Congress to discuss banning mining near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | May 30, 2022

Members of Congress are divided over a recent proposal that could ban mining near the most popular wilderness area in the United States.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-MN, reintroduced a bill to permanently protect nearly 250,000 acres of the Superior National Forest, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The forest is near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a 1.1 million acre watershed located in Duluth, Minnesota. The bill aims to ensure the water in the area remains clean. Mining can cause pollution from nickel, cobalt, copper, and other minerals.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden blocked the federal approval of a new mine on the property. The decision overturned approval from former President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump’s decision had reversed an Obama administration decision. As McCollum’s proposal is being discussed in Congress, former U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell said the bill provides needed certainty to protect the waters. Tidwell served under the Obama administration. He said the bill would ensure acid mine drainage did not degrade the value of the Boundary Waters area.

The waters is visited frequently, with U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-CA, saying it is the most-visited wilderness area in the country. The location drives the local economy, he said, providing thousands of jobs that could be at risk if mining is allowed in the area.

Frequency of Iowa flooding and precipitation on the rise

Graph showing the average amount precipitation per year in Iowa. The average amount of has increased dramatically in the state. Since 1960, has seen 10 percent increase in the amount of annual precipitation. (Iowa State University)

Jake Slobe | October 26, 2016

Recent Iowa State University data shows that 100-year flood plain maps actually map 25-year flood plains.  The data also shows that an increasing frequency of large rainfall events throughout Iowa. In Cedar Rapids, the number of heavy rainfall events has increased by 57 percent over the last 100 years.

Kamyar Enshayan, director of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education says that part of the reason for these increases in flooding is coming from changes in land use.

“Over the last 100 years, we have significantly altered the hydrology of our state. The part that we can do something about that would have fairly immediate results is land use change, meaning changing the way our cropping system works, and reestablishing some of the elements we’ve lost like wetlands and forests.”

Currently, the vast majority of Iowa’s agricultural land has, for a long time, been under cultivation in a two-year, corn-soybean rotation. Long-term studies at Iowa State University have demonstrated that moving to a three or four-year crop rotation would lead to a significantly different system that could naturally reduce flooding.

Researchers in Iowa are now analyzing the impact of upstream flood mitigation efforts — as well as determining the costs of potential efforts.

For example, the cost of funding watershed management projects, to help mitigate flood in the state is estimated to be around $5 billion, which is a bargain when put in the context of the cost of flood damage recovery. The damage from the 2008 flood alone was estimated at $10 billion across the state.

On the Radio: Nutrient Management Research

Photo courtesy of Adrianne Behning Photography; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers research happening at the University of Iowa that looks into contaminant behaviors throughout watersheds. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Continue reading

Water Quality Projects Sought in Iowa

Soap Creek Watershed - Photo by Iowa Flood Center; Flikr
Soap Creek Watershed – Photo by Iowa Flood Center; Flickr

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is seeking applications for targeted watershed demonstration projects focused on water quality. Potential projects have until March 31 to apply for funding.

The projects must be within the nine large priority watersheds that have been identified by the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council, department officials say.

Project applications, including a map of priority watersheds, can be found here under “Hot Topics.” They can also be requested by contacting the department’s Division of Soil Conservation at 515-281-5851.

Video: Krajewski describes Iowa Flood Center’s resources

Nick Thomas, a PhD student who works with the Iowa Flood Center, using IFIS. Photo by Joe Bolkcom.

The Iowa Flood Center has released a video of their director Witold Krajewski presenting the flood center’s current resources.

In the presentation, Krajewski describes their online Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS), and how anyone can use it to track water levels in nearby watersheds. He also discusses the flood center’s development and deployment of stream stage sensors in watersheds, and how these sensors collect data for IFIS.

Watch the presentation here.

Organizations recieve grant for aiding watersheds

photo by Deepwater Horizon Response, Flickr

The Iowa American Water’s 2011 Environmental Grant Program recently donated $6,200 to four organizations for promoting the protection of watersheds. The recipients were praised for a wide range of initiatives, from creating an educational DVD to volunteer clean up of the Mississippi river.

A press release from the American Water association details each recipient’s achievements:

Eastern Iowa Community College District’s “Resurrecting the Wetlands:  The Story of the Nahant Marsh” film will educate viewers on the importance of wetlands, their role in protecting and enhancing water quality, and the history and restoration of the Nahant Marsh.  The film will be shown on local public television and DVD copies will be distributed to local educators for use as a classroom teaching tool on water quality issues.   Continue reading

On the Radio: New mapping system prepares Iowans for floods

Photo by Joe Germuska, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio feature here.  It discusses a new online tool, provided by the Iowa Flood Center, that will help you keep track of flooding in your area.

In recent years repeated flooding has devastated Iowa communities. Thankfully, a new online resource is available to help Iowans prevent future flood damage. Continue reading