Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News (Pre-Holiday Edition)

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~

WOTUS - The Second Third Fourth . . . Next Chapter
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers officially published the
final Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule (a/k/a “Waters of the United States” or "WOTUS" rule) in the Federal Register on Monday (June 29).  The Administration maintained a fairly low profile on the controversial issue on Monday and waited until Congress was out of session (and lawmakers out of town) to officially publish the rule. The rule is now set to become effective on August 28.  Beyond the predictable rhetoric, the impending effective date will spur both legal and legislative challenges seeking to block its implementation. As if on cue, on Monday, three separate lawsuits were filed in three U.S. District Courts by attorneys general from 18 states to stop the new rule. On Tuesday, nine more states sued to stop the water rule, bringing the total to 27.  We've summarized these latest developments, along with a few of the more likely future scenarios here.

Next Week
Next Tuesday, members of the U.S. House and Senate return from their week-long holiday recess, and we should see House members renew their floor debate over the fiscal year 2016 spending bill funding the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The bill would cut funding for EPA programs by about nine percent, and contains riders blocking key Obama administration climate change and clean water policy, and putting a halt to endangered and threatened species listings.  You can follow this link for a preview of that floor action, as well as a listing of Congressional committee activities currently scheduled for next week related to the Mississippi River Basin's water resources.  

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • EPA issues final 2015 updated national recommended water quality criteria for human health
    for 94 chemical pollutants
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency news release: "Blue-green algae: If in doubt, stay out"
  • North Dakota Department of Health "dropped ball" on years-long Ransom and Cass counties' arsenic-contaminated groundwater case
Waters of the United States
  • USEPA and Army Corps of Engineers officially publish the final Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule - becomes effective on August 28 (related Agri Pulse article:
  • Congressional Budget Office: Senate bill aimed at killing Obama administration's clean water rule would cost $5 million over next five years
  • Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi sue Obama administration in federal court to stop new clean water regulation (WOTUS) (see complaint and request for review here:
  • 13 states file anti-WOTUS suit in U.S. District Court for the District of ND claiming rule violates Clean Water Act; story: and link to complaint:
  • Ohio and Michigan file suit to block Obama administration's clean water rule; Lawsuit: and Ohio AG press release:
  • Nine more states sue to stop the Obama administration water rule in U.S. District Court (on Tuesday); news story: and complaint:
  • Op-ed by former Rep. Larry Combest (R-Texas): "The EPA's big land grab"
  • EPA releases its responses to about 1 million comments submitted on the proposed clean water rule (warning: it's over 7,000 pages long)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Flood insurance eligibility suspended for 15 Missouri localities because of
  • noncompliance with National Flood Insurance Program floodplain management requirements
  • U.S. Supreme Court agrees to consider longstanding Mississippi claim that Tennessee is
    Click to enlarge (source: USGS)
    stealing its groundwater
  • Four locks on the Mississippi River closed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since Saturday due to flooding
  • USGS study finds that water use in shale oil and gas wells in Ohio River Basin among highest in nation - study: (related Ohio news: See map to right
  • The amount of water needed to cool U.S. power plants has dropped substantially
  • USGS: High Plains aquifer in Great Plains, Mississippi Embayment aquifer in the lower Midwest unsustainably managed
Agriculture -
  • Des Moines Register: Iowa farmers reeling from rainfall
  • Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register
  • Heavy rains and flooding reduce Indiana's corn and soybean crop by nearly $300 million
  • Midwest flooding continues threatening soybeans and corn
  • Minnesota's multi-billion-dollar food industry is trying to cope with major shifts in consumer attitudes, other stresses 
  • Scientific model suggests a society collapse in less than three decades due to catastrophic food shortages, absent policy change
  • Introducing the wireless farm: When your cow's eating patterns suddenly shift or your crops are ready to harvest, you'll know it in the "Internet of Things" world
  • USDA reports show top states for Federal local food system investments include Kentucky, Wisconsin, Mississippi
  • In St. Louis, an urban farmer uses a rooftop and food to spur renewal
  • AGree report calls for food and agriculture research reform
  • USDA: 88.9 million acres of corn planted in 2015, a 1.7 million acre drop from 2014; soybean acreage up 2 percent
Click to enlarge (Source: NOAA)
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: continued improvements over Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota; no changes in Great Plains 
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook (for July): expect west-central Montana drought development and drought removal across the Plains, and upper Ohio and Tennessee Valleys (see map to right
  • This June was officially the wettest in Illinois history
  • "HydroClim Minnesota" summary of June/July climate and resulting/predicted water resources impacts
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Multi-agency Asian carp strategy (2015 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework) includes possible new lock and dam at junction of Mississippi River and Lake Michigan watersheds
  • South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks discovers invasive rusty crayfish in state waters; threatening native crayfish
  • Western Governors' Association's new Chairman: priority for year ahead will be "wildlife management" - "Habitat conservation, recovery of species, making the law better" (includes CO, KS, MT, ND, OK, SD, WY in the Mississippi River Basin)
  • Population of federally-threatened Lesser Prairie Chicken in southern Great Plains grew by about 25 percent over the past year
  • Officials consider closing a popular Montana bison hunting area in effort to encourage animals to roam more widely
  • Apparent long-term decline in Minnesota's yellow perch populations has state officials concerned
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set to 21 species for reclassification under the Endangered Species Act, including Illinois Chorus Frog and Blanding's turtle (also see: Minnesota turtle may get federal endangered status
In the Cities -
  • New PBS documentary exposes human toll of oil boom-bust cycle in Williston, North Dakota
    Photo:Chris Granger, Times-Picayune
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee to require verification of infiltration rates for newly constructed stormwater management structures
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma is a leader in storm-water management and resilient floodplain design in the United States
  • Pittsburgh residents turn increasingly to rain barrels to deal with excessive rain and runoff
  • LaBelle, Pennsylvania-an old coal town on the Monongahela River-struggles with 360-acre coal waste legacy
  • Sunken city or surging metropolis? 9 visions for the future of New Orleans
  • Clarksdale, Mississippi and Helena-West Helena, Arkansas become Mississippi River Delta "sister" cities
In the States-
  • Compromise on ditch buffer initiative becomes Minnesota state law
    Mississippi River Basin States' News
  • Illinois EPA Launches Online Tool Provides Public Access to Highly Sought Agency Records
  • Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoes 19 budget bills that he said would create a nearly $4 billion deficit
  • Illinois Gov. Rauner and statehouse Democrats far apart as ‘mess’ of shutdown looms; stopgap extension eyed (also see: Budget Stalemate Cripples Illinois Government
  • Illinois is not the only Mississippi River Basin state struggling to pass a state budget - Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are too
  • Iowa state politics cited as case study for "why it's hard to see progress in state governments' environmental efforts"
  • With July 1 deadline looming, Pennsylvania House passes GOP-created budget proposal to the dismay of Democrats (Democratic summary shows it's a mixed bag of cuts and increases for environmental and agriculture programs:
  • Pennsylvania Legislature passes and then sends state budget bill to Governor Wolf, who vetoes it and
  • Proposed Pennsylvania Senate bill invalidates DEP regulations proposed to ensure conventional oil and gas wells protect the environment and makes agency restart the proposal process (more: see NPR analysis of bill here
  • South Dakota Board of Water and Natural Resources approves $23.7 million for water and waste infrastructure projects
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • BP agrees to settle with Gulf Coast states and federal government for up to $18.7 billion in environmental, state damages from 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill
  • U.S. Supreme Court will not hear BP and Anadarko appeals over potential federal fines for their 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill roles
Forestry -
  • Senate bill introduced to "expedite and prioritize forest management activities to achieve ecosystem restoration" and borrowing significant NEPA review-streamlining language from H.R. 2647
Resource Development -
  • Senators urge USDA, EPA and DOE to uniformly recognize and support biomass energy as sustainable and significant
  • RFS: Hundreds turn out in opposition, including appeals from two Midwest governors, of proposed plans to reduce biofuel standards in the U.S. gasoline supply
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page)

