Friday, September 27, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News of the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For
While the clock ticks down toward a possible October 1 federal government shutdown (see below, under "Federal Budget"), there are some more routine U.S. House and Senate activities scheduled next week that relate to Mississippi River Basin natural resources.  We count about a half dozen or so such hearings, and here is a link to those events.

Farm Bill Inches Forward
On Thursday evening (September 26), the House Rules Committee cleared the way for a House procedural floor vote as early as Friday (but possibly next week) to combine the pared down farm bill it passed in July with a missing nutrition title passed on September 19. Following passage of that motion, the House will send the combined farm bill package to the Senate, setting the stage for the formation of a conference committee made of House and Senate members, tasked to work out the differences between the competing bill versions. That whole process, under the best of conditions, is time-consuming, and portions of the current farm bill will expire at the end of this month.  For more details, see the articles below under "Farm Bill" and our updated farm bill news and resource page.

USGS Chemical Prioritization Approach Toward Ambient Water and Sediment Quality Monitoring Focuses on Human and Aquatic Health
The USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program has released a revised September 2013 update to an earlier report addressing the prioritization of constituents to be assessed when evaluating water and sediment quality. Entitled, "Prioritization of Constituents for National and Regional Scale Ambient Monitoring of Water and Sediment in the United States," the report describes a tiered prioritization approach that can be used by water resource managers when selecting chemicals to be included in ambient water and sediment quality monitoring strategies. Over 2,500 chemicals were prioritized by a NAWQA National Target Analyte Strategy Work Group based on physical and chemical properties, observed and predicted environmental occurrence and fate, and observed or anticipated adverse health or environmental effects. 1,081 of the constituents evaluated were determined to be of highest priority for ambient monitoring.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Chesapeake Bay Nutrient TMDL Ruling
  • How EPA will apply Federal Court's Chesapeake Bay clean water precedent in other multi-state water bodies is unclear
  • American Farm Bureau Federation will appeal court Chesapeake Bay ruling backing EPA's nonpoint water pollution limits In TMDLs
  • In Clean Water Act nutrient ruling, court gave "due deference" to EPA’s scientific and technical expertise; not to alleged coercion
Ruling on EPA Rejection of 2008 Environmental Groups' Petition
  • InsideEPA News: Judge orders EPA to determine adequacy of Mississippi River watershed nutrient limits approach
  • DTN: Court says EPA must provide more detailed defense for letting states take water-quality lead in Mississippi River basin
  • Court says EPA must fully respond to environmental groups’ Mississippi River Basin water quality rulemaking petition: NRDC blog article:; court ruling (PDF file):
  • Huffington Post: Mississippi River Pollution Standards Ruling Tilts In Favor Of Environmental Advocates
  • Regional news coverage of court ruling on EPA Mississippi River Basin nutrient management approach and
  • EPA proposal for preempting state water quality standards could stymie lawsuit over Mississippi Basin nutrient limits (article published before court ruling)
Gulf Hypoxia
  • Huffington Post: "We Are Quickly Turning the Ocean into a 'Dead Zone'"
  • September Gulf Hypoxia Task Force report highlights progress; recommends accelerated nutrient reduction efforts
  • Gulf Hypoxia Task Force: Efforts to significantly shrink size of Gulf of Mexico's dead zone will fall short
  • MPR News: The Upper Mississippi River 1926 dead zone holds lessons for Gulf of Mexico today
  • EPA: Goal to reduce Gulf 'dead zone' won't be met by 2015
  • Minnesota "taking lead" to cut size of Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’
Other Water Quality News
  • Wetlands: Battle lines form as EPA hints at revised Clean Water Act jurisdiction regulatory plan
  • Industry fears that an EPA waters of the U.S. study opens the door to blanket scrutiny of smaller waterbodies
  • State regulators around US consider using controversial "probabilistic" risk assessment method for setting water quality criteria
  • National Wildlife Federation report: "Toxic Algae: Coming Soon to a Lake Near You?" highlights summer algal blooms (E&E article on report:
  • St. Charles Parish, Louisiana residents can report pollution to interactive "iWitness Pollution" map
  • USGS, state agencies sample flood-swollen South Platte River in Colorado and Nebraska for contaminants
  • EPA has released an enhanced version of the BASINS nonpoint water pollution source software tool
  • MPCA drafts plan to reduce Twin Cities (MN) metro lakes' and stream pollution
  • Hundreds of fish die in Spoon River in western Illinois, possibly from corn syrup spill
  • Minnesota sets nutrient water quality goals; Environmental groups say they are admirable but will need more enforcement
  • WI Public Radio: Wisconsin says it has reduced fertilizer runoff into surface waters; others: but it has to do more
  • Wisconsin factory farm to pay $100,000 settlement to state for water pollution, wetland damage, air emissions
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial: Combination of Army Corps and Congress has failed America's great rivers
  • Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition rallies against transfer of fracking waste water on Ohio River barges
  • Missouri Gov. Nixon urges Corps to put hold on Missouri River endangered fish habitat project and
  • Fearing that Congress may reverse decision to raise flood insurance rates, advocates press for homeowner rate aid
  • Appraisals begin on Mississippi River 2011 flood-damaged property buyouts in Illinois
  • Lawsuit dismissed that challenged Nebraska-approved plan to pump groundwater into streams
  • Missouri River in Bismarck, ND drops 2.8 feet in two weeks
