Friday, August 9, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News of the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Army Corps of Engineers to Hold Public Meetings on Controversial St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project
St. Johns Bayou – New Madrid Floodway Area
(click to enlarge)
Last month the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a long-awaited draft St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project environmental impact statement concerning its controversial plan to close a gap in the Mississippi River levee system in southern Missouri. On August 6, the Corps of Engineers announced that it will provide opportunities for public comment on the project at two public meetings on August 27 and 28, in East Prairie, Missouri and Cairo, Illinois, respectively. The flood control project is designed to reduce flood impacts on small communities and a large area of agricultural land behind the levee system, by cutting off the Mississippi River from the only area in Missouri where the River has significant connection with its natural floodplain. Initially proposed in the 1950s, the project has been consistently opposed by environmental and natural resource agencies, who contend that the River-floodplain connection is essential to maintain storage for flood waters, trap and filter River sediment and nutrients, and support regional and migratory wildlife and waterfowl. The Army Corps maintains that the current project is based upon "more accurate environmental methodologies, analyses and results" than an earlier proposal that was effectively halted in 2007 by federal judge's ruling. In addition to providing comments during the public meetings, written comments regarding the project may be submitted to the Army Corps by September 9, 2013. To read more details on the project and public comment opportunities, go to the Army Corps' project web site or see this summary article.

Congressional Happenings
Both the House and Senate have adjourned for their summer recess, not to return until September 9, which means that the partisanship and legislative stalemate that have befallen Capitol Hill lately have waned (or at least shifted to the 435 congressional districts around the country).  This brings to mind a recent observation by NPR News' Frank James, who noted, "The congressional recess is properly seen as a chance to reload. It's not a cease-fire."

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week
Water Quality -
Agricultural Nitrogen and Phosphrous Use
  • "Nitrogen pulse" from agricultural fertilizer impacting Mississippi River, worsening Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone
  • Community, environmental advocates want lawsuit filed to establish federal limits on Iowa farm runoff pollution
  • Des Moines River nitrate levels drop, leading Ottumwa Water Works to lift water conservation advisory
  • NRCS Chief says that USDA's focus on water quality in Mississippi River basin is having a positive impact
  • EPA urged to clarify municipal separate storm sewer system requirements re: "maximum extent" practicable standard
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Cattlemen’s Association meetings to focus on large feedlot water quality permits
  • Ohio agencies fighting numerous lakes' algal blooms with new tools to better monitor blooms, reduce nutrients
  • Environmental group's planned suit could test EPA's uncertain jurisdiction over groundwater under Clean Water Act
  • Environmental groups concerned that EPA's review of Kentucky proposal will weaken selenium water quality standards
  • Environmental groups sue mountaintop removal coal company over alleged West Virginia Clean Water Act violations
  • Groups say that EPA confirms 18 additional coal ash waste disposal sites that have polluted nearby waters
  • Peoria riverfront protesters speak out against Illinois River pollution from power plants
  • Mississippi River: 3.5 million gallons of untreated St. Louis treatment plant wastewater discharged due to power outage
  • EPA's redesigned, interactive state development of nitrogen & phosphorus water quality criteria now available online
  • Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee urges EPA to strengthen safety levels for pesticides in water
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Army Corps of Engineers to hold end-of-August St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project public meetings (also see above)
  • Rep. Bill Shuster: House's Water Resources Development Act will be marked up when Congress returns from August recess
  • Shuster: one of “top [September] priorities” is WRDA bill with “unprecedented water resources infrastructure reform”
  • House Republican leaders plan to begin moving version of waterways bill in September
  • Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) plans to push port-expansion funding during Water Resources Development Act markup
  • Jefferson Parish, Louisiana to build 17 islands to protect Lake Pontchartrain marshes
  • Northern states enjoy a fracking-facilitated oil boom with the aid of free Missouri River water
  • Environmental group's report finds sharp decline in Minnesota wetlands
  • After 1990s Missouri River floods, Overton Bottoms went from crop fields to the Big Muddy National River Refuge
  • Rep. Loebsack (D-IA-2) hopes flooding threat outweighs partisanship in his push for University of Iowa national flood center
  • Fearing growing use, groups urge Obama administration to adopt executive order mandating annual federal water budget
  • New "Tulsa River Advocates" group hopes to see Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan implemented in Tulsa County (OK)
Farm Bill- 
  • House Ag Committee Ranking Member says Speaker will ask for food stamp vote, appoint farm bill conferees in early September
  • Farm bill negotiations to continue into September as its expiration looms
  • Farm bill stalls as lawmakers leave for five-week August break
  • House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA) has little faith that Congress will pass farm bill by the Oct. 1 deadline
Agriculture - 
  • U.S. farmers are poised to reap their biggest-ever corn crop, as farmers planted the most corn acres since 1936
  • Arkansas Natural Resources Commission implies there has been reduction of poultry waste applications in Illinois River basin in state
  • Scientists rewriting Ohio's phosphorus risk index to better predict risk of phosphorus moving off farm fields
  • USDA: Cropland has been shifting to larger farms; shifts have been large and ubiquitous, doubling the farm size
  • Adequate soil moisture in many areas makes this year a good one to try cover crops; improve soil
Climate and Weather -
    August 6 U.S. Drought Monitor Map
    (click to enlarge)