  • House Republican Leader McCarthy outlines July House legislative agenda; at least some appropriations bills expected to move

Events - Information on all past and future events listed here each week can be viewed in the on-line calendar, located above and to the right (and here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • TODAY: Wisconsin DNR and DHS experts will answer questions about algal blooms live on-line on Thursday, July 2 at noon CT
  • Webinar: Advances in Water Quality Trading as a Flexible Compliance Tool
  • (sponsored by The Freshwater Trust), July 8, 1 PM ET
  • The Omaha Green Infrastructure Tour: Stormwater Management’s Shifting Paradigm, July 9, 9:00 AM-3:30 PM CT
  • EPA Extreme Events and Climate Adaptation Planning Workshop, July 14-15, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Minnesota River Congress' fourth Congress: July 23, Turner Hall, New Ulm, MN
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers and MN DNR are offering free 4 day training on floodplain management; July 27-30, Minneapolis
  • Webinar: Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, July 30, 2 PM ET
  • National Research Council meeting: Effective Approaches for Monitoring and Assessing Gulf of Mexico Restoration Activities; August 24-26, New Orleans (project information:
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • St. Croix River Association's July Events Summary
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers June 2015 "News and Views"
  • Gulf Restoration Network's July 1 GulfWaves e-newsletter: "Dead Zone, the Pope and a Dam Victory"
Other news-
  • EPA issues clarification on effective dates for new rules governing power plant combustion waste (coal ash); story: (here is the Federal Register clarification:
  • Farmers and activists continue the fight against a proposed 23,000-acre coal mine in central Illinois
  • Missouri River Water Trail website provides information to explore the River
  • Poll: slight majority of Americans prefer living in a single-family house in the suburbs or a rural area even if it means long commutes; Significant minority would choose living in an urban area, with a short drive to work or opportunity to use public transportation, bike or walk
  • Like Lake Calhoun, other bodies of water in Minnesota have drawn efforts to change their names
  • McKnight Foundation awards $865,000 to six groups working to reduce agricultural pollution in four Upper Mississippi River states
Politics and People-
  • Jack Sullivan, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources science bureau director,  will resign after his office is targeted for severe budget cuts
  • Pat Murphy (D-Iowa) planning a new bid for the Iowa U.S. House seat he lost to Republican Rod Blum in 2014
Your Moment of Zen -
Anne Wilson/Ikon Images/Corbis

Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For

Members of the U.S. House and Senate return from their week-long holiday recess next Tuesday, and below are the Congressional activities currently scheduled for that shortened work week that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources.  It is very likely that more hearings and meetings will be scheduled as members return to Washington, DC early next week.

