Friday, June 1, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act Passed by Congress
On Wednesday (May 30) the House voted to pass H.R.5740, the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act, by a voice vote, concurring with last week's Senate action, and sending the measure on to the President for his signature. The bill extends the authority of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) from May 31 until July 31, 2012. The NFIP had been slated to expire Thursday, May 31, and the extension gives Congress two more months in its years-long process of deciding on a long-term reauthorization and reform strategy for the debt-burdened NFIP; a program that provides insurance for homes and businesses in areas subject to flooding.

EPA Agrees in Lawsuit Filing That Mississippi River Nutrient Pollution Leads to Gulf Dead Zone
On May 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a response in the U.S. District Court - Eastern District of Louisiana, formally answering statements made in an amended March 13 complaint by a group of environmental organizations against the EPA related to nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, and the associated Gulf of Mexico “dead zone.” The legal filing, although largely non-distinctive and a necessary formality within U.S. District Court civil lawsuit proceedings, did contain one noteworthy admission by EPA. Specifically, the agency agreed in the court filing with the environmental groups' claim in the March 13 complaint "that nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and northern Gulf of Mexico causes or contributes to a low-oxygen “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico; that such pollution degrades and impairs water quality; and that such pollution harms aquatic life, human health, and the economic, aesthetic, and recreational values of rivers, lakes, streams, estuaries, and coastal waters."  For detailed background on this and another related lawsuit, see our earlier blog report here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Agriculture -
  • Opinion piece on farming and soil erosion in Iowa (in “Riot of soil erosion brings shame"
  • Mississippi Delta's farmers battle to keep nutrients in place and out of the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico
  • Midwest cattle operations complain that government (EPA) aerial reconnaissance is "spying"
  • Soil & Water Conservation District - conservation declining as farmers seek to increase productivity (Steele County, MN)
Farm Bill-
Water Quality -
  • EPA agrees in court filing: high Mississippi River nutrients lead to Gulf Dead Zone; degrade aquatic life, human health
  • KC, MO starts $2.5 billion program to stop sewage and stormwater pollution from flowing into rivers and streams
  • Wisconsin railroad fined for water and wetland violations associated with new track laying project
  • Large spill into St. Croix River from sand mining operation remains subject of intense state and federal scrutiny
  • Two Texas companies to pay >$1 million penalty for  Iowa, Kansas & Nebraska spills (re: Clean Water Act violations)
  • MN city and conservation leaders: farmers contribute most pollution to state waters; do too little to prevent or fix it (two other related story links below, under "In the States")
  • Rate of sewage leaking from Wichita sewage treatment plant into Arkansas River is slowed; water quality improving
  • Little Blue Regional Action Group plans lawsuit against huge coal-ash impoundment on West Virginia-Pennsylvania border
  • BEEF Magazine opinion piece: "The Struggle Over The Mississippi River Basin" - "a (regulatory) storm is brewing"
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -
  • National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act passed by Congress; extends program 60 days while congress mulls reform
  • Missouri River Flood Task Force completes 8 month effort on near & long-term Missouri River Basin recovery
  • Study: Southern Great Plains (Ogallala aquifer) could run out of groundwater in 30 years
  • USGS details effects of climate change on water availability in Black Earth Creek Basin, WI
  • USGS details effects of climate change on water availability in Clear Creek Basin, Iowa
In the States -
  • TN Clean Water Network raises conflict of interest issues in case involving violations of state’s clean water act
  • Minnesota cities call for tougher river sediment controls by state on farmers and
  • Illinois Attorney General files lawsuit against Wood River Refinery for contaminating ground water (Roxana, IL)
Forestry -
  • Many fire-starved Eastern US forests are undergoing rapid shift in character: from WI to FL; AR to ME
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • USFS-USGS study surveys National Wildlife Refuge visitors to help inform future refuge planning & programming
  • Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012 (H.R. 5864) introduced  in US House yesterday
Federal Budget -
  • "Cracks are emerging" in Republican hard-line stance against raising taxes to cut Federal deficit
  • Friday: US House is scheduled to take up Energy & Water 2013 appropriations bill (DOE and Army Corps civil works)
  • Save the date: Annual Upper Mississippi River Conference-Sept. 26-28; Stoney Creek Inn & WUI Riverfront Campus, Moline
  • EcoSummit 2012: Ecological Sustainability: Restoring the Planet’s Ecosystem Services; 9/30-10/5; Columbus OH
  • For my Washington DC friends: 2012 FRESHFARM Markets Farmland Feast, featuring Chesapeake Bay farmers-producers; Nov 12
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
  • Interesting Der Spiegel perspective: "Green Veneer" - many WWF "activities benefit industry more than the environment"
  • Perry, IA gets $400,000 in brownfields funding to clean up former rail yard; turn into trailhead and green space
  • Dubuque, IA cuts ribbon for Millwork District revitalization, realizes its potential as a sustainable community
Political Scene - 
  • Dems search for someone to face GOP when their nominee for seat of retiring Rep. Costello (D-IL-12) suddenly drops out
  • US Rep. Schilling (R-IL-17) internal poll shows him up by 16% over Cheri Bustos (D) in traditionally Dem district
  • Missouri Gov. Nixon (D) leads by double digits over either of 2 possible GOP challengers in new poll

Last Word - "It is hard to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get a bill passed." - House Speaker  John Boehner (R-OH-8) in an ABC “This Week” interview, when asked about the internal GOP criticism of his leadership style.

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