Thursday, December 20, 2012

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

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Sandy Spending Bill Slowed by Measures That Reach Beyond Storm's Impact
Like too many ornaments on a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, the emergency spending bill for Hurricane Sandy relief that the Senate is considering this week (Senate Amendment 3338 to House Resolution 1, the "Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011") has run into the somewhat foreseeable predicament of too many amendments and too little time. Although the storm relief measures of the supplemental appropriation bill largely have bipartisan support, criticism of those parts added to the bill that are not directly pertinent to hurricane damage relief has grown since its introduction on Monday.  Several of those added measures are directly and indirectly related to water resource issues, and their inclusion in the bill is being questioned by GOP Senators, taxpayer organizations and conservative groups. Others, primarily Democratic senators, are arguing for inclusion of the additional spending measures. In the meantime, time is running out for Congress to consider the bill this year, especially in its presently-encumbered state.  For more details, read here.

Hello New Year (Goodbye Farm Bill?)
Messaging coming out of House Speaker John Boehner's office this week, while not the final nail in the 2012 Farm Bill coffin, certainly has closed the coffin lid with a resounding thud.  POLITICO on Tuesday quoted a Boehner aid as saying, "If we can agree on a top-line number, we suspect the committees will have a much easier time getting to a (farm) bill next year under regular order,” after describing how difficult it would be for the House to agree to the Farm Bill's inclusion in any year-end fiscal cliff deal (a deal which, it should be pointed out, is itself tenuous at the moment).  On the back end of that news, Bloomberg news reports that the House Agriculture Committee leaders are already making plans to start anew in 2013 on the Farm Bill, with consideration of the bill likely to begin in late February.

The provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill lapsed on September 30 of this year, and to provide critical short-term program authority it appears more and more likely that a stop-gap bill or bills will be necessary to reinstate already-expired conservation programs and to prevent federal farm policy from reverting automatically to  provisions contained in the initial federal farm policy legislation passed in 1949.  Those interim authorities could potentially be included in any fiscal cliff legislation.  For more detailed coverage of this issue, please see the various articles included under the "Farm Bill" section, below.

Early-Winter Hiatus
And speaking of Christmas trees, your FNB (Friendly Neighborhood Blogger) will be on an early Winter's break until Wednesday, January 3 (assuming the world doesn't end on December 21). We will be back with weekly updates once more starting on the first Friday of 2013 with a "catch-up edition."   Here's wishing you a peaceful holiday season!

