Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For

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

Monday, November 30

Tuesday, December 1
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to receive testimony on the Department of Interior's proposed Well Control Rule and other regulations related to offshore oil and gas production;" 10:00 AM, room 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Wednesday, December 2
  • Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry hearing on the agriculture industry’s role in combating global hunger; 10:00 AM, room 328 Russell Senate Office Building.
Thursday, December 3

Friday, December 4

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

This Week and Next in Congress
U.S. Senate and House members are now on Thanksgiving recess, not to return until November 30.
However, lawmakers took advantage of their one week in Washington between breaks for Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, incrementally moving some water-related legislation, and continuing behind-the-scene's negotiations on a federal spending bill that needs to be passed by December 11.

First to the bills of cocnern to those interested in water resources: On Thursday morning, members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a popular package of "sportsmen's" measures that was first amended to permanently reauthorize the equally-popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Only Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against the package, saying he preferred the LWCF reauthorization and reform approach included in House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop's (R-Utah) draft bill. That House bill was the focus of a Wednesday Natural Resources Committee hearing. Support for and against the Bishop bill was largely split along party lines at the hearing, with the Chairman reiterating several times that a straight-forward reauthorization was not "going to cut it." Also on Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which would begin the phase-out of plastic microbeads beginning in 2017. Microbeads are present in personal care products and increasingly present in the nation’s lakes and streams. The bill would move next to the full House for consideration.

Meanwhile, following their Thanksgiving break, lawmakers will have only eight days in session before a December 11 deadline to pass an omnibus 2016 fiscal year spending package that is palatable to the White House. If the bill includes environmental policy riders that the Obama administration finds unacceptable, a Presidential veto and government shutdown may be in the offing. Even before getting a bill to the floor, appropriators must divide up a $30 billion spending increase that all sides agreed to in principle in the Bipartisan Budget Act, and figure out how to find the money for the restoration of the Bipartisan Budget Act's $3 billion cut to crop insurance - restoration promised during Budget Act deal-making.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • Food and Water Watch: Industrial facilities that use unverified agricultural nutrient trading credits to offset pollutant discharges exceeding permit limits violate the Clean Water Act
  • EPA algal toxin strategy: agency to develop list of algal types that could adversely affect health when ingested in drinking water; determine if health advisories should be issued
  • Chesapeake Bay cleanup: Is Iowa next?
  • Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism: Nitrate in water widespread, Wisconsin's
    Click to enlarge
    current rules no match
  • Environmental groups sue Arch Coal Inc. subsidiary over alleged widespread southern West Virginia water pollution (link to complaint
  • Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection finalizes its statewide Nonpoint Source Management Plan (target of 50 nutrient management BMPs/year using state funds)
  • Tractor-trailer crash spills hazardous materials into Ohio's Raccoon Creek, killing almost 6,400 fish
  • Tennessee State University students team up with federal researchers on pollution of the region's water supply
  • Ex-EPA official Ken Kopocis sizes up Iowa water quality efforts
  • Train speed rules didn't apply to ethanol train that derailed Nov. 8, spilling 20,000 gallons into Mississippi River
  • House Energy and Commerce Committee approves on a voice vote the Microbead-Free Waters Act to begin phase out of plastic microbeads; news story:; Committee release
  • Study: Three common insecticides have sublethal toxic effects on several invertebrate aquatic species weeks after they cease to be detected
  • Database developed to be centralized repository for conservation practices to reduce stormwater runoff from agricultural (also see this news story:
Waters of the United States Rule

