Thursday, December 23, 2010

See You in 2011!

It's lights-out for your FNB (Friendly Neighborhood Blogger) and his Blog postings for the year!  See you in 2011 with all the news you need to eat on the Mississippi River Basin!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Army Corps Launches Scoping of Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study Amidst Environmental Group Concerns

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' ("Corps") Chicago District has announced that it plans to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) that it is undertaking as directed by Congress in the 2007 Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA)

For GLMRIS, the Corps plans to explore options and technologies to control aquatic nuisance species (ANS) that might be applied, according to the Corps, "to prevent or reduce the risk of ANS transfer between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins through aquatic pathways" (ANS are nonindigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native species or the ecological stability of infested waters, or commercial, agricultural, aquacultural or recreational activities dependent on such waters).

Some environmental groups have expressed concerns that the Corps' use of the phrase "prevent or reduce the risk" of species migration runs contrary to Congressional intent expressed in the 2007 WRDA, which states that the Corps should conduct a study to "prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and other aquatic pathways" (emphasis added).  Groups are worried that inclusion of the phrase "or reduce the risk" indicates that the Corps is allowing leeway to scale back their study from the Congressionally-prescribed prevention endpoint (see this December 10, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, for example).

According to the GLMRIS web site, as part of this effort, the Corps' plans to:
  • Inventory current and forecast future conditions within the study area;
  • Identify aquatic pathways that may exist between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins;
  • Inventory current and future potential aquatic nuisance species;
  • Analyze possible ANS controls to prevent or reduce the risk of ANS transfer, to include hydraulic separation of the basins;
  • Analyze the impacts each ANS control may have on significant natural resources and existing and forecast (sic) uses of the lakes and waterways within the study area; and
  • Recommend a plan to prevent or reduce the risk of ANS transfer between the basins. If necessary, the plan will include mitigation measures for impacted waterway uses and significant natural resources.
As part of the EIS process the Corps held a public scoping meeting on Wednesday, December 15, in Chicago, Illinois.  Although that meeting date has passed, public comments will continue to be accepted through March 31, 2011.  Using input obtained during an initial scoping period, the Corps says that it "will refine the scope of GLMRIS to focus on significant issues, as well as eliminate issues that are not significant from further detailed study." Interested parties can refer to here on the GLMRIS project website to submit comments.

The Corps plans to host additional public meetings in different cities. Information regarding these meetings will be posted in the Federal Register and at

Questions regarding this matter may be directed to the GLMRIS Project Manager, Dave Wethington, by phone at (312) 846-5522 or by email at

December Mississippi River Basin Update

Here is the link to the December Update (PDF file) from the Northeast-Midwest Institute on Mississippi River Basin issues.   If that link doesn’t work, you can cut and paste the following into your Internet browser’s address field:
The December Update contains these items:
  • 112th Congress (Committee Assignments and Calendars)
Budget and Appropriations
  • Continuing Resolutions
River Basin News and Notes
  • USDA Mississippi River Basin Initiative 2011 Fiscal Year Grant Proposal Deadlines Approaching
  • NRC Highly Critical of Obama Administration's Principles and Guidelines Update
  • US Census Numbers: Rust Belt States to Lose House Seats; Sunbelt to Gain
  • Delta Dispatches
  • NGRREC E-Newsletter
  • Upcoming Conferences, Events and Workshops

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The House Always Wins

(If you are in need of a mental coffee break, here is a link to the OK Go song that inspired this blog post title.) 
Earlier today (December 21) the U.S. Census Bureau unveiled a new set of state and national population numbers, shaping the U.S. House seat map by determining which states will be adding House seats and which  will be losing them in redistricting next year. As noted by Census Bureau director Robert Groves, "Congress has charged the Census Bureau with doing the arithmetic to compute the number of Members in the U.S. House of Representatives.  This report . . . announce(s) the official national population count, report(ing) the state resident population for all states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.”  Based on the announced population numbers, the 2012 congressional landscape will change, mirroring trends from recent past redistricting, with rust belt states in the northeast and industrial Midwest losing population and House seats, and sunbelt states gaining.  States that will gain seats under redistricting include Florida (+2 seats), Georgia (+1), South Carolina (+1), Texas (+4), Arizona (+1), Utah (+1), Nevada (+1), and Washington (+1), while seat losers include New York (-2 seats), Massachusetts (-1), New Jersey (-1), Pennsylvania (-1), Ohio (-2), Michigan (-1), Illinois (-1), Iowa (-1), Missouri (-1) and Louisiana (-1) (a Census Bureau map of House seat gains and losses by state can be viewed here).  
Historically, such a shift in House seat apportionment has favored the Republicans rather than the Democrats, with seats shifting to more traditionally Republican states from Democratic strongholds. 
The full redistricting picture won't be revealed until early spring 2011 when the Census Bureau releases more detailed state-by-state population data showing where population gains and losses have occurred within states and Congressional districts.

