This project will accelerate production of County Geologic Atlases (part A). An atlas is a set of geologic maps and associated databases for a county that facilitate informed management of natural resources, especially water and minerals.
Large deposits of copper, nickel, cobalt, and other minerals in northeastern Minnesota could provide huge economic and employment benefits to the state while becoming an important source of important metals for the country. However, the mining required to extract them could have significant water quality impacts in a region that includes the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness and other environmentally sensitive watersheds.
On behalf of the Metropolitan Council, Environmental Financial Group Inc. generated a matrix of water conservation programs with detailed information about the costs and benefits of the programs. Tools were also developed to allow users to calculate potential water savings, estimate program implementation costs, and test the effects of various water conservation programs and rate structures.
The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has been decimating ash throughout the Great Lake States and is currently advancing into Minnesota, threatening the future of the ash forests that occur across much of the state. Of particular concern is the impact EAB will have on the ecology and functioning of black ash swamps, which cover over one million acres in Minnesota and represent the state’s most common ash forest type. Black ash trees grow and thrive in swamps and occupy a unique wet niche where few other tree species grow.
Minnesota has 9.5 million acres of public forest lands that play an important role in sustaining Minnesota’s environment and economy. The policies and programs used by public timber sale programs can impact post-harvest ecological conditions and have pronounced effects on the composition, structure, and productivity of the forest in the future. Additionally, timber harvesting revenues play an important role in economic activity, employment, and tax revenue.
Over 527,000 acres of unmanaged woodlands are being used for livestock grazing throughout Minnesota. Managing these grazed woodlands based on the use of best management practices can provide environmental and economic opportunities, including improved water quality, maximized forage production, and higher-quality timber. The best management practices involved are commonly used in other parts of the country with other types of ecosystems, but have not been widely adopted in Minnesota due to a lack of knowledge and experience with implementing them within the ecosystems of Minnesota.
Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, is amongst Minnesota’s greatest natural resources providing drinking water, shipping, recreation, and tourism. Recently the lake has been undergoing significant changes including increasing water temperatures, decreasing ice cover, increasing nutrient loads, decreasing biological productivity, increasing invasive species, and changes in species abundance and distribution. The reasons behind these changes and the interactions amongst them are not well understood.
On behalf of the Metropolitan Council, Barr Engineering Company developed maps and supporting information to characterize the relationship between surface waters and groundwater, identifying surface waters most likely to be impacted by groundwater withdrawals in the region. This project also provided guidance on effective resource monitoring strategies and costs for each type of surface water feature.
On behalf of the Metropolitan Council, the Minnesota Geological Survey collected information and conducted an assessment of the hydraulic properties and chemistry of selected aquifers in the metro area. This project greatly improves the accessibility of existing data, which were previously available only in scattered paper reports. A robust database of groundwater age, aquifer hydraulic conductivity and groundwater chemistry data was developed to make the information easily accessible to water resource managers.
Moose, one of Minnesota's prized wildlife species, are dying at much higher rates in Minnesota than elsewhere in North America. Recently observed increases in mortality rates amongst some moose in northeastern Minnesota have led to concern that the population there may be entering a decline like that seen in the northwestern part of the state, where moose populations fell from over 4,000 to fewer than 100 in less than 20 years. Additionally the specific causes of increased mortality amongst individual moose remain under investigation.
Minnesota has 15.9 million acres of forest land managed by a variety of county, state and federal agencies, and private landowners for timber production, wildlife habitat, and ecological considerations. Forest managers rely on inventory data to make effective planning and management decisions. Because forests are continually changing through natural and human processes, forest inventory data is periodically updated. However, doing so is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor and, as a result, much of Minnesota’s forest inventory data is currently out of date.
On behalf of the Metropolitan Council, the Minnesota Geological Survey evaluated the vulnerability of glacial aquifers in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The project improved upon previous vulnerability assessments by incorporating a substantial amount of new aquifer property information and blending methods previously used by the Minnesota Departments of Health and Natural Resources. The result is a consistent vulnerability assessment across the metropolitan area based on the most up-to-date information available.
Moose, one of Minnesota’s most iconic wildlife species, are dying at increasingly higher rates in Minnesota and there is uncertainty as to why. Estimates suggest the population declined 35 percent just between 2012 to 2013, and projections suggest moose could be nearly gone from the state by 2020 if this trend is not halted and, ideally, reversed.
Native to the western United States and Canada, mountain pine beetle is considered the most devastating forest insect in North America. Trees usually die as a result of infestation and an unprecedented outbreak in the west is currently decimating pine forests there. While mountain pine beetle is not presently believed to reside in Minnesota, there are risks posed by an expanding species range resulting from warming climate and the potential for accidental introduction via lumber imports from infested areas.
Pollinators play a key role in ecosystem function and in agriculture, including thousands of native plants and more than one hundred U.S. crops that either need or benefit from pollinators. However, pollinators are in dramatic decline in Minnesota and throughout the country. The causes of the decline are not completely understood, but identified factors include loss of nesting sites, fewer flowers, increased disease, and increased pesticide use. Developing an aware, informed citizenry that understands this issue is one key to finding and implementing solutions to counteract these factors.
Native trout require clean, cold water that usually originates from springs, but the springs feeding the 173 designated trout streams in southeastern Minnesota are under increasing pressure from current and expected changes in land use. This joint effort by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is working to identify and map the springs and the areas that feed water to these springs and to learn how these waters might be affected by development and water use.
State law charges the Metropolitan Council (Council) with developing and maintaining a base of technical information needed for sound water supply decisions (Minnesota Statutes 473.1565). The Council’s primary tool to provide this information is the Metro Model 2, a regional groundwater model capable of predicting the impacts of planned water demand on aquifers and connected lakes and streams. The Metro Model 2 is a modern and comprehensive groundwater model of the Twin Cities area, but it is currently out-of-date.
Regional recharge modeling with the Twin Cities daily soil water balance (SWB) model has been a fundamental part of the Metropolitan Council’s groundwater flow modeling effort and supports the Metropolitan Area Master Water Supply Plan. The SWB model is used to evaluate the impact of planned and potential land use and climate on recharge in the eleven-county metropolitan area, and supports the ongoing update of the regional groundwater flow model.
The Metropolitan Council, in conjunction with CDM Smith and HKGi consultants, reorganized and expanded the water conservation tools on the water supply planning pages of the Metropolitan Council’s website. The revised toolbox was organized into an online, web-based guide format. These tools are supplemented with fact sheets and case studies that serve to educate and provide useful information to support water conservation programs and activities.