Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news

January-February 2014

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From January-February 2014 Big River

The Next Dinosaurs

The National Research Council (NRC) released a new report on December 3, suggesting that climate changes within the next century could be abrupt and cause a wave of extinctions as dramatic as the disappearance of dinosaurs.

The report, “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises,” is an update of a 2002 report on sudden climate change. It says that young people living today could be around long enough to see:

• the melting of all Arctic late-summer sea ice, which would have large, irreversible effects on the marine food web, habitats and coastlines, and could happen within the next few decades;

• rapidly increasing extinction of plant and animal species at rates as fast as in any warming period in the past 65 million years;

• destabilization of the west Antarctic ice sheet, which would cause a rise in sea levels several times faster than those seen today, and death and destruction along the world’s coastlines.

The report urges the development of an Abrupt Change Early Warning System to monitor signs of tipping points. A co-author of the report, climatologist James White of the University of Colorado at Boulder, pointed out that very little monitoring and recording of climate data is done, and that we watch our banks and streets with more care and zeal than we watch the earth’s environment.

Brand New Bridge

Hastings, Minn. — After three years of construction, all four lanes of the bridge across the river at Hastings were formally opened November 17, with a ribbon-cutting, and speeches by state and local officials. The 1,938-foot bridge is the longest free-standing tied-arch bridge in the country. Its terra cotta color was chosen to match the brick buildings downtown. The old bridge was torn down after the new one opened.

The old bridge hadn’t been scheduled for replacement until 2018, but the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis in 2007 prompted the state to speed the pace of construction. (Twin, 11-12,13; Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11-12-13)

Mercury Rising

Des Moines — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has confirmed dangerous levels of mercury in predator fish from two eastern Iowa rivers and a lake, and also issued its first advisory for snapping turtle meat.

The DNR and the Iowa Department of Public Health recommend consuming no more than one meal per week of bass, walleye or other predator fish from:

• Lake Iowa in Iowa County,

• the Turkey River in Clayton County from its confluence with the Mississippi River 21 miles upstream to the Volga River near Garber,

• the Iowa River from the upper end of the Coralville Reservoir in Johnson County 178 miles upriver to the dam at Iowa Falls in Hardin County.

The same advisory pertains to snapping turtle meat taken from Pollmiller Park Lake in Hardin County.

Mercury finds its way into streams and rivers from industrial processes and burning coal to generate electricity. Fish feeding in contaminated water accumulate mercury. Prolonged and regular consumption of fish and turtle contaminated with high levels of mercury can cause neurological disorders in humans.

The latest consumption advisories bring the total number issued in Iowa to 22. The list of advisories can be found online at the Iowa DNR site. (Iowa Outdoors, October 2013)

Locking a Lock

Washington, D.C. — The Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock may close in 2014, a move intended to prevent Asian carp from spreading up the Mississippi River above Minneapolis.

In a nearly unanimous, bipartisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, on October 23. Besides closing the lock, this bill reforms the processes for authorizing big infrastructure ­projects. In the past, Congress would pass legislation every two years to provide authority to the Army Corps of Engineers to start new projects. But hundreds of projects have been on hold because there hasn’t been a water bill since 2007.

The bill authorizes $10 billion for new construction projects ranging from navigation, flood control, and locks and dams to environmental restoration. It also streamlines procedures, clears a backlog of old projects, expedites environmental reviews and limits project feasibility studies to three years and a $3 million budget.

The Senate passed its version of WRRDA in May 2013. It would also close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock.

The lock closure provision will probably survive reconciliation of the House and Senate versions. The final bill could reach President Obama’s desk before the end of the year. A copy of the 160-page document is available online.


To read more Mississippi River news and stories, order this issue or find Big River at one of these retail outlets.

Go to Previous River News (July-August 2013)

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Go to Previous River News (March-April 2013)

Go to Previous River News (Jan-Feb 2013)

Go to Previous River News (Nov-Dec 2012)

Go to Previous River News (Sept-Oct 2012)

Go to Previous River News (July-August 2012)

Go to Previous River News (May-June 2012)

Go to Previous River News (March-April 2012)

Go to Previous River News (January-February 2012)