Friday, October 29, 2010

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Report: Improving Water Quality in the Mississippi River Basin and Northern Gulf of Mexico
The Committee on Clean Water Act Implementation Across the Mississippi River Basin of the National Research Council released a report on Thursday, entitled "Improving Water Quality in the Mississippi River Basin and Northern Gulf of Mexico."  The report offers strategic advice and priorities for addressing Mississippi River Basin and Northern Gulf of Mexico water quality management and improvements.  The report committee members and authors found that there is general agreement that significant progress can be made under existing statutory authority and budgetary processes.  However, they note, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether national water quality goals can be fully realized without some fundamental changes to the Clean Water Act.
Key findings of the report include:
1. A basin wide action plan—developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, its partner federal agencies, and the Mississippi River States—would address nutrient-related water quality problems throughout the Mississippi River Basin and the Northern Gulf of Mexico.
2. A stronger and more coordinated commitment from the Environmental Protection Agency, its partner federal agencies, the Congress, the Administration, and the Mississippi River Basin States is needed to help develop long-term, adaptive and collaborative actions for effectively addressing water quality problems across the Mississippi River Basin and into the Northern Gulf of Mexico.
3. Establishing establish a numeric limit for the amount of nutrients in the waters of the northern Gulf would act as an endpoint for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi River States to set water quality standards for nutrients throughout the basin.
4. Support and advice from the Environmental Protection Agency could strengthen the activities of the Department of Agriculture Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative. 
Links to the full report, its abstract and a summary can be found on this National Academies Press web page.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week:  
Mississippi River Collaborative press release on NRC Mississippi basin nutrient report & recommendations (pdf file)
National Great Rivers Research and Education Center's River Research Facility Dedicated
USDA draft report: More intense farm conservation efforts needed in Chesapeake Bay region to reduce N & P runoff
New USDA program will pay farmers & forest owners to experiment with cellulosic energy crops
Invasive alga (Rock Snot') Prompts Missouri to Consider Ban on Felt-Soled Boots
NSAC's “Conserving habitat through the Federal farm bill: A Guide for Land Trusts and Landowners” (pdf file)
Today attending Horinko Group's Engaging the Public for River Sustainability and Livable Communities; info here:
The Northeast-Midwest Institute’s October Update on Mississippi River Basin issues is now available on line (PDF file)
Upper Mississippi River Basin Assoc meetings Nov 16-18; Rock Island, IL open to public
Democratic Party-2011 poised to shrink back to earlier form: more coastal & urban; less Southern, Midwestern & rural
Cook Political Report’s pre-election House outlook is Democratic net loss of 48-60 seats

Thursday, October 28, 2010

National Great Rivers Research and Education Center's River Research Facility Dedicated

The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center's (NGRREC) new, Platinum LEED-certified and state-of-the art, river research facility in Alton, Illinois was formally dedicated on Tuesday, October 26, and named in honor of U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello (IL-12).  Along with Congressman Costello, speakers at the Confluence Field Station dedication included U.S. Representative John Duncan (TN-2); Col. Thomas O'Hara and Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers' Mississippi Valley Division; Lewis and Clark Community College President and NGRREC Board Chair Dr. Dale Chapman; Dr. Gary Rolfe, NGRREC Executive Director; Dr. John Chick, Field Station Director from the Illinois Natural History Survey; Dr. Richard Sparks, Scientist and Director of Research at Lewis and Clark Community College; Alton Mayor Tom Hoechst; University of Illinois Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter; Illinois State Representatives Dan Beiser and Jay Hoffman; Illinois State Senator William Haine; and Mark Gorman, Northeast-Midwest Institute Policy Analyst.

NGRREC intends that the new field station will be a gathering point for the world's river scholars and scientists, as well as people who live and work in the Mississippi River region, who will study the ecology of the Mississippi River system and other large rivers, the workings of the watersheds that feed them, and the ties to the river communities that use them.

Click here for photos of construction of the new Confluence Field Station, and here for photos from the day of the dedication.  A copy of Mark Gorman's remarks at the dedication can be read here

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reflections on the Dedication of the Confluence Field Station: National Great Rivers Research and Education Center

Reflections offered by Mark Gorman at the October 26 dedication of the Confluence Field Station: National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, named for U.S. Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL-12th):

Three months ago, you may recall, twenty percent of Pakistan lay beneath the waters of the Indus River; a River that beforehand had been largely held in check by hundreds of miles of levees and an extensive dam system; in check, that is, until what U.N. officials call the worst natural disaster ever to hit that region drove the River beyond its levees and over or through its dams, forcing millions to flee and adding desperation to millions more already needing relief.  And as this was all happening, 40-year-old Pakistani taxi driver Bakht Zada wondered aloud, "If this is not God’s wrath, what is?" as he watched his livelihood, and his history and his culture all rush downstream into the Indian Ocean.

What we now know all too well is that the flooding and desperation and desolation were not the wrath of a vengeful God but the direct result of frequently well-intentioned but typically misguided attempts to tame a River, exploit its resources and develop its floodplains - all hampering the valley’s natural resiliency and thwarting an innate human capacity to adapt and survive.   And all compounded by a climate running amuck at our own hands.

Here’s what I believe is happening that directly and increasingly contributes to catastrophes like that in Pakistan; making it increasingly difficult – if not impossible - to find a path forward toward economic and environmental sustainability.  Happening not just in the Indus River valley, but in other Great River regions around the world, very importantly right here in the Mississippi River valley, and in Washington DC. We are divided into two camps.  Put most simply, they are “yours” and “mine.”  Now, you may have heard them referred to in other terms: urban and rural, farm and city, business and environmental, young or elderly, immigrant or resident, liberal and conservative, blue and red, Democrat or Republican.  The specific labels don’t matter.  Because in the end it always comes down to yours and mine.

The Bakiga people inhabit the mountains and valleys around Lake Victoria in what is today Uganda - at the very headwaters of another great river - the Nile.  Over hundreds of generations, their ties to the land and water and each other have informed an ancient wisdom strikingly opposed to the “yours and mine” mentality sweeping much of the world: "united jaws crush the bone.” 

Centers of study and innovation such as this reflect that ancient wisdom; a wisdom that teaches that it’s never been yours and mine.  It’s not you and me.  It’s ours and us.  All are connected.  Everything is connected.  Everywhere there are connections. 

What the people of the Nile valley learned so many generations ago and what this place and its people embody is that neither you nor I are right or wrong; good or bad; evil or moral; friend or enemy.  We’re just different.  In each place we speak different jargons, hold different customs, connect differently, interact with government differently, relate to nature differently – it’s just who we are and what we do as blessedly assorted human beings.  And the solutions that may work very well in one river town or on one farm might not work so well in another.  And the only way to really determine what will work and what might not is to listen to people where they live and work and play.  Right here - along the banks of the Mississippi River – in this place.

What we will discover here is that we have everything to learn and nothing to fear from each other.  We will find here that division of opinion, when embraced honestly, is what animates thinking and rouses creativity.  We will discover here that the irrational fears keeping us apart – keeping us from solving tough but very solvable problems - are, in the end, simply fear of losing control - control of things we really have no control over to begin with.  Just ask the people of Pakistan who tried to control the Indus River.  Or the residents of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, who hoped and prayed that the levees would hold.  Or the people of this River valley, who watch each spring as the Mississippi flows into their homes and streets and farms.

This special place will provide the room and help carve out the time we desperately need to listen to each other.  To listen to downtown store owners who can’t maintain their businesses; listen to municipal officials whose tax bases are eroding and to farmers whose soils and livelihoods are washing away; listen to the scientists who tell us this valley is a unique, global treasure; listen to the region’s workers and their families who can’t make ends meet; meet with artists, talk to politicians, speak to industry leaders, join with teachers, pay attention to the children and the poor and our elders, because everyone is a member of the economic and ecological quilt that forms the Mississippi River valley, and all have a part to play in its conservation.

The good people working here and all of us gathered here and the “all of us” beyond these walls had better make sure that this listening and understanding and cooperation and innovation come to pass; before 40-year-old taxi drivers and 22-year-old mothers and 5-year-old children and 60-year-old shopkeepers, and you and I, just like Bakht Zada watch as our livelihoods, and histories and cultures wash figuratively, if not literally, downstream into the Gulf of Mexico.

“United jaws crush the bone,” ancient wisdom teaches.  May we return time and again to this wonderful and special place, named for a gentleman whose life epitomizes united endeavors, and together make it so.  