  • League of Conservation Voters launches Facebook ad campaign to criticize Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) for votes in support of measures to block Clean Water Rule
  • Testimony at Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wisconsin field hearing on federal regulations is critical of Waters of the U.S. rule (related news article
  • Op-ed by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa): EPA's WOTUS rule "ill-conceived"
  • Tennessee farmers closely watching political fight over Obama administration's clean water rule
  • Iowa moves to intervene in federal court challenge to Waters of the U.S. rule
  • Coalition of Texas development interests files WOTUS legal challenge in District Court for the Southern District of Texas, targeting the rule's treatment of Texas coastal wetlands
  • Agricultural organizations this week sent a letter to members of the Senate about Clean Water Rule (Agri-Pulse audio) (copy of ag groups' letter
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • U.S. Supreme Court appoints special master to oversee Mississippi-Tennessee interstate water dispute, recommend ruling to the court (background article:
  • Op-ed: "Is hydropower green? Not really. Nothing alters a river as totally as a dam" (Minneapolis StarTribune)
  • 'No net loss of wetlands' because of Bakken pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners official says
  • Grain shipments enjoying bargain Mississippi River navigation system barge rates (down 66% from 3-year-average)
Agriculture -
  • USDA announces availability of $350M for conservation easements nationwide under
    Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP consolidates three former programs – the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program); news story:; USDA release:
  • Journal of Environmental Science and Policy: Investing in the transition to sustainable agriculture
  • Former NRCS Chief Bruce Knight's thoughts on Natural Resources Conservation Service's fine tuning the Conservation Stewardship Program (Agri-Pulse)
  • Environmental Working Group urges Congress not to roll back budget deal provisions that would lower the cap on returns for crop insurance companies
  • Analyst: Bakken pipeline would be a boon for Midwest grain farmers by freeing up freight rail service
  • Oklahoma Stewardship Council opposes "Right to Farm" proposal on November ballot, saying it favors factory farms
  • Nebraska cattle feeder may face county fines, shutdown over large cattle population, "sham" attempts to circumvent rules (Platte River)
  • New USDA NRCS Organic Farming Handbook released
Climate and Weather -
Click to enlarge
  • World Meteorological Organization: El NiƱo strengthening, will be among biggest on record
  • Weekly NOAA US drought update: Large areas of precipitation across Plains to Midwest and Lower Mississippi Valley brought additional drought relief
  • Report card explores preparedness actions each state is taking to prepare for current and changes in climate threats
  • NOAA: Last month was hottest October globally since record-keeping began 136 years ago
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Study: increased drainage of smaller wetlands in Prairie Pothole region reduces piping plover breeding habitat
  • Over 150 groups call on President Obama to oppose a series of anticipated riders against Endangered Species Act protections
  • Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) urges Endangered Species Act reforms at Western Governors' Association's workshop
  • New study: Cougar numbers are recovering in the Midwest, breeding populations established in Nebraska, North and South Dakota
  • USDA, EPA butt heads on honey bee and pesticide initiative, highlighting lobbying conflicts
  • Scientists say they have found the "missing link" in the debate over the risk of pesticides to bees
  • USGS study: Snake species in nine Midwestern and Eastern states experiencing fungus-caused population declines
  • Yellowstone National Park authorities want to kill 1,000 (one in five) bison to bring population down to target size
In the Cities -
  • DuPage County (Illinois) Stormwater Management accepting grant proposals for projects to improve County’s stream and river quality
  • Poorest town in the poorest state: Tchula, Mississippi (US’s most deprived communities series)
  • St. Louis, Missouri joins global compact among cities' mayors committed to taking action on climate change
In the States-
  • Judge rules that Wisconsin DNR can't impose groundwater monitoring requirements as a condition for high-capacity well permits
  • Wisconsin DNR invites public input on agency approach for evaluating fish passage at dams
  • Months-long impasse over a Pennsylvania budget poised to end - - - in December
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board approves final draft of state water resources plan addressing use, conservation and river health (Plan is available at
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Louisiana coastal official to Congressional panel: federal government's lack of overarching plan to fight Louisiana land loss wastes money
  • Plaquemines Parish Council (Louisiana) votes to dismiss 21 lawsuits against 68 oil and gas companies over alleged damage to wetlands
  • Partnership plans to restore four miles of embankment along Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Lafourche Parish, LA
Resource Development -
  • Rising energy demand is straining freshwater supplies globally; U.S. oil demand disproportionately responsible
  • Bipartisan group of U.S. Senators pushes bill to improve pipeline safety (link to bill:
  • West Virginia company uses "dummy proof" technologies to convert fracking wastewater into distilled water and road salt
  • Iowa Utilities Board begins debating pipeline project to carry Bakken crude oil through the state
  • For the first time in a decade, North Dakota Bakken oil patch posts a year-to-year production decline
  • For the first time in years, North Dakota's oil is now traveling by pipelines more than trucks
  • In potentially illegal move, Iowa Utilities Board head withholds funding for state's renewable energy research center
  • Bureau of Land Management seeks Ohio public input over potentially opening part of Wayne National Forest to fracking
  • Coal companies scrap applications for federal leases containing nearly 2 billion tons of Wyoming Powder River Basin coal reserves
  • Conservation groups call for increased restrictions on Powder River Basin energy production to stem wildlife decline
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • Critics of Obama administration's environmental rules meet with House appropriators to push for inclusion of riders in omnibus spending bill
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan: Republicans will force President to accept some conservative policy riders in spending bill
  • House Democrats: any 'poison pill' spending bill amendments are dead on arrival
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 Department of Natural Resources Water Quality Standards Workgroup Meeting;
    December 10, 10 am–1 pm, Jefferson City
  • 2015 Illinois Farm Economics Summit to explore "Nutrient Loss Challenge and Farm Bill Conservation Programs" (mid-December, multiple dates and locations)
  • St. Croix River Association presents: An Afternoon with Mark Twain featuring Don Shelby; January 24, 2016, 2 PM, Hudson
  • River memories-sharing spurred by “Remembering the Bohemian Flats: One Place, Many Voices” exhibit
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 220; November 16; "Paul Orr: Myths and Misconceptions"
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy November 17 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Feedlot Update - November 2015
  • America's Waterway River Currents Newsletter - November 2015
  • Wisconsin DNR: Wisconsin River Basin Clean Waterways Project Quarterly Newsletter
  • Gulf Restoration Network's November 19 GulfWaves e-magazine
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's November 19 Watershed News
Other news-
  • Food Policy Action announces National Food Policy Progress Report for the 114th Congress
    Click to enlarge (scored food policy issues include domestic and international hunger, food safety, food access, farm subsidies, animal welfare, food and farm labor, nutrition, food additives, food transparency, local and regional food production, organic farming and the effects of food production on the environment)
  • Indiana University researchers awarded funding to study water resources, climate variability
  • Environmental Defense Fund seeks to fill Mississippi River Delta and Natural Infrastructure Economist position
  • National Audubon Society Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition position opening: Communications Associate, New Orleans, LA
  • House passes two-week extension of Highway Trust Fund to give congress more time to finalize long-term reauthorization
  • The House Natural Resources Committee releases "federal footprint" map of federal lands, as well as lands with federal environmental designations or resources subject to federal environmental regulations
  • Artist's proposal to drape 6 miles of fabric above Arkansas River gorge faces what's likely its final legal test
  • OMB releases Fall 2015 Regulatory Plan and the Unified Agenda; includes important regulatory actions that agencies are considering for issuance in FY 2016
Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • House Natural Resources Committee Democrats release analysis focused on Committee members' districts benefiting from LWCF money
  • House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop attempts to make case for reforming Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund gains support of the Evangelical Environmental Network and 50 venture capitalists
  • Senate committee approves sportsmen's legislative package including Land and Water Conservation Fund renewal amendment (link to amended bill:
Politics and People-
  • Colin O'Neil, Center for Food Safety director of government affairs, named new Environmental Working Group director of agriculture policy (bottom of article)
  • Illinois state senator Napoleon Harris enters Democratic U.S. Senate primary race, with winner taking on Mark Kirk (R)
  • McKnight Foundation hires Brendon Slotterback as Midwest Climate and Energy program officer
  • Illinois Governor appoints farmer and State Representative Raymond Poe to be Department of Agriculture Director
  • Republican candidates are backing down on "war on coal" rhetoric, finding it doesn't resonate with younger voters
  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sues US Department of Agriculture, alleging censoring of scientists
  • New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Kentucky state legislator Robert Stivers named as two of Governing magazine's Public Officials of the Year
Your Moment of Zen -

