Friday, October 26, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Water Infrastructure Bill To Be Introduced
Because the U.S. House and Senate continue to recess until November 13, the Tuesday after Election Day and the day after Veterans Day, not much is happening on the Federal legislative side of Mississippi River Basin water issues, with the notable exception of a water infrastructure bill that Senator Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee says he intends to introduce when Congress reconvenes.  Sen. Alexander's "American Waterways Act," will, according to media reports and the Senator's press release, address chronic issues surrounding the financial viability of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (that funds river system infrastructure projects) and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The bill is still being drafted but reportedly will seek to:
  • Remove the requirement that the Army Corps of Engineers' Olmsted Lock project (on the Ohio River) be funded using Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues.  Such a shift is intended to "free up revenue to address needed lock and dam repairs across the country," according to the Senator's press release;
  • Provide full federal funding for maintenance of harbors up to 50 feet deep (currently Federal funding is only available at full funding to depths of 45 feet; larger post-Panama Canal expansion ships will typically require a 50-foot channel depth);
  • Establish an accounting method for revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that will allow them to offset annual Harbor Maintenance spending;
  • Speed construction permit approval and provide states with the ability to appeal "slow moving regulatory decision making by adopting a Federal Highway Administration-like "MAP-21" type approach to project management;
  • Authorize a five-year construction program to advance projects that deepen ports to accommodate post-Panama Canal expansion ships (i.e. providing harbors and channels with a needed 50-foot depth);
  • Require the Federal government to follow the Inland Waterways Capital Development Plan developed by the Inland Waterways User's Board that (among other things) shifts responsibility for water project construction and maintenance costs among parties and provides for a minimal increase in a fuel tax that funds the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; and
  • Open the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for use on currently-ineligible port projects, such as "landside" projects.
Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Minnesota hog producer to pay a $14,000 penalty for pumping manure into field that drained to nearby creek
  • Study: Pollution from agricultural production degrades coastal salt marshes more quickly than previously thought
  • EPA October Nonpoint Source News-Notes Special Issue: Controlling Nutrients through Non-Regulatory State Efforts
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Upper Mississippi River Restoration - Environmental Management Program (Army Corps) launches new Web site
  • Nebraska project to increase water flows to Republican and Platte Rivers subject to water agreements with other states
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to introduce American Waterways Act to "modernize" American waterways, ports
  • Keeping the Federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill afloat without the banned earmarks
Click to Enlarge
  • This past week the U.S. drought eased very slightly, but not in worst-hit areas
  • U.S. drought shows little sign of easing; farmers close out corn and soybean harvests; turn attention to winter wheat
  • Worsening dryness in the U.S. is a threat to hard red winter wheat
  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: world better prepared to ride out tight grain supplies and extreme weather
  • U.S. drought demonstrates global need to improve water management to prevent crop disasters
Farm Bill-
  • Majority Leader Eric Cantor: House will vote on Farm Bill during post-election lame duck session
  • USDA Secretary: Farm Bill link between federal crop insurance and conservation compliance ‘isn’t going to happen’
  • Conservation land protections await farm bill approval
Agriculture -
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Iconic species has found a home at the new eagle aviary in Dubuque, Iowa's National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
  • IL organizations collaborating to stop 2-way invasive species transfer between Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins
  • 200 scientists warn Administration of invasive species risk as EPA weighs new biofuels feedstocks
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • State of Louisiana requests jury trial against BP over $1B in economic losses from Deepwater Horizon disaster
Resource Extraction -
  • Environmental groups protest an Ohio watershed conservancy district's short-term water sales to oil and gas industry
  • Frac sand mining company and 2 mine owners take Houston County, Minnesota to court to clear way for mining; processing
  • Environmental groups sue in attempt to block permitting at two Kentucky and West Virginia mountaintop surface mines
Federal Budget -
  • List of what Federal programs might fall under the budget axe if congressional leaders strike a "fiscal cliff" deal
  • Senators' efforts to come up with a plan to avoid a Federal "fiscal cliff" pick up speed
  • Washington Post - National Association of Manufacturers' dire U.S. budget report: "Fiscal Shock: America's Economic Crisis"
  • Possibilities for Addressing Our Nation’s Water Infrastructure Backlog; Horinko Group Lecture; Dec. 5, Washington, DC
  • Mississippi River Network holds annual meeting
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
  • Rural economy: 15% of Iowa children lived in poverty in 2010, rising at faster rate than in rest of US over a decade
  • Great Rivers Partnership announces 10 "proof-of-concept" projects re: system-scale outcomes in Mississippi River Basin
  • National Research Council releases report on Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the U.S.
  • Mining company tells EPA railroad should help clean lead contamination along hundreds of miles of Missouri rail lines
Political Scene -
Last Word
"You know, sometimes, when they say you're ahead of your time, it's just a polite way of saying you have a real bad sense of timing." - former U.S. Senator from South Dakota, George McGovern, who died on Sunday, October 21.

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