Monday, November 25, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News-Holiday Week Edition

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Thanksgiving Recess Sees Initial Water Bill Meeting But Little Movement on Farm Bill
Both the House and Senate have adjourned for the Thanksgiving week break. The House returns on December 1; the Senate on December 9.  Before the recess began last Friday, there were the beginnings of negotiations among members of the House-Senate water resources conference committee, while negotiations among farm bill conference committee members ground to a contentious halt following a Thursday meeting marked with more diatribe than dialogue.  And while the farm bill conferees have reportedly made some progress on settling their commodity title differences, dairy and nutrition issues continue to be major issues blocking a path toward compromise.  House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas has admitted that the conference committee will be hard-pressed to meet a December 13 Congressional recess deadline for getting a compromise bill before the House and Senate for a vote. Another farm bill extension may be in the cards, although the conference committee has an early-January window of settlement opportunity open to it before the USDA can fully tool-up to implement "permanent law" dairy support provisions dating back to the 1940s.  Those changes, should they come to pass, would drastically raise the price of dairy products.  You can see further news on both bills, below, and (for the farm bill) in our farm bill blog.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • EPA to appeal judge's order that agency decide if Mississippi River Basin nutrient numeric water quality standards are needed
  • EPA extends public comment period for proposed Water Quality Standards Regulatory Clarifications rule until January 2
  • Connection found between nitrogen levels in water and toxic algae production
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's draft 2014 Impaired Waters List will be open for public comment in January 2014
  • EPA defends Clean Water Act jurisdiction plan amid calls to withdraw its draft rule
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • House and Senate conferees formally open $8.2 billion water resources bill negotiations
  • As WRDA talks begin: NEPA reviews, ocean policy among sticking points
  • U.S.Geological Survey will discontinue operation of up to 375 streamgages nationwide due to budget cuts 
    Streamgauges discontinued or to be discontinued 
    due to lack of funding (click to enlarge)
  • FEMA Files to Dismiss Mississippi Lawsuit to Stop Flood Rate Hikes
  • U.S. Senate vote to delay flood insurance rate hikes could still come before Thanksgiving
  • EPA releases public-domain software application designed to facilitate integrated water resources management
  • USFWS and NOAA issue new report: Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of Conterminous US 2004-2009 (see additional story below)
  • Multi-agency research project finds half of Minnesota’s stream miles have been physically altered
  • Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon critical of idea of diverting Missouri River water to Kansas
Farm Bill-
  • Farm bill talks stumbled badly on the way to this week's Congressional recess
  • Farm bill talks "fall short" (written and video report)
  • As talks stall, no further conference committee meetings scheduled among the farm bill's principal negotiators
  • Among many Congressional failings, negotiators fail to meet self-imposed Thanksgiving deadline farm bill agreement
  • Bipartisan House letter to farm bill conferees urges linking soil, wetland conservation to crop insurance subsidies (PDF file of letter)
Agriculture -
  • Iowa's senior political leaders pondering how to shore up political support for the corn-based fuel
  • Overweight tend to hail from same places, including Missouri, Kansas, where agricultural antibiotic drug use is high
  • Per capita income set to eclipse population growth as the dominant driver of change in the global food system
  • Obama administration has formally moved to trim statutory ethanol blending mandate for the first time
  • Multiyear run-up in the value of farmland in the U.S. Midwest may be running out of steam
  • State and national environmental groups plan lawsuit over Iowa pork producer manure spills
Climate and Weather -
  • Here is the latest NOAA/NWS national drought update:
  • USDA, EPA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launch the U.S. Drought Portal
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook (December outlook will be published at the end of the month)
  • Tech experts work to help farms weather climate shift
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • "Let's Just Harvest Invasive Species -- Problem Solved?"
  • West Virginia Division of Natural Resources: New tests have found Asian carp DNA in Ohio River between Wheeling, WV and Pittsburgh, PA and
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • BP has begun publishing a mass of environmental assessment data collected from the Gulf of Mexico since 2010
  • New Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority member aims to halt wetlands loss lawsuit agains oil companies
  • More than 70 percent of the estimated US coastal wetland loss between 2004-2009 came in the Gulf of Mexico
Resource Development -
  • House passes two bills aimed at speeding up oil and gas permitting; moves on to pipeline bill
  • "A neighborhood shattered: Families emptying out of oil-hit Arkansas town"
Federal Budget -
  • House Appropriations Chairman raises prospect of a stopgap Federal spending continuing resolution in mid-January
  • Hopes are grow that conference committee may reach deal to replace portion of automatic sequestration spending cuts
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Achieving healthy headwaters events set for December in Southeastern Minnesota
  • 2014 America's Watershed Initiative Summit; Louisville, Kentucky; September 30-October 2, 2014
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Politics and People-
  • GOP State Sen. Westrom mulling a run for the Minnesota congressional seat now held by Rep. Collin Peterson (D)
  • Senate vote to eliminate filibuster clears way for appointment of key EPA and environmentally-central appeals court nominees
Last Word -
Albert Einstein
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." - Albert Einstein

