Friday, October 25, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Water Resources Bill Overwhelmingly Passes House on the Way to a Conference with the Senate
Bypassing debate on some of the potentially more contentious issues, on October 23, the House overwhelmingly passed its "Water Resources Reform and Development Act."  The vote was 417-3, with only two Republicans and one Democrat voting against the bill.  Known as "WRRDA," the $8.2 billion public works bill authorizes flood control, navigation, and water resource projects, maintenance and studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers across the country, with many in the Mississippi River watershed. The bill's passage sets the stage for the likely formation of a House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences between the House WRRDA bill and a companion Water Resources Development Act (or WRDA) bill passed by the Senate in May.  For a review of WRRDA from a Mississippi River Basin perspective, and of the upcoming WRDA-WRRDA reconciliation process, please see this article, as well as additional news article links, below.

Next Week in Congress
As the dust from the federal government shutdown settles, and the Senate returns from a week off, there will be some Congressional committee activity next week relating directly or tangentially to the Mississippi River Basin.  Foremost among those activities will be an opening session of the Senate-House farm bill conference committee on Wednesday (see related articles, below, under "Farm Bill", and for our latest 2013 Farm Bill news and resources summary, please see here).  For other River-related committee activity scheduled for next week, you can follow this link.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • U.S. Water Alliance: "Mississippi River Nutrients: Lawsuits and Workshops"
  • Private-public stakeholder coalition crafting best practices manual for dischargers seeking to trade water pollution credits
  • New study: Nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops lingers in soil and is released into water as nitrate for decades
  • Study: Traces of nitrate fertilizers can stay in the ground for decades after their first application
  • Legal analysis: "Numeric nutrient criteria in the Mississippi River:a back-handed victory for EPA?"
  • Legal Commentary: "Are you killing the Gulf of Mexico?" (AGProfessional magazine)
  • "Hypoxia issues in the Gulf of Mexico" to be panel discussion topic at annual soil and agronomy meeting
  • EPA does not appeal court ruling allowing state discretion to incorporate mixing zones into water quality standards
  • House Republicans urge EPA to share draft surface water jurisdiction rule with outside science advisory board
  • MPR news: Conservation Corps Minnesota works to fight erosion along Minnesota's river bluffs
  • "Federal Numeric Nutrient Criteria: A Tragedy in Two Acts" by Brian Glass of Warren Glass Law
  • Federal court rules that West Virginia farm's runoff is covered by agricultural stormwater Clean Water Act exemption
  • Federal judge: EPA has no right to force WV poultry grower to obtain water pollution permits for farm runoff
  • Federal court backs agriculture industry's reading of Clean Water Act agricultural stormwater permitting exemption
  • US EPA expected to approve in part, precedent-setting Kentucky water quality standard for selenium soon
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
Water Resources Reform and Development Act
  • Despite opposition from conservative groups in Washington, House passes Water Resources Reform and Development Act
  • Challenges await likely conference committee attempt to reconcile differing House and Senate water resources' bills
  • Congressional Budget Office releases cost estimate of the House's Water Resources Reform and Development Act
  • Fiscal conservative groups come out in opposition to House Water Resources Reform and Development Act Link to letter: (PDF file)
  • The Hill op-ed: "We must improve ports, waterways and water infrastructure" by Reps. Shuster (R-PA) and Rahall (D-WV)
  • White House backs WRRDA but urges changes to some of its "problematic provisions" (see White House statement, below)
  • White House "Statement of Administration Policy" on the House Water Resources Reform and Development Act (PDF file)
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Shuster thinks Congress should pass WRDA bill every two years
  • Wisconsin State Journal editorial: Water Resources act only takes baby steps. Congress should pass a better bill.
  • Environmentalists fear water resources bills' streamlining could lead to projects like Mississippi River Gulf Outlet
Other Water Resource Management News
  • World Resources Institute releases guidance "to protect America's water and reduce costs with natural infrastructure" (The publication, Natural Infrastructure: Investing in Forested Landscapes for Source Water Protection in the United States, is available here:
  • Vote scheduled this week could re-start stalled Southwestern Minnesota Lewis & Clark Regional Water System project
  • Turbine company drops plans to place power-generating turbines in the Mississippi River
  • Late addition to Federal fiscal deal adds $1.2 billion to spending cap for embattled Ohio River waterway project
  • Sen. McConnell (R-KY) on budget bill's $2+ billion Ohio River Olmsted locks and dam provision: it saved $160 million
  • Army Corps of Engineers denies "Kentucky Kickback" was intent of spending bill provision for Olmsted locks and dam project
  • Sen. Paul (R-KY) says budget deal was only alternative to keep troubled Ohio River locks and dam project on schedule
  • Indiana Soybean Alliance : Indiana corn and soybean farmers were relieved to see Olmsted "shutdown" averted
  • Group of Kansas farmers commits to water conservation program to help save dwindling groundwater supply
  • Illinois Soybean Association at forefront of effort by coalition to improve Mississippi River freight movement
  • Kansas and Army Corps will split cost of studying potential aqueduct from Missouri River to Ogallala Aquifer
  • Drought plaguing western Kansas resurrects 31-year-old federal study proposing pumping Missouri River water
Farm Bill-
Key differences between the Senate and House
farm bill versions (click to enlarge)
  • Next week Congress is expected to revive an old but increasingly rare tradition-the conference committee (farm bill)
  • House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders announce first Farm Bill conference committee public meeting; October 30, 1 PM ET
  • Lengthy and broadly-topical Politico article on upcoming farm bill conference committee proceedings
  • Key differences between the Senate and House versions of the farm bill (PDF file) (also see photo version to the right)
  • Farm bill could get wrapped into a year-end budget deal that replaces automatic sequestration cuts
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition letter to farm bill conference committee highlights NSAC's key priorities
  • National Council of Farmer Cooperatives sends bill priorities' letter to farm bill conference committee leaders
  • Two groups of House Members, Senators deliver farm bill ‘Dear Colleague’ letters to House and Senate leadership
  • Conservation groups urge conferees to include bee-protection measures in farm bill
  • Tea Party-aligned groups are making sweeping reforms to farm bill a top priority as conferencing process begins
  • Unsettled status of federal farm bill and policy makes it hard for agricultural producers to plan for next year
Agriculture -
  • Nebraska coalition against proposed TransCanada pipeline has been quiet on agricultural water contamination subject
  • Conservation assistance is available from USDA for those affected by South Dakota blizzard earlier this month
  • MPR news: Minnesota farm to school nutrition programs grow, along with challenges.
