Friday, September 24, 2010

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

USGS Comprehensive National Analysis of Nutrients in Streams and Groundwater
On September 23, the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program released its national assessment on nutrients in streams and groundwater.  The assessment information includes two USGS publications (Circular 1350 and Fact Sheet 3078), along with a briefing sheet prepared for a September 24 congressional briefing, a Frequently Asked Questions sheet, supporting technical information (graphics, maps, tables and data), and related links.
According to the USGS, "The information describes nutrient concentrations in the Nation's water resources, key sources of nutrients, factors affecting nutrient concentrations, potential effects on humans and aquatic life, and changes in concentrations since the early 1990s. Implications of the findings touch on many environmental issues, including those related to (1) developing nutrient criteria for surface water bodies, (2) reducing nutrients to receiving waters, (3) setting realistic expectations for water-quality improvements following nutrient reduction strategies, and (4) managing elevated nutrients in drinking water from surface-water intakes and wells."
Questions and requests for more information can be referred to Pixie A. Hamilton (; (804) 261-2602 (office), (804) 301-3869 (cell)).

National Flood Insurance Program
A Senate bill (S. 3814) to extend the National Flood Insurance Program unchanged from its current form until September 30, 2011 was passed by the Senate without amendment by unanimous consent on September 21.   The Senate bill was referred to and passed by the House on a voice vote on September 23, and was sent to the President for his signature into law. 
In the meantime, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing to examine reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program on September 22 convened at the behest of Committee Chairman Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), who will be retiring at the end of this Congressional session.  Hearing witnesses described a series of financial, actuarial and social problems associated with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Hearing testimony is available to read here
Nick D'Ambrosia, of the National Association of Realtors stressed that "the current NFIP model is clearly not sustainable,” and that “(NFIP) subsidies have to be phased out, and the program has to move to actuarial rates."  Orice Williams Brown, of the U.S. Government Accountability Office noted that "addressing the subsidy issue is critical to the future solvency of the program."
In his remarks during the hearing, Senator Dodd noted that the Senate's decision Tuesday to renew the NFIP for an additional year, unchanged, was a "classic response of Congress," and likened it to "kicking the can down the road."
For more background information on this important issue for the Mississippi River system, visit here.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival and "Ghostbird" Film Screenings
This year the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the University of Tennessee Press are collaborating to present two days of  environmental film presentations.  On October 19, the Wild and Scenic Festival line up is presented (see for details). And on October 21, there will be a showing of the film "Ghostbird" (see: and a book signing for the book "Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935-1941."  Both showings will be at the Knoxville Museum of Art

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

In the States -
  • Biologists: Mussels healthy in TN's Duck River; indicates water quality improving
  • Editorial: Restoring Mississippi River's Lake Pepin a top priority
  • IL EPA seeks ideas for projects to improve stormwater management
  • Purdue, IN DOT pioneering green highway projects around the state
  • Urbanization affecting water quality around Carbindale IL
  • MN River Board pushes market-based economic role in cleaning up MN waters launching Conservation Marketplace of MN
  • EDF's latest edition of Delta Dispatches now online with latest news on efforts to restore Coastal Louisiana

Studies and Reports -

Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • Xcel Energy plans to remove 105 year-old Minnesota Falls dam on the Minnesota River south of Granite Falls
  • Plan to remove Minnesota Falls dam on Minnesota River sparks controversy
  • MN River at Jordan and Mississippi at Anoka both swollen several times beyond normal size for this time of year
  • Bill to extend National Flood Insurance Program until September 30, 2011 passed by Senate & House; sent to President

Agriculture -

Events -

       (re: "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story" premier) -
  • U of MN dean says 'Troubled Waters' film whose premier was postponed 'vilifies agriculture'
  • U of MN River Talk blog: Controversy Over "Troubled Waters" film
  • Minnesota Daily: "U of MN has yet to prove postponing “Troubled Waters” was unbiased"
  • U of MN official in hot water over canceling of film, "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story"
  • U of MN setting up faculty committee to review the postponed film "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story"
  • U of MN announces controversial film "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story'' to be aired as originally scheduled

