Friday, March 22, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Water Resources Development Act Moves Out of Senate Committee with Ease
Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee used a perfunctory March 20 working session to unanimously pass its 2013 version of the Water Resources Development Act (S. 601) (known as "WRDA"), moving the bill on to the full Senate for anticipated action in late April or May.
The bill, crafted largely through negotiations between Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), would authorize new flood protection, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects nationwide, while taking steps to reform the Army Corps of Engineers project planning and management processes. The bill now includes nine amendments added as a block (or en bloc), and a manager's amendment from the Chairwoman and Ranking Member. For more details on the bill, amendments and their future, see this blog update and links to additional news coverage, below.

Mississippi River Mayors and Legislators Announce New Congressional River Caucus and River Agenda
Mayors and legislators at Capitol Hill
press event (click to enlarge)
In a briefing centering on the job-creating potential and economic driving force of the Mississippi River, mayors and lawmakers from along the length of the River met on Capitol Hill on Thursday to formally announce a new Mississippi River Congressional Caucus, and the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative's 2013 River-focused policy platform.  Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Reps. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Tim Walz (D-MN) and Ron Kind (D-WI) co-chair the newly formed, bicameral Mississippi River Congressional Caucus (along with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), and gave introductory remarks in officially launching their bipartisan effort.

The announcement of the mayor's policy "platform to restore and sustain the Mississippi River" was moderated by the Initiative's co-chair, Dave Kleis, Mayor of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Including Kleis, seven of the eleven mayors at the event each presented one of seven corresponding priority issues, which range from directing limited Federal resources where they can be most effective to passage of a fiscally-sustainable Water Resources Development Act that addresses the way the Army Corps of Engineers manages water resources projects to a Farm Bill that contains a national sodsaver provision and links farmland conservation to receipt of Federal insurance subsidies. To read more event details, and a list of the mayors' priority issues, as well as link to a summary of the mayor's 2013 policy platform, see this article.
    Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

    Water Quality -
    • NPR (Louisville): Water Advocates Discuss Dead Zone and Need for Stricter Water Standards
    • American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 Report Card for America’s Wastewater Infrastructure: "D"
    • Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement: Iowa hog farm bills would increase water pollution
    Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
    • National Research Council report: FEMA should look beyond levees to manage flood risk (free webinar-info below under Events)
    • ASCE 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure: water/wastewater related grades all fall within the D to D-minus range
    • Louisiana Dems' bills would authorize Mississippi River dredging to minimum 50-foot depth from mouth to Baton Rouge
    • Congressional trio (Sen. Durbin, Reps. Enyart & Davis) say bill would target weather's effects on Mississippi River
    • Sen. Blunt places hold on EPA nominee, as deadline for resolving differences in Mississippi River St. Johns Bayou-New Madrid Floodway Project passes and
    • Wisconsin PR story on "Mississippi River Navigation Concerns" (audio)
    • Sens. Boxer and Vitter file new Senate water resources development bill; expect Senate floor action in April or May
    • Sen Durbin (D-IL) addresses waterways council on need to upgrade Mississippi River infrastructure
    • Illinois Corn Growers Association President touts benefits of proposed Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act
    • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee bipartisan listening session with port stakeholders held on Thursday in WRDA ramp-up
    • Amendments on invasive species, wetlands conservation and National Flood Insurance Program added to Senate WRDA bill passed by Committee
    • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee votes unanimously to approve a new Water Resources Development Act
    "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin and New Orleans-Hurricane Katrina Photos
    (in recognition of “Flood Safety Awareness Week”)
    Farm Bill-
    • Des Moines Register Letter to the editor: Conservation link needed to crop insurance aid
    • Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD): work on Farm Bill will begin once Congress finishes its budget work
    • With final spending bill now passed, the total FY 2013 cut to mandatory farm bill conservation is $562 million
    Agriculture -
    • USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan - a strong advocate of local and organic food - to resign in May
    • President’s Council of Economic Advisers report includes chapter on Challenges and Opportunities in U.S. Agriculture
    • Days of promise fade for bioethanol industry in nation's Corn Belt
    • Economists and banking regulators warn that current farmland price boom, like so many before it, could end badly
    • Nebraska’s agricultural land markets remain strong, with an overall increase of 25 percent in the last year
    • USDA will trim direct subsidy payments to 350,000 farmers by about $152 million to comply with sequestration
    • 11 lawmakers send letter to House Appropriations Committee leadership requesting livestock disaster program funding
    • House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to ‘review all aspects’ of the renewable fuels standard
    • U.S. House leaders urge colleague support of sodsaver legislation; send “Dear Colleague” letter
    • American Farmland Trust’s national survey of land trusts re: protecting farm and ranch land completed; results here:
    Climate and Weather -
    U.S. Drought Monitor Map
    Click to Enlarge
    • Above-average rainfall needed in U.S. Midwest and Great Plains to replenish drought-parched  soil
    • Here is the latest NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Climate Prediction Center drought update:
    • NOAA: U.S. drought may persist from California to Texas while improving slightly in the Great Plains
    • NPR: About a dozen Wisconsin communities have created task forces to address regional symptoms of climate change
    • USDA 193-page report: Climate change will hurt crops and livestock in Arkansas; nationwide
    • USDA's NRCS helps to mitigate drought impacts with good drought plans and conservation systems
    • Crop insurance indemnities have risen to nearly $16 billion for 2012 crop year; rising in the wake of the drought
    • With little relief expected, USDA urges farmers and ranchers to prepare for dry spring
    • U of Illinois report shows that Midwest was hit hardest in terms of 2012's drought and crop insurance loss experience
    In the Cities -
    • Minneapolis planning and pollution control agencies want to reclaim brownfield sites along Mississippi River
    • St. Louis Metro area "Great Rivers Greenway" new infographic: "The Power of our Greenways"
    • St. Louis Mayor Slay, other mayors, demand more federal focus on Mississippi River
    • Mississippi River mayors call for more River dam and lock funding
    • Mayors from communities along the Mississippi River press for Federal River focus
    • Mississippi River mayors want to work with federal lawmakers to sharpen the national focus on the waterway
    • Mississippi River drinking water source not an easy sell to the Twin Cities' east metro suburbs
    Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
    • Research: Asian carp reproductive habits more adaptable than previously thought-news: abstract-
    • Study: Asian carp spawn in more river areas than previously known, showing 
    • their adaptability
    • Over 100 people alleged to have illegally trafficked in Missouri paddlefish and their eggs for production of caviar
    • Biologists report record-level trout numbers in Upper Missouri River
    • Audubon Society's "Top 40" U.S. birding trails list includes places in AR, OK, LA and the Great River Birding Trail
    Gulf Coastal Region-
    • Response continues at Louisiana bayou fire site south of New Orleans, after a tug and barge collide with pipeline
    • Report: most recent Mississippi River freshwater diversions have not slowed the ongoing loss of Louisiana’s wetlands
    • NOAA releases draft damage assessment and restoration plan for 2005 barge oil spill in Gulf of Mexico federal waters
    Resource Extraction -
    • Ohio drillers report using nearly three times as many surface water withdrawal facilities for water sources so far in 2013
    • University of Tennessee wins approval from state commission for its hydraulic fracturing plan on U of TN forest land
    • Some US energy companies; environmental groups agree on voluntary standards for hydraulic fracturing in PA, WV & OH
    • Report: rural KY residents near mountaintop mining sites at significantly higher risk of cancer death; other disease
    • State Senate committee rejects Tennessee mountaintop coal mining ban
    Federal Budget -
    • Senate passes Fiscal Year 2013 bill to avoid shutdown, starts work on budget
    • Congress approves a short-term government funding measure for remainder of Fiscal Year 2013; turns sights to 2014
    • Fiscal Year 2013 spending bill will spare a lucky few programs from sequestration cuts
    • U.S. Senate appears set to approve its first budget resolution (for Fiscal Year 2014) in four years
    • House approves Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's 2014 budget plan in a 221-207 vote
    • Trying to reconcile Senate's and House's two future budget visions will consume Washington in coming months
    • Behind the scenes GOP congressional leaders' discussions have moved on to the looming debt ceiling fight with Obama
    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 26 webinar on new NRC report: Levees and the National Flood Insurance Program: Improving Policies and Practices
    • NOAA’s National Weather Service has designated March 18-22 as Flood Safety Awareness Week
    • Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force Public Meeting; April 18, Louisville, Kentucky
    • MO Dept of Conservation sets March 23 for annual cleanup at Missouri and Mississippi rivers' confluence (4 locations)
    • U.S. agriculture industry celebrates the 40th anniversary of National Ag Day - March 19; National Ag Day web site:
    • America’s Grasslands Conference; August 12-14 in Manhattan, Kansas call for presentations:
    • Water Infrastructure Summit, Washington, DC; April 16; re: economic need for resilient water infrastructure systems
    • March 21 is recognized as the International Day of Forests, to celebrate the importance of all types of forests
    e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
    Other news-
    • Illinois outdoors: "Tripping down the Illinois River Road"
    • Activists hope to draw attention to Mississippi River pollution by walking its entire length
    • Gulf Restoration Network blog on The Mississippi River Collaborative
    • Army Corps may have to pay overtime at its 6 Missouri River dam power plants to cover for sequestration-furloughed staff
    Political Scene -
    • Conservative groups argue that new poll shows Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is vulnerable in 2014 race
    • Widely expected inside the Senate that Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran will be the next GOP senator to retire
    • Democrat Rob Zerban may run again against Republican Rep. Paul Ryan in Wisconsin for U.S. house seat
    • Energy and Natural Resources Committee votes to move Sally Jewell Interior Secretary nomination to Senate floor
    Last Word -
    Sen. Tom A. Coburn (R-OK)
    "Washington is dysfunctional, but it's dysfunctional in a dysfunctional way." - Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), in a March 10 Meet the Press interview.

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