Friday, September 7, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

USDA Awards Nearly $11 Million for 26 Mississippi River Basin Conservation Projects
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced its 2012 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) awards, with more than $26 million in funding awarded to 59 agriculture and conservation institutions, foundations and businesses in 47 states (see this media release). The grant awards included nearly $11 million in funding for 26 projects focusing on the Mississippi River Basin, as detailed in a Mississippi River Basin-specific award list available as a PDF file here.

USDA Conservation Effects Survey to Have Des Moines River Basin Focus

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) 2012 National Resources Inventory (NRI) – Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) survey will focus on a Mississippi River Basin nutrient loading "hot spot," collecting information from agricultural producers in the Des Moines River Basin (Iowa and Minnesota) about farming and conservation practices on cultivated cropland (it also collected information in the Western Lake Erie Basin). The Des Moines River Basin effort will specifically look at the Basin's Boone River and Raccoon River subwatersheds, which were identified as particularly problematic from a nutrient loading standpoint in a July 2012 Upper Mississippi River Basin report. National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) representatives will visit 956 farms in the Des Moines River Basin (with a Boone and Raccoon watershed focus), from August 2012 through January 2013, to collect information about on-farm conservation practices. The information from the project will be used by the USDA to obtain a "current accounting of the environmental impacts of conservation practices in these areas," according tho the NASS. For more on the NRI CEAP project, see this USDA web site.

USDA Offering Conservation Innovation Grant Drought Funding
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering Fiscal Year 2013 targeted Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) "drought" funding for projects that might demonstrate or enhance agricultural system resilience to the effects of drought, and evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought. The proposal application deadline is October 15, 2012. To see more details regarding funding availability, see this Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) media release or this PDF file.

Fiscal Uncertainty
Fiscal cliffhanger news, now! When U.S. Congressional members return next week to Capitol Hill, all indications are that they will start crafting a Continuing Resolution (or "CR") designed to keep the Federal government running during the first half of the 2013 fiscal year starting on October 1. Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders agreed before beginning the August recess to the six-month CR approach, and will be reticent to change that or to add any special spending line items or policy riders to the bill they come up with. That being said, there may be some impetus to add some form of natural disaster relief authority and money to the CR in light of the ongoing drought and recent Hurricane Isaac damage. Although the CR is expected to come up either next week or the week after, Congress may pass a shorter stop-gap bill and not actually vote for a full six-month extension until the lame-duck session of Congress following the November general election, in order to give negotiators more time to reach a budget deal.

