Friday, March 1, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Sequester Crisis Exits Stage Left; Appropriations Deadline Takes Center Stage
Congress and the Obama Administration failed to resolve their differences, and come to a deal on any plan to avert the across-the-board Federal discretionary program cuts that start today.  And although the cuts are assured for now, no one is really sure specifically where within each agency the sequestration ax will fall (see coverage below).  In the meantime, the current Federal budget continuing resolution expires on March 27. Without an appropriations bill(s) or a new continuing resolution, the Federal government risks a shutdown after that date. The House Appropriations Committee is reportedly drafting a spending bill to extend the current continuing resolution through September 30 for all Federal agencies except those covered by the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs appropriations subcommittees.  The bill would directly incorporate the text of the draft Defense and Veterans Affairs spending bills already negotiated and agreed to between the House and Senate Appropriations Committees last year.  The continuing resolution may be introduced in the Appropriations Committee as early as next week.

Groups Urge Appropriators to Oppose Further Farm Bill Conservation Cuts
Two dozen environmental, conservation, agriculture and other organizations yesterday urged members of the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees to oppose cuts to mandatory farm bill agricultural conservation programs and discretionary conservation technical assistance in any remaining fiscal year 2013 agriculture appropriations legislation that the committees consider.  In a letter addressed to Senate and House Appropriations Committees' Chairs and Ranking Members, the organizations noted that conservation title programs in the Farm Bill had already been "disproportionately targeted for severe cuts in appropriations bills" over recent years through "backdoor 'changes in mandatory program spending' (CHIMPS)," and that the moves, rather than being a money-saving move, were implemented "to offset funding for discretionary programs." In arguing for protection of USDA technical assistance funding, the letter stated that "appropriations bills have cut $60 million from discretionary Conservation Operations spending since 2010."  The full letter can be read here (PDF file).

New EPA Senior Agricultural Adviser Named
Sarah Bittleman has moved from a senior role at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she will serve as that agency's Senior Agricultural Counselor.  Bittleman replaces Larry Elworth, who recently retired.  She will advise EPA on how environmental issues that the agency addresses affect farmers and ranchers, according to an EPA statement, which also noted that  “EPA is dedicated to an open and constructive working relationship with the agriculture community, as with all stakeholders.  Sarah’s work will continue to ensure that the overlaps among environmental and agricultural issues and the concerns of rural communities are carefully considered in every action EPA takes."  Bittleman had been serving as senior adviser to USDA Secretary Vilsack, specializing in energy and the EPA. Before joining USDA, she worked at the Department of Interior, and before that as a Senate and House staffer, specializing in agriculture, energy, natural resources, Native Americans and climate change.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • Groups look for voluntary, non-regulatory path to reduce wastewater treatment plant nutrient discharges
  • Great Plains and Midwest communities finding innovative road salt substitutes; with possible soil and water benefits
  • Drinking toilet water: The science (and psychology) of wastewater recycling
  • Oklahoma and Arkansas Attorneys General sign Illinois River water quality assessment agreement
  • 2,264 barrels of brine wastewater leak from storage pit into Big Wheeling Creek tributary (Ohio River Basin)
  • New GAO report finds that EPA could be doing more to address damage to U.S. water bodies caused by airborne pollutants
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Mississippi River water levels are likely to limit barge traffic in 2013 based on NOAA projections
  • Mississippi River shippers return to hauling full loads after storms and rock-clearing deepen the waterway
  • Dispute between Missouri and Illinois over Mississippi River St. John’s Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project could revive
  • Senators and Federal officials meet on Southeastern Missouri, Mississippi River levee issues
