Friday, December 2, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Federal Money Matters
The time to finish a large Omnibus Federal spending bill before current spending authority ends on December 16 is quickly slipping away, and Congress did little this week to advance their efforts toward that end. Therefore, it's looking more and more likely that yet another Continuing Resolution (CR) will be necessary before Congress recesses for the holidays, with a CR running until February the scenario expected by many.

Farm Bill Status in Light of the Super Committee Failure
Discussions surrounding the next Farm Bill will almost by necessity start from those parts of the Farm Bill (and the $23 billion in Farm Bill cuts over 10 years) contemplated in the Agriculture Committee leadership’s proposal to the Super Committee (officially known as the “Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction"). The Super Committee announced on November 21 that would not be able to come up with a plan to make at least $1.2 trillion in targeted cuts to Federal program spending, and that not report legislative language to make those cuts to Congress (missing a November 23 target date set in the Budget Control Act of 2011). 
The failure of the Super Committee to meet its goals means that the Senate and House Agriculture Committees will now fall back to more “traditional” ways of moving a new Farm Bill through Congress.  Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said this week that she intends to push her Committee to mark up a Farm Bill in the early spring, 2012 and that she is shooting for 2012 passage. However, the window for passing a Farm Bill in 2012 will be narrow and the likelihood of that happening even more so, since political gridlock in the 2012 election year will be substantial (especially between Memorial Day and the November 6 general election). Nonetheless, the fiscal climate will not be much (if any) better in 2013. If anything, the combination of political and economic pressures following the 2012 election could potentially be worse from the standpoint of maintaining Farm Bill conservation funding.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week 
Agriculture -
  • 2012 likely to be a tipping point for conservation across Upper Midwest, including 300,000 acres in MN
  • Next generation opting to cash out of small, family-owned farms with land prices booming
  • Recent farmland auction near Elkhart, IN brought in over $11,000 an acre
  • UN completes 1st global assessment of planet’s land resources: land degraded; farm production must rise 70% by 2050
  • Op-ed on fertilizers vs organic-only approach; implications for resource availability, food production & pollution:
Farm Bill-
  • Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD)  meets with SD's agricultural leaders to hear their priorities for Farm Bill rewrite
Water Quality -
  • VW Gov. replaces 2 on WV Environmental Quality Board in battle with group over coal mining water quality standards
  • CONSOL Energy agrees in lawsuit settlement to clean up conductivity [water] pollution associated with WV valley fill
  • Two Illinois Cities Applauded For Green Infrastructure by Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Atrazine in water tied to menstrual issues; low hormones (frequent in surface & ground water in farmland US Midwest)
  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to finally disinfect sewage entering Chicago River
  • EPA awards $485,000 to St. Joseph, MO for improvements to its combined sewer system
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • KY residents seek compensation for flood damages in lawsuit filed vs 9 mining companies (for lack of natural drainage)
  • Federal appeals court rejects most claims against Army Corps decision to permit major development in FL wetlands
  • NY Times: After Floods, Debate Over Missouri River Rolls On [editor's note: Excellent article]
  • @RiverLifeUMN blog coverage of November's TNC-Army Corps Fifth National Partnership Conference
  • Highlights & Action Items from Upper Miss River Basin Assoc Nov. 16 EMP-CC meeting available as PDF:
  • House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee 11/30 hearing on Army Corps-Missouri River flooding; testimony here:
  • Lawmakers at hearing blame Army Corps for Missouri River flood damages; demand levee rebuilds & policy changes
In the States -
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Pesticide-resistant corn & soybeans in US Midwest make Monarch Butterfly trip south rough
  • Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MN) may usurp MN DNR's invasive species role; citing critical importance of issue
Federal Budget -
  • Minibus funding bill Congress passed Nov. 17 included at least 75 policy riders; many re: USDA programs
  • Congressional Stage set for a contentious December,  with budget at forefront
  • Over coming weeks, Congress will strive to perform a basic function: funding the government
  • Sen. Majority Leader Reid: it's "fantasy" to expect further compromise on appropriations caps enacted last summer
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • Gulf Task Force defines need but not answers re: how many billions it will cost to fix Gulf; where money will come from
  • RT @EDF_Louisiana: EDF's new Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign website
  • Louisiana parish declares emergency as saltwater intrudes into freshwater Mermentau Basin
  • Gulf Restoration Network: public needs to be more involved in determining how to spend BP $1B oil spill damage money
Resource extraction -
Events -
  • North American Surface Water Quality Conference & Exposition: StormCon; Aug 19-23; Denver, CO (call for abstracts open)
  • Call for abstracts now open: INTECOL International Wetlands Conference; Orlando, FL; June 3-8, 2012
  • 44th annual Mississippi River Research Consortium, April 26-27, 2012 at the Radisson in La Crosse, WI
  • Videos of presentations from United Nations International Water Forum now online
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • November Update (PDF file) from the Northeast-Midwest Institute on Mississippi River Basin issues:
Other news-
  • Delegates from 194 nations gather today in Durban, South Africa to try to advance world’s climate change response
  • UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Climate change will make drought & flooding events more frequent
  • New book from MIT Press "Collaborative Resilience: Moving Through Crisis to Opportunity” (as a collaborative community)
  • Op-ed argument vs. unsustainable growth: "growth beyond sufficiency loses its power to increase welfare"
  • Northeast-Midwest Institute Position Available “Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative” Project Lead
  • Northeast-Midwest Institute Position Available “Water information Supply” Project Lead (in collaboration with USGS)
  • Research: Changes in plant community composition lag behind climate warming in lowland forests
Political Scene -
  • Rep. Joe Walsh may switch races to run in IL 8th district to avoid 2013 GOP primary vs. Rep. Hultgren
  • Effort to force recall election of WI Gov. Walker (R) is on track to get well more than required # of signatures
  • Rookie lawmakers have less faith than ever in ability to force big changes in Washington ["Welcome to the Machine"]
  • Missouri congressional candidate Ed Martin (R) is considering switching to the state’s governor’s race
Last Words -
"I'm ashamed." - Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), in a Face the Nation interview, on how Congress has conducted its business.
Can I scream?” Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-at large), a North Dakota freshman lawmaker, expressing his frustration over an inability to generate significant change within the halls of Congress.

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