Friday, November 21, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
French Creek
This Week and Next
It was a surprisingly busy week on the River Basin-related news front, and you can find a sizable portion of that news outlined below. The week saw a premature winter freeze bring an early end to the Upper Mississippi River's navigation season, and the U.S. House pass bills (over a Presidential veto threat) that would restrict some Environmental Protection Agency activities.  Here is our one-paragraph summary of "What We Learned This Week" ("Resistance is Futile"), in case you find the volume of news below particularly daunting.

Next week Congress will be recessed for the Thanksgiving holiday, and so will your FNB ("Friendly Neighborhood Blogger), who is traveling north to Pennsylvania and French Creek - the practically pristine headwaters of the Mississippi River watershed.  The Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News editorial team promises to return in early December, as does Congress - primarily to work on a way to keep the government funded and running beyond December 11.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • As controversial EPA/Army Corps water rule looms, GOP prepares a legislative assault http://ow.ly/EoV37
  • End of comment period doesn't stop war of words over Obama Administration's proposed Clean Water Act rule http://ow.ly/EtnX7
  • Funding opportunity: US EPA seeks research proposals regarding how changes in water quality can be valued at appropriate spatial scales http://ow.ly/Ext1K
  • State of the art Thomas More College Biology Field Station works to improve Ohio River quality http://ow.ly/EoM6K
  • Environmental groups threaten to sue Kentucky coal mining company for thousands of Clean Water Act violations http://ow.ly/Es4GQ (see related story, below)
  • Kentucky environmental regulators defend their enforcement record against charges from four environmental groups http://ow.ly/Ex1ti
  • Clean Wisconsin report: "Groundwater contamination and the 'beneficial reuse' of coal ash in southeast Wisconsin" http://ow.ly/EtuoH
  • Illinois county board votes to rezone farmland so it can be used for coal mining waste storage, despite water quality concerns http://ow.ly/Ex355
  • Interior Department presses for more rigorous oversight of flooded Fairmont Mine Pool (Monongahela River Basin) story: http://ow.ly/EAJCk report: http://ow.ly/EAJ6p
  • Tennessee Clean Water Network sues Army and its contractor over dumping of explosive chemicals into Holston River near Kingsport, Tenn. http://ow.ly/EALih
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
Jordan Aquifer (Source: USGS)
  • Ice surrounding locks and dams near Minnesota’s Twin Cities forces earliest Upper Mississippi River shipping season closure on record http://ow.ly/EAQ5u
  • Army Corps of Engineers' head touts watershed-based approach to planning http://ow.ly/EooF7
  • Mississippi River barge traffic moving well despite Army Corps' construction project that prompted agricultural groups' concern http://ow.ly/EgSev
  • Frustrated Minnesota farmers turn to barge transport as an alternative to bottlenecked and costly rail options http://ow.ly/Eo2vR
  • CBS News 60 Minutes: much of the world is in danger of a groundwater overdraft http://ow.ly/EoKMo
  • Growing water use threatens to strain Upper Midwest's Jordan Aquifer; Iowa regulators are considering restricting its use http://ow.ly/EoPnN
  • USDA survey: 55.3 million acres of irrigated U.S. farmland in 2013 closely matches acres in 2008 survey http://ow.ly/EsTXg
  • PIANC MarCom Working Group report released: "Masterplans for the Development of Existing Ports" http://ow.ly/ExExi
  • Draft of Colorado's first water plan approved by state's Water Conservation Board  (western side of Continental Divide holds 11% of Colorado’s population; eastern side consumes 70% of its water) http://ow.ly/EAMpU
  • State Associations release Clean Water Act-Safe Drinking Water Act collaboration toolkit; roll-out webinars planned http://ow.ly/EBl8q
Agriculture -
  • Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.), next House Agriculture Committee chairman: "It’s never too early to start on the next (2019) farm bill" http://ow.ly/EAO9M
  • The Urban-Rural Divide: Lessons from the midterm elections relating to national nutrition
    programs, global food security http://ow.ly/Exrdq
  • U.S. farmers are about to reap a bumper harvest, not just in crops but also in billions of $ in new subsidies http://ow.ly/EAOEC
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s 2014 Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs http://ow.ly/EoprR
  • USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service issues guidance on administering conservation initiatives in FY 2015 http://ow.ly/Eoq5d
  • Millions of acres of U.S. farmland have been affected by herbicide-resistant weeds, rendering some fields unfarmable http://ow.ly/EoOoP
  • St. Louis Fed Bank: Farmland values rose in the third quarter in parts of the Midwest and southern U.S. despite declining farm incomes http://ow.ly/Eo18X (These findings contrasted with reports from other Fed banks in the Midwest (Chicago and Kansas City) that showed declines in their districts’ farmland values in the third quarter.)
  • Purdue University agricultural economist believes the decade-long increase in farmland values might soon be over http://ow.ly/EwT90
  • With the precipitous downward trend in corn prices, can U.S. farmers afford to stay loyal to corn next year? http://ow.ly/Et9Ok
  • There are fewer cattle in the United States than at any time since 1951; including Plains' herd size drop http://ow.ly/Eo21i
  • Your next farmer's market could be in your computer http://ow.ly/EwXUe
  • Officials approve 8,800-head dairy operation west of Willmar, west-central Minnesota http://ow.ly/EAH2h
  • New York Times op-ed: A creative new approach to Midwestern agriculture, involving indigenous prairie plants, has the potential to unite farmers and environmentalists http://ow.ly/EBItZ
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: Bitter cold along with some snow over the central U.S. afforded little, if any, drought relief http://ow.ly/wmTdv
  • GAO: Climate change could substantially increase losses in taxpayer-backed flood and crop insurance programs in coming decades http://ow.ly/EEH32 (story: http://ow.ly/EEH6g)
  • With a fifth record hot month on the books, NOAA says 2014 is likely to be the Earth's hottest year despite US cold http://yhoo.it/1t9ysEt
  • USDA grant used to help create carbon credit market program; could boost Prairie Pothole grassland conservation http://ow.ly/Etphe and http://ow.ly/EwZkx
  • CO2 emissions must be zero by 2070 to prevent climate disaster, UN says, and ‘negative emissions’ are needed globally http://ow.ly/EAMZJ
  • Ethereal beauty: A year in the life of the Earth's carbon dioxide (courtesy NASA)
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Landscape Conservation Cooperatives
(click to enlarge)
  • Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers Landscape Conservation Cooperative funds five projects to fill science information needs http://ow.ly/EtkdC
  • Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network develops 5-year strategic plan to help conserve, maintain key landscapes and seascapes ow.ly/Etl9o
  • 'Explosion' of gill lice besets Wisconsin's iconic brook trout http://ow.ly/EgMLq
  • Updated International Union for the Conservation of Nature list: Over 22,000 species are threatened with extinction http://ow.ly/EtfSb
  • After quarantine, bison find a new home in northern Montana's prairie lands http://ow.ly/Ex3LX
  • House passes bill to amend Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, increasing funding for conservation easement purchases http://ow.ly/Et6O5
  • Army Corps of Engineers considering plans to block path of Asian carp on the Des Plaines River near Joliet, Illinois ow.ly/Ey4yY
  • Kentucky hopes you'll eat its invasive Asian carp http://ow.ly/Eun0Y
  • Illinois Conservation Police arrest commercial fisherman accused of illegally selling live Asian carp http://ow.ly/EAYVA
  • Lac Qui Parle Wildlife Management Area (Minnesota) wildlife manager sees Canada goose migration stopover changes, flyway widen http://ow.ly/EAUwI
In the Cities -
  • New report explores state of land banks in 2014, and how they help address impacts of vacant, abandoned, tax-delinquent properties http://ow.ly/Et8DU
  • Under a consent decree for Combined Sewer Overflows, Indianapolis looks for creative solutions http://ow.ly/Etr1J
  • Vicksburg talking with state, federal agencies about running Mississippi River Museum http://ow.ly/EAWeK
  • Ohio River Valley communities leverage their water resources to drive economic prosperity http://ow.ly/ECwPF
2015 River of the Year Nominees
In the States-
  • Three Mississippi River Basin streams in the running for "2015 River of the Year" in Pennsylvania http://ow.ly/Ex64w
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Plaquemines Parish, La., officials vote down bid to drop 21 environmental damage lawsuits filed against oil and gas companies http://ow.ly/Eonit
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announces next $100 million in awards for Gulf Coast restoration projects http://ow.ly/Etbgl
