Friday, March 15, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week-Ides of March Edition

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Mississippi River Mayors Set to Press New Platform in Washington
Mayors from along the length of the Mississippi River will gather in Washington, DC next week to advance their newly-developed, River-centric agenda in the halls of Congress and among federal agencies. Mayors representing the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative have scheduled various meetings and public events for March 19 through 21 to formally announce and promote the Initiative's policy goals. Meetings to discuss the Initiative's River-based agenda have been scheduled between the mayors and Congressional leaders in both the House and Senate, as well as with White House staff and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In addition to those meetings, a formal announcement of the Initiative-backed Mississippi River Congressional Caucus and of the Initiative's platform are set to occur on March 21, when photographs from along the Mississippi River will serve as a backdrop to the announcements during a 10 AM press conference.  The photo exhibit will be free and open to the public from 9 AM  through 3 PM on that day.  For event details and more information about the Initiative, see here.

Legislative Update
  • FY 2013 Spending - Senate appropriators on Monday night introduced their spending plan to fund the federal government from March 27 (when current spending authority ends) through the end of the 2013 fiscal year in September, by amending a version passed by the House last week (H R 933). The Senate package was debated on Thursday and debate will resume again on the measure next Monday on the Senate floor.  The Senate package includes a full Agriculture spending bill, not included in the House bill (among other differences), and would arguably gives agencies some added flexibility on how they implement sequestration when compared to the House bill. Any differences between the House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled either in a Conference Committee or by sending the Senate package back to the House.  More details on the Senate spending package, and the differences between the House and Senate versions can be seen here.

  • Farm Bill - Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)) desires that a Committee Farm Bill draft will be out in April for mark up, Committee staff changes and a limited legislative calendar between now and the end of April makes May a more realistic target. As widely predicted, drafting the bill in 2013 has gotten harder because of the change in the fiscal climate. According to a new Congressional Budget Office estimate, the 2012 Farm Bill drafts would have saved $9-10 billion less over ten years than originally thought. So, even though House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) has said that his committee’s Farm Bill saving's target is $36 billion over ten years (which is close to the savings that would have been achieved last year), last year’s measure is now downgraded in savings, meaning the Committee will need to look for deeper cuts to achieve that same goal. Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) said recently that he believes the Committee will seek to achieve $23 billion in agricultural savings over ten years, as sought by the Senate Budget Committee. Some Congressional agriculture committee members reportedly are preparing to push for a Farm Bill spending even less than those levels.
  • Water Resources Development Act - Both the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) and House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) committees have placed passage of WRDA as one of their top priorities for 2013. The House T&I Committee has started to hold a series of "listening sessions" to gather input on what stakeholders want to see in WRDA. Indications are that Committee drafts may attempt to "streamline" the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental impact statement (EIS) process. T&I Committee Chair Bill Shuster has said that he can't see WRDA being easily crafted with the Congressional block on earmarks in place. EPW staff say there will be a WRDA in that committee ready for mark-up by the end of March, and while that window is rapidly closing, it is still possible that the Committee will squeeze in a mark up before the Congressional spring recess begins (Monday, March 25).

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • EPA Extreme Event Impacts on Air Quality and Water Quality Research Forum presentations now been posted online:
  • EPA completing cost-benefit study; considering various regulatory approaches for proposed national stormwater rule
  • Allegheny Co Sanitary Authority requests consent decree extension to vet green wet weather alternatives (OH River)
  • Montana intervenes against environment groups in federal lawsuit re: standards for nutrients entering surface waters
  • West Virginia House unanimously passes bill that would loosen state's selenium water pollution standard
  • Company official responds to claim that sand processing operation is responsible for IL town groundwater pollution
  • Ohio River commission warns that dozens of industrial plants may exceed new mercury water discharge limits
  • Researchers: wastewater; runoff from Marcellus Shale natural gas production making its way into WV streams
  • Hog farm to be built near Buffalo River (Arkansas) raises pollution concerns
  • Environmental advocates from throughout Mississippi Basin meet in Louisville to plan water quality agenda
  • EPA heads to court to defend Clean Water Act authority to revoke Army Corps mining permit
  • Federal Appeal Court case: Coal mine gets permit from Army Corps. Can EPA take it back again?
  • Arkansas AG: Oklahoma's Illinois River phosphorus limit was “unfairly calculated,” prompting new study of issue
  • Generic-drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical to pay $2.25 million to settle Missouri air and water pollution case
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • EPW Committee Chair Boxer expects to mark up Water Resources and Development Act bill within next couple of weeks
  • National Weather Service flood forecast update for the Middle Mississippi River region
  • EPA seeks nominations for panel to review draft report on connectivity of streams and wetlands to downstream waters
  • Upper Minnesota River and Mississippi River flood risks increase to "normal"
  • After drought, now flooding on the Mississippi River
  • Mississippi River mouth dredging begins; sediment from West Bay diversion project to be used for land creation
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers releases Congressional report:  Cost of Flood Mapping the Nation
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial: Focus on river commerce must include improving its health
  • Minnesota DNR says White Bear Lake water diversion lawsuit should be tossed out
  • Army Corps of Engineers issues permit for controversial new four-lane bridge over the St. Croix River near Hudson, WI
  • Barge traffic on Missouri River still restricted despite recent increases in Army Corps water releases from dams
  • Landowners inundated by 2011 Missouri River flooding are preparing to sue U.S. government
  • Mississippi River's system of locks and dams is aging, but there's little money for repairs
  • House passes bill authorizing Federal Emergency Management Agency to study group flood insurance policy issue
  • Environmental recovery efforts on Missouri River delayed nearly six years by Army Corps-farm stakeholders dispute
  • US Sen. Durbin (D-IL); Rep. Enyart (D-IL-12) plan bill to allow faster response to Mississippi River droughts, floods
  • Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-IL) "Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act"  media release (not the same as the above bill)
  • New bill proposes to speed planning; constructing of up to 15 river infrastructure improvements and expansions
  • Despite significant rains, only minor Midwest drought improvements, but some improvements in Plains states
March 12 Drought Monitor Map
Click to Enlarge
  • United States crop belt is slowly recovering soil moisture after suffering prolonged dry spell
  • Recent rain and snowstorms have eased drought grip; climatologists urge caution in declaring end to drought too soon
  • USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service: many areas of Kansas received much needed moisture last week
  • Historic drought is over in the St. Louis area for now
  • Drought conditions still plague the Plains and other parts of the country
Farm Bill-
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Cochran (R-MS): will try to protect Southern farmers in new farm bill
  • Some Congressional agriculture committee members preparing to write farm bill spending less than they would last year
  • Commodity, lending and supplier groups call on Congress to oppose any changes to farm crop insurance
  • House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas: committee’s Farm Bill saving's target is $36 billion over 10 years
  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN): "We’re going to wait till May before we start" new Farm Bill
Agriculture -
  • New Council for Agricultural Science & Technology report examines use of nutrients in shaping food production; yields
  • USDA:  Cover Crops Improve Soil Health, Help Farmers Weather Drought
  • Sens. Baucus (D-MT) & Hatch (R-UT) introduce bill to extend tax relief for landowners donating land for conservation
  • With hog-waste runoff blamed for polluted water, EPA urges Iowa to increase livestock facility oversight 
In the States -
  • Illinois oil industry; environmentalists sit down together to draft fracking regulations
  • North Dakota legislators are mulling two plans to create an Outdoor Heritage Fund to support statewide conservation
  • Iowa state rural legislators focus on "Nutrient reduction, support for beginning farmers"
  • Iowa lawmakers’ hearing on environmental issues brings state’s many environmental challenges quickly into view
Shakespeare -
John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth and
Junius Booth, Jr. (from left to right)
in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1864