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News" Hiatus

Your FNB* will be on vacation in Jolly Old England (and Wales) next week, and there will be no weekly Mississippi River Basin news issue until the week of November 25, when we will catch up and report on selected River Basin items of import, before breaking again for the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

(* "Friendly Neighborhood Blogger")

The River Thames, London, England

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Farm Bill Negotiations Continue
Amid reports of "progress," farm bill conference committee members continued to meet in private this week in an attempt to reach a compromise on final legislative language that might then pass both the House and Senate in an "up or down" vote. Meanwhile, the nation moved closer to a January, so-called "dairy cliff," when some of the practical implications resulting from the country's reverting to "permanent law" (original 1938 and 1949 farm legislation) would take hold.  That is when dairy prices would rise to levels greatly exceeding market-dictated levels.  Based on a Wednesday interview of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), the three big items of contention during the negotiations continue to be, according to Lucas, "food stamps" (i.e., SNAP), "the dairy program," and "the commodity title."

As the inevitable "horsetrading" continues among the conferees, their stated aim is to craft a committee bill by Thanksgiving, so that the House and Senate would have between then and a holiday recess beginning on December 14 to consider the legislation.  There is scant "news" to report on these closed-door activities, but what little there is can be found under the "Farm Bill" heading, below, and in our periodically-updated Farm Bill summary.

Water Resources Conferencing Poised to Start
On Thursday (November 14), the House passed a motion to conference with the Senate on the Water Resources Development Act of 2013, and the 28 conferees who will represent the House on the conference panel (16 Republicans and 12 Democrats) were appointed. On November 4, the Senate agreed to conference with the House on the water resources' bill, and appointed eight conferees. The conference committee is tasked with reconciling the differences between the House version and the Senate version of the legislation.
The River Thames, London, England
(click to enlarge)

"Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News" Hiatus
Your FNB* will be on vacation in Jolly Old England (and Wales) next week, and there will be no weekly Mississippi River Basin news issue until the week of November 25, when we will catch up and report on selected River Basin items of import, before breaking again for the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

(* "Friendly Neighborhood Blogger")