  • National Drought Mitigation Center: Drought continues to recede in many areas plagued by long-term drought 
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook - July 31 (published at the end of each month)
  • USDA announces temporary drought assistance to livestock producers through Conservation Reserve Program
  • State of the Climate report: US had its warmest and 15th driest year on record in 2012; news: report: (large PDF file)
  • Climate change "softens up" already-vulnerable Louisiana
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Midwest agricultural practices, land development contribute to potential monarch butterfly  population collapse
  • Ohio working with others to close connection between Ohio River and Lake Erie basins; blocking Asian carp advance
  • Governors: five-state conservation efforts can save lesser prairie chicken if Fish & Wildlife Service gives them time (KS, OK, TX, NM, CO)
  • Poll: Minnesota residents support closing locks and dams to keep Asian carp out of upstream waters; news:  poll:
  • Majority in Minnesota say to shut down Mississippi River locks to stop Asian carp
In the States-
  • Oklahoma Governor appoints conservation official to panel reviewing, with Arkansas, Illinois River's phosphorus water quality standard
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Treasury Department set to target 2010 BP spill civil penalties to Gulf Coast state ecological, economic restoration
  • Gulf Monitoring Consortium report urges better Louisiana industry tropical storm preparation to avoid pollution
  • Obama’s Tonight Show gaff about port deepening and the Gulf of Mexico has not gone unnoticed
Resource Extraction -
  • Fast-growing western Wisconsin sand mining industry grapples with rising number of environmental problems, many involving water pollution
  • Keystone XL Light: 774-mile pipeline running from Patoka, Illinois, to St. James, Louisiana is likely to be built
  • Enbridge tar sands crude pipeline down Mississippi valley corridor expected to easily win regulatory approval
  • Bluegrass Pipeline opposition increases in Kentucky over property right and environmental concerns
Federal Budget -
  • Senate's bipartisan Fiscal Year 2014 spending bill with modest EPA funding increase sets up fight with House GOP
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Agro-Ecology Summit: conference, regional tour and Barn Dance, Willow Lake Farm, Windom, MN; August 16-18
  • EPA Webinar: New Technologies/Methods to Identify and Monitor Harmful Algal Blooms; August 20; 1 PM EDT
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council’s Watershed Symposium; October 15-17; Missoula, Montana agenda: (PDF file)
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
Other news-
  • EPA in lawsuit brief: Clean Water Act stormwater exemption doesn't apply to concentrated animal feeding operation (national implications)
  • Viking River Cruises reportedly will begin sailing the Mississippi River starting in 2015
  • OK Dept. of Environmental Quality's water quality head elected president of Assoc. of Clean Water Administrators
  • Janet Moreland continues quest to become first woman to complete solo kayak trip down the entire Missouri River
  • Minnesota River Watershed Alliance has nominated the Minnesota River to become a “National Blueway”
  • Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) floats down Madison River to show support for Land and Water Conservation Fund

  • Oil and gas industry meets with White House, Environmental Protection Agency to push Renewable Fuel Standard agenda
  • EPA approves much-anticipated 2013 volumes for the Renewable Fuels Standards and
  • EPA may propose first-time cut in mandated corn ethanol consumption in motor fuel, shrinking alternative fuels demand
  • Oil-and-gas industry to the Obama administration: next year be more flexible with the federal biofuel program
Political Scene -
  • Senate confirms new USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture; Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment
  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) announces 2014 re-election bid
  • Republican Tom Cotton enters US Senate race in Arkansas, running against a vulnerable Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) and
  • Jennifer Garrison is only Democrat with plans to challenge Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH-6) for competitive House seat
  • Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA-5) to retire from Congress in September; after growing weary of partisanship and
  • Candidates queue up to run in special election for resigning Rep. Alexander's (R-LA-5) vacant US House seat
  • Coffee break reading: The Hill's "Fall Watch List-100 people you can't ignore" when trying to comprehend how things work in DC
Last Words -  
U.S. Rep. Rodney 
Rather than producing tangible solutions to better this nation, partisan posturing has created a legislative standstill.” - Six-term U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA-5), while announcing on Tuesday that he won’t seek reelection in 2014.
Dorset, Minnesota Mayor 
Robert "Bobby" Tufts
"I want to be with the boys." - Four-year-old Robert "Bobby" Tufts on August 4 to his mother during a telephone interview with the media following his re-selection as second-term mayor of Dorset, Minnesota.

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