Friday, November 1, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Conferees Stake Out Positions During Opening Farm Bill Meeting
House-Senate farm bill conference committee talks officially began on Wednesday, with most of the nearly two and one-half hours of proceedings devoted to opening statements by the 41 conferees (12 Senators and 29 House Members).  The meeting was more ceremonial than substantive, as the conference committee members by-and-large reprised farm bill positions well-known ahead of time.  With that initial meeting out of the way, negotiations will quickly move beyond the public view as the committee's four key members - House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank  Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MI) - try to hammer out a compromise bill.  And although the phrase "common ground" was often heard during Wednesday's meeting, finding that commonly-agreed upon language will be difficult, particularly when it comes to the divisive nutrition title of the bill - the key issue being the extent of cuts to nutritional assistance (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or "SNAP").  Other competing House and Senate bill issues that were highlighted in the opening meeting included the nature of the farm "safety net" (i.e., crop and income insurance), conservation compliance, target prices, country-of-origin labeling, and limiting states’ abilities to regulate agricultural products.

The House is officially recessed for the rest of this week and next.  However, it is expected that farm bill conference committee negotiations will continue during that time behind closed doors.

Mississippi River Nitrate Levels Continue to Increase; Signs of Progress in the Illinois and Iowa Rivers  
On October 30, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that Illinois River nitrate levels 
USGS Long-term Nitrate Trends
Monitoring Sites (click to enlarge)
decreased by 21 percent between 2000 and 2010, based on long-term River water quality observations at Valley City, Illinois. Those results marked the first time that substantial, multi-year decreases in nitrate were observed in the Mississippi River Basin since 1980, according to a new National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program study.  NAWQA evaluated nitrate concentrations and flux from 1980 through 2010 at eight sites in the Mississippi River Basin as part of the study. Nitrate decreases were also noted in the Iowa River during the same time period; although the decline was not as large (10 percent). Similar declines were not widespread in the water basin, however. Study results between 2000 and 2010 reflected consistent increases in nitrate concentrations in the upper Mississippi River (29 percent) and the Missouri River (43 percent), while nitrate concentrations at the Mississippi River outlet with the Gulf of Mexico increased by 12 percent.   Additional details and a link to the report can be found at this USGS study web site: "Nitrate in the Mississippi River and Its Tributaries, 1980–2010: An Update."

