Friday, September 28, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

That Which We Call a Recess By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet
The U.S. House and Senate are in an unofficial "recess" for about seven more weeks until November 13, the Tuesday after election day and the day after Veterans Day. Actually, rather than formally being in recess for that long, both the Senate and the House have decided to hold what are called "pro forma" sessions until after the November elections. Normally, real legislative business does not take place during a pro forma session, and at most members might ask to be recognized for a speech (although they rarely do so). So, no real activity will be occurring on Capitol Hill during this period, although, on paper it might look otherwise. For example, the Senate will gavel in a pro forma session each Tuesday and Friday afternoon, when it will "officially" be working on the Sportsmen Act. Unofficially, Senators will most likely be somewhere other than Washington, DC.

But "somewhere other than Washington, DC" is where most of the important things happen, anyway, and there was plenty of Mississippi River Basin-related news happening this past week. We've summarized those items, along with news links, below. But first, for those among us who are textually-challenged, here is a pictorial analysis of that news.
Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Click to Enlarge
  • Drought conditions spread over last week to cover nearly 55% of U.S.; hard-hit areas expected to remain dry
  • Seasonal drought outlooks through December offer little prospect for condition improvement for much of U.S.
  • Climate Communication: drought and storms made summer of 2012 "one for the record books" - a good overview
  • Some weather analysts believe long-running US drought will break in October, while others fear it may last into spring
  • Surge in crop prices during worst U.S. drought in 56 years will encourage farmers to increase production for 2013
  • The drought of 2012 and its dryness has resonance in our video culture: a new "Conservation Genre"
  • Army Corps Memphis District Mississippi navigation low water update (September 25, 2012): (PDF file)
  • Mississippi River level five day forecast near Vicksburg from National Weather Service
  • U.S. drought means sweet times for cows as ice cream sprinkles and gummy worms replace costly corn feed
  • Midwest drought: how engineered corn saved some farmers from disaster
Federal Policy
  • Reps. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Dan Boren (D-OK) introduce bill to fund drought information program through 2017 (pdf) 
Farm Bill-
  • Conservation Compliance Key Part of Farm Bill Debate
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial: U.S. House leaders snub nation's farmers
  • Ag Committee Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN): House Speaker Boehner wanted to do Farm Bill in lame duck all along (PDF)
  • FarmPolicy's regularly updated “Snapshot: An Election Year Farm Bill - Campaign Impacts"
  • Congressional Democrats in agriculture-heavy states using stalled farm bill to hammer Republican opponents
  • CRS report provides explanation of existing Farm Bill dairy programs and of two competing proposals to replace them
Agriculture -
  • Agriculture culprit in loss of native prairie once stretching from Saskatchewan to Gulf of Mexico; now one of  most threatened ecosystems
  • "Graying" of US farm population increasingly putting farm and ranch land ownership in hands of women
  • USDA scientists say sweet sorghum makes good biofuel feedstock that can tolerate drought; require minimal nitrogen
  • American Farmland Trust and Midwest partners work to inform, engage female landowners on key land transition issues
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition outlines potential sequester impacts on agricultural spending
Water Quality -
  • New study: Mississippi River at its healthiest in a generation
  • Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force Sept 11 meeting materials available here (excellent resources)
  • MPCA's draft impaired waters list contains over 3,000 impaired waters in Minnesota; List now goes on to EPA
  • Minnesota adding another 511 lakes and river segments to state's impaired water list (every-other-year update)
  • Business groups say appellate court should uphold federal court ruling that EPA overreached in WV mine water permit case
  • EPA researchers creating state-of-the-art three-dimensional model of Gulf of Mexico's dead zone
  • Workers clean up an oil spill along 10 to 15 miles of Iowa's North Raccoon River
  • EPA seeks public comment on proposal to restore River des Peres portion in St. Louis to list of impaired Missouri waters
  • WV man pleads guilty to dumping 2400 gallons of sewage into Ohio River tributary without a permit
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Dividing line for Hurricane Isaac flooding was bright: inside or outside Army Corps' $14.6 billion protection system
  • Divers get close look at Mississippi River dam during 5-year cycle of lock and dam inspection
  • U.S. senators from Illinois, Missouri and Iowa want upgrades to Mississippi River locks
  • New Orleans levees leave those outside flood control gates vulnerable
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Army Corps of Engineers soliciting comments on Minnesota Aquatic Nuisance Species Pathway Reports (Swan River)
  • Army Corps conference call on aquatic invasive species pathways btwn Mississippi River/Great Lakes basins; 9/28 info
  • Mississippi River's Coon Rapids Dam pool to be kept high to prevent Asian carp from moving upriver; 2013 dam rehab set
  • Iowa DNR will opens bids this week for first-ever electric fish barrier to be constructed in Iowa "Great Lakes"
  • Did you know that grasslands of the northern Great Plains cover an area of around 180 Million acres? via @USFWSMtnPrairie
  • The Nature Conservancy builds artificial bat cave in Tennessee near Kentucky border to fight white nose syndrome losses
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • America's Wetland Foundation director: Louisiana's coastal erosion a strategic national concern
  • Army Corps not liable for Katrina damage, appeals panel finds
  • Poll of anglers and hunters: BP should be held accountable; fined maximum amount allowed for 2010 Gulf oil disaster
Resource Extraction -
  • Roaring trucks, and sand dust from nearby frac sand mine disrupt Iowa town along Mississippi River
  • Environmental group report derides Ohio’s regulation of oil and natural gas drilling as "largely broken"
Federal Budget -
Upper Mississippi River Conference
  • America's Great Watershed Initiative this week focused on meeting multiple demands placed on Mississippi River basin; agenda and resources:
  • Upper Mississippi River Conference this week focussed on "Make Room for the River" agenda: and speakers' list:
  • Impact of past Missouri River damming to be topic at Cultural Heritage Center talk during September 30 2-hour cruise
  • MN Fall Wildlife Festival, 9/29, 10 AM - 3 PM. Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
Other news-
  • Clarksville Mayor is selected to serve on Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative
  • Environmental and Energy Study Institute: brief on Renewable Fuel Standard waiver issue in light of heat wave; drought
  • McKnight Foundation approves over $15 million in grants in its third quarter (several to key Mississippi basin environmental groups)
  • Climate change forum paints picture of looming South Dakota environmental, political, social and economic change
Political Scene -
  • The Rep. Boswell (D-IA) vs. Rep. Latham (R-IA) race is 1 of 5 member vs member redistricting elections this November
  • Poll shows Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) tied in their race for Iowa's redrawn 3rd district
  • Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) moving forward with Senate campaign Tuesday, the deadline to drop out of Missouri’s Senate race
  • Missouri U.S. Senate race moves to "leans Democratic" as Akin stays in race
  • New bipartisan poll of the Indiana U.S. Senate race shows a statistical dead heat
  • President Obama; GOP nominee Romney spell out positions on energy, environment, agriculture, more in questionnaire answers
Last Word
"USDA can wink and nod and look the other way for a while, but they can’t look forever." - House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) describing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture could cope in October without a new Farm Bill, while stressing the need to pass a new law before too long (audio replay available here).

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