Friday, February 28, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

New USGS Maps and Tables Describe Nutrient Loading to Gulf of Mexico from Mississippi and Other River Basins
The USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program has made new maps and data tables available online that describe nutrient loading to major estuaries throughout the U.S. These new data presentations describe the major sources and contributing areas of nutrients to 115 estuaries along the coastal U.S., including nutrient loading from the Mississippi River Basin, and other watersheds into the northern Gulf of Mexico.  In addition to the new web pages, persons interested in a particular stream can now utilize an online, interactive SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions on Watershed attributes) nutrient model Decision-Support System (DSS) to estimate how reductions in upstream nutrient sources affect downstream nutrient loads at a stream outlet. More information is available on the NAWQA "Tracking the Source and Quantity of Nutrients to the Nation's Estuaries" web site, at the links under "Water Quality," below, and in our summary blog article.

Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For
The President is scheduled to release an overview of the Administration's Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal to Congress on Tuesday, March 4 (you will be able to view that at this Office of Management and Budget web site). Release of the President's proposal will kick off a series of budget hearings on Capitol Hill during the subsequent weeks Some of those have already been scheduled for next week, beginning on Wednesday morning.  We have summarized the water resource-related budget hearings along with several other Mississippi River Basin water-related Congressional happenings here (budget details will be released by the White House during the following week).

