Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News-Holiday Week Edition

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

2013 Retrospective
As so often happens as a calendar year comes to a close, we've looked back into the year that was 2013 to see what stories were particularly important from a Mississippi River Basin water resource perspective, and here, in our humble opinion, is a link to some of the 20 or so top stories and headlines from the past year, broken down month-by-month.

That's All Until 2014
This week's somewhat shortened missive is the year's last "Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News" issue. For those who may have missed, in their pre-holiday rushing about, last week's fuller news listing, here is a link to those best news bits.  Look for our next River Basin news issue to be posted on Friday, January 3. Cheers!

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Federal judge rules that bill does not shield mine operators from West Virginia water quality standards lawsuits http://ow.ly/s0TEQ
  • EPA fails to deliver coal ash rules five years after catastrophic Tennessee River basin spill http://ow.ly/s0UBs
  • Tennessee Valley Authority to receive another $150 million to help pay for ongoing cleanup of the 2008 coal ash spill http://ow.ly/s0Vsi
  • Energy company will pay civil penalty to settle West Virginia Clean Water Act violations, restore wetlands, streams http://ow.ly/s0Ve5
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Controversial water demands across northwest Oklahoma feed oil and gas fracking from the Mississippi Lime Shale http://ow.ly/s0STh
  • New fracking technique could cut demand for freshwater; pilot approved for testing in North Dakota http://ow.ly/s0Uej
  • Winter Lake Shelbyville water level drawdown will be delayed due to expected low levels on middle Mississippi River ow.ly/s0WXY
  • Flood advisory is in effect for the Ohio River in Pittsburgh until Wednesday afternoon http://ow.ly/s0Xlg
  • Ohio River flood warnings extended through the end of the year, though levels expected to remain below flood stage http://ow.ly/s2Hdp
Farm Bill-
  • South Dakota’s senators worry about fate of reforms they fought to include in the Senate version of the farm bill http://ow.ly/s0Oa8
  • Farm bill likely to cut food stamp program by $8 billion over a decade; much less than demanded by GOP conservatives http://ow.ly/s0OjM
  • Provision which may end up in new farm bill could quash all new rules not based on "sound science" http://ow.ly/s0VOB
  • Small-acre crops and the farm bill: Sorghum illustrates complex politics and calculations behind the legislation http://ow.ly/s1yuf
Agriculture -
  • USDA removed about 1.6 million grassland acres from Conservation Reserve Program in 2013, clearing way for use by crops http://ow.ly/s1xRi
Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • Here is the latest NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC national drought update: http://ow.ly/q3w3u
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook (January outlook will be published at the end of December) http://ow.ly/q3yAx
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Ohio River Asian Carp Task Force releases Draft Management Plan for comment http://ow.ly/s0X9p
  • Milkweed and the iconic monarch butterfly have diminished as cropland expansion has drastically cut grasslands http://ow.ly/s0TjS
  • Underwater carbon dioxide shows potential to act as barrier to Asian carp http://ow.ly/s0TU5
  • Report: Fish swim past electric barrier meant to block Asian carp http://ow.ly/s2JMf
Resource Development -
  • New pipeline from fracking fields stirs controversy in Kentucky over environmental, property, safety concerns http://ow.ly/s0URW
  • Little time left for Illinoisans hoping to influence new rules governing controversial practice of fracking http://ow.ly/s1jbB
Federal Budget -
  • President Obama and Congress will be plunged into another battle over the debt ceiling after the holiday break http://ow.ly/s1oj7
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Annual Mississippi River Bald Eagle watch, educational programs, environmental exhibits; January and February events: http://ow.ly/s0YWs
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • New Center for American Progress report: Moving Coastal Communities Out of the Crosshairs of Climate Change http://ow.ly/s0P5l
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers News & Views - December 2013 http://ow.ly/s0OCC (PDF file)
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council December 19 Watershed News http://ow.ly/s0OSI
Other news-
  • Damaged wing of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa is now reopened http://ow.ly/s0XUV
  • Six Midwestern governors urge EPA to reconsider rolling back nation's renewable fuel targets http://ow.ly/s1wBJ
Politics and People-
  • USEPA Region 4 Administrator office remains chronically vacant, amid political, special interest, diversity concerns http://ow.ly/s1wbm
Last Word -
"A Visit From St. Nicholas"
handwritten manuscript
gifted by author Clement C. Moore
(click to enlarge)
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” - Last line from "A Visit from St. Nicholas," a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. 

2013 Mississippi River Basin News Retrospective

As so often happens as a calendar year comes to a close, we've looked back into the year that was 2013 to see what stories were particularly important from a Mississippi River Basin perspective, and here, in our humble opinion, are some of the top stories and headlines from the past year (with links provided to stories).  What are your "top stories" of 2013?  You can include those in the comments section of the blog.

