Friday, September 13, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News of the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Upcoming in Congress
Congress has returned from its annual summer recess, and currently has only four working days (next Tuesday through Friday) scheduled before the end of September; the date that is also the end of (a) the current farm bill extension and (b) the current fiscal year.  Now that the Syria military option vote has been set aside, Congress has turned at least some of its attention toward those two looming deadlines.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has indicated that Congress may need to return to Washington the last week of the month, perhaps including the weekend, to pass legislation that would avoid a government shutdown.

On the farm bill front, there are indications that the House will consider a stand-alone nutrition bill late next week.  In the past it has been reported that House Speaker Boehner will appoint House farm bill conference committee members after the nutrition bill vote occurs, even if it is defeated. Those appointments would lead to subsequent conference committee negotiations to resolve House and Senate farm bill differences (see more on the farm bill status and conference process here).  But passage of any new farm bill (or even a farm bill extension) will almost certainly slip past the end of this month (see more news updates under "Farm Bill," below).

House Republican leaders unveiled their Continuing Resolution (CR)  on Tuesday to keep the government funded and running beyond September 30, and House leadership has delayed a floor vote on the measure until - they hope - next week, while they line up tenuous conservative support for the measure.  As it now stands (subject to changes that might be made to gather more GOP support), the House CR would fund the government at $986.3 billion, slightly below current, post-sequestration levels, and extend government funding through December 15. While the House bill is free of riders or policy changes, riders contained in currently enacted appropriations legislation would carry forward. House Minority Whip Hoyer (D-MD) said House Democrats would not support the GOP bill, saying that the plan to continue the sequester is “totally unacceptable and irresponsible.” However, Senate Democrats are more likely to accept the House bill, and move on to address the impending debt limit issue. And speaking of the debt limit, the latest projected cash flow analysis indicates that (absent action by Congress to raise the debt ceiling) the Treasury Department will run short of cash to pay the nation’s bills as soon as October 18, although Treasury may be able to creatively stretch available funds into early November.

In addition to the above activity, Congressional committee leaders have scheduled a handful of  hearings and bill mark-ups next week that relate to Mississippi River Basin natural resources.  One such committee meeting tentatively scheduled is a mark up of the House's draft water resources bill.  Those activities are listed and described here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • President Obama may pursue executive order to clarify Clean Water Act scope in lieu of a controversial rule
  • Obama administration divided on whether EPA and Army Corps of Engineers should issue interim Clean Water Act guidance
  • Federal court in Minnesota rejects challenge to EPA determination that a waterbody is subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction
  • EPA study documents fish consumption estimates increase, but resulting stricter water quality rules doubtful (Link to study here:
  • Data show positive trends in Mississippi River in Minnesota
  • Missouri Clean Water Commission expects November vote on Department of Natural Resources water quality rules proposal
  • USEPA and Iowa DNR agree upon improvements to Iowa Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations permit, compliance program
  • Iowa agrees with EPA to boost livestock  farm Clean Water Act inspections
  • Environmental groups line up against River Commission plans for Ohio River industrial wastewater mixing zones
  • Wastewater utility officials fear that strict, new EPA ammonia water quality criteria will force costly technology upgrades
  • Court rejects environmentalists' suit to block Clean Water Act dredge-and-fill permit in Kentucky, but temporarily blocks activity
  • Louisville, KY pumping station failure causes six million gallon overflow of untreated sewage into the Ohio River
  • EPA Region 6 partially revokes Arkansas' authority to issue National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits
  • Louisville Courier-Journal op-ed by Kentucky Waterways Alliance Executive Director: "Good news and Bad news for the Ohio River"
  • Environmental groups win legal challenge against Kentucky power plant that discharges into Ohio River
  • WDNR, WI Standards Oversight Council to develop new permeable pavement technical standard focused on water quality
  • Environmental groups ask USEPA to see whether OH EPA-issued mining permits violate federal water-pollution standards
  • Northwest Arkansas landfill is bankrupt; neighbors  now worry about surface and ground water pollution
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -

Water Resources Development Act

  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee releases its long-awaited "Water Resources and Reform Development Act"  bill: (PDF file)
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee news release on newly-introduced water resources reform legislation
  • Sportsmen’s groups send Water Resources Reform and Development Act recommendations letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
  • Draft House water resources bill drops Louisiana  Morganza to the Gulf levee from list of authorized projects
  • Chamber of Commerce launches waterways campaign ahead of House action on water resources authorization bill
  • Groups welcome House WRRDA bill release while objecting to specific provisions
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee draft WRRDA bill authorizes new lock, dam, levee, ecosystem work
Other Water Resource News
  • Minnesota Wetland Management District highlighted in litigation over genetically engineered crops, pesticide use
  • Army Corps to continue drought water conservation measures on Missouri River
  • Missouri River dam releases to be reduced again this winter as drought continues to affect northern Great Plains
  • Kansas Water Office to relook at idea of transferring "surplus" Missouri River water to Western Kansas
  • St. James Parish residents at public meeting demand more protection from proposed West Shore Lake Pontchartrain levee
  • FEMA announces financial aid availability to Wisconsin to mitigate future flood/storm damage in wake of June flooding
  • As attitudes shift, hydroelectric power makes big comeback at US dams, including on Des Moines River
  • Ramsey County judge denies MN DNR request to dismiss White Bear Lake residents' lawsuit on water levels
  • Louisiana business group says FEMA should delay flood insurance premium hikes pending affordability study
Farm Bill-
    Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Stabenow
    (right) and signer-songwriter Neil Young
  • House leaders plan to use nutrition bill and its July-passed "farm-only" farm bill to negotiate farm bill with Senate
  • DTN Ag Policy Blog: Effectively, the big stumbling block for the farm bill will be coming to terms on nutrition cuts
  • Nutrition and crop insurance are key farm bill issues for Senate going into potential conference committee sessions
  • Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) won’t back another short-term extension of farm bill
  • House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-3-OK) predicts a farm bill will be passed by end of the year
  • Senate Agriculture Chair confident that farm bill will pass sometime this fall; but not likely this month
  • Singer-songwriter Neil Young in DC Monday for a National Farmers Union farm bill event;  story:
Agriculture -
  • EPA's chief agriculture adviser, Sarah Bittleman, works to bridge EPA-farmer divisions; overcome misconceptions
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists help farmers create greener dairies
  • University of Missouri Extension: agricultural land prices in the state continue to climb
  • USDA awards 33 Conservation Innovation Grants to "develop and demonstrate cutting-edge" land conservation ideas (List and description of recipients and conservation concepts funded:
Climate and Weather -
September 10 Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Hot, dry weather in the Midwest and Plains led to incremental increases in drought coverage over the past week
  • Indiana’s once thriving corn crop continues to deteriorate under chronically hot, dry conditions
  • Hot, dry weather continues to "punish" Iowa crops as moderate drought spreads to two thirds of state
  • As Great Plains windbreak trees die from drought, some worry whether another Dust Bowl might arise as a result
  • Late-planted corn in Missouri north of Interstate 70 is dead or dying due to lack of rain and scorching temperatures
  • Record heat wave blasts U.S. Midwest
  • Rep. Waxman (D-CA) and Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) announce that they will lead climate change and agriculture task force
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • West Virginia's first national wildlife refuge is 22 islands, and four shoreline areas along 362-mile Ohio River stretch
  • Lower Mississippi River endangered species may benefit from Conservation Management Plan engineering practice changes
  • Two endangered freshwater mussel species transported from Pennsylvania to Illinois to reestablish populations
  • Arkansas congressional delegation urges Interior Dept. to go slowly when deciding to close mitigation fish hatcheries
Forestry -
  • Conservationists support final Forest Service rule to accelerate NEPA reviews for soil, water restoration
  • Partnership saves thousands of forestland acres at Western Kentucky's Tradewater and Ohio rivers confluence
In the Cities -
New Orleans' Water-Centric Vision
  • Muscatine (IA) and Army Corps develop hypothetical levee breach scenario maps; map page: news story:
  • New Orleans considers $6.2 billion plan to re-imagine itself as a watery metropolis instead of a drained fortress (see plan here:
  • New Orleans has a radical new plan for managing floods
  • Quincy (IL) City Council votes down the continued pursuit of hydroelectric power on the Mississippi River
  • Congress passes Sen. Cochran (R-MS)-sponsored bill conveying two parcels (67-acres) of parkland to Natchez and state