Monday, November 16, 2015

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

Big-ticket legislative items will consume the attention of Congress this week, ahead of its planned Thanksgiving week recess. Surface transportation program authorization expires on Friday, and House and Senate conferees will work early in the week to resolve a handful of differences between the Senate and House long-term bill versions.  House and Senate appropriators will be working this week on an omnibus 2016 fiscal year spending package that both meets the conditions of the bipartisan budget deal signed into law three weeks ago, and that can pass both chambers while avoiding a Presidential veto over policy riders.  Republicans plan to propose a number of spending bill riders (or amendments) that address contentious energy and environmental policies, including one restricting funding to implement the final Waters of the U.S. rule.  The continuing resolution currently funding the federal government expires on December 11. The alternatives to passing an omnibus bill by then are a federal government shutdown or yet another short-term extension.

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

Tuesday, November 17
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to examine past wildfire seasons to inform and improve future Federal wildland fire management strategies; 10:00 AM, room 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting to mark up several bills, including S. 611, the Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act; and H.R. 1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015;  4:00 PM, room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.
Wednesday, November 18
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing examining the International Climate Negotiations; 9:30 AM, room 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • House Budget Committee hearing entitled, "Does Biennial Budgeting Fit in a Rewrite of the Budget Process?" 9:45 AM, room 210 Cannon House Office Building. 
  • House Natural Resources Committee legislative hearing on "Protecting America's Recreation and Conservation Act" (discussion draft) to "reauthorize and reform the Land and Water Conservation Fund;" 10:00 AM, room 1324 Longworth House Office Building.
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on the "Administration’s Empty Promises for the International Climate Treaty;" 10:00 AM, room 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • NEW - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting to consider several pieces of legislation, including S. 556, the "Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015," a bill "to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting," and the nomination of Suzette M. Kimball, Ph.D. to be Director of the United States Geological Survey; 9:30 AM, room 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Endangered Species Act Issues are Nuanced and Multifaceted
If you ever needed proof that the issues central to informed discussions on the status and future of the Endangered Species
Act (ESA) are both sophisticated and complex, look no further than this past Tuesday's Farm Foundation Forum panel presentations on "The Endangered Species Act of the Future." The Forum proceeded from an overview of what many deem to be a successful 11-state effort involving governments, landowners and industries to prevent the ESA listing of the greater sage grouse. But the panel members went beyond that singular example to explore in detail and nuance the varied perspectives on the ESA, giving the audience a glimpse into how those diverse views might shape the future of the Act, itself, and of landscape, agricultural, species and ecosystem conservation overall [That future will likely entail a just-announced USDA initiative to engage farmers and ranchers in the monarch butterfly's 11-state migration range in efforts to improve habitat and turn around that species rapid numbers decline (possibly avoiding a potential ESA listing)].

Layered between informed and informative opening and closing remarks, respectively, by Jason Weller (Chief, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service) and Alex Echols (representing the Sand County Foundation) were distinctive and notably refined presentations by Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, U.S. Department of Interior, David Willms, Policy Advisor to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Brian Rutledge, Vice President of the National Audubon Society, and Wyoming rancher Patrick O'Toole, who is also President of the Family Farm Alliance.  Biographies of all of the presenters can be seen here, and both their panel remarks, and the subsequent question and answer session can be found here in an audio format.  A listen is highly recommended.