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Researchers suggest complex relationship between phosphorus levels and nitrogen removal in lakes
  • Phosphorus reduction in lakes may limit microbial processes responsible for removing nitrogen from water
  • Iowa state commission rejects request for numerical water pollution (nutrient) standards for lakes
  • New wastewater technology will turn water pollution into fertilizer
  • National Network for Consistency and Integrity in Water Quality Trading aiming to release best practices manual in 2014
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Partnerships, cost-sharing are key to agriculture and water quality project
  • Oklahomans claim that fracking wastewater polluted their groundwater
  • Southeastern Minnesota agriculture generates most of the nitrates ending up in area rivers and streams
  • Report contends that Tennessee Valley Authority polluted groundwater around all of its coal-fired power plants
  • Bloomberg BNA review: EPA, Corps Propose to Assert Jurisdiction Over Tributaries Affecting Navigable Waters (also see article, below)
  • EPA's leaked draft plan clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction will codify long-time policy and statutory waivers - Link to leaked proposal here: (PDF file)
  • Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement criticizes Iowa state agency for manure spill at hog farm
  • Shreveport, Louisiana pays $650,00 fine, agrees to $342 Million sewer system upgrade to comply with Clean Water Act
  • EPA will continue revising its model for crafting pollution load limits for the Illinois River (Oklahoma, Arkansas)
  • Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Rep. Edwards (D-MD) introduce the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act
  • Bill aimed at blocking President's rewrite of mining-stream protection rule passes House Natural Resources Committee
  • EPA, CEQ eye voluntary stormwater controls as regulations falter
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Water Resources Development Act moves forward with House conferee appointments
  • House to offer plan for new pilot EPA water infrastructure loan program as part of upcoming Senate WRDA talks
  • Wisconsin Senate panel votes to curb DNR's ability to regulate effects of large wells on surface waters
  • Lawsuit alleges Louisiana illegally granted construction permit next to Mississippi River wetland restoration project
  • October runoff into upper Missouri River Basin near record high for that month and
  • Agencies, anglers disagree over Missouri River reservoir water allocations
  • Army Corps' Ohio River Olmsted locks and dam project survives government shutdown, criticism of cost
  • National Geographic: North Dakota's salty fracked wells drink more water to keep oil flowing
Farm Bill-
  • House Republicans more upbeat on getting a farm bill done this year as sides close in on commodity title agreement
  • Principal House negotiators on the farm bill conference committee cite progress toward a deal
  • Conference Committee member Sen. Hoeven (R-ND) hopes to get compromise farm bill out of the committee by Thanksgiving
  • House lawmaker offers motion to instruct farm bill conferees (then withdraws the motion)
  • In reprise of May letter to agriculture committee leaders, former NRCS, SCS chiefs support conservation compliance, adding Richard Scaling to signatories
  • Many paths forward on the farm bill exist, with three generally possible outcomes
Agriculture -
  • USDA Secretary: Iowa not taking advantage of federal money available through Environmental Quality Incentives Program
  • Associated Press investigation: push for corn-based ethanol has prompted farmers to take very "non-green" practices
  • Many environmentalists and scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy
  • Ethanol helps spur corn's northward move in Minnesota
  • Expansion of Corn Belt into Great Plains grasslands being fueled in part by America's green energy policy
  • National Farmers Union disputes Associated Press story blaming biofuels for causing environmental harm
  • USDA projects that U.S. farmers will harvest a record 13.989 billion bushels of corn this year
  • Continued rise in use of no-till farming in U.S. has broad environmental ramifications
  • Sustainable ag expert: Immense global food system is a marvel of engineering, and it’s racing toward destruction
  • Cellulosic ethanol, once the way of the future, is off to a delayed, boisterous start
  • Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation urges farmers to participate in water management and other conservation programs