Expect the full House to restart its floor consideration of H.R. 2822 - the fiscal year 2016 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.  The bill would cut funding for U.S. EPA programs by about nine percent, and contains riders blocking key Obama administration climate change and clean water policy, while putting a halt to endangered and threatened species listings.  Debate on the measure began on June 25, before Congress adjourned.  Final consideration of the spending bill will include debate on some of its more contentious issues (such as its language blocking implementation of the administration's new Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule). Thus far Democrats have not offered any amendments to strip the more controversial policy riders from the bill.

Links are provided below to the respective committee hearing web pages. Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these may be, as well (follow the appropriate link).  All times are Eastern. This page will be updated as warranted.

  • Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security hearing entitled “Technologies Transforming Transportation: Is the Government Keeping Up?” (including testimony and discussion on how technology integrates with ports to impact safety, efficiency, and reliability); 10:00 AM, room 253 Senate Russell Office Building.
  • House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency hearing "Examining DHS’s Misplaced Focus on Climate Change;" 10:00 AM, room 311 Cannon House Office Building.
  • House Small Business Committee hearing on "the Calm Before the Storm: Oversight of SBA's Disaster Loan Program;" 11:00 AM, room 2360 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing "Examining EPA’s Regulatory Overreach;" 10:00 AM, room  2318 Rayburn House Office Building.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WOTUS - The Next Chapter

Wikimedia Commons Photo: Lowell Rothschild
On Monday (June 29), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers published the final Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule (a/k/a “Waters of the United States” or "WOTUS" rule) in the Federal Register.  EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy delivered remarks at the National Zoo on Monday on the new rule to high school students participating in a Youth Summit on the Environment.  But otherwise, the Administration maintained a fairly low profile on the controversial issue, waiting until Congress was out of session (and lawmakers out of town) to officially publish the final rule.  The rule is now set to become effective on August 28.

Beyond the predictable rhetoric, the impending effective date will spur both legal and legislative challenges seeking to block the rule's implementation.   As if on cue, on Monday morning, the attorneys general of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and in the and 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the rule, arguing that it “is an unconstitutional and impermissible expansion of federal power over the states and their citizens and property owners” (read the complaint and petition for review here). Later in the day, 13 other states filed their own anti-WOTUS suit (link to the complaint here) in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota (Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming) claiming the rule violates the Clean Water Act.   Ohio and Michigan filed a suit on Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus, arguing that the rule's definition of a tributary would "include almost every conceivable water tributary in the country," according to a press release from the Ohio Attorney General.  And finally (for the time being), on Tuesday, attorneys general from nine more states sued to stop the water rule in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, bringing the total to 27. That last group of states included Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. That latter complaint (found here) begins by arguing that the "case involves an attempt by two agencies of the federal government to usurp the States' primary responsibility for the management, protection, and care of intrastate waters and lands."

The rush to U.S. District Courthouses across the country is likely not over, and other states attorneys general may try their hands at the legal gambit. For example, when the rule was first made public in May, the Attorney General from Oklahoma was among the first to mention his inclination to sue. At the end of the day, these various states' lawsuits may be consolidated. Although it is likely that the courts will take their time deciding how and to where the eventual litigation will be consolidated. Deciding which court finally considers any consolidated suit is not unimportant, as judges in more conservative Districts may be more inclined to side with the states.
In addition to states, other organizations will likely file suit to block the rule.  According to a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) spokesperson, the NCBA, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Petroleum Institute and other members of the Water Advocacy Coalition, including organizations representing mining companies and home-builders, plan to file a challenge to the rule this week in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  And at the other end of the clean water rule spectrum, the Waterkeeper Alliance has said that the rule doesn't cover enough waters, and legal action against the rule could be mounted by that organization and similarly-positioned groups, as well.

On the legislative front, on June 10, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved S. 1140 - a bill that would effectively require the withdrawal of the rule and directs the EPA and Army Corps to seek input from states in drafting a new proposal.  Three Mississippi River Basin Democrats, Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (NE) and Joe Manchin (WV), are the only members of their party to co-sponsor the bill, and while it's possible that the legislation could gain the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate, it’s doubtful that 67 votes could be lined up to overturn an expected Presidential veto.  In May the House easily passed H.R. 1732 (the "Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015"), which would also block implementation of the rule, but differs from the Senate bill.   Should the Senate bill pass, those differences would have to be resolved.