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
USGS Map of River Basins Feeding Northern Gulf of Mexico
  • New USGS NAWQA maps and tables describe nutrient loading to Gulf of Mexico from Mississippi and other river basins (part of larger scale data release - see here:
  • Federal court strikes down Stream Buffer Zone Rule promulgated under President George W. Bush to govern strip-mining activities
  • Over $1 million in state grants targeted at boosting efforts to clean up water bodies across Washington County, Minnesota
  • University of Northern Iowa researchers study how Iowa agriculture affects water in state, Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico
  • On Earth: "Hog wild: Factory farms are poisoning Iowa's drinking water"
  • Lower Mississippi River barge crash and oil spill highlight risks associated with the current US oil boom (see additional spill stories below under Water Resource Management)
  • University of North Carolina's Environmental Finance Center  investigating innovative financing approaches for stormwater and green infrastructure
  • West Virginians Harvest Rainwater in Wake of Chemical Spill
  • Water management plan in the works to reduce amount of water pollution in the Spring River watershed, Southwest Missouri
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • House vote on flood insurance bill delayed until next week while members negotiate language that the chamber can pass
  • Divided House Republicans turn to Rep. Waters (D-CA) for help on flood insurance bill
  • USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to make grants available under new initiative to address agricultural water challenges
  • Wyoming Legislature weighs approving $2 Million for North Platte River restoration in Casper
  • National Weather Service: Despite expected Spring snow melt, there is little likelihood of significant Midwest flooding
  • Localized flooding remains a threat along the Platte River in Nebraska and
    Platte River Ice Jams
  • Eastern Iowa flood forecast good, but  experts closely watching frost depth of ground as spring rains near
  • Forum participants debate whether federal disaster aid impairs or helps state efforts to reduce flood, other natural disaster risks
  • 65-mile stretch of Mississippi River, including Port of New Orleans, was closed to all water traffic Sunday after oil spill (see later article, below)
  • Coast Guard reopens busy stretch of  lower Mississippi River to traffic, two days after it was closed by an oil spill
  • "Long-shot" 360-mile Missouri River aqueduct plan offers window into Kansas water issues
  • EPA and National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies agree to advance Low Impact Development, green infrastructure
  • Missouri River levels drop in Kansas City area as the bottom of the River erodes
  • Once-every-20-year Army Corps maintenance of  Upper Mississippi River Lock and Dam 8 surmounts weather challenges
  • An overview of “Mitigation Banking” - a practice proving to be essential for improving, protecting wetlands, streams, other aquatic resources
  • 2011 Mississippi River flood's breach nicknamed "Mardi Gras Pass" exposes challenges, benefits of using river diversions to advance coastal restoration
  • Environmental groups oppose proposed state bill to give Louisiana governor more control of levee authorities' membership
  • Opposition to a proposed dike project on Mississippi River (Wolf Lake, IL) voiced at Army Corps public hearing
  • Bureau of Reclamation approves long-envisioned Arkansas Valley Conduit to deliver public water to Arkansas Valley (project web site here:
Click to enlarge
Agriculture -
  • USDA Prairie Pothole Wetland and Grassland Retention Project "Infographic" (see figure to the right) --->
  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture to hold  open houses to kick off new Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program
  • Both small family operations and sophisticated organic-grower networks face an unexpected adversary in new FDA rules
  • USDA ERS: Genetically engineered crops (mainly corn, cotton, soybeans) were planted on about half of U.S.crop land in 2013
  • Combination of cheap corn and a slight interest rate increase could result in major farmland values' topple
  • Roll out of "prescriptive planting’ technology" could usher in "the next revolution on the farm" - some farmers are leery
  • Farmers see more benefits from growing covers, but few choose to grow them
  • The McKnight Foundation announces new Crop Research Program Advisory Committee members
February 25 Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • February 25 weekly national drought monitor update: dryness spreads through Mississippi Valley and Plains
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center March monthly drought outlook - will published at the end of February and available here:
  • Senate passes, sends to President, bill that reauthorizes program to assess the effects of and respond to droughts (link to bill here:
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Science takes on invasive aquatic mussels that have done vast economic and ecological damage across 34 states
  • USDA to focus money in U.S. Midwest to help farmers, ranchers improve pastures, provide food for struggling honeybees
  • 1,700 acres of Ohio corn and soybean fields connect Ohio River and Great Lakes basins, providing an unlikely invasive species pathway
  • Environmental group coalition urges U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban genetically engineered crops, certain pesticides at national wildlife refuges
  • Natural Resource Defense Council petitions EPA to restrict use of glyphosate herbicide to protect monarch butterfly
  • Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5) turns spotlight on Oklahoma bugs and birds, Endangered Species Act,  in Committee hearing (Committee hearing page here:
In the Cities -
  • Decorah, Iowa will be receiving Iowa River Revival's "River Town of the Year Award" (Iowa River Revival's web site:
  • New Orleans opens portion of new Crescent Park: 1.4-mile long recreational area running along Mississippi River
  • Raising the bar in New Orleans: Remediating 10,000 blighted properties in less than four years (9 years post-Katrina)
  • Wausau City Council reviews preliminary design ideas for new Riverfront District along "desolate stretch" of Wisconsin River
  • Tulsa, OK riverside park planning will proceed, but project director says related Arkansas River development plan, dam ideas are outdated
In the States-
  • Proposed state bill to limit scope and impact of Indiana's environmental rules dies in Senate committee
  • Wisconsin Legislature's bill concerning frac sand mining in western part of state has strong local, county opposition
  • Wisconsin bill to rewrite sand mine regulations has been scaled back by its sponsors to win support as session wanes
  • State environmental regulators want tougher monitoring for groundwater pollution at Illinois coal ash storage sites
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Appeals court upholds dismissal of BP lawsuit by 11 Louisiana parishes over pollution-related aquatic life, wildlife losses
Forestry -
  • President’s annual budget request to Congress will propose major change in how government pays to fight wildfires
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • 44th annual Audubon Nebraska Crane Festival commences Saturday, March 1, and continues through April 6
  • Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge open house March 1, at the refuge’s Bloomington Education and Visitor Center
  • 2014 Inland Waterways (maritime industry) Conference, March 5-7, Hyatt Regency, New Orleans, La.
  • EPA webcast “Innovative Transportation Stormwater Management: Green Infrastructure in Road Projects” March 6, 1-3 pm EST
  • Water Environment Federation free webinar: How to Have a Successful Congressional Meeting; March 6; 2-3 pm EST
  • USFS hosting workshop to advance natural resource use in city stormwater mitigation; March 12-13; Atlanta, GA
  • Building Resilience Workshop (BRW V) organizers announce that BRW V will be held March 12-14, in New Orleans
  • Emiquon Science Symposium 2014: Taking Stock Before the Connection;  March 27, Dickson Mounds Museum, Lewistown, Ill.
  • Minnesota Watershed Professionals Network Spring Meeting, April 17, Redwood Falls, MN
  • Nitrate in Montana Hydrologic Systems 2014 Conference, April 23-24, Helena, MT
  • Restore America's Estuaries 7th National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration; Nov. 1-6, Washington, DC
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency introduces newsletter dedicated to Stormwater Manual: "Minnesota Stormwater Manual News"
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Watershed Network News - Feb. 27, 2014
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's weekly "TUWaterWays" February 25 newsletter (PDF file)
  • Go here for the Association of State Floodplain Managers News & Views February e-newsletter link (and for archived issues)
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency River Connections for February 2014
  • The Montana Watershed Coordination Council February 27 Watershed News
  • Great Rivers Partnership news from The Nature Conservancy - February 2014
Other news-
NOAA Nautical Chart:
Approaches to Mississippi River
(click to enlarge)
  • NOAA makes PDF versions of nautical charts a permanent on-line product, free to public (includes Mississippi River to Baton Rouge; Gulf of Mexico)
  • The only Mississippi nature tourism business that takes people paddling on the Mississippi River hit by $41,000 in state taxes
  • House passes "takings" legislation that would make it more difficult for the government to seize private property
  • GreenBiz Group, Inc. publishes its 2014 GreenBiz NGO Report: how companies rate 30 well-known environmental groups as partners
  • Job announcement: Macroinvertebrate Ecologist, National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Alton, IL
  • White House says that it will veto the House GOP anti-regulatory legislation if it passes Congress (H.R. 2542, "Regulatory Flexibility Act") (see the bill here:
  • New Horinko Group report looks at policy, planning and practice implications of greening the contaminated site remediation business
  • USEPA's National Aquatic Resource Surveys Campus Research Challenge gives college students opportunity to use national data to conduct scientific research, analysis; Entries due May 15
Politics and People-
  • Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) will try for a third time to defeat incumbent Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA-2)
  • Delayed Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee votes on two Interior Department nominees (Janice Schneider and Rhea Suh) to occur "fairly soon"
  • Senate votes unanimously to confirm Michael Connor to be deputy secretary of the Interior
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announces changes of subcommittee chairs and
  • In surprise decision, Rep. Cory Gardner (R) decides to jump into Colorado Senate race against incumbent Mark Udall (D)
  • State Rep. Amy Stephens drops out of Senate race in Colorado after fellow Republican Cory Gardner announces candidacy
  • Former Louisiana coastal adviser, Garret Graves, announces campaign for Louisiana 6th District U.S. House seat
  • Leading GOP candidate Walt Rogers drops out of race for Iowa-01 seat, will instead run for Iowa House seat reelection
Last Word -
 Rep. John D. Dingell
I’m not going to be carried out feet first.” - Rep. John D. Dingell, a long-time Michigan Democratic Member of the U.S. House, speaking to the Detroit News as he announced on Monday that he will not seek re-election. Dingell added, "I find serving in the House to be obnoxious."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New USGS NAWQA Maps and Tables Describe Nutrient Loading to Gulf of Mexico from Mississippi and Other River Basins