Senate EPW Committee Leaders Anticipate New WRDA Proposal Within Weeks
The Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing focusing on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, laying the groundwork its consideration of a bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, or "WRDA," this year.

EPA Solicits Comments on 2014-2016 National Enforcement Initiatives
The 2014-16 proposed Environmental Protection Agency national enforcement initiatives largely mirror those developed for the 2011-2013 fiscal years, and, from a water standpoint, include municipal infrastructure - "addressing sewage discharges from combined sewer systems, sanitary sewer systems, and municipal separate storm sewer systems;" and preventing runoff from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (or "CAFOs") from contaminating ground and surface water.

Study Documents Loss of 1.3 Million Acres of Grassland Over 5-Year Period in Parts of Corn Belt
Based upon land cover data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service Cropland Data Layer, used to assess grassland conversion from 2006 to 2011, in the US Corn Belt, a recent doubling in commodity prices has created incentives for landowners to convert grassland to corn and soybean cropping.

Mayors from along the length of the Mississippi River gathered in Washington, DC to advance their newly-developed, River-centric agenda in the halls of Congress and among federal agencies. Mayors representing the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative scheduled various meetings and public events for March 19 through 21 to formally announce and promote the Initiative's policy goals. Meetings to discuss the Initiative's River-based agenda were held between the mayors and Congressional leaders in both the House and Senate, as well as with White House staff and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Asian carp management in the Mississippi River Basin was the main topic of discussion at a March 6, Capitol Hill "Asian Carp Awareness Symposium" held during National Invasive Species Awareness Week and Great Lakes Days.  The Symposium focused on  Federal, state, local, nonprofit and private coordinating efforts and responses to combat invasive Asian carp in the Ohio River, Upper Mississippi River, Lower Mississippi River, Missouri River and Great Lakes basins.  Legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House and Senate was also addressed by several Symposium speakers, including two sponsors of one of those bills, who stressed that the legislation would assist Asian carp control efforts.

Heavy rains falling on already-saturated ground lead to widespread flooding along the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers and other areas in the Upper Mississippi River Basin

On April 17, the river conservation organization American Rivers released its annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers list, "a list of ten rivers facing urgent threats that call for our immediate, decisive action." In the Mississippi River Basin, the Little Plover River (in Wisconsin) and Niobrara River (in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming) were highlighted among the top-ten threatened rivers.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the Water Resources Development Act on May 15. Commonly known as "WRDA," the legislation is a huge public works bill that periodically authorizes flood control, navigation, and water resource projects and studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  There are numerous bill provisions that impact water resources nationwide, many of which are contentious.  The bill's so-called project "streamlining provisions" are particularly contentious and opposed by many environmental organizations, lawyer groups, and state wetlands and floodplain managers.  In addition to sections of the bill of a more national scope, the Senate-passed measure contains several provisions that directly reference and would impact Mississippi River Basin and Gulf Coast waters. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency released a report citing croplands as the primary contributor to the state's high and increasing surface water nitrate concentrations.  

House Fails to Pass Farm Bill
The timing of the Minnesota report ironically followed by a week the failure by the U.S. House to pass a comprehensive five-year farm bill (a bill that includes conservation provisions that would help mitigate nitrate loading from farmland into streams).

On July 19, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported on findings regarding the ecological health of the Nation’s streams during a briefing at the U.S. Capitol.  USGS  National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program and state environmental agency representatives described the results and implications of a national assessment on stream health, reporting that 83 percent of assessed streams across the country exhibit some degradation.  Steam health is often reduced because of multiple factors, including increased temperatures, nutrient pollution or pesticide pollution.

Large 2013 Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Measured, But Smaller Than Predicted
The 2013 summer Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” was measured at 5,840 square miles; roughly the size of Connecticut, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  While a wet spring and associated surface water runoff carried considerable nitrogen from farmlands, and it was projected to result in the formation of a large dead zone this summer, windy conditions in the Gulf oxygenated the waters, limiting its size to just slightly above average.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced on August 22 that its staff observed the carcass of a silver carp on a concrete abutment just below Mississippi River Lock and Dam 5, about 20 miles farther upstream than the previously northernmost instance of the species.

Following July's release of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' long-awaited draft St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project environmental impact statement (concerning its controversial plan to close a gap in the Mississippi River levee system in southern Missouri), the Corps of Engineers held two public meetings regarding the project on August 27 and 28, in East Prairie, Missouri and Cairo, Illinois.

