Friday, July 20, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Drought, and its Real and Political Ramifications
The chronic drought took center stage this week, not only geographically in the nation's midsection, but also on the front pages of U.S. newspapers and magazines, in the hallowed Congressional halls on Capitol Hill and inside White House offices.  The July 17, U.S. Drought Monitor map showed increases in the area of the United States in all categories of drought, setting a record for the third consecutive week for the total area of the country in drought during the 12-year history of the map.  Here is the section of the drought monitor map for the Upper Mississippi River Basin and here the lower River Basin.  The drought shows no signs of releasing its grip any time soon.  The latest outlook released by the National Weather Service on Thursday forecasts increasingly dry conditions over much of the nation’s midsection. The drought not only has had impacts on the ground in the Mississippi River region (affecting crops, groundwater supplies and river navigation), it is being cited in the halls of the U.S. Congress as another reason to expeditiously pass a Farm Bill before the current bill's September 30 expiration date (an argument unlikely to sway Republican House leaders, who view the bill as too divisive to bring to the floor before the November general election).  From a commodity crop standpoint, alone, 88 percent of corn and 87 percent of soybean crops in the country are now in drought-stricken regions.

More details on all of these drought-related matters can be found in the various articles listed in the special "Drought" section, immediately below, including links to on-line resources for producers impacted by the drought provided by the Iowa State University Extension and Kansas State University.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week


  • Farm bill & drought offer striking example of disconnect between Washington and rest of country
  • ~ 55% of continental US now in moderate drought or worse & >1000 counties in 26 states declared natural-disaster areas
  • Corn and soybean prices leap to record levels on rising Midwest drought fears
  • Analysis of NASA satellite imagery: drought damage to US crops centered on MO, AR, OK, TX, KS, NE and SD
  • Amid drought NE orders >1100 farmers to stop irrigating; KS orders >200 land owners to stop taking H2O from 10 streams
  • picture of pitiful ear of corn from East Central IL field representative of how crop looks throughout area
  • Photo gallery: how drought is ravaging land, crop yields, and farmers’ livelihoods across Midwest
  • 2012 Midwest drought rivals that of the Dust Bowl
  • Low Water Levels On The Mississippi River A Major Threat To Commerce
  • Drought expands to previously-spared northern & western Midwest; analysts slashing corn yield estimates "by the hour "
  • Central US drought disrupts Mississippi River barge traffic from Cairo, IL to Natchez, MS
  • National Drought Mitigation Center: 2/3 of IL at least in a severe drought, and ~9% in an extreme drought or worse
  • Endless summer: US leads world in resource consumption, pollutant production & unwillingness to do anything about it
  • Iowa State U Extension and Kansas State U provide online resources for drought-plagued producers

Farm Bill-

  • House Republicans pressure House Speaker Boehner to bring up farm bill for floor consideration
  • 46 organizations ask House Leadership for floor time for the Farm Bill in a letter (PDF of letter)
  • House Speaker Boehner "less than enthusiastic" about bringing Farm Bill up for a floor vote
  • Sen McCaskill (D-MO) calls on House to quickly pass Farm Bill as does Senate Ag Committee Chair
  • Senate Ag Committee Chair Stabenow: drought raises bar on Congress to get farm bill done; reinstall expired disaster programs
  • New York Times editorial board: “House Agriculture Committee has approved an unconscionable farm bill"
  • Mississippi River Network calls  on Congress to pass a Farm Bill this year that protects Mississippi River (Word doc)
  • Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts backs House version of Farm Bill despite its conservation cuts

Agriculture -

  • Studies highlight critical role farm conservation programs play in protecting; restoring nation’s environmental health
  • USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack commentary: "Conserving and restoring America’s natural resources"
  • Financial Times Online: “Is the world on the brink of another food crisis?"
  • Washington Post editorial: “any notion that farming is a precarious, hardscrabble business . . . absurd”
  • EPA withdraws controversial proposal to collect information about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
  • The Nation: Whose side is the American Farm Bureau on: agribusiness or small family farmers?
  • Corn prices push above $8 a bushel for the first time ever, as world starts to face shortage

Water Quality -

  • Arkansas attorney general seeks to intervene in Mississippi River nutrient lawsuit against EPA
  • Kansas attorney general ALSO seeks to intervene in Mississippi River nutrient lawsuit against EPA
  • EPA's Missouri list of impaired water bodies released for comment
  • Kentucky clean water mine case nears resolution
  • EPA: IA animal feeding operations' failure to comply with clean water rules gave them $$ advantage over competitors
  • OH company pleads guilty to criminal violations of Clean Water Act re: coal-wastewater spills into a SE OH stream
  • Environmental group settles with mining company over water pollution problem in northeast Knox County, TN
  • Environmental groups sue over Se pollution from WV mountaintop mining, claiming Clean Water Act violation and
  • TN Clean Water Network; State/Federal governments announce Clean Water Act agreement w/ City Of Chattanooga, TN &
  • EPA highlights innovative green infrastructure, water & energy approaches using Clean Water State Revolving Fund
  • EPA awards $30,000 in Green Infrastructure water grants to Neosho, MO $70,000 to Omaha, NE

Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, etc.) -

  • Army Corps urged to address Missouri River sandbars; other flow constrictions ahead of next winter & potential floods
  • Mississippi River Commission to make annual Low-Water Inspection; hold public meetings at 7 River locations in August
  • House floor vote canceled on contentious ND levee bill indicating that it likely didn't have votes to pass
  • Sen. Hoeven (R-ND) to 'educate people' before refloating canceled House vote on controversial ND levees bill
  • Assoc of State Floodplain Managers & R Street Institute had opposed levee bill seeking ND carve out
  • Peabody Energy selects Houston & New Orleans as primary ports for shipping West & Midwest coal to international markets

In the States -

  • EPA: Iowa must fix regulation of livestock farms; given 60 days to come up with plan

Gulf Coastal Region-

  • Environmental groups lay out guidelines and project portfolio for restoration and recovery of Gulf Coast ecosystem
  • Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority criticizes Coast Guard for prematurely allowing BP to pull its cleanup teams

Resource Extraction -

  • North Dakota landowners/towns discover down sides of oil boom to rural lifestyle, environment and economy

Federal Budget -

  • Frenzy over Federal budget sequester hits Capitol Hill; partisan sparring escalates
  • Fearing shutdown showdown, House Republican leaders want to pass 3-month stopgap funding bill in early Sept
  • GOP lawmakers now say they could settle for stopgap spending bill to fund government at current levels into early 2013


  • Mississippi River Commission to make annual Low-Water Inspection; hold public meetings at 7 River locations in August
  • EPA Water Quality Standards Virtual Academy Webinar: Water Quality Standards 101; Oct 4, 1 PM Eastern
  • Reminder: Submit a dedicated 2013 National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration session proposal by July 27
  • Call for abstracts: 8th IAHS International Groundwater Quality Conference (GQ13); deadline Oct 15
  • 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration; Madison WI; Oct 6-11, 2013; (PDF file)
  • Webinar: The Clean Water Act, EPA Regulation, and the Future of Farming; July 24; noon-1 PM EDT

e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -

  • The July 13 Issue of "Delta Dispatches" with the latest news on Coastal Louisiana restoration, is now available here:
  • Quarterly Newsletter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (PDF file) with a global perspective on restoration

Other news-

  • House GOP setting up vote next week on bill to freeze major federal regulations until unemployment reaches 6%
  • Term "smart growth" viewed as demeaning to those who don't embrace it wholeheartedly
  • U of MN professor: Finding common ground can keep environmental discussions from degrading into diatribe

Political Scene - 

Last Word 
"They have smiled at me and that’s kind of where we are." - House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK), when responding to reporter questions about whether House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)  and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have discussed with Lucas the scheduling of floor time for the House Farm Bill.  Lucas added that lawmakers might gain greater enthusiasm for the Farm Bill after spending the August recess visiting with constituents in drought-affected districts.

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