Monday, January 31, 2011

Significant Springtime Flooding Likely in the Upper Mississippi River Basin

There are several factors, including existing snowpack, soil saturation levels and anticipated precipitation, that are pointing towards major spring flooding for many of Upper Mississippi River Basin's rivers and streams. This online National Weather Service information resource provides an overview of Upper River Basin springtime stream level outlooks (updated periodically).  You can click on the map tabs on the NWS website to view areas of expected "minor," "moderate," and "major" flooding.

Friday, January 28, 2011

EPA Releases Draft Report on the Environmental and Conservation Impacts of Biofuels Production and Use

EPA has released a highly-anticipated, draft report for public comment on the environmental and conservation impacts of biofuels production and use, entitled "Biofuels and the Environment: The First Triennial Report to Congress."  More than anything else, the report highlights the unknowns and scientific uncertainties associated with assessing the environmental impacts of  biofuels production and use (see the EPA report web page here, and the EPA's Federal Register notice page here).

EPA will accept public comments on the draft report from today through February 28.  Public comments can be submitted electronically (see here) or by e-mail (, first class mail, fax, or hand delivery.  It is expected that stakeholder interest in commenting on the draft report will be significant.

The draft report is also subject to peer review by an independent panel of experts convened by EPA.  Public comments will be forwarded to that review group, which will meet in March 14 in Arlington, Virginia. That March 14 meeting will be open to the public and include time for limited (five-minute) verbal public comment.  To register to attend the March 14 meeting, persons should contact Versar, Inc., 6850 Versar Center, Springfield, VA 22151 (by e-mail: (subject line: Biofuels Report to Congress Peer Review Meeting)).

House Committee Assignments Updated

We've posted the latest, updated list of U.S. House Committee assignments announced to date: summarized here (pdf file).

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

112th Congress: Congressional and Environmental Committee Priorities
The 112th Congress convened on January 5, and although little has occurred yet of direct significance to the Mississippi River Basin, the year is shaping up to be one in which many such legislative issues will come up.  As mentioned in the Institute's December Mississippi River Basin Update, budgetary and economic issues have taken center stage as top Congressional priorities almost immediately, both from the standpoint of the current (2011) and next (2012) Fiscal Years (see more under "
Federal Budget," below).  

And even as many congressional committees are still in the process of finalizing their structures organizationally (see a list of committee assignments at the end of this posting), we’re starting to get some  hints as to what various committee priorities might be for the upcoming year.  Based upon input from various staff members from committees doing work directly relevant to the Mississippi River Basin, issues that will likely arise in Congress during 2011 that are relevant to Mississippi River Basin water resources include Water Resources Development Act reauthorization, the 2012 Farm Bill, clean water and wastewater infrastructure needs and funding to meet those needs, aquatic invasive species, Federal water resources management policy, nonpoint sources of water pollution, and National Flood Insurance Program reauthorization. 

You can read a much more in-depth listing and analysis of priorities and likely issues that will come before various Congressional committees in 2011 from a water resources perspective, here on our Mississippi River Basin Blog.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

In the States -

Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • U of MN scientist suggests climate & channel modifications probable causes for increased Lake Pepin sedimentation
  • River pilots: Army Corps spending cuts mean Mississippi River mouth faces more silting in
  • Clearer picture emerging on how rivers & deltas develop; understanding can play key delta management role
Agriculture -
  • Final USDA rule for Farm & Ranch Land Protection Program published in today's Federal Register (pdf file)
  • Farm subsidies in time of farm wealth present test of GOP budget cutting pledge
  • Purdue U agro economist: Tough times ahead for farm conservation programs
  • Land availability is a key constraint on US ability to expand biofuel production
  • House Ag Committee Chair Lucas says he would be pleased if agricultural spending could simply be frozen where it is now
  • Sens Chambliss & Roberts letter to OMB urges reduced "burdensome & ineffective" EPA & USDA regs impacting farmers
Events -
  • June 3-6: River Network’s 2011 National River Rally; North Charleston, SC
  • USDA Private Landowner Technical Assistance Program webinar has been changed to January 31, 2:00 PM EST
  • Farm Foundation Forum: Agriculture as a Provider of Environmental Services; Feb 15; Washington DC
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • RT @restorm: Massive 6-state habitat restoration progresses: 130,000 acres in Year 1 [TN, AL, MO, AR, KY, IL]
  • New MN DNR Commissioner wants to address declining # of duck hunters and invasive species
  • For 1st time, an online guide to diatoms of the US is available, with readily-accessible images for identification
Other news-
  • Illinois Governor Quinn new Chair of Midwestern Governors Association (pdf)
  • Group urges local governments /businesses to support regional collaboration in parts of IA, WI and MN
  • Gov. Walker administration shelves plan for U of Wisconsin biomass plant; citing costs
  • Northeast-Midwest Institute's January Update on Mississippi River Basin news is now available:
  • Center for Neighborhood Tech & American Rivers report quantifies economic benefits of green infrastructure
  • Reps. Waxman & Green urge Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Upton to address failing water infrastructure
  • Dept of the Interior releases new strategic plan for fiscal years 2011 – 2016 (pdf file)
Federal Budget-
Political Scene -
Congressional Committee Assignments-
(House subcommittee assignments are now being made; previously announced Committee assignments are listed here)
  • House Ag Committee Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) announces six Subcommittees' members & leadership 
  • Full list of House Agriculture Committee subcommittee assignments can be viewed here 
  • Republican members named to House Natural Resources Committee's five subcommittees 
  • House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Markey (D-MA) announces Dem subcommittee members
(Full committee assignments were just announced this week; subcommittee assignments will follow)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Members Named for New Congress

