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.

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