Resource Development -
  • Random shallow groundwater tests in Northern Plains oil region show no evidence of contamination from energy boom http://ow.ly/EsZhi
  • The biggest product of the U.S. petroleum industry is not oil, gas or condensate but wastewater http://ow.ly/Ex0HX
  • Iowa awaits good and ill ramifications of possible frac sand mine boom, while neighboring Wisconsin is already there http://ow.ly/EgTXl
  • Popular Illinois state park at center of struggle over sand used in fracking http://ow.ly/Et0q9
  • House of Representatives passes bill approving Keystone XL oil pipeline http://ow.ly/EjMeP
  • Senate, by a single vote, defeats legislation that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline http://ow.ly/EwITp
Federal Budget -
  • Behind the scene Congressional negotiations continue over legislation to keep the government running, as omnibus bill discussions face problematic conservatives' policy rider demands http://ow.ly/EBRbf
  • Expectations for a long-term omnibus Federal spending package are dampened, as Republican leaders weigh their options http://ow.ly/Et30e
  • House Republicans search for spending compromise to avoid a government shutdown but restrict immigration changes http://ow.ly/EwSHd
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) 
  • St. Croix National Scenic River Association's Aquatic Invasive Species Workshop, Grantsburg, WI, December 5, 9 AM - 3:30 PM CST http://ow.ly/EEETz
  • Updated webinar link information now available for December 9 Great Waters Webinar: "Time to End the Slime – Addressing Nutrient Pollution" 3 PM EST http://ow.ly/EEG7M
  • Newly formed North Dakota Missouri River Stakeholders group holds its first meeting this week; story: http://ow.ly/EATtF; home page: http://ow.ly/EATHB
  • "Future of Farmland and Food?" Highlights of American Farmland Trust's recent National Conference in Lexington, Kentucky http://ow.ly/ECDkW
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • Senate Judiciary Committee approves new legislation that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act; news article: http://ow.ly/EEBVU; Committee meeting summary: http://ow.ly/EClk1 (bill: http://ow.ly/EClvi)
  • White House issues veto threats against House Republican bills that place restrictions on Environmental Protection Agency http://ow.ly/EtcVJ (see related stories below)
  • Over White House veto threat, House passes bill to overhaul Environmental Protection Agency Scientific Advisory Board http://ow.ly/EwTIc (bill link here: http://ow.ly/EwXfP)
  • House passes H.R. 4012, to restrict EPA regulations not based upon "transparent or reproducible" science http://ow.ly/EAI2n (bill link here: http://ow.ly/EAG9x)
  • Upper Arkansas River Stage and Rail Trail plan nearing completion, will be put before public http://ow.ly/EgPwo
  • $6 million overhaul starting soon of southern Indiana state park's museum exhibits on Ohio River geography, culture http://ow.ly/EAWWP
Politics and People-
  • Democratic leaders announce Democratic Caucus approval of 19 Ranking Members for 114th Congress House Committees http://ow.ly/ECki4
  • House Majority Leader McCarthy releases 2015 House calendar ow.ly/Ey2jH
  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has no plans to retire . . . "no frickin' way" http://ow.ly/EgMho
  • House GOP picks all-male slate of new committee chairs, including Agriculture: Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Natural Resources: Rob Bishop (R-Utah) http://ow.ly/EwPNX
  • Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Tex.) selected as the 50th chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture http://ow.ly/EwR8m (Kansas Republican Pat Roberts widely expected to be new chairman of Senate's Agriculture Committee in January http://ow.ly/EwRC1)
  • Broadly speaking, President Obama has a political advantage over congressional Republicans when it comes to environmental matters http://ow.ly/EgNTJ
  • Bill Frenzel, a 20-year U.S. House member from Minnesota, died on Monday at 86 http://ow.ly/Et4wq
  • Washington Post: "Landrieu's final indignity: One vote short on Keystone" http://wapo.st/1HjEBHI
  • USDA Secretary Appoints New Members to National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board http://ow.ly/EtdST
Your Moment of Zen -
Biggest brown coal power plant of Europe at Belchatow coal power station, Poland. Poland and other eastern Europe countries have categorically rejected a target put forward by the world’s top climate scientists to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100 to avoid dangerous global warming, leaked documents show.  Photograph: Artur Marciniec/Alamy. 

