Friday, March 4, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Environmental Organizations File Notice of Intent to Sue over Mississippi River Basin Pollution
The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network on March 1 filed a 60-day "notice of intent to sue" with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, notifying the District of their intent to sue it over water pollution impacts resulting from wastewater discharges that reach from Chicago, Illinois, down the Chicago, Des Plaines, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico. The Notice and its attachments (which include correspondences related to the issue and a photo of algae mats on Chicago waterways) are available here

Legislation Calls for Expedited Study to Separate Great Lake and Mississippi River Basins
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate and Representative Dave Camp (D-MI-4th) in the House announced on March 3 that they will be introducing companion legislation to require that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conduct and expedite a study to determine the best way to permanently separate the Mississippi Basin from Lake Michigan, while still permitting shipping and boating passage ("ecological separation").  The bill, called the "Stop Asian Carp Act of 2011," will require the study begin within 30 days and be completed within a year and a half of the legislation's passage.  Both Senator Stabenow and Representative Camp introduced similar legislation during the 111th Congress, last year.  Notably, Senator Durbin did not co-sponsor that Senate bill (important because he is from Illinois), and neither measure was brought up for consideration in committee (see here for the 2010 bill summary).
Among other things, the Stop Asian Carp Act would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to study the Illinois, Chicago and Calumet Rivers watersheds to determine the feasibility and best means of implementing the ecological separation of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basins to prevent the introduction or establishment of populations of aquatic nuisance species into the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins through the Chicago Area Water System and other aquatic pathways.

Continuing Resolution Provides a Narrow Two-Week Window for Budget Summit and Compromise - Agriculture and EPA Likely to Take Hits
Republicans and Democrats  agreed that certain programs proposed to be cut by President Obama for the next fiscal year should no longer be funded in this fiscal year, and passed a short-term budget bill to fund the Federal government through March 18 (see text here and a summary of cuts - including those relevant to Mississippi River Basin water issues - here).
The Continuing resolution (CR) provides a mere two legislative weeks for negotiations on a long-term funding bill before current spending authority expires at the start of the next week-long Senate and House recess.  It will be difficult during that limited period to bridge the wide gap between the cuts envisioned by House Republicans in its long-term CR passed two weeks ago, and the view of Senate Democrats, who have labeled those GOP cuts "draconian."  In recognition of the enormity of that task, the President on Wednesday called for a budget "summit" among Congressional Democratic and Republican leaders and the Administration, and assigned Vice President Joe Biden to spearhead an effort to develop a funding compromise and break the long-term funding impasse.  After initially balking at the summit concept, GOP Congressional leaders (House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH-8th) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)) accepted Obama’s offer to begin face-to-face spending negotiations with the Administration. 
The pair met late in the day on Thursday in Biden’s ceremonial Capitol Hill office with the Vice President, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Office of Management and Budget Chief Jack Lew, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8th).  “We had a good meeting, and the conversation will continue," Biden said following the meeting.  However, there were no tangible signs of progress at the meeting, with aides saying afterward that additional short-term  measures to keep the government funded are a virtual certainty, especially since Biden is expected to leave Sunday for a week-long trip to Europe.  He will be back in Washington, DC only several days before the current CR authority expires.
Democratic Senate appropriators are working on their own long-term CR that would run through the remainder of 2011, and will likely be presenting a bill next week, which Reid has promised to present for debate on the Senate floor.  More than two-dozen Federal spending accounts have been identified as potential targets for cuts by appropriators on the Senate side, with the biggest cuts likely coming from agriculture, EPA state revolving funds, and FEMA state and local grants.

Who to Contact in Congress on Funding Legislation
See our article, "Regional Voices Inform the Budget Debate," for contact information for House Members and Senators in your state or district and for House and Senate appropriators.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Agriculture -
  • Rice University: Overfertilizing corn bad for both ethanol biofuel and the environment
  • Economist magazine special report: "Simply using more of everything to produce more food will not work"
  • House Ag Chair Frank Lucas says election year-2012-is best year to write next Farm Bill
  • Diverse coalition urges Congress to end ethanol subsidy; GOA says subsidy not needed
  • 35 groups send letter to Senate, urging rejection of disproportionately high farm conservation program cuts
  • 2 upcoming House Agriculture Committee hearings: impact of EPA regs on agriculture & Chesapeake Bay TMDL implications for US watersheds
  • World food prices rose 2.2% in February from previous month to record peak
Water Quality-
  • USDA ARS finding: Much of Mississippi River's sediment load comes from stream bank collapse & failure
  • Enviro groups intend to sue Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District re: polluting Mississippi basin waters
In the States -
  • Mid-day coffee break: Google Earth Flyover of the Minnesota River Valley click "go to tour" then "play tour"
  • Environmental coalition urges MN Governor Dayton to resolve contentious St. Croix River crossing issue
  • WI bill would effectively repeal rule requiring municipalities to disinfect drinking water
  • Legislative Auditor report calls MN environmental permitting process slow, uncertain, duplicative
Flooding, Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • Flooding forecast risks still moderate to high in upper Mississippi River basin; NOAA map here:
  • Army Corps statistics: Lock and dam 21 grain shipments on Mississippi River continue downward trend
  • Army Corps statistics: Lock and dam 5 barge shipments on Mississippi River also continue downward trend
Federal Budget-
  • Nonpartisan economic analysis: House GOP proposed budget slash could cost US 700,000 jobs
  • 35 groups send letter to Senate, urging rejection of disproportionately high farm conservation program cuts
  • Continuing Resolution aside, GOP & Dems still miles apart on a broad agreement to fund government thru FY 2011
  • House appropriators know how to get around earmark ban, rendering it window dressing
Events -
  • Registration open for National Agricultural Landscapes Forum, April 7 & 8, Washington, DC
  • National Agricultural Lands Forum REGIONAL ROUNDTABLES March 3-22; various locations
  • 3rd Annual Conference for floodplain & stormwater managers in Nebraska; June 23
  • RT @ChrisClaytonDTN: IA Farm Bureau writer Tom Block @ruralroots now joining NOAA climate meeting in Des Moines. [see]
  • New film: "Green Fire" is first full-length documentary of Aldo Leopold-premier show dates listed
  • Heading out soon to the RFF Seminar "Water Conflicts and Resolution: Economy vs. Environment?" more info on topic:
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Minnesota citizens committee to tackle Zebra Mussel threat to lakes
  • Conservation & Fishing Groups: Antiquated animal import legislation root cause of Asian carp crisis
  • RT @highcountrynews: RT @nijhuism: Have some invasive species for lunch: lols!
  • Largest alligator gar ever recorded caught in Mississippi River oxbow lake near Vicksburg, MS (327 pounds)
  • Start of Missouri's trout season could herald influx of aquatic invasive species
  • Asian Carp & 162 other aquatic invasive species 'Knocking on the Door' of lower Wisconsin River
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service: Eastern Cougar officially "extinct" & will be taken off Endangered Species List
  • Legislation Calls for Expedited Study to Separate Great Lake and Mississippi River Basins
  • RT @InvasiveNotes: Invasive Species – a Question of Harm ~ [well worth the read]WI survey suggests ongoing efforts to educate boaters & anglers about aquatic invasive species pay off
Other news-
  • Plans for a new Memphis TN Art Park include enhanced viewscape of the Mississippi River
  • Federal biodiesel tax credit helps Iowa biodiesel plants to "bounce back"
  • Water demand will 'outstrip supply by 40% within 20 years'; agriculture will suffer
  • Latest edition of Delta Dispatches posted online, with news on Gulf Coastal restoration and protection
Political Scene -
  • Poll: Senate Ag Chair Stabenow (D-MI) & former Rep. Hoekstra (R-MI) in virtual tie in 2012 prospective matchup (pdf)
  • League of Conservation Voters offers supplemental report card on House budget votes
Last word- Appropriate for the annual rite of rising floodwater watching, we'll leave this week's last word to Led Zeppelin

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