A crowded legislative and rhetorical agenda meant that Congress had limited time and little attention to give to large, complicated pieces of legislation that impact the Mississippi River Basin environment over the remainder of 2013; bills such as the farm bill and Water Resources Development Act (or WRDA).

Environmental advocates in states along the Mississippi River won a major legal victory along the road toward reaching their long-term goal of having federal standards regulating farmland runoff, when U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey gave the Environmental Protection Agency six months to decide whether to set Clean Water Act standards for nitrogen and phosphorous in all U.S. waterways or explain why they're not needed. 

On October 30, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that Illinois River nitrate levels decreased by 21 percent between 2000 and 2010, marking 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.  Nitrate levels continue to increase in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, including the Mississippi’s outlet to the Gulf of Mexico.

On October 23 the House overwhelmingly passed the "Water Resources Reform and Development Act" (H.R. 3080) on a 417-3 roll call vote.  Known as "WRRDA," the legislation is an $8.2 billion public works bill that authorizes flood control, navigation, and water resource projects, maintenance and studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bill's passage set the stage for the formation of a House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences between the House WRRDA bill and a companion Water Resources Development Act (S. 601) (or WRDA) bill passed by the Senate in May.

The Environmental Protection Agency filed paperwork to appeal a federal judge's order that the agency formally decide whether numeric standards are needed for nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin.  In September, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey in New Orleans ruled that EPA was allowed to look at the costs and administrative burden in deciding whether to implement numeric limits, but that the agency did ultimately have to decide whether they were needed.  