Federal Spending Legislation Takes Shape - Policy Riders Are in Play
For the next several weeks behind the scenes in Congress we'll find House and Senate appropriations committee members and staff diligently crafting an omnibus 2016 fiscal year spending package that both meets the conditions of the bipartisan budget deal signed into law three weeks ago (H.R.1314 - the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015), and (they hope) that can be passed by both chambers while avoiding a Presidential veto.  Potential political potholes along the road to enactment arise from Republican plans to propose a number of spending bill riders (or amendments) that address contentious policy, including those blocking implementation of the final Waters of the U.S. rule, and the proposed Interior Department stream protection rule (other possible environmental riders include those overturning recent changes to ozone emission standards and the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan). Some Democrats and their staff are softening a previously hard-line Democratic anti-rider position, and now indicate that it will be impossible to pass a totally rider-free spending bill.

Negotiators have until December 11 to prepare spending legislation and get it passed. After that date, the continuing resolution currently funding the federal government expires. The alternatives to passing an omnibus bill by then are a federal government shutdown or yet another short-term extension. Congressional staff indicate that appropriators are unlikely to finish their spending bill negotiations until the week of November 30 at the earliest.

Next Week
Next week's Congressional committee activity includes several hearings of interest to Mississippi River Basin and Coastal Louisiana water resource stakeholders; one being a legislative hearing on a bill authored by Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah to "reauthorize and reform the Land and Water Conservation Fund."  You can see the entire list of water-relevant committee hearings here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Wisconsin Train Derailments and Spills
  • Wisconsin: train carrying crude oil derails and leaks oil one day after train derailed on the Mississippi River (related stories below)
  • Canadian Pacific Railway: broken rail caused an oil train derailment in southeastern Wisconsin
  • Crews clean up after train derailment, ethanol spill on Mississippi River in western Wisconsin  (photo to the right)
  • Mississippi River backwaters' clean up from train derailment, ethanol spill continues; environmental impacts unknown
  • BNSF Railway says Wisconsin rail ethanol spill was not harmful to aquatic life
  • Officials say Wisconsin "dodged a bullet" following the spill of thousands of gallons of ethanol from a derailed train
  • Federal officials investigating what caused two Wisconsin weekend train derailments-ethanol and crude oil
  • Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) urges House leadership to immediately bring his rail safety legislation to a floor for a vote
  • Recent train derailments in Wisconsin show the need for safety upgrades and better emergency response planning
Other Water Quality News
  • Safe, clean drinking water eludes many Wisconsinites faced with metal and nitrate pollution
  • About 1,000 barrels of crude oil spilled from a pipeline in rural Oklahoma; "no water was contaminated"
  • North Dakota Department of Health notified of 250 barrel (10,500 gallon) brine spill in Stark County; "some" collected
  • North Dakota Department of Health notified of pipeline leak; approximately 225 barrels (9450 gallons) of crude oil released
  • National implications: Farm organizations, home builders ask U.S. Supreme Court to consider blocking the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay pollution limits
  • State to revive mercury testing program for fish caught in Louisiana waters for the first time since 2008
  • Over 50 business organizations turn up pressure on 10 moderate Democrats and Independent who voted against Senate WOTUS-blocking bill (related news article
  • Consortium of aquatic scientists opposed Senate Resolution invalidating Clean Water Rule
  • 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denies environmental groups' request to force U.S. EPA to respond to petition to withdraw West Virginia's Clean Water Act permitting authority
  • Illinois Nutrient Science Advisory Committee members named; will guide nutrient water quality standards development
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment files notice of intent to sue US EPA over its failure to oversee development of state's water quality standards under Clean Water Act
  • Coal mining cleanup in Ohio waterways showing mixed results as legacy pollution persists and
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee gearing up for next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
  • Obama administration files petition with U.S. Supreme Court regarding two pending appeals in water cases (related story:
  • Petitioners ask Army Corps to be more transparent with its processing of permit applications
  • Nebraska irrigators served by Republican River basin irrigation district sue state for sending water to Kansas in 2014
  • USDA expands water resource investment in Ogallala Aquifer Initiative; adds focus areas in Nebraska and Oklahoma
  • US Army Corps of Engineers' Pittsburgh District requests input on Ohio River  riverfront habitat restoration project
  • Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana looks to add two new levee projects to its proposed 2016 parish budget
  • The Future of Ag Water: Increase Irrigation Efficiency and Sell Conserved Water
  • Over 200 groups send letter urging House members to vote against "North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act; "an unprecedented assault" on rivers, people and wildlife (link to bill
  • Purdue University study: Current flood models do not account for cities' impact on local rainfall patterns
  • EPA releases draft National Wetland Condition Assessment for comment
Agriculture -
  • Top USDA official says climate change poses a serious threat to Midwest agriculture
  • EPA and USDA partner with producers, and environmental and scientific experts to develop technologies to recycle nutrients from livestock waste
Climate and Weather -
  • Figures compiled by the World Meteorological Organization showed strong growth  and new records during 2015 in concentrations of all three of most important heat-trapping gases
  • "Drought creep” intensifies across southern Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas
  • NOAA US drought update: dryness expanded in parts of Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois; was alleviated in the Lower Mississippi River Valley, southeastern Oklahoma
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • USDA launches new conservation effort to aid monarch butterflies
  • Public can comment through Nov. 19 on proposal to allow Wisconsin corn growers to treat seed with repellent to stop Sandhill Crane feeding
  • Researchers find fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in Nebraska bats, marking the westernmost detection of the fungus
  • Western state wildlife officials urge oil and gas companies to enroll in voluntary plan to conserve lesser prairie chicken habitat
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources live bald eagle cam video streaming now from Twin Cities nest
  • Bureau of Land Management to hold nine public hearings over proposal to withdraw up to 10 million acres of federal lands in six states from new mining claims in an effort to protect the greater sage grouse
In the Cities -
  • Minneapolis City Council resolution targets oil train safety through the city
  • New Orleans officials hope to use BP spill money to help fund huge disaster mitigation plan
  • The Guardian: Blighted Beattyville, Kentucky, where hostility to the US’s first black president and his "war on coal" runs deep
  • U.S. EPA invites nominations for possible appointment to its Local Government Advisory Committee (December 14 deadline)
In the States-
  • Illinois Pollution Control Board asks state EPA to detail how it will implement new federal coal-ash disposal rules (related: Illinois Pollution Control Board Acts on Concerns Regarding Coal Ash Waste from Electric Generating Plants
  • Wisconsin state lawmakers introduce rail safety bill in wake of two derailments
  • Critics say politicized state environmental agency threatens Wisconsin's water
  • Lake associations, river groups, local governments can apply for Wisconsin DNR surface water planning grants through December 10
  • Kansas slashes current fiscal year revenue estimate by $159 million, announces budget adjustments
  • Pennsylvania budget deal near with higher sales tax, but many decisions still need to be agreed to and
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Funding for Louisiana's 50-year master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane storm surge protection at least $71 billion short
Forestry -
  • EPA solicits comments and information on public and private programs to protect water quality from forest road stormwater runoff
  • USDA announces $10.6 million in available funding for projects to restore southern and southeastern longleaf pine ecosystems (including in Mississippi and Louisiana)