Both the House and Senate versions of their fiscal year 2016 Interior and Environment spending bills approved in committee include a rider that would block the administration from implementing its WOTUS rule.  The White House threatened to veto both bills for a variety of reasons related to funding cuts and and policy riders.  Last Thursday, the House began consideration of its Interior and Environment spending bill, before recessing until July 7. The Senate has yet to schedule floor time for its bill; although Senate Democrats have promised to block all Republican spending measures until the parties can renegotiate discretionary spending caps presently in place.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week and Next
In the River region, the wet week just ending included Red River, Illinois River, Mississippi River and Des Moines River flooding; the lifting of a two-week nitrate drinking water advisory in Columbus, Ohio; the banning of synthetic microbeads in Indiana; and a serious proposal to pipe quite a bit of Mississippi River water from Arkansas to Texas each year for “up to 75+ years.”

Meanwhile, in the nation's capital, the White House threatened to veto two spending bills - one being a House measure funding the U.S. EPA and Interior Department, and the second, a Senate Commerce, Justice and Science, spending bill that in part funds NOAA and the National Science Foundation.  The House started to debate the former piece of legislation on Thursday: considering 32 amendments before adjourning until July 7.  One approved change would reduce funding for the EPA Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement by $2 million.  And money for several approved funding increases for Department of Interior programs will come from EPA administrative funds.  An amendment offered by  Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and approved by a voice vote would shift money from EPA's Science and Technology program to its National Estuary Program, funding coastal and estuary restoration.  Final consideration of the spending bill - including debate on most of the contentious issues - was put off until the House returns from its July 4 recess.  Thus far Democrats have not offered any amendments to strip the more controversial policy riders from the bill (such as the language blocking implementation of the Obama administration's new Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule).

You can find the links to these and many other River-related news pieces, below. And for those with limited time or attention spans we do provide the one-paragraph summary of the week's news in "What We Learned This Week - 'Billions and Billions'."