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • US Water Alliance gathers agriculture, water and environmental leaders to discuss Mississippi River nutrients
  • Iowa State University researchers studying feasibility of growing algae in poultry houses using ammonia from wastes
  • Study shows dammed Hebgen Lake captures much of Madison River's mercury (head water tributary of Missouri River)
  • USGS: West Virginia groundwater quality generally good; iron, manganese and radon are potential concerns
  • Groups launch “Upgrade Your Infrastructure: Guide to Green Infrastructure Portfolio Standard and Building Stormwater Retrofits”
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Daily Republic (SD) editorial: Missouri River water "too precious to be wasted on downstream interests"
  • Army Corps awards permit to demolish 107-year-old Minnesota Falls Dam on Minnesota River southeast of Granite Falls
  • Restoring continental divide in Chicago between the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins would be costly and complex
  • Milwaukee Common Council members urge separation of Chicago River and Mississippi River basin
  • Environmentalists question whether fracking water diversion eventually will impact Missouri River navigation
  • Climate change pits Sioux against barges for scarce Missouri and Mississippi River basin water
  • Shale drillers want to move drilling wastewater on barges in Upper Ohio River Basin; Coast Guard reviewing request
  • New forecasting methods in Nebraska help officials anticipate water shortages in Republican River basin
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: importing water from Missouri River into Western states would be expensive and take decades
  • Op-ed: "Save the Missouri River - Build a Metroplex!"
  • New model designed to predict climate change water supply impacts; Mississippi, Missouri, Colorado basins vulnerable
  • Sauk City, WI plans to move buildings from historic park along Wisconsin River in order to encourage development
Latest U.S. Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Widespread and light precipitation over much of Midwest and Plains welcomed; but drought status remains unchanged
  • Minnesota Public Radio: “Widespread drought affecting Minnesota's wildlife”
  • November marked 333rd consecutive month of above-average global temperatures as US remains on record hot year path
  • USDA touts measures to open conservation land to emergency haying and grazing during 2012 drought
  • USDA Secretary Vilsack outlines additional federal drought response actions
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Drought could lead Chicago River to reverse course (again)
  • Drought continues to expand through many key farming states within the central United States
Low Mississippi River Water Levels-
  • Army Corps releasing water from Carlyle Lake (Kaskaskia River system, SW IL) to aid Mississippi River barge traffic
  • Fragile Missouri River Working Group U.S. Congressional alliance shows signs of cracking over Mississippi River's woes
  • Army Corps of Engineers projects no ‘significant interruption in navigation’ on Mississippi River due to low water
  • Mississippi River barge operators brace for months of restricted shipping as water levels drop and rock blasting begins
  • Canadian shipping running fine but Mississippi cargo could be stuck before end of year by the worst drought in 50 years
  • Politicians, Army Corps; industry representatives meet to discuss strategies for keeping Mississippi River open
  • Low water on Mississippi River causes barge companies to lighten loads
  • The Guardian (UK): Mississippi River faces shipping freeze as water levels drop
  • U.S. Coast Guard keeping an eye on the receding Mississippi River
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opts to jackhammer - not dynamite - submerged Mississippi River rock obstacles
  • Army Corps will increase downstream Missouri River flows slightly; with no impact on near-record low Mississippi River
Farm Bill-
  • Farm Bill hopes dim as House Speaker resists including any Farm Bill in a year-end budget/fiscal cliff deal
  • DTN Ag Policy Blog: House leaders have "dealt with the farm bill by effectively running out the clock”
  • House Agriculture Committee plans to go back to the drawing board on farm bill in next Congress
  • USDA Secretary warns Congress that it must pick up pace of farm bill talks or face costly New year's consequences
  • Farm bill faces "pivotal" week as lawmakers scramble to forge a "last ditch" deal
  • US Rice Producers Association argues that the Senate farm bill version is unfair to the South (PDF file)
  • Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad disagrees with USDA Secretary Vilsack's characterization of rural America's declining clout (Here, for reference, is the original Vilsack article: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: reason for no Farm Bill is that rural America is "becoming less and less relevant"
Agriculture -
  • As in other farm belt states, Missouri farmland prices have risen to record high levels
Forestry -
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • WI Invasive Species Council seeks public comment on statewide strategic plan for invasive species; deadline Jan 14
  • Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal has become a superhighway for invasive species between watersheds
  • NRDC: Asian carp "invasion" is a national issue that will require significant resources to be brought to bear
  • USFWS considers adopting "Upper Mississippi River Fisheries Plan" for its Upper Mississippi River National Refuge
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council holds its first public meeting
  • Oystermen: potential Mississippi and Atchafalaya river diversions may disrupt oyster harvest
  • $5.8 million underwater dam blocking upstream flow of salt water into Mississippi River still doing job despite damage
Resource Extraction -
Federal Budget -
  • Sandy emergency-spending bill includes fishery and emergency watershed program money for areas beyond Northeastern US
  • Sen. Kerry (D-MA): emergency Hurricane Sandy spending bill won’t pass without money for fisheries, including MS and AK
  • Fiscal-cliff talks deteriorate into dueling press conferences, as House Speaker tries to advance his "Plan B"
  • White House delays preparations for Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget until it has better fix on fiscal cliff impacts
  • After several days of significant fiscal cliff deal progress, Boehner move signals retrenchment
  • IBM Center for the Business of Government report: government wastes money by passing spending Continuing Resolutions
Events - Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed on the on-line calendar on our Mississippi River Basin Blog page and here, as a separate calendar. 
  • International Low Impact Development Symposium; River Center; St. Paul, MN; August 18-21, 2013
  • 7th International Conference on Remediation of Contaminated Sediments; 2/4/13 to 2/7/13; Dallas, TX
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • Weekly Newsletter from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water
  • The Horinko Group "sustainabulletin" newsletter for December 2012 is now online
  • The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 4 (PDF file) re: invasive species
Other news-
  • Mississippi River Network reports that its 1 Mississippi campaign has now recruited "River Citizens" in all 50 states
  • Mississippi River cities' mayors op-ed: Shared Lessons of Hurricane Sandy
  • 1 Mississippi Southern Regional Intern reflects in this blog on "Why I Paddle"
  • US research: different communications may encourage conservatives to care more about the environment
  • "First green street in Tennessee" in Nashville, spotlights landscape’s role in renewing the City
  • Sixth Avenue corridor could serve as environmentally sound streetscape planning model throughout Des Moines, IA
Political Scene -
Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King (IA-4) looking at running for Iowa's U.S. Senate seat in 2014

Last Word -
"I don't think you govern by playing chicken.  It's no way to govern." - Bob Woodward, reflecting on the state of the Federal fiscal cliff negotiations during a December 5 appearance at a Politico Playbook Breakfast event.

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