(click to enlarge either map)
Resource Development -
  • President Obama rejects application to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast
  • Keystone XL oil pipeline supporters plan their next steps following President Obama's permit rejection
  • Enbridge mapping possible 'twin' of major tar sands line through Wisconsin
  • Analysts say President Obama's rejection of Keystone XL project may eventually boost rail shipments out of Alberta
  • After five years of work, Obama administration's proposed regulatory overhaul fails to patch hole in US pipeline safety net
  • Signs of a developing shale gas economy dot the Ohio River in Marshall County, West Virginia
  • Southern Illinois community braces for another coal bust cycle cycle as one of two large mines is scheduled to close within six months
  • Coal "isn’t going anywhere," according to the head of the World Coal Association - it's simply "moved to Asia"
  • Des Moines Register: 12 things to know about proposed Bakken oil pipeline (through Iowa) (related story below)
  • Iowa commission voting on the Bakken pipeling project is one of the most inexperienced utility commissions in the country
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
  • Webinar: Navigating the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit: How the Toolkit can support local planning and decisions for enhanced community resilience, November 19; 12:00 - 1:00 pm ET
  • Association of State Wetland Managers Webinar: Improving Wetland Restoration Success Project-Novel Ecosystems and Restoration; November 19, 3 PM ET
  • USEPA Science Advisory Board Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel  Public Teleconference,  December 3, 2-6 PM ET
  • 76th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, January 24-27, 2016; Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • StormCon 2016-annual surface water quality conference; Indianapolis, Indiana, August 22 - 25, 2016
  • Presentations from the 2015 Minnesota Water Resources Conference are now posted on University of Minnesota website
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 219, November 9: "Gators and Freighters"
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy TUWaterWays e-newsletter for November 10
  • Fall edition of Army Corps of Engineers' "Our Mississippi" magazine
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Waterfront Bulletin for November 2015
  • NW PAssages November e-magazine, exploring NW Pennsylvania's greenways and natural heritage
Other news-
  • Tennessee Clean Water Network seeks to fill a staff attorney position
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announces RFP for 2016 Five Star and Urban Waters
    Restoration grants
  • Voting open for 2016 Pennsylvania River of the Year through December 4; Ohio, and Kiski-Conemaugh rivers nominated
  • Annual ‘Greening The Statehouse’ environmental event in Indiana this year will focus on coal ash management rules
  • New GOP bill - H.R.3939 - would "require that the workforce of the Environmental Protection Agency be reduced by 15 percent"
  • Republicans disagree over House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop's plan to reform Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Chances of a Senate vote on bill to overhaul TSCA dim because of protracted Land and Water Conservation Fund fight
  • Western Values Project ad tries to convince three Republicans to oppose their party's Land and Water Conservation Fund bill
  • City Parks Alliance: " A Smart Investment for America's Health: Land and Water Conservation Fund"
  • River Life blog: America’s Watershed Report Card: A Good Start Despite/Because of the Controversy
  • Controversial herbicide glyphosate can now be approved for relicensing in the European Union
Politics and People-
  • Obscure North Dakota federal district judge Ralph Erickson takes lead role in fight over Obama clean water act rule
  • Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R, At-Large, Wyoming) will not seek re-election in 2016
  • Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity joint "State Integrity Investigation" grades states based on laws and systems they have in place to deter corruption; three states graded higher than D+
  • Columnist fired after writing article critical of Ducks Unlimited donor regarding access to ranchland near Ruby River (Missouri River Basin in Montana)
  • Gallup poll: Congress' job approval rating slips to 11 percent
Your Moment of Zen -

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

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

The House stands in recess until November 16, and the Senate chambers will be darkened this Wednesday, November 11, for Veterans' Day, leaving very little room for Congressional activities.  Behind the scenes this week, Senate appropriators will be busy drafting an omnibus spending bill after receiving new spending allocations that reflect the bipartisan budget deal signed into law two weeks ago (H.R.1314 - the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015).  Congress is facing a December 11 deadline to pass spending legislation for the current fiscal year.  The topic of spending bill "riders" that limit funding for contentious federal programs and initiatives is sure to arise between now and then.  Last week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), Chairwoman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee (that oversees spending bills relating to the U.S. EPA and the Interior Department) reiterated the Republican plan to put forward multiple riders, including one restricting spending to implement the Waters of the U.S. rule.