"2013" Farm and Water Resources Bills Slip Into 2014
Although farm bill negotiators  reported that they made significant progress on their way toward settling a variety of differences, the main negotiators admitted that they would not reach agreement on a conference committee bill before the House recessed on December 13 for the year. In various statements, the Congressional agriculture leaders expressed confidence that the conference committee tasked with forging a compromise farm bill could do so in January, 2014.  Meanwhile, lawmakers heading up the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) conference committee admitted that WRDA, like the farm bill, will be dealt with in 2014. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and ranking member David Vitter (R-LA) blamed House negotiators' inflexibility for the delay in finalizing a compromise bill.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • Environmental groups, state officials meet with administration over plan to regulate minor ponds, streams, wetlands ow.ly/rO8vz
  • EPA and Army Corps say benefits of protecting additional wetlands and streams far outweigh costs ow.ly/rSwoi
  • Ohio water quality bill is revamped to buy time for research to inform regulations ow.ly/rObjp
  • Metropolitan Sewer District board of Louisville, KY to pay $101,000 federal fine for 250 illegal sewage discharges ow.ly/rSyBT
  • Wisconsin fines sand mining company in water pollution case ow.ly/rSyp3
  • Environmental group asks state lawmakers for $300,000 to help create a plan to restore Iowa rivers ow.ly/rSChl
  • 17-year-old initiative to clean up Minnesota River will end in its current form at the end of the month ow.ly/rSCz7
  • Rivers in U.S. wintry cities remain salty year-round http://ow.ly/rVslS
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Report estimates 114,000 jobs could be created across Minnesota by making much-needed infrastructure investments ow.ly/rO7ch
  • Plan to transport fracking wastewater on river barges draws criticism from both environmentalists, oil-gas industry ow.ly/rO9pr
  • Wisconsin company snatches up, reclaims aging hydroelectric dams ow.ly/rSxtd
  • Louisiana wetlands have been tattered by industrial canals, not just river levees ow.ly/rSwXL
  • Army Corps of Engineers seeks information on firms able to perform Ohio River Olmsted Dam lock rehabilitation http://ow.ly/rVujU
Farm Bill-
  • House-Senate farm bill conference committee eyeing votes during the week of Jan. 6 after the New Year’s holiday ow.ly/rO5vy
  • Senate does not plan to take up House-passed farm bill extension ow.ly/rOaow
  • Sen. John Thune (R-SD): new farm bill likely to include national "sodsaver" provision ow.ly/rSkN9
  • World Wildlife Fund: "Farm Bill: Stand Up and Protect America's Grasslands" (video) ow.ly/rSkqK
Agriculture -
  • Fledgling cellulosic-based ethanol industry puts down roots, raises hopes in Corn Belt ow.ly/rOf4d
  • Rising damage from weather events worries farmers, insurers ow.ly/rOg64
  • Bankers and agricultural economists are predicting a slowdown in farmland prices that could turn into a bust ow.ly/rSijY
  • NPR: Robots could help farmers rein in fertilizer pollution ow.ly/rSuMx
  • Developers lure buyers to subdivisions with on-site community vegetable, livestock farms run by professional growers ow.ly/rSAN0
Climate and Weather -
  • The latest NOAA/NWS national update: snow alleviates Midwest/Upper Plains drought http://ow.ly/q3w3u
  • U.S. Geological Survey model: The bottom line for Louisville, KY includes more heat and rain ow.ly/rSvl0
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Louisiana Oil & Gas Association files suit against state Attorney General in attempt to halt wetlands damages lawsuit ow.ly/rSyQA
Resource Development -
  • Minnesota Environmental Quality Board releases draft Silica Sand Model Standards and Criteria (sand mining) ow.ly/rO9Kw
  • Draft set of model standards for regulating Minnesota's silica sand mining industry gets mixed reviews http://ow.ly/rVsNc
  • Competing hydraulic-fracturing studies are painting different pictures about the industry’s impact on Ohio economy ow.ly/rSvbk
  • Study: hydraulic fracturing chemicals can disrupt human hormone function ow.ly/rSz8C
  • Interior Department likely to initiate new rulemaking on oil and gas development impacts to national wildlife refuges ow.ly/rSB8q
Federal Budget -
  • Senate on Wednesday gave final passage to a two-year federal budget plan in a 64-36 vote http://ow.ly/rVq3a
  • In wake of budget deal, leaders of congressional spending committees immediately begin working on 2014 appropriations http://ow.ly/rVruP
  • Budget deal has implications for both remainder of 2014 fiscal year's agriculture appropriations bill, new farm bill ow.ly/rSk3q
  • Budget bill policy riders could be attached to block Obama administration on environmental regulations, other matters ow.ly/rSiIq
  • McConnell skeptical of ‘clean’ debt ceiling hike, POLITICO reports: politi.co/1gEhRXk
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Numerous Bald Eagle watches slated along the Upper Mississippi River in January ow.ly/rSBZo
  • Save the date: Conservation Psychology Institute, Keene, New Hampshire, June 15-18 ow.ly/rQPkL
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council December 12 Watershed News ow.ly/rOc53
  • America's WETLAND Foundation December Newsletter ow.ly/rObEg
  • Link to December 17 "Water News and More" from  the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy, here:  http://ow.ly/rmhz9
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Feedlot Update - December 12 ow.ly/rOdbL
  • Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota "Currents" e-newsletter ow.ly/rSxUp
  • U.S. Water Alliance December News Waves e-newsletter http://ow.ly/rVqDz
  • Green Lands Blue Waters biweekly update on Mississippi River crop cover-water quality issues http://ow.ly/rVr0G
In the States -
  • Minnesota Legislature won't battle over $109M Outdoor Heritage plan that places premium on prairie protection ow.ly/rSxcQ
In the Cities-
  • Madison's Monroe Street is state’s first business district to utilize Wisconsin Environmental Initiative tools ow.ly/rO6Ct
  • Our latest Street of the Week is Main Street in Little Rock, AR. See why: on.fb.me/1gvxLDo
Politics and People-
  • Iowa GOP Rep. Tom Latham declares that he will be retiring from the third district seat he’s held for 10 terms ow.ly/rShYF
  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) rumored to be eyed by President to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to China http://ow.ly/rVtDz
Last Word -
"It's been a year of great accomplishments and achievements.  When I'm down at the old soldiers' home and I'm sitting in my rocking chair I'll say, 'Boy, 2013 was a banner year.'" Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona (pictured, right), who "wore a mischievous grin, his voice thick with sarcasm," according to the New York Times.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

"2013" Farm and Water Resources Bills Slip Into 2014
Although farm bill negotiators  report that they have made significant progress on the way toward settling a variety of differences, on Tuesday, the four main negotiators admitted that they will not reach agreement on a conference committee bill before the House recesses on December 13 for the year (the Senate is scheduled to recess starting December 19). In various statements, the Congressional agriculture leaders expressed confidence that the conference committee tasked with forging a compromise farm bill could do so in January.

In light of this further delay, another farm bill extension may be in the making.  House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) drafted a six-page, short-term extension of current farm law through January 31, 2014, which was quickly passed on a voice vote on Thursday by the full chamber.  However, there is no consensus among farm bill conferees that an extension is warranted or necessarily the best approach, politically, and some Senate leaders have said that the extension will not be voted on by that chamber. You can read several articles summarizing these recent events, below, under "Farm Bill."  You can also read more detail in our latest 2013 Farm Bill News and Resources posting (UPDATED December 13).

Meanwhile, the four lawmakers heading up the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) conference committee emerged from a Tuesday face-to-face meeting admitting that the time is limited to put such a bill before the conference committee and then move it on to the respective House and Senate chambers for separate votes. WRDA, like the farm bill, will likely be dealt with in 2014. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and ranking member David Vitter (R-LA) blamed House negotiators' inflexibility for the delay in finalizing a compromise bill (see further coverage under "Water Resources," below).