What We Learned This Week - "Resistance is Futile"

The U.S. Senate came up one vote short of passing a bill approving construction of the XL pipeline through the western half of the Mississippi River Basin.  In that same vote, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) fell one "aye" shy, as well.  The proposed clean water rule comment period officially ended, but not the war of words. Early winter ice forced a record early closure of the Upper Mississippi River shipping season.   But despite the U.S. chill, 2014 should still end up globally being the hottest ever recorded.  That climate change could substantially increase losses in Federal flood and crop insurance programs in the decades to come.  Much of the world is in danger of overdrafting its groundwater account, including Iowa and the Upper Midwest's Jordan Aquifer.  Shallow groundwater in the Northern Plains oil region shows no evidence of contamination from its energy boom. Millions of U.S. farm acres have been affected by herbicide-resistant weeds, rendering some fields unfarmable. Your next farmer's market might be in your computer. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill upping the price of Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation stamps, and increasing funding for conservation easement purchases.  House Republican bills passed this week would place restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency, even though the White House threatened to veto the measures.  The House has scheduled 35 weeks in Washington, DC and 17 weeks out of town next year.  The Army Corps of Engineers is considering new efforts to block the upriver movement of invasive Asian carp on the Des Plaines River. And last but not least, Kentucky hopes you'll want to eat its Asian carp, because not much else does.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

This Tuesday should see the U.S. Senate consider S. 2280, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.  Scheduling of the vote is seen by many as an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to help fellow-Democratic, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the bill's co-sponsor. Landrieu is engaged in an uphill battle to retain her seat in a December 6 runoff election against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-6th-La.).  Cassidy took the lead in pushing a companion bill (H.R. 5682), which the House passed on Friday on a 252-161 vote.  As of Friday, the Senate bill's backers appeared to be one vote shy of the 60 filibuster-proof majority necessary to clear that chamber.

Also on the agenda for the week: Committee chairs for the new Congress will be decided, and the House is scheduled to vote today (Monday) on H.R. 5069, the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014, to increase funding for the acquisition of conservation easements for migratory birds.

The full House will also consider H.R. 1422, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013 and H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014.  H.R. 1422 would provide for Scientific Advisory Board member qualifications, and for public participation.  H.R. 4012 would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency "from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such action is specifically identified and publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results."

Following a shortened week's worth of work, both chambers will likely adjourn by Thursday and not return until after Thanksgiving.

Below are the U.S. House and Senate committee activities currently scheduled for this week that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources.   Links are provided to the relevant committee web pages, and, as appropriate, to pieces of legislation. Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these may be, as well (follow the appropriate committee activity link). Times are Eastern. This page will be updated as warranted. 
Monday
Wednesday
Thursday
  • Senate Judiciary Committee meeting and possible vote on S. 2520, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Improvement Act of 2014, which, among other things, would restrict an exemption that agencies often use to deny records to FOIA requesters; 10:00 AM, room 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Friday
  • House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency field hearing: “Emergency Preparedness: Are We Ready For a 21st Century Hugo?” 1:00 PM, Tillman Hall, Clemson University, 101 Gantt Circle, Clemson, South Carolina.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

House Passes Bill to Reauthorize National Estuaries Programs
Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary
(click to enlarge)

