Friday, October 4, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News of the Week

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Deserted U.S. Capitol Visitors Center
on October 1
Shut Down - "Out of the Frying Pan"
At midnight on October 1, the Federal government began a partial shutdown that has impacted government agency activity not only in Washington, DC, but across the country. We have compiled an overview of some of the government shutdown impacts for Federal agencies with a Mississippi River Basin water connection (Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Army Corps of Engineers). That summary can be seen here.

Debt Limit - "Into the Fire"
Even while "shut down," the federal government continues to spend money and creep toward an October 17 deadline when Congress will need to raise the nation's $16.7 trillion national debt limit.  On September 25, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to Congress with updated forecasts of the U.S. Treasury’s fiscal situation. According to his forecast, the Treasury will exhaust its borrowing capacity no later than October 17, at which time the Treasury Department will have exhausted its use of extraordinary measures to maintain a positive cash balance. In the face of this upcoming deadline, we've prepared a basic primer on the debt ceiling issue, which can be read here.

Farm Bill
Some movement on the farm bill occurred this week, despite the political gridlock and resulting shutdown.  On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid formally requested a conference with the House to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions of the farm bill, and he named five Republican and seven Democratic conferees, all of whom serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee. That Senate activity followed House passage on Saturday of a measure that combined its pared down farm bill it passed in July with a nutrition-only bill passed separately by the House on September 19. Before requesting the conference, the Senate first formally rejected the combined House version of the bill.  Next, the House is expected to agree to form a conference committee, and to appoint conferees. Here is our latest summary of farm bill news and resources for more details.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Washington Post: "Report: Polluted farm runoff linked to toxic green algae slime in U.S. waters"
  • EPA's proposed power plant wastewater rule draws heavy industry, environmental group interest; over 114,000 comments filed
  • EPA seeks to refine the universe of facilities covered by its general permit for industrial stormwater discharges
  • Peoria Community Word: "Illinois River algal bloom largest in at least quarter century – Consequences: Dire"
  • Flooding ends but Platte and South Platte rivers' bacteria and debris could still pose a health risk for weeks
  • PorkNetwork Blog: "Will EPA rewrite Midwest runoff regs?"
  • Wisconsin says it has reduced fertilizer runoff into waterways, but others say it has more to do
  • Senate Republicans charge EPA with being opaque about guidance on regulating streams, wetlands, smaller waters
  • Senate Republicans: EPA’s Failure to be Forthright on New Clean Water Act Rule is Troubling (GOP Press release)
  • EPA hopes to reduce citizen suits, petitions regarding implementation of state Clean Water Act antidegradation rules
  • West Central Tribune (MN) Editorial: Farmers need to be part of river water pollution, Gulf of Mexico hypoxia solution
  • Beaumont Enterprise editorial: "End of Gulf's 'dead zone' finally takes shape" (Also see this related op-ed:
  • Minnesota sets goals for "fixing" Gulf of Mexico dead zone
  • AGWEEK: U.S. EPA is missing its Gulf of Mexico dead zone goal set in 2008
  • Environmental groups say EPA stormwater rule effectiveness will be curbed by lack of monitoring requirements

Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Louisiana considers replacing federal flood insurance program with a state plan that experts say could cost even more
  • Lawmakers hope to freeze flood insurance rate increases in stopgap bill to fund government
  • Army Corps awards contract to raise portion of Mississippi River Levee on the east bank of Jefferson Parish
  • Planners study whether Mississippi River and conservation can meet water needs of northeast Twin Cities, MN suburbs
  • Montana officials gather comments on upper and lower Missouri River state water plan and
  • Residents on Montana state water plan: Additional water storage is needed in upper Missouri River basin
  • Army Corps, states and tribes clash over Missouri River water rights
  • Feds consider permit to drill on central Kansas site that includes internationally recognized wetlands
  • Funding secured to repair Arkansas' River Zink Dam in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Farm Bill-
  • Senate Majority Leader requests conference committee with House to resolve differences between chambers’ farm bills
  • In limbo: appointment of House conference committee members to resolve differences between House, Senate farm bills
  • House passes motion to re-link the fragmented farm-only and nutrition parts of that chamber's farm bill (roll call vote 226-191)
  • Most land being converted from native habitats to farmland fall outside protective "sodsaver" geographic scope of House farm bill
  • University of Missouri's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute report: "Impacts of Selected Provisions of the House and Senate Farm Bills"
Agriculture -
  • USDA total website shutdown goes far beyond other federal agencies' response; leaves no access to any online information
  • A big drop in U.S. farm earnings over the past quarter - down 14.6% nationwide - has especially hurt the Midwest
  • In new "Counting Cover Crops" report, NWF estimates total 2011 Mississippi River Basin cover crop acreage at 1.8-4.3 M acres, less than 2% of cropland area
  • New NWF report: "Clean Water Grows - Six Successful Cover Crop Outreach Efforts"
  • Once little-known, Goss's wilt disease is hitting corn crops from Minnesota to Texas
Climate and Weather -
  • Midwest drought status largely status quo last week, Plains
    October 1 U.S. Drought Monitor Map
    (click to enlarge)
    improved somewhat, Louisiana water deficits lingered
  • Latest update of U.S. Drought Monitor continues to show severe drought in parts of Illinois
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center drought outlook for October: improvements expected
  • EPA releases report of climate change impacts on streamflow, water quality in 20 U.S. watersheds
  • ClimateChangeLIVE provides free tools for teaching climate concepts for the 2013-2014 school year
  • Even with floodwater rolling through Nebraska, drought persists
  • With an unusual late-season hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, FEMA employees are being recalled from furlough
  • Tropical Storm Karen's approach will stop Mississippi River barge traffic at its mouth
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Grotto sculpin
  • Grotto sculpin, a small, cave-dwelling fish found only in Missouri, to have federal Endangered Species Act protection
  • Fisheries biologists helping alligator gar make comeback in Illinois
  • Bad weather, and use of Roundup-ready corn and soybeans linked to disappearance of milkweed and monarch butterfly decline
  • Wisconsin fish test positive for cutthroat trout virus; effect of the virus on cool-water species unknown
  • Researchers test Muskingum River Basin waters (Ohio River Basin) for invasive Asian carp
  • Criticism greets new Bureau of Land Management proposal for protecting sage grouse in North Dakota
  • Report: States should boost ability to oversee how power plant cooling-water intakes entrain fish, other organisms Link to the report here:
In the Cities -
  • Louisville, KY 4000-acre park is one of largest new parks in country and a prime private-public partnership example
In the States-
  • Illinois announces over $5 million in investments to 13 communities across state for green infrastructure projects
  • Thousands of Western Pennsylvania forest acres fragmented by Marcellus shale and traditional gas well drilling
Resource Extraction -
  • 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sides with oil organizations in Allegheny National Forest mineral rights case
  • Kentucky´s karst geology and sinkhole terrain will challenge natural gas pipeline developers
  • Ohio directive: shale gas drillers must report fracking chemicals to local governments, first responders, residents
Federal Budget -
  • Democrats push to link Continuing Resolution and debt ceiling issues, given the October calendar
  • Politico: As the federal government shutdown continues, Congress will soon have to address raising the debt ceiling
  • Senate Majority Leader Reid pushes for lager budget agreement, including a final savings figure for farm programs
  • Federal government shutdown is broadly curtailing EPA activities
  • Cargo being shipped through the nation's locks, dams and harbors should flow as usual, despite shutdown
  • How government shutdown affects the Mississippi River: Lock’s open, backwaters closed
  • Government shutdown impacts Illinois River conference in Peoria; one-third of speakers don't attend
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Illinois River Watershed Partnership (OK and AR) second annual “Restoration of Our Rivers” Conference; October 3-4
  • Lecture: The Biology and Management of Asian Carp: Lessons for Minnesota. by Duane Chapman. October 8, U of MN St. Paul
  • NRC meeting: Army Corps' Water Resources Science, Engineering, and Planning: Coastal Risk Reduction; October 8-9; Mobile, AL
  • NOVA (PBS) television show: How can cities prepare for rising seas and raging storms? October 9, 9 pm ET
  • State Level Nutrient Reduction Strategies  Webcast: Wisconsin’s Nitrate Groundwater Initiative; October 10, 11-12:15 CT
  • Sustainable Communities Leadership Summit; October 16; Wyndham Riverfront, Little Rock, AR
  • EPA's Watershed Academy “National Stormwater Calculator” Webcast rescheduled due to government shutdown from 10/2 to October 16 at 2 pm ET
  • Celebrate World Food Day at the Bell Museum with Sheelu Francis; October 16; Minneapolis, MN
  • Nature’s Returns: webinar series on growing importance of ecosystem service valuation and investment; October 2, 7, 16 (past webinars available)
  • National Nonpoint Source Monitoring Conference, October 28-30, Cleveland, OH
  • Wisconsin Wetlands Association’s 2013 Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony. November 7, Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Indiana Native Plants and Wildflower Society Conference: Saving Indiana’s Native Plants and Wild Places November 9, Carmel, IN
  • Registration open for 2013 Green Lands Blue Waters Partnership Conference, November 20-21; Minneapolis, MN
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota, October e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Feedlot Update October 2 e-newsletter
  • Water Environment Federation's Stormwater Report; October 2013
  • Link to the latest Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy "TU Waterways" newsletter
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's October 3 Watershed News
Other news-
  • Bipartisan House bill introduced last week would guarantee free public access to research funded by federal agencies; press release: bill: (PDF)
  • Over 1,500 pounds of Iowa rivers' cleanup trash now form University of Northern Iowa "Riverse" art exhibit sculptures
  • Lt. Governor hosts Tuesday's Illinois River Coordinating Council meeting in Peoria; news: agenda:
  • Panel of river experts discusses conservation and recreation on Illinois River as part of three-day conference
  • Over three-thousand people attend Missouri Department of Conservation’s Day at the Mississippi River event
  • New coalition pushes rebuilding nation's water infrastructure with education campaign
  • World Resources Institute: water risks are one of top 4 risks facing business; may already be affecting bottom lines
People and Politics-
This Week's Time Magazine Cover
  • Time Magazine: "It's Only Going to Get Worse in Washington"
  • Leader of wetland loss lawsuit against oil and gas companies not among Louisiana flood protection authority nominees
  • Montana Democrats get a 2014 U.S. Senate candidate: Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh
  • Rep. Rodney Alexander's (R-4-LA) resignation quietly became effective last Thursday
  • Former state Rep. Bill Bailey (D) to announce his candidacy against Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) in Indiana’s 9th District
  • Lt. Governor Peter Kinder (R) explores House 8th District GOP primary challenge in Missouri
  • "Why mayors should rule the world" - by political theorist Benjamin Barber
  • Polarized House districts, entrenched incumbents mean “deadest period in Missouri political history in the last 25 years”
  • Sens. Blunt (R-MO), Boozman (R-AR), Coburn (R-OK), Inhofe (R-OK), Johnson (D-SD), Kirk (R-IL), Levin (D-MI), Thune (R-SD), Udall (D-CO) furlough no staff during shutdown
Last Word -
The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” - Tom Clancy, during a Larry King Live interview in 2000.  The bestselling author of Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger died Tuesday at the age of 66.

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