Friday, March 2, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Farm Bill Activity
There are quite a few links to Farm Bill-related activities throughout the week below on a variety of matters - - - a Senate Agriculture Committee conservation hearing, House Agriculture Committee plans for field hearings, Farm Bill priorities, position statements and letters from various players, and more. All of the news flowing from Capitol Hill is pointing to likely movement of a bill out of the Senate Agriculture Committee and on to the full Senate for its consideration sometime this spring.

Controversial St. Croix River Bridge Crossing Bill Passes House - Sent on to President
On March 1, the U.S. House approved the St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act (S. 1134) under a suspension of rules (339-80 roll call vote to suspend the rules and approve the resolution). The House approval follows the Senate's passage of the same measure by unanimous consent on January 23. The Obama Administration has neither overtly supported nor expressed its outright disapproval of the bill, so it is expected that the measure will be signed into law by the President. For more details on the bill and the surrounding controversy, please follow this link.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week 

Agriculture -
  • USDA to unveil new farmer incentives for enrolling new grass & wetland acres into conservation reserve program
  • Environmental Working Group releases its analysis of farm conservation compliance issues (PDF file)
  • Herb Kohl (D-WI) - Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chair - vows to support organic farming
  • Corn prices could fall 20% this year because of expanding production globally
  • Izaak Walton League of America video on crop insurance, farm conservation practices & conservation compliance
Farm Bill-
  • House Agriculture Committee Chair Lucas announces 2012 Farm Bill field hearings through March-April
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow moved up dates of last 2 farm bill hearings to move the bill more quickly
  • 643 groups send letter to Senate and House Agriculture Committee leaders in support of Farm Bill conservation programs
  • Four commodity farm groups issue statement supporting crop insurance; urging Congress to pass new farm bill in 2012
  • Several farm orgs write to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders to support Conservation Title supercommittee framework
  • New Congressional Research Service report on 2012 Farm Bill: “Previewing the Next Farm Bill” (PDF)
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) lists her top Farm Bill priorities in op-ed
  • Senate Agriculture Committee has scheduled March 14 hearing to discuss potential change to crop subsidy system
  • ND Governor Dalrymple stresses to USDA the importance of preserving strong crop insurance program
  • Commentary on "2012 Farm Bill: Conservation and the Environment"
  • Environmental Working Group report: early progress reducing farm soil erosion has slowed and in some cases reversed
  • News coverage of Tuesday's Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill conservation hearing:
Water Quality -
  • EPA Region 7 to hold Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Meeting; March 13; West Point, NE; details:
  • Welch, WV settles Clean Water Act violations - will eliminate combined sewer overflows (cost=$16 - $23M)
  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District: No tax hike needed to clean up Chicago River
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • Interior Department announces new "National Water Trails System" program to "promote healthy, accessible rivers"
  • ACS's J of Envirntl Sci & Technology report: 7 in 10 US counties at risk for fresh water shortages by mid-21st century
  • Army Corps begins "Port and Inland Waterways Modernization Study" (see related webinar under "Events')
In the States -
  • MN Pollution Control Agency seeks public comment on report re: Mississippi River's Fort Snelling-Lake Pepin stretch
  • Wisconsin governor signs legislation that loosens state rules on development in wetlands
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • New Missouri aquatic invasive species rules took effect on March 1 for use of waders in trout areas
  • Ohio adds more strict fish consumption advisory limits in 10 waterways; relaxes 4
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • Australian Broadcasting Corp story: Louisiana coastline "bears little sign" of BP oil well catastrophe
  • Pearl River (coastal LA) health reassessed after 2011 chemical discharge that killed thousands of fish
  • Ducks Unlimited comments on Louisiana's 2012 Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast
Resource extraction -
  • Globally, oil & gas industry expansion leading to large-scale "land grabbing" & threatening farming/water resources
  • Activists say TN  Scenic Vistas Protection Act will not stop mountaintop removal; Lt. Governor disagrees
  • MN DNR Stream Habitat Program schedules two 2012 Workshops; on dams & ditching; May & July (PDF of flier)
  • March 13 listening session/webinar scheduled for Army Corps' "Port and Inland Waterways Modernization Study"
  • White House to host conference on community-driven conservation; March 2; live streaming:
  • Registration open - 9th INTERCOL International Wetlands Conference; Orlando, FL; June 3-8; early bird rate thru Mar 16
  • Conference on economics of providing environmental services from agriculture; April 17-18; Resources for the Future, DC
  • Healthy Waters Initiative to Release Recommendations for Farm Bill Reauthorization; March 6; Washington DC
  • Webcast and DC seminar on Invasive Species: Impacts, Challenges, and Strategies for Management; March 7, 12:45 PM EST
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • February edition of the "Mississippi River Basin Update" is now available for reading or downloading online
  • Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study February newsletter (aquatic invasive species) (PDF)
  • Assoc. of State Flood Plain Managers Foundation Winter newsletter now available on-line
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers bimonthly "News & Views" - NOT the same as the above newsletter
Other news-
  • IA Governor Branstad elected Chair of the Midwestern Governors Association; sets forth agenda with heavy energy focus
  • Minnesota commission holds plan to build rural wind farm because of bat and bald eagle concerns
  • American Water Works Environmental Grant Program water grants available in 10 states (8 Mississippi River Basin states)
  • Historic maps available online & browseable by date range and geographic area [a terrific historic geo-research tool]
Political Scene -
  • Sen. Dick Lugar (D-IN) is facing his first serious political challenge to reelection in decades
  • US House races in IL heating up with less than a month until the state’s primary
  • IL's 16th District has one of "ugliest" redistricting US House races; pitting 2 sitting incumbents vs each other 
  • WI Governor Walker calls recall election targeting him a "distraction" & "frivolous"
  • Former Senator Bob Kerrey (D) makes comeback US (Nebraska) Senate bid official
Last Word
"Congress is becoming more like a parliamentary system — where everyone simply votes with their party and those in charge employ every possible tactic to block the other side." - U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), in a March 2, Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Why I'm Leaving." Well worth the read, by the way.

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