Friday, June 28, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News of the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

This Week and the Next . . . and the Next
One week following the widely-reported announcement by scientists that they project a large Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone (or "dead zone") this summer - a dead zone precipitated primarily by nitrogen in the form of nitrates entering the Gulf from the Mississippi River - officials some 2,500 miles or so upstream of the Gulf in Minnesota released a report describing where at least some of those nitrates are coming from (see links to the news coverage and official reports, below, under "Water Quality"). The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report cited croplands as the primary contributor to the state's high and increasing surface water nitrate concentrations.  The timing of the Minnesota report ironically also followed by a week the failure by the U.S. House to pass a comprehensive five-year farm bill (a bill that includes conservation provisions that would help mitigate nitrate loading from farmland into streams).

This begs the question, "what happens next with the farm bill?"  No one really knows.  All we can say with some certainty is that nothing officially will happen next week on Capitol Hill, since the House and Senate will be recessed for the week and its July Fourth holiday.  House leaders, however, are expressing interest in bringing some form of the farm bill to that chamber's floor the following week (of July 8).  There is much more coverage of the bill's failure and its uncertain fate below, under "Farm Bill."

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency study shows elevated nitrate levels in state surface waters, especially in south
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune: Nitrogen pollution is widespread in southern Minnesota waters, report finds
  • Minnesota regulators point finger at agriculture for high nitrate levels in surface waters
  • New Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report says nitrate levels continue to rise in the Mississippi River
  • Kentucky regulators say coal not polluting public drinking water supplies; researcher disputes findings
  • State says no correlation between metals in water, coal production in Kentucky
  • Industry fears that EPA's water connectivity study could aid Clean Water Act jurisdictional findings
  • Two plead guilty to illegally dumping industrial wastewater in Baton Rouge and Belle River, LA
  • Advocates claim that Clean Water Act mandates that a turbidity limit be established in EPA construction site effluent limitation guidelines
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
Rivers of the United States of America
by Nelson Minar - Click to Enlarge
  • For your Friday morning coffee break: Very detailed and cool map of the rivers of the United States of America by Nelson Minar (also click on image to the right) 
  • Controversial Michigan wetlands bill tests EPA response to states' dredge-and-fill permit efforts; may set precedent
  • Just-released report: "The Floodway Encroachment Standard: Minimizing Cumulative Adverse Impacts" (PDF file)
  • Barge owners argue need for minimal barge fuel tax hike to support infrastructure maintenance & construction
  • Barge industry lobbyist predicts a 2012 Water Resources Development Act passage by Congress with a tax increase
  • Rivers by Design: Rethinking Development and River Restoration
  • Recommendations to better prepare Iowa for future floods have run head-on into political obstacles
  • Experts say more grasslands and wetlands are needed to help reduce flooding in Iowa; but few are listening to advice
  • Iowa has a "long way to go" on flood prevention and mitigation; faces floodplain development, outdated forecast maps
  • Inadequate federal grant money dims hopes of flood-weary Mandeville, LA residents for for mitigation help
  • Over $100 million in federal grants approved in response to Spring 2013 Mississippi River flood damage in Illinois
  • Citing 2012 drought, company drops plans to install power-generating turbines in the Mississippi River
  • Series of weekend storms cause flooding in southwest Wisconsin
  • More flooding expected along Mississippi River in Louisiana
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, expects to close two Mississippi River locks due to rising river
  • Rising Mississippi River water will force U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to again close numerous MO and IA locks
  • Central Missouri flooding raises questions concerning Missouri River levee system
Farm Bill-
What Happened?
  • POLITICO: How the farm bill failed "Or in playground terms: taking your ball and going home"
  • Washington Post op-ed: Boehner’s House implodes over flawed farm bill
  • After stunning House defeat, lawmakers scramble to salvage farm bill
  • No Easy Fix for House Leaders in the Shambles of the Farm Bill Vote
  • Des Moines Register Editorial: Food stamp showdown jeopardizes farm bill future, as rural-urban coalition collapses
  • Farm bill illustrates the perils of a whip’s vote-counting job
  • U.S. News Op-ed: "A Farm Bill Bait and Switch"
What Happens Next?
  • House Majority Leader Cantor pushing for farm bill vote by the full House in July after next week's July 4th  recess
  • Some say likely farm bill outcome will be an extension of current law, despite opposition from top Senate leaders
  • Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV): Senate will not pass another farm bill extension
  • Three Midwestern Democratic House Members introduce Senate farm bill in House of Representatives
  • House Agriculture Committee Vice Chair believes that next farm bill step for Congress is to split out nutrition
  • House Republicans may split farm bill in two so that the nutrition title and food stamps can be considered on its own