Wildlife and Invasives -
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service & MO Dept of Conservation urge Missourians to battle aquatic invasive species

International Perspective -
  • China's requirement for everyone > age 11 to plant 3 trees/yr since 1978 comes with high environmental risks

Other News -
  • 12 case studies of how small cities, towns & rural regions transform themselves into more livable communities

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Great Waters Coalition Seeking New "Great Water" Restoration Nominees
The Great Waters Coalition is soliciting petitions from members of the restoration community who are interested in designating their ecosystem as a “Great Water.”  The Mississippi River system is one such Great Water.  The Coalition hopes that the addition of various ecosystems will broaden the Coalition base, build lobbying capacity and protect more of the nation’s most important waterways. An ecosystem will be considered by the Coalition as a Great Water candidate if it:
  1. is of a large geographic scale and is either an aquatic freshwater, estuarine, coastal marine, or coastal ecosystem, or a combination; and is of substantial national significance because of its size, uniqueness, productivity, importance to society, and sensitivity to national and interstate policy.
  2. has a comprehensive restoration plan in place, in development, or there are stakeholders advocating for the creation of a comprehensive restoration plan.
  3. has federal, state, regional, tribal and local partners working together to move restoration of the water resource forward.
The three Coalition co-chairs will evaluate each petition and make recommendations to the Coalition Steering Committee, which will then make a decision and convey the decision to the petitioner.
The deadline to submit petitions is October 29.  Petitions should be submitted to Caroline Wick at  Additional information regarding the Great Waters Coalition can be found at

National Great Rivers Research and Education Center Confluence Field Station Dedication Planned
The public has been invited to the dedication of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center Confluence (NGRREC) Field Station in Alton, Illinois on October 26.  NGRREC was formed in 2002 to explore important questions about river systems, the environment and their impact on the communities, and to keep the public informed. The new Confluence Field Station will serve to enhance NGRREC'S reputation as a premier river research institution, and will be the first institution of its kind to offer a comprehensive river system research and education program.  For more information about the new, LEED-certified facility and the dedication ceremony, see this web site.   More information about NGRREC can be found at

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week
In the States -
  • Southern MN Beet Sugar Cooperative violated discharge permit by sending millions of gallons of wastewater into ditch
  • State says IA livestock farmers can continue to apply manure on frozen ground in emergencies for 5 more years
  • IN officials: 200,000 gallons of hog manure were spayed onto field upstream of 106,000+ June fish kill
  • IL EPA: Dairy-farm runoff may have caused 40,000+ fish kill in central IL
Studies and Reports -
  • "Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges" Report to Be Released Today
  • Watershed Management Website to be Launched by Nature Conservancy and IBM
  • Sustainable Water Resources Management, Volume 3: Case Studies on New Water Paradigm (pdf file:
Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • Amidst confusion & controversy, FEMA delays planned new Mississippi River floodplain mapping rollout in IL region
  • MN DNR updating land use requirements for 72 miles of Mississippi River from Hastings to Dayton
  • Hearings to examine reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program; Wed, Sep 22, 2010 2:00 PM
  • U of MN River Talk blog: Who Determines the Future of Urban Riverfronts?
  • RT @MinnesotaNews: Des Moines to offer buyouts of flood-prone trailer parks
Agriculture -
  • Farm management choices key to healthy ecosystems; organic farming promotes higher beneficial fungal diversity
  • Farm Bill programs could be in jeopardy as lawmakers try to craft 2012 bill (look under "budget")
  • Some Preliminary Steps Toward Regulating Nonpoint Source Pollution
  • New administration Gulf hypoxia report critical of agriculture’s role, particularly through corn production
  • USDA ERS's “Rural America at a Glance, 2010 Edition” report released yesterday
  • IA Farm Bureau & National Farmers Union like idea of ending Farm Bill fixed payments
Events -
  • Sept 24 DC Briefing on High Levels of Nitrogen & Phosphorus in Waters Across the Nation &
  • Call for presentations open for WI Wetlands Association’s 16th Annual Wetlands Conference; abstract deadline Nov 15.
  • National Great Rivers Research & Education Center Confluence Field Station Dedication; Alton, IL; Oct 26
  • Ottawa area Illinois River Sweep will run from 9 AM to noon this Saturday
  • IL DNR offers free fishing at state parks on Sept. 18 to celebrate “It's Our River Day”
  • Water Quality Workshop: How to Prepare a Third Party TMDL for the EPA, Chicago IL October 5
Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Outdoors panel recommends > 2 dozen MN projects for land conservation legacy funding
  • Zebra Mussels Found in Wisconsin Lake (seems like it's a new lake each week)
  • Endangered & Threatened Wildlife & Plants: 5-Year Status Reviews of 7 Midwest Species, pp 55820-55823
International Perspective -
  • 4500+ will meet in Montreal starting this Sunday to discuss global water challenges
Other News -
  • U of MN's Bell Museum Oct 3 premier of film-"Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story"-postponed; reasons unclear
  • The Biodiversity Project & Mississippi River Network are in search for Mississippi Rive Basin Policy Manager:
  • US Urged to Take Action to Head off Looming Freshwater Crisis
  • Massive Fish Kill Hits Mississippi River Near Oil Spill
  • Watch freshwater mussels "grow" in this live "musselcam" (interesting and humorous)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mississippi River Network Policy Manager Position Opening