- Mark Gorman
Policy Analyst
Northeast Midwest Institute

Friday, October 22, 2010

Northeast-Midwest Institute’s October Update on Mississippi River Basin issues

The Northeast-Midwest Institute’s October Update on Mississippi River Basin issues is now available on line (PDF file).   If that link doesn’t work, you can cut and paste the following into your Internet browser’s address field:

This month’s Update contains these items: 
  • Congressional Recess
  • 2012 Farm Bill
  • Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act
  • Omnibus appropriations bill faces uncertain path
  • Delta Dispatches
  • America's Waterway "River Currents"
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center Confluence Field Station Dedication Planned
  • Upcoming Conferences, Events and Workshops

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

National Great Rivers Research and Education Center Confluence Field Station Dedication Next Tuesday
The dedication of the new National Great Rivers Research and Education Center  (NGRREC) Confluence Field Station in Alton, Illinois will be celebrated at the facility on October 26 at 1 PM (followed by hosted tours of the facility beginning at 2 PM).  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.  Many local, regional and national dignitaries have been invited and are expected to attend the ceremony.  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 (Mark Gorman, Northeast-Midwest Institute Policy Analyst for Mississippi River watershed issues, will be presenting brief remarks during the dedication ceremony, and will post updates on the event and the new facility later in the week in Northeast-Midwest Institute's Mississippi River Basin Blog  (

NOAA Open Rivers Initiative Grant Solicitation Period Open
The closing date for applications for the next NOAA Open Rivers Initiative (ORI) grant cycle is November 17, 2010.  ORI provides funding and technical assistance to catalyze the implementation of locally-driven projects to remove dams and other river barriers, in order to benefit living marine and coastal resources, particularly diadromous fish. Projects funded through the Open Rivers Initiative must feature strong on-the-ground habitat restoration components that foster economic, educational, and social benefits for citizens and their communities in addition to long-term ecological habitat improvements for NOAA trust resources. Proposals selected for funding through this solicitation will be implemented through a cooperative agreement. Funding of up to $6,000,000 is expected to be available for ORI Project Grants in Fiscal Year 2011. The NOAA Restoration Center within the Office of Habitat Conservation will administer this grant initiative, and anticipates that typical awards will range from $200,000 to $750,000.   For more information, see the specific ORI grant site here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

In the States -
  • Minnesota cities take steps to go green & join state sustainable practices initiative
  • State of KY & KY coal mining industry sue EPA over its interpretation of clean water act permit rules
  • EPA defends blocking of KY coal mining permits; says state is resistant to talking
  • Tennessee Riverkeeper plans to sue coal operators over mine discharges into trib of TN River
Stormwater and wastewater -
Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • NOAA Open Rivers Initiative provides $ & tech assistance to remove dams & other river barriers grant deadline 11/17
  • Corps levee standard changes could increase risks but no evaluation of likely flood insurance impacts planned
  • Save the date: March 30-31: Assessment of Floodplain Natural Functions & Resources Workshop; Washington, DC (details to come)
  • RT @MinnesotaNews: MnDOT to launch flood mitigation program
Agriculture -
Events -
  • Prairie Rivers Network Nov 16 stakeholder workshop about third-party TMDLs Bolingbrook, IL
  • 2010 Partners in Community Forestry National Conference; Nov 9-11, Philadelphia
  • Save the date: March 30-31: Assessment of Floodplain Natural Functions & Resources Workshop; Washington, DC (details to come)
  • U of MN official apologizes for pulling plug on "Troubled Waters" film
  • 10th Annual N America Pollinators International Conference was terrific yesterday; they do great work
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • AZ State U study: high & low river flows act to shorten food chains & eliminate top predators like large-bodied fish
  • U of Vermont Study: sunfish commonly consume invasive zebra mussels as prey
  • American chestnut may reign Eastern forests again (Washington Post)
  • RT @nytimesscience: Dot Earth: New Weapon Against Invading Fish: The Pan (Asian carp)
  • MO Conservation Dept. Urges Caution When Catching Bait; Seeks to Keep Asian Carp Out of MO Lakes
Other news -
  • HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant recipients announced; includes Mississippi River cities (pdf
  • Study: Vegetation & climate change slowing winds in northern hemisphere
  • Climatologists: dry south, Midwest weather likely to continue at least thru spring; possible summer drought
  • National Center for Atmospheric Research Study: Droughts to be more common by 2030 & extreme by 2100
  • Gulf Coast land loss could add up to $350 billion by 2030
  • U of WI Daily Cardinal newspaper: "Saving the Mighty Mississippi"
  • Environment America: Park Service budget cuts will hurt essential services (pdf file)
  • Inspector General: "significant impediments" to (DOI) efforts to promote economy, efficiency & effectiveness (pdf)Environmental Literacy Grants for Formal K-12 Education (deadline 01/12/2011)
Mississippi River Basin politics -
  • What might the midterm elections mean for agriculture?
  • Philip Brasher: future of IA Farm Bureau’s proposal to scrap farm payments could hinge on election outcome
  • Mississippi River basin politics: Democratic backing of farm friendly 2008 Farm Bill not translating to 2010 ag support
  • Congressional Republicans planning assault on Obama administration’s environmental record
  • Updated look at US Senate & House as well as gubernatorial midterm election races

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Midwest Farms and the Gulf of Mexico "Dead Zone"

Two recent newspaper opinion pieces touched directly upon the issue of and growing conventional wisdom that nutrient loading from Upper Midwest (i.e., Corn Belt) farms is leading to water quality degradation, and, ultimately, to increasing Gulf of Mexico hypoxia (causing an area of oxygen depletion or hypoxia commonly referred to as the “Dead Zone”). 
In an October 20 guest opinion piece in the Des Moines Register, Roger Wolf, Director of Environmental Programs at the Iowa Soybean Association, contends that regulating nitrogen fertilizer application would not significantly reduce nitrate loading to Iowa waters, a position advanced recently by Iowa Governor Chet Culver and in an October 11 Des Moines Register editorial, "Will Iowans Accept Dirty Water?"  Wolf puts forth several arguments that he suggests support his conclusion.
In today’s (October 21) New York Times, the Times’ Editorial Board opined that, “Every year, usually beginning in late spring, an oxygen-depleted dead zone forms in the Gulf of Mexico at the Mississippi River’s mouth, killing off fish, shrimp and other marine life. By the time cooler weather restores life to the zone, the fishing industry has sustained substantial losses.
“Scientists have long known that the dead zone . . . is created largely by nitrate washed downstream from fertilized fields as far north as Minnesota. A study in the Journal of Environmental Quality by scientists from Cornell University and the University of Illinois has now conclusively identified the largest source of that nitrate: tiled farm fields.”
However, the opinion piece goes on to note that “Mark David, a University of Illinois researcher, observed that ‘farmers are not to blame.’ We agree. Tiling is as old as Midwestern farming. What’s needed now is more research and direct incentives from the Agriculture Department to find ways to mitigate this problem.  These include: restoring wetlands, where possible; growing cover crops to absorb water in the spring, when runoff is heaviest; different methods of applying fertilizer; and even methods of treating the runoff before it reaches creeks and rivers. Sacrificing life in the gulf for corn in the fields is a trade-off that has to stop.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Fiscal Conditions Bode Poorly for a Smooth Farm Bill Reauthorization Process
An October 7 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, “Actual Farm Bill Spending and Cost Estimates,” by Agricultural Policy Specialists Jim Monke and Renee Johnson, highlights the difficulties facing Congress as it ramps up work on the 2012 Farm Bill, particularly as that bill relates to the tight Federal budget and the nation's recession  (pdf file of the report).

The report stresses that ““as Congress moves toward considering reauthorization of the omnibus farm bill, questions about the cost of the farm bill and policy considerations about different farm bill programs—each with sometimes different constituencies—will likely become more prominent.”

The report also notes that "the budget situation for a new farm bill is going to be more like that for the 2008 farm bill than for the 2002 farm bill. The budget resolution that funded the 2002 farm bill was written during a brief period of budget surplus at the turn of the millennium, and allowed the Agriculture Committees to spend $73 billion more than baseline over the 10-year budget window. In contrast, the 2008 farm bill was basically budget-neutral. The 2008 farm bill was unusual in that tax provisions outside the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committees were used to create offsets for new provisions, presumably for nutrition programs. The procedural difficulties of reaching budget and policy compromises with multiple committees of jurisdiction (particularly the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees) prolonged the development of the farm bill. Given these difficulties in 2007 and 2008, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson has expressed a desire to keep the finances of the 2012 farm bill within the jurisdiction of the Committee of Agriculture.”

