Friday, June 17, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Appropriations Committee Passes Water and Energy Spending Bill
On June 15 the full House Appropriations Committee approved a Fiscal Year 2102, $30.6 billion energy and water spending bill for the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Interior water programs.  The measure, expected to be considered (and passed) by the full House in July, includes over $1 billion to fund flood response activities and to restore flood protection structures (such as levees) related to this spring's Mississippi and Missouri River flooding.  The bill also contains a controversial rider restricting Army Corps of Engineers' implementation of a new Administration Clean Water Act guidance; a provision several Committee Democrats (and numerous environmental and conservation organizations) sought to have removed.  Read more detail here

House Narrowly Passes Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Spending Bill, Cutting Conservation and WIC but Sparing Subsidies
On June 16 the House yesterday narrowly passed the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA spending bill (H.R. 2112) by a vote of 217-201, with 19 Republicans joining every Democrat in opposing the bill.   The bill provides for $125.5 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Agriculture (except for the US Forest Service), Farm Credit Administration, Farm Credit System Financial Assistance Corporation, Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Food and Drug Administration.  A link to the full text of the bill as approved by the House is available here.  Under provisions of the House-passed measure, several key conservation programs would be cut below current spending levels or Farm Bill-authorized levels, including the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetlands Reserve Program and Grasslands Reserve Program. An overview of the bill and proposed amendments (both passed and defeated by the House) is available here.

Mississippi River Flooding Likely to Contribute to Record Gulf of Mexico "Dead" Zone
In a news release issued on June 14, the USGS, in conjunction with NOAA, estimated that the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic ("dead") zone may end up being the largest ever, due in large part to excessive nitrogen contamination entering the Gulf accompanying this spring's Mississippi River flooding.  Here is a copy of the USGS news release with more detail.  A copy of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University report  that in part underlies the USGS analysis (entitled "2011 Forecast: Summer Hypoxic Zone Size, Northern Gulf of Mexico," prepared with support from the NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, Coastal Ocean Program) can be viewed or downloaded here (PDF file).

NRCS Holds Second Partner Forum on Initiative to Increase the Adoption of the Management of Agricultural Drainage Water for Conservation Benefits
On June 15 the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) held a second "Ag and Conservation Partner Forum" in Washington, DC on a developing initiative designed to foster greater voluntary adoption of the management of agricultural drainage water by producers, especially in the Upper Mississippi River Basin (see the NRCS web site on the work to date - and upcoming activities - here). The meeting - on the topic of “Increasing the Adoption of the Management of Ag Drainage Water for Conservation Benefits” - followed an initial partner meeting held on March 23, 2011, and covered issues raised at the March meeting and recent NRCS developments since then.  You can read an overview of the June 15 meeting (with links to additional materials) here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Agriculture -
  • Oxfam International report: Climate change affecting crop harvests; food prices
  • USDA: upcoming US corn crop in better-than-expected shape due to improving growing conditions
  • Supporters fear pending Federal budget cuts could stop cellulosic ethanol biofuel efforts
  • USDA awards $20 million in grants to spur production of hybrid grass for biomass-based energy in AR, MO, OH & PA
  • Senate votes 73-27 to kill major tax break that benefits ethanol industry
  • Republicans use rules maneuver on House floor to prevent USDA spending bill cuts to federal farm subsidies
  • White House attacks the GOP's House USDA spending bill over its USDA and FDA cuts
  • 133 ag organizations sign letter opposing deficit cuts disproportionately impacting farmers, ranchers & rural US (pdf)
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow: Senate will not support House's budget cuts to agriculture & nutrition
  • Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) to farmers in Op-Ed: don't trust EPA's promise of farm non-regulation
  • House Agriculture Committee Chair Lucas (R-OK) accelerates plans for drafting new farm bill as USDA approps bill passes
Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
  • La. may pull support for spending federal-state matched wetland funds on projects to protect navigation channel edges
  • Sen DeMint (R-SC) bill package proposes to overhaul how Army Corps manages backlog of water infrastructure projects
  • Army Corps hopes temporary levee will save Iowa town from flooding Missouri River &
  • Army Corps options for New Orleans area Mississippi River levee armor include dense grass, fabric turf, concrete blocks
  • Missouri River towns face worst flooding in decades & longest-lasting high waters on record
  • IA Farm Bureau: 100,000 acres of Iowa farmland will be impacted by rising Missouri River flood waters
  • Map of latest flood stages on Upper Mississippi, Illinois and lower Missouri Rivers:
  • Army Corps to begin closing 30 bays in  Bonnet Carre Spillway in Louisiana on Saturday
  • Army Corps: cost of repairing Mississippi River levees damaged by this year's flooding could reach $1 billion
  • Army Corps to repair Birds Point, MO (Mississippi River) levee it intentionally breached
Water Quality-
  • White House nominates Ken Kopocis to become Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Water
  • 33 environmental organizations call on Congress to fund great waters restoration (pdf file)
  • Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Network bill introduced in Senate (re: air, rain, soil, water, wildlife) 
  • Texas A&M University oceanographers will launch study of size and intensity of Gulf "dead" zone next week
  • EPA releases "significant upgrade" to its Nonpoint Source Outreach Toolbox with new content & features
  • Pollution a worry as Missouri River floods
  • EPA redesigns EnviroMapper for Water: GIS-based display of water quality & other information about US water bodies
In the States -
  • AK Steel’s restoration efforts of Dicks Creek (OH) expected to begin next month with PCB cleanup
  • MN AG starts legal shutdown preparations if lingering budget stalemate forces July 1 shutdown
  • Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) wants federal regulators off the back of coal
  • Op-ed: WI state legislation to delay implementing state water phosphorus reductions would be bad idea
  • The Economist has created an interactive map graphic displaying state-level economic, political, and demographic data
  • St. Paul unveils river revival plan in effort to invigorate city's 17-mile Mississippi Riverfront
  • 4 Arkansas water quality improvement projects get total of $1 million from USDA
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Battle of the invasives: Chinese wasps introduced by MN Dept. of Agriculture to combat Emerald Ash Borer
  • Spring floods along the Mississippi River may be spreading Asian carp downstream
  • Macalester University Ecologist: Time to end "Invasive-Species Persecution"
  • Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) calls for maintaining Invasive Species funding for states
  • Invasive Purple Loosestrife newly discovered in Wisconsin's Eagle River basin
  • New USDA APHIS rule will help stop invasive species importation; while House votes today to cut $73M from APHIS budget
  • Listing of where to see rare or interesting birds and mammals throughout Minnesota by season
Federal Budget -
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • Louisiana DEQ ordered by appellate court to analyze possible contamination from dumping drilling fluids in coastal seas
  • Research to determine how Mississippi River discharges water & deposits sediment could help delta restoration efforts
  • Challenges of keeping Mississippi River "in check" discussed at Louisiana coastal authority meeting
Events -
  • Washington DC free briefing on "Transatlantic Perspectives on Shale Gas Development;" June 21
  • Free Upcoming Webinar – "Clean Water Act Regulation Following Rapanos: Clear As Mud?" July 27 
  • Clean Water America Alliance Urban Waters Sustainability Leadership Conference; October 3-5; Milwaukee
  • Participatory workshop: Improving the Cost-effectiveness of Farm Bill Conservation Programs; Washington, DC July 20-21
e-Newsletters -
  • Horinko Group monthly newsletter includes water resources, climate change, Mississippi River & Farm Bill articles
Other news-
Political Scene -
  • Farm supports test some GOP freshmen-will they slash farm subsidies that they received themselves? 
  • Illinois state Sen. Mike Frerichs (D) has decided not to run for US Congress in redrawn 13th district
Last Word -
"This is not speculation; this is high school science.” - Paul Gilding, Australian environmentalist and entrepreneur, speaking of factors contributing to climate change in a new book entitled “The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World.”

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