On January 27, Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member, announced the EPW committee members for the 112th Congress.  The Committee membership will include nine Democrats, eight Republicans and one Independent.  Along with the Chair and Ranking Member, the other Committee members (by party affiliation and alphabetically) are:
  • Max Baucus (D-MT)
  • Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
  • Thomas Carper (D-DE)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) 
  • Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) 
  • Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
  • Tom Udall (D-NM)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • John Barrasso (R-WY)
  • John Boozman (R-AR) 
  • Mike Crapo (R-ID)
  • Mike Johanns (R-NE)
  • Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
  • David Vitter (R-LA)
  • Bernard Sanders (I-VT)  
Notably absent from the EPW Committee this Congress is Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) who was a Committee member during the 111th Congress.   From a "Great Waters" perspective, Sen. Klobuchar would have represented both a Mississippi River Basin and Great Lakes perspective on the panel.  Another Great Lakes panelist now absent from the Committee is former Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), who retired from the Senate rather than seeking reelection in 2010.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    House and Senate Environmental Committees Begin to Craft 2011 Agendas

    Even though many congressional committees are still finalizing their structures organizationally, we’re starting to get some hints as to what various committee priorities might be for the upcoming year.  Based upon input from various staff members from committees doing work directly relevant to the Mississippi River Basin, here are what are shaping up to be Congressional issues of importance during the next year in those committees (committee headings are links to each committee's home page).

    House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee
    The Committee is technically not formed yet; having held no organizational meeting; so everything from an agenda standpoint is very tentative and based on staff discussions. 

    Top priorities appear to be: 
    • The budget and the ongoing fiscal crisis will be a central issue, although it is not clear yet how the issue will all play out leading up to March 4 end of the Federal spending Continuing Resolution (see here) and with respect to the Fiscal Year 2012 budget (i.e., Will spending levels be set at FY 2008 (or even 2006) levels? Will it be left to the Administration figure out details under an imposed cap?) 
    • Earmarks – The impact of this issue is still unknown, largely because there is no agreement yet on the definition of an “earmark.”  Although not likely, at one extreme end of the spectrum, regional programs like the Chesapeake Bay or MRBI programs might be earmarks. 
    So, the T&I Committee might sit back at least initially and let others work through these issues first, rather than wade in right away and put at risk important programs.  Specific issues that will likely come up during the year include: 
    1. Wastewater infrastructure/SRFs 
    2. Developing innovative, new means of generating revenue for growing water/wastewater infrastructure needs 
    3. Invasive species; ballast water regulation 
    4. Beach Act reauthorization 
    5. Great Lakes issues – GLRI/GLNPO; Legacy Act 
    6. Clean Water Act interpretation/jurisdiction 
    7. WRDA reauthorization (clouded somewhat by the earmarks issue)
    8. Water resources planning/management in light of growing demands 
    9. EPA’s use of guidance rather than regulations to set policy (and effectively set standards); guidance that might have the impact of regulation without public input (raising potential due process issues) 
    10. National Estuary Program reauthorization 
    11. Nonpoint source impact on water quality (i.e., is the USEPA 319 program the most effective way of addressing nonpoint water pollution sources?)
    House Agriculture Committee
    The Committee structure will become finalized in the next week or two.  Until then, priorities are tentative and include: 

