Friday, January 20, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

New "Regulatory Certainty" Strategy to be Piloted in Minnesota
On January 17, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, together with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, announced a new program to be piloted in Minnesota to increase voluntary use of farm conservation practices that mitigate nutrient runoff and soil erosion.  According to an accompanying USDA news release, the USDA and EPA will "offer support to Minnesota in developing its certainty process for water quality improvements on private agricultural lands and eligible tribal lands in high priority watersheds. While this idea is new to protection of water quality, 'certainty agreements' have been successful for encouraging private landowners to conserve wildlife habitat."

The program is part of a wider federal strategy that in would effectively give farmers "certainty" with respect to water quality regulations if they voluntarily choose to put land conservation practices in place for the benefit of improved water quality. Agricultural producers who implement a significant degree of conservation practices to reduce nutrient run-off and erosion would receive assurance (or "certainty") from Minnesota that their farms will meet the state's water quality standards and goals throughout the duration of the certainty agreement.  Program details, and links to relevant press releases, reactions and related federal initiatives, can be found here.   Additional news coverage of the announcement is provided under the "Agriculture" section, below.
Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Agriculture -
  • USDA: $10 million in funds available to enhance water quality credit trading effectiveness; seeks project proposals
  • Novel "regulatory certainty" strategy to reduce farm erosion nutrient runoff will be tested starting in MN
  • Details yet to be worked out for newly announced MN-USDA-EPA program to protect water quality
  • Op-ed: How Iowans manage land leaving Conservation Reserve Program is critical to maintaining past conservation gains
  • Biofuel companies account for >50% of top 50 recipients of IA state tax credits & incentives
  • Ohio farms are flush with manure; and right now the conditions are far from good
  • Sustainable Ag conference topic: Microbe-based soil enhancer promises higher crop yields & reduced fertilizer need
  • Big-city mayors are starting to see local food policy as key in getting healthy, affordable food to their constituents
Farm Bill-
  • Great Waters Coalition to host January 25 informational conference call on Farm Bill reauthorization
  • Many farm policy experts are predicting a highly contentious debate on the 2012 Farm Bill
  • Sen. Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow: Upcoming debate in Congress over 2012 Farm Bill likely to be difficult
  • As GOP maps strategy, farm bill reauthorization in 2012 likely to get caught up in fight over how to pay for programs
  • Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) is committed to passing a Farm Bill in 2012 but admits that may not happen
  • Rep Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3): "a year from now we will be will living with a Farm Bill extension" (not a new bill)
  • Sen. John Thune (R-SD) doubts any real headway will be made towards writing a new farm bill this session
Water Quality -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency adding another 500 lakes & stretches of river to its list of impaired waters
  • USDA: $10 million in funds available to enhance water quality credit trading effectiveness; seeks project proposals
  • Op-ed: gutting the Clean Water Act won't revive the economy
  • Environmental Integrity Project: toxics in wastes going into coal ash disposal ponds is increasing
  • New law clinic at West Virginia University to focus on the New and Gauley river watersheds
  • EPA adds updated USGS SPARROW data to its nitrogen & phosphorus pollution data access tool
  • Enviro group fears US congressional letter to EPA is step backwards in  efforts to maintain OK river's water quality
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division prepares for 2012 flood season
  • Army Corps of Engineers releases its 2012 Missouri River management plan with little additional flood storage space
  • FEMA faces criticism for increasing risky development behind levees (PDF file)
  • Army Corps of Engineers gets busy on Mississippi Rive flood control projects as river levels drop 
In the States -
  • OHEPA called overreaching, unreasonable, ludicrous, unfair, hypocritical & secretive at water quality standards meeting
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Reintroduction of whooping cranes in LA conservation ares undergoes rough 1st year as only 3 of 10 juveniles survive
Resource extraction -
  • IL county board agrees to allow sand mine adjacent to Starved Rock State Park (Illinois River)
  • USEPA: Soon-to-be largest coal mine in eastern US isn't regulated enough
  • US State Dept official announcement rejecting Keystone XL pipeline:
  • Webinar on EPA's 2012 Draft Recreational Water Quality Criteria; January 25, 1-3 pm EST
  • Great Waters Coalition January 25 informational conference call on Farm Bill reauthorization
Political Scene -
Last Word - “If you think this is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”  U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) describing the highly partisan state of the U.S. Congress, adding that the bar has been set so low that “even a hard-charging, fast-digging mole” couldn’t find it.

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