  • Barge industry group suggests 6 to 9-cent increase to 20-cent/gal barge fuel tax paid to fund water resource projects
Farm Bill-(Here is our latest 2013 Farm Bill News and Resources update (UPDATED September 27)
  • House Rules Committee sets up farm bill floor vote to combine separate titles approved in July and last week
  • House leaders may yet move this week to appoint farm bill conferees, once dual farm and food efforts are merged
  • Shutdown or Not, Farm Bill Extension Expires on October 1 
  • With time running short, House leaders work with Senate counterparts toward a new five-year farm bill
  • Uncertainty envelops three of the month's Congressional debates: government funding, the debt ceiling and a farm bill
  • Farm bill fate in Congress is as unclear as it ever has been
  • Choice Magazine op-ed: "Ten Considerations Regarding the Role of Crop Insurance in the Agricultural Safety Net"
Agriculture -
  • USDA assembles over 75 charts and maps of key U.S. farm, food sector information, including land, water and other natural resources 
  • Ranchers and farmers are increasingly opting out of federal Conservation Reserve Program to reap high crop profits
  • Iowa farmland values are beginning to show signs of softening
  • Urban Agriculture: Programs and Policy in Minnesota
  • Despite late-season drought in Quad-City area and Corn Belt states, farmers are awed and surprised by the corn yields
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • National Marine Fisheries Service to determine if Alabama shad should be protected under Endangered Species Act
  • Grand Forks Herald editorial: Asian carp threaten Minnesota's economy, culture
  • Government and fishing industry officials push for Peoria, IL Asian carp processing plant
  • Landowners along 130-mile Missouri River stretch may aid in conservation to protect 140,000 acres of fragile habitat
  • The grotto sculpin, a rare fish found in Missouri, has been granted Federal endangered species status
  • Report: A review of Keystone XL pipeline earlier this year underestimates its effects on vulnerable species
Climate and Weather -
  • NOAA drought report: Midwestern mix of drought improvement, deterioration; substantial Plains drought reductions
  • Coming soon: A new version of the U.S. Drought Monitor website; example layout:
  • UN climate science panel: global warming “unequivocal” with at least 95 % chance human activities are its main driver
In the Cities -
  • Illinois awards Sterling a $1.3 million grant to revitalize Rock River riverfront and add green infrastructure
  • Upper Mississippi River and Urban Waterfronts 2013 Joint Conference will focus interest on Davenport, IA riverfront
Resource Extraction -
  • Small MN and WI government entities line up in support of silica sand mining ban along Mississippi River
Federal Budget -
  • Senate to vote on stop-gap funding bill today (Friday), leaving House Speaker Boehner tough choices
  • Washington Post: “Everything you need to know about how a government shutdown works”
  • House Republicans plan to insert debt ceiling bill provisions to limit EPA regulations (Also see: House GOP prepares wish list for debt-limit legislation
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Free October 9 National Urban Flooding Forum at WEFTEC 2013, Chicago, IL; register by September 27
  • EPA Watershed Academy Webcast on new “National Stormwater Calculator”  Oct. 2, 2013 from 1-2:30 pm ET
  • National Park Service at St. Croix National Scenic Riverway will host Autumn Fest on Oct. 5, St. Croix Falls, WI
  • Economic and Ecological Benefits of Agricultural Conservation Systems panel; Oct. 21, 3:30 PM; Washington, DC  RSVP here:
  • November 20-21:   2013 Green Lands Blue Waters Conference, Minneapolis, MN. Save the date.
  • Upper Midwest Stream Restoration Symposium; February 23-26, 2014 at the Radisson in La Crosse, WI
e-Newsletters, Publications and Journals -
  • Green Lands Blue Waters bi-weekly update on efforts to promote continuous living cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • The Horinko Group Newsletter: September 2013 with a heavy water resource focus this month
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers "News and Views" August 2013
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council "Watershed News"
Other news-
  • A Case for an Incremental Adaptive Management Approach to Ecosystem Restoration and Resiliency - Moving from Compliance-Driven Outputs to Stewardship-Driven Outcomes in the Mississippi River Basin
  • Community college consortium receives Dept. of Labor grant funding to advance Mississippi River region economic development
  • Work is rolling on the Mad River (Ohio) recreational "River Run" whitewater project
  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) to pressure biofuels sector to support a legislative fix to EPA's renewable fuel standard
  • $1.2 million contract awarded for construction of Mississippi River Trail between Anoka and Ramsey, MN
Political Scene -
  • Change in leadership of Army Corps of Engineers' Mississippi Valley Division becomes official September 24
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) campaigning to be next top Democrat on Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) says in television interview that he intends to seek a seventh Senate term in 2016
  • Ed Marksberry is leaving the Kentucky U.S. Senate Democratic primary to run as an independent
  • The most urgent question for the GOP in Mississippi is whether Sen. Thad Cochran will retire in 2014
  • Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Shuster's (PA) GOP primary challenger argues Shuster isn't conservative enough
Last Word
Gene Kelly Singing Happily in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
The third thing the Corps of Engineers cannot do is make everybody happy, and I’m beginning to think we can’t make anybody happy.” - John Paul Woodley, former Assistant Secretary of the Army, in a 2005 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for his book “Big Muddy Blues.”  The other two things, according to Woodley, are, first, making it rain, and, second making the rain stop.  (Ed. note: Perhaps we should all take Gene Kelly's approach to the rain)

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