Thus far only two Senate committee hearings are scheduled this week relating to Mississippi River Basin water resources: a hearing regarding spending on unauthorized programs (see this Congressional Budget Office fiscal year 2015 summary of "Unauthorized Appropriations and Expiring Authorizations," which includes the presently-unauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund), and a Wisconsin field hearing in Stevens Point (a Wisconsin River town) on federal regulations.

Links are provided below to the relevant committee web pages.  Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these may be, as well (follow the hearing link).  This information will be updated as warranted.

Thursday, November 12
  • Senate Budget Committee hearing to examine spending on unauthorized programs; 10:30 AM, room 608 Dirksen Senate Office Building (No details or hearing link are yet available).
Friday, November 13
  • NEW - House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee roundtable on “The Importance of Port, Waterway, Flood Control, and Ecosystem Restoration Improvements to the Nation’s Economy: Concepts for the Next Water Resources Development Act;” 9:30 AM CST; Formal Conference Room (fourth floor), Louisiana Supreme Court, 400 Royal St., New Orleans
  • Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs field hearing on the "Impact of Federal Regulations: A Case Study of Recently Issued Rules;" 1:00 PM CT, Dreyfus University Center, 230 Laird Room (1015 Reserve Street, Stevens Point, WI 54481).

Friday, November 6, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Next Week in Congress
It was a busy week on Capitol Hill this week (as illustrated below), but next week will be practically lifeless in comparison.  The House stands in recess until November 16, and the Senate chambers will be darkened next Wednesday for Veterans' Day.  That leaves very little room next week for Congressional activities relating to Mississippi River Basin water resources.  In fact, thus far only one such committee hearing is scheduled: a Wisconsin field hearing in Stevens Point (along the Wisconsin River) on federal regulations.  The details on that hearing, and any updates to water-related Congressional activity will be available on this web site.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States Rule
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce tells senators it will keep tabs how they vote on WOTUS rule as does League of Conservation Voters (related news story:
  • Senate fails to move forward with a GOP-led bill to overturn the Obama administration’s clean water rule
  • Democrats successfully filibuster Barrasso anti-WOTUS bill, setting up a Wednesday CRA resolution vote to block rule
  • White House issues veto threat for Senate Congressional Review Act resolution that would stop WOTUS rule
  • Senate passes Congressional Review Act resolution 53-44 to kill Obama administration's controversial clean water rule
  • Click to enlarge
  • Senate: 10 Democrats; 1 Independent call on Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to better clarify implications of final WOTUS rule
  • Colorado governor moves to stop state Attorney General's EPA lawsuits, including suit to block WOTUS rule
Other Water Quality News
  • USDA invests $30 Million to improve Mississippi River Basin water quality; 33 new projects and 40 existing projects targeted in high-priority watersheds funded through NRCS' Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (Full list of 2016 projects:
  • Final EPA wastewater rule limits pollutants released by power plants known to cause cancer, other health issues; story: Federal Register notice: (final rule goes into effect in 60 days)
  • Blue-green algae bloom plaguing the Ohio River is subsiding, while scientists ponder the causes
  • Kentucky lifts recreational use advisory caused by algal bloom for Markland, Meldahl, Greenup pools of Ohio River
  • Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge lifts blue-green algae advisory for Long Lake (North Dakota)
  • Ohio Attorney General joins other state AGs in opposing Interior Department's new stream protection rule
  • Minnesota Local Road Research Board funds review of successful road deicing approaches that keep waters cleaner
  • Water Environment Federation: "The Essential Elements of a Successful Water Trading Program
  • Studies identify water quality problems (bacteria and phosphorus), remedies for the Goose Creek Watershed (Minnesota)
  • Rep. Edwards (D-MD) Amendment to House highway bill adopted - re: highway designs to better manage storm water
  • Minnesota project seeks to demonstrate water quality approaches focused on linking upland practices with farm tile outlets
  • U.S. EPA's Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel criticizes agency's finding of no 'widespread, systemic' problems with drinking water from hydraulic fracturing; Committee materials including comments:
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Company wetland case seen as 'no-brainer' for U.S. Supreme Court review
  • Supporters of a plan to bring Missouri River water to the Red River Valley say it's time to move forward
  • NPR: Illinois Issues: Urban Flooding-Heavier rainfalls and sprawling development have left outdated sewers struggling to keep water out of streets, businesses and homes
  • Louisiana's congressional delegation tells Army Corps of Engineers of serious concern over 460-acre wetland construction project
  • Concerns about and conflicts over water in Red River (of the South) Basin grow over of increases in water use
Agriculture -
  • USDA NRCS proposes to revise Illinois Technical Guide regarding wetland determinations to include offsite methods
  • Media release: USDA Provides $314 Million in Water and Waste Infrastructure Improvements in Rural Communities Nationwide
  • EPA proposes ban on all agricultural uses of the Dow AgroSciences insecticide chlorpyrifos
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy seeks input on programs working to innovate agricultural science; areas of need in research, education, training
  • Bills being introduced in House and Senate would cut $19 billion over 10 years from federal crop insurance program
Climate and Weather -
  • NOAA: New report finds human-caused climate change increased the severity of many extreme events in 2014
  • NOAA US drought update: rains end general expansion of dryness or drought in most of
    Click to enlarge
    Plains, southern Mississippi River Valley and Midwest
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chair accuses NOAA of violating his subpoena for scientists' emails (related article below)
  • Meteorologists defend NOAA; say Lamar Smith actions "can be viewed as a form of intimidation"
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook for November: forecasts favor a continuation of wet pattern and widespread removal of drought conditions
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • DNR busts Minnesota snapping turtle poachers, three men face charges
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife crews detect two small silver carp upstream of Seneca, Ill., in the Illinois River
  • Lawmakers told it could take at least four years to develop plan to stop Asian carp at Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet
  • Rep. Hartzler (R-MO) amendment to House highway bill rejected (re: repealing section on landscaping and scenic enhancement); had been opposed by pollinator habitat advocates
  • New Senate bill seeks to prevent and slow the spread of invasive species on federal lands; link to Senate bill: and link to companion H.R. 1485 here:
  • U.S. Geological Survey: Native bees are being exposed to neonicotinoids and other pesticides in farm fields
  • Snowy owls coming to Minnesota earlier and more often looking for food
  • 24 Democratic senators and Independent Bernie Sanders urge Obama to veto bills with anti-Endangered Species Act riders
In the Cities -
  • East St. Louis, Illinois finds itself near bottom, Cedar Falls, Iowa and Bismark, North Dakota near top of new "Best and Worst Small Cities in America” rankings
  • Pennsylvania town defies federal judge; revises charter to maintain drilling operation wastewater ban
  • Times-Picayune editorial: Levee taxes are essential to keeping greater New Orleans area safe from storms
In the States-
  • Iowa citizens' group files complaint accusing state environmental officials of failing to closely
    Click to enlarge
    review waste-management reports (manure)
  • Minnesota Capitol building restoration raising concerns about restrictions to open government
  • Audit: Financially strapped Louisiana lost $1.1 billion from 2010-2014 because of severance tax exemption on horizontal drilling
  • Pennsylvania state budget impasse enters fifth month but signs of progress reported
  • Pennsylvania DEP invites comments on new policy for assessing, reporting stream quality
  • Listing of 2016 legislative calendars for states
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Can Mississippi River sediment save Louisiana's disappearing coastline?
  • Louisiana coastal restoration design competition finalists would abandon coastal communities
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy: Louisiana lacks sufficient funds for coastal protection, restoration
Resource Development -
  • Limited study: Environmental damage from brine spills is more severe and longer-lasting than
    impacts of oil releases
  • White House begins final review of proposed ethanol-level rules under the federal renewable fuels mandate
  • Refinery designed to make ethanol from cornstalks, leaves and cobs opens in central Iowa
  • New Environmental Working Group report urges an end to corn ethanol mandates; use of cellulosic ethanol, other lower-carbon biofuels
  • Renewable Fuel Standard foes release report on the ethanol mandate's impact on the climate and economy in Ohio
  • TransCanada asks the Obama administration to suspend its review of Keystone pipeline project (related story below)
  • Obama Won’t Yield to Company’s Bid to Delay Keystone Pipeline Decision
  • Youngstown, Ohio rejects an anti-fracking ballot measure for a fifth time
  • New U.S. Senate bill would block further fossil fuel leases on federal lands
  • Oil and gas companies have formally renewed their interest in drilling for natural gas in a southeastern Ohio national forest
  • Murray Energy to close New Era mine near Galatia, Illinois, in next year as reserves run out, sales fall
  • Coal industry's swift, steep drop continues in Eastern Kentucky
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • Democrats prepare for another Federal government shutdown showdown over policy riders in December
  • Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) does not rule out the House including policy riders in an omnibus appropriations bill
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
  • National League of Cities' 2015 Congress of Cities, Nashville, Tennessee, November 4-7
    National Bison Day - November 7
  • National Bison Day celebration, Tallgrass Prairie Nature Center (Mindenmines, Missouri) 10 AM, November 7
  • Community-Based Public-Private Partnerships Stormwater Infrastructure Summit, December 7, Philadelphia, PA
  • National Conference of State Legislatures 2015 Capitol Forum, December 8-11, Washington, D.C.
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) unveils bill to overhaul the Land and Water Conservation Fund, setting up battle with Democrats and conservation groups (link to bill; story here:
  • Obama order expands upon no net wetland loss policy; requires agencies to offset environmental impacts of development; called arrogant by GOP ( link to memorandum:
  • Illinois advocates warn of municipal utility's coal-ash ponds leaking into Springfield’s groundwater and drinking water supplies
  • Montana Legislative Audit Division finds railroad crude oil safety in Montana to be lacking during high traffic
  • Green groups say House transportation bill would eviscerate environmental review,  meaningful public input for transportation projects (related story below)
  • Environmental groups object to highway funding bill provisions they say erode National Environmental Policy Act protections
  • With strong job prospects and high demand for skilled workers, many University of Minnesota students following ag, environment paths
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announces availability of $2.1 Million in Urban Waters Grants
  • House passes the first long-term highway and transit bill in a decade; House and Senate have two weeks to work out their differences and produce a final bill before current Highway Trust Fund authority expires on November 20
Politics and People-
  • Mark Hague named as USEPA's regional administrator for Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and nine tribal nations)
  • Executive board overseeing Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium asks marine
    laboratory's executive director Nancy Rabalais to step down
  • 2016 legislative calendars released by US House and Senate leaders; House: Senate:; Many of the planned Senate recesses in the early months of 2016 do not align with the House calendar
  • In upset victory, Republican businessman Matt Bevin upends Democratic hold on Kentucky's Governor's seat
  • Democrat Andy Beshear barely defeated Republican Whitney Westerfield in Kentucky Attorney General's race
  • USDA scientist says he was punished for publicizing research showing a link between pesticides and pollinator decline
  • Ohio Governor sets June 7, 2016 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH-8)
Your Moment of Zen -