    1. The Chesapeake Bay Bill (introduced last session) will likely come up again, but in light of budget constraints the bill's program costs could loom as a huge hurdle to overcome 
    2. The Committee wants to stress value of voluntary USDA NRCS programs, and is more interested in looking at voluntary rather than mandated approaches (and related money needed to fund mandate programs) 
    3. The Committee largely reflects a philosophy that the Farm Bill should be evaluated based upon its conservation programs’ abilities to meet conservation end points and abilities to give farmers “regulatory certainty” (a certainty that they do not currently have, according to what Committee members are hearing).  This issues was a point of consideration in last year’s Chesapeake Bay bill 
    4. Committee members are receiving a lot of feedback that others in the agricultural sector across the country do not want an EPA mandated Chesapeake Bay-like model replicated elsewhere 
    5. Committee staff do not believe that the earmarks issue will impact the 2012 Farm Bill discussions
    6. There will be more Farm Bill hearings this year, both in Washington, DC and in the field; quick Farm Bill consideration isn’t as critical now as it was under last Congress's Democratic leadership 
    7. Farm Bill hearings may in part focus on the number of conservation programs and whether consolidation or combination of those programs might be appropriate 
    8. The budget will be the big Farm Bill issue; and how much spending is authorized for each title  and programs within each title
    9. Don’t expect a rush to include new conservation programs in the Farm Bill; rather, the Farm Bill discussions will center on the need for money and people to effectively implement existing programs 
    10. Fine tuning and targeting of conservation efforts would help to address item #9, above
    Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee 
    Concerns and priority issues for the Committee in 2011 will include:
    1. Defense of programs that are working well 
    2. Identification of programs that are not effective 
    3. Input and information from the ground level would help Committee do those two things 
    4. There may be informal briefings and a few hearings regarding the Executive Order establishing the GLNPO 
    5. Several programs need reauthorization: Coastal Zone Management; National Marine Sanctuaries Act 
    6. Ballast water treatment (for aquatic nuisance species) 
    7. Expect that some of the popular measures wrapped up in last year’s great waters/wilderness omnibus bill will be reintroduced as individual bills
    Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
    The committee’s specific agenda won’t be developed for a few more weeks, as the committee and its subcommittees are being set up organizationally.  Tentatively, the Committee's agenda reflects that of the T&I Committee (above).  Top priorities include: 

    • Reauthorization of WRDA (should have bipartisan support within the Committee).  With respect to WRDA, there may be a desire to include improved levee safety, improved project efficiency and addressing the WRDA project financing dilemma.
    • Reauthorization of the Transportation Act (should have bipartisan support within the Committee)
    Other issues that will likely come before the Committee include: 
    1. Asian Carp 
    2. Some of the regional water body and wilderness bills from last year’s omnibus package 
    3. Drinking water and clean water SRFs 
    4. Sustainability and green management of Federal facilities (i.e., energy and water efficiencies)
    Energy and Natural Resources Committee
    Like many other committees at this time, this one is not yet fully organized but will be within the next couple of weeks.  The year's priorities likely will include: 

    1. Energy: the number one priority for the year
    2. Budget implications on Committee topics: an overarching issue 
    3. Expect to see some of the 2010 omnibus waters and wilderness bills resurface before the Committee

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    January Update on Mississippi River Basin issues

    Here is the link to the January Update (PDF file) from the Northeast-Midwest Institute on Mississippi River Basin issues.  The January Update contains these item

    • 112th Congress (emerging legislative issues of interest) 
    Budget and Appropriations
    • Continuing Resolution, the Administration’s Budget and Appropriations 
    River Basin News and Notes
    • Research Details Nutrient and Sediment Concentrations and Loads during Historic 2008 Flooding in Eastern Iowa
    •  Army Corps Announces Additional Public Meetings Regarding Scoping of Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study
    •  University of Minnesota's Water Resources Center Releases Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework Report
    • Delta Dispatches
    • NGRREC E-Newsletter
    •  Upcoming Conferences, Events and Workshops

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

    Journal of Environmental Quality Article Details Nutrient and Sediment Concentrations and Corresponding Loads during the Historic June 2008 Flooding in Eastern Iowa

    A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research article published in the January-February issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality describes the transport of substantial amounts of nutrients and sediment from Iowa watersheds into the Mississippi River during a period of severe flooding in many parts of the Midwestern United States in the winter and spring of 2007–2008 and again during a period of extensive rainfall in June 2008.