This week we forego the usual look-ahead to next week in Congress, as there will be no next week in Congress.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • National Network on Water Quality Trading releases "Building a Water Quality Trading
    (click here to view report)
    Program: Options and Considerations"
  • Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) backs WOTUS rule reform in speech to National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
  • Columbus, Ohio lifts two-week nitrate advisory, saying tap water is safe, but water problems aren't over
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection drafts Nonpoint Source Management Plan-2014 Update for public comment designed to meet pollution reduction milestones
  • Indiana banning synthetic plastic microbeads in order to protect water resources
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (Alton, IL) launches Great Rivers Ecological Observation Network
  • EPA urged to seize opportunity to update wastewater pollution guidelines for power plants (Effluent Limitations Guidelines for the Steam Electric industry)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Moderate to major flooding predicted in Illinois, Upper Mississippi River valleys
  • High Mississippi River has Army Corps of Engineers watching sand boils, seepage on levees 
    Photo: Laura Simon
  • Rains continue to keep water levels high across Wisconsin
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial: A waterlogged nation fails to learn from its repeated floods 
  • Record rainfall swells parts of Mississippi River to flood stage; closes Red River locks
  • USDA announces new web based tool to proactively monitor dams in real time
  • Amid drought and flooding, states and cities look to harvest the rain, reuse stormwater
  • National Flood Insurance Program probed at Senate hearing; Sen. Schumer: program a "circus"  Sen. Shelby: "something's wrong"
  • Company proposes to pipe 840 thousand acre feet of Mississippi River water to Texas each year for “up to 75+ years”
Agriculture -
  • Earnings in the U.S. farm sector plunged 22.4% in the first quarter of 2015, with all but nine
    states posting declines
  • U.S. Plains flooding since May refills soil moisture, farmers' wallets
  • NPR: Local Food Is Still A Niche. Can It Grow Beyond That?
  • USDA announces $17.5 million to help partners protect, restore, enhance critical wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands
  • North Dakota Natural Resources Conservation Service seeks bids for conservation work amid conflict allegations
  • National Working Group on Cover Crops and Soil Health releases recommendations for USDA agencies and programs
  • Insurance Journal: Floods tend to grab more headlines, but drought is actually much more costly in terms of its impact on agriculture
  • Louisiana farmers brace for worst year since 2008
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: No tangible dryness severity change in Wisconsin and Minnesota; reductions in southeastern South Dakota and adjacent Nebraska dryness
  • Missouri farming at a standstill as storms flood local fields
  • Pennsylvania expands drought watch to 37 counties, six in Ohio River Basin
  • EPA report:  U.S. may face up to $180 billion in economic losses because of drought and water shortages by end of century
  • USDA releases departmental regulation to strengthen action on climate change adaptation
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Lead fishing tackle ingested by fish is killing Minnesota loons and other birds
In the Cities -
  • LaCrosse Tribune editorial: Forget municipal boundaries; Think of 7 Rivers Region as a single,
    Photo: Southeast Missourian archive
    dynamic area without borders
  • FEMA seeks public comment on new preliminary flood maps for Orleans Parish (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Minneapolis says goodbye to river shipping
  • Dutchtown, Missouri in final stages of federal flood buyout project (Mississippi River)
In the States-
  • The Citizens' Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency met for the last time Tuesday
    States' News This Week
    following Legislature's elimination of the board
  • Wisconsin Republicans, who control the Legislature, are balking at Governor's demands for the state’s budget
  • With the clock ticking down to a new fiscal year, Pennsylvania still doesn't have a budget
  • Term limits helping reshape next Louisiana Legislature
  • With fiscal year 2015 coming to a close, more than a dozen states have yet to strike a budget deal, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin
Source: NASA
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • $225,000 grant awarded to University of New Orleans will be used to continue studying Louisiana’s coastline changes
Forestry -
  • U.S Forest Service deploys army of silver flies to help save the Eastern hemlock forests
Resource Development -
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to allow mining companies to look for metals in seven northeastern counties (some in Mississippi River
    Photo: ryangop (Instagram)
  • Over 100 biofuel industry representatives are in Washington this week, pushing for a strong Renewable Fuel Standard
  • Federal judge blocks implementation of Bureau of Land Management regulations for fracking on federal land, hours before they were set to take effect
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health kept a log of health complaints related to natural gas development that reveals agency’s limited follow-up
  • There were 35 earthquakes in Oklahoma between June 17 and 24, prompting regulators to consider new oil and gas drilling restrictions
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
Events - Information on all past and future events listed here each week can be viewed in the on-line calendar, located above and to the right (and here as a stand-alone calendar
  • “Missouri River Invasives” with fisheries biologist Sam Stukel, Sioux City Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, June 28, 2 PM
  • "Integrating Natural Capital into Decisions" June 30, 9 to 11 AM, Resources for the Future, Washington, DC (and the Internet)
  • Iowa State Fair (August 13-23) announces 15 new foods for this year's fair, its most ever, including golden fried peanut butter and jelly on a stick
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • 1 Mississippi campaign June newsletter: "Ashes to Ashes – Floods to Floods"
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's June 19 Watershed News
  • American Farmland Trust's June edition of "The Dirt"
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 294, June 23, "Care For Our Common Home"
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Waterfront Bulletin for June 2015
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy June 24 TUWaterWays e-newsletter (will be posted here eventually:
  • The Great Rivers Partnership June 2015 e-newsletter
Other news-
  • Key lawmakers are sharply divided on how to extend Land and Water Conservation Fund, authority lapses September 30
  • Interior Department releases "Economic Report for Fiscal Year 2014"
  • Senators discuss possibility of a regulatory budget that would limit federal agencies' rulemaking abilities
  • Twin Cities activists say Lake Calhoun needs a new name, as the current one honors a pro-slavery South Carolinian
  • Scientists explore ways to keep synthetic estrogens out of rivers and seas
  • World Health Organization's cancer research agency places the herbicide 2,4-D on its list of "possible" carcinogens
  • Criticism comes "fast and furious" after WHO calls 2,4-D "possibly carcinogenic to humans"
  • U.S. Conference of Mayors' resolution urges Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • EPA issues new safety requirements for underground storage tanks to protect water sources from petroleum leaks
  • U.S. House approves bipartisan bill to update industrial-chemicals regulations for the first time in nearly 40-years (link to bill:
  • Army Corps finds 'low-level' radioactive contamination in two parks along Coldwater Creek (St. Louis County)
  • Ceres Trust calls for applications for competitive Organic Research Initiative program grants in 12-state North Central region; topics include ecosystem health, water conservation, soil, integrated systems
Politics and People-
  • Trent Kelly (R-MS-1), winner of a recent special election, is named to House Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., announced Monday he will seek a sixth term in Congress
  • Green groups upset over Sen. Mark Kirk’s (R-IL) recent record on climate are mulling a campaign against his 2016 reelection
  • White House tries again to obtain Senate approval of Janet McCabe (Office of Air and Radiation) and Kenneth Kopocis (Office of Water) as assistant EPA administrators
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Uli Deck/AP

What We Learned This Week - "Billions and Billions"

Columbus, Ohio lifted its two-week nitrate drinking water advisory, although its water problems aren't really over. Indiana joined a growing list of states banning synthetic plastic microbeads to protect its water resources. Floods tend to grab more headlines, but drought is actually much more costly in terms of its impact on agriculture. The U.S. may face up to $180 billion in economic losses because of drought and water shortages by end of century. And here are some flood headlines: Rainfall and resulting high waters closed some Red River locks; moderate to major flooding is predicted in the Illinois and Upper Mississippi River valleys and the Army Corps of Engineers is watching sand boils and levee seepage along the Mississippi River. The Agriculture Department announced a new web based tool to proactively monitor 12,000 dams nationwide in real time. The National Flood Insurance Program was called a "circus" in a Senate hearing. An Arkansas company proposed to pipe 840 thousand acre feet of Mississippi River water from Arkansas to Texas each year for “up to 75+ years.” That's about 274 billion gallons of water each year. Lead fishing tackle ingested by fish is killing Minnesota loons. The Citizens' Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency met for the last time. The White House said it might veto a House EPA and Interior Department spending bill and has serious concerns over a Senate Commerce, Justice and Science, spending bill. There were 35 earthquakes in Oklahoma and regulators are rethinking the need for new oil and gas drilling restrictions. Activists said that Minnesota's Lake Calhoun needs a new name, as the current name honors a pro-slavery South Carolinian. The U.S. Conference of Mayors urged Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund. However, key members of Congress disagree on how to do that. And last but not least, if you want find "golden fried peanut butter and jelly on a stick" at this year's Iowa State Fair, there's an app for that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For (UPDATED)

