Irma Impact on Southeast US Still Undetermined

Hurricane Irma has made its way through Florida, with Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee in its path — but no longer as a Category 3 Hurricane. Instead, it is moving into these areas as a tropical storm.

Which by comparison sounds relatively benign.

Flooded Manure Pits, Post-Hurricane Matthew 2016

And, in terms of damage to property … it is.

But rainfall will be the important part of Hurricane Irma’s after-story. Like Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the heavy rains from Irma will strain manure lagoons all across the Southeast. The terrible conditions that followed Matthew, are in some approximate measure likely to be repeated. And, while a sizable death toll of animal life in the form of hogs, cattle, cows, chickens, and turkeys is tragic — the runoff from manure lagoons, and land, may be of equal concern.

The waste has to go somewhere and, as ever, it will be downstream.

Agriculture Risks in NC, Post-Irma

Even operations doing a credible job implementing best practices, like Larson Farms in Southeast Florida, will be stretched mightily to control  waste runoff.  Other farms with less resources can be expected to struggle even more.

Watch for reports of animal death tolls, water pollution from animal waste, and heavy Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB) outbreaks, in the coming days and months.

JJ Watt Leads Charge To Provide Relief From Hurricane Harvey

Over $2 million and going strong ….

JJ Watt Promotes Harvey Relief

JJ Watt is raising money for Harvey’s disaster relief

To make a donation, either contribute to CleanWaterWarrior for a direct pass-through to Watt’s foundation, or click here: YouCaring.

 

Runoff Legislation: Slow & Facing Resistance.

Tracking the recent farm runoff legislation strategies in Iowa and Minnesota, it becomes clear – to the surprise of few – that attempts to formalize legislation aimed at curbing farm runoff will be met with staunch resistance.

This does not bode well for residences amongst and downstream of agricultural operations. Such operations continue to struggle with controlling the runoff they create from excessive animal manure.

A recent article by NPR (citing expert Greg Cox) discusses best

Effective grass buffer on MN farm.

practices for reducing farm runoff. Ag runoff, as has been mentioned many times here, is the primary contributor to harmful algae blooms (HABs). As ever, best practices always include creating sizable grass buffer spaces between cropped land and waterways.

Grass which carries a clear benefit for farmers. It can (and should) be harvested to feed and bed farm animals.

Such a basic strategy makes great sense when proposed in a vacuum. But, for farmers striving to pull every bit of revenue from each acre, such an approach may not always make financial sense. And, clearly, farmers have little interest in more governmental involvement — as is presented regarding Iowa legal battles in this recent article from US News and World Report.

The push-and-pull here is inevitable, oh-so predictable, and the least productive method for solving the nationwide and global challenge of HABs.

Springtime = Farm Runoff Time

As Spring soon rolls into the Midwest, the ugly reality of melting snow across hundreds of thousands of manure fertilized fields again manifests. And the picture is not pretty.

In recent years Lake Erie has experienced Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) larger than the size of New York City. Most of this pollution — which comes in the form of phosphorus — empties into the Western Ohio part of the Lake via the Maumee River basin.

In this Aug. 3, 2014, file photo, the City of Toledo water intake crib is surrounded by algae in Lake Erie, off the shore of Curtice, Ohio. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

Since the  Cuyahoga River Basin contains over 15%, or nearly 2,000,000 people, of the State of Ohio’s population, it is popular to contend that these cities are responsible for the pollution. But this argument falls flat, according to a report from LakeErieAlgae.com.

The differences in how heavy spring rainfalls affect phosphorus loads in two watersheds – the Maumee and the Cuyahoga – show the different impacts of non-point sources (like the primarily agricultural lands in the Maumee River basin) and point sources (like the urban and industrial lands in the Cuyahoga River basin, which houses nearly 15% of Ohio’s population). Both watersheds occasionally have combined sewer overflows (CSOs), but research suggests these volumes pale in comparison to the river volume during storms.

In short, the Maume River, flowing through the mostly agricultural Maumee River Basin, is responsible for the vast majority of the phosphorus pouring into Lake Erie. And this phosphorus is the key trigger to HABs.

Watch closely as Spring 2017 approaches. HABs will result no matter what but, should heavy rains accompany the annual melting of snow, record HABs will again be reported across not just Lake Erie, but throughout the USA and beyond.

This excellent report from The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) offers numerous touch points on how to curb HABs, like the below:

  • We need increased actions to address nonpoint source pollution, in particular agricultural runoff. This includes increased targeting of Farm Bill and other programs to priority areas, and continuing research to identify key nutrient source areas.

Summer HABs will be explained in no small part by Spring meltdown and precipitation levels.

The connection is indisputable.