    The USGS researchers (L. Hubbard, D. W. Kolpin, S. J. Kalkhoff and D. M. Robertson) analyzed their own sampling data, along with research by others documenting the 2008 extent of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic (or dead) zone to conclude that the nutrient loading from the June 2008 flooding "exacerbated the already-low oxygen conditions in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the high Mississippi River spring loading due to above-normal precipitation in the Midwest."  The paper's authors also conclude that their study "clearly demonstrates how important flood events can be to the annual nutrient and sediment load of both small streams and large rivers," finding that "a significant portion of the total yearly nutrient flux can be exported during one extreme event."

    Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week: 

    In the States -
    Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
    • NRCS: $26 M available to retire marginal or damaged cropland in southern MN that frequently or occasionally floods
    Agriculture -
    • Private Landowner Technical Assistance Program-grants for orgs helping farmers w/ conservation; deadline Feb 15
    • Worldwatch Institute report: World hunger best cured by innovation & small-scale agriculture &
    • US farmers expected to plant >10 M extra acres in spring to help replenish low grain supplies
    • NY Times editorial: cut farm subsidy billions that distort food prices, encourage over farming & inflate land prices
    • Next-generation (cellulosic) biomass plants will be named today as recipients of federal loan guarantees
    • Government supports development of new ethanol feedstocks with guaranteed loans to ease dependence on corn
    Water Quality-
    Events -
    • 2011 Upper Midwest Stream Restoration Symposium, February 27 - March 2, Oconomowoc, WI
    • Mississippi River Research Consortium 43rd Annual Meeting abstracts are due Saturday, January 22
    • 2011 Land Grant and Sea Grant National Water Conference January 31- February 1, Washington, DC
    • Upper Mississippi River Basin Assoc meetings' agendas listed-open to public; February 15-17, St. Louis, MO
    • August 2011 National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration abstract submission deadline tomorrow, Jan 21
    • Hold the dates: April 7 & 8 National Agricultural Landscape Forum co-hosted by ATF & USDA; Washington DC; details to come
    Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
    • Army Corps announces additional public meetings on Great Lakes & Mississippi River interbasin invasives study
    • Fish and Wildlife Service wants to add 2 mussel species found in IA to national list of endangered species
    • Mississippi River eagle viewing article from Washington Post travel section
    • New species of "giant" crayfish found in deepest part of a commonly explored Tennessee creek
    Other news-
    • See National Great Rivers Research and Education Center latest e-news update here
    • Check out the newly launched Delta Dispatches Blog with info on coastal Louisiana restoration at
    • And here's EDF's latest edition of "Delta Dispatches" newsletter with the latest news on Coastal La. restoration
    • Public comment period on $2.9 billion Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet restoration plan extended to Feb. 14
    Political Scene -
    • Leading conservative House Republicans issue proposed budget cut summary &
    • Sen. Conrad (D-ND), who announced intent not to run for re-election, is 1 of strongest supporters of farm subsidies
    • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) Announces Committee Democrats
    • House Agriculture Committee reorganizes panel’s subcommittees (NSAC summary)
    • House Natural Resources Committee Democratic Members Announced
    • GOP announces House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee subcommittee leadership & assignments
    • Democrats announce House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee subcommittee leadership
    • Minnesota Republican Party Website Seeks to Cast Klobuchar in Liberal Light
    • Jim Miller, USDA Undersecretary for Farm & Foreign Ag Service to be Sen. Conrad's senior aide on Farm Bill negotiations
    • House Energy and Commerce Committee sets agenda for the year: (pdf file)

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    House Natural Resources Committee Democratic Members Announced

    On January 19, House Democrats selected 21 Members to represent them on the Natural Resources Committee.  The Committee's Democrats will include:

    Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the Committee's Ranking Member, and (in alphabetical order):
    • Madeleine Bordallo of Guam
    • Dan Boren of Oklahoma
    • Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands
    • Jim Costa of California
    • Peter DeFazio of Oregon
    • Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa
    • John Garamendi of California
    • Raúl Grijalva of Arizona
    • Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii
    • Martin Heinrich of New Mexico
    • Rush Holt of New Jersey
    • Dale Kildee of Michigan
    • Ben Luján of New Mexico
    • Grace Napolitano of California
    • Frank Pallone of New Jersey
    • Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico
    • Gregorio Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands
    • John Sarbanes of Maryland
    • Betty Sutton of Ohio
    • Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    House Agriculture Committee Democratic Members Announced

    U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson (D-MN-7th) today announced the Democratic members who will serve on the House Agriculture Committee during the 112th Congress. 