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week: 

In the States -
  • TN Clean Water Network sues Chattanooga for violating state & federal H2O regs; releasing raw sewage into TN River
  • EPA: IA Flooding may have scattered chemical tanks, drums, cylinders & barrels along Maquoketa & South Skunk rivers
  • MN ethanol plants' price is pollution for communities hosting facilities (Star Tribune)
  • IL AG asked to pursue enforcement vs dairy for discharge of purple liquid into Apple River tributary
  • IA Gov. Culver: state should consider limiting commercial fertilizer applied to crop fields
  • IA Gov. Culver calls ag nutrient pollution "outrageous;" says regulation is needed
  • Trial Expert: Industrial waste flowed to IL's McCullom Lake (Fox River watershed) from chemical plant
  • Save The Illinois River (STIR) announces  Illinois River Film Contest
  • IN State Conservationist highlights urban wetland values re: H2O quality & downstream impact on Gulf of Mexico
  • IA conservation trust fund amendment to go before state's voters
Stormwater and wastewater -
Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
Agriculture -
  • CRS Report: 37 programs (including conservation prgms) set to lose baseline funding in 2012 Farm Bill (pdf file)
  • America’s farm belt booming even as overall economy struggles
  • Tight corn supply may revive debate over impact of corn ethanol
  • Dem IA Secretary of Agriculture challenger: N is pollution problem from farm runoff ; IA needs to do better
  • Senate Budget Committee held field hearing Monday: "Writing the Next Farm Bill”
  • Study: "Benefits of Bt Corn to Farmers" & Bt corn insecticidal proteins in Corn Belt streams
  • Environmental, tax-reform & food-industry organizations oppose ethanol industry proposal on subsidized ethanol
  • Struggle of ~1 billion small farmers worldwide to be focus of World Food Conference in Iowa this week
  • Wal-Mart's plan for small farmers expands its private-sector climate agenda
  • Agriculture Secretary Vilsack & economists disagree on consumer benefits of federal farm subsidies
Events -
Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Zebra Mussel population explodes in Minnesota's Prior Lake near Twin Cities
  • MN anglers & trappers can't use ciscoes or smelt for bait unless processed & certified VHS free
  • Audubon Society: bird populations along La. shores did surprisingly well after BP oil spill
Other news -
Mississippi River Basin politics -
  • Dem IA Secretary of Agriculture challenger: N is pollution problem from farm runoff ; IA needs to do better
  • Mississippi River political poll: Rep. candidate Fincher up by 10% in race for retiring Rep. Tanner’s (D) TN seat
  • New poll shows Sen. Feingold (D) trailing businessman Ron Johnson (R) 51-44 % for WI US Senate seat
  • Mississippi River Basin politics: Trailing badly in polls, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) hunts for votes
  • 2010 Congressional race snapshot with interactive district by district map:
  • Mississippi River political poll: Republican Rick Crawford leads by 12% in retiring Rep. Berry’s AR House district

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

EPA Fiscal Year 2011-15 Strategic Plan Sets Objectives Related to Nutrient Loading in the Mississippi Basin
On October 7, EPA issued its fiscal year 2011-15 Strategic Plan.  Part of the plan relates directly to implementing nutrient-reduction strategies throughout the Mississippi River Basin, since one of the strategic initiatives is to "protect the quality of rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands on a watershed basis, and protect urban, coastal, and ocean waters" is to "Restore and Protect the Gulf of Mexico."  Specifically (on page 56 of the Plan), EPA sets the goal of reducing, by 2015, "releases of nutrients throughout the Mississippi River Basin to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico to less than 5,000 km², as measured by the 5-year running average of the size of the zone. (Baseline: 2005-2009 running average size is 15,670 km².)"

Under Goal 2 of the Plan ("Protecting America's Waters"), EPA highlights the water quality issues prevalent in the Nation's waterways, stressing the critical nature of nonpoint source pollution by nitrogen and phosphorus.  On page 13 of the Plan, EPA notes that "pollution discharged from industrial, municipal, agricultural, and stormwater sources continue to be causes of water quality problems, but other significant contributors include loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation, hydrologic alteration, the spread of invasive species, and climate change. For many years, nonpoint source pollution, principally nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediments, has been recognized as the largest remaining impediment to improving water quality. Recent national surveys have found that our waters are stressed by nutrient pollution, excess sedimentation, and degradation of shoreline vegetation, which affect upwards of 50 percent of our lakes and streams."

EPA's press release regarding the Plan can be found here; and a pdf download of the 72-page Strategic Plan, itself is located here.  