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • "Good cop, bad cop on nutrient management" ow.ly/rAqXP
  • Wisconsin farms have spilled more than 1 million gallons of manure this year, the highest level in seven years ow.ly/rCI88
  • Report: Administration's proposed Clean Water Act oversight rule would have net economic benefit of up to $263.9 M/yr ow.ly/rCGUR
  • EPA outlines phosphorus monitoring in Illinois River (Oklahoma) ow.ly/rArfb
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Water resources bill conference committee is unlikely to reach a final agreement before the Christmas recess http://ow.ly/rFe4s
  • Senate negotiators point fingers at House as Water Resources Development Act negotiations stall http://ow.ly/rHk7K
  • GOP blocks Democratic motion for a Senate vote on a bill aimed at delaying flood insurance rate increases http://ow.ly/rHhEb
  • Patched towboat raised two weeks after it sank in the Mississippi River ow.ly/rCLed
  • Barges, rail overbooked in commodity system strained by new oil demands, repair delays to river locks, backlogs ow.ly/rCCMu
  • Removal of Minnesota Falls dam on Minnesota River near Granite Falls showing positive signs for healthier fishery http://ow.ly/rHlqY
  • Army Corps of Engineers awards contract to construct floodwall on top of existing Louisiana, Mississippi River levee http://ow.ly/rHlKd
  • Army Corps of Engineers begins Mississippi River rock removal in attempt to ensure river remains open to barges http://ow.ly/rHm2l
Farm Bill-
  • House approves short-term extension of current farm programs through January 31 to give time for farm bill passage http://ow.ly/rJkGl
  • Farm bill negotiators concede that they will not finish their work before Congress goes home for the year http://ow.ly/rFcog
  • House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson lays out plans for January farm bill passage http://ow.ly/rHjPU
  • Farm bill negotiators disagree on how to handle a short-term extension http://ow.ly/rFd0S
  • House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas "confident we’ll work through (issues) and finish a farm bill in January" http://ow.ly/rF44d
  • Farm policy reformers could be crucial in farm bill passage ow.ly/rCBqb
  • Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson: lawmakers near deal that would pave way for passing farm bill in January ow.ly/rCBLw
Agriculture -
  • Economists expect Iowa corn and soybean growers will lose money over the next four years ow.ly/rAnwi
  • Corn futures have tumbled 39% this year—making corn one of the worst-performing commodities in 2013 ow.ly/rCCrG
  • Squeeze in profits that US farmers face comes as congressional leaders work to hammer out a new farm bill ow.ly/rAo9z
  • Average Iowa farmland value is estimated at $8716 per acre, an increase of 5.1 percent from 2012 http://ow.ly/rHfG1
  • Low corn prices on the heels of near-record 2013 yields could mean increased demand for corn from ethanol producers http://ow.ly/rHg0z
  • Minnesota to conduct special review of insecticides tied to dramatic decline in honeybees across U.S. ow.ly/rCWrx
Climate and Weather -
  • The latest NOAA/NWS national update: snow alleviates Midwest/Upper Plains drought http://ow.ly/q3w3u
  • USGS releases tool quantifying U.S. county-scale impacts of climate change http://ow.ly/rFYCX
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Great Lakes and Mississippi River
Interbasin Study Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Army Corps of Engineers to release Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) report in January for public comment http://ow.ly/rHgo9
  • Ancient farming practices seen as tools to curb the loss of endangered species ow.ly/rCIGK
  • Interior Department revised special rule would allow landowners, industry to cause limited harm to lesser prairie chicken http://ow.ly/rFXJy
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell discusses coastal resiliency in New Orleans ow.ly/rCNRc
  • Officials unveil $627M in BP-funded Gulf of Mexico restoration projects ow.ly/rAvVV
  • Royal Dutch Shell announces it will not build a massive gas-to-liquids plant in coastal Louisiana ow.ly/rAtAQ
Resource Development -
  • Wisconsin bill that would rewrite regulations for sand mines is up for an overhaul after worries are raised ow.ly/rCWRI
  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources to start releasing proposed gas-oil drilling rule packages ow.ly/rFfZo
Federal Budget -
  • The House on Thursday approved a two-year budget deal that turns off $63 billion in sequester spending cuts ow.ly/rJj6w
  • Capitol Hill leaders agree to federal budget deal; gives lawmakers breathing room to address real spending drivers http://ow.ly/rFbW7
  • Congressional Budget Office releases its analysis of the new House-Senate budget deal http://ow.ly/rHhV7
  • Here are links to official summary, text and analysis of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 http://ow.ly/rFgsk
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Blog: “Budget Deal Would Slash Farm Bill Direct Spending” http://ow.ly/rHfQZ