  • Mississippi River Mayors to host Mississippi River Economy Summit with Delta Regional Authority; Oct. 16-17, Memphis, TN Meeting agenda:
In the States-
  • EPA seeks to allay states' concerns over start-up costs of recently-proposed NPDES electronic reporting requirement
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Treasury Department proposes regulations governing spending of billions in Clean Water Act fines to restore Gulf Coast
  • Louisiana Gulf Coast residents and businesses forced to adapt to a reality of rising sea levels and lost lands
Resource Extraction -
  • University of Tennessee halts attempt to develop fracked natural gas wells on Cumberland Plateau land it owns
  • Ohio Environmental Council comes up with plan to strengthen state oversight of fracking and shale drilling
Federal Budget -
  • House Republican leaders unveil spending plan to keep Federal government running past September 30
  • House GOP leaders delay vote on spending bill (continuing resolution) to avert a government shutdown until next week
  • Republican leaders have failed to settle on an alternative plan to keep the government running after Sept. 30
  • House Majority Leader Cantor warns that House may need to cancel September recess to deal with spending bill
  • Debt limit deadline to boost nation’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit could come by mid-October (lower third of article)
  • Nature: More funding and staff cuts loom for U.S. science
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Minnesota Environmental Quality Board Meeting; September 18; St. Paul, Minnesota (materials:
  • Arkansas River Compact Administration to hold September 17 informational meeting regarding proposed irrigation plan
  • USEPA Watershed Academy Webcast: Wetlands Supplement: Incorporating Wetlands into Watershed Planning; Sept 17, 1 PM ET
  • 6th Annual Mississippi Earthtones Festival; Alton, IL, September 21, noon - 10 PM CT
  • Annual Ohio River Watershed Celebration theme is “Working Together for Clean Water;” September 19, Pittsburgh, PA
  • EPA Announces Public Webinars/Meeting for Proposed Water Quality Standards Regulatory Clarifications
  • Webinar: The Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” - Linking hypoxia to fish and fisheries; September 25; 10:30–11:30 am EDT
  • Resources for the Future Seminar: The Future of US Water Supplies, October 2, 12:45 - 2 pm EST; Washington, DC
  • Green Infrastructure Conference; University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; September 17,  8 am – 3:30 pm (CT)
  • 2nd North America Congress for Conservation Biology; Missoula, Montana, July 13-16, 2014
  • National Urban Flooding Forum: Oct 9, 1.30-3 pm CT, Chicago, IL
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • The Wetlands Initiative's September "Word on Wetlands" highlights Gulf dead zone and other River Basin news
  • Bi-weekly Green Lands Blue Waters update re: agricultural land continuous cover issues in Mississippi River Basin
  • 1 Mississippi Campaign September newsletter: "A Rising Tide of Awareness"
  • EPA Climate Change and Water News
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, September newsletter
  • NPR: "Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History" book looks at River's importance back to Paleolithic Era
  • Water News and More from the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy; September 11 issue
Other news-
  • Call for Applications for 2014 Conservation Leadership Programme Future Conservationist Awards; November 11 deadline
  • Sources: EPA poised to propose regulating chlorate, nitrosomines and strontium in drinking water
  • Winona State University has new minor that can be used to tailor studies to fit a sustainability-focused career path
  • Consumer Reports: Disaster preparedness-How to be ready for the next big storm
  • Chances are Congress will make a run at reforming the Renewable Fuels Standard before the end of the year
  • Citizens and MN DNR continue work on new recreation-conservation model in Minnesota River Valley
  • University of Minnesota River Life blog: Mississippi River Key to Minnesota’s Recent History (see @RiverLifeUMN)
Political Scene -
  • Lopsided redistricting means that 2014 U.S. House races will be the least competitive races in recent
    2014 Election Race Ratings Map
    memory; a regional analysis 
  • Poll: Former Gov. Rounds (R) has large lead over likely challenger Weiland (D) in South Dakota’s open Senate contest
  • Listed on POLITICO's "5 House Primaries to Watch" - Tennessee’s 4th District Republican primary
  • In Friday memo, House Leader Cantor outlines autumnal legislative priorities as Congress starts back to work including WRDA, Continuing Resolution and nutrition
  • Sixty-three percent of Capitol Hill staffers in Washington, DC hope to leave their positions within a year
  • Hate Congressional division and gridlock? They are us.
  • PBS Newshour: "Chaos in House Over Obamacare Fight" (and spending bill, and debt limit, and . . .)
Last Words -
Seamus Heaney
Irish poet and Nobel laureate
"Noli timere" - Irish poet and Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney's last words, sent by Heaney as a text to his wife minutes before his death earlier this month.  The words are Latin for "do not be afraid."

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