Friday, December 17, 2010

House Committee Ranking Member Designations Nearly Completed

House Democratic Caucus members have nearly completed designating the 112th Congress ranking members for the various House committees.  The updated list with all of the Ranking Members is located here.

Mississippi River Basin Inititative Grant Funding Deadlines Approaching

Deadlines are rapidly approaching for partners to submit proposals for 2011 Fiscal Year Mississippi River Basin Healthy River Initiative (MRBI) USDA funding.  They are December 28 (Conservation Innovation Grant projects), and January 28 (Cooperative Conservation Partner Initiative projects). See this USDA overview for more information and details.

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

"Goodbye" to 2010
This will be the last 2010 weekly issue of "Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week."  The next weekly issue will be released on Friday, January 7.  Look next week for the December issue of our monthly "Mississippi River Basin Update," which will have the latest analysis of any Federal appropriations activity and its potential for impacting work related to the Mississippi River Basin.

I hope all have a peaceful and safe holiday season.  See you in 2011.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

In the States -
  • Wisconsin takes step to reduce phosphorus waterway pollution with new rule going into effect this month
  • WI DNR launches effort to improve Wisconsin River water quality degraded by phosphorus & related algal blooms
  • 1,000 Friends of Minnesota Releases Investment Guide for New Governor
  • Univ of MN VP at heart of "Troubled Waters" Mississippi River film cancellation controversy will step down
  • WI conservationists bracing for feared attack on environmental protections during upcoming legislative session
  • Quad Cities Waterkeeper settles Clean Water enforcement case against Milan IL mobile home park
  • IA failing to warn people to cut back on eating locally caught fish contaminated with mercury/other pollutants
  • 25 states; 3 tribes to share >$395M in Fed funds to clean abandoned coal mines (includes Mississippi R basin states)
Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • Army Corps of Engineers: degradation and habitat loss have been exacerbated in Illinois River islands & side channels
Agriculture -
  • RFPs for USDA's Agricultural Water Enhancement Program & Cooperative Conservation & Partnership Initiative out today
  • Ethanol subsidies add fuel to tax bill discussions, setting stage for 2011 debates
  • Senator Chuck Grassley (IA): next year not expecting to maintain status quo on ethanol tax credits
  • Ag Nutrient Policy Council attorney: Chesapeake Bay "model for what EPA may try & do for Mississippi River Basin"
  • Farm regions in ND, SD, NE & KS avoid most financial collapse effects & lead recovery, thanks to strong exports
  • University of Calgary authors evaluate the ethics of biofuels
  • Fargo-based energy company moving forward with plans for nation’s first beet ethanol plant
  • Op-ed: Contrary to Soybean Council assertion, turbidity in MN River related to ag practices & not 'natural'
  • Incoming House Ag Comm Chair Lucas: direct payments may be on table in Farm Bill debate (audio)
  • USDA: 2010 net farm income forecast at $81.6 B, up 31 % from 2009 and 26 % higher than the 10-year ave. (pdf)
Water Quality-
  • Ag groups send "Dear Senator" letter opposing CWA "changes" in Chesapeake Clean Water & Ecosystem Restoration Act (PDF)
Events -
  • Mississippi River Research Consortium 43rd Annual Meeting April 28-29, La Crosse, WI
  • 27th Annual Bald Eagle Watch along Mississippi River on Saturday, January 8, 2011 in Fulton, IL
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Other news-
  • NASA: Rising consumption of food and fiber will threaten water supplies and ecosystems
  • Senate passes bill to reduce lead in drinking water now moves to House for consideration before end of year
  • Army Corps of Engineers proposes $2.9B restoration for Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet environmental damage
Political Scene -
  • Major Appropriation Additions and Subtractions in the House-Passed Long-Term Continuing Resolution
  • Uncomfortable over earmarks ban, Rep. Bachmann (R-MN-6th) wants to ‘redefine’ term
  • OH EPA chief to resign before new administration takes office
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD): Water, wildlife, lands omnibus bill has votes but lacks time
  • House Republicans will cut 84 committee slots in 112th Congress leading to scramble for slots
  • House Ag Comm Chair-elect Lucas announces 18 new GOP members of that Committee for 112th Congress
  • Senate's $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill collapses as 9 GOP senators pull support
  • Today GOP is expected to reveal House rules package of changes that will include new budgetary mechanisms
  • On today's House schedule: "Possible Further Action on Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Breaking: The Senate Appropriations Committee today took a decidedly different approach to funding the Federal government than the House did with its Continuing Resolution passed last week (see here), as that Senate Committee released a FY 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Bill consisting of separate appropriations measures passed out of the various Senate Appropriations subcommittees earlier this year (full text and earmarks lists here).  Whether the omnibus measure has the 60 votes needed to clear the full Senate is not yet clear.