  • Farmers and ranchers may have to pay for USDA assistance with conservation on their lands under budget deal terms http://ow.ly/rHkxO
  • National Association of Conservation Districts concerned about budget deal's "unprecedented" USDA NRCS user fees http://ow.ly/rHies
  • Washington Post: Here’s what’s in Paul Ryan and Patty Murray’s mini-budget deal http://ow.ly/rFPH1
  • U.S. budget deal could usher in new era of cooperation http://ow.ly/rFbvj
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Save the dates: 2014 Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee Annual Meeting; March 18-20, 2014; La Crosse, Wisconsin
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's December 5 watershed news ow.ly/rAxOb
  • Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota "Currents" e-magazine for December ow.ly/rAwyX
  • The Wetlands Initiative December 2013 e-newsletter ow.ly/rAtYK
  • Link to December 10 "Water News and More" from  the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy, here:  http://ow.ly/rmhz9
  • Check out the Mississippi River Fund blog: News, Insights, and Ideas on the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area, a national park in Minnesota http://ow.ly/rHhbt
In the Cities-
  • U.S. mayors  launch bipartisan coalition to push for federal funding for urban parks, trails and recreation areas http://ow.ly/rFXgk
Other news-
  • Kayaker completes "source-to-sea" journey on Missouri River ow.ly/rCMbw
  • Bureau of  Land Management taking comments on prescribed fires proposal for 3300+ acres of Upper Missouri River Breaks ow.ly/rCLCM
  • USGS: public lands bills intended to streamline government mapping services and records could cost up to $68 billion ow.ly/rCJpL
  • EPA plans to carry out 30 percent fewer inspections and evaluations in future than during the past five years ow.ly/rCIvT
Politics and People-
  • Ashland City Council member Kelly Westlund, a  Democrat, plans to challenge to Rep. Sean P. Duffy (R-WI-7) ow.ly/rCFVW
  • White House deputy on environmental council Gary Guzy to step down at the end of the month ow.ly/rCFCr
  • Republican state  Sen. Torrey Westrom will  challenge Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-07) bit.ly/1d5yQwa
  • 2014 U.S.  House race spotlight: Illinois 13th district (from POLITICO's Morning Score) ow.ly/rCAIB
  • Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen (D) drops  out of 2014 House race against perennial target, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) ow.ly/rCAiD
  • Sen. Thad Cochran (R-LA) announces he  will seek reelection - faces tough battle to retain seat ow.ly/rAjwQ
Last Word -
I’m happy  to see Thanksgiving and Christmas come around so that we can have some real celebration away from this place because there’s nothing to celebrate around here.” - Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), reflecting on the state of the U.S. Congress toward the end of 2013.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Signs of Farm Bill Negotiation Progress Emerge from Wednesday Meeting
The main four farm bill negotiators emerged from a December 4 face-to-face meeting more optimistic than when they entered that a farm bill agreement might be reached soon; possibly even by the end of the current 2013 Congressional session.  Farm bill conferees have reportedly made significant progress on the way toward settling a variety of differences, including closing the gap between Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP) cut proposals, defining crop baselines for the purposes of subsidies, and agreeing on an approach toward linking conservation with the receipt of farm insurance subsidies.  The House has set a December 13 recess date, and the Senate is scheduled to recess the following week (December 19).  So, barring a schedule change, that latter date is effectively the deadline for getting a compromise bill before both chambers for a vote this calendar year.  Additional news can be seen in the articles listed under "Farm Bill," below, and in our latest 2013 Farm Bill News and Resources posting.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Levels of nitrates and phosphorous are rising in many sloughs of the Wisconsin River http://ow.ly/rrKUS
  • USDA, EPA Partnership Supports Water Quality Trading To Benefit Environment, Economy http://ow.ly/rphz0
  • EPA extends comment period for proposed "Water Quality Standards Regulatory Clarifications" rule until January 2 http://ow.ly/rmbuI
  • Ecosystem services lesson: Water from a clean Mississippi River cheaper to process to drinking water than dirty river buff.ly/18rHl5u
  • Illinois EPA Green Infrastructure grant proposals for stormwater management will be accepted through December 13 http://ow.ly/rmtaZ
  • Former Wisconsin DNR regulator raises concerns about water runoff from large dairy operations http://ow.ly/rmIHV
  • USEPA approval of Pike River (WI) water quality plan increases chances for obtaining pollution remediation grants http://ow.ly/rmJWO
  • Minnesota (MPCA) seeks feedback on statewide water nutrient pollution plan http://ow.ly/rmMwP
  • "Too much oxygen" suspected of killing fish in Lake Owasso (Twin Cities metro area, MN) http://ow.ly/rp2tX