  • More Midwestern bankers expect the farm economy to slow as 2013 winds down
  • Fewer USDA private lands' Conservation Stewardship Program acres enrolled this year than in previous years
November 12 Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • The November 12 NOAA/NWS national drought update shows continued Midwest improvements 
  • "Rural Climate Network" launched to foster rural engagement in climate policy development, spur collaboration
  • International climate negotiators close to outlining methods to protect carbon-rich coastal ecosystems
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • National Eagle Center (Wabasha, Minn.) tours through February to feature swans, eagles in wildlife-rich Mississippi River flyway
  • Wisconsin State Journal Asian carp editorial calls for bipartisanship, Great Lakes -Mississippi River basin barrier
  • Urban Grassland Restoration: A Neglected Opportunity for Biodiversity Conservation (Restoration Ecology article abstract only)
  • Federal agencies agree on new approach for assessing, addressing potential pesticide impacts on listed species
In the States-
  • Ranking member of the Iowa House agriculture committee speaks on state nutrient reduction strategy
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency posts 2014 draft Impaired Waters List; public meetings scheduled across state
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Jefferson, Plaquemines parishes file wetland damage lawsuits against dozens of oil, gas, pipeline companies
  • Louisiana parishes file lawsuits demanding that oil, gas and pipeline companies repair damage caused by operations
  • Groups move to block leasing of federally-owned coal for mining beneath Southeastern Ohio Wayne National Forest
Resource Development -
  • North Dakota commission to decide on designating special places subject to restrictions on drilling, other development
  • Enbridge Energy files plans for proposed $2.6 billion crude oil pipeline from North Dakota across northern Minnesota to Wisconsin
Federal Budget -
  • Non-partisan Congressional Budget Office details 103 ways to cut spending, raise revenue to reduce budget deficit
  • Second public House-Senate budget conference committee meeting offers little hope of resolving fiscal policy differences
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Plans to prevent spread of Asian carp at Eagle Marsh (IN) to be topic of Fort Wayne forum; November 14; 6:30 PM
  • Wisconsin Wetlands Association's 19th Annual Wetlands Conference, La Crosse, Wisconsin on February 18-20, 2014
  • International Conference on the Status and Future of the World‘s Large Rivers; Manaus / Amazonas, Brazil; July 21-25, 2014
  • Save the Date: SER2015 6th World Conference on Ecological Restoration will be held in Manchester, England, in August 2015. More information to come.
Meanders of the Mississippi River
from space (click to enlarge)
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Stunning Photo of Earth from space: United States, Arkansas and Mississippi: meanders of the Mississippi River (photo to the right)
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's November 12 "TU Waterways" issue link here:
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, November, 2013 e-newsletter: "Beyond the Farm Bill"
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's November 14 "Watershed News" (date says "7" but it is 14th)
Other news-
  • Some recreational activities would be restricted in Ozark National Scenic Riverway areas under Missouri draft management plan
  • House science committee looks at competing proposals to renew, reshape National Science Foundation programs
Politics and People-
  • Rare changes made to four powerful House Appropriations subcommittee chairs, including Energy and Water Development, and Interior and the Environment
  • Iowa businessman Mark Jacobs (R) will enter the crowded open-seat 2014 Iowa U.S. Senate race next week
  • Former Montana Lt. Gov. Bohlinger (D) decides to seek U.S. Senate nomination, complicating primary race for Democrats
  • Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee advances President's nominee, Kathryn Sullivan, to lead NOAA
  • Is Congress done for the year? Expectations are that rest of 2013 will not produce any legislative breakthroughs
  • Saturday's special U.S. House election in Louisiana's 5th District will whittle down 14 contenders to two
Last Word -
"Perfection is the enemy of the done."  - Jeremy, in the comic, Zits (November 12, 2013)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