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • WaterWorld: Nitrate levels continue to increase in Mississippi River, finds study (also see summary and link, above)
  • Iowa regulators to consider environmentalists' calls to set numeric nutrient water quality criteria for key state waters
  • Ag Professional Editorial: "Don’t blame ethanol for the dead zone"
  • Iowa dairy agrees to pay $20,000 penalty to settle USEPA-alleged Clean Water Act violations (lack of NPDES permit)
  • Two recent EPA guidance documents on state nutrient rules appear to provide contradictory advice to states
  • As climate warms, cyanobacteria (Blue-green algae) gain a competitive edge over other algae in still waters
  • Some see central-Minnesota trend of potatoes replacing forest land as a threat to water quality and wildlife
  • House Committee approves three bills said to offer farmers, forest owners relief from "regulatory red tape"
  • Op-ed: Kentucky rejects posting fish-consumption health warnings at popular Ohio River fishing locations
  • Iowa Policy Project Report: Constructed wetlands can help manage storm runoff from farm fields, new development sites
  • EPA releases review on livestock and poultry manure constituents focused on potential water quality impacts (link to report here:
  • EPA declines to extend the reporting cycle for states to submit lists of polluted waters beyond present two years
  • Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Game and Fish request more post-spill testing of Lake Conway from Exxon
  • EPA settles with oil company over 820 barrels of crude oil released in September 2012, in Arkansas (Smackover Creek)
  • Environmental groups highlight unflattering facts about Minnesota waters and threats to state water resources
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
Water Resources Development Act
  • House-Senate WRDA conference committee will debate how to streamline water resource project environmental reviews
  • States call for Congress to drop Senate's proposed Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority from WRDA
Other Water Resource News
  • High Plains Public Radio: Could an aqueduct from Missouri River help preserve the Ogallala Aquifer and SW Kansas Life?
  • House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member announces legislative proposal to delay flood insurance rate hikes (media release)
  • Louisiana lawmakers hope to work with other states to push for reprieve from flood insurance premium increases
  • Bipartisan group of Senate and House members proposing legislation to delay flood insurance rate increases four years (Also see this related news article:
  • Oklahoma Water Resources Board imposes new cap on amount of water that can be taken from Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer
  • Special congressional freight panel urges more spending on highways, ports and rail
  • House Natural Resources subcommittee focuses on regulations that critics say stifle construction of dams, reservoirs
  • Army Corps of Engineers expects higher-than-normal runoff in the Missouri River basin in 2014
  • Louisiana Mississippi River projects include port development, raising levee; Governor touts economic benefits and
Farm Bill-
  • Farm bill conference committee talks open with renewed promises to complete bill by the end of December
  • Groups say House farm bill would preclude EPA from using assessments already conducted to protect endangered species
  • DTN Ag Policy Blog: “By the Numbers: Breaking Down the House and Senate Farm Bills”
  • Outside conservative groups may be on verge of abusing their influence with GOP Congressional members on Farm Bill
  • Will the Senate bill's conservation compliance provision survive the farm bill conference committee?
  • Prairie Rivers Network op-ed on farm bill conservation compliance: "Conservation key to farm bill talks"
  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) doesn't want the farm bill included as a "solution" in Congress's budget talks
  • The 41 farm bill conferees face an arduous task highlighted by $35 billion gap between two food stamp spending proposals
  • Stakeholder groups make last efforts to sway conferees before formal farm bill conference meetings start
  • 278 organizations deliver letter to farm bill conferees urging linking of conservation to crop insurance subsidies (link to letter here:
  • National Association of Conservation Districts sends letter to Farm Bill Conferees outlining its bill priorities
  • Over 250 groups send letter to farm bill negotiators stressing need to protect long-standing permanent farm law Copy of letter here: (PDF file)
Agriculture -
  • Visions of an eastern Montana "American Serengeti" trouble many ranchers
  • New John Hopkins’ Center for a Livable Future report: almost no progress being made on improving US animal production  See full report here: (PDF file)
  • USDA grant creates carbon credit system for North Dakota landowners who agree not to tilling existing grasslands
  • Arkansas hog farm protesters say farm animal waste byproducts pile up with serious public health consequences
Latest U.S. Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • October 29 NOAA/NWS national drought monitor update:
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook for November
  • 2012 drought still impacting Missouri River as Corps of Engineers makes plans for 2014 basin management
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • University of Illinois and Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center are researching new Asian
    Invasive "Palmer amaranth" alongside
    quasi-invasive Homo sapiens
    carp tracking tools
  • Invasive weed - Palmer amaranth - creeping into the Midwest from the South; causing significant corn, soybean losses
  • Invasive Plant Advisory Committee survey shows $5.85 million spent in Indiana last year to control invasive plants
  • Midwestern Governors unite to address Aquatic Invasive Species; call for designation of a lead Federal agency
In the States -
  • Indiana environmental commissioner fears state won't be able to meet new federal air, water quality standards
In the Cities -
  • Grafton, Illinois mayor sees the city within a larger  Mississippi River continuum of geo- and eco-tourism
  • Three Mississippi River Basin cities highlighted for their mature and comprehensive green stormwater management programs
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma's push to develop along Arkansas River depends on consistent flows from an inconsistently-flowing River
  • Dubuque, Iowa is a "jewel on the upper Mississippi River"
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Louisiana's top coastal restoration official is hopeful about efforts to restore the state's coastline
  • NPR: Is rebuilding storm-struck coastlines worth the cost, given the risk of repeated destruction?
  • USDA finds that its efforts to combine forestry with farming have been slow to take off
Resource Extraction and Transportation-
  • North Dakota pipeline spill raises questions amid state's oil boom (also see: North Dakota recorded 300 oil spills in two years without notifying the public
  • Wisconsin state Sen.Tiffany - sand mine bill author - acknowledges that changes to the bill are needed
Federal Budget -
  • Congressional budget panel convening this week has its task compounded by misinformation
  • House and Senate lawmakers opened their latest bipartisan attempt to curb the U.S. deficit with ideological clashing
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Association of Montana Floodplain Managers Conference, March 24-27, 2014, Billings, MT
  • Society for Ecological Restoration-Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter Conference - March 28-30, 2014; U of MN, St. Paul Campus, MN
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers' 38th Annual National Conference, "Making Room for Floods & Fish" - call for presentations (June 1-6, 2014)
  • Save the Date: 2014 America’s Watershed Summit. September 30 – October 1, 2014, in Louisville, Kentucky
  • ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services conference: December 8-11, 2014; Washington D.C.
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • America's Watershed Initiative's Fall Update includes news on Mississippi River watershed health report card progress
  • EPA Climate Change and Water News - October 30 issue link here:
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's weekly Watershed News (October 31)
Other news-
National Great Rivers Research and
Education Center's mesocosms
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center's Mississippi River-based research mesocosms now functional
  • EPA's New Report on Case Studies Analyzing the Economic Benefits of Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure
  • Ethanol and oil groups blitz White House as controversial ethanol blending rules near
  • Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center (Grand Tower, Illinois) to open new building with new River display
  • Maya Lin’s new sculpture for Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was inspired by Missouri River and
Politics and People-
  • The 2014 calendar for the U.S. House of Representatives is now available on line in a variety of electronic formats
  • Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-At Large) is widely expected to announce his run for U.S. Senate seat next week and
  • President Obama nominates Rhea Suh to become Interior Department assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks
Last Word -
Lou Reed poses for the cover session for his album
"Coney Island Baby" in 1976
"Oh what a perfect day." - Lou Reed.  "Perfect Day" is a song written by Lou Reed in 1972, originally featured on the album, Transformer.  Lou Reed died on Sunday morning in Southampton, New York.

Below is a YouTube video of  the version released as a BBC charity single in 1997. The  song, recorded by "an astonishing line-up of world class performers," became the UK's number one single for three weeks.

What a perfect day, drink Sangria in the park
Later when it gets dark, we go home
Ooh such a perfect day feed animals in the zoo
Then later a movie, too and then home

It's such a perfect day, I'm glad I spend it with you
Such a perfect day you just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

Oh such a perfect day, weekenders on our own
It's such fun
Such perfect day you made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else, someone good

Oh, it's such a perfect day, I'm glad I spent it with you
Such a perfect day you just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

You're going to reap just what you sow
You're going to reap just what you sow
You're going to reap just what you sow

Oh what a perfect day
Oh such a perfect day
Ooh such a perfect day

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