    Beside Ranking Member Peterson, the other Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, listed alphabetically, are:
    • Joe Baca, California
    • Leonard Boswell, Iowa
    • Dennis Cardoza, California
    • Jim Costa, California
    • Joe Courtney, Connecticut
    • Henry Cuellar, Texas
    • Marcia L. Fudge, Ohio
    • Tim Holden, Pennsylvania
    • Larry Kissell, North Carolina
    • James McGovern, Massachusetts
    • Mike McIntyre, North Carolina
    • Bill Owens, New York
    • Chellie Pingree, Maine
    • Gregorio Sablan, Northern Mariana Islands
    • Kurt Schrader, Oregon
    • Terri A. Sewell, Alabama
    • David Scott, Georgia
    • Timothy J. Walz, Minnesota
    • Peter Welch, Vermont

    Army Corps Announces Additional Public Meetings Regarding Scoping of Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps") has announced a series of additional public meetings ( related to the Corps' Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS).  GLMRIS is an evaluation of alternatives that might be used to prevent the transfer of aquatic nuisance species (sometimes called "ANS") between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins through aquatic pathways (see our initial article on GLMRIS here).

    The Corps is providing these meetings (along with providing an opportunity for written comments) to help "refine the scope of GLMRIS to focus on significant issues, as well as eliminate issues that are not significant from further detailed study," according to a January 18 Corps' announcement. 

    The locations and dates of upcoming meetings are:
    • Minneapolis, MN-Jan. 20
    • Green Bay, WI-Jan. 25
    • Traverse City, MI-Jan. 27
    • Cincinnati, OH-Feb. 1
    • Ann Arbor, MI-Feb. 3
    • St Louis, MO-Feb. 8
    • Vicksburg, MS-Feb. 10
    • Milwaukee, WI-Feb. 15
    • New Orleans, LA-Feb. 17
    Persons wishing to provide oral comments at one of these meetings are asked to register at

    Until March 31, 2011, the Corps will also accept public comments on the GLMRIS scope via this web site.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    EPA Announces Senior Management Staff Changes

    On Friday, January 14, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced some staffing changes at the agency through an email sent to EPA staff.  According to the email, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water Pete Silva "will leave the EPA on February 12 and plans to return to his home and family in California."  Nancy Stoner, EPA's Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, will then serve as acting Assistant Administrator.
    Jackson also announced that Bicky Corman has been appointed as EPA's Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Policy, and that Joel Beauvais will join the EPA as senior advisor in the Office of General Counsel.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

    University of Minnesota's Water Resources Center Releases Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework Report
    On January 12, the University of Minnesota's Water Resources Center  released a report designed to protect and preserve Minnesota's lakes, rivers, and groundwater for the 21st century and beyond.  Entitled "Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework," the report was completed in response to a charge by the 2009 Minnesota Legislature, and is meant "to serve as a legislative road map with time lines and benchmarks for future investments in water resources, including the estimated $86 million a year dedicated for the protection of water as a result of Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Act," according to a Center media release. In preparing the Framework, its authors surveyed Minnesotans’ attitudes and beliefs about water through more than 4,500 surveys and during nine listening sessions around the state.   
    The Framework contains specific recommendations to help assure a sustainable water resources future, including:
    • A comprehensive survey of Minnesota's ground water resources to understand what's available and how our current withdrawals are impacting the long-term supply;
    • An overhaul of the state's water permitting process that would include an electronic database and a method of calculating the ecological impact of water withdrawals;
    • A mandatory statewide plan to decrease nutrient runoff from agricultural sources—a key to the plan being farmer-led, performance-based Agricultural Management Areas organized along the state's 45 watershed districts that would provide technical resources and incentives;
    • Promotion of "green" chemistry through incentives for industry and consumer education and advocacy to prevent future water contamination;
    • Integrated water and land sustainability planning at the watershed level; and
    • The restructuring of municipal water pricing to more accurately reflect the ecological, as well as infrastructure, costs of water use.
    The report is available at this University web site, and can be downloaded as a 36.8 MB-sized pdf file here.
    Through January 31, the public can provide comments and feedback on the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework report on this web site

    Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

    In the States -
    • Minnesota Organic  Farming Conference Set For St. Cloud this Friday and Saturday
    • Minnesota Corn Growers Association urges farmers to pay attention to U of MN framework for improving water quality
    • National Weather Service report: forecasting errors occurred related to deadly 2010 Nashville, Cumberland River floods
    Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
    • Wall Street Journal: Deferred Army Corps lock maintenance hampers river shippers nationwide & economy as a whole
    • Consultant: Coon Rapids Dam (MN) upgrade could turn dam into barrier vs Mississippi River Asian carp migration
    Agriculture -
    • Farm Bureau: EPA Chesapeake Bay plan will ruin regional agriculture & become model for similar restrictions nationally
    • Farm Bureau sues EPA over Chesapeake Bay cleanup
    • Sen Ag Comm Chair Stabenow (D-MI) to work w House Republicans & address agribusiness environmental regulation concerns
    • Farm Bureau leaves annual convention without making major suggestions on Congress cutting 2012 Farm Bill spending
    • MN Assoc of Soil & Water Conservation Districts honors Scandia couple for conservation efforts
    Water Quality-
    • Commission on BP Oil Spill & Offshore Drilling identifies hypoxia as a major impediment to Gulf of Mexico's recovery
    Events -
    • EPA Watershed Academy Webcast: "Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution and Harmful Algal Blooms in Lakes” Jan 26
    • Clean Water Network's "Clean Water Week" March 1 - 2; Washington DC
    • August 2011 National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration extends abstract submission deadline to January 21
    Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
    Other news-
    • La. coast among top 10 at-risk global environments; mismanagement of Mississippi River one cited reason
    • Global Risks 2011 report highlights global inability to cope with interconnected risks tied to water, food & energy
    • Valero - Iowa’s largest corn based ethanol producer - commits to MI cellulosic ethanol plant
    Political Scene -
    • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is new GOP ranking member on Senate Agriculture Committee (1/2 way thru article)
    • GOP appropriators plan to craft a spending-cut appropriations package for floor action at end of January
    • Illinois’s State Legislature approves 66 % increase in state’s income tax rate in response to fiscal crisis
    • EPA "desperate for some friends in the Senate" on issue of limiting EPA's authority

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    NCER 2011 - The National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration - Call for Abstracts

    Individuals working in ecosystem restoration are invited to submit abstracts for NCER 2011 - The National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration.  NCER is an interdisciplinary conference on large scale ecosystem restoration presenting state-of-the art science and engineering, planning and policy in a partnership environment.  The purpose of NCER is to provide an interactive forum for physical, biological and social scientists, engineers, resource managers, planners and policy makers to share their experiences and research results concerning large-scale ecosystem restoration on both national and international levels. NCER 2011 will be held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront from August 1 - 5. 

    The abstracts should describe the author's efforts, science, projects and results. Oral and poster presentations will be selected from abstract submissions, and abstracts from all presentations will be published online in the conference book of abstracts. Poster presentations will be divided into two sessions and formal poster sessions will be held for each grouping to allow maximum time for discussion with individual authors.  The abstract submission deadline has been recently extended until January 21.  Abstracts can be submitted on-line via this web site.

    NCER 2011 Program topics will include several that relate directly or indirectly to restoration in the Mississippi River Basin, and are:
    • Adaptive Management toward Restoration Objectives
    • Chesapeake Bay
    • Climate Change and Restoration Goals
    • Coastal Habitat Restoration
    • Comparison and Contrast of Restoration Programs
    • Ecosystem Goods and Services
    • Ecosystem Restoration on Private Lands
    • Ecosystem Restoration Program Management and Large-Scale Project Implementation
    • Ecosystems of National Significance
    • Environmental Benefits
    • Estuarine Ecosystem Restoration
    • Federal Principles and Guidelines and Ecosystem Restoration
    • Governance and Management Decision Making
    • Implementation and Political Challenges to Ecosystem Restoration Programs
    • Instream and Freshwater Inflow Development
    • Invasive Species
    • Integration of Science and Engineering in Ecosystem Restoration Programs
    • International Ecosystem Restoration
    • Legal Issues in Ecosystem Restoration
    • Louisiana Coastal Restoration
    • Mapping/Remote Sensing
    • New Planning Approaches Cumulative Response and Socioeconomic Considerations
    • Riverine Recovery
    • Role of Fire in Ecosystem Restoration
    • Stakeholder Engagement and Perspectives
    • Upland Habitat Restoration
    • Urban Ecosystem Restoration
    • USDA NRCS Mississippi River Basin Initiative
    • Water Quality Nutrients Contaminants and Sustainable Sediment Management

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

    112th Congress and Federal Funding
    The 112th Congress convened on Wednesday, January 5.  One of the priority tasks facing the new Congress will be providing funding for Federal programs beyond March 4, 2011, when a Continuing Resolution (CR), passed and signed into law on December 21, expires.  Before then, Congress will have to enact spending measures for the balance of the 2011 Fiscal Year, ending September 30, either (1) passing a series of twelve individual appropriations bills for the remainder of the Fiscal Year, (2) passing an omnibus appropriations package, containing an amalgam of the twelve separate appropriations bills, or (3) passing at least one additional CR that would keep the Federal government programs funded through all or part of the Fiscal Year. 