Climate and Weather -
October 22 U.S. Drought Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Widespread precipitation leads to continuing drought relief in US mid-section:
  • Annual statement by Iowa scientists says that pattern of spring floods, summer droughts fits climate change models (Also see this E&E article:
  • Army Corps of Engineers will continue drought conservation measures in the Missouri River Basin
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Fish and Wildlife Service proposes establishing Upper Midwest critical habitat sites for two butterfly species
  • Perfluoroalkyl contamination may be leading to lower tree swallow hatching rates in Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Coon Rapids Dam gates installed to help prevent Asian carp from reaching upper parts of Mississippi River watershed
  • Fish and Wildlife Service backs five-state plan to conserve habitat for prairie chicken in southern Great Plains
In the Cities -
  • Natchez, Mississippi, Mayor Larry Brown at Mississippi River Economic Summit: “We are not getting a fair shake from Congress”
  • Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative and Delta Regional Authority announce breakthroughs during Economy Summit
  • Iowa River Landing (Coralville, Iowa) is planned to ultimately be destination spot along River and
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Amount of oil found on Louisiana's coast has surged this year, three years after BP's Macondo spill
  • Two major meetings dealing with coastal restoration and science held this week at University of New Orleans
  • Bygone barriers: Preserving Louisiana coastal barrier islands proving to be difficult
  • Ousted levee board member pledges to hold oil, gas companies accountable for Louisiana’s coastal wetland destruction
  • Mississippi River plume circulation played substantial role in oil fate, transport following Deepwater Horizon spill
  • CPRA and Army Corps tout plan to restore coastal ecosystem with environmentally "wise" Mississippi River management
Resource Extraction -
  • Wisconsin GOP lawmakers want to rein in ability of local governments to impose restrictions on sand mining
  • North Dakota conservationists want to start spending some of state's fracking tax income windfall on the environment
  • New Kansas fracking regulations spell out what information that companies must disclose
Federal Budget -
  • House-Senate Budget Conference Committee schedules first meeting for next Wednesday
  • The new House-Senate budget conference committee is expected to meet for the first time on October 30
  • House Majority Leader: House Republicans will not consider fiscal deal that eliminates some sequester cuts by raising taxes
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Army Corps Missouri River Basin Water Management office public conference call on 2013-14 Draft Annual Operating Plan; Oct. 28; 1 PM CT
  • RESCHEDULED: Public Meeting for Proposed Water Quality Standards Regulatory Clarifications; Oct 29, Washington, DC and November 14 webinar
  • RESCHEDULED: USGS Webinar - Understanding Effects of Groundwater Pumping on Streamflow - November 20, 2 PM ET (webinar details:
  • New “Water” photography exhibit opens in New Orleans, runs through January 19; photos start in region and expand to rest of world
  • Call for Abstracts-Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration, New Orleans, La., July 28-August 1, 2014
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • American Farmland Trust's October e-newsletter
  • The fall edition of the Army Corps of Engineers' "Our Mississippi" magazine now available on-line:
  • St. Croix River Association's e-newsletter
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council October 17 Watershed News e-newsletter
  • The Horinko Group "Sustainabulletin" e-Newsletter: October 2013
  • Link here to the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's October 21 "TU Waterways" newsletter:
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's "River Connections" for October
  • Green Lands Blue Waters bi-weekly update, highlighting conservation on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • U.S. Water Alliance NewsWaves October monthly e-newsletter
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's October 24 "Watershed News"
Other news-
U.S. Personality Region's Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Researchers identify 3 U.S. personality regions -Mississippi River Basin states' residents generally "friendly and conventional"
  • World Resources Institute: Conflicting reporting systems may hinder companies water risk strategies
  • Dam, powerhouse committee receives 2013 rural market Iowa Tourism Award for Outstanding Collaboration
  • 11-member Paddle Forward expedition reaches half way mark in its 10-week canoe trip down the Mississippi River
Politics and People-
  • State Sen. Neil Riser (R) and Vance McAllister (R) advance to runoff election for Louisiana's 5th District House seat and
  • Two-term Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2) announces that he will not seek a third term in the House and
  • Rep. Tim Griffin's (R-AR-2) unexpected retirement will likely spur crowded GOP primary for a competitive House seat
  • Miami University of Ohio professor Poetter (D) will challenge House Speaker Boehner (R) in Ohio's 8th District race
  • Roll Call calls Kentucky's May 20 GOP Senate primary vote "the single most important election in the country next year"
Last Word -
"This is the best bad idea we have, sir." - Tony Mendez, from the 2012 movie, Argo.

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