Friday, April 24, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Committee Army Corps' Spending Bill Approved; Moves on to Full House
Photo credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee debated and approved its Energy and Water Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2016, and, by reference, its accompanying Committee report detailing specific spending line items. The bill would set spending levels for the Army Corps of Engineers and Energy Department for the fiscal year beginning October 1, and next goes to the House floor for consideration by the entire chamber (likely next week). Overall, the bill would restore funding cuts proposed by the Obama Administration for Army Corps' construction, operation and maintenance, and investigations, while funding most - but not all - Mississippi River Basin projects at levels proposed by the Administration.  In addition to setting spending levels, the bill contains two riders that would impact how the Army Corps manages water resource issues.  To see a summary of the bill compared to the President's proposed budget as it relates to the Mississippi River Basin, see this analysis.

Also This Week . . . and Next
Photo credit: Jim Havard via Flickr
Also on the House appropriation docket this week was the Appropriation Committee's announcement of the funding levels in its draft Department of Interior, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spending bill. While the bill's text has yet to be released, the Committee announced that it will fund the agencies at $30.17 billion for Fiscal Year 2016; $246 million below the funding level for the current Fiscal Year, and almost $1.9 billion below the Fiscal Year 2016 level proposed in the Obama Administration  budget plan. The House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee has yet to schedule a mark-up session for the spending bill.  Other Congressional committee meetings and hearings have been scheduled, however, and here is a link to next week's activities that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources in one form or another.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States
  • Company seeking to build landfill on Louisiana wetland asks the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time to take up Army Corps jurisdiction case http://ow.ly/LTKWJ
  • White House: it's "irresponsible" for House spending bill to block proposed Clean Water Act rule implementation http://ow.ly/LX98K
Other Water Quality News