    The House Appropriations Committee sets the appropriations agenda, and the very tight legislative schedule established by House Republicans makes it very unlikely that the House could pass separate appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2011.  Between now and March 4, the House is scheduled to be out of session for 20 working days out of 41 remaining possible legislative days.  The Senate, with its Democratic majority, will have to buy into any House spending plan, and the Senate is currently in recess until January 25.

    Complicating that Fiscal Year 2011 appropriation's picture is the fact that Congress at the same time will begin considering appropriations for the 2012 Fiscal Year, which begins October 1, 2011.  Congressional consideration of the next budget historically begins with the release of the President's annual budget proposal.   The release date for the Obama Administration's 2012 Fiscal Year budget proposal has been pushed back from a planned, Monday, February 7 date to some time the following week.

    One spending issue that will dominate the new Congress is that of earmarks: legislative provisions directing that authorized funds be spent on specific projects (often at the request of a single legislator).  House Speaker John Boehner (OH-8th) has told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) that he will not allow spending bills with earmarks to be considered on the House floor.  And Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (IL) has said that he does not believe that the Senate would have the 60 votes necessary right now for passing spending bills that include earmarks.  A key earmark question that remains and is currently in the process of being clarified on the Hill is what, exactly, determines the definition of an earmark (for example, would the EPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative or USDA's Mississippi River Basin Initiative be considered earmarks?).  Attempts have been made in the past to define earmarks in either ethics and budget reform legislation.   However, none of those definitions have been widely accepted.

    Although many Republicans generally oppose earmarks, especially in the House chamber, that opposition is not unanimous.  For example, Senator Lamar Alexander (TN), the number three leader in the Senate Republican Conference, has noted that “Earmarks are still a subject that we have to work out.  A moratorium is a good idea so members of Congress understand exactly what an earmark is. They are finding out that some of the things we call earmarks we need to do."

    House Committee Assignments
    House Committee assignments announced to date are summarized here (pdf file).  House committees and subcommittees are now chaired by members of the chamber’s Republican majority, while their House Democratic colleagues take on committee “Ranking Member” and minority statuses.   Key Committee Chair assignments that impact directly upon Mississippi River Basin water resource issues include: Agriculture (Frank Lucas (OK-3rd)); Appropriations (Harold Rogers (KY-5th)); Budget (Paul Ryan (WI-1st)); Natural Resources (Doc Hastings (WA-4th)); and Transportation and Infrastructure (John Mica (FL-7th)).

    Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the End of 2010 and First Week of 2011: 

