Archive | Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands

Climate Change Effects on Prairies Studied

BROOKINGS, S.D., Feb. 3 (UPI) — Scientists say the loss of wetlands due to climate change across central North American prairies will negatively affect millions of waterfowl.

The researchers said they’ve discovered the region is much more sensitive to climate warming than previously thought, posing a bleak future for waterfowl that depend on wetlands for food, shelter and the raising of their young.

“The impact to the millions of wetlands that attract countless ducks to these breeding grounds in spring makes it difficult to imagine how to maintain today’s level of waterfowl populations in altered climate conditions,” said Glenn Guntenspergen, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher.

The researchers focused on the prairie pothole region — a 308,880-square-mile area that covers North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa and parts of Canada, containing thousands of shallow wetlands known as potholes.

Many wetland species depend on the potholes to complete their life cycles, the scientists said.

“Unfortunately, the model simulations show that under forecast climate-change scenarios … the western prairie potholes will be too dry and the eastern ones will have too few functional wetlands and nesting habitat to support historical levels of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species,” said W. Carter Johnson, a researcher at South Dakota State University.

The study that also included scientists from the University of Montana, St. Olaf College and the Universities of Nevada and Idaho is detailed in the journal BioScience.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Columbia River Climate Change Studied

SEATTLE, Jan. 25 (UPI) — U.S. engineers say they’ve taken a first look at how climate change might be managed at Columbia River Basin dams — the nation’s largest hydropower system.

Scientists from the University of Washington and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they developed a technique to determine when to empty reservoirs in the winter for flood control and when to refill them in the spring to provide storage for the coming year.

Computer simulations showed switching to the new management system under a warmer future climate would lessen summer losses in hydropower due to climate change by about a quarter. It would also bolster flows for fish by filling reservoirs more reliably. At the same time, the approach reduced the risk of flooding.

“There are anticipated dramatic changes in the snowpack which ultimately will affect when the water comes into the Columbia’s reservoirs,” said study co-author Alan Hamlet, a University of Washington assistant research professor. “We were trying to develop new tools and procedures for changing flood control operating rules in response to these changes in hydrology, and to test how well they work in practice.”

The findings are reported in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Fish, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

Florida Everglades are Still Deteriorating Despite Washington's Assistance

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Jan. 14 (UPI) — The subtropical Florida Everglades wetlands are still deteriorating a decade after Washington began a multibillion-dollar plan to restore them, advocates say.

The Everglades, a victim of a half-century of environmental damage, remains unhealthy, with few species of wildlife other than birds still there and a growing number of invasive species like iguanas, Brazilian pepper plants and Australian pine trees, retired biologist Allen Trefrey told The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post.

Trefrey was part of a flotilla of 12 researchers and volunteers who kayaked down South Florida’s 12-million-acre “river of grass” to call attention to its failing health.

“We wanted to bring big visibility to the plight of the Everglades,” said John Marshall, chairman of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, which champions Everglades restoration and funded the trip.

The flotilla members also collected water samples to measure water quality, foundation Executive Director Josette Kaufman said.

Ten years ago a $7.8 billion project, split between the federal government and Florida over 36 years, promised to restore the Everglades, whose ecosystem lawmakers ranked with that of the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon and the redwood forests of California.

The project has since shrunk in scope, in part because Congress failed to match Florida’s commitment of more than $2 billion, The New York Times reported.

At the same time, the project failed to halt the wetlands’ decline because of bureaucratic delays, a lack of financing from Congress and overdevelopment, a 2008 study found.

The study by the National Research Council, required by Congress, warned the Everglades was quickly reaching a point of no return.

Without “near-term progress,” more species will die off “and the Everglades ecosystem may experience irreversible losses to its character and functioning,” it said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Birds, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

Steelhead Trout to Benefit from Deal to Remove San Clemente Dam

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif., Jan. 12 (UPI) — Public and private officials say they have reached an agreement to tear down a 106-foot-tall dam in Monterey County, Calif.

The dam removal would be the largest ever performed in the state and is seen as a victory for endangered steelhead trout, which are blocked by the obsolete structure from returning to their spawning grounds on the Carmel River, the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury-News reported Tuesday.

The decision to take down the 89-year-old San Clemente Dam came after state and federal government officials and a Monterey, Calif., water company reached an $84 million agreement Monday following 10 years of study and debate, the newspaper said.

“What we’re doing here is truly of national significance,” U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., told the Mercury-News. “We are going to have some tough days ahead. But it is the right thing to do and we are going to get it done.”