Map of River Basins Feeding Northern Gulf of Mexico
The USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program has made new maps and data tables available on line that describe nutrient loading to major estuaries throughout the U.S. (available on the NAWQA "Tracking the Source and Quantity of Nutrients to the Nation's Estuaries" web site). These new data presentations describe the major sources and contributing areas of nutrients to 115 estuaries along the coastal U.S., including nutrient loading from the Mississippi River Basin, and other watersheds into the Gulf of Mexico.

The maps and tables were produced using the USGS SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions on Watershed attributes) nutrient models. The SPARROW models incorporate geospatial data on geology, soils, land use, fertilizer, manure, wastewater treatment facilities, temperature, precipitation and other watershed characteristics.  The data are provided from USGS, NOAA, USDA, and USEPA, and are linked to stream flow measurements  from USGS streamgages, as well as water quality data from over 2,700 sampling locations operated by 73 monitoring agencies. 

In addition to the new web pages, persons interested in a particular stream can now utilize an online, interactive SPARROW model Decision-Support System (DSS) to estimate how reductions in upstream nutrient sources affect downstream nutrient loads at a stream outlet. A new reporting feature within the DSS provides summary information on the amounts and sources of nutrients from upstream states and major hydrologic regions (for example, the amount of nitrogen contributed from each of the 31 states that drain into the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River Basin).

This combination of national maps and an online decision support system is designed to improve access to water quality modeling information that can then further of nutrient reduction strategies and inform nutrient management policies.

Additional information on USGS nutrient monitoring and modeling activities by the NAWQA program are available online.

[The above is modified from a February 25 USGS NAWQA release regarding the new maps and tables]

Monday, February 24, 2014

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

Below are the U.S. House and Senate hearings and meetings currently scheduled for this week that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources. Links are provided to the relevant Committee pages on the Internet. Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these may be, as well (follow the appropriate link). All times are Eastern.

At some time during the week, most likely on Wednesday or Thursday, the full House is scheduled to take up H.R. 3370 - the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. Among other things, that bill would prohibit Federal Emergency Management Agency from implementing flood insurance rate hikes for certain properties, scheduled to take place under provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. For more background on this issue, see this article.