This Thursday and Friday, the U.S. House is scheduled to consider its Interior and Environment spending bill - funding the Department of Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Forest Service. That bill will become the seventh annual appropriations measure passed by the House this year. It would cut funding for EPA programs by about nine percent, and contains riders blocking key Obama Administration climate change and clean water policy, and putting a halt to endangered and threatened species listings (NOTE: The House has since canceled Friday votes so that a delegation of several dozen lawmakers can join the President for a memorial service in Charleston, South Carolina).

Even as the House moves ahead on appropriations, it appears increasingly likely that the Senate will not pass any individual spending bills for the 2016 fiscal year, and that Congress is headed toward stop-gap spending legislation or one or more "omnibus" packages containing the elements of individual spending bills (or both).

Below are the U.S. House and Senate activities currently scheduled for this week that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources.  Links are provided to the relevant committee web pages, and, where appropriate, to pieces of legislation. Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these should be, as well (follow the appropriate link).  All times are Eastern.  This page will be updated as warranted. 

  • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee oversight hearing to examine the National Flood Insurance Program; 10:00 AM, room 538 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • Joint Hearing of the Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committees to "Account for True Cost of Regulation and Explore the Possibility of a Regulatory Budget;" 10:00 AM, room G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • House Rules Committee meeting to set the rules for consideration of the fiscal year 2016 Interior and Environment appropriations bill; 5:00 PM, room H-313 Capitol Building.
  • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing entitled “Assessing and Improving Flood Insurance Management and Accountability in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy;” 10:00 AM, room 538 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • POSTPONED - House Appropriations Committee meeting to markup Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill; 9:30 AM, room 2359 Rayburn House Office Building - new date and time to be determined.
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing on several pieces of legislation, including H.R. 1107 to require the Secretary of the Interior to submit to Congress a report on the efforts of the Bureau of Reclamation to manage its infrastructure assets. “Bureau of Reclamation Transparency Act,” and H.R. 2749 to amend the Reclamation Safety of Dams Act of 1978. “Dam Authorization, Maintenance, and Safety (DAMS) Act of 2015;” 10:00 AM, room 1324 Longworth House Office Building.
  • House Natural Resources legislative hearing on H.R. 1937, to require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to more efficiently develop domestic sources of the minerals and mineral materials of strategic and critical importance to United States economic and national security and manufacturing competitiveness (including provisions for expedited environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act), the “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015;” 10:30 AM, room 1334 Longworth House Office Building.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~

This Week and Next

For the first time in six years an Interior, Environment and Related Agencies spending bill has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. And while the Committee's Republican leaders applauded the effort, many Democratic Committee members decried the bill's cut to Environmental Protection Agency programs, and its many riders blocking environmental policy and putting a halt to endangered and threatened species listings. A companion House spending bill achieving many of the same ends passed out of that chamber's Appropriation Committee this week, as well - a bill over which the Obama administration expressed "serious concerns." The House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee released and then approved its fiscal year USDA-FDA spending bill providing funding for discretionary programs, but also (as is customary) cutting several mandatory programs, including the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Implementation Program, Rural Energy for America Program, and Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). That bill includes a policy rider that would delay for one year the implementation of a conservation compliance provision of the farm bill, which requires farmers who receive federal crop insurance to partake in soil and wetland conservation practices. Another rider would prevent the USDA from drafting its upcoming dietary guidelines based on the environmental footprint of foods. Lastly on the spending front, the Senate Appropriation Committee advanced its fiscal year 2016 Homeland Security spending bill that in part funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Among other things, the bill would provide $100 million for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program; more than provided in the current fiscal year, but much less than what the President requested in his budget. All of these rider-laden bills will eventually meet up with a promised Democratic blockade on the Senate floor.  Links to spending bill details and related news articles can be found below, under "Federal Budget."
    Elsewhere this week, we were provided a weekly helping of Clean Water Act rulemaking opinions; on-again, off-again Minnesota state spending legislation included provisions that environmental advocates found both good and not-so-good; Eastern pumas were declared extinct; flooding continued in southern parts of the River Basin and high streamflows in the northern parts; predictions were made for an “average” 2015 Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” later this summer; and the world is depleting most of its largest aquifers at alarming rates. Links to all of this and more can be found below, or in one, brief paragraph in “What We Learned This Week – ‘He's dead Jim’.”
      Next week . . . variations of the same theme (you can look here for a preview of the currently-scheduled River-relevant Congressional activities on tap for next week).

      Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

      Water Quality -

      • Brookings Institution: What the new clean water rule means for metro areas
        Photo: Kenny Kemp, Gazette file photo
      • USEPA Blog: "The Facts about the Clean Water Rule and Agriculture"
      • Environmental organizations give mixed reviews on Obama Administration's final Clean Water jurisdiction rule
      • Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul op-ed: "Clean water rule just more outrageous government overreach"
      • EPA releases Safe Drinking Water Act Ten-Day Health Advisory concentrations for two cyanobacterial toxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin
      • Study evaluates adequacy of water quality (nutrient) monitoring in helping to determine agricultural management practice effectiveness in Lake Erie basin; findings transferable to the Mississippi River Basin; report links: and press release:
      • Studies uphold drinking water health advisory levels issued after 2014 West Virginia chemical spill
      • Freedom Industries and WV DEP reach $2.5 million settlement on 2014 West Virginia spill site cleanup
      • Sierra Club: Regulators are severely underestimating the health risks from power plant water pollution
      • Environmental groups file complaint in West Virginia federal court accusing mine owner of polluting waterways with selenium
      • Recent Ohio Supreme Court case could impact enforceability of discharge limits in Wisconsin wastewater permits (link to referenced Ohio Supreme Court ruling:
      • Several Southern Illinois lakes have fish consumption advisories
      Photo: Jeff Matthews

      Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -

      • New NASA data show the world’s largest aquifers are being depleted at alarming rates (including the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer) (related article, below)
      • Researchers say in a pair of new studies, that we don't know how much water is left in the world's large aquifers
      • Fracking and water: Quantity, not just quality, a concern, even in water-rich states like Ohio
      • Many Louisiana farmers, ranchers face 'total loss' from flooding
      • Heavy river flows slow McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System barge traffic
      • NY Times: Thirsty Colorado's rain barrel debate is a microcosm of intense fights across the region over water rights
      • Army Corps of Engineers seeks nominations for stakeholder representatives on the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee
      • Refurbished 110-year-old Sartell Hydro facility on the Mississippi River is now providing power for a Wisconsin dairy co-op
      • Survey: majority of consumers are concerned about water supply and water infrastructure issues in their communities
      • U.S. Forest Service withdraws its proposal for managing groundwater resources on National Forest System lands

      Agriculture -

      • Minnesota farmers find healthy soil works for crops, bottom line; employ cover crops and no-till
      • Retired Metro transit bus will soon be converted into St. Louis MetroMarket's first mobile farmers market
      • North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner suggests coalition to help animal agriculture in the state
      • Volume of U.S. farmland sales down 40% as values slide

      Climate and Weather -

      • Gulf of Mexico disturbance poses major flood threat for Texas, Oklahoma, Ozarks
        Source: NOAA
      • Arkansas braces for flooding, tornadoes
      • US drought update: some Northern Minnesota and adjacent Wisconsin dryness continues; only a few areas of Great Plains dryness and drought remain following deluges of the last 1 to 2 months
      • NPR Living on Earth: research shows we are getting close to runaway global warming
      • North Dakota Game and Fish Department's draft state wildlife action plan includes analysis of climate change impacts on wildlife
      • Climate change is as much an accepted fact in climate science as plate tectonics is in geology and evolution is in biology
      • U.S. Ag leaders to explore Papal climate change encyclical’s connection to farming at international symposium
      • NOAA data: 2015 is on pace to be the hottest year globally on record

      Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -

      • Hydrilla, a highly invasive water plant, has been discovered growing at Pymatuning Lake (Ohio River Basin)
      • Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks seeks public comment on options that could establish state bison herd
      • First black bear observed in Indiana in over 140 years
      • Fish and Wildlife Service intends to formally remove the Eastern cougar from the endangered species list due to extinction  (also see: and Federal Register notice
      Photo: Shutterstock

      In the Cities -

      • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania flexes its sustainability muscle
      • The persistent rains that have soaked Kansas City, Missouri demonstrate effective rain garden effectiveness
      • Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative now an independent nonprofit organization

      In the States-

      • Controversial Minnesota environment and agriculture state spending bill was rejected,
        States in the news this week
        changed, accepted, changed and accepted again
      • Minnesota spending bill includes stream buffer provision, but critics say it rewards special interests at expense of environment
      • State lawmakers pull the plug on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens' Board
      • Missouri lawmakers' agriculture-related bills raise questions about conflicts of interest
      • Kansas legislators end longest regular session in history after addressing $400 million budget deficit
      • Louisiana lawmakers resolve largely self-inflicted budget crisis with one-year fixes that will lead to problems next year
      • National Association of State Budget Officers report details each state's estimated fiscal 2015 spending, governors’ budget proposals
      • Except for decreases in Iowa, Mississippi and South Dakota, the per capita Gross Domestic Product grew in all of the Mississippi River Basin states last year (the greatest increase being in Louisiana); Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota posted 2014 declines in agriculture and forestry industries

      Gulf Coastal Region-

      • NOAA, partners predict an average 'dead zone' (5,483 square miles) for Gulf of Mexico in 2015
      • June 16 public-television special, "By the River of Babylon" explores South Louisiana culture and environment
      • Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System provides data in support of resilient Gulf communities, ecosystems, economies
      • NASA studies Louisiana’s changing coastal wetlands

      Forestry -

      Resource Development -

      • Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge floods (Red River basin) expose gaps in Fish and Wildlife Service oil and gas management (see related link below)
      • Oil and Gas Wells and Pipelines on U.S. Wildlife Refuges: Challenges for Managers
      • Ohio Department of Natural Resources considers leasing a large part of Perry State Forest for strip mining coal
      • Star Tribune: Is Minnesota prepared for a Bakken oil train disaster?
      • Iowa’s U.S. congressional delegation calls for hearing in state on USEPA ethanol targets
      • Iowa Utilities Board staff find more than 90 questions or deficiencies in a proposed crude oil pipeline plan
      • Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) introduces legislation to repeal the federal renewable fuel standard
      • North Dakota’s oil production has peaked
      • Illinois, Indiana and Missouri researchers among those selected to receive ARPA-E grants to accelerate biofuel crop development

      Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -

      EPA and Interior Department Funding

      • Obama administration has "serious concerns" with House fiscal year 2016 Interior-EPA spending bill
      • House Appropriations Committee approves Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill on a 30-21 vote, funding Interior Department, USEPA, and U.S. Forest Service, and including several controversial environmental policy riders; meeting archive: (draft bill: and accompanying Committee report:
      • Tuesday - Senate Appropriations Subcommittee approves fiscal year 2016 Interior and Environment spending bill, cuts EPA by $538.8 million, blocks WOTUS rule news coverage here and audio webcast archive here
      • Thursday - Full Senate Appropriation Committee advances fiscal year 2016 EPA and Interior Department spending bill that blocks key environmental regulations, endangered species listings; story:; bill hearing page and links: committee release:
      • Democrats express frustration with spending cuts and multiple policy riders in Senate's fiscal year 2016 EPA-Interior spending bill
      • The Hill: Senate panel advances $30B spending bill for fiscal year 2016 that targets EPA rules
      • Senate Appropriation Republicans move to block initiatives to curb global warming, issue new clean water rules, regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal land

      USDA Funding

      • Wednesday - House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee releases FY 2016 USDA-FDA spending bill cutting CSP and EQIP mandatory farm bill conservation programs, Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP); news article:
      • Thursday - House Appropriations subcommittee approves fiscal year 2016 agriculture-FDA spending bill (bill: and summary:
      Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Funding
      • Senate Appropriation Committee advances fiscal year 2016 spending bill funding Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), providing $165 million above the FY2015 enacted funding for mitigation programs, including $190 million for Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment Program and $100 million for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program

      Events - Information on all past and future events listed here each week can be viewed in the on-line calendar, located above and to the right (and here as a stand-alone calendar)

      • Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission will hold its annual Ohio River Sweep on June 20
      • Webinar to explore potential for Minnesota farm producers to develop current and future institution markets, June 25, 3 pm CDT
      • “Missouri River Art and Photography” exhibit artist’s reception, Elizabeth Rozier Gallery, Jefferson City, June 27, 2-4 PM

      e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -

      Source: NFWF

      Other news-

      • Water Environment Research Foundation looking to fund new water quality research projects
      • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announces Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund 2015 Request for Proposals (due date July 15)
      • Senate EPW Committee Chairman may support bill aimed at changing U.S. EPA's new coal combustion waste disposal rule
      • Chi–Cal Rivers Fund is now accepting applications for green infrastructure, habitat improvement competitive funding
      • Federal appeals court will not reconsider ruling on Army Corps of Engineers' streamlined strip coal mine permit program
      • One small infrastructure investment can increase bicycle ridership by 75 percent in just one year
      • Paddle Ohio launches 2015 Summer paddling events on state-designated wild, scenic and recreational rivers and water trails
      • Mississippi River News and Insights: How to get out on the River this summer
      • New Senate regulatory reform bill would encourage federal agencies to minimize regulations' costs, improve transparency
      • Nature: Two new studies confirm that wastewater disposal caused sharp rise in central US earthquakes

      Politics and People-

      • Scientific American: "How Scott Walker Dismantled Wisconsin's Environmental Legacy"
      • Sen. Stabenow announces changes in Senate Agriculture Committee Democratic staff; Chris Adamo jumps to White House Council on Environmental Quality
      • Confidence in all three U.S. government branches remains low, according to a new Gallup poll
      • Louisiana’s four gubernatorial candidates vow not to raid Wildlife and Fisheries funds

      Your Moment of Zen -

      Photograph: NASA