  • Minnesotans water supplies are draining, as supply can’t keep up with demand and disputes rise
  • Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force posts plan to promote and encourage effective floodplain management (PDF file)
  • Wisconsin power plants, municipalities, large farmers and other industries use >2 trillion gallons of water a year
  • Mississippi River water levels on the rise going into spring
  • Watershed Resources Registry online mapping tool characterizes; prioritizes natural resource management options
February 26 Drought Monitor Map
National Drought Mitigation Center
(click to enlarge)
  • National Drought Mitigation Center: week's snow brought some drought relief; full impact will be seen as snow melts
  • Drought Update: Moderate to exceptional drought covers 54.17% of contiguous US; down from 55.8% prior week (PDF file)
  • Missouri and upper Mississippi rivers have good chance of returning to drought-depleted levels in 2013
  • Thin mountain snowpack signals Plains' summer drought; climatologist: “We’re worse off than we were a year ago”
  • Snow can't pull Iowa out of drought
  • Heavy Midwest snows were not a drought-buster, but definitely brought relief
  • Study links climate change with recent droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather
  • Drought leaves the Missouri River "shrinking," and regional restaurants are feeling the effects
  • Second major snowstorm in a week for southern Great Plains delivering needed moisture to U.S. wheat crops
  • Years of drought are reshaping U.S. beef industry with feedlots and major meatpacking plant closing
Farm Bill-
  • Great Lakes Environmental Law Center Op-ed: Make conservation compliance part of Farm Bill crop insurance
  • Op-ed by House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas: Congress Should Pass a Cost-Saving Farm Bill
  • Former USDA Deputy Secretary Moseley: Time to bring ‘truth to the table' on conservation compliance
  • Former USDA Deputy Secretary's report "reveals success of conservation compliance in protecting soils and wetlands
  • Illinois Stewardship Alliance-hosted webinar on the Farm Bill available to view here: (YouTube)
  • National Corn Growers Association Remains Opposed to Tying Conservation Compliance and Insurance in the Farm Bill
Agriculture -
  • Politico: Agriculture has slipped from D.C.'s radar screen
  • Rush for biofuels in United States has seen farmers converting prairie lands to farms at Dust Bowl rates
  • Despite 2012 drought there’s been no uprising from nation’s crop farmers calling for supplemental aid beyond insurance
  • Despite withered crops, sun-baked soil and wildfire damage, some think farming is in midst of another golden age
  • New EPA Senior Agricultural Advisor Named
  • House Agriculture Committee adopts committee's budget recommendations for USDA programs for fiscal year 2014.  Copy of recommendation's letter here:
  • House Ag Committee Chair and Ranking Member concerned USDA report will shift Federal resources away from rural areas
In the States -
  • Ohio Environmental Protection Agency updating general permit regulating storm water discharges at construction sites
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to hold March 8 public meeting on draft general permit for construction stormwater
  • Iowa Senate subcommittee endorses sales tax increase to raise money for outdoor recreation; conservation
  • Nebraska state senator proposes that state study how to adapt Nebraska's agriculture to climate change
In the Cities -
  • Louisville, Kentucky sustainability plan gets a public response: Speakers want plan strengthened
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Army Corps seeks comment on new aquatic pathway assessment reports (Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study)
  • Minnesota Governor new Chair of Midwestern Governors Association; will focus on invasive species response coordination
  • Federal officials face 2nd lawsuit over Louisiana "critical habitat" designation for endangered dusky gopher frog
  • Toledo Blade editorial: Time to speak out on Army Corps' Mississippi River-Great Lakes invasive-species plans for Ohio
  • Missouri Department of Conservation: southeastern Missouri angler catches record gizzard shad in Black River
  • Both good news and bad news for anglers on the Missouri River system this season
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • New data not yet publicly released shows Louisiana is losing its battle with rising seas more quickly than thought
  • NOAA: Gulf waters along Louisiana's coast are set to rise at a faster rate than previously thought
  • New data analysis shows that Louisiana coast faces highest rate of sea-level rise worldwide
  • Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority head refutes dire coastal warning; insists coast can be saved
  • As restoration  meetings continue, activists say BP should pay $25bn on top of likely fines for Gulf spill
  • Various phases of the Gulf Coast BP oil spill trial explained
  • More than 300 volunteers to mobilize over 2 days to restore beach on historic Grand Terre Island (coastal Louisiana)
  • Audubon Nature Institute announces Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries initiative with goal of sustainable fisheries
  • Coastal Innovation Partnership Program accepting applications in support of Gulf Coastal Master Plan (3/22 deadline)
Resource Extraction -
  • Frac sand firm agrees to voluntary environmental reviews for proposed Southeastern Minnesota mines
  • Illinois proposed 'fracking' regulation sees rare cooperation among factions
  • Red Wing, Minnesota mayor resigns in face of pressure over his frac sand industry role
  • Minnesota sand storm brewing as rally urges halt to new silica sand mining operations
  • State and U.S. legislators call for fracking in Illinois
  • White House review of federal rules for oil and gas "fracking" drawing interest of energy companies; green groups
  • Minnesota frac sand mining bill seeks taxes and minimum standards for regulation
Federal Budget -
Fiscal Year 2013 Appropriations
  • Congress must pass continuing resolution by the end of March to keep funding government operations
  • Republican Fiscal Year 2013 Continuing Resolution bill expected to be brought to House floor as soon as next week
  • Key House conservatives would support GOP leadership six-month continuing resolution plan to avoid government shutdown after March 27
  • The state-by-state impacts of Federal budget sequestration
  • Washington Post: The Sequester: Absolutely everything you could possibly need to know, in one FAQ
  • Washington Post: When the sequester "hits" no one really knows how bad things are likely to get
  • Office of Management and Budget releases detailed memo about how Federal agency heads should address sequestration (PDF file of memo)
  • Senate rejects rival proposals to stop sequester, ensuring $85 billion in automatic spending cuts begin on Friday
  • Congress heads out as the sequester blows in
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar on this Blog page and here as a stand-alone calendar
  • March 6, Washington, DC Asian Carp Symposium to Be Held During National Invasive Species Awareness Week
  • EPA Webcast: Water Quality Exchange: A Tool to Share Water Quality Data; March 6, 1-3 PM EST
  • U.S. House Agriculture Committee Hearing on the state of the rural economy; March 5
  • Next week's Mississippi River Basin 2013 Clean and Green Sustainability Conference events focus on stormwater; Low Impact Development  (Omaha, NE, Des Moines, IA, Kansas City, MO, St. Louis, MO)
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • 1 Mississippi Campaign's February monthly newsletter: "The Importance of Muddy Waters"
  • The Horinko Group "Sustainabulletin" Newsletter: February 2013
  • February 18 Waterways Newsletter from the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy available here
  • EPA's Watershed News for February 2013: (water quality spotlight on Dragoon Creek watershed, Kansas)
  • America's Waterway March 2013 "River Currents Newsletter"
Other news-
  • Poll: most Americans believe population growth could be environmentally disastrous
  • Best available regional data compiled on green infrastructure in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana (online mapping tool)
Political Scene -
  • Congressional Mississippi River Caucus forms, with leadership made up of six House co-chairs
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) joins Senate's Mississippi River Caucus, joining Sens. Harkin (D-IA) and Blunt (R-MO)
  • Top Kentucky Democrat predicts Ashley Judd will run for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R) seat in 2014
  • Robin Kelly wins Democratic primary to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL-2)
  • Congressional "Water Caucus" launched to address "water issues such as supply, storage and quality"
  • Iowa Rep. Tom Latham announces he will not run for Republican US Senate nomination, clearing way for Rep. Steve King
Last Word -
Daniel Day-Lewis, as Abraham Lincoln
"I wish He had chosen an instrument more wieldy than the House of Representatives." - Daniel Day-Lewis, playing Abraham Lincoln in the movie "Lincoln" (the "He" referring to God in this case). Day-Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor in that role.

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