    In the States -
    • Keokuk, IA reaches agreement with EPA to address untreated sewage discharges  to Soap Creek & Mississippi River 
    • County Board of Supervisors wants to establish new Mississippi River Basin Water Quality Center in Dubuque IA 
    • Beef Feedlot in Sioux County IA to Pay $30,000 Civil Fine for Wastewater Discharges into Otter Creek 
    • NGO groups: Governor-elect Branstad's ideas on deregulating Iowa's ag industry are risky
    • U.S. District Judge signs settlement requiring Lexington KY to overhaul sewer system over 10 years
    • MN Legislature to be presented with 25-year plan for clean water on Wednesday 
    • One MN ethanol production facility pays water pollution fines ; another seeks to expand (pdf)
    • Potentially controversial (for some GOPs) Aasen chosen by new Governor to head MN Pollution Control Agency 
    • Environment, outdoors issues up for debate in MN state legislative environmental committees starting tomorrow 
    • Mankato Free Press editorial: Don't let up on fixing Minnesota river 
    • MN AG files suit against 3M for pollution cleanup costs caused by chemicals leaching into Mississippi River 
    • MN NGO analysis from 2005-2009: 2/3 of wastewater facilities violated permits at least 1x, but only 11% paid penalty 
    • Environmental law firm report: MN fines water polluters only about one in 10 times 
    • MN Beet processor to pay $50,000 penalty & promises to implement corrective action re: East Grand Forks facility 
    • St. Cloud State U study of endocrine disruptors in 11 MN lakes published (news piece:
    • Water quality groups worried about WI Gov Scott Walker agenda
    • WI DNR aggressive waterways P clean-up plan could face stiff opposition from incoming GOP administration & Legislature
    Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
    • Des Moines Register Editorial: Maintain Mississippi waterway infrastructure
    • MN state order for Xcel Energy to either remove or renovate Minnesota River dam presents dilemma
    Agriculture -
    • USDA 2011 Conservation Stewardship Prog sign-up extended from Jan 7 to the 21st w/ 20 new conservation enhancements
    • USDA's Conservation Reserve Program faces threats from budget constraints, ethanol demand & high crop & land prices
    • American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Atlanta next week - the first farm-policy debate of 2011
    • Minnesota River-Lake Pepin Friendship Tours: Farmers Talking to Farmers about Protecting Water Quality
    • Farm Bureau leader Rick Robinson aims to shape ag policy in 2011
    • Food prices globally rising to dangerous levels with talk of coming crisis
    • Rep. Kind (D-WI): We are going to have to say ‘no’ (to farm bill spending) to get serious about deficit reduction
    • Rep. Lucas (R-OK), chairman-designate House Ag Comm, to wait until current Farm Bill expires to begin work on new bill
    • NGO groups: Governor-elect Branstad's ideas on deregulating Iowa's ag industry are risky
    • Good primer: Congressional Research Service's Report “Farm Safety Net Programs: Issues for the Next Farm Bill”
    • Tide turns against corn ethanol, as it's buffeted by economic crisis & oil price drop
    • Several US oil refiners won’t sell gas containing 15% (usually corn) ethanol despite recent EPA authorization
    Water Quality-
    • EPA Completes Research to Inform Development of New Recreational Water Quality Criteria under Fed Court settlement
    Events -
    Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
    • As many as 50,000 Pacific coast eagles may range as far as Mississippi River in search for food
    • Army Corps Launches Scoping of Great Lakes & Mississippi River Interbasin Study Amidst Environmental Group Concerns
    • Op-ed: Wisconsin's Oneida County Should Drop Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Position
    • Invasive curly-leaf pondweed treatments will continue at SW Minnesota's Lake Benton
    • Minnesota's Minnehaha Creek  Watershed District proposes new invasive species rules
    Other news-
    • Director of Southern Cotton Ginners Association reappointed for 9 years on Mississippi River Commission
    • U.S. environmental groups are switching from DC-centered to grassroots approach to change
    • EPA's 2011 Regulatory Agenda released (semiannual publication of its regulatory agenda)
    • New Kansas City Federal Reserve economic analysis report released: “A Rural Rebound in 2010.” (pdf file)
    • New MN "normal" temperature, rainfall & snow settings to be published later this year by National Climate Data Center
    • New study: No-till farming releases far smaller amounts of greenhouse gas than conventional farming
    Political Scene -
    • Iowa’s 2012 musical chairs: 5 House members to run for reelection; but only 4 seats will remain
    • 112th Congress House of Representatives Committee Chairs & House Committee Ranking Member
    • 111th Congress historically chaotic in Senate with highest turnover (20%) since Congress of 1945-47
    • MN Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann isn't ruling out 2012 run for Senate vs incumbent Democrat Sen. Klobuchar
    • US Census Bureau announcement today of census #s determines what states gain/lose House seats in reapportionment
    • Census Bureau: Rustbelt will lose House seats; Sunbelt gain them in 2012

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Northeast-Midwest Institute Appoints New President and CEO

    Allegra Cangelosi has been appointed President and CEO of the Northeast-Midwest Institute, beginning January 2011.  She assumes the position following two decades of service to the NEMW Coalitions and Institute handling linked environmental and economic opportunities associated with ecosystem restoration, especially in the Great Lakes, and prevention of invasive species introductions to the region.  Prior to working with the NEMW Coalitions and Institute, Ms. Cangelosi was environmental staffer for the Coalition of Northeastern Governors.  In her new position as President and CEO of the NEMWI, Ms. Cangelosi plans to launch new tools and processes by which the NEMWI can reliably deliver high quality information services on on existing and emerging issues to the NEMW region's elected leadership in Congress, States and cities, and regional stakeholders generally.  In her new role, Ms. Cangelosi will retain leadership of the Great Ships Initiative, an important project of the NEMWI.