Webinar: Civic Engagement–A Tool for Optimizing Community Water Resources
On October 20, the Security and Sustainability Forum is hosting the second of a free, three-part water resource webinar series. The second webinar, entitled "Civic Engagement–A Tool for Optimizing Community Water Resources," will cover strategies to overcome barriers to water system solutions.  The webinar will be led by the founder of America's Waterway, Anne Lewis. Webinar panelists will include Robyn Colosimo, Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), White House; Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Founder and President of AmericaSpeaks; and Tim Bonnemann, founder and CEO of Intellitics, Inc.  The 90-minute webinar starts at 2:15 PM Eastern time. The third and final series' webinar will be held in November (Raising Water Resource Awareness and Engaging Next Generation Water Leaders). The Security and Sustainability Forum web page can be visited for more information: You can register directly for the webinar here.

"Healthy Watersheds Initiative" Inaugural Webcast
EPA's new "Healthy Watersheds Initiative" will be hosting its first initiative webcast, entitled "Protecting Our High Quality Waters and Watersheds," on Wenesday, October 13 from 1:00 pm until 3:00 pm (EST).  The webcast will focus on the tools that EPA is developing to help promote Healthy Watersheds and on what the states of Virginia and Washington are doing to protect high quality watersheds.  Webcast presenters will include Laura Gabanski, Healthy Watersheds Initiative Lead, in EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds; Rick Hill, Planning and Policy Manager, in Virginia's Department of Conservation and Recreation; and Stephen Stanley, Project Manager, Puget Sound Characterization Project, of Washington's Department of Ecology SEA Program.
Persons interested in participating in the webcast must register in advance to attend, and can register at the Watershed Academy Webcast web site.

Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy
The US EPA has issued a Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy with the goal of "increasing the sustainability of water and wastewater infrastructure in the United States." According to an EPA news release, "The policy encourages effective utility management practices to build and maintain the level of technical, financial, and managerial capacity necessary to ensure long-term sustainability." More information can be found here, and you can download the five-page policy as a PDF file here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
Agriculture -
  • EPA announces new Farm, Ranch, & Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee members
  • Dalhousie U researchers: Livestock production unsustainable; will push Earth's limits
  • Research: transgenic insecticidal proteins widely distributed & persistent in Corn Belt headwater streams
  • USDA set to distribute ~ $1.6 billion in annual Conservation Reserve Program rental payments CRP enrollment =31.3M AC
  • RT @Johann3216: No penalties likely in Iowa manure spill
  • Organic farming continues to grow in MN, ND, SD and WI
In the States -
  • 325 McCullom Lake, IL residents sign up for vinyl chloride well water testing; related to Rohm & Haas plant & lawsuit
  • Ongoing story: USEPA finds IL to be "in serious noncompliance" with requirements of Federal Clean Water Act
  • EPA outlines $26.5M plan for PCB & TCE contaminated East St. Louis, IL site; debate continues
  • Unidentified purple liquid flows from IL dairy construction site into Apple River tributary, prompting response
  • EPA's Jackson to enviro leaders: it's up to Gulf Coast residents to set their own restoration agenda
  • Large coal slurry spill into stream from OH pipeline that leaked in 2005
  • Sunken towboat leaking fuel into Mississippi River near St Louis
Stormwater and wastewater -
  • EPA sends mandatory questionnaires to 3000 owners/developers to collect info to help create new stormwater rules
  • EPA issues Clean H2O & Drinking H2o Infrastructure Sustainability Policy to increase infrastructure sustainability
  • EPA releases new edition of NPDES permit writers’ manual: the main training tool for new state & EPA permit writers
Wildlife and Invasives -
Events - 
  • Oct 20 webinar: Civic Engagement–Tool for Optimizing Community H2O Resources; Security & Sustainability Forum link:
  • Controversial Mississippi River "Troubled Waters" film opens at U of MN to a crowd of 650
  • Ecosystem restoration presenters invited to submit abstracts for poster or oral NCER '11 Conference sessions
  • Webcast: EPA's Healthy Watershed Initiative: Protecting Our High Quality Waters & Watersheds Oct 13 1-3 pm EST
  • 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology call for proposals open thru Dec. 10
 Mississippi River Basin politics -
  • New poll: House Transprt & Infrastructure Comm Chair Oberstar (D-MN) has 3% lead over Cravaack (R); 45-42%
  • Mississippi River Basin politics Challenger Boozman (R) leads incumbent Sen. Lincoln (D) by ~20% in AR U.S. Senate race
  • Article covering IA Congressional race btw incumbent Leonard Boswell (D) & Brad Zaun (R) w focus on ethanol
  • Mississippi River Basin Politics: IL polls: Republican leading in Governor's race; US Senate race a dead heat
  • But new Suffolk University poll has Pat Quinn (D) leading Bill Brady (R) 43 % to 37 % for IL Governor
Other news -
  • New American Rivers report evaluates US water infrastructure (specifically green infrastructure) investment
  • Founder, Council of Canadians: at least 36 US states could face H2O shortages in 10 yrs &
  • 18% more H2O flowed into oceans from rivers & melting polar ice sheets in 2006 than 1994, as predicted by UN IPCC
  • Press release on climate change influence on global water patterns (publication this week in NAS Proceedings)
  • President signs Executive Order officially forming Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
  • Latest issue of EDF's "Delta Dispatches" w/ news on coastal Louisiana restoration:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

