Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week - Early Edition

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Democratic Senate Leaders Announce 113th Congress Committee Assignments
On Wednesday (December 11) Democratic Senate leaders announced their selections for Committee assignments for the 113th Congress (subject to Democratic Caucus and full Senate approval in January). Notable from a Mississippi River Basin perspective, two incoming freshman senators from River Basin states received slots on the important Senate Agriculture Committee next year: Democratic Senators-elect Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. The makeup of the environmentally-significant Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will remain unchanged on the Democratic side in the 113th Congress, while on the Energy and Natural Resources panel, Senator-elect Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Senator-elect Mazie Hirono of Hawaii will fill two open Democratic slots.  To see a listing of each Committee, along with all anticipated Democratic committee members and chairpersons, click here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Tennessee Clean Water Network: TDEC proposes weak draft permit for Cookeville TN’s 14 million gpd sewage discharge
  • New report focuses on Iowa water quality; but makes broader points about agriculture and environmental relationships 
  • Dallas County, Iowa Supervisors to decide whether to join Raccoon River watershed improvement organization
  • EPA releases video to "illustrate the potential impacts of nutrient pollution on recreation"
  • EPA's Clean Water Act Section 319 Program "success spotlight" looks at Eagle Creek, Kansas
  • Companies sue Ameren Corp. in federal court over groundwater contamination threatening St. Charles, MO drinking water
  • Constructed wetlands could help ease phosphorous pollution problems in sprawling Grand Lake St. Marys (western Ohio)
  • Environmental groups allow EPA to postpone power plant water effluent guideline issuance
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Farmers gather to address fixing a rapidly crumbling Mississippi River infrastructure that is critical to farm economy
  • Supporters want to see Bayou Bienvenue in Louisiana's Lower Ninth Ward restored to the cypress-tupelo swamp it once was
  • Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard (Law and Policy Assessment) gives US an overall "C" efficiency grade
  • Water Resources and Development Act draft would require Army Corps to re-think river levee tree removal mandate
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report includes plan to export Missouri River water to ease  depleted Colorado River demand
  • Study resurrects idea of constructing 670-mile pipeline to divert water from Mississippi River tributaries to arid west
  • Citizens' group sues MN DNR over low White Bear Lake water levels, citing DNR approval of increased water withdrawal 
Most recent Drought Monitor Map
December 11
(click to enlarge)
  • Rains bring some drought relief across northern Plains and lower Mississippi basin; remainder of Plains remain parched
  • Washington Post: drought brings federal crop insurance under scrutiny
  • Stubborn US drought could end up being costlier than hurricane Sandy
Low Mississippi River Levels
  • NWS predicts that water levels on drought-plagued Mississippi River will keep dropping over next several weeks
  • Army Corps decides against releasing extra Missouri River waters to help ensure Mississippi River commercial navigation
  • Financial Times (UK): Low Mississippi River water levels threaten US farm goods
  • Dropping Mississippi River levels temporarily stabilize but should be too low for barge traffic within 7 to 10 days
  • Shippers brace for January closure of 200-mile Mississippi River stretch that could bring most commerce to standstill
  • Army Corps explosion of barge-impeding rock pinnacles in middle Mississippi River could begin as early as next week
  • Sandbars no one can remember seeing above water now visible on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis
Farm Bill-
  • With time running out, House and Senate farm bill leaders are still far apart on a deal after a Wednesday meeting
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition lists key items that should be in a “minimally acceptable (farm bill) deal”
  • Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA):  farm bill "talks going on between the House and Senate on some sort of a compromise"
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: reason for no Farm Bill is that rural America is "becoming less and less relevant"
  • Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL): "Farm Bill will be included in whatever package is negotiated relative to the fiscal cliff"
  • Libertarian and environmental groups unite against five-year farm bill as fiscal cliff package attachment
  • Environmental Working Group: "Congress could easily make (farm bill) changes that would save $100 billion or more"
  • Op-ed: Farm Bill's conservation programs could benefit us all
  • Op-ed: Farm bill shortcomings must be corrected by providing for conservation compliance
Agriculture -
  • Senators-elect Heitkamp (ND) and Donnely (IN) newly appointed to Senate Agriculture Committee
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: "it’s essential to understand that voluntary conservation does make a difference"
  • From Iowa State Extension: "Farmland Value Reaches Historic $8,296 Statewide Average"
  • Bunge CEO: Major agricultural exporters need to urgently upgrade road, rail and waterways transport networks
