Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news

March-April 2014

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A Sampling of River News
From March-April 2014 Big River

Frac Sand News

• Caledonia, Minn. — Houston County officials are considering a permanent ban on new frac-sand mining. Commissioners voted unanimously to extend a moratorium on new mines through March 2015, citing concerns about truck traffic, affects on prized trout streams and other environmental effects. Commissioner Justin Zmyewski said that the board was very concerned about how the county’s tax base, infrastructure and the environment could handle the industry, and was inclined to err on the side of caution. (Winona Daily News, 2-1-14)

• Buffalo County, Wis. — The town of Buffalo board of supervisors denied Quality Sand’s application for a sand mine in Piepers Valley, saying the company had not addressed the impact of trucking. Buffalo County’s Zoning Board of Adjustments tabled a permit for a controversial mine and sand washing plant in the town of Waumandee until it gets more information and has a chance to visit the site.

The board is scheduled to meet and vote on the proposal in March. (Winona Daily News, 2-4-14, 1-29-14)

• Winona, Minn. — On Feb. 7, after a four-day trial, a jury found 20 frac-sand protesters guilty of trespassing on April 29, 2013, when they demonstrated and halted truck traffic for an hour at a processing site and Winona’s commercial harbor. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2-7-14)

• Winona, Minn. — In December Winona became the first city in the nation to install ambient air quality monitors to measure air pollution from frac-sand trucks, processing plants and railroad cars. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency installed the gear on the roof of the YMCA building near the Interstate Bridge across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin. It will measure silica sand particles and diesel pollution along a route heavily traveled by sand trucks. The equipment will collect measurements for a year.

Tiny particles of sand, invisible to the naked eye, are regarded as a carcinogen and implicated in many lung diseases, as are particles in diesel exhaust. (KAAL-TV, 1-16-14)

• Trempealeau County, Wis. — Preferred Sands of Wisconsin was fined $200,000 in civil penalties for stormwater and air permit violations at a frac-sand-mining site in Trempealeau County. In May 2012, stormwater carried sediment into a creek and wetland, and flooded a home and garage. It also left a six-inch layer of sediment on a road.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources found that sand had been piled too steeply at the site. (, 12-18-13)

• Burnett County, Wis. — Two Minnesota-based companies, Interstate Energy partners and Tiller Corp., were fined $80,000 for discharging sediment into wetlands, a creek and the St. Croix River in April 2012, in the town of Grantsburg.

The St. Croix River is part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. (Wisconsin State Journal, 1-7-14)

Grab Your Paddle

Sauk City, Wis. — This year’s Great River Rumble will paddle two rivers — the Wisconsin and the Mississippi — from Sauk City, Wis., to Guttenberg, Iowa, from July 26 to Aug. 2. This annual kayak/canoe trip stops each night in a small town, where paddlers eat dinner and camp.

Put on by nonprofit Midwest Rivers Expeditions, the River Rumble is billed as a “trip by the people, for the people.”

Run the River

The second annual Mississippi River Run will start at Lake Itasca this summer and end in New Orleans. Registration for the on-your-own paddle adventure began January 1 and will end May 3, but the departure date has not been set yet. Teams carry everything they need, go at their own pace and do not expect support. They finish when they finish.

It’s for love of the river. “What better way to appreciate the beauty and solace of the river, its biodiversity and enchantment, than to explore every inch of it without leaving but a few footprints in the mud, and then turn around and equip organizations with means to continue protecting these very places? All the while exploring and adventuring in the most rugged and stupidly dangerous means,” explained Mountain Folk founder Michael Waterford, who bills himself “chief of philanthropic adenturey goodness.”

It’s a charity paddle. Each team must raise $1,000 for this year’s chosen charity, Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans.

Volunteers Monitor Wildlife

• Volunteers along Upper ­Mississippi River states are needed to help the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) track imperiled wildlife. Volunteers are essential to data collection, since the DNR doesn’t have the staff to monitor all the vulnerable species.

Iowa DNR’s Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program has set dates for workshops to train volunteers to collect data on critical wildlife. Bird workshops will be held March 8 in Algona and March 15 in Elgin. The Frog and Toad Survey workshop is scheduled for April 15 in Peterson. For more information go to the Iowa DNR website.

• Project Squirrel, a joint project of the Illinois DNR and Motorola, invites citizen scientists to collect information on the state’s squirrel population for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the University of Illinois Chicago. A mobile phone app is available free through both the iTunes Store and Google Play Store. For more information on how to participate in Project Squirrel go to the project website.

• The Wisconsin DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau invites people to help with several wildlife monitoring programs. One of the oldest is the Frog and Toad Survey, which began annual surveys of the state’s frogs and toads in 1984 and is now one of North America’s longest running amphibian monitoring programs. Other programs invite volunteers to collect data on forest raptors, dragonflies and damselflies, bats, mussels, birds and turtles. Visit the DNR’s website for information.

• The Minnesota DNR also offers several volunteer monitoring programs for wildlife data collection. Do you live on a lake or visit one often? If so, you might consider becoming a citizen scientist for the Loon Watcher Survey. Volunteers in this program observe and report loon numbers, nesting success, interesting occurrences and problems loons encounter.

Other programs sponsored by the Minnesota DNR are the Frog and Toad Calling Survey and the Zebra Mussel Monitoring Program. For more information on how to participate in these programs or to view data collected in past surveys visit the Minnesota DNR website.


Warming Trends

If a picture is worth a thousand words, NASA’s new, colorful animation must be worth about a million. This 14-second visualization shows how global temperatures have risen from 1950 to 2013.

The year 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 as the seventh warmest years since records began in 1880. Except for 1998, the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 2000.


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)

Go to Previous River News (May-June 2013)

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)