Friday, March 16, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

EPA Sued Over Mississippi River Pollution and Associated Gulf of Mexico "Dead Zone"
On March 13, a coalition of environmental organizations filed two separate legal actions against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The lawsuits address nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorous) pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, and the associated, low-oxygen hypoxic zone or “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the lawsuits, challenges EPA’s denial of a 2008 petition asking EPA to establish numeric water quality limits (or standards) for and stream restoration plans relating to nitrogen and phosphorous pollution. A second lawsuit seeks to compel EPA to respond to a 2007 request (or "petition") that the agency update its wastewater treatment plant water quality standards to include provisions for the removal of nitrogen and phosphorous. For more details, including links to the two lawsuits and to over 20 related news releases and articles, see here.

Army Corps Developing Port and Inland Waterways Modernization Strategy - Comments Due by April 15
The Panama Canal expansion will almost triple the size of container vessels able to transit the canal. In anticipation of a projected 2014 completion of the canal expansion effort, on December 21, 2011, Congress directed the Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources (IWR) to submit a report by June 20, 2012 to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees “on how the Congress should address the critical need for additional port and inland waterway modernization to accommodate post-Panamax vessels.”

In response to that directive, the IWR is investigating the impacts of the Panama Canal expansion on future U.S. marine transportation system needs. Specifically, IWR is evaluating the costs associated with deepening and widening deep-draft harbors; ability of inland waterways and ports to enhance export initiatives benefiting the agricultural and manufacturing sectors; current and projected population trends that might predict regional port maintenance and expansion needs; availability of inland intermodal access; and environmental impacts resulting from the modernization.

The IWR study team will accept additional information and feedback through April 15 for consideration in its initial drafts of the strategy document. Interested persons can visit this U.S. Port and Inland Waterways Modernization Strategy web page for further information. 

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week
Agriculture -
  • New report on the "complex and dynamic local food systems in Minnesota" (PDF file)
  • USGS in Journal of Environmental Quality: herbicide atrazine poses little threat to rural groundwater  (PDF)
  • Much of 6.5M acres in USDA's conservation reserve program will likely return to cropland after Sept 30 CRP  expiration
  • USDA's ERS releases updated map on direct payments & possible role for federal farm program environmental compliance
  • USDA’s Economic Research Service releases “The Future of Environmental Compliance Incentives in U.S. Agriculture”
  • Construction starts on Iowa cellulosic ethanol plant and
  • Kane County Illinois Farm Bureau president: ethanol is responsible for holding corn prices up
  • GOP Presidential Candidate Romney's agriculture policy group is decidedly non-corn
  • Farmgateblog: Farmland an investment like any other and its value can erode over time-literally
  • Value of Iowa farmland continues to grow at an average annual rate of > 20%
Farm Bill-
  • Sen. Harkin (D-IA) hedges just a bit: "possibly a good chance" "outside chance"  "we could pass a farm bill this year"
  • Former NRCS official: we no longer have consensus that programs to support various agri commodities should be the same
  • Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE): If a Farm Bill passes the Senate, a bill will take place this year
  • Big city mayors send letter on Farm Bill priorities to House and Senate Ag Committee leaders (PDF file)
  • Commodity groups oppose linking conservation compliance to crop insurance but issue is missing from Farm Bill debate
  • 13 witnesses testify at Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on risk management/commodities and next Farm Bill
Water Quality -
  • EPA launches new nutrient pollution policy and data website for information on EPA & state nutrient control efforts
  • Chicago and the Gulf Dead Zone: NRDC Lawsuits Address Downstream Damage
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: Water pollution from agriculture costing $ billions/yr
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • Army Corps U.S. Port and Inland Waterways Modernization Strategy environmental issues meeting synopsis (PDF)
  • Two constructed Ohio wetlands, one planted & one left to nature, turn out the same after 15 years
  • Feast-or-famine rainfall in TX and Lower Mississippi River valley in line with broad climate change projections
  • Louisiana Legislature prepares to vote on restoration plan that would cut Army Corps levees
  • Mississippi River breaks through eastern bank at Bohemia Spillway (LA), creating natural diversion
  • Cost rising for massive Army Corps Ohio River Olmsted Dam project project
In the States -
  • Coal industry backs WV bill removing WV water pollution provision requiring compliance with all water quality standards
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • Senate passes bill to direct 80% of BP spill fines to improve Gulf Region environment & economy; similar to House-passed
Resource Extraction -
  • MN Public Radio "primer" on the costs and benefits of frac sand mining in WI and MN
  • Geologists say Iowa could be home to one of the world’s largest untapped pools of oil
  • Mailings to Ohio landowners from shale gas developers setting stage for Utica Shale leasing
Federal Budget -
  • Congressional Budget Office releases March baseline update: 10-yr deficit accumulated by 2022 will fall by $186 B
  • GOP likely to unveil budget plan next week to cut 2013 federal spending below level 2 parties negotiated in 2011
  • Free EPA Watershed Academy Webcast on Clean Water Act history and evolution; March 21, 1-3 PM EDT
  • March 26 DC EESI briefing: The Next Farm Bill: Conservation, Energy Security and Jobs with Biomass Crops?
  • Urban Water Sustainability Leadership Conference; Oct 15-17, Cincinnati, OH
  • Nebraska Concrete & Aggregates Assoc 1-day Pervious Seminar for April 26;  Omaha, NE (PDF registration form)
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • EDF's March 14 issue of Delta Dispatches is now available, with latest news on Gulf of Mexico coastal restoration
Other news-
  • Ecology and Evolution Journal article: Criteria for assessing climate change impacts on ecosystems
  • EPA proposes EVR-Wood Treating/Evangeline Refining Co site near Jennings, Acadia Parish, LA for superfund list
  • EPA adds Rogersville, MO Compass Plaza Well TCE Site to superfund list
  • Europe's water resources 'under pressure' - threatening Europe's economy, productivity and ecosystems
Political Scene - 
  • Former MN state senator Tarryl Clark (D) decides to run in Dem primary in hopes of facing Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8)
  • Moderate Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) faces hostile Tea Party in battle to keep Senate seat
Last Word
"We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap." - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

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