Date to-be-determined
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Water and Power Subcommittee hearing to consider pending legislation, including S. 1800, the Bureau of Reclamation Transparency Act, a bill
    Angostura Dam and Reservoir
    Cheyenne River, South Dakota
    that, among other things, would require the Department of Interior to report to Congress information on maintenance needs and potential public safety threats at individual Bureau of Reclamation projects due to aging infrastructure, and major repair and rehabilitation needs (i.e., related to the safety of dams, extraordinary operations at and maintenance of dams, deferred maintenance, and all other significant repairs and extraordinary maintenance). Bureau of Reclamation's Missouri River Basin program in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming is composed of about 150 "units," each of which has been or is being constructed or investigated; SD-366 Senate Dirksen Building; 2:30 PM.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For
The U.S. Congress was recessed this week for its annual President's Day break, but both chambers are back in session next week.  There are several Congressional committee activities scheduled that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resource issues, including a meeting on a bill that would place new regulatory and guidance development requirements upon the Administration, a hearing on a bill to require new dam infrastructure reporting from the Bureau of Reclamation (applicable in the Missouri River Basin), an oversight hearing on Department of Interior hiring and retention procedures, and others.  For details on these activities, and links to related materials, you can see our summary, here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Federal and state efforts - regulating farmers, studying problems - not enough to protect Ohio’s waterways from harmful algal blooms
  • Editorial: "EPA's Cooperative Approach to Regulating Algae Pollution Falls Flat"
  • Study: methylmercury concentrations in estuary waters, not in sediment, better predict extent of food chain mercury contamination
  • Iowa farmers and other rural residents press the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission for cleaner water
  • Activists: Iowa panel overseeing water quality too aligned with farm interests to aggressively enforce environmental law
  • West Virginia DEP: Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission tests show no water quality change following coal slurry spill in Kanawha River tributary
  • New nitrogen and phosphorus water quality trading system will start with about 30 farms across Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky
  • Midwest farmers ease into industry-created water quality credit system to fight Gulf of Mexico hypoxia
  • University of Missouri researchers join national effort searching for solutions for nutrient runoff from farms
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Seven-county Twin Cities (MN) metro area's relentless demand for groundwater could leave millions of people dry
  • Army Corps hosts public hearing on southern Illinois, Mississippi River levees
  • Vice President Biden tours Mississippi River port at Granite City, Illinois to push for more port infrastructure funding
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) urges congressional leaders to delay flood insurance premium increases
  • From Dubuque, Iowa to Gregory Landing, Missouri, Mississippi River spring flood risk near normal to slightly elevated
Agriculture -
  • An estimated 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will likely change hands over next two decades-much going to private investors
  • USDA 2012 Census shows value of farmland sales up dramatically; number of farms and land in farms down slightly (see press release here:
  • USDA to invest in efforts to help landowners conserve grasslands and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region
  • Major producers of corn-based ethanol are reporting record returns thanks to dramatically lower corn prices
  • Tight farm profit margins suggest farmers should think twice about investing in more land
  • Roundup-resistant "superweeds" crowding in on corn, soybeans in Midwest
  • Illinois agricultural statistics implicate 2011 flooding for farmland productivity losses
  • DTN Ag Policy Blog: “Cover Crops: Health Care for the Soil”
February 18 National Drought Map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • Mississippi River valley rain over past week diminished drought in parts of Louisiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin; little relief in Plains
  • Drought expected to persist or intensify into Spring across the Southwest and Southern Plains
In the Cities -
  • Cincinnati decision to decertify flood levee surrounding airport instead of bringing it up to standards under scrutiny
In the States-
  • Proposed numeric nutrient standard rules have been filed by Montana; copies are available at the following website:
  • Indiana lawmakers close to passing measure that opponents say would favor big agribusinesses
  • Indiana lawmakers urged to reject environment rules bill by coalition of 16 environmental, health and citizens groups
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • As cold engulfs Great Lakes, Pittsburgh's open three-rivers' water is an attractive alternative for gulls
  • Iowa: New Bison trucked in to help keep prairie balanced at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
  • Science World Report: "Dangerous Fish: Asian Carp Posing Threat to Boaters in Mississippi River Waters"
  • Wild bumblebees worldwide in trouble; they provide substantial portion of worldwide flower and food crop pollination
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • NOAA makes coastal land loss official: removing 40 place names from Coastal Louisiana nautical maps
Forestry -
  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: U.S. Forest Service's law enforcement division freezes staff and cuts enforcement after requesting budget cut
Resource Development -
  • Court finds that a law giving Nebraska governor approval of Keystone pipeline route violated the state constitution (Also see:
  • Iowa ethanol plant - to be operational in June - will be one of the first producers of biofuels made from crop waste
  • Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear endorses legislation that would hamper development of Bluegrass Pipeline through state
Events - Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • 19th Annual Tulane Environmental Law and Policy Summit, February 21-22, Tulane Law School, New Orleans, LA
  • Farm Bill overview webinars, February 26; March 5 and 12, hosted by American Farmland Trust and National Association of Conservation Districts
  • USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta to Host Google+ Hangout on the Changing Face of Agriculture; February 24; 3 PM ET
  • Registration open: 2014 State of the Coast Conference, New Orleans, LA, March 18-20
  • Registration now open for the Society for Ecological Restoration Midwest Great Lakes Chapter meeting; Univ of Minnesota, St. Paul; March 28-30
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia -
  • Winter Update from America's Watershed Initiative
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's weekly "TUWaterWays" newsletters (February 14 and February 19: (PDF files))
  • February "1 Mississippi" newsletter, highlighting River Citizens getting results (and having fun!)
  • St. Croix River Association's February 18 e-newsletter
  • Bi-weekly Green Lands Blue Waters update, highlighting Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • The Wetlands Initiative February e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 2/20 Feedlot Update looks at Wisconsin's manure management weather alert system
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council Watershed News 2. 20.14
  • American Farmland Trust February newsletter, with news of upcoming free Farm Bill webinars
Other news-
Click to enlarge
  • Four senators (three from Mississippi River basin) want halt to Endangered Species Act consultations over EPA power plant cooling water intake rule
  • Mississippi Delta's rich history, both prehistoric and historic, is in danger of being lost (Arkansas and Mississippi) (map to the right)
  • Dozens of amateurs not only building large canoes - they're also going to paddle them down the Missouri River
  • Illinois Water Resources Center now accepting grant applications for Student Research Awards program; deadline March 14
Politics and People-
  • Environmental Council of the States names Alexandra Dapolito Dunn as its new executive director
  • Dick Lambert, MN DOT’s director for ports and waterways, retires after 50 years in waterways transportation sector
  • Edwin Edwards planning a 2014  run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-6-LA)
  • Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson (D) enters US House race against GOP incumbent Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR-1)
Last Word -
"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment." - Photographer Ansel Adams, born on February 20, 1902