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

The "Federal Water Quality Protection Act" (S. 1140), a Senate bill that would overturn the Obama Administration's Clean Water Rule (or "WOTUS" - Waters of the United States - rule), will be considered on the floor of the Senate this week, according to the Senate schedule.  The chamber has set aside time to debate the legislation on Tuesday, and at about 2:30 PM, Senators will vote on a motion to limit debate on the measure (called a cloture vote). The bill has 46 co-sponsors (43 Republican and three Democratic), and appears unlikely to gain the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

This week, the Senate may also debate and vote on S.J.Res.22 - a Congressional Review Act (or "CRA") resolution to block the WOTUS rule. The Congressional Review Act of 1996 established expedited congressional procedures for disapproving a broad range of regulatory rules issued by federal agencies.  Using the CRA process allows measures to pass the Senate on only a simple majority vote; however, resolution passage is a steep legislative hill to climb, especially in the face of a likely Presidential veto (a two-thirds majority is still required under CRA procedures to override a veto). Only one CRA challenge has ever successfully passed Congress to become law, and most CRA resolutions are used primarily for messaging purposes.  For details on how CRA challenges work, you can read this Congressional Research Service July 29 report on alternatives available to Congress to address the WOTUS rule.

Below are the U.S. House and Senate committee (and other Capitol Hill) activities currently scheduled for this week that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources. Links are provided to the relevant committee web pages and to appropriate pieces of legislation.  Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these may be, as well (follow the respective meeting or hearing link).  All times are Eastern unless otherwise indicated. This information will be updated as warranted. 

Monday, November 2
  • Environmental and Energy Study Institute briefing: Farming and Water Quality: Conservation Policies Working to Reduce Nutrient Loss (presenters include representatives of University of Illinois, Ohio Farm Bureau, Illinois farming community, City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and American Farmland Trust); 2:00 PM, room 203-02 Capitol Visitor Center (webcast live here).
  • House Rules Committee meeting to set the framework for House consideration of H.R. 22 (the legislative vehicle being used to carry the House's multi-year surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs); 5:00 PM, room H-313 The Capitol (consideration of bill continued on Tuesday).
Tuesday, November 3
  • House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Environment hearing on the "Renewable Fuel Standard: A Ten Year Review of Costs and Benefits;" 10:00 AM, room 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law hearing on H.R. 3438, the Require Evaluation before Implementing Executive Wishlists ("REVIEW") Act of 2015; and H.R. 2631, the Regulatory Predictability for Business Growth Act of 2015; 10:00 AM, room 2141 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • House Rules Committee meeting to set the framework for House consideration of H.R. 22 (the legislative vehicle being used to carry the House's multi-year surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs); 3:00 PM, room H-313 The Capitol (assuming the measure is cleared by the Rules Committee on Tuesday, the bill could be considered by the full House sometime later in the week).
Wednesday, November 4
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands legislative hearing on two bills, including H.R. 3342, to provide for the stability of title to certain lands in the northern Louisiana (including Peggys and Hog Islands, surrounding Lake Bistineau); 10:00 AM, room 1324 Longworth House Office Building.
  • House Agriculture Committee hearing on "American Agriculture and our National Security;" 10:00 AM, room 1300 Longworth House Office Building.
  • POSTPONED - House Interior Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Interior hearing on the Department of Interior stream protection rule; 2:00 PM, room 2247 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • Senate Budget Committee hearing "to examine reforming the Federal budget process, focusing on a biennial approach to better budgeting;" 10:30 AM, room 608 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Thursday, November 5
  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management hearing on "Agency Progress in Retrospective Review of Existing Regulations;" 9:30 AM, room 342, Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on "Wildfire: Stakeholder Perspectives on Budgetary Impacts and Threats to Natural Resources on Federal, State and Private Lands;" 10:00 AM, room 328A Russell Senate Office Building.
Friday, November 6
  • House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance field hearing entitled “New Orleans: Ten Years After the Storm;” 12:00 noon (Central Time), New Orleans, Louisiana.