On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2566, a bill "to reauthorize the National Estuary Programs," the U.S. EPA's suite of individual programs designed to improve the quality of estuaries of national importance, including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary complex: an estuary system that encompasses 4.2 million acres of wetlands, ridges, forests, farmlands and communities (including New Orleans and Baton Rouge) between the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River in southeastern Louisiana.  The bill was passed on a voice vote.  If passed by the Senate, H.R. 5266 would reduce funding for the Programs from $35 million to $27 million annually through fiscal year 2018.  The bill would also limit the funding that can be spent on overhead costs, and specifies specific issues to be addressed through the Program's competitive grant provision, including low dissolved oxygen conditions and related nutrient management, flooding, harmful algal blooms and invasive species.  The Senate could possibly take up H.R. 5266 as passed by the House, or it could vote on a related "Clean Estuaries Act of 2014," S. 2042, introduced in February.  That Senate reauthorization bill would maintain funding at its current level, and make some targeted changes to the Programs, mostly centering on the management of the initiative.


This Week and Next
Today is the last day to comment on the Obama Administration’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule, and the past week saw a flurry of comments submitted, along with related media releases, on opposing sides of the issue.  There was also quite a bit of Gulf Coast-related news, along with some new lame duck, federal legislative activity of note. The week even saw the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA disagreeing with The Weather Channel over how good a place that New Orleans is to own a home. We’ve selected the best bits of it all for your morning education and entertainment, and organized them below. But if you prefer a bite-sized, one-paragraph version of the news, see “What We Learned This Week: Turn Left on Red,’” which is designed to be easily consumed before downing your first cup of morning coffee.