House Committee Ranking Member Designations

House Democratic Caucus members have designated 112th Congress ranking members for the various House committees, which convenes on January 5 (see "Calendars," below in this blog).  Here is a summary of the incoming Ranking Members named thus far for each committee (listed alphabetically):

    * Agriculture-Collin Peterson (MN)
    * Appropriations-Norm Dicks (WA)
    * Armed Services-Adam Smith (WA)
    * Budget-Chris Van Hollen (MD)
    * Education and Labor-George Miller (CA)
    * Energy and Commerce-Henry Waxman (CA)
    * Financial Services-Barney Frank (MA)
    * Foreign Affairs-Howard Berman (CA)
    * Homeland Security-Bennie Thompson (MS)
    * House Administration-Robert Brady (PA)
    * Judiciary-John Conyers (MI)
    * Natural Resources-Ed Markey (MA)
    * Oversight and Government Reform-Elijah Cummings (MD)
    * Rules-Louise Slaughter (NY)
    * Science and Technology-Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)
    * Small Business-Nydia Velazquez (NY)
    * Standards of Official Conduct-Zoe Lofgren (CA)
    * Transportation and Infrastructure-Nick Rahall (WV)
    * Veterans' Affairs-Bob Filner (CA)
    * Ways and Means-Sander Levin (MI)

Earlier in December, the Republican Caucus named Chairs for each of the respective House Committees.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Major Appropriation Additions and Subtractions in the House-Passed Long-Term Continuing Resolution

The House narrowly passed a year-long Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution last evening (December 8), which would provide funding for Federal programs through the end of September, 2011.  The Senate has yet to take up the measure, and its fate in the Senate is uncertain (see, for example, here).  The House-passed version of the long-term Continuing Resolution (HR 3082) largely freezes Fiscal Year 2011 discretionary appropriations at the Fiscal Year 2010 levels, although it includes several major changes to spending from Fiscal Year 2010 levels.  Some of those changes reflect White House requests and some are Democratic priorities.

  • FY 2010 actual: $1,089,652
  • FY 2011 president’s request: $1,135,555
  • FY 2011 continuing resolution (HR 3082): $1,089,652

Reductions from fiscal 2010 levels
  • $6 billion less for the Census, plus a rescission of $1.7 billion
  • $5.1 billion less for defense base closure funding
  • $1.5 billion less for high-speed rail
  • $630 million rescinded from previously authorized highway projects
  • $500 million rescinded from the Asset Forfeiture Fund
Increased Spending
  • $5.7 billion more for Pell grants
  • $4.9 billion more for the Defense Department for regular Pentagon operations
  • $3.1 billion more for Veterans Administration medical operations
  • $843 million more for programs in the jurisdiction of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee
  • $723 million more for Social Security, Medicare and unemployment compensation
  • $624 million more for nuclear weapons programs, dependent upon New START ratification
  • $550 million more for Race to the Top education grants
  • $438 million for nuclear nonproliferation efforts
  • $38 million more for programs in the jurisdiction of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee (including adjustments in funding to allow the US Forest Service to continue the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program in ten states, which "helps protect our nation’s forest watersheds and enhances rural forestry employment.")
The Act also requires the Department of Energy, Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers to submit a spending plan for the fiscal year within 30 days.

SOURCE: House Appropriations Committee (; summary (pdf file) available here.

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Ring Out the Old; Ring in the New
As the last days of the 111th Congress wind down, with a final adjournment expected next week, preparations are being made for the 112th Congress, which will convene on January 5, 2011.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Senate and House, respectively, released their 2012 legislative calendars (which differ from each other considerably; see here for more details).  And on Wednesday, the House Republican Conference approved new committee chairs for the 112th Congress (listed here).