"Water Stress" is Highest in the Mid-US and Chronic Worldwide for Nature; Pattern Shifts for People
Researchers presenting their findings on September 30 in the journal Nature have compiled a composite index of worldwide "water threats" that includes issues such as scarcity and pollution.  They report that the most severe threat category encompasses 3.4 billion people worldwide.  The authors' "natural water stress" index is particularly high in developed countries like the United States, where the index peaks in the middle of the nation and in the upper Midwest.  The authors' find that in western countries, while conserving water for human use through reservoirs and dams works for people, that approach does not work for the rest of nature, to the eventual detriment of humanity.  They urge developing countries not to follow the same model, but rather invest in water management strategies that combine infrastructure with "natural" options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and flood plains.

An in-depth BBC article on the research findings is located here.  The Nature journal article abstract and links to the article figures can be found here.

NRC Report: Missouri River Planning: Recognizing and Incorporating Sediment Management
A new report released on Tuesday (September 28) from the National Research Council (NRC) reports that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' projects to restore river habitats are not significantly changing the size of the oxygen-depleted "dead zone" off the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico.  However, the report also streeses that improved procedures for gathering and evaluating data on Missouri River sediment are needed to "better inform decisions and manage the river's ecosystem, including protecting endangered species and developing water quality standards."  A related press release; report summary (pdf file) and full report are posted on the NRC web site (see links to related press coverage below).

Integrated Water Resource Management Meeting Report
The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) recently published the summary report for the "Integration: A New Framework and Strategy for Water Management in Towns and Cities" briefing, held this past June in Washington, DC.  The report highlights the roles that integrated water and other resource infrastructure can play in revitalizing cities and towns in the 21st Century.   The report, meeting presentations and video highlights are available on the WERF website.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

In the States -
Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • National Research Council report: improved procedures for gathering & evaluating data on Missouri River sediment needed
  • Scientists: Army Corps' Missouri River plan would pollute River and Gulf Dead Zone, but minimally
  • Science panel gives boost to Army Corps Missouri River restoration plan
  • NRC report: Missouri River helped build Louisiana coast, but won't help restore it
  • WI DNR eyes buyout for Portage flood plain
Agriculture -
  • Ag Secretary Vilsack: world is not on the brink of a rerun of the recent food supply crisis (top article)
  • Iowa Policy Project report: Policymakers should clean Midwestern waterways by focusing on ag pollution
  • Cause of Dead Zone in Gulf: Tile Drainage Directly Related to Nitrate Loss
Events -
Wildlife and Invasives -
  • New invasive mussel in US waters: Chinese pond mussel found for first time in U.S.
  • Environmental groups largely ignored Gulf of Mexico before BP disaster; NY Times:
  • Understanding Missouri River's sediment dynamics key to protecting endangered species
Mississippi River Basin politics -
  • RT @ChrisClaytonDTN: Congressional redistricting to come: IL, IA, LA, MA, MI, MO, NJ, NY & PA expected to lose a district
  • State population #s likely to result in Congressional seat losses in upper Midwest (IL IA MI OH & perhaps MN & MO)
  • Mississippi River Basin politics - From Politico: Democrats fear Midwestern meltdown
  • Mississippi River Basin politics: new KY Poll has Jack Conway (D) & Rand Paul (R) practically even in US Senate race
  • Mississippi River Basin politics: new poll has Giannoulias (D) up in IL Senate race over a slipping Kirk (R) 43- 42%
International Perspective -
  • New study: ~ 80% of the world's population lives in areas where fresh water supply not secure
  • Sept. 30 Journal Nature article: Global threats to human water security & river biodiversity (abstract)
Other News -