Next week should see the U.S. Senate vote on S. 2280, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would largely run through several Missouri and Lower Mississippi River watershed states. The House is voting today (Friday) on a companion bill (H.R. 5682), and almost-assuredly will pass the measure.  Our weekly outlook of next week’s other River Basin-related Capitol Hill activity is summarized (and updated, as needed) here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • U.S. EPA Local Government Advisory Committee suggests ways the agency can improve controversial proposed clean water rule http://ow.ly/EaClX
  • Environment Minnesota Letter to the Editor: "The Clean Water Act: Final Thoughts as EPA Public Comment Period Ends" http://ow.ly/EdcPy
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 375 trade associations, local chambers submit 58 pages of comments against clean water rule http://ow.ly/EcSKK (comments here: http://ow.ly/EcSPi)
  • Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority votes unanimously to oppose proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule http://ow.ly/EdbIr
  • Environmental groups threaten to sue Tennessee Valley Authority over water pollution concerns near coal ash dumps http://ow.ly/Ea6pE
  • Complaints about a troubled Wisconsin manure-processing plant referred to the state Department of Justice http://ow.ly/EaUS0
  • Researchers try to identify upstream factors that could explain Lake Pepin phosphorus increases http://ow.ly/Edjdv
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers dispute Weather Channel's characterization of New Orleans as worst place in the U.S. to own a home http://ow.ly/Eaw5B
  • Army Corps: maintenance work will continue on Mississippi River near Nashville despite crop transport delay concerns http://ow.ly/Edd66
  • Colorado's state water plan is premised on more people and scarcer water http://ow.ly/EaYQO
  • Gov. Sam Brownback unveils a nearly completed 50-year Kansas state water plan http://ow.ly/Edhgy
  • Army Corps approves construction of contentious Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana coal terminal opposed by coalition of Gulf of Mexico environmental groups http://ow.ly/Edkde
Agriculture -
  • Completion of proposed Regional Conservation Partnership Program project reviews (under new Farm Bill) is delayed at least until December http://ow.ly/Egq3I
  • NRCS requests comments on conservation performance measurement tools http://ow.ly/EajsZ
  • Corn and soybean 2014 harvest numbers now favor prices that will be profitable for producers in 2015-16 http://ow.ly/EaWqP
  • GAO: the Food and Drug Administration's fruit and vegetable pesticide testing program is not "statistically valid" http://ow.ly/EaYmD
  • U.S. agricultural companies reach agreement with farm groups on principles governing the companies’ use of crop data http://ow.ly/Ed1zX
  • Farmland values declined across much of the Midwest in the third quarter, continuing a slowdown http://ow.ly/Egs61 (Also see: U.S. Midwest farmland values steady, weakness seen ahead http://ow.ly/Egss8)
November 11 Drought Map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: long-term water deficits continues to mount in Minnesota; Northern Plains and Upper Mississippi Valley landscape is freezing and very little soil moisture recharge possible this year; drought largely persists in Southern, Central Plains http://ow.ly/wmTdv
  • Purdue and Iowa State universities study: Crop producers, scientists hold different views on climate change, and its possible causes http://ow.ly/EcWB6
  • Washington Post editorial:  “China and the United States are finally leading on global warming" http://ow.ly/Ed2g6
  • Research provides climatogical analysis of flooding as far inland as Illinois and Wisconsin, associated with North Atlantic tropical cyclones http://ow.ly/Ee7aQ
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Coalition of scientists, conservationists and corporations asks Obama administration to extend
    Monarch Butterfly
    Endangered Species Act protections to monarch butterfly http://ow.ly/EgqD2
  • Blanchard, Okla. residents taking new measures to ensure monarch butterflies have suitable migratory habitat http://ow.ly/EaorM
  • Riverine Fisheries International facility planned in western Kentucky to catch, process and sell invasive Asian carp http://ow.ly/Edf0W
  • Platte River Recovery Implementation Program plan focuses local efforts on bird and fish species protection http://ow.ly/Edldk
Map of Conservation Vision Area in 
Louisiana Gulf Coast Region
(Click to enlarge)
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Environmental groups identify land-conservation priorities in the Gulf of Mexico region http://ow.ly/EcTbc
  • Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority recommends five projects for Restore Act oil spill fine money http://ow.ly/EdhW4
  • House passes bill to reauthorize the National Estuary Programs; link to bill: http://ow.ly/EcQtp
  • Smithsonian study: Dead zones to expand due to climate-change induced warming waters http://t.co/rddKmyh4gq
In the Cities -
  • Three multi-disciplinary teams awarded $15,000 each to develop unique strategies for using New Orleans' sizable amount of vacant land http://ow.ly/EdMvA
Resource Development -
  • Report: Over 40 percent of frac sand producers in Wisconsin have broken state environmental rules in recent years http://ow.ly/EaUd2
  • U.S. Senate reaches agreement to vote on S.2280, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, next week http://ow.ly/Edfv6
  • U.S. House to begin consideration (Thursday) of H.R. 5682-bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline http://ow.ly/EcPYz (link to bill here: http://ow.ly/EcQfU) 
Federal Budget -
  • Omnibus spending bill funding federal agencies through September 2015 won’t be released for several weeks http://ow.ly/EaWWv
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) 
  • Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance webinar, November 17, 3 pm ET; Impact of Wetland Drainage on the Hydrology of a Northern Prairie Watershed http://ow.ly/EaE9f
  • Webinar: Climate Change and Corn Belt Agriculture in the Midwest; November 18, noon- 1 PM EST http://ow.ly/EacmM
  • The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association has posted the UMRBA and UMRR-EMP CC November 18-19, 2014 meeting packets http://ow.ly/EaF3E
  • Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's 2014 Watershed Conference; Nov. 19-21; Best Western Inn of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs http://ow.ly/EdgFW
  • Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization workshops on Vermillion River Watershed Plan 2015; Nov. 19, Dec. 3 and 11 http://ow.ly/EdlZv
  • Date change: December 9 Great Waters Webinar: "Time to End the Slime – Addressing Nutrient Pollution" 3 PM EST ow.ly/Ea3qX
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Watershed Network News - November 12 http://ow.ly/EaIcn
  • Find the latest Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's November 11  TUWaterWays weekly e-newsletter http://ow.ly/EgUJH
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch, No 265, Wednesday, Nov 12; "Fine Tuning: The 1972 Clean Water Act" http://ow.ly/EaTz0
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's November 13 Watershed News http://ow.ly/EgrEi
Other news-
  • Position announcement: Prairie Rivers Network (Illinois) Executive Director http://ow.ly/Ea2OX
  • Water-its scarcity, quality and the regulations affecting it-is a growing business problem that many companies haven’t noticed http://ow.ly/Eb3XP
Politics and People-
  • Mid-term election turnout, over all, was 36.4 percent; only the 1942 federal election had a lower rate: 33.9 percent http://nyti.ms/1xKZBAF
  • Mid-term election turnout changed notably in several Mississippi River Basin states compared to the 2010 mid-terms http://ow.ly/Ear7A
  • Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf (D) names Katie McGinty, former PA Department of Environmental Protection secretary, as  chief of staff http://ow.ly/Ea5na
  • Democrats win all 11 House races too close to call on Nov. 4, including Brad Ashford's (D-Neb.) defeat of incumbent Rep. Lee Terry (R) http://ow.ly/Egu7N
  • U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is not "big on hierarchy" http://ow.ly/EaD7j
Your Moment of Zen -
Banded iron rock, mineral layers compressed in vibrant colours found in the Hammersley Range, Western Australia. Photo by Mint Images/ Frans Lanting/Getty


