Friday, April 12, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~
Congressional Schedules on Major Water-Related Legislation Slip
Water Resources Development Act
The Senate's attention turned decidedly toward gun control this week, and the week's rumored floor activity on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) failed to materialize. Senate floor action on the bill that passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee in March has yet to be scheduled by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Since Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have not  reached agreement laying out gun debate conditions, that activity could take up considerable floor time, and push Senate WRDA action into May. On the House side, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has scheduled its first formal hearing on WRDA for next Tuesday (April 16) after holding a "roundtable" on Army Corps inland waterways' issues this week.

Farm Bill
Both the the Senate and House Agriculture Committees expressed desires earlier in the month to hold Farm Bill mark-up sessions in April. However, a more realistic target for work in both committees is May, especially in light of this past Monday’s presentation to Congress of newly revised Farm Bureau Federation Farm Bill proposal (PDF file copy available here), which the committees are now taking under consideration.  Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) has indicated that the Committee may mark up a House bill as early as the week of May 6, possibly preceding any action in the Senate Committee.

Obama Budget Reprises Past Themes - - Broad  Strokes and Fine Points
Normally an inside-the-beltway, drama-filled event, this year's late release by  President Obama of his federal budget proposal has registered only a slight blip thus far on the Washington, DC political radar screen, coming as it has two months late, and following passage of both Republican House and Democratic Senate budgets.   The Administration's budget includes familiar themes from past years' plans (made before without success), including curbing farm subsidies and increased spending for infrastructure projects  White House officials say the budget is an attempt at compromise; trying to strike a balance between the House and Senate versions. The plan repeats deficit reduction overtures made during December 2012 White House negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH); negotiations that Boehner walked away from over his opposition to higher taxes on the wealthy.

If it is nothing else, the annual release of the budget proposal is a political statement.  And while no Administration's budget stands any realistic chance of being reflected en masse in any subsequent Congressional appropriation's bill, the annual rite does play one role: it reflects Presidential priorities at that moment in time. With that in mind, here is a link to an overview that includes details of the Obama team's water resource priorities (broken out by agency: EPA, USDA, Corps of Engineers, Interior and NOAA).  Links are also provided to each agency's detailed budget document.  To read a more broad perspective of the Obama budget proposal and how it may play out on the political playing field, see here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Tennessee Environmental Council and Rediscover East sue PSC Metals over alleged metals' water pollution
  • Living on Earth report: media access to federal-Exxon Arkansas oil spill cleanup info gets routed through official Exxon channels
  • Two persons file federal lawsuit against Exxon Mobil for Arkansas oil spill from pipeline burst
  • Iowa's proposed strategy to reduce nutrient water pollution may impact many Northwest Iowa farmers
  • EPA report: Oklahoma’s 2012 efforts to curb nonpoint source water pollution outpaced those in all other states
  • City of Vicksburg, MS cited by the US EPA for raw sewage flowing into Mississippi River between 2007 and 2012
  • Midwestern universities seek grant for nutrient management center addressing farm runoff; Gulf of Mexico dead zone
  • Environmental groups oppose new selenium water pollution rules for Kentucky
  • U.S. Water Alliance convenes first of four meetings of agriculture, water, and environmental leaders in Minneapolis
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Natural river diversion at Mardi Gras Pass south of New Orleans gains support from political, commercial interests
  • Waterways Council, Inc.’s Executive Committee endorses two waterways bills introduced by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Competition heats up among U.S. ports as they prepare for post-Panama Canal-expansion realities
  • Army Corps of Engineers holding public meetings this week on its water management plans for the Missouri River basin
  • Cairo, Illinois Mayor to Army Corps: halt reconstruction of Bird's Point Levee; it will promote floodplain development
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee confronts Army Corps inland waterways issues during roundtable
  • After gun control, Senate set to take up Water Resources Development Act next, as environmental concerns remain
  • Congressional Budget Office says Senate's Water Resources Development Act would cost $12.5 billion over next decade
  • Georgia may take centuries-old resource-state line battle with Tennessee over the Tennessee River to Supreme Court
  • House Members introduce bill to take fish and wildlife projects off Army Corps' authorized Missouri River activity list
  • Water levels in Wisconsin River reservoirs vary depending on if they are in north or south
  • Shifting the government's climbing flood risk exposure to private insurers is not as easy as it sounds
Farm Bill-
  • American Farm Bureau Federation sends Congress its revamped five-year farm bill proposal
  • House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders would like to move farm bill soon, but common sticking points remain
  • Tough Farm Bill negotiating remains, especially if committees have to trim spending more than they did in 2012
Agriculture -
  • New York Times editorial board: ag-gag laws guarantee increased distrust of American farmers and food supply
  • Dozen or so state legislatures have proposed or enacted bills making it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms
  • New paper contends Congress should increase US agricultural research budget threefold to reverse decades of neglect
Climate and Weather -
Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
  • NOAA: beneficial, soaking rains finally fall; providing some badly-needed drought relief in Plains states
  • Earth Networks: Summer 2013 is going to be a hot one across large stretches of the U.S.
  • Weather, now fluctuating on a grand scale, is becoming increasingly hard to forecast long-term
  • Midwest drought eases but persistent dry conditions in western Plains states could still limit Mississippi River flow
  • Quad-City, IA-IL area "officially" over drought; remainder of Iowa still abnormally dry, or in some stage of drought
  • Drought conditions persist in Missouri River basin; Army Corps enacts drought water conservation measures
  • Professionals name floods, drought, water quality, climate as major environmental; economic concerns at conference
  • New NOAA Drought Task Force report examines the causes of 2012 Great Plains drought
  • Upper reaches of the Minnesota River Watershed may see Spring flooding materialize this week
In the States -
In the Cities -
  • Strict US city planning regulations driven by property owners protecting own interests, not quality of life considerations
  • St. Cloud, MN mayor highlights city's long connection to Mississippi River at annual State of the City event
  • St. Paul, MN City Council adopts its Great River Passage Master Plan focused on the Mississippi riverfront
Forestry -
  • Opportunity exists to set good precedents and protocols for using social teamwork in US National Forests' management
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Study: No DNA Evidence of Asian Carp in the St. Croix River; Scientists Urge Continued Action
  • Midwestern Governors Association observes Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month by launching  LinkedIn group
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Federal appeals court to review ruling that Gulf Coast landowners can sue companies over greenhouse gas emissions
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy looks at the RESTORE Act and what it means for the Gulf Coast and its communities (PDF file)
  • As third anniversary of BP oil spill nears, Mississippi River delta wetlands' restoration advocated
Resource Extraction -
  • Southern Illinois counties see first of fracking oil  and gas land rush, start to rake in fees
  • Advances in fracking, crippling drought and depleted Ogallala Aquifer intensify longstanding water-drilling debates
  • Oklahoma's oil and gas producers get little opposition over use of hydraulic fracking from the public
  • South Dakota state scientists search for Black Hills sands suitable for oil-and-gas fracking
  • Minnesota Public Radio: Minnesota companies eager to mine frac sand
Federal Budget-
  • Washington Post interactive visual exploring President's proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2014: income and revenue
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
  • Kayaker Janet Moreland to embark on 3-1/2 month long historic trip down Missouri River from Montana to St. Louis
  • 18th Int'l Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species; April 21-25; Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
  • Adaptive Management for Conservation  Success, June 10-21, Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, Front Royal, VA
  • The Wetlands Initiative lists its April events targeting wetland resources' restoration in the Midwest
  • Migratory Bird Festival; North Utica, IL; Saturday, May 4
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's "Waterfront Bulletin" for April 2013
  • Tennessee Clean Water Network's April 4, e-newsletter
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's April 9 WaterWays e-newsletter link here:
  • Weekly Newsletter from the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: "Water Headlines"
  • U.S. Water Alliance "News and Waves" April newsletter
  • Here is the 1 Mississippi Campaign's April newsletter link:
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Watershed Network News for April 11
Other news-
  • Natchez Democrat op-ed: "Let's engage with entire Mississippi River"
  • Brewers start to sign on to Natural Resources Defense Council's "Brewers for Clean Water" campaign
  • EPA designates Center of Excellence for Watershed Management at Mississippi State University - a resource for universities across state
  • U.S. Appeals Court clears path for property owner 'rails to trails' takings lawsuits against the government (PDF file of ruling)
  • State preparing to promote recreation, development along Kansas River; news: Kansas web site:
Political Scene -
  • Democrat Jim Mowrer all but certain to run for US House seat held by GOP Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4)
  • U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13) officially kicks off her 2014 campaign for Pennsylvania Governor
  • Democrat Robin Kelly easily wins race to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL-2)
  • Minnesota’s 6th District US House race-Michele Bachmann (R) vs Jim Graves (D)-is one of top 2014 races to watch
  • Louisville Courier Journal animated editorial cartoon on Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) and Democratic rivals' relationship (embedded below)
Last Word -
The timeline between the submission of a president’s budget and someone saying the phrase ‘dead on arrival’ is the shortest measure of time in Washington.”  - Tony Fratto, a spokesperson for George W. Bush’s Treasury Department and later the Bush White House, told to Yahoo News.

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