Friday, May 18, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

FEMA to Evaluate Potential Modifications to National Flood Insurance Program - Solicits Public Comment
The Federal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA") announced in the May 16 Federal Register that it intends to prepare what it calls a "Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement" on modifications it is proposing to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Specifically, FEMA is considering NFIP modifications that could potentially impact, FEMA indicates, "environmental and historic preservation considerations including but not limited to climate change, and the impacts of the program on endangered and threatened species and critical habitat." The changes being considered by FEMA would result in modification of the following NFIP elements:
  1. Elevation standards for new construction would be increased, 
  2. Floodplain management standards for critical facilities would be changed, 
  3. Restrictions on floodway development would be strengthened, 
  4. Future conditions and residual risk in floodplain management would be integrated, 
  5. Fill in floodplains would be discouraged, and 
  6. The impacts of floodplain development on the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains to include endangered and threatened species would be taken into account. 
You can read more details, and find instructions for submitting public comments on the changes being considered, here.

National Flood Insurance Program Extension Bill Passed by the House
In other action related to the NFIP, on May 17, the House passed the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act (HR 5740), which would extend NFIP authority one additional month, from May 31, 2012 when it is currently set to expire, until June 30.  The bill (introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13)) would also require FEMA and the Comptroller General to each conduct a study to assess "options, methods, and strategies for privatizing the national flood insurance program," and "for offering voluntary community-based flood insurance policy options."

Such a one-month extension would arguably give the Senate additional time, as it continues to consider whether to move forward with a five-year flood insurance program reform approach being advocated by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), whose efforts have largely stalled in the Senate (see our earlier article on Senate NFIP action here).  He and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) have co-sponsored a simple, short-term NFIP extension bill (S. 2344) that would reauthorize the program through the end of 2012, providing Congress breathing room to work on a long-term reauthorization bill.  No action has been scheduled on that bill in the Senate, although with that chamber scheduled to recess for the Memorial Day week, some Senate movement to extend NFIP authority is anticipated next week. Vitter has hinted that he will attempt to amend his NFIP five-year reauthorization and reform plan into legislation scheduled for debate next week in the Senate on U.S. Food and Drug Administration user fees.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Agriculture -
  • Farmland values rise with crop prices according to KC Fed Agricultural Credit Survey
  • Frequent Floods Force Farmers to Rethink Age-Old Practices
  • Current farming practices  need to be altered to "stop the rampant spread of 'super weeds'"
  • NRCS Agriculture Water Enhancement Program funding available for Minnesota farmers & landowners
Farm Bill-
  • You can send the House Ag committee your Farm Bill ideas at this link (half way down this page) deadline May 20!
  • Bipartisan group of 44 senators' letter to Senate leaders calls for Farm Bill consideration on floor ASAP
  • Sen. Stabenow: Senate Majority Leader Reid committed to bringing farm bill up on Senate floor & doing so in short order
  • Denver Post op-ed:  "Looking for a bright spot in the U.S. economy? The farm belt is it." No Federal subsidies  needed.
  • Appears to be little interest in Senate in adding conservation compliance provision to Farm Bill; even less in House
  • Lawmakers unlikely to limit crop insurance subsidies or tie them to conservation
  • National Corn Growers Association, others, send letter to House Ag leaders stressing importance of crop insurance
  • Prairie Rivers Network op-ed in Chicago Tribune on Farm Bill conservation compliance:
  • Hunting and angling groups tell House Agriculture Committee leaders to adopt a strong Farm Bill sodsaver provision
  • Sens. Coburn (R-OK) & Durbin (D-IL) to offer Senate farm bill  amendment to cap crop insurance subsidies; 1/2 way into:
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee holds 2-day Farm Bill hearing on crop insurance; testimony: &
  • Farm Bill commodity debate to likely result in House-Senate conference committee reconciliation later down the road
Water Quality -
  • Agricultural Retailers Association: Potential Implications Of The Mississippi River Basin Nutrient Criteria Lawsuit
  • Agricultural Retailers Association Regulatory Update: "A Pollution Diet for the Gulf of Mexico?"
  • USF study: Common fungicide wreaks havoc on freshwater ecosystems e! Science News
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • New Natural Resources Defense Council/Rocky Mountain Climate Org report says Midwest floods are increasing
  • FEMA to prepare Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on proposed National Flood Insurance Program changes
  • 2012 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers released; includes Missouri & Kansas Rivers in Mississippi basin
  • New RFF report on water resource management: "Managing Water: Governance Innovations to Enhance Coordination"
  • Hydroelectric company abandons plans for five plants on the Upper Mississippi River
  • Army Corps to allow free use of Missouri River water with permits to oil drillers and other industrial users
  • Rep. Noem introduces bill to require Army Corps to do better at notifying public of high Missouri River flows
  • National environmental group ranks Missouri River as 1 of 10 US rivers facing significant policy decisions in next year
  • The Guardian: American rivers under threat - interactive map
  • House votes to extend National Flood Insurance Program until 6/30/12; bill:  (news article:
In the States -
  • MN 2012 Legislature "long on rhetoric and short on results"
  • Judge effectively upholds MN's existing sulfate water quality standard in rivers and lakes holding wild rice beds
  • Ohio Senate approves horizontal drilling rules; Critics say bill ignores disposal of fracking wastewater
Forestry -
  • New MN Forest Resources Council factsheet provides overview of guidelines for responsible forest biomass harvesting
  • WI 100 sq mile forest conservation deal sets size record; straddles 4 counties & Great Lakes & Mississippi River basins
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Map of Life goes live: interactive  online mapping tool streamlines global species diversity and distribution
  • MSNBC: Report: Global biodiversity down 30 percent in 40 years
  • Biologists puzzled about why large cormorant flocks suddenly disappeared from twin city area's 2nd-largest lake (MN)
Gulf Coastal Area-
  • Louisiana House Committee unanimously approves 2012 Coastal Louisiana Master Plan
Resource Extraction -
Federal Budget -
  • House Speaker Boehner announcement signals that Republicans are prepared for end-of-year fiscal brinkmanship
  • Senate formally rejects President's $3.8 trillion FY 2013 budget request, along with series of GOP alternatives
  • House Republicans working on plan aimed at lifting House ban on earmarks early next year
  • Water Infrastructure Summit: "Building a 21st Century Smart Water Infrastructure," May 18,  Washington, DC  ($200)
  • Course Registration Open: Implementing Green Infrastructure at Multiple Scales; July 16-19, Shepherdstown, WV ($175)
  • Registration open for 6th National Conference & Expo on Coastal & Estuarine Habitat Restoration, Oct 20-25, Tampa FL
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • The Horinko Group's latest sustainability e-newsletter:
  • River Action's quarterly publication on river happenings on the Mississippi in the greater Quad Cities area
  • EDF's latest edition of "Delta Dispatches" is online with latest news on Coastal Louisiana restoration -
Other news-
  • The world is not enough: soon people will need three planet Earths to sustain current consumption rates
  • Globally, water policy needs 'radical' change to protect people and environment
Political Scene -
  • Freshman Rep. Landry will face off vs 4-term Rep. Boustany in Louisiana's GOP primary for redrawn 3rd US House district
  • NE state Sen. Deb Fischer pulls upset in GOP US Senate primary; now favorite in general election &
  • Public Policy Polling shows WI Gov. Walker (R) up five points in his recall election (3rd question down)
  • Fargo Forum poll shows Rep. Berg (R-ND) leading former Attorney General Heitkamp (D) 51 to 44% in ND open Senate race
Last Word - "The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell, English philosopher, mathematician and Nobel Prize recipient, who was born on this date in 1872.

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