Great Lakes

Resilient community on the rise

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.

Only one month into the fall semester there is already an unseasonable chill in the air. But things are heating up in classrooms across the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Duluth campuses as more than 200 students in dozens of classes begin work on an impressive array of projects with the City of Rosemount, this year’s Resilient Communities Project partner community.

RCP, an initiative of the Sustainability Faculty Network at the University of Minnesota, with funding and administrative support provided by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and the Institute on the Environment, organizes yearlong partnerships between the University and Minnesota communities. The partnership is bringing the expertise of hundreds of graduate students to sustainability-related projects identified by Rosemount city staff and community partners.

Today, Rosemount is a rapidly developing outer-ring suburb located 15 miles from the Twin Cities but the city has a long and rich history. Settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants in the early 1850s, Rosemount organized as a township in 1858 and was incorporated as a city in 1974. Rosemount has a land area of nearly 36 square miles and is home to a mix of industry, commerce, agriculture and residential development. With its population expected to double by 2040, Rosemount faces unique challenges and opportunities in the coming decades as it strives to become a more sustainable and resilient community.

This fall semester, RCP has matched 25 community-defined projects in Rosemount with more than 35 University courses. The projects are wide ranging and engage both undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines. Here are a few highlights:

Microplastic is an Abundant and Distinct Microbial Habitat in an Urban River

Amanda McCormick, Timothy J. Hoellein, Sherri A. Mason, Joseph Schluep, and John J. Kelly (2014). “Microplastic is an Abundant and Distinct Microbial Habitat in an Urban River.” Environmental Science & Technology Article ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/es503610r.

Abstract: Recent research has documented microplastic particles (< 5 mm in diameter) in ocean habitats worldwide and in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Microplastic interacts with biota, including microorganisms, in these habitats, raising concerns about its ecological effects. Rivers may transport microplastic to marine habitats and the Great Lakes, but data on microplastic in rivers is limited. In a highly urbanized river in Chicago, Illinois, USA, we measured concentrations of microplastic that met or exceeded those measured in oceans and the Great Lakes, and we demonstrated that wastewater treatment plant effluent was a point source of microplastic. Results from high-throughput sequencing showed that bacterial assemblages colonizing microplastic within the river were less diverse and were significantly different in taxonomic composition compared to those from the water column and suspended organic matter. Several taxa that include plastic decomposing organisms and pathogens were more abundant on microplastic. These results demonstrate that microplastic in rivers are a distinct microbial habitat and may be a novel vector for the downstream transport of unique bacterial assemblages. In addition, this study suggests that urban rivers are an overlooked and potentially significant component of the global microplastic life cycle.

Great Lakes Restoration Success through Science — U.S. Geological Survey Accomplishments 2010 through 2013

Download the document.

The Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario) are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth and serve as an important source of drinking water, transportation, power, and recreational opportunities for the United States and Canada. They also support an abundant commercial and recreational fishery, are crucial for agriculture, and are essential to the economic vitality of the region. The Great Lakes support a wealth of biological diversity, including over 200 globally rare plants and animals and more than 40 species that are found nowhere else in the world. However, more than a century of environmental degradation has taken a substantial toll on the Great Lakes. To stimulate and promote the goal of a healthy Great Lakes region, President Obama and Congress created the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in 2009. The GLRI is an interagency collaboration that seeks to address the most significant environmental problems in the Great Lakes ecosystem. The GLRI is composed of five focus areas that address these issues:

  • Cleaning up toxic substances and Areas of Concern,
  • Preventing and controlling invasive species,
  • Promoting nearshore health,
  • Protecting and restoring habitat and wildlife,
  • Tracking progress and working with partners.

As of August 2013, the GLRI had funded more than 1,500 projects and programs of the highest priority to meet immediate cleanup, restoration, and protection needs. These projects use scientific analyses as the basis for identifying the restoration needs and priorities for the GLRI. Results from the science, monitoring, and other on-the-ground actions by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provide the scientific information needed to help guide the Great Lakes restoration efforts. This document highlights a selection of USGS projects for each of the five focus areas through 2013, demonstrating the importance of science for restoration success. Additional information for these and other USGS projects that are important for Great Lakes restoration is available at http://cida.usgs.gov/glri/glri-catalog/.

Resilient Chicago highlights the many faces of climate change

Read the full post from Lakeside Views.

Anjanette Riley was at last week’sResilient Chicago workshop on climate trends and adaptive planning. She had this to say about the event:

Presentation after presentation, what struck me most is just how muchclimate change already is and will continue to impact our daily lives—and how interconnected those impacts are. Actually, a quick glance at the agenda was all it took to realize this workshop was going to be about much more than just predictions of yearly rainfall or average temperatures. The speakers were climatologists, public health experts, community planners, and policy specialists. And the participants were just as diverse—educators, urban planners, local officials, and private consultants.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan II

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During the next five years, federal agencies plan to continue to use Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals — by combining Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources with agency base budgets and by using these resources to work with nonfederal partners to implement protection and restoration projects. To guide this work, federal agencies have drafted GLRI Action Plan II, which summarizes the actions that federal agencies plan to implement during FY15-19 using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. GLRI Action Plan II outlines the next phase of work on Great Lakes environmental problems and associated human health issues –many of which will take decades to resolve. GLRI Action Plan II lays out the necessary next steps to get us closer to the day when we will be able to achieve our long-term goals for the Great Lakes and our commitments under the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

U.S. EPA Approves Carbon Sequestration Permit in Decatur, Illinois

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a permit allowing the Archer Daniels Midland Company to inject carbon dioxide deep underground in Decatur, Illinois. This process – known as “carbon sequestration” – is a means of storing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

ADM plans to capture carbon dioxide produced by an ethanol manufacturing facility. ADM’s goal is to capture and inject 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Sequestering 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year is the equivalent of eliminating carbon emissions from over 230,000 cars.

U.S. EPA completed a technical review of the Class VI permit and responded to over 100 public comments before approving the permit. ADM can begin drilling the well in November in preparation for injecting liquefied carbon dioxide. ADM must demonstrate the integrity of the well before injecting carbon dioxide and conduct extensive monitoring at the location.

ADM is the second facility in the nation to receive a Class VI underground injection permit for carbon sequestration. In August, U.S. EPA issued four Class VI permits for a FutureGen Alliance facility in downstate Illinois.

For more information: http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/uic/adm/.

Illinois professors and students study community resilience around polluted waterways

Read the full story in Inside Illinois.

There’s no such thing as a good place to have a natural disaster, nor has there ever been an appropriate site to release toxic pollutants. But scientists have long recognized that some areas can handle such catastrophes better than others. As early as the 1970s, they used socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census to develop a tool called the Social Vulnerability Index, known as SoVI, to gauge the likely resilience of different communities.

Now a team of professors and graduate students at the University of Illinois is testing and tweaking the SoVI model by studying at a more granular level the communities around two polluted Midwest waterways. Bethany Cutts, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences, and Andrew Greenlee, a professor ofurban and regional planning, received a two-year Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to study communities around the Lincoln Park-Milwaukee Estuary and portions of the Grand Calumet River south of Chicago, both designated “areas of concern” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.