What We Learned This Week - "Turn Left on Red"

EPA's Local Government Advisory Committee suggested ways the agency might improve a controversial proposed clean water rule.  With a November 14 comment deadline looming, many others also chimed in with their rule perspectives, including Environment Minnesota, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.  Kansas has nearly completed a new 50-year water plan, recommending broadened collaboration with neighboring states.  One of those states, Colorado, is working on its own water plan, envisioning more people and scarcer water.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers disagree with the Weather Channel's characterization of New Orleans as the worst place in the U.S. to own a home.  Dead zones like that in the northern Gulf of Mexico will likely expand as waters warm.  Environmental groups identified their land conservation priorities along the Gulf of Mexico's coasts, and the state of Louisiana identified five coastal restoration priorities. The U.S. House passed a bill to reauthorize the National Estuary Programs, while cutting its budget by almost 23 percent.  The national mid-term election turnout was the lowest since 1942 and was especially low in the Mississippi River Basin states of Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi. Since that GOP-dominated election, President Obama has veered decidedly left.   A spending bill to fund federal agencies beyond December 11 won’t be released for several weeks, leaving Congress with just a few days to debate the measure before the money runs out.  And last but not least, crop producers and scientists hold widely different views on climate change and its causes; China and the U.S. don't.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

House Passes Bill to Reauthorize National Estuaries Programs


Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Complex
On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2566, a bill "to reauthorize the National Estuary Programs,"  the U.S. EPA's suite of individual programs designed to improve the quality of estuaries of national importance, including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary complex: an estuary system that encompasses 4.2 million acres of wetlands, ridges, forests, farmlands and communities (including New Orleans and Baton Rouge) between the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River in southeastern Louisiana. 

The bill was passed on a voice vote. If passed by the Senate, H.R. 5266 would reduce funding for the Programs from $35 million to $27 million annually through fiscal year 2018. The bill would also limit the funding that can be spent on overhead costs, and specifies specific issues to be addressed through the Program's competitive grant provision, including low dissolved oxygen conditions and related nutrient management, flooding, harmful algal blooms and invasive species. The Senate could possibly take up H.R. 5266 as passed by the House, or it could vote on a related "Clean Estuaries Act of 2014," S. 2042, introduced in February. That Senate reauthorization bill would maintain funding at its current level, and make some targeted changes to the Programs, mostly centering on the management of the initiative.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NRCS Requests Comments on Conservation Performance Measurement Tools

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has made available a number of commonly used NRCS conservation performance measurement tools for public review and comment.  The tools are the basic ones utilized by the NRCS for both conservation planning, and evaluating conservation plans and performance.  The tools include the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation, Wind Erosion Prediction System, Stewardship Tool for Environmental Performance, Windows Pesticide Screening Tool, Pollinator and Wildlife Planning Resource Tool, Farm Irrigation Rating Index, Whole Farm and Ranch Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Accounting System, Rangeland Health Assessment, and Pasture Condition Score. The tools can be found at this link.

NRCS is providing an opportunity for public review and is soliciting public comment on the tools, to "ensure their rigor and determine if there are any areas for improvement." Comments may be submitted through the nrcs-tools@wdc.usda.gov email address found on the tools website, or directly to Aaron Lauster, EQIP Specialist (aaron.lauster@wdc.usda.gov or 202-260-9230)