Agriculture -
  • Farmland values are cooling after years of explosive growth
  • Des Moines Register op-ed: "Should inaction be a conservation choice?"
  • Wet weather creating havoc for Wisconsin soybean farmers
  • University of Illinois Agricultural Economists: recent period of growth in U.S. corn industry appears to have peaked
  • Scientists working with Central Illinois farmers to reduce wasted nutrients and maximize crop yields
  • Interest in non-genetically modified crops rises among Missouri farmers
June 25 Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • Most of Midwest, Lower Mississippi and Plains drought condition changes this past week were "of the better variety"
  • Obama unveils climate change plan that circumvents Congress
  • Experts suggest climate threat is so severe that Obama administration must quickly tackle other parts of economy
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • New water flow system, oxygen booster for Lower Illinois River to assure survival of fish in Oklahoma "trout capitol"
    Dusky Gopher Frog
  • USGS: Mining and smelting in SE Missouri caused widespread soil and songbird contamination with lead, other metals
  • Diverse coalition issues report; urges Congress to increase funding for National Wildlife Refuge System
  • Judge allows environmental groups to intervene in dusky gopher frog lawsuits (Gulf Coastal region)
In the Cities -
In the States-
  • "Interim" Missouri House committee created to address dairy farm, river transportation, conservation impact issues
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council extends plan, environmental assessment report comment period until July 8
  • "The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: A Coastal and Marine Atlas," published by the Ocean Conservancy
  • Forests and Water Quality: How Forests Improve the Supply and Quality of Our Water
  • Arbor Day Foundation provides reforestation funds for flood-stricken Auldon Bar Wildlife Management Area (Iowa)
Resource Extraction -
  • Groups cite "dire" environmental situation in urging federal review and possible takeover of WV coal mining oversight
  • National Coal LLC will "effectively" stop Appalachian mountaintop-removal mining in settlement with environmentalists
Federal Budget -
  • White House threatens to veto House Agriculture spending bill, deepening sense of a pending autumnal budget showdown
  • House GOP clears way for consideration of the $19.45 billion agriculture spending bill after July 4th recess
  • Senate Appropriations committee approves energy, water spending bill with different priorities than House bill; setting up showdown
  • House Appropriations panel passes energy & water appropriations bill with significant cuts to US water infrastructure
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Water Environment Federation Conference: Nutrient Removal and Recovery 2013; Vancouver, BC; July 28 - 31
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • Society for Ecological Restoration June SERNews (PDF file)
  • EPA Climate Change and Water News for June 2013
  • Current EPA Science Matters issue focuses on EPA researchers and partners developing latest climate change science
  • New book summary - "Bioengineering Case Studies: Sustainable Stream Bank and Slope Stabilization" ($119)
  • Tennessee Clean Water Network June 25 e-newsletter
  • EPA Office of Water June 25 "Water Headlines"
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's June 25 and archived WaterWays e-newsletter links:
  • The Horinko Group June 2013 "Sustainabulletin" Newsletter
  • EPA has released an update to a 2001 publication on engaging stakeholders in watershed actions (PDF file)
Other news-
  • American Rivers: "Has The Log Jam Been Broken? Wild & Scenic River Legislation Passes U.S. Senate"
  • Water Environment Federation hosting StormTV Project, calls for videos of innovative stormwater programs, projects
  • Groups are concerned about West Lake Landfill (MO) waste near floodplains; EPA says situation safe
  • Industry groups urge USEPA to develop a risk policy for endogenous chemicals, before completing IRIS assessment
  • Narrow Supreme Court takings ruling limits takings application in environment suits (see article below)
  • Supreme Court rules that permit denials can be interpreted as property "takings"
  • Officials say Renewable Fuels Standard cannot be met, as industry is failing to produce advanced and cellulosic fuels
  • House subcommittee holds first in likely series of hearings on Renewable Fuels Standard; economy, environment effects
Political Scene -
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) appointed to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and
  • Former statehouse Speaker Kurt Zellers becomes third Republican to challenge Dayton for Governor in 2014
  • Kansas Governor Sam Brownback will seek a second term next year
  • John Boehner and other Republican House leaders are feeling the heat from lawmakers sick of farm bill screw-ups
  • Midwest governors are quietly offering Washington's Republicans a blueprint for governing success
Last Word -
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” - The Onceler, in "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss

Tourist walking by "The Father of The Forest" in Calaveras
Grove, California c.1880s. Photograph: Alamy
160 years ago yesterday, on June 27, 1853, a 300 foot-tall, 1,244-year-old giant sequoia in Calaveras County, California was felled after three weeks of cutting by a group of gold-rush speculators.  The event become the inspiration for the national park system (see this Guardian article about "How a giant tree's death sparked the conservation movement 160 years ago" for more on this interesting story).

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