Friday, April 9, 2010

Mississippi River Water Resource News for the Week

In the April 9 Federal Register, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the availability of a minimum of $25 million in financial assistance that will be made available in fiscal year (FY) 2010 for the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) throughout the United States to eligible landowners. Under WREP, NRCS enters into agreements with eligible partners to help enhance conservation outcomes on wetlands and adjacent lands. WREP targets and leverages resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement activities and improve wildlife habitat through agreements with States, nongovernmental organizations, and Indian tribes.

On March 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of approximately $25 million (including about $5 million to be used to address natural resource concerns in the Mississippi River Basin) to fund projects designed to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) in fiscal year 2010. USDA says in its press release that the Mississippi River Basin "funding will help USDA further advance its recently announced Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative for 12 Midwest and Southern states." Links to the USDA announcement and to associated links can be found here.

Comments submitted by the public through the April 5 comment submission deadline on the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) Proposed Revisions to the National Objectives, Principles, and Standards for Water and Related Resources are available to view online or to download here. Over 100 comments were submitted by individuals and organizations through the online CEQ portal. Some of that number of submittals includes multiple submissions from the same persons.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) published a Request for Proposals (RFP) in the April 2 Federal Register for approximately $20.7 million in 2010 Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) new project funding. The Upper Mississippi River Basin is one of USDA's seven AWEP national priority areas. The AWEP is a "voluntary conservation initiative that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to implement agricultural water enhancement activities on agricultural land for the purposes of conserving surface and ground water and improving water quality." The purpose of the RFP is to to solicit proposals from potential partners seeking partnership agreements with NRCS to promote the conservation of ground and surface water and the improvement of water quality. The deadline for proposals to be postmarked or hand-delivered is May 17.

The location has been set for the April 15, Washington, DC briefing on existing and proposed Federal programs designed to conserve and restore water and natural resources in the Mississippi River Basin. The briefing will take place from noon to 1:00 PM. In Room 1105; Longworth House Office Building; Independence Avenue at South Capitol Street (see map here). A light lunch will be provided. The briefing is being sponsored by the Northeast-Midwest Institute, in coordination with the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, Upper Mississippi River Basin Task Force and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Presenters from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island, District, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and US EPA Office of Water will discuss such issues as the Environmental Management Program, Mississippi River Healthy Watersheds Initiative, and EPA's proposed new $17 million funding targeted at Mississippi River Basin nonpoint source mitigation, with time set aside for questions and discussion. Please RSVP Mark Gorman at the Northeast-Midwest Institute if you plan to attend (202-464-4015;

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