  • NY Times: Conflict Over Soil and Water Quality Puts ‘Iowa Nice’ to a Test http://ow.ly/LQgAC
  • Exxon Mobil Co. subsidiaries agree to $5 million settlement with Arkansas and federal government over 2013 oil spill http://ow.ly/LYyF5
  • West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Kentucky Waterways Alliance call for reduced mercury discharges to the Ohio River http://ow.ly/LXgMR
  • Phillips 66 discovers diesel fuel leaking near/into the Mississippi River from one of its Illinois pipelines (now contained within booms before River) http://ow.ly/LRJ02
  • Electric Power Research Institute awarded U.S. Water Alliance Water Prize for multi-state nutrient trading pilot http://ow.ly/LTNFR
  • Ohio Farm Bureau Federation releases report detailing efforts to ensure safe and healthy state water http://ow.ly/LTPAs (report: http://ow.ly/LTPGQ)
  • Cape Girardeau County meat processing company owners: ongoing releases of slaughterhouse waste into nearby creek were unintentional http://ow.ly/LTXkM
  • Oklahoma ranks second among states for reducing phosphorus loading to waterways according to new EPA data (third for nitrogen reduction) http://ow.ly/M3OuV
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Congressional GOP attempt to gain leverage over Corps' water resources projects within earmark ban constraints has stalled http://ow.ly/M3FkZ
  • USDA announces $112 million in Water and Environmental Program funding for rural water and wastewater infrastructure projects http://ow.ly/LYdKA
  • St. Bernard Parish resolution opposes Louisiana state funding for proposed Mississippi River sediment diversions http://ow.ly/LXdX4
  • The Guardian: "The cold truth about our thirst for bottled water" http://ow.ly/LXodP
Agriculture -
  • Environmental groups sue U.S. EPA to end a 2008 pollution-reporting exemption for animal feeding operations http://ow.ly/LX9TR
  • Center for Food Integrity research: only 25 percent of consumers believe "U.S. has a responsibility to provide food for the rest of the world” http://ow.ly/M3KEk
  • USDA accepting applications for Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative project in Southeast Lower Green River watershed (Kentucky) http://ow.ly/LRTN7
  • Environmental groups contest USEPA decision to allow more widespread use of new 2,4-D version used on genetically modified corn, soybeans http://ow.ly/LTVdj
  • Drones: A conservation tool of the future? http://ow.ly/LX8QI
  • USDA issues Conservation Compliance Interim Final Rule (effective today); comment period open through June 23 http://ow.ly/M3IoM
Source: NOAA
Climate and Weather -
  • NOAA seasonal drought update: drought improvement in southern High Plains; drought likely to persist across Northern Plains and Minnesota, expanding into portions of Wisconsin and Illinois http://ow.ly/LV040
  • US weekly drought update: http://ow.ly/wmTdv 
  • NOAA: March 2015 and first quarter of year were warmest on record http://ow.ly/LQoyB
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Divers confirm effective treatment of Christmas Lake (Minnesota) zebra mussels http://ow.ly/LXqoH
  • Unexplained Walleye decline having major effect on Mille Lacs Lake area businesses and communities (Minnesota) http://ow.ly/M0liY
  • Two new research papers suggest that neonicotinoid pesticides play a significant role in the decline of bees http://ow.ly/M0mXv
Photo credit: Minneapolis Park Board
In the Cities -
  • New Orleans’ use of pervious/porous pavement gradually expands http://ow.ly/LQiME 
  • Peoria, Illinois seeks USEPA approval of 100% Green Infrastructure Plan to enhance combined sewer overflow management http://ow.ly/LQjgo
  • $500,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to the city of Minneapolis means a new Mississippi Riverside park http://ow.ly/LXdjQ
  • Despite a state grant-freeze, Alton, Illinois will use National Scenic Byways Program grant to improve Riverview Park http://ow.ly/LXf0d
In the States-
  • Minnesota's Clean Water, Outdoor Heritage, and Parks and Trails funds clear first legislative
    States in the News This Week
    step, pass House Legacy Funding Finance Committee http://ow.ly/LTIlr
  • Clean Water Action op-ed: U.S. Senate bill would limit ability of Minnesota to act creatively on toxic chemical problems; including new state bills under consideration http://ow.ly/LTYIu
  • Fifty-seven Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources employees receiving formal notices that they might face layoff http://ow.ly/LYeH9
  • Kentucky Division of Water seeks public comment on draft Hopkins County water quality impairment report-pH and metals (deadline May 18) http://ow.ly/LTOLQ
  • Pennsylvania bill would create a watershed improvement program and establish a "verified TMDL parameter credit program" http://ow.ly/LXsn8 (bill: http://ow.ly/LXrSL
  • Journal Gazette editorial: Eventually, Indiana's governor and legislature may understand the need to balance economic growth with environmental protection and preservation http://ow.ly/LXmKk
  • Governor: New North Dakota pipeline rules will result in stronger safeguards against leaks, improve remediation http://ow.ly/LUjcf
  • Kansas lawmakers face roughly $400 million in tax increases or budget cuts in wake of deep income tax cuts http://ow.ly/LXjBL
  • Oklahoma Senate approves legislation calling for a statewide referenedum on "right to farm" http://ow.ly/M0qzF
  • Oklahoma's state House on Wednesday approved two bills designed to limit local bans on oil and gas operations http://ow.ly/M3Zha
  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission announces $35 million plan to create four recreational parks along Platte River http://ow.ly/LXhH3
  • Colorado state Senate gives preliminary approval to bill letting state and local authorities assume concurrent jurisdiction over federal forests, other lands http://ow.ly/LVf7J (Senate Bill 39: http://bit.ly/1blI9xJ)
  • Ranking of eco-friendly states indicates Louisiana is least friendly state to the environment; Kentucky and Minnesota rank 48th and 4th http://ow.ly/LXfRd
  • Census Bureau reports that state governments took in $865.8 billion in 2014, a 2.2 percent increase over 2013 http://ow.ly/LQhrq
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Deepwater Horizon oil spill restoration trustees agree on next 10 natural resources "early restoration" projects, totaling $134 million http://ow.ly/LTLzL
  • Louisiana Native American Tribe's relocation promoted in Capitol Hill briefing as a model for coastal indigenous groups http://ow.ly/LVemW
  • Pew Research: five key facts about the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its aftermath http://ow.ly/LRUud
  • The Guardian: Louisiana five years after BP oil spill: "It's not going back to normal no time soon" http://ow.ly/LQf6i
  • Political, bureaucratic brawls threaten Gulf Coastal restoration hopes http://ow.ly/LQmZk
  • USDA media release highlights how private landowners "play pivotal role aiding Gulf recovery," with USDA's help http://ow.ly/LRKQX
  • BP restoration penalties may finally give the Gulf of Mexico’s fragile ecosystem the long-term care it needs http://ow.ly/LXmei
Forestry -
  • USDA and the state of Mississippi sign Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program agreement to conserve and restore Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley forests http://ow.ly/M0mse
Photo: Pennsylvania DEP
Resource Development -
  • Study: Between 2000 and 2012, about 7 million acres of agricultural, range and forest lands were given over to oil and gas drilling http://ow.ly/M3WLn
  • Iowa may be about to shift into production of renewable fuels made from manure, municipal waste, other organic byproducts http://ow.ly/LTVFM
  • At well sites across Pennsylvania, pictures help tell a story of DEP drilling regulation violations, water pollution http://ow.ly/LQfxe
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln report: Ethanol had a nearly $5 billion impact on Nebraska’s economy last year http://ow.ly/LQifG
  • Developers of natural gas project are suing West Virginia property owners in federal court to gain access http://ow.ly/LTWAl
  • Wisconsin energy cooperative expands renewable energy portfolio, adding output from Mississippi River hydroelectric station http://ow.ly/M3NtL
  • Several senators, from various states, including the Corn Belt, sent a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) support letter to the EPA this week: http://1.usa.gov/1bz8cBO
Federal Budget -
  • House Appropriations Committee releases its FY 2016 Energy and Water draft committee report (http://ow.ly/LUFhP) with details of spending for Army Corps programs; (subsequently the House Appropriations Committee approved a rider-laden energy and water spending bill by voice vote http://ow.ly/M0oZi) (see related summary at head of this blog post)
  • OMB letter: Obama administration has "serious" reservations with the House fiscal year 2016 energy and water spending bill http://ow.ly/LX8A9
  • House Appropriations Committee spending bill provides $30.17 billion for Interior Department, Forest Service and U.S. EPA: $246 million below current funding levels http://ow.ly/M0oA5
  • House and Senate GOP negotiators are putting the finishing touches on a fiscal year 2016 budget resolution agreement http://ow.ly/M0qc2
  • Top House appropriators tell budget writers that 'CHIMPS' funding stream (Changes-in-Mandatory-Programs) is vital http://ow.ly/M3GGm
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
  • The Future of Big Rivers Colloquium series: Computer Simulation of Large River Evolution, April 27, 5 pm CT, University Of Illinois (Springfield) http://ow.ly/LR4Cp
  • Webinar: The Ecology of Streams and Forested Buffers, by Bernard W. Sweeney, Ph.D., Stroud Water Research Center, April 28, 12 noon ET http://ow.ly/LKvnG
  • Center for American Progress: From Risk to Resilience: Fortifying U.S. Communities in the Face of Climate Change, April 30, 12 noon ET (webcast) http://ow.ly/M0nWm
  • DuPage County, Illinois Stormwater Management to host public green infrastructure workshop;  April 30, 6 to 7:30 p.m. CDT http://ow.ly/LQjJO
  • Lower Mississippi Valley Canoe Outfitting and Guiding class, May 2-3, University of Louisiana at Monroe http://ow.ly/LYmKq (registration deadline extended)
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) posts May 5 and 6, 2015 meeting packets, including agendas http://ow.ly/LYfzc
  • Public Meeting: Invasive Species Advisory Committee: Wednesday, May 20-22, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 1305 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD http://ow.ly/LTHF4
  • Livable Communities through Urban Forestry conference for urban forestry researchers and practitioners, Washington, D.C., August 6-7 http://ow.ly/LQkd7
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • Coalition report details Federal natural disaster policy flaws; calls for series of policy changes http://ow.ly/LYDRU
  • Ex-NOAA director urges major changes in federal spill contingency plan http://ow.ly/LQwHb
  • 353 most environmentally responsible colleges listed in 2015 Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges http://ow.ly/LTOdX
  • Quadrennial Energy Review: growing energy demands are squeezing U.S. road, rail and waterway transportation capacity http://ow.ly/LX89k
  • New U.S. House bill would require U.S. EPA to conduct studies on oil-dispersing chemicals before approving their use http://ow.ly/LXb23 (link to bill: http://ow.ly/LXaFg)
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chair: Land and Water Conservation Fund should be overhauled to maintain existing recreation sites, put more money in the hands of states http://ow.ly/M0psR
  • House Committee approves contentious reauthorization bill for energy and science research programs http://ow.ly/M0pXt (bill: http://ow.ly/M0pOS)
  • House and Senate Republicans introduce bill to empower states to challenge federal regulations http://bit.ly/1QpiO5U (bill: http://ow.ly/M3JJm)
Politics and People-
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will seek reelection to West Virginia's senior Senate seat in 2016 (and will not run for Governor) http://ow.ly/LQeuo
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph by Harlan Humphrey

Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For

Photo credit: Jim Havard via Flickr
Below are the U.S. House and Senate activities currently scheduled for next 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).

In addition to the Committee activity listed below, House-Senate Conference Committee members will continue their quest to negotiate a final Fiscal Year 2016 budget resolution that can pass both chambers.

All times below are Eastern.  This page will be updated as warranted. 

Tuesday
  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2016 for the Department of Homeland Security (note: includes FEMA); 9:00 AM, room 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation: Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard hearing to examine the resources and priorities of the U.S. Coast Guard; 10:00 AM, room 253 Russell Senate Office Building.
  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management hearing to examine the proper role of judicial review in the federal regulatory process; 10:00 AM, room 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Wednesday
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hearing to "review the National Forest System and active forest management;" 1:30 PM, room 1300 Longworth House Office Building.
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on ""Zero Accountability: The Consequences of Politically Driven Science;" 2:00 PM, room 1334 Longworth House Office Building.
  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Homeland Security hearing to examine proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2016 for the Department of Homeland Security (note: includes FEMA); 2:00 PM, room 138 Dirksen Senate Office Building (no hearing link available yet).
  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing to examine proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2016 for the Environmental Protection Agency; 2:30 PM, room 124 Dirksen Senate Office Building (no hearing link available yet).
Thursday
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining hearing to examine the Bureau of Land Management's final rule on hydraulic fracturing; 2:30 PM, room 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

What We Learned This Week - "Try, try again"

The West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Kentucky Waterways Alliance called for reduced mercury discharges to the Ohio River. The White House said that House appropriators' plans to block a proposed Clean Water Act rule are "irresponsible."    Exxon Mobil agreed to a $5 million settlement with Arkansas and the federal government over a 2013 oil spill. The month of March and the first quarter of this year were the warmest on record.  The Obama Administration found that growing energy demands are squeezing the nation's road, rail and waterway transportation capacity.   Environmental groups sued the U.S. EPA to end a 2008 pollution-reporting exemption for animal feeding operations. Environmental groups contested a U.S. EPA decision to allow more widespread use of new 2,4-D version used on genetically modified corn and soybeans.   The USDA will spend $112 million for rural water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the country. Between 2000 and 2012, about 7 million acres of agricultural, range and forest lands were shifted into to oil and gas drilling in the U.S.  If Oklahoma's state House has its way, that trend may continue.  On the heels of proposed agency budget cuts, 57 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources employees are receiving formal layoff notices.  Kansas lawmakers are facing some potential budget cutting of their own - to a tune of about $400 million.   A national coalition called for significant changes to U.S. natural disaster policies. Only a quarter of U.S. consumers believe the country "has a responsibility to provide food for the rest of the world.” The owners of a Missouri meat processing plant said they didn't mean to release slaughterhouse waste into a nearby creek.  After failing on its first attempt, a company seeking to build a landfill in a Louisiana wetland again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an Army Corps jurisdiction case.  St. Bernard Parish opposed Louisiana state funding for several proposed Mississippi River sediment diversion projects.  And last but not least, Louisiana may be the least eco-friendly state, but the state can at least boast one of the 353 most environmentally responsible colleges in the country.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

House Bill Would Fund Most Army Corps' Mississippi River Projects at Administration-Proposed Levels

Photo credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Earlier today (April 22), the House Appropriations Committee held a markup session during which Committee members considered and approved the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2016, and its accompanying Committee report detailing specific spending line items. The bill sets spending levels for the Army Corps of Engineers and Energy Department for the fiscal year beginning October 1, and next goes to the House floor for consideration by the entire chamber (as early as next week).  Overall, the bill would restore funding cuts proposed by the Obama Administration for Army Corps' construction, operation and maintenance and investigations, while funding most - but not all - Mississippi River Basin projects at levels proposed by the Administration.

In addition to setting spending levels, the bill contains riders that impact how the Army Corps manages water resource issues.  Those include:
  • A provision that effectively prevents the Army Corps from using funds to implement a currently-proposed "Waters of the United States" rule (pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act; see Section 105, page 10 of the spending bill); and
  • A prohibition of any "changes to the definition of 'fill material' and 'discharge of fill material' for the purposes of the Clean Water Act" (see Sections 104 and 106, pages 10 and 11 of the spending bill).
Below are some Mississippi River Basin-relevant Army Corps' program spending levels from the House bill and accompanying report. Respective Obama Administration fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget plan levels are also indicated (here are links to the Administration's Civil Works Budget Overview (PDF) and OMB's Civil Works budget appendix).

General Line Items
At a general level, the House restored funding for Army Corps' cuts proposed in the President's budget, reprising a proposed cut-restoration scenario that has been commonplace within both Democratic and Republican administrations and congresses in recent years.
  • The Army Corps would receive $5.597 billion in discretionary funds (as opposed to $4.732 billion proposed under the President's plan). This compares to $5.455 billion that Congress appropriated to the Corps in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.
  • The Corps' construction budget is $1.631 billion in the bill, funding ongoing construction (compared to $1.172 billion proposed by the President and $1.639 billion provided in FY 2015).  The Committee specifically recommends no new construction be started in FY 2016.  For FY 2016, the administration proposed four new construction projects, including a Kentucky flood protection project (Ohio River shoreline at Paducah), and a Minnesota environmental restoration project (Marsh Lake, Minnesota River Authority).  Those four projects would be eliminated under the Committee bill.
  • The Army Corps' operations and maintenance budget is $3.06 billion under the bill ($2.71 billion were proposed in the President's plan).  This compares to $2.91 billion actually allocated in FY 2015.
  • The Army Corps' regulatory budget would be funded at the same $200 million level in FY 2016 as in FY 2015 (a $5 million reduction compared to the Administration's FY 2016 budget proposal). The agency's Clean Water Act permitting program is funded under that budget line item.
  • The "Mississippi River and Tributaries" Army Corps' projects are funded at $302 million under the bill (compared to $225 million under the President's plan).  The FY 2016 Committee spending level would be $27 million more than the FY 2015 actual appropriation.  Those projects, according to the Corps budget summary, involve "ongoing construction, operation and maintenance, and investigation activities, with emphasis on the 1,600 miles of levees and related features on the main stem of the lower Mississippi River and in the Atchafalaya Basin, which reduce the flood risk to a large region."
Specific Project Line Items
House spending levels are noted below for several Mississippi River Basin projects (the President's proposed budget levels are indicated in parentheses).  Except for the Kentucky flood protection and Minnesota environmental restoration projects mentioned above (which would be eliminated under the House bill), the House spending levels for specific projects exactly mirror those in the President's budget plan (note: this is not an inclusive Mississippi River Basin project list; to see the full project breakdown, go to this link):

Mississippi River Basin Investigations (Studies)
  • $50,000 for Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration- Mississippi River Hydrology, LA ($50,000)
  • $400,000 for Illinois River Basin Restoration, IL ($400,000)
  • $500,000 for Interbasin Control of Great Lakes-Mississippi River Aquatic Nuisance Species, IL, IN, OH, WI ($500,000)
  • $600,000 for Minnesota River Watershed Study, MN, SD (Minnesota River Authority) ($600,000)
Mississippi River and Tributaries Construction, Operation and Maintenance, and other items “Remaining Items”)
Construction
  • $19,787,000 for Upper Mississippi River Restoration, IL, IA, MN, MO, WI ($19,787,000) - both down from $33,170,000 appropriated in FY 2015
  • $180,000,000 for Olmsted Locks And Dam, Ohio River, IL, KY ($180,000,000)
  • $47,127,000 for Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Recovery, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD ($47,127,000)
  • $15,909,000 for Mississippi River Levees (construction) AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, TN ($15,909,000)
  • $43,231,000 for Channel Improvement (construction) AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, TN ($43,231,000)
Operation and Maintenance
  • $65,124,000 for Channel Improvement (operation and maintenance) AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, TN ($65,124,000)
  • $9,175,000 for Mississippi River Levees (operation and maintenance) AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, TN ($9,175,000)
Other House spending bill Army Corps' line items that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources, but are also relevant beyond the River Basin, include:
  • $1.178 billion in income from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, for harbor maintenance, construction, and operations activities ($0.915 billion in the President's budget);
  • $108 million in income from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for construction and rehabilitation of the nation’s inland waterways infrastructure ($53 million in the President's budget); and
  • $28 million for the Asian carp dispersal barrier project on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins (also $28 million in the President's budget).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

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).