Below are the U.S. House and Senate activities currently scheduled this week that relate to Mississippi River Basin natural resources. Where available, links are provided to the relevant Committee and legislation pages on the Internet. Many of the proceedings are webcast live (follow the appropriate link).  All times are Eastern.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Farm and Water Resource Bills Move Along
Four principle farm bill negotiators
House-Senate farm bill conference committee talks officially began with an October 30 public meeting, and then quietly moved beyond the public view. 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) - met on November 6 to begin hammering out a compromise bill. The four principle negotiators will likely forge common ground fairly easily on most issues. However, when it comes to the more problematic differences between the House and Senate farm bills on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP) and dairy support, forging a consensus may be difficult, if not impossible.  If a farm bill deal cannot be reached and a new law is not enacted by the end of December, then the so-called "dairy cliff" to be faced in January would practically necessitate enactment of some sort of stop-gap farm measure, such as a farm bill extension, to avoid significantly escalating dairy prices. Alternatively, farm bill provisions might be attached in whole or in part to a "must-pass" piece of legislation, such as a federal budget bill.  No other meetings among the farm bill's four top negotiators have been set as of yet.  For more details, please see our latest Farm Bill update page, and the news article links, below, under "Farm Bill."

The Senate, meanwhile, took a procedural step on Monday evening that clears the way for the formation of a conference committee with the House to negotiate a massive water resources infrastructure bill, when it named eight conference committee members (five Democrats and three Republicans). The House has yet to name conferees, but is expected to do so at some point soon after it returns from this week's recess.  When the committee officially forms, it will be tasked with resolving differences between the House "Water Resources Reform and Development Act" and the Senate "Water Resources Development Act."  For background on both the House and Senate bills and what it all might mean for the Mississippi River Basin, see our summary article, here.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • Environmental Science and Technology opinion piece suggests plan to address Gulf of Mexico hypoxia
  • Deadly water-borne amoeba (parasite) moves north into Minnesota waters
  • Judge denies Exxon petitions to end/limit Arkansas oil spill class action lawsuit
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) criticizes EPA for taking “heavy-handed” approach to remedying Gulf of Mexico dead zone
  • National Geographic: "Stronger Efforts Needed to Reduce Nitrate Pollution in Mississippi River Basin"
  • Air Force challenging EPA's ability to establish stormwater retention standards in Buckley Air Force Base case (CO)
  • Evaluation of Oklahoma's phosphorus water quality standard for scenic rivers will begin in April 2014
  • Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition requests public comments about sedimentation in Missouri River reservoirs
  • Report: Coal ash impoundments at 11 Tennessee Valley Authority power plants are contaminating soil, groundwater and
  • House Republicans: EPA's Clean Water Act wetland jurisdiction rulemaking is wrongfully preceding the science
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Senate names conference committee members for Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) negotiations with House and
  • Louisiana Army Corps' levee project with escalating price tag is seen as key in water resource bill negotiations
  • U.S. Coast Guard publishes proposed policy on moving frack wastewater by barge
  • Corps of Engineers continues to make repairs to dam system along Missouri River damaged by 2011 flooding
  • Opponents say White River, Indiana reservoir dam project would hurt environment, economy (Anderson, IN)
  • Prospect of a delay in flood insurance reforms met with pushback from business, taxpayer and insurance groups
  • President taking infrastructure message to New Orleans because of Mississippi River's central role in US exports
Farm Bill-
  • Face-to-face talks among the top four farm bill negotiators resume this week
  • Farm bill talks enter crucial week under the cloud of a possible budget ax falling on farm bill programs
  • Farm bill conferees seem to have turned from partisanship to the regionalism that has dominated past farm bills
  • The Hill: Sen. Cochran says some progress made at Wednesday's closed door farm bill meeting
  • Parts of farm bill Congress is considering would prohibit disclosing some information about farms, farmers, employees
Agriculture -
  • Biggest-ever U.S. corn harvest spurs 50 percent corn price drop from its peak during last year’s drought
  • USDA Economic Research Service releases its annual update titled, “Rural America at a Glance, 2013 Edition”
Climate and Weather -
November 5 Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
  • November 5, NOAA/National Weather Service drought monitor update:
  • NOAA's November drought outlook: Mississippi River Valley drought improvement expected
  • Obama executive order calls for ‘new strategies’ to boost resilience to dangerous weather linked to climate change (Link to executive order here:
  • President's order on infrastructure climate change resiliency may open door to strict siting, building requirements
  • Internal evaluation of 2012 EPA Office of Water climate change strategy finds that plan not being adequately implemented
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Wisconsin Public Radio: USGS study suggests non-stick chemicals adversely affect birds along Mississippi River
  • Fall migratory waterfowl visiting Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes on track to be highest recorded
  • Illinois, Hennepin-Hopper Lakes wetlands restoration and carp control efforts attract record number of ducks
  • House Democrats push EPA to set standards reducing aquatic organisms entrained into power plant cooling water intakes
  • Wildlife refuges generated $2.4 billion in 2011, according to a new Fish and Wildlife Service report
  • Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement warns that critical national refuge funding is backsliding
  • New Army Corps' Missouri River shallow backwater project in northeastern Nebraska to provide endangered pallid sturgeon habitat
  • Central Montana 600,000 acre sage grouse plan is focus of latest BLM species protection proposal
In the States-
  • Missouri agrees to update state's water protection standards to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act
  • Five-year-old state constitutional amendment "positions Minnesota as leader in clean water initiatives"
  • Logging/business coalition urges Senate committee to take up bill to accelerate pace of national forest logging
Resource Extraction and Transportation-
  • Religious leaders oppose proposed Bluegrass Pipeline natural gas liquids transmission project in Kentucky
Federal Budget -
  • Budget conference committee's task and tight deadline cloud 2014 environmentally-linked appropriations in uncertainty
  • Senate Minority Leader establishes GOP group to come up with budget alternatives in case conference committee fails
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area offers November 9 and 10 guided auto tour of Upper Arkansas River Valley
  • St. Croix River Association inaugural Water Resources Forum series event; November 13, 9 am CST, St. Croix Falls, WI
  • NRC meeting: Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Science, Engineering, & Planning: Coastal Risk Reduction; November 15, Washington DC (re: Morganza to the Gulf and the New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System)
  • EPA Watershed Academy Webcast; November 19, 1-3 pm EST re: "Re-engaging your Volunteer Monitoring Organization”
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Association meetings; November 19 and 20; St. Paul, Minnesota
  • National Research Council meeting on Assessing Health, Environmental, and Social Effects of the Food System; December 16-17, Washington, DC
  • StormCon 2014 conference dedicated to stormwater and surface-water professionals, Portland, Oregon, August 3-7, 2014
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's November 1 "TU Waterways" issue link here:
  • Fishers & Farmers Partnership for the Upper Mississippi River Basin's 2013 Summer Highlights' Newsletter (PDF file)
  • America's WETLAND Foundation November newsletter
  • Bi-weekly Green Lands Blue Waters update, highlighting work on agricultural land in the Mississippi River Basin
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Feedlot Update - November 7
  • Water Environment Federation’s Stormwater Report (November)
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's November 7 Watershed News
Other news-
  • Matching grant program for on-the-ground, citizen-based monitoring projects benefiting National Forests, Grasslands
  • Central Illinois officials vow to intensify efforts to prevent landfill from burying PCB waste above large aquifer
  • A new environmental education center is coming to Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota
  • Study: Congressional Research Service, Congressional Budget Office are Hill staff's most valuable information sources
  • EPA Releases Report on Importance of Water to Economy
  • Mississippi River to be part of worldwide tourism branding effort by National Geographic Society
  • Eleven "Paddle Forward" explorers have pushed beyond their seventh week on the Mississippi River
Politics and People-
  • The U.S. Senate released its 2014 legislative calendar yesterday (here is the U.S. House of Representatives calendar:
  • Federal Election Commission has posted the dates for the 2014 federal elections, including state primary dates:
  • Is the current version the worst Congress, ever? The Washington Post makes the case in seven charts.
  • Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-6-La.) will have tough time defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu
  • Roll Call's "10 Most Vulnerable House Members" for 2014 election includes Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-4-Tenn.)
  • How Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas made it to the "most vulnerable" list and how he might avoid a 2014 loss
  • Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton (Minnesota) lead all respective possible 2014 GOP challengers in new poll
  • Montana Rep. Steve Daines (R) formally announces bid for the state's open U.S. Senate seat, becoming the front-runner
Last Word -
"Be good to the land, and the land will be good to you." - Philip James Jones (1821-1912), founder of the (still-operating) Jones family farm in Shelton, Connecticut.

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