Friday, January 31, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Compromise Farm Bill Clears House, Setting Up Senate Passage
Spending by Category in 2014 Farm Bill
(click to enlarge)
On January 29, the House passed a compromise House-Senate Conference Committee farm bill, on a 251-166 roll call vote. The measure's passage signals an imminent end to what has been a tortuous two-year process, and sets up a vote in the Senate next week.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a procedural vote for Monday on the farm bill.  If at least 60 senators vote to end debate, the Senate will then proceed to a vote on final passage; likely on Tuesday.

The bill would cost $956 billion to implement over 10 years, cutting $2.3 billion a year overall from current spending levels, including $400 million in annual food stamp (or "SNAP" benefit) cuts, and eliminating direct subsidy payments to farmers made regardless of whether they had a successful or bad crop year.For an overview of the bill and what it will mean from nutrition, farm conservation and economic perspectives, see the articles below, under "Farm Bill," and our updated farm bill summary and resources page, here.

Bill to Restructure Landmark 2012 Flood Insurance Law Moves Through Senate
Much of the Senate's time this week was focussed on consideration and, ultimately, Thursday's passage of S.1926, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)). The measure passed easily, on a 67-32 vote, and had particularly strong support from both Democratic and Republican coastal lawmakers.  It would delay for four years the implementation of certain provisions of the 2012 Flood Insurance Reform Act, including rate increases intended to help the National Flood Insurance Program become financially solvent by bringing rates more in line with actual flooding risks. The intent of the 2012 Act was, in part, to provide insurance premium rates that accurately reflect flood risk, based on the understanding that higher insurance costs are necessary to signal actual risk.

The legislation passed by the Senate this week is opposed by many federal budget watchdog and environmental organizations, and faces an uncertain fate in the House, where fiscal conservatives would likely vote against the bill (should it reach the House floor). To read more on the issue, including a list of outside resources, you can see an NFIP background piece, here ("The National Flood Insurance Program: Background and 2012 Reform").

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Wisconsin State Sen. Cowles introduces state bill to encourage industry to fund farm pollution (phosphorus) reduction and
  • Community and environmental groups seek to strengthen Iowa's Clean Water Act large-scale livestock operator rules
  • Research shows arsenic, mercury and selenium in lower Illinois River Asian carp, but not at health concern levels
  • EPA Awards Almost $9 Million in Grants to Researchers Working to Improve Water Quality
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • New York Times: Senate Passes Bill to Delay Spike in Flood Insurance Rates
  • President pushes Congress to approve new funding for roads, ports (i.e., WRDA) by summer during State of the Union
  • New York Times: Popular flood insurance law is target of both political parties
  • Army Corps of Engineers to seek bids for major lock rehabilitation at Olmsted Dam on Ohio River in Kentucky
  • Army Corps of Engineers faces potential lawsuit over claims that changes to Missouri River management have led to flood damage
  • Oklahoma has agreed to let a North Texas water district once again pump water from Lake Texoma
  • Kansas House panel explores idea of aqueduct across Kansas to move Missouri River water (south) to parched Southwestern Kansas
  • Proposal gains momentum to pipe water (north) from Missouri River to augment Red River Valley water supplies
Farm Bill-
  • New York Times: House Approves Farm Bill, Ending a 2-Year Impasse
  • Here is how the House roll call vote passing the farm bill broke out (by member and party):
  • Farm bill should save about $23 billion over 10 years, though falling corn prices could change that
  • Forestry provisions of farm bill draws praise from both conservationists and loggers
  • Joint Nature Conservancy/National Corn Growers Association Op-ed: "Farm bill gets it right on conservation"
  • Wall Street Journal editorial board includes a negative piece on the Farm Bill in Wednesday's paper
  • Final farm bill has wins for conservation, renewable energy (Ecology and Environment bill summary)
Agriculture -
  • UN report: Demand for new cropland may soon exceed levels beyond which there is irreversible and abrupt environmental change
  • Iowa Farmer Today: Nutrient reduction is long-term effort
    • Iowa Renewable Fuels Association urges withdrawal of proposed cut to amount of ethanol to be blended into gasoline
    • Corn belt House members call for meeting with President to discuss "proposed renewable fuels volume obligations"
    Climate and Weather -
    Click to Enlarge
    NOAA weekly drought update: significant precipitation deficits mount in Louisiana; no changes in northern and central Mississippi River Valley:

    NOAA's Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook (February outlook will be published at the end of the month)

    Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
    • Getting ready for Nebraska's annual Sandhill Crane migration
    • North Dakota Game and Fish Department mid-winter waterfowl survey counts about half the number of Canada geese, mallards than last year
    • As Monarch butterfly population decline becomes entrenched, annual migration (mostly from U.S. Midwest) is imperiled
    • Also see: Monarch butterfly — Minnesota’s state insect — is facing dire population declines
    In the Cities -
    • First of three articles exploring role of Mississippi riverfront for future of Minneapolis-St. Paul
    • Mayors repackage old suggestions into renewed request to President for federal help with failing water infrastructure
    • Opening of New Orleans recreational area along the Mississippi River delayed by soil contamination
    • Davenport, Iowa will research possibility of privatizing its sewer system
    • New Orleans: houses can be rebuilt after storms and flooding, but can trust in central government?
    In the States-
    • Environmental enforcement at Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources under Gov. Walker lags behind past administrations
    • Senate Bill 373 regulating tanks, protecting water passes West Virginia Senate (WV Public Broadcasting)
    • Iowa Department of Natural Resources collaborating with Iowa Rivers Revival, others, to help improve state waterways
    • Municipalities, business groups backing state bill to delay implementation of Wisconsin phosphorus reduction rules
    Louisiana Coastal Region-
    • Proposed Louisiana strategy for reducing annual “dead zone” off Gulf coast relies heavily on river diversions
    • Louisiana releases new plan to reduce Gulf of Mexico water pollution; environmental groups say plan isn't enough
    "Shoe" January 30, 2014
    Federal Budget -
    • House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan: Congress will raise federal debt ceiling and prevent a U.S. default
    Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
    • Abstract submission deadline for North American Society for Conservation Biology conference (Missoula, MT, July 13-16) is January 31
    • Upper Mississippi River Basin Association meetings scheduled for February 25-26, in Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island)
    • Upcoming St. Croix River watershed activities (compiled by the St. Croix River Association)
    e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
    • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's River Connections for January 2014
    • Montana Watershed Coordination Council January 30 Watershed News
    • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy January 30 "TU Waterways" publication (PDF file)
    • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Watershed Network News - Jan. 30, 2014
    Other news
    • GOA: EPA and Interior workforces shrank, even as overall number of federal employees increased from 2004-2012 (pdf file)
    • Minnesota River Watershed Alliance votes to continue working on federal Blueway Initiative designation for River, even though program is inactive
    • State Department could release final environmental analysis on controversial Keystone XL pipeline as early as today
    Politics and People-
    • Businessman Robert Hubbard announces he will run against House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)
    • Oklahoma state House Speaker T.W. Shannon will join the GOP primary to fill retiring Sen. Tom Coburn's seat.
    • As farm bill limps toward finish, what's next politically for Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN-7)
    • Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson is giving signals that he may be the next incumbent Democrat in a tough district to retire
    • Vacancies loom at White House Council on Environmental Quality as Chairwoman Nancy Sutley heads for exit
    • Bob Vander Plaats, Iowa’s leading social conservative activist, hints at Senate run, creating mainstream GOP headache
    • Business owner Tom Spangler (D) enters Indiana’s 8th District U.S. House race against Rep. Larry Bucshon (R)
    Last Word -

    - Activist, singer and songwriter, Pete Seeger sings "Sailin' Up, Sailin' Down," on August 21, 2010, with Lorre Wyatt and friends gathered aboard the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.  Pete Seeger died on Monday at the age of 94.

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