In the States -
  • Minnesota developing strategy to achieve and track measurable point and nonpoint nutrient loss reduction progress
  • EWG's "Murky waters" report criticizes Iowa's proposed pollution plan; American Farm Bureau disagrees with conclusions
  • Environmental Working Group's "Murky Waters" examines Iowa's water quality and rates it mostly "poor" or "very poor"
  • Environmental Working Group report: Streams haven't improved in Iowa; Voluntary state plan to cut runoff falls short
Forestry -
  • Research: Increasing death rate of oldest trees increasing fast across forests worldwide regardless of latitude
  • Illinois Christmas tree farm is run free of chemical insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers
  • American Chestnut Foundation believes it's developed potential blight-resistant tree to repopulate forests in 19 states
  • Wisconsin agroforester sees planting fruit and nut trees and other perennials as a key to sustainable food systems
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Two state wildlife management areas in southeast Nebraska along Missouri River reopen to public access
  • MN Department of Natural Resources proposes adding 114 native plants and 67 animals to state endangered species list
  • Restored Minnesota prairie offsets carbon produced by flights to Greece for summer program's 30 students; 4 faculty
  • University of Wisconsin scientists study how mixing lake water could eliminate an invasive fish (smelt)
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to hold its first public meeting; Mobile, Alabama; December 11
  • Louisiana coastal restoration consultant criticized for failing to disclose an industry board membership
  • National Hurricane Center to adopt new storm surge map, warning system over the next three years
  • Those who live and work in the Gulf of Mexico region wary of uncertain restoration path ahead after oil spill
Resource Extraction -
  • Interior Department no longer plans to finalize oil-and-gas development hydraulic fracturing rules this year
  • Mining industry takes notice of Starved Rock State Park, IL rock formations containing very high quality frac sand
Federal Budget -
  • Boehner and Obama no closer to fiscal cliff deal after exchange of latest offers
  • Budget negotiations between White House; GOP House Speaker progress steadily under strict public comment moratorium
  • Sides seem to be edging toward deal in deficit-reduction negotiations; will likely wait till last minute to resolve
Events - Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed on the on-line calendar on the Blog page and here 
  • 2013 is planned to be the "Year of Cycling" along the Mississippi River Trail from Lake Itasca to New Orleans
  • Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge begin youth program in Thomson, IL (first Saturday of each month)
  • Mississippi River Research Consortium; April 24-26, 2013; La Crosse, WI; First call for papers-upper right hand corner:
  • 13th Annual St. Louis Earth Day Symposium (March 2013) deadline for presentation submissions: December 15
  • Conference on Students as Catalysts for Large Landscape Conservation; March 1, 2013; Waterville, Maine
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to hold its first public meeting; Mobile, Alabama; December 11
  • Save the date: Mississippi River Collaborative Conference March 19-21, Louisville, KY; More details will follow
  • MN Pollution Control Agency informational meeting on draft Construction Stormwater Permit; 12/17 in St. Paul
  • Three Spring 2013 Missouri River events in Yankton, SD area to focus on invasive species; clean-up; watershed education
  • Midwest-Great Lakes Society for Ecological Restoration Chapter Meeting; Wooster, Ohio, April 12-14, 2013
  • Registration open for Wisconsin Wetlands Association's Annual Conference; February 12-14, 2013; Sheboygan, Wisconsin
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
"Petrochemical Landscape" along Lower Mississippi River
(click to enlarge - article link at left)
  • Petrochemical America book focus is 150-mile Mississippi River stretch and its large petrochemical plant concentration
  • Congressional Research Service report finds fault in bills that would enact new coal ash waste disposal standards
  • Obama Administration may soften proposed crackdown on coal ash disposal
  • Indiana manufacturing groups say that EPA existing and proposed regulations are costly and 'dampen growth'
  • America’s Health Rankings–2012 ranks Lower Mississippi and Ohio River valley states on low end of health spectrum
  • US National Intelligence Council publishes Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds-covers water resource availability
  • NOAA administrator to step down
  • EPA releases "National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change" with "long-term goals" and "actions"
Political Scene -
  • In last outstanding U.S. House race Rep. Boustany Jr. (R-LA-3) defeated fellow Republican Rep. Landry in a runoff
  • Senate Committee Assignments For 113th Congress Approved By Democratic Steering Committee
Last Word -
"I think if we were in charge of the Senate and of the administration, that we would have a budget deal by now. And what I find is, with all due deference to our male colleagues, that women's styles tend to be more collaborative." -  Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) - one of 20 women U.S. Senators in the 113th Congress - in a December 11 interview with "ABC World News" anchor Diane Sawyer (to be broadcast on January 3).

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