Historians say the dam for years had been used to supply drinking water to thousands of Monterey Peninsula residents, irrigated golf courses and helped run sardine canneries. But its reservoir is now 90 percent filled with silt, sand and mud and is not used for electricity or flood protection.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Drinking Water, Ecosystems, Electricity, Fish, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

Hernando de Soto Bridge in Memphis, Tennessee

Hernando de Soto Bridge in Memphis, Tennessee

This photo of the Hernando de Soto Bridge is from photographer “Exothermic”, a user on Flickr, who took this photo while looking from Memphis, Tennessee west towards the Arkansas shore.

As Wikipedia explains:

The Hernando de Soto Bridge is a through arch bridge carrying Interstate 40 across the Mississippi River between West Memphis, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. It is often called the “M Bridge” as the arches resemble the letter M. Memphians also call the bridge the “New Bridge”, as it is newer than the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge (carrying Interstate 55) downstream.

The bridge is named for 16th century Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto who explored this stretch of the Mississippi River, and died south of Memphis. His body was believed to have been buried in the Mississippi River after his death (although, according to legend, his body lay at the bottom of Lake Chicot in Arkansas, an oxbow lake of the Mississippi River about 130 miles south of Memphis.)

On August 27, 2007, an inspector discovered that a bridge pier on the approach bridge west of the river had settled overnight, and the bridge was subsequently closed to perform a precautionary inspection. The bridge was reopened later that day.

This photograph is from Exothermic who generously shared it via Flickr. It is used on EcoWorld under the Creative Commons license.

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Chub Now Rare in Great Lakes Due to Zebra Mussels and Other Invasive Species

MILWAUKEE, Dec. 31 (UPI) — Chub, a small fish found only in the Great Lakes, has become a rare find in stores in the U.S. Midwest thanks to zebra mussels and other invasive species.

Fishermen say catches have become so small in Lake Michigan going out for chub is no longer worth the fuel, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Thursday. Dan Anderson of Milwaukee said the last time he went out he got 45 pounds of chubs out of 18,000 feet of nets.

The chubs he did bring in were not the fat fish prized as a holiday treat in Wisconsin.

“The larger chubs that are marketable aren’t out there. There are a lot of smaller ones that, with enough food, will grow to market size,” Anderson said. “But quite honestly, I don’t think there’s enough food in the lake.”

Zebra mussels, tiny shellfish native to Russia, were first reported in the Great Lakes in 1988 and have multiplied and become a major nuisance. Anderson said when he hauls in his nets he pulls in large amounts of zebra mussels.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Ecosystems, Fish, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

Great Lakes Water Levels are on the Rise

DETROIT, Dec. 28 (UPI) — The water levels of the Great Lakes in the Midwestern United States increased in 2009, new data show.

The Detroit News said the latest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data shows water levels at Lake Superior and the Michigan-Huron lake system increased by as much as 9 inches compared to a year ago.

Meanwhile, Lake Erie’s water levels increased by an inch compared to 2008 figures.

As of the end of November, historical water levels were found at Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan/Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Superior, Army Corps data show.

Doug Martz, the St. Clair Channel keeper, told the News while Lake St. Clair was an inch below 2008 water levels, he is hopeful higher water levels are due in 2010.

“If we have good ice cover on the Great Lakes and get a lot of snow in the Upper Peninsula this winter, I have no doubt that by spring that the water levels will be back to where they used to be,” Martz said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Conservation, Groundwater, Springs & Aquifers, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

Invasive Species Threaten Great Lakes

MILWAUKEE, Dec. 18 (UPI) — A call to re-establish the natural barrier between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River to restrain non-native species is gaining ground, officials say.

Fifty members of Congress representing the Great Lakes states wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Friday urging them to “immediately consider” such a project, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, built in 1900, allowed the city to discharge its sewage away from Lake Michigan, its source of drinking water, by reversing the flow of the Chicago River, the newspaper said.

But the artificial channel linked the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins, and created a route for invasive species such as Asian carp, zebra mussels and round gobies to move from one to the other.

These species can ravage native ecosystems, experts say. Asian carp can grow to 50 pounds and consume 20 percent of their weight in plankton per day.

Closing locks on the canal would create a barrier, but with severe economic impact on industries using the canal to move their products and cargo to all areas of the United States, the Journal Sentinel said.

The Army Corps says it will explore the feasibility of recreating such a separation, and the EPA has pledged $13 million to combat the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Drinking Water, Ecosystems, Fish, Other, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

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