Key Committee Chair assignments that impact directly upon Mississippi River Basin water resource issues include: Agriculture (Frank Lucas (R-OK-3rd)); Appropriations (Harold Rogers (R-KY-5th)); Budget (Paul Ryan (R-WI-1st)); Natural Resources (Doc Hastings (R-WA-4th)); and Transportation and Infrastructure (John Mica (R-FL-7th)).  Links for each chairperson are to their congressional web page.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

In the States -
  • Environment Iowa calls on Iowa leaders to curb agriculture pollution
  • USGS: Biofuels production has unintended consequences on water quality & quantity in Mississippi (state)
  • Ducks Unlimited & USDA-NRCS's Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Prog returning IL farmland to wetlands
  • Study at former Rhinelander WI manufactured gas plant site along Wisconsin River resumes
  • WI Brd of Ag considering adding ~10,000 Ac to 1.2 M where herbicide atrazine cannot be used due to polluted wells
  • Two natural Mississippi River waterfalls could be recreated around downtown Minneapolis island
Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
Agriculture -
Water Quality-
  • Parking lot/driveway sealants largest contributors to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in urban lakes & reservoirs
  • Minneapolis, St. Paul, Blaine & Prior Lake MN show interest in installing SAFL stormwater baffles
  • Florida Sues EPA Over Water Standards (may have nationwide repurcusions)
Events -
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Congress passes Asian Carp import prevention bill [tho that horse may have already left the barn]
  • KY and TN considering reopening hunting for sand hill cranes
  • Columbia Environmental Research Center researchers study intersex sturgeon in the Missouri River
  • RT @InvasiveNotes: USDA-ARS climate change & invasive weed address at AGMasters conference
  • Penn State research: states might want to establish invasive species quarantines at their borders
  • National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species launches redesigned invasive species website & resource page
Other news-
Political Scene -
  • GOP gets queasy on earmark ban; some think party may have overreached; impact on Army Corps projects cited
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) chosen to lead powerful House Appropriations Committee
  • Democratic push to pass >100 public lands & water bills in lame duck session escalates
  • 120 groups sign ad urging omnibus water/wilderness bill passage (pdf of full page add)
  • SanFran Examiner Editorial: GOP must pick the right committee chairs
  • Political campaign reprise: How WI (D) Sen Russ Feingold lost
  • New poll shows Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) "would cruise to reelection" vs any Republican opponent
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) releases 2011 Senate calendar; convenes Jan 5
  • 2011 House Calendar now available on Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor’s website (pdf)
  • Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) selected to chair House Agriculture Committee in 112th Congress
  • House narrowly passes year-long FY 2011 Continuing Resolution; Senate fate unknown

U.S. House of Representatives Committee Chairs Named

On Wednesday, the House Republican Conference approved new committee chairs for the 112th Congress, which convenes on January 5 (see "Calendars," below in this blog).  Here is a summary of the incoming Chairpersons for each committee (listed alphabetically):
  • Agriculture-Frank Lucas (OK)
  • Appropriations-Hal Rogers (KY)
  • Armed Services-Buck McKeon (CA)
  • Budget-Paul Ryan (WI)
  • Education and Labor-John Kline (MN)
  • Energy and Commerce-Fred Upton (MI)
  • Financial Services-Spencer Bauchus (AL)
  • Foreign Affairs-Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
  • Homeland Security-Peter King (NY)
  • House Administration-Dan Lungren (CA)
  • Judiciary-Lamar Smith (TX)
  • Natural Resources-Doc Hastings (WA)
  • Oversight and Government Reform-Darrell Issa (CA)
  • Rules-David Dreier (CA)
  • Science and Technology-Ralph Hall (TX)
  • Small Business-Sam Graves (MO)
  • Standards of Official Conduct-Jo Bonner (AL)
  • Transportation and Infrastructure-John Mica (FL)
  • Veterans' Affairs-Jeff Miller (FL)
  • Ways and Means-Dave Camp (MI)

2011 Congressional Calendars

The 112th Congress’s Republican House majority released the 2011 House calendar on Wednesday  (pdf).   The calendar gives House members at least a full week each month in their districts and differs quite a bit from the 2011 Senate calendar (the House includes the monthly week’s off and does not include the Senate’s full weeks off for Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial and Independence days, for example).  The Senate's 2011 calendar was released by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) office on Tuesday  (on-line here and pdf here).