Friday, February 14, 2014

2014 Farm Bill Resources Page

On February 4, the Senate passed a compromise House-Senate Conference Committee farm bill on a 68-32 roll call vote. Forty-six Democrats, 20 Republicans and two independents voted for the final bill. The House had previously (January 29) passed the bill, on a 251-166 roll call vote. The measure was then sent on to the President and signed into law on February 7.

The farm-nutrition legislation will cost $956 billion to implement over 10 years, based on a January 28, Congressional Budget Office report. According to the Conference Committee's analysis, the bill cuts $2.3 billion a year overall from current spending levels, including $400 million in annual food stamp (or "SNAP" benefit) cuts, and an elimination of direct payments to farmers: direct subsidy payments made regardless of whether they had a successful or bad crop year.

From a conservation perspective, the legislation restores a previous farm bill provision that links receipt of crop insurance premium subsidies by farmers to requirements for conserving highly erodible land and wetlands. The bill also includes a regional "sodsaver" provision that will affect the Prairie Pothole Region states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. That provision would eliminate crop insurance premium subsidies for farmers who convert native grasslands into crop production.  That part of the bill is not national in scope; a requirement that many conservation groups were backing.

Below are links to resources you may find useful regarding the 2014 farm bill.

General Resources
House-Senate Conference Committee
  • H.R.2642 - Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (Conference committee consensus farm bill)
  • Congressional Budget Office final scoring of the farm bill on H.R. 2642:
U.S. Senate
U.S. House

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week 

Water Quality -
  • EPA Administrator: Iowa ahead of other Mississippi River Basin states in nutrient water pollution reduction strategy
  • New Louisiana plan relies heavily on existing and proposed sediment and freshwater diversions to reduce nutrients causing Gulf of Mexico dead zone
  • USGS April briefing will focus on Mississippi River Basin nutrient and pesticide water quality trends 
    Nutrients concentration in Nation's streams
    and groundwater

  • Water quality cap-and-trade program involving point and non-point sources not a straight-forward concept to implement
  • MN's Ag Water Quality Certification Program now enrolling farms; certified producers receive "regulatory certainty"
  • Southeast Iowa hog producer will pay fine/improve operations after manure spill into a dry creek in November
  • One of Iowa's largest hog operations fined $10,000 for manure spill into tributary of Des Moines River
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee holds field hearing to discuss Jan. 9 spill of from Freedom Industries Inc. WV facility
  • U.S. House field hearing into spill provides few answers on West Virginia water safety
  • Eastern  proponents of water credit trading look westward toward Ohio River Basin initiative
  • Roughly six miles of Fields Creek were blackened by a coal slurry spill in eastern Kanawha County, WV Tuesday morning
  • Senate passes Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act; research on algal harm to fish (see the bill here:
  • Arkansas hog farm opponents crticize Big Creek, Buffalo National River pollution study, claiming research is flawed
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • House Majority Leader: House will take up "modified version" of Senate bill to delay scheduled flood insurance rate hikes
  • Army Corps of Engineers defends validity of it future plans for managing the Missouri River
  • Army Corps has plan to abate spring Missouri River flooding 
    Proposed Arkansas River Harbor
    Project (click to enlarge)
  • Corps of Engineers releases Missouri River water level projections
  • Cold weather forces Corps of Engineers to adjust Gavins Point dam water releases to downstream Missouri River
  • When drought occurs, fracking and farming interests collide over need for sparse water
  • FEMA levee standard changes trigger painful decisions for cash-strapped cities; while insurance bills stun homeowners
  • In cