintain and provide energy delivery for this new and exciting form of generation and we look forward to playing a key role in the offshore wind market.”

 

“The winds off our coasts  are poised to provide Atlantic Coast states with tremendous amounts of pollution-free energy that can meet our energy needs while reducing pollution that is altering our climate,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for Environment America.  “To reap the environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind, we need a strong commitment from state leaders, in partnership with the federal government and key stakeholders.”

 

REPORT COSPONSORS

 

Environment America, Conservation Law Foundation, Southern Environmental Law Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Oceana, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Southeast Coastal Wind Coalition, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Environment Maine, Environment New Hampshire, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Environment Massachusetts, Mass Audubon, Environment Council of Rhode Island, Environment Rhode Island, Environment Connecticut, Environmental Advocates of New York, Renewable Energy Long Island, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environment New York, NY PIRG, NY LCV, Pace Energy and Climate Center of Pace Law School, ACE-NY, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., Workforce Development Institute, Environment New Jersey, New Jersey Audubon, Delaware Nature Society, Environment Maryland, Maryland LCV, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland, Labor Network for Sustainability, Virginia Conservation Network, Environment Virginia, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Environment North Carolina, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, Environment Georgia

 

 

Read the report at NWF.org/OffshoreWind and get more updates from the National Wildlife Federation at NWF.org/News.

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Straits of Mackinac ‘worst possible place’ for a Great Lakes oil spill, U-M researcher concludes

ANN ARBOR – Because the strong currents in the Straits of Mackinac reverse direction every few days, a rupture of the oil pipeline beneath the channel would quickly contaminate shorelines miles away in both lakes Michigan and Huron, according to a new University of Michigan study commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation.

In one scenario examined in the study and accompanying animations, oil from a hypothetical pipeline break reached Mackinac Island and Round Island after 12 hours and Bois Blanc Island after two days. All three islands are in westernmost Lake Huron, just east of the straits.

Within 20 days of a spill in the Straits of Mackinac — which separates Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas and connects lakes Michigan and Huron — oil would spread as far west as Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, a distance of roughly 35 miles, and as far southeast as Rogers City in Lake Huron, a distance of about 50 miles, according to the computer-simulation study released today and conducted by hydrodynamics expert David Schwab of the U-M Water Center.

The area around the 5-mile-wide straits is considered ecologically sensitive and is a major tourist draw.

“If you were to pick the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes, this would be it,” Schwab said. “The currents are powerful and change direction frequently. In the event of an oil spill, these factors would lead to a big mess that would be very difficult to contain.”

 

Straits of Mackinac – credit NOAA

Just west of the Mackinac Bridge, two 20-inch underwater pipes carry 23 million gallons of crude oil daily through the straits. The 61-year-old pipeline is operated by Enbridge Inc.

Current speeds in the straits can reach 1 meter per second, transporting volumes of up to 80,000 cubic meters of water per second — more than 10 times greater than the flow over Niagara Falls.

Great Lakes researchers have known since the 1990s that currents in the straits tend to reverse direction every few days. In a 2013 paper in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, Schwab and colleague Eric Anderson of the federal Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor presented the first three-dimensional, high-resolution hydrodynamic model able to accurately predict those oscillating currents and their effect on lakes Michigan and Huron. They showed that currents in the straits affect flows more than 40 miles away in both lakes.

In his study for the National Wildlife Federation, Schwab used the combined-lake model to simulate the release of contaminants at various locations and depths within the straits. The simulations track the oil for 20 days following a 12-hour release.

The simulated releases occurred in August and September, months when temperature differences between upper and lower water layers would help disperse the oil. In the August release scenario, the average currents in the straits were initially eastward but changed direction every day or two.

In the September release scenario, average currents were initially westward but changed direction periodically throughout the tracking period. The westward flow carried oil into Lake Michigan during the first 24 hours. After 48 hours, oil released near the southern end of the straits was in Lake Huron and was impinging on the Michigan shoreline from Mackinac City halfway to Cheboygan.

“Any material released into the straits will go into both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, which would complicate containment efforts,” Schwab said. “Hopefully, these simulations and animations will be useful in understanding and preparing for potential impacts.”

The National Wildlife Federation said an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would devastate the local tourism industry as well as the area’s fish and wildlife. The best way to remedy the threat, according to the organization, is to replace the pipeline under the straits.

“This is a wakeup call that underscores why we need to do everything we can to protect the Great Lakes, fish and wildlife from an oil spill disaster,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “This animation shows that this pipeline is a risk to some of the most special places in Michigan, and even the country.”

The U-M Water Center is a center of the Graham Sustainability Institute, which fosters sustainability through translational knowledge, transformative learning and institutional leadership.

Established in October 2012 with funds from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, the Water Center engages researchers, practitioners, policymakers and nonprofit groups to support, integrate and improve current and future freshwater restoration and protection efforts.

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DNR: Too many boaters not following aquatic invasive species laws

This summer, the Department of Natural Resources is finding too many boaters and other water users taking unacceptable and illegal risks by transporting aquatic invasive species (AIS).

So far this season, watercraft inspectors have found more than 1,300 boaters at public water accesses with aquatic plants, invasive animals or water in or on their boats and equipment. If not stopped, these boaters could have infested other lakes.

In addition, DNR conservation officers have issued 169 citations and 375 warning tickets to boaters for AIS violations at enforcement check stations and public accesses. Fines range from $100 to $500.

“Far too many people are still not following the law,” said Greg Salo, DNR central region enforcement manager. “Some of these laws have been on the books for more than 15 years and yet we’re still seeing a 26 percent violation rate at enforcement check stations. That’s unacceptable. Violators should know better by now.”

During the weekend of July 11-13, the DNR will make an extra push to enforce the law. Anglers and boaters can expect watercraft inspectors and stepped up patrols. DNR conservation officers will be checking boats and equipment to make sure everyone is following Minnesota’s AIS laws.

Minnesota currently has 175 water bodies infested with zebra mussels.

“Every new infestation is extremely serious,” said Ann Pierce, DNR section manager for Ecological and Water Resources. “This means that it’s important for people to take responsibility, follow the laws, and protect the remaining more than 10,000 Minnesota waters. It’s still well worth the effort to protect the uncontaminated water bodies.”

In Minnesota is it illegal to:

  • Transport watercraft without the drain plug removed.
  • Arrive at lake access with drain plug in place.
  • Transport aquatic plants, zebra mussels, or other prohibited species, whether dead or alive.
  • Launch watercraft with prohibited species attached.
  • Transport water from Minnesota lakes or rivers.
  • Release live bait into the water.

All DNR-trained watercraft inspectors stationed around the state are authorized to help ensure boats and trailers are clean and free of AIS before entering or leaving a lake, river or other body of water. Whether they work for the DNR, or for a county or other local unit of government, inspectors are there to help make sure boaters are not in violation of AIS laws and protect our lakes and rivers.

The DNR has 23 decontamination units at various bodies of water in Minnesota. The agency concentrates inspectors and decontamination efforts at high-use bodies of water that are currently infested with AIS.

More information, including a 25 minute video titled “Aquatic Invasive Species, Minnesota Waters at Risk,” is available at: www.mndnr/AIS.

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2014 Duck Numbers Up 8%

Get a species-by-species breakdown

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released its report on 2014 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June. Total populations were estimated at 49.2 million breeding ducks in the surveyed area. This estimate represents an 8 percent increase from last year’s estimate of 45.6 million birds, and is 43 percent higher than the 1955-2013 long-term average. This continues a three-year trend of exceptional water conditions and population numbers for many species.

“It looks like another good waterfowl breeding year for a good portion of the prairies and the boreal forest,” said DU CEO Dale Hall.

Read more »  

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