Key dates and planned recesses include:
  • Congress will convene on Wednesday, Jan. 5.
  • Recess Week of Jan. 17 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) Senate
  • Recess Week of Jan. 31 House
  • Recess Week of Feb. 21 (Presidents Day) both chambers
  • Recess Week of March 21 both chambers
  • Recess Weeks of April 18 and 25 both chambers
  • Recess Week of May 16 House
  • Recess Week of May 30 (Memorial Day) Senate
  • Recesses Weeks of June 6 and 27 House
  • Recess Week of July 4 (Independence Day) Senate
  • Recess Week of July 18 House
  • Recess Week of Aug. 8 through Labor Day, Sept. 5 both chambers
  • Recess Week of Sept. 26 both chambers (includes the start of Rosh Hashana on Sept. 29)
  • Recesses Weeks of Oct. 17 and 24 for the House and Senate, respectively
  • Recess Week of Nov. 7 House
  • Recess Week of Nov. 21 (Thanksgiving) House
  • Target adjournment for the House Dec. 8 (Senate does not set a target)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week (Mega Post-holiday edition)

NRC Highly Critical of Obama Administration's Principles and Guidelines Update

On December 2 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its highly-anticipated report on the draft Principles and Standards proposed last year by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).  In the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA) Congress directed the Secretary of the Army to revise the Principles and Guidelines (P&G) that had guided water resources project planning for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Tennessee Valley Authority since the early 1980s.  The Obama Administration is seeking to update and to expand the scope of the P&G (i.e., to cover all federal agencies that undertake water resource projects, not just the four agencies currently subject to the P&G).   As part of that effort, the CEQ released its "Proposed National Objectives, Principles and Standards for Water and Related Resources Implementation Studies" in December, 2009 (see CEQ's web page here).

The NAS report from the National Research Council (NRC) is a review of that 2009 document (a review directed by Congress in WRDA 2007).  A link to the entire NRC report, along with supporting materials, can be found here.   The NRC is highly critical of CEQ's effort in its report, finding, in part, that "the 2009 proposed revisions lack clarity and consistency in several respects. Given that the 2009 document represents only a partial revision to the P&G document, and given several areas of ambiguity and incompleteness in the 2009 proposed revisions, detailed advice on specific planning procedures at this point would be premature. As CEQ proceeds with further revisions to the P&G document, clarification and specification in these areas detailed (herein) will be necessary for the document to be of value to CEQ and the federal agencies that will use the document in decision making."

USDA Announces Three Key Mississippi River Basin Funding Initiatives for Fiscal Year 2011

During this past week, the USDA made three announcements that focus on Mississippi River Basin clean water initiatives under the agency's purview.  These included a Fiscal Year 2011 Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (or MRBI) Request for Proposals, a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program funding announcement, and an announcement of continued funding for existing water quality improvement projects in the Mississippi River Basin under the MRBI. 

A press release was issued on Monday, announcing that USDA will fund 70 existing conservation projects in 41 eligible watersheds in 12 states during the 2011 Fiscal Year as a continuing part of its MRBI.  (the 12 states are Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin).

Also on Monday, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) published a Federal Register notice (PDF file here) announcing a request for proposals (RFP) for 2011 Fiscal Year MRBI Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI; $15 million) and Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP; $25 million) funding.  NRCS will provide assistance for projects in 43 designated watershed focus areas (8-digit HUCs) in 13 states (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Wisconsin).  Proposals are due by January 28, 2011. 

On Tuesday, NRCS published the 2011 Fiscal Year CIG funding announcement on its web site, calling for special CIG emphases in the Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River watersheds. The actual notice (PDF file) is here. Under CIG, Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds (an anticipated $25 million in Fiscal Year 2011) are used to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental or non-governmental organizations, Tribes, or individuals.  For the Mississippi River Basin, according to the NRCS announcement, "only pre-proposals that demonstrate the use of innovative technologies and/or approaches to address at least one bulleted topic specific to and within the Mississippi River Basin and address the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) objectives to manage and optimize nutrient management, reduce downstream nutrient loads, maintain agricultural productivity, and enhance wildlife and other ecosystem services will be considered."  Applications for the pre-proposal phase must be received at the NRCS National Headquarters by 4 p.m. EST, on December 28; selected pre-proposal applications will be announced by January 17.  Full proposal packages will be due by March 4.

Input on National Flood Insurance Program Reform Alternatives Sought

The Federal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA") is involved in an effort to identify options for reforming the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and has, for over a decade, sought input and conducted internal assessments on NFIP and its management by FEMA.  This effort has culminated in a three-phase thorough evaluation, the first two of which were completed in 2009 and the first part of 2010.  Those first two phases involved (1) capturing stakeholder concerns and recommendations from a November 2009 NFIP Listening Session, and (2) creating an NFIP Reform Working Group to conduct additional analyses of stakeholder feedback and develop NFIP evaluation criteria (see this FEMA NFIP reform page for more background information).   The third and final phase has now begun (creating a portfolio of public policy options and evaluating them using the criteria developed in Phase II).

On December 2, FEMA hosted a meeting in Washington, D.C. to describe, update and explain the public policy options being presented for consideration and to hear comments from interested stakeholders (a second similar meeting will be held on December 9, in Denver, CO).  At the December 2 meeting FEMA (photos here)   presented four policy "themes" and two to four alternatives for moving forward with reform within each of the four theme areas.  The four policy theme areas (and links to PDF files for further descriptions) are:

    * Privatization of the National Flood Insurance Program
    * Community-Based Flood Insurance Options
    * Federal Assistance Options
    * National Flood Insurance Program Optimization

After the alternatives have been refined and vetted (taking into account public feedback from the two December meetings and comments provided online (see below)), the NFIP Reform Working Group will evaluate the proposed policy alternatives and score them using the evaluation and weighting criteria developed during Phase II. The policy alternative with the highest score, or a combination of high-scoring elements from several of the alternatives, will become the recommended NFIP Reform policy that will be developed into a full NFIP Reform package (including any proposed legislative, regulations and policy. The package will then be submitted to senior management in FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security leadership for consideration.

FEMA continues to solicit input from stakeholders on their NFIP reform effort and related policy alternatives. Comments can be submitted through Friday, December 31, to the NFIP Reform Working Group here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week: 

In the States -
Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
Agriculture -
  • New USDA rule on Wildlife Habitat Incentive Prog adds priority for wildlife habitat restoration & enhancement
  • Newswise: Seeds of Gulf Dead Zones Are Draining from U.S. Farms
  • North Country PR: Are farmers hurting the Gulf of Mexico more than BP?
  • Bipartisan group of Senators calls for end to tariff on ethanol imports & subsidies to ethanol blenders
  • Biipartisan group House reps urge Ag Comm Chair Peterson & Ranking Member Lucas to move on farm bill in 2011
  • U.S. farm supports would be cut 10 % under proposal made Wednesday by presidential panel on balancing budget
  • BREAKING: Obama's fiscal commission fails to adopt sweeping plan for managing federal budget deficit
  • Expiring ethanol tax credits extension could hitch a ride on possible omnibus appropriations package 
  • Commodity & land prices spiking in recent weeks in Iowa spark talk of an agricultural bubble
Wastewater and Stormwater-
  • Only 1/3 of utilities dealing with combined sewer overflows recover mitigation costs through user fees
Events -
  • EPA Webcast December 9: "Designing LID to Work: Lessons Learned from North Carolina"
  • AZ State U to host Resilience 2011: international conference on dynamics of social-ecological systems March 11-16, 2011
  • International Conference on modeling of urban water systems, Feb 24-25 2011, Toronto ON
  • "Troubled Waters" documentary on Mississippi River showing Dec 7 in St. Peter, MN
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Other news-
  • NASA: World's lakes getting hotter, more than the air
  • Latest issue of EDF's Delta Dispatches with news on coastal Louisiana restoration is now available online
  • Duke University study finds elevated coal ash threat to groundwater
  • Clean Water America Alliance releases national dialogue summary report : "Managing One Water"
  • Job opening: Research Associate II-Outreach Coordinator, U of TN Knoxville. Dept of Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries
Political scene -
  • Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe vows to block natural resources/great waters omnibus bill
  • Last-minute water, lands, wildlife bill a "Frankenstein omnibus"- Rep. Hastings (R-WA)
  • New Republican rules would prohibit new increase in spending unless fully offset by equal cut in current spending
  • Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-IN) defying his party on an earmark ban 
  • Senate on Tuesday voted against a tea party-backed proposal to ban earmarks 
  • RT @MinnesotaNews: Dayton campaign says lead nearly 9,000 in MN Governor's recount 
  • GOP prepared to invoke congressional review over EPA rules