Friday, October 12, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

USDA Launches National Soil Health Initiative at Central Ohio Farm
On October 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the launch of a new soil health awareness and education effort called “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil.” The new USDA initiative is "meant to highlight the benefits of improving and maintaining America’s soil," according to the news release announcing the project. The related NRCS "soil health" web page describes the main intent of the soil initiative, which is education-based, and designed to focus "more attention on soil health," and educate USDA "customers and the public about the positive impact healthy soils can have on productivity and conservation."  Commodity and conservation organizations have come out in support of the healthy soil initiative.  For links to associated USDA and news outlet web pages, see under "Agriculture," below, and this earlier blog post.

USDA Provides Partner Updates on Two Key Mississippi River Basin Initiatives
On October 9, staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service ("NRCS") provided updates to more than two dozen partners on two key programs impacting agricultural sustainability and water resources in the Mississippi River Basin: one on increasing the successful adoption of agricultural drainage water management for conservation benefits;  and a second on the status of NRCS’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative or "MRBI."  Speakers presented recent information regarding both NRCS projects.  For the drainage initiative portion of the meeting, program outreach and the significant increase in the number of on-the-ground projects in the planning and implementation phases were stressed.  The MRBI update included an overview of past project milestones, and emphasized an increased focus on measuring and tracking project outcomes and successes going into the future.  For additional meeting details and materials, and background information on both initiatives see here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

October 9 Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Drought conditions expanded last week across central WI, southeast MN and SD; drought eased in IN, IL, ND and northwest MN
  • Analysis from Rabobank: World on track for record food prices 'within a year' due to US drought
  • Farm insurance claims come in on heels of severe drought, but much less than $40 billion expected earlier in summer
  • US milk production headed for biggest contraction in 12 years; drought-fueled feed cost spike sends cows to slaughter
  • U.S. on track to harvest smallest soybean crop in nine years due to summer’s drought damage in the Midwest
  • Fears over basic foods' supply follow one of the worst U.S. droughts in half a century; corn prices spike
Farm Bill-
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board: Both Senate and House Farm Bills cut too much from conservation
  • Election outcome may indicate what farm bill option Congress will pursue during the lame-duck session
  • House Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA):  proposed House farm bill version will have to be changed before it passes House
  • Farm-focused conservation programs feel immediate effects of 2008 Farm Bill expiration and new continuing resolution
Agriculture -
  • USDA launches new NRCS soil health awareness and education effort and
  • Coalition of 21 commodity, farm and conservation groups support USDA's new nationwide Soil Health Initiative
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's Mississippi River Basin Initiative update (PowerPoint presentation PDF)
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's presentation: Increasing Successful Ag Drainage Water Management Adoption
  • Carbon capture moves forward by degrees in Illinois farm country
  • Agricultural Research Service and U.S. Forest Service working on making elephant grass feedstock for cellulosic ethanol
Water Quality -
  • GAO makes recommendations to improve effectiveness of EPA’s wastewater effluent guidelines program (PDF file)
  • Jim Oberstar, a contributing founder of the Clean Water Act, comments on the Act’s 40th anniversary (story and video)
  • Owner of four coal-fired Illinois power plants faces legal complaints about waste pond chemicals, heavy metals
  • Environmental groups file legal action to force clean up of groundwater they say was polluted by leaking coal ash ponds
  • Scientists: no quick or easy solutions to clear blue-green algae from Grand Lake, St. Marys, Ohio  (Ohio River Basin)
  • EPA publishes four papers highlighting purported sustainability of Decentralized Wastewater Treatment
  • Groups sue EPA for removal of Chesapeake Bay watershed plan's water pollution trading provisions (national implications)
  • EPA and Farm Bureau face off in a Chesapeake Bay water quality court case that will impact entire country
  • Mississippi River oil spill cost liability being argued in court four years after the event
  • High-profile Kentucky enforcement action involving hundreds of alleged clean water act violations coming to a close
  • Citizens Reach Landmark Settlement in Kentucky Water Pollution Case
  • Kansas City breaks ground for three new wastewater treatment facilities as part of plan to upgrade city’s sewer system
  • IN Dept of Environmental Management offers to settle 2010, 107,650 fish kill complaint vs. pork producer for $1000
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Great Falls photographer chronicles low Missouri River water
  • Ceres report: "Stormy Future for U.S. Property/Casualty Insurers: Growing Costs and Risks of Extreme Weather Events"
  • UNL Extension update on how crops are faring in fields affected by last year's Missouri River flooding (video)
  • What "best-educated amateur planners" learned in hindsight from a series of U.S. tropical storms and hurricanes
In the States -
  • Public comments opposing fracking called "stupid;" dismissed as jokes by TN Dept. of Environment and Conservation staff
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Army Corps of Engineers releases Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study 90-Day Interim Report
  • Editorial: congressional Asian carp inaction threatens Mississippi River and well-being of Minnesota lakes and rivers
  • Wisconsin considers removing 16 species from and adding eight endangered and threatened species to its state list
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • 8 freshwater mussel species in Alabama and Florida rivers flowing into Gulf added to Federal endangered species list
Resource Extraction -
  • Race to drill for oil breaking up North Dakota's grasslands and wetlands, with severe consequences for state's wildlife
Federal Budget -
  • Federal "fiscal cliff's" complicated and wide-ranging potential impact make it more like a "fiscal hill" or "slope"
  • "Gang of Eight"-four senators from each party-labors to reach agreement on nearly $4-trillion deficit reduction plan
  • Army Corps to hold Missouri River Fall Public Meetings for Draft Annual Operating Plan
  • Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds: Measuring Results; Oct 31-Nov 1, Ankeny, IA Upper Mississippi River Basin Project
Other news-
  • NPR Talk of the Nation: Planning For A Sustainable Mississippi River
  • New Orleans power utility develops one of more aggressive climate risk plans in US - based on wetland conservation
  • NOAA: first nine months of 2012 were the warmest on record for contiguous US and many Mississippi River Basin cities
  • Six of eight National Climatic Data Center model scenarios have 2012 ending as the warmest in U.S. since 1895
  • Two-month, 1000-mile swim down Missouri River completed by British adventurer
  • Revisiting the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927, through film and jazz
Political Scene -
Last Word
"If we take home one . . . lesson from the . . . experience of the past two decades, may it be that the Army Corps’ success in fast-tracking massive structural engineering projects during 2006–2012 . . . be replicated for nonstructural coastal restoration during the 2010s and 2020s."  - Geographer Richard Campanella, Senior Professor of Practice at Tulane University and author of several books, including Bienville's Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans, Delta Urbanism: New Orleans and Lincoln in New Orleans (in this essay)

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