"The ides of March are come." - Julius Caesar to the Soothsayer in William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"  Act 3, Scene 1 (to which the Soothsayer responds, "Ay, Caesar; but not gone.")

Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Annual fisheries biologist's “State of the Missouri River” address finds River in Montana "just damn good"
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • University of Southern Mississippi will lead the new Center for Gulf Studies
  • Mississippi River "takes a stab at saving a coastal marsh" by breaching its levees
Resource Extraction -
  • Wisconsin assembly approves controversial mining bill, sends it to governor for anticipated signature
  • Gov. Scott Walker signs bill that rewrites Wisconsin's iron mining laws
  • Federal judge lifts 17 year old order blocking drilling; commercial logging in southern Illinois' Shawnee National Forest
  • Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan calls for prohibiting large-scale oil and gas drilling in the state
  • Mining-hub town of St. Charles, MN says no to major frac sand facility
  • University of Tennessee's fracking research plan for its forest land faces opposition 
Federal Budget -
Fiscal Year 2013 Budget
  • Senate Fiscal Year 2013 Continuing Resolution greatly expands on version passed by the House last week
  • Senate Appropriators reach deal on $984B government funding bill to avert shutdown
  • Senate FY13 spending bill amends House's; adds full agriculture; homeland security; commerce-justice-science sections
  • Senate stopgap spending bill becoming more and more a rush to try to protect home-state interests
Fiscal Year 2014 Budget
  • Obama administration is now set to release its (late) 2014 budget proposal on April 8, according to congressional sources
  • House Budget Committee approves FY 2014 budget plan proposed by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), on a party-line vote
  • Senate Budget Committee passes its FY 2014 budget proposal will go to the Senate floor next week
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
  • 2013 Society of Wetland Scientist International conference will be held in Duluth, Minnesota, June 2-6
  • Mississippi River Cities and Town Initiative to be topic of St. Cloud, MN River Forum, March 15, 9-10 AM
  • Minnesota Environmental Quality Board: citizen input will be the highlight of March 15 Environmental Congress
  • Missouri River community river clean-up is at center of Washington, MO river festival; April 20
  • Presentation open to public: Food, Fuel, and Plant Nutrient Use in the Future; Washington, DC, March 18; 3-4 PM
  • American Bar Association’s 31st Annual Water Law Conference; Las Vegas, NV; June 5-7
  • CNREP 2013 Conference: Challenges of Natural Resources and Economic Policy; March 24-26; New Orleans, LA
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Waterfront Bulletin for March 2013
  • March 11 Waterways Newsletter from the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy; link available here
  • Weekly Newsletter from EPA's Office of Water: Water Headlines
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Watershed Network News-March 14
Other news-
  • Princeton University researchers are looking into the biofuel potential of duckweed
  • WI DNR reverses decision: will require any new MacKenzie Environmental Center operator to maintain youth programs
  • North Dakota Senate committee hears residents' testimony on whether state should fund a climate change study
  • Winter aerial view of the St. Croix River Valley (Wisconsin) from a model airplane-borne video camera
  • Mississippi River Water Walk participants continue to wind their educationally-focused way down to River's mouth
Political Scene -
  • Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) reportedly will seek a fourth U.S. Senate term
  • Conservative Eastern Kentucky Democratic voters wary of potential Senate candidate Judd's bearish coal mining position
Last Word -
"The anonymous drudges at American farming corporations are exporting $135 billion worth of products every year and transforming the American Midwest." - New York Times Op-ed Columnist David Brooks, in an editorial entitled, "The Axis of Ennui."   Brooks adds, "The people who are too boring and unfashionable to get invited to the conferences in the first place have actually changed the world under our noses."

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