Friday, May 17, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~
Farm Bill
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees held mark-up sessions this week on their respective versions of the farm bill.  The Senate Committee considered and passed its bill during a May 14 meeting (on a vote of 15-5).  Four Republicans (Sens. Johanns (NE), McConnell (KY), Roberts (KS), Thune(SD)) and one Democrat (Sen. Gillibrand (NY)) voted against it.   Senate Majority Leader Reid has placed the Senate farm bill (S.954) on the legislative calendar to be considered by the full Senate beginning Monday, May 20 (at about 3 PM EDT).  The House Committee passed its bill during a May 15 session after nine hours of debate by a vote of 36-10.  The House will likely take up its bill in June. You can read more news coverage on the matter under the "Farm Bill" heading, below.  And you will find links to a variety of legislative and other farm bill resources at our periodically-updated "2013 Farm Bill Resources" web page.

Water Resources Development Act
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the Water Resources Development Act (S. 601) on Wednesday (May 15). Commonly known as "WRDA," the legislation is a huge public works bill that periodically authorizes flood control, navigation, and water resource projects and studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  There are numerous bill provisions that impact water resources nationwide, many of which are contentious and have been reported on widely elsewhere (also see here for other examples).  The bill's so-called project "streamlining provisions" are particularly contentious and opposed by many environmental organizations, lawyer groups, and state wetlands and floodplain managers.  In addition to sections of the bill of a more national scope, the Senate-passed measure contains several provisions that directly reference and would impact Mississippi River Basin and Gulf Coast waters.  To see an overview of those provisions, you can read this summary posted earlier on this blog site.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Record nitrate levels in Raccoon and Des Moines rivers coming from farmland threaten Des Moines, Iowa area tap water
  • Record nitrate levels from fertilizer-laden farm runoff in rivers used by many cities for drinking water
  • Scotts Miracle-Gro removes phosphorus from lawn fertilizer line to help reduce harmful algal blooms
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency studies confirm wide variety of unregulated chemicals in state lakes and streams
  • Minnesota lakes and streams have ubiquitous chemical contamination
  • Settlement reached over feedlot pollution (manure and fertilizers) near Lake Independence (MN)
  • Updated federal advice on mercury levels in fish appears stalled within U.S. department of health
  • EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 Program "success spotlight" on Metcalf Ditch, Indiana (contaminated with nutrients)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
Water Resources Development Act
  • Sen. Landrieu (D-LA) revamps amendment to freeze flood insurance rates for 5 years, clearing Senate WRDA action
  • US Senate Passes Water Resources Development Act; news coverage:
  • Water Resources Development Act passes Senate by vote of 83-14, still faces uphill House fate
  • Here is the Library of Congress page for the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act
  • Here's the roll call breakdown from today's Senate 83-14 vote passing the Water Resources Development Act (S. 601)
  • Senate's just-passed Water Resources Development Act authorizes Mississippi River Basin infrastructure study
  • Here is Senate's Water Resources Development Act wording authorizing a Mississippi River Basin infrastructure study
Other Water Resources News
  • FEMA head reportedly promises to redo flood-risk maps to take locally built levees into consideration
  • Sen. Alexander (R-TN) threatens Army Corps' reprogramming requests over Cumberland River basin restrictions
  • Senate passes bill that would stop Army Corps of Engineers from restricting fishing in Cumberland River valley
  • Marseilles Lock and Dam's lock repair to close part of Illinois River for at least a week
Farm Bill-
  • Your "one-stop shop" for 2013 Farm Bill status updates and resources (UPDATED May 17)
  • Next stops for Farm Bill: floors of Senate (next Monday) and House (June); then conference committee (before 9/30)
  • AP: Comparing Senate and House farm bills (nice high-level overview)
  • NPR: Big Ag, some enviros agree - farmers receiving insurance subsidies should be required to be good land stewards
  • Senate panel approves massive farm bill; AP story:
  • See compilation of comments from groups and Senators on the Senate Ag Committee-passed farm bill here:
  • National Association of Conservation Districts: Conservation Compliance Coalition Praises Senate Farm Bill Agreement
  • U.S. Senate's Monday calendar: "Following morning business, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of S.954, the Farm bill"
  • POLITICO: House Committee approves farm bill; Senate floor debate expected to begin next week; House in June
  • NY Times: House Agriculture Committee passes farm bill; mostly Democrats voted against bill after 9 hours of debate
  • The Caucus Blog (New York Times): “The most contentious fight during the hearing was over cuts to food stamps"
  • House Agriculture Committee approves farm bill by vote of 36-10. Here is committee's media release:
  • House Farm Bill draft food stamp program cuts likely to spur opposition from Democrats
  • Politico overview of House farm bill rolled out by Ag Committee: Chair Frank Lucas "tacked to the right"
  • NY Times editorial board: Allowing food stamps cuts "wrong position fiscally and morally" "terrible [House] strategy"
Agriculture -
  • Plight of the bee - disappearing in record numbers - symbol of much that is haywire in current farm-political system
  • Rise in prices for agricultural land slowed somewhat to start the year in parts of the U.S. Farm Belt
  • US farmland prices rise despite weak grain market; whether market is overheating is becoming feverishly discussed
Climate and Weather -
Click to Enlarge Drought Monitor Map
  • Dryness, drought ease significantly in Plains, some of Upper Mississippi Valley; remain unchanged elsewhere in region
  • For the first time in human history, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 400
  • ppm
  • Do we need a better yardstick to measure severe droughts? The US Drought Monitor might be due for a tuneup
  • For insurers, no doubts on climate change, from Hurricane Sandy to the Midwest Corn Belt drought
In the Cities -
  • Federal agencies expand nationwide urban waterway revitalization efforts; include two Mississippi River Basin cities
  • St. Louis and Kansas City, MO among eleven cities nationwide joining EPA's Urban Waters Federal Partnership
  • Louisville, KY Metropolitan Sewer District sewer push begins with vision of cleaner water' more growth
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Study will evaluate Louisiana Coastal Master Plan's assumption that Mississippi River sediment can offset sea-level rise
  • Louisiana lists 39 restoration projects that would be financed with BP oil spill fine money
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announces creation of fund to restore Louisiana, Gulf Coast natural resources
Resource Extraction -
  • Minnesota compromise frac sand deal nixes effort to put trout stream areas off limits to mining
  • Interior Department unveils revised proposal to regulate fracking oil-and-gas development on Federal/Tribal land
  • Duke University and U.S. Geological Survey study: Shale gas production in Arkansas has not contaminated groundwater
  • The future of fracking in East Tennessee being debated
  • Compromise means bill to regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing, drilling in Illinois is ready to move forward
  • Proposed state fracking legislation expected to unleash Southern Illinois oil boom
Events - Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Greater New Orleans Foundation, Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy, others: Urban Water Series May-July
  • May 22 in-depth discussion of coastal issues: The Louisiana Coast: Last Call; Loyola University New Orleans; 6-8 PM
  • Save the date: Fishers & Farmers Partnership for the Upper Mississippi River Basin meeting; LaCrosse, WI June 25-26
  • MN DOT/LRRB Complete Streets Planning & Implementation Guidebook Seminar; June 4; St. Paul, MN and webinar
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • EPA’s Nonpoint Source News-Notes, May 2013, is now online at explores new polluted runoff management tools; programs
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's May 2013 "Waterfront Bulletin"
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's May 14 Watershed Network News e-newsletter
  • Weekly "Water Headlines" Newsletter from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's May 14 and archived WaterWays e-newsletter links here:
  • The Horinko Group May "Sustainabulletin" Newsletter; with Ogallala aquifer, Farm Bill program, fracking, other items
Other news-
  • OMB review sees greater benefits than costs in regulations, especially EPA's
  • New USGS Maps Show the National Distribution and Trends of Pesticide Use, 1992-2009
  • Follow along the paddle down the Namekagon River, from Cable to Danbury, Wisconsin; May 19-24 on this blog:
Political Scene -
  • Rick Weiland is the last man standing in South Dakota's Democratic US Senate primary field
  • EPA Administrator nomination in doubt, angering Democrats
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approves Gina McCarthy's nomination to head EPA in 10-8 party-line vote
  • Retirements and confirmation fights create high-level vacancies at USEPA
  • Former U.S. attorney Matt Whitaker (R) makes his Iowa US Senate campaign official
  • Utility executive enters 2014 race for Louisiana's U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D)
Last Word -
Olympia Snowe
"Isn't that amazing? To work a five-day workweek? Because what happens is that, you know, on Mondays - at least in the Senate - Monday night we'd have what you'd call a bedcheck vote. Just to get, you know, the machinery of the Senate up and running so that we can start the committee process on Tuesday morning ... By Thursday, you know, jet fumes. The smell of jet fumes ... Everybody's heading home, wanting to know when they can adjourn on Thursday so they can leave. [This] very short version of a workweek; makes it very difficult to deal with complex issues. And basically they're not even getting the routine matters of business accomplished. We can't pass a budget! Which is preposterous." - former Republican U.S. Senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe discussing her new book, "Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress"

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