Friday, February 11, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Regional Voices Inform the Budget Debate
Whether it is cuts or flat funding that are envisioned, (see our article below), the discussions centering around continued 2011 and upcoming 2012 Federal funding will certainly focus on programs central to Mississippi River Basin issues of water quality, water resource planning, navigation, infrastructure, agriculture, invasive species and many others. The debate within the DC Beltway will be best served if it is well-informed by educated perspectives from the River Basin region.  House Members and Senators representing your Congressional district or state would benefit from hearing your views. Contact information for their House and Senate offices can be found here and here, respectively.  For those wishing to contact House and Senate appropriators on the funding proposals we outline below, members of the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees can be found on page two of our House committee member listing, here. Senate Appropriations Committee members are listed here and its subcommittee members here The appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over funding for Federal departments and agencies that manage key River Basin programs are:
  • Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (USDA, except the U.S. Forest Service)
  • Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies (Army Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior-Bureau of Reclamation)
  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (USEPA; U.S. Forest Service; Department of the Interior, except Bureau of Reclamation and Central Utah Project)
The Neverending Story (The Federal Budget and the River Basin)
What's happening - With the clock ticking towards a March 4 end to the Continuing Resolution (CR) that is currently funding the Federal government, Congressional leaders must pass a new budget measure by then in order to avoid a government shutdown. But thus far, no consensus is emerging regarding what to fund and what to cut within CR legislation that would cover the seven months remaining in the current (2011) Fiscal Year.

On February 9 the House Appropriations Committee Republicans released “a partial list of 70 spending cuts” that the GOP majority planned to include in their upcoming CR bill.That initial list of CR spending cuts included reductions in programs that are particularly relevant to Mississippi River Basin water resource issues (see our article here on the proposed cuts). However, almost immediately, conservative House Republican expressed their desire to come up with even deeper cuts than those proposed by appropriators, who, by Thursday afternoon, promised to find a full $100 billion in spending cuts, reflecting the party’s "Pledge to America." This appropriation "re-do" meant that Republican staffers scrambled to scrape together the extra cuts in time to unveil a revised spending resolution by the new Friday release target. Whatever level of cuts end up being proposed, the Republican House majority is framing them as cuts below the Obama Administration's Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal (see here). So the proposed cuts do not necessarily reflect reductions to levels of spending actually approved for the last (2010) Fiscal Year.

What this means - A deeper spending cut package is very unlikely to become law, as President Barack Obama and the Democrats who control the Senate are certain to oppose extensive cuts. President Obama has called for spending to remain at Fiscal Year 2010 levels (in his State of the Union address). Thus far, at least, Senate Democratic leaders have not expressed a position on overall spending for the remainder of this Fiscal Year, with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) saying that, “Our minds are open to anything that’s reasonable.”

New Pew Research Center survey data released on Thursday imply that flat spending or, at most, more moderate cuts may be supported by the majority of Americans who, the poll suggests, by and large do not want to see the severe, quick reductions envisioned in the House Republican plan (see a summary of the Pew survey here).

What's next - As things evolve on the 2011 Fiscal Year budget front, the debate will become even more energetic on Monday (February 14), when the Obama Administration releases its 2012 Fiscal Year budget proposal (it will be released on this Office of Management and Budget (OMB) web page).  OMB Director Jacob J. Lew said this week that the President's proposal will call for a five-year freeze on discretionary spending not related to national security. We will post updates on our blog on Monday and throughout next week as the Administration's budget numbers relevant to key Mississippi River Basin programs become known.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week:

In the States -
New survey of WI residents indicates public has it wrong with perceived sources of water pollution
River accident dumps 2000 gallons of oil in Mississippi River near Port Allen, Louisiana
WI organization documents wide range of potential state climate change impacts (including habitats, ag & H2O resources)
Group threatens suit against Champaign, IL over alleged coal gasification plant hazardous discharge to stream
IA issues moratorium on use of land purchase funds; part of Governor's program-by-program evaluation of spending

Flooding, Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
Winter weather snarls US Midwest grain barge flow
La. State Senator Crowe launches 33-state legislative petition drive calling for Mississippi River dredging

Agriculture -
>140 groups urge Congress to include water quality concerns in upcoming Farm Bill & (pdf files)
Researchers produce detailed global map of imbalances in way phosphorus is being used as fertilizer around the world
Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc. new mission statement includes providing beef "in an environmentally . . . sustainable manner”
Lincoln Journal Star editorial: USDA should be "congratulated for giving high priority to Conservation Reserve Program"
USDA predicts corn stockpiles will be at tightest supply-to-use ratio since Great Depression as more used for ethanol
House Ag Committee drafts extensive oversight plan re: administration's farm programs & regulations; USDA & EPA
House Agriculture Comm. Chair Lucas (R-OK) urges stakeholders to reach out to members of Congress on farm issues
Congressional Research Service issues “Environmental Regulation & Agriculture” report highlighting agriculture-regulatory nexus areas

Water Quality-
Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force releases its FY 2011 Operating Plan (PDF file)

Events -
Should be great - National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration; Aug 1-5 (Baltimore; see pix here:
9th INTECOL International Wetlands Conference; Orlando FL; June 3-8, 2012

Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
MN State Senator, Chair of Environment & Natural Resources Committee, vows to deal with aquatic invasive species
Cyanobacterium common in lakes turns on estrogen-related genes in fish; abstract: news piece:
USDA releases pre-publication version of massive national forests & grasslands management policy: (pdf)

Other news-
USGS Great Lakes study released today 1st in series to assess national water supplies & usage &
Center for American Progress & Oxfam America release report on moving Gulf Coast toward a sustainable future

Federal Budget-
House appropriations subcommittee oversight hearings begin this week; goal: to trim federal spending
House Republicans planning for USDA & FSA budget cuts of $3.2 billion for remainder of FY 2011
Table with FY 2011 CR spending limits & cuts announced by Appropriations Chair Rogers for each Subcommittee:
House Appropriations Chair Rogers announces partial list of 70 spending cuts; includes wilderness, water, conservation
Potential Continuing Resolution budget cuts include programs central to Mississippi River Basin conservation
Senate Budget Committee schedules Feb 15 & 17 hearings to examine President's proposed FY 2012 budget request (to be released on Feb 14)
House Appropriations Comm Chair Rogers announces plan cut $100B in spending for fiscal year 2011

Political Scene -
Senate Appropriations Committee today unveiled its 112th Congress subcommittee memberships:
Wall Street Journal: EPA is "No. 1 target of complaints from business groups" collected by House GOP leaders
Tea Party rolls out "2012 Target List" First up: Sens. Lugar (R-IN), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Snowe (R-ME) & Stabenow (D-MI)

Last Word -  
We (my dog and I) were crying in our Pittsburgh Steelers "Terrible Towels" last Sunday as our beloved Mississippi River Basin team went down to defeat in the Super Bowl. But with February here, our eyes now turn to Florida and baseball's spring training! The Steelers? They'll be back next year!

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