Friday, December 16, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week - Final 2011 Edition

NRCS to Hold Briefing on Mississippi River Basin Healthy Waters Initiative and Related RFP
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has scheduled a December 22, 10 AM (Eastern) meeting to update conservation and agricultural partners on the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Waters Initiative (MRBI). The briefing has been timed to coincide with the publication of the next MRBI Request for Proposals (RFP) (to be published in the Federal Register the week of December 19).  Interested parties can attend in person, or connect remotely by telephone and internet. Read details here.

GAO: Actions Needed to Resolve  Mississippi River Training Structures' Environmental and Flooding Concerns
In a December 9 report, the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that Army Corps of Engineers' Middle Mississippi River projects have not always complied with all environmental requirements, and may in the long run have destroyed habitat and worsened flooding along the River. Here is a link to the GAO report summary web page, which includes links to the full report and a report highlights' sheet.  The GAO prepared the report at the request of Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-NY-1), Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL-11) Ranking Member of the T&I Subcommittee on Aviation.

CRS and USDA Provide Comprehensive Overviews of Conservation and Other Farm Bill Programs
On November 30, the Congressional Research Service published a new guide to Agricultural Conservation Programs managed by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Entitled "Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs," the report provides an overview of 22 NRCS and FSA programs available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands (download or view the Guide as a PDF file here).  On a related note, the USDA's Economic Research Service on December 15 released its “Farm Program Atlas,” an on-line resource designed to provide "access to an array of public data on Federal farm programs that will allow users to visually explore a core component of U.S. agricultural policy." The reports should prove to be valuable resources over the upcoming months, as Congress considers changes to and consolidation of many of those programs during its Farm Bill discussions.

Highly-Anticipated Revised National Nutrient Management Standard Issued by USDA
On December 13, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) revised its national conservation practice standard on nutrient management, and released the long-anticipated revised standard ("Standard 590"), along with an accompanying general National Nutrient Management Policy manual and National Instruction.  In a summary accompanying the standard's release, NRCS said that it is the intent of the "national conservation practice standard on nutrient management to help producers better manage the application of nutrients on agricultural land," while protecting and improving "ground and surface water, air quality, soil quality and agricultural sustainability."  You can read more details, and find links to the relevant standard documents, here).

Congress to Pass Megabus Federal Spending Bill Today; Cuts EPA Significantly; Provides Army Corps Flood Reconstruction Money
Last evening members of a joint Senate-House Conference Committee agreed to the provisions of a massive ($1 trillion) Federal appropriations ("megabus") bill that, when approved by Congress and signed by the President later Friday, will fund the Federal government through the remainder of the 2012 Fiscal Year. The megabus is the same as the 1,219-page Consolidated Appropriations bill package posted late Wednesday night by House appropriators, with the exception of two changes in provisions related to relationships with Cuba and the funding level for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. For an updated summary of the three-bill package, you can visit here (PDF file). For additional details, including a summary packet and links to the legislation, visit this House Appropriations Committee web site. 

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week
Agriculture -
  • NPR: Putting farmland on a fertilizer diet: USDA's new national nutrient management standard
  • Midwestern farmers may see steep increases in crop insurance premiums because flood-damaged levees not repaired
  • US farmers enjoying best run in decades due to high crop, land & livestock prices & demand for corn used to make ethanol
  • High commodity prices and harsh winters threaten Conservation Reserve Program, habitats and wildlife in farm belt
  • Battle over elimination of ethanol subsidies goes down to last minute as stakeholders vie for congressional attention
Farm Bill-
Water Quality -
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • Senate testimony calls for fundamental changes to US water policy
  • $1.6 million Army Corps study looks for ways to restore lost wildlife & plant habitat along lower Mississippi River
  • GAO: Army Corps Actions Needed to Resolve Environmental & Flooding Concerns in Middle Mississippi River
  • Corps cuts flow from Missouri River Gavins Point Dam to increase later flood storage capacity downstream
  • Dredged material from Army Corps Mississippi River channel project expected to form new island, but no one knows where
  • Federal Claims court trial opens in shipping canal & Army Corps rolls in Katrina flooding
  • Army Corps of Engineers short on levee-repair money after Missouri River flooding
  • FEMA $1.6 M grant to Winnebago Co, IL for acquisition/removal of  homes repeatedly damaged by Rock River flooding
In the States -
  • Louisiana is one of worst states in country at enforcing environmental laws, EPA Inspector General finds (see related link below in "Other News")
  • KY environmentalists ask court to vacate Clean Water Act settlement btw KY Energy & Environment Cabinet & coal company
  • EPA and IA DNR want 4 cities to fix stormwater problems before renewing wastewater treatment plant permit
  • IL Dept of Ag approves hog farm construction although county board advised denial due to water resource concerns
  • Coalition of MO environmental groups urges National Park Service to strengthen Jacks Fork and Current Rivers management &
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Coalition of  Minnesota conservation groups: Close Mississippi River Ford Dam lock to keep Asian Carp out
  • Kentucky assigns four-mile “Outstanding State Resource Water” Ohio River area to protect endangered mussels
  • Minnesota sees new setback in fight against invasive Asian carp
Federal Budget -
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • Officials release first round of BP oil spill Gulf restoration project proposals (totaling $57 million)
Resource extraction -
  • Horinko Group Webinar: Family Farms, Rural Landscapes, and the Farm Bill  January 18, 1:30 PM EST
  • USDA's Agricultural Outlook Forum 2012 - Moving Agriculture Forward; February 23-24; Arlington, VA
  • NRCS December 22 Briefing on Mississippi River Basin Healthy Waters Initiative & Related RFP (phone call-in available)
  • 2 free upcoming Farm Bill webinars: Conservation: Dec 16, 11 am; Local & Regional Food Systems: Dec 19, 11 am
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
Political Scene -
Last Word - We leave this year's final "Last Word" to Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a/k/a Mark Twain), who reminds us that "The Mississippi River will always have its own way. No engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise." And what better way to illustrate Clemens' 1866 wisdom than with this 2011 aerial view of some of the homes inundated within the Mississippi River's floodplain last spring and summer (these near Vicksburg, Mississippi on May 23).

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