In addition to the Committee activity listed below, House-Senate Conference Committee members are hurrying to resolve differences between competing fiscal year 2016 budget resolutions, and forge a consensus budget plan that can pass both chambers. As noted in this space previously, under Congressional rules, the final budget resolution provides top-line funding limits within which House and Senate appropriators draft their 2016 spending bills.

All times below are Eastern. This page will be updated as warranted.

Tuesday
  • Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the "Opportunities and Challenges for Agriculture Trade with Cuba;" 10:00 AM, room 328A Russell Senate Office Building.
Wednesday
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to examine the nomination of Vanessa Lorraine Allen Sutherland, of Virginia, to be a Member and Chairperson of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board; 9:30 AM, room SD-406 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment will hold a hearing to "Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for the United States Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority;" 10:00 AM, room 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hearing on the reauthorization of and potential reforms to the Land and Water Conservation Fund; 10:00 AM, room SD-366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee markup of H.R.1806 - "To provide for technological innovation through the prioritization of Federal investment in basic research, fundamental scientific discovery, and development to improve the competitiveness of the United States;" 10:15 AM, room 2318 Rayburn House Office Building (among other things, the bill would reauthorize the National Science Foundation, increasing NSF funding by more than 4 percent).
  • House Appropriations Committee markup of and vote on Energy and Water Appropriations bill, FY 2016; 10:45 AM, room 2359 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Homeland Security hearing to examine proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2016 for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); 2:00 PM, room SD-138 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Thursday
  • House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing on "Hydraulic Fracturing: Banning Proven Technologies on Possibilities Instead of Probabilities;" 9:00 AM, room 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security budget hearing - Federal Emergency Management Agency;10:00 AM, room B-308 Rayburn House Office Building.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What We Learned This Week - "Assume deer dead"

Western states' representatives say they were not adequately consulted by the Obama Administration on the Waters of the U.S. proposed rule, and two House panels respectively passed one bill and attached a rider to another that would effectively block the rule.  The Army Corps' Civil Works program will receive more funding next year, if House appropriators have their way.  The U.S. EPA published its first ever national standards for coal combustion waste disposal, and a House committee approved a bill that would amend that rule.   Two Tennessee environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority over coal-ash storage pond groundwater contamination.  A lawsuit was filed against the Fish and Wildlife Service alleging it has failed to protect four fish found in Mississippi River Basin waters. Nonprofit organizations rallied to bring attention to Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission-proposed mercury pollution mixing zone changes.  New studies indicate that pavement sealant getting into waterways kills fish and alters their DNA long after sealant application.  Researchers found that flooding is on the rise in the central U.S.  Residential and agricultural interests continued to clash over a proposed Indiana pig facility. The agriculture industry is expected to eventually capture as much as 80 percent of all U.S. commercial drone use.  Midwest farmers are eager to see an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba.   Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley may have the quirkiest and most weirdly compelling Twitter feed in Congress.  Twitter messages can be used to create real-time flooding maps.  Water managers from forty U.S. states see water shortages in their states' futures.  Illinois Department of Natural Resources' efforts to reduce Illinois River Asian carp populations were said to be showing "promise." And last but not least, Asian carp attacked a Washington University rowing team in Missouri and reporters attacked a Scooby Van in Iowa.

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week and Next
The week we are about to exit was filled with new water-relevant legislation and regulation, some of which may become final, and many that will likely pass quietly into obscurity. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee moved a bill on to the full House that would require the Obama Administration to re-do its proposed rule clarifying the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction.  And a House Appropriations Subcommittee attached a provision to its Army Corps of Engineers spending bill that would prohibit the Corps from spending money in that rule's implementation.  The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act, and a bill to reauthorize the EPA's National Estuary Program.  The USDA made available its long-anticipated draft Conservation Compliance Interim Final Rule, and announced plans to officially publish the rule next week.  And the U.S. EPA published the first national standards for coal combustion waste disposal, which will become effective in 180 days. Although a bill "improving coal combustion residuals regulation," approved this week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would modify those regulations somewhat.  There are additional links to information about these and other River Basin-related news items, below.

Next week, Congress is again in session, and among other items, will take up potential reforms to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, fracking, funding for and the scope of National Science Foundation research, and Federal Emergency Management Agency funding (you can see the current list of Congressional committee activities here that are relevant to the Mississippi River Basin).

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States

  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passes H.R. 1732-Regulatory Integrity Protection Act on a nearly party-line 36 to 22 vote; would require EPA and Army Corps to withdraw proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, and restart the rulemaking process. Two Democrats, Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY) and Cheri Bustos (IL), joined Republicans voting for the bill. News article: http://ow.ly/LEQuL; Link to the committee meeting page: http://ow.ly/LEbNa; Link to bill: http://ow.ly/LEbyu
  • House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee approves spending bill with provision to prevent the Army Corps from using funds to implement a "Waters of the United States" rule (see Section 105, page 10 of spending bill texthttp://ow.ly/LGDjl)
  • At House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing Western states say they were not adequately consulted on Waters of the U.S. proposed rule http://ow.ly/LDpZO
  • 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Minnesota property owner can file legal challenge to an Army Corps jurisdictional determination; news article on 8th circuit ruling http://ow.ly/LEVdM; second news article - ruling establishes a "split between appellate courts that could reach the Supreme Court" http://ow.ly/LEVML (link to ruling: http://ow.ly/LEUv3)
Other Water Quality News

  • New “meta-analysis” of existing scientific studies provides clearer picture of poorly-defined
    Photo Credit: Elizabeth Shogren/NPR
    water risks associated with farmland pesticide application http://ow.ly/LAt7Y  (related news story http://ow.ly/LAtno)
  • Des Moines Register editorial: 14 facts to weigh in Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three Iowa counties http://ow.ly/LrMjR (graph from editorial: http://ow.ly/i/ajpoy)
  • New global study, "The murky future of global water quality," projects rapid deterioration in water quality; Midwestern United States is one of the vulnerable areas  http://ow.ly/LHZF3
  • Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) seeks public comment on proposed Ohio River water pollution mixing zone changes http://ow.ly/Lx9iC (related story below)
  • Nonprofits rally together to bring attention to mercury discharges into Ohio River http://ow.ly/LB0vK
  • Alleged bias in Illinois River (Oklahoma) phosphorus loading study denied http://ow.ly/LxbdB
  • Officials contend that Oklahoma rivers are clearer despite no ruling in ten-year-old poultry waste case http://ow.ly/Lxcq5
  • Edwards, Mississippi egg producer to pay $900,000 for Clean Water Act violations (nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, Black River tributary) http://ow.ly/LAmzo
  • New studies indicate that pavement sealant getting into waterways kills fish, alters DNA long after application http://ow.ly/LBIIO
  • PEER protests EPA oil development wastewater disposal permits for Wind River Indian Reservation (Missouri River Basin) http://ow.ly/LDotO
  • Two Tennessee environmental groups file lawsuit in federal court against the Tennessee Valley Authority over coal-ash storage pond groundwater contamination http://ow.ly/LGKVW
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Corps of Engineers asks local residents for input on how Little Tallahatchie River reservoir (Mississippi) should be managed http://ow.ly/LId1e
  • Dutch studies: Twitter messages can be used to create real-time flooding maps http://ow.ly/LETXB
  • Water managers from forty states expect to see water shortages in at least some areas in the next decade http://ow.ly/LHU0c
  • NWF blog: what else the $165 million New Madrid Floodway project might buy http://ow.ly/LBgrj
  • Kentucky Farm Bureau's recently-launched Water Management Working Group looks to address water resource issues, policy http://ow.ly/LAQOW
  • Coal barge sinks in Ohio River at Racine Locks and Dam http://ow.ly/LAXI6
  • Containerized Cargo Ballet at an Unidentified Port (a mesmerizing robotic video) http://ow.ly/LDHeX (perhaps coming soon to a Mississippi River Basin port near you)
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approves H.R. 1471 - FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act, moving bill on to the full House; committee meeting page: http://ow.ly/LEbNa; link to bill: http://ow.ly/LEk3p
  • In that same markup session (above), the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R. 944 -  a bill to reauthorize the EPA's National Estuary Program; link to bill:  http://ow.ly/LERGz (reauthorizes the program at $27 million a year through fiscal year 2020 - an $8 million reduction per year from current levels)
  • Newly-introduced House "Water Rights Protection Act" would forbid Interior and Agriculture departments from conditioning land-use permits on the transfer of private water rights to the federal government; bill: http://ow.ly/LJHA6 (related story: http://ow.ly/LJHSD)
Agriculture -
  • Chicago Council on Global Affairs: U.S. needs to revamp agriculture policy to align with nutrition goals http://ow.ly/LHYJs
  • USDA reminds farmers to certify conservation compliance by June 1 deadline http://ow.ly/LIb8c
  • USDA makes available its draft Conservation Compliance Interim Final Rule (to be published next week in the Federal Register) http://ow.ly/LIeNy
  • Researcher contends that Corn Belt commodities-related economic diversity has changed very little since the 1930s http://ow.ly/Ls8il
  • USDA designates two more Kansas counties as natural disaster areas due to drought damages and losses http://ow.ly/LI7rF (total number now 11)
  • Three major U.S. crop trade groups meet to explore enhancing transparency and communication http://ow.ly/Lx0dN
  • 79-year-old Salina, Kansas farmer continues his 40-year work on perennial crop-based solutions to soil erosion http://ow.ly/Lx2VE
  • Farmers, food processors, distributors, lenders, market leaders discuss strategies for expanding local food supplies in Kentucky http://ow.ly/Lx6ZN
  • Agriculture industry is expected to capture as much as 80% of all U.S. commercial drone use http://ow.ly/LAjcC
  • Residential and agricultural interests clash over proposed Indiana pig facility  http://ow.ly/LArLf
  • New Grist series on the loss of mid-sized farms and what that means for rural America http://ow.ly/LAKgt
  • Midwest farmers eager to see end to Cuba embargo by U.S. http://ow.ly/LAXti
  • USDA’s Risk Management Agency: farmers so far have received $8.8 billion in indemnity payments for their 2014 crops http://ow.ly/LDnkF
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: some Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota areas improved after rains; minor improvements in Oklahoma, Arkansas, southeast Kansas; South Dakota drought expanded northward http://ow.ly/wmTdv
  • Study: climate change will leave the Yellowstone National Park vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires and shrinking snowpack http://ow.ly/LrY7H
  • West Virginia's Board of Education amends, then adopts climate change language in newly-approved K-12 science education standards http://ow.ly/LrYFg
  • Downpours on upswing: Research finds flooding on the rise in central U.S. http://ow.ly/LAY1S
  • EPA releases summary of major climate change-related 2014 accomplishments of EPA's national and regional water programs http://ow.ly/LDmdZ
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Republican House Natural Resources Committee leaders will back Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization, with changes http://ow.ly/LGCar
  • Center for Biological Diversity files lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service asserting that
    Photo credit: Noel Burkhead, USGS
    FWS has failed to protect four fish found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia waterways http://ow.ly/LGB3g (lawsuit: http://ow.ly/LGAZb)
  • Asian carp "attack" Washington University rowing team at Creve Coeur Lake (Maryland Heights, Missouri) http://ow.ly/LAYn4
  • Work on Yellowstone River dam to start this fall in bid to help endangered pallid sturgeon pass upriver http://ow.ly/LIbEP
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources' effort to reduce Illinois River Asian carp "shows promise" http://ow.ly/LB1JY
In the Cities -
  • Des Moines, Iowa announces intent to participate in the Compact of Mayors: global coalition
    Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Redux
    of mayors and city leaders voluntarily making commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions http://ow.ly/LI913
  • St. Charles, Missouri purchases Bangert Island for shore-line development, prompting new concerns over long-protected Missouri Riverfront wildlife area http://ow.ly/LIdSI
  • New Orleans goes hard-core to combat blight. But can that save the Hurricane Katrina-blighted Lower Ninth Ward? http://ow.ly/LJGnU
  • Researchers measured the "happiness" of vulnerable New Orleans residents before and after Hurricane Katrina, and the results are uplifting http://ow.ly/LJSIL
  • $26.2M state flood mitigation grant awarded to Burlington, Iowa for flood walls, other barriers along Mississippi River http://ow.ly/LIcqP
  • Infusion of state funds and Ohio River bank stabilization will catalyze Owensboro, Kentucky Riverfront redevelopment http://ow.ly/Lx5Lx
  • Chicago city officials: Chicago River plume not sewage - likely a mix of rust, dirt flushed by stormwater runoff surge http://ow.ly/Ly61i
  • St. Paul, Minnesota gets EPA grant to plan West Side Flats cleanup (120-acre Mississippi Riverfront site) http://ow.ly/LAZFp
  • Saint Cloud Times: St. Cloud's neglected riverfront needs upgrade http://ow.ly/LB03r
  • EPA to host free April 21 webinar on sustainable solutions for Alexandria and Pineville, Louisiana (both bordering the Red River) http://ow.ly/LEZlK
  • Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District is closing in on a major wastewater mitigation milestone http://ow.ly/LJUhO
In the States-
  • Minnesota state House hearings begin on omnibus agriculture finance bill http://ow.ly/LAhye
  • Work begins on $787 million Minnesota omnibus environment finance bill-contains several 
    States in the news
    controversial provisions http://ow.ly/LDjcX
  • In Minnesota, buffer strips are a rallying cry for cleaner water http://ow.ly/LAtOS
  • Wisconsin state lawmakers to consider bill that would ban microbeads-plastic exfoliant in personal care products http://ow.ly/LBhyM (link to Wisconsin Assembly bill version: http://ow.ly/LBhZe)
  • WISC editorial: "Banning state employees from talking about climate change is embarrassment" (Wisconsin) http://ow.ly/LwQbo
  • Chicago Tribune: Mum's the word on global warming at Wisconsin land agency http://ow.ly/LAu89
  • Missouri Supreme Court upholds limits to damages that property owners can recover in nuisance lawsuits against agricultural operations http://ow.ly/LGHVL (ruling overview/summary http://ow.ly/LGHy2; link to opinion: http://ow.ly/LGHBQ)
  • Kentucky Division of Water public listening sessions in May will help define any revisions to state's water quality standards http://ow.ly/LI71L
  • Louisiana House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment to take up bill next week approving the 2015-2016 annual plan for integrated coastal protection and restoration (link to plan: http://ow.ly/LGwBD) House bill: http://ow.ly/LGxg8
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection plans three public hearings  on proposed changes to regulations governing oil and gas extraction http://ow.ly/LHOsl
  • Indiana DNR Division of Forestry releases Strategic Plan for 2015-2019 http://ow.ly/LJVA2
  • North Dakota lawmakers pass bill to create pilot project aimed treating and recycling oil drilling waste http://ow.ly/LEa7q
  • Landowners claim new Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission water supply and building drilling setback requirement favors energy industry http://ow.ly/LDQku

Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Study: chemical dispersant used in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon accident is more toxic to coral than oil http://ow.ly/LrWSH
  • Documentary film trailer released: “Dispatches from the Gulf” - about scientific research to improve ability to understand, respond to, and mitigate the impacts of oil pollution on marine and coastal ecosystems http://ow.ly/LBiLT
  • National Geographic News: Is Gulf oil spill's damage over or still unfolding? http://ow.ly/LE9AQ
Resource Development -
  • EPA vows to address the ongoing uncertainty surrounding ethanol and the renewable fuel
    Click to enlarge
    standard http://ow.ly/Lx0wQ
  • $2.6 billion Sandpiper oil pipeline project remains under administrative review in Minnesota as sides debate its necessity http://ow.ly/Lx1YC (see subsequent update below)
  • Minnesota administrative law judge finds that Enbridge Inc.'s 610-mile Sandpiper project warrants state-issued "certificate of need" http://ow.ly/LDNDM
  • Natural gas, solar and wind industry job increases have not occurred in West Virginia and Kentucky, where there were significant coal industry job losses http://ow.ly/Ly4F0
Federal Budget -
  • House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee approves spending bill setting FY 2016 Army Corps' budget at $5.6 billion ($865 million more than the White House requested); news story: http://ow.ly/LGCRT; subcommittee meeting web page: http://ow.ly/LGCLs; spending bill text: http://ow.ly/LBGku
  • House GOP and Democratic leaders nominate their eight Budget Committee members (5 Republicans and 3 Democrats) http://ow.ly/LDiEi
  • Senate appoints entire Budget Committee roster as conferees to negotiate budget resolution compromise with House http://ow.ly/LGyq4
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)
  • Third Minnesota River Congress to be held Thursday, April 16, at Turner Halle in New Ulm http://ow.ly/LAZ0H
  • EPA’s Second Water Quality Modeling Webinar: “Brick by Brick : How Water Quality Models are Developed” April 23 1:00 PM ET http://ow.ly/LDlSg
  • Climate Change and Human Health Symposium; George Washington University, Washington, DC (and online), April 24 http://ow.ly/Ls0is
  • Spring 2015 Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force Meeting; May 20, Crowne Plaza, Columbus, Ohio and via webcast http://ow.ly/LBDGV
  • Ohio River Paddlefest Weekend; June 18-20, Cincinnati, Ohio http://ow.ly/Lx9Rv
  • Volunteers sought to clean up, learn about and explore 65 miles of the Wapsipinicon River (Iowa); July 11-16 http://ow.ly/LAPyl
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 284, April 10 http://ow.ly/Lrpyp
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 285, April 15 http://ow.ly/LEvjc
  • April 14 Green Lands Blue Waters update highlighting Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land http://ow.ly/LADVB
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy April 15 TU Waterways e-newsletter http://ow.ly/LQnF7
  • New University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute podcast series "demystifies" aquifers and watersheds http://ow.ly/LENCx
  • Spring edition of the Army Corps of Engineers “Our Mississippi” magazine http://ow.ly/LHTbt http://ow.ly/LHT8h
Other news-
  • Knoxville News Sentinel editorial: Tennessee River organizations set example for care of rivers, streams http://ow.ly/LJTuR
  • U.S. EPA's first national standards for coal combustion waste disposal became official today (Friday) with their Federal Register publication http://ow.ly/LJD8k - the rules become effective in 180 days, and will apply to new and existing coal combustion residuals landfills, surface impoundments and lateral expansions, and require the closure of any landfill or surface impoundment that cannot meet applicable performance criteria
  • House Energy and Commerce Committee approves H.R.1734 - Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act - bill to modify the U.S. EPA's coal ash rule; link to bill http://ow.ly/LESGY; links to Committee meeting page http://ow.ly/LET1s and press release: http://ow.ly/LETno
  • House Judiciary Committee passes "Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act" - No major regulations would go into effect without congressional approval under the bill http://ow.ly/LGzKy
  • Some top Mississippi River Basin state exports for 2014 (based on Washington Post article and Obama Administration report http://ow.ly/LrGwX
  • EPA official: House proposal to reform US toxic chemical laws could “delay evaluations for some of the most dangerous chemicals indefinitely” http://bit.ly/1DfLgjU
  • U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization: Over-consumption, climate change threaten food security, water supply in many regions http://ow.ly/LEoN2
Politics and People-
  • Illinois State Senator Darin LaHood says he will "fight in Washington to keep river traffic a priority" as U.S. representative http://ow.ly/LB1cf
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D) signals stronger interest in 2016 West Virginia governor run http://ow.ly/LE0tW
  • National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) names Jeremy Peters as its new Chief Executive Officer http://ow.ly/Ls6HV
  • Center for American Progress: over 30 percent of 2014 Congressional roll call votes have been energy- and environment-related, most of those in the House have been aimed at blocking climate change efforts http://ow.ly/LE3o0
  • Gallup poll: 48% of U.S. adults think government is doing too little when it comes to safeguarding the environment http://ow.ly/LrXR4
Your Moment of Zen -
Image credit: Geneco