  • North Dakota Health Department launching website to enable public tracking of oil spills and hazardous leaks http://ow.ly/rp3NR
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Potential funding mechanism for water projects divides experts as Congress seeks WRDA compromise http://ow.ly/rtIZp
  • Federal court rules that government-induced flooding in Arkansas qualified as a unconstitutional taking of property http://ow.ly/rtLdl (Click here to read the opinion: http://ow.ly/rtL3L (PDF file))
  • Sunken Mississippi River towboat in LeClaire, Iowa to be lifted this week following spilled oil and fuel cleanup http://ow.ly/rmGZe
  • Missouri River, Kansas aqueduct project faces daunting technical and stakeholder negotiation challenges http://ow.ly/rmHIC
  • Across southern Louisiana, feral hogs uproot levee vegetation, along with the usual sugar cane and rice field fare http://ow.ly/rmM6r
  • Army Corps considers ring levees around New Orleans after several months of discussions and meetings http://ow.ly/rmQhb
  • New Illinois-Gulf study: transporting over-sized goods and equipment by water routes is feasible and can lower costs http://ow.ly/roZip
Farm Bill-
  • Big trades advance farm bill talks, as both sides made important concessions during hour-long closed-door meeting http://ow.ly/rtvwL
  • Farm bill negotiators more optimistic following meeting that they will reach an agreement http://ow.ly/rtAFG  and http://ow.ly/rtASI
  • Farm Bill: Conferees said to be favoring Senate conservation language linking insurance subsidies to conservation http://ow.ly/rtx76
  • What is the real farm bill deadline that House-Senate negotiators must meet? http://ow.ly/rr54T
  • Infighting among rival commodity interests is worse than usual, and threatens farm bill http://ow.ly/rr2xB
  • After a Thanksgiving break, farm bill supporters redouble efforts to get bill over the finish line  http://ow.ly/rmphv
  • Lawmakers eye 2014 midterm elections in farm bill talks http://ow.ly/rmrnV
  • U.S. farm bill sodsaver and conservation compliance fates could shape fate of Minnesota's and nation's shrinking prairie http://ow.ly/rmAMW
  • House Speaker John Boehner tells Senate to "get serious" about farm bill, budget talks http://ow.ly/rpvmv
Agriculture -
  • Ethanol's rise, Conservation Reserve Program cuts spur habitat losses in Prairie Pothole region http://ow.ly/rtJWe
  • E&E ClimateWire: Growing corn can be done sustainably. So why isn't it? http://ow.ly/rtOpI
  • Applications for popular Farm Bill Conservation Stewardship program due in to USDA-NRCS by January 17 http://ow.ly/rnsym
  • USDA: Net farm incomes in America are expected to hit their highest level in four decades this year http://ow.ly/rmDxn
  • USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service releases new Iowa Nutrient Management Conservation Practice Standard http://ow.ly/rtxNE
U.S. drought monitor map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • Abrupt Impact Climate Change report released by National Academy of Sciences warns of "bad-dream scenarios" http://ow.ly/rr625
  • Level of drought in the continental United States has reached a nearly two-year low http://ow.ly/roWhU 
  • Latest NOAA/NWS  national drought update shows little Plains/Midwest change http://ow.ly/q3w3u
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center December drought outlook http://ow.ly/q3yAx
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • A biodiversity and ecosystem services approach effectively leads to policy change within iterative science-policy process http://ow.ly/rmh3F
  • The Nature Conservancy acquires 228 acres in Boone County, Northern Kentucky http://ow.ly/rmVtL
  • USFWS fish biologist works to conserve endangered Missouri River pallid sturgeon http://ow.ly/rmVPi
  • Video developed to help anglers identify juvenile Asian carp; prevent their spread http://ow.ly/rmWdP
  • Bald eagles congregate in Sauk Prairie area during winter, drawn by open Wisconsin River water http://ow.ly/rr6CB
In the Cities -
  • Louisville, KY officials planning January summit to promote Mayor’s environmental agenda and "Sustain Louisville" plan http://ow.ly/rmKpq
In the States-
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency "Waterfront Bulletin" special edition: natural resources' Legacy Amendment marks 5 years http://ow.ly/rmvyF
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East to hold special meeting, vote again on suit against oil, gas companies http://ow.ly/rp37t
  • Louisiana Coastal Authority authorizes two lawsuits against Army Corps of Engineers to pay for restoration http://ow.ly/rtNtU
Resource Development -
  • Tribes struggle to come to terms with North Dakota’s oil boom http://ow.ly/rmItx
  • House passes bill to restrain federal oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing rules in states that regulate practices http://ow.ly/rmTvk
Federal Budget -
  • "Budget fatigue" and bad recent memories of partisan brinkmanship are bringing hopes of a federal budget mini-bargain http://ow.ly/rpj5z
  • Congressional negotiators move toward narrow budget agreement to scale back some spending cuts set for January start http://ow.ly/rmBxo