Looming over the fiscal year 2013 debate is the matter of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board Federal spending cuts that are automatically scheduled to begin on January 1, 2013 under provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011, passed by Congress and signed into law in August 2011. Known as "sequestration," these mandatory cuts kick in if Congress fails to enact a deficit-reduction bill containing at least $1.2 trillion in cuts (which Congress has failed to do). So, there are those who are arguing against the long-term extension approach, contending that the CR would simply give lawmakers a false sense of security regarding the impending sequestration "fiscal cliff," and increase the ever-present temptation to avoid dealing with the issue head-on.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Click figure to see a larger version
  • Despite Isaac's rain, record-breaking drought grew worse in Great Plains and spread across U.S. as a whole last week
  • Drought lingers despite Isaac, while Federal forecasters warn that the worst drought in decades could persist for months
  • National Wildlife Federation report blames climate change for summer's heat and drought
  • Hurricane Isaac remnant dumps more than a foot of rain on the parched Midwest, with mix of hope and anxiety
  • Rain from remnants of Isaac brings relief to dry AR, MO, IL, IN and OH but not drought-hit KS, NE, OK, CO and IA
  • Three days of Isaac's rain soaked Midwest parched fields and softened cracked soil; offers hope for next corn season
  • Isaac gives drought-stricken farmers in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri brief respite
  • As expected, Hurricane Isaac rainfall does little to change Mississippi River barge problems caused by drought; low water
  • Isaac arrival over middle Mississippi Valley is welcome relief for drought-stricken farmers
  • Drought means millions of migrating waterfowl will find fewer rest stops on way south this fall
  • Drought diminishes monarch butterfly migration through middle US
  • Drought hits crops worldwide: U.S. corn and soybeans, Russian and Australian wheat; Brazilian and Argentinian soybeans
Federal Policy
  • USDA Emergency Forest Restoration Program funds available to restore natural disaster-damaged private lands
  • USDA offers FY 2013 CIG project drought funding to demonstrate/enhance system resilience; proposal deadline 10/15
Farm Bill-
  • "I’m not sure which day. I’m not sure which month. But there will be a new farm bill."-House Agriculture Committee Chair Lucas (R-OK)
  • Senate Agriculture Committee member Charles Grassley (R-IA) - likely a new farm bill won't be forthcoming soon
  • Farm groups plan September 12  rally at Capitol in DC to demand a new farm bill be passed
Agriculture -
  • Sustainable America blog editor: 2012 drought highlights "dependency on industrial agriculture system"
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture research: No-till farming helps capture snow, soil water
  • MN farmlands being drain-tiled at "breakneck pace," prompting debate concerning crop yields and water quality
  • USDA releases update to its 2010 Upper Mississippi River Basin conservation effects assessment report (PDF file)
  • USDA Awards Nearly $11 Million for 26 Mississippi River Basin Conservation Innovation Grant Projects
Water Quality -
  • How Food Production Impacts Water Quality
  • EPA educates confined animal feeding operators, while allowing Iowa to remain in charge of CAFO Clean Water Program
  • Nashville, TN: A Case Study of How Green Infrastructure is Helping Manage Urban Stormwater Challenges (PDF file)
  • Commercial fish harvest part of project to remove Black Hawk Lake (Iowa) from state’s Impaired Waters List
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Louisiana flooding in wake of Isaac hits those upstream of New Orleans and others outside protection of levee system
  • Hurricane Isaac caused serious flooding in 10 Louisiana parishes and damaged more than 13,000 homes
  • Army Corps cost-benefit analysis results mean some do not get benefits of levee-protection in Louisiana
In the States -
  • TN Dept of Environment and Conservation offering $350,000 in green infrastructure grants to local governments
  • Minnesota's Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program Fall Funding Cycle Closes Sept. 26
Forestry -
  • Minnesota timber industry continues to struggle (via @MyMNwoods)
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Canadian firm proposes new Nebraska oil pipeline route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas
  • Mississippi River's Pool 8 habitat restoration and enhancement project complete after nearly 30 years and $500 million
  • 'Spineless' animals under threat of extinction [nearly 20% world's invertebrate species at risk]
  • The world's extinct and endangered species – an interactive map (The Guardian)
  • Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee releases new Asian carp footage to media and public  (requires registration)
  • Op-Ed: Coming attractions in Aquatic Invasive Species for Minneapolis area lakes
  • State Fair visitors learn about invasive species finding their way to Minnesota
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Dramatic "Storm Season" photo essay follows changes in Louisiana's Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary from 2006 to 2011
  • Funding for 2012 cycle of Gulf of Mexico Foundation's Community-based Restoration Partnership now available
  • NPR:  In Isaac's aftermath, did New Orleans pass the test?
  • "Local Louisiana" Exhibit To Reveal Residents' Reasons for Coastal Louisiana Restoration
  • US Geological Survey scientists reveal “Science of Storms” and impact of hurricanes on Gulf Coast
  • EPA awards nearly $1.2 million to assist in restoration of disappearing coastal habitats along Gulf of Mexico Coast
  • Coast Guard investigates 90 reports of oil, chemical leaks following Hurricane Isaac
Federal Budget -
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): Congress will use lame duck session to kick the Federal budget crisis can into 2013
  • Conversations going on now between Dems and GOP over ways to avoid Federal fiscal cliff
  • Panel discussion: Clean Water Act -- 40 Years Later, September 13, Washington DC, details and register here:
  • Conference: Tallgrass Prairie Restoration in the 21st Century.  Lisle, Illinois; Sept. 13-14
  • 6th Annual Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration; Oct. 20-24; Tampa, FL
  • 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; October 6-11, 2013
  • September 26-28 Upper Mississippi River Conference early-bird registration ends September 7
  • America's Great Watershed Initiative Summit, Sept. 26-27; St. Louis, MO
Other news-
  • Mississippi River mayors urged to join forces for the sake of their towns and the River
  • Researchers: Global temperatures may exceed safe levels without any more carbon reduction pledges (Are we there yet?)
  • Tips for great trout fishing in the Driftless area of WI, IL, MN and IA
  • Nine-state Midwest region economy fails to grow in consecutive months for first time since July 2009
  • New research: Policies encouraging sustainable coastal ecosystem management could significantly reduce carbon emissions
Political Scene -
  • Congressional Rural Caucus "committed to representing interests of rural Americans regardless of party or geography"
Last Word

We had a good life, and now it’s gone forever." - third generation landowner Donny Nelson, describing the degradation of habitat, environmental quality, and rural lifestyle following oil development on his family's 8,000 acre cattle ranch and throughout the North Dakota oil region, the site of the biggest U.S. oil rush in decades.
 And now for an audio exclamation point to Mr. Nelson's lament:

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