The Biodiversity Project and the Mississippi River Network are still searching for an experienced Policy Manager to work on Mississippi River Basin policy issues, and be based either in Washington, DC or in the region. The position announcement was originally posted in July.  You can see more details and link to the job description here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges" Report to Be Released Today

An alliance of businesses (Mars, Kohler, Rio Tinto and Siemens), conservation groups (World Wildlife Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, American Rivers and Pacific Institute) and farmers (Family Farm Alliance and Soybean Growers) has formed to call for changes in the use, consumption and regulation of water.  According to a coaltion press release, the coalition's report, "Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges,"  is the culmination of an intensive two year collaboration exploring solutions to U.S. freshwater challenges. It will be presented to the Obama Administration at a meeting of federal agencies convened by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) this morning (September 15), and released to the public during a forum later today at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC (The "Call to Action report can be viewed and downloaded here (PDF file) and a related press release can be found here).

The press release goes on to state that "The document is believed to be the first such comprehensive, cross sector examination of U.S. freshwater challenges and solutions. It represents consensus recommendations of diverse interests convened by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Racine, Wisconsin."

In addition to signing onto the Call to Action, the parties in this initiative also reportedly have made commitments as individual organizations to take actions to address freshwater challenges. For additional information about the Call to Action, or to learn more about The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, the press release directs parties to for more information.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mississippi River Water Resource News for the Week

Growing Hypoxia in U.S. Coastal Waters
A NOAA report issued last Friday (September 3), entitled "Scientific Assessment of Hypoxia in U.S. Coastal Waters," assesses the increasing prevalence of low-oxygen “dead zones” in U.S. coastal waters (including the notable Gulf of Mexico dead zone off the mouth of the Mississippi River), and outlines a series of research and policy steps that might help reverse this decades-long trend. The full news release (pdf file) and report (pdf file) can be found at this White House web site.

Wetlands of International Importance
More than 300,000 acres in four Midwest states have been designated the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands of International Importance. The designation recognizes the land as important to the environment and economy in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, according to a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The designation marks the 27th U.S. wetland to be so designated under the Convention on Wetlands.  The designation proposal was endorsed by the Department of Natural Resources of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and seven members of Congress from the respective states.  The designation will be celebrated October 10 through a variety of public events in the region (news article here).

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week:

Wildlife and Invasives -
  • WI DNR now accepting project pre-proposals re: WI Wildlife Action Plan implementation through Wildlife Grants Program
  • Ohio State U professor: Asian carp threats greatly exaggerated based on Mississippi R experience
  • Officials poisoned Illinois river in Asian Carp campaign against advice of scientist
  • WI DNR survey shows diverse bird population & highlights protection efforts in Lower WI River Valley
  • > 300,000 acres in 4 states designated Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands of International Importance

Agriculture -
  • Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) welcomes Iowa Farm Bureau call for an end of direct subsidy payments to farmers
  • Iowa Farm Bureau delegates urge end to farm bill direct payments
  • Gulf's 'dead zone' swelled this summer to one of largest areas on record

Events -
  • Annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference New Orleans, LA, October 2–6;
  • Getting in Step Watershed Outreach Workshop; Sept 16; 10-5; Indianapolis, IN; email w name organization & phone #
  • EPA Sept 15 webcast: “A Watershed Dialogue: How Can we Build the Capacity and Effectiveness of Watershed Groups?”
  • Free lecture: "Contaminants, Water & Our Health: New Lessons from Wildlife" Sept 14 @ 7 PM U of MN St. Paul campus
  • “Friends of the Illinois River” seek volunteers to help with annual IL River Sweep; Sept 18
  • Congressional briefing in DC (open to public)-Nutrients in the Nation’s Streams & Groundwater; Sept 24; 9:30-11 AM
  • Urban Water Sustainability Council Hosts Green Infrastructure Conference; Philadelphia Sept 6-7;

International Perspective -
  • International conference: If "massive and complex" water challenges not resolved soon, future looks grimly devastating
  • Lessons from massive flooding in Pakistan: time for a new river paradigm & Mississippi River implications

In the States -
  • Water quality trending toward the positive in MN River Basin
  • EPA issues order to halt hazardous activity of MO company potentially affecting H2O quality near Mississippi River
  • Downstreamers and upstreamers uniting over Minnesota River-Lake Pepin issues

Studies and Reports -
  • USGS: Many Urban Streams Harmful to Aquatic Life Following Winter Pavement Deicing (anyone surprised?)
  • New NOAA Report Warns of Expanding Threat of Hypoxia in U.S. Coastal Waters

Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • Corps of Engineers concludes Mississippi River Pool 6 drawdown near Winona, MN to manage aquatic vegetation
  • Developers look to Mississippi River as source of renewable power
  • Army Corps' Mississippi River Project announces Lock & Dam 15 Visitor Center to sponsor Sept 26 guided nature walk
  • New coalition supports SW IL levees along Mississippi
  • EPA determines that Army Corps presented insufficient information to support Missouri River dredging permits

Other News -
  • Report: Midwest can foster regional economic growth by capitalizing on its vast freshwater resources (pdf file)
  • Public comment on EPA's "Coming Together for Clean Water: Strategy for Achieving Clean Water" ends September 17
  • Time to nominate rivers for American Rivers' 2011 America’s Most Endangered Rivers report (pdf file of form:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Congressional Briefing on Nutrients in the Nation's Streams and Groundwater

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and its partners will host a Congressional briefing on nutrients in the nation's streams and groundwater on Friday, September 24 from 9:30 – 11:00 a.m. in SVC Room 201/200 of the Capitol Visitor’s Center in Washington D.C.. The briefing is cosponsored by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and will be free and open to the public.

In the keynote presentation, USGS will describe nutrient concentrations in the nation's water resources, key sources of nutrients, potential effects on humans and aquatic life, and changes in concentrations since the early 1990s. USGS partners will then describe examples of how federal and state agencies are using the information to manage and regulate nutrients in surface and groundwater.  Questions and discussion will follow the presentations.

The entrance to the Capitol Visitor's Center is on the east side of the U.S. Capitol Building.  Attendees should allow extra time for security and can tell security personnel at the Center entrance that you are on official business in Room SVC 201/200 to avoid waiting in line.  A photo ID may be required.  Inside the Capitol Visitor's Center, follow signs to the Senate Meeting Rooms.  Persons who intend to attend should RSVP to Laura Parsons at EESI (

For more information, please contact Pixie A. Hamilton at or (804) 261-2602

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

“The Errant Economics of Detrimental Dams and Ruined Rivers”

Very much related to earlier blog postings regarding flooding and damming of rivers in Pakistan, you may also be interested in this article (“The Errant Economics of Detrimental Dams and Ruined Rivers”) from the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.  The article addresses lessons emerging from the massive flooding in Pakistan, proposes that it is now time for a new river paradigm - one that goes beyond the historic economically-driven model - and specifically mentions Mississippi River management implications.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mississippi River Water Resource News for the Week

Water Tools and Initiatives
A 41-page guide to global and regional initiatives on water and business has been prepared by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, grouping those initiatives under one or more of these categories:
    -identify and assess water-related risks.
    -measure water use and assess water-related impacts
    -develop response options and/or risk mitigation strategies. 
Each initiative is summarized on one page that contains a synopsis of initiative information in a consistent format. For example, the WBCSD Global Water Tool©) provides a web site, contact, objectives such as "Enable effective communication with internal and external stakeholders," key features such as "an Excel workbook, an online mapping system that plots site locations with external water datasets and spatial viewing via Google Earth."  The report also includes information regarding who can access the initiative tool, the target audience, available materials, geographic and sectoral focuses and other details. A water glossary and other links are also provided.  Download or read the PDF file report here.

G8 Report on Water and Biodiversity: Business Risks and Opportunities
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is a global study funded by the G8 nations and five major developing economies. A TEEB report on biodiversity and business was released July 13 by the UNEP, the European Commission and supporting countries.  The report provides insight into how businesses face risks and opportunities associated with biodiversity-related issues, including water supply and water quality. Biodiversity provides both water services and requires water. For example, ecosystem water services include riparian vegetation, which filters waters and reduces erosion, flood protection, catchment services (such as receiving wastewater), microbiological purification of wastewater, carbon sequestration, recreational and cultural services. Many businesses both require reliable sources of water and influence water quality through wastewater discharge. Water supply is dependent on well functioning ecosystems and subsystems, including lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands, as well as  on land use practices.
The report suggests that water represents both risk and opportunity from a business perspective. Water quality is harmed by overuse of fertilizer, poor sanitation facilities and stormwater runoff. Businesses may face risks of increased water costs, shortage of water (including restrictions and rationing), and damage to reputation due to excess use of water or poor water treatment. Business opportunities include water trading, new technologies for wastewater treatment, desalinization and closed loop systems, new products and processes using less water, improved reputation through water management initiatives and partnerships with local communities. Water quality trading using water footprint methodologies are emerging as a form of water accounting . For example, SAB Miller collects data for sites and regions to produce a footprint for a particular product (for example, a unit of beer). Climate change exacerbates local stresses due to water quality, affecting runoff, flooding and coral reefs and other biological resources.  Visit here for more information.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week
St Louis Post-Dispatch editorial: Corps of Engineers Mississippi River project needs independent review
Army Corps of Engineers modifies Mississippi River pool 6 drawdown at request of local business
River otter are returning to Upper Mississippi River basin
EPA Denies Petition Calling for Lead Ammunition Ban (PDF file of denial letter:
Federal & IL EPA seeking public comment at upcoming meetings on Illinois River Total Maximum Daily Load study
Huge losses put federal flood insurance plan in the red
Des Moines Register guest opinion: "Stop planting corn river bank to river bank"
Comment deadline Sept. 17 for EPA final draft of new national Clean Water Strategy
Minnesota DNR Holding Open House on Zebra Mussel Infestations
Southern Minnesota Cattail Catastrophe
Water Sustainability in the 21st Century: the Minnesota Approach
RT @MinnesotaNews: Two area cities receive funding for clean water
IA DNR director says pollution from Lake Delhi is 'atrocious'
Horinko Group Mtg this PM on Networks, Coalitions, and the Role of Social Capital in Water Resources Management
Can Minnesota's Coon Rapids dam stop Asian Carp movement up the Mississippi?