  • No budget agreement was reached during one-on-one Wednesday meeting between Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan http://ow.ly/rtBkQ
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Climate change webcast: Barriers and Opportunities to Managing for Disturbance and Environmental Change in the Upper Midwest; December 5, 1:00 pm CST http://ow.ly/rmzpT
  • "Congress on Coastal Resilience and Risk" Dec. 11-12, NOAA's Weather & Climate Prediction Center, College Park, MD http://ow.ly/rr3xj
  • Minnesota Organic Agriculture conference, River's Edge, St. Cloud, MN, January 10-11, 2014 http://ow.ly/rpLLO
  • Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Jan. 26-29, 2014, Mobile, Alabama http://ow.ly/rr36q
  • River Life (UMN) to host April 21, 2014, “The Irony of Carp” program; Best Buy Theater, Minneapolis, MN http://ow.ly/rmg2Z
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Link to November 26 and December 3 "Water News and More" from the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy, here:  http://ow.ly/rmhz9
  • November 2013 "Great Rivers E-news" from The Nature Conservancy http://ow.ly/rmjl9
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's November 27, Watershed News http://ow.ly/rmuRM
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Watershed Network News - Dec. 3 http://ow.ly/rpLgr
  • Bi-weekly Green Lands Blue Waters update, highlighting Mississippi River Basin agricultural land conservation, cover http://ow.ly/rtBLs
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Waterfront Bulletin for December 2013 http://ow.ly/rtVez
Other news-
  • Minneapolis’ “main street” to get makeover into wavy, tree-lined promenade of three basic uses: live, work, and play http://ow.ly/rmtVv
  • White House releases 2014 agenda for hundreds of new environmental and conservation rules http://ow.ly/rmL52
  • Overview of U.S. residential property taxes and recent trends in aggregate property tax revenues shows especially high rates in parts of Midwest http://ow.ly/rmOjx and http://ow.ly/rmNKL
  • “Platte Basin Timelapse: Seeing a Watershed in Motion” exhibit will details changes in the Platte River http://ow.ly/roYpo
  • Missouri National Recreation River's addition to National Park Service's National Water Trails System may boost park profile http://ow.ly/rp0Gp
  • Two environmental groups' long-standing arrangement to control 27 acres of Billings, MT riverfront conservation land falls apart http://ow.ly/rpCsp (also see this article: http://ow.ly/rpCU1)
Politics and People-
  • Washington Post: with more left on its plate to do, legislative metrics mean that the current session of the 113th Congress is the least productive ever http://ow.ly/rndNA
  • Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA-5), newest House member, assigned to the Natural Resources. Agriculture committees http://ow.ly/rtJp8
  • GOP state Sen. Torrey Westrom will challenge longtime Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) in 2014 US House race http://ow.ly/rtv3t
  • Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of White House Council on Environmental Quality, will leave her post in February http://ow.ly/rr4bb
Last Word -
"We allow no geniuses around our studio." - Walt Disney, who was born on this date (December 5) in 1901

Monday, December 2, 2013

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

The U.S. House is in session this week and next, while the Senate remains in recess until December 9, when it will reconvene for a two week work session.. The week of December 9 is the only week before the holiday recess through the end of the year when both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session together.

Three sets of House-Senate conference committee negotiators are scrambling to finish three respective conference reports of relevance to the River Basin before the end of the year (on the budget, the farm bill and a water resources projects bill). However, there is a little chance that all three will be completed in time for the House to vote in 2013 (the House is set to recess on December 13). It is possible that one or two of the bills will come up for a vote (the most likely candidate being the widely-popular Water Resources Development Act (or WRDA)), and that the remainder (most likely the farm and budget bills) will be punted into 2014 (with some sort of farm bill extension possibly being passed in the meantime).

Below is the single U.S. House committee meeting currently scheduled this week relating to Mississippi River Basin water resources. Links are provided to the relevant Committee and legislation pages on the Internet. The markup proceedings may be webcast live (follow the Committee markup link).

  • Full Natural Resources Committee markup of several bills, including H.R. 2208, to extend the authorization of appropriations for allocation to carry out approved wetlands conservation projects under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act through fiscal year 2017. "North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act of 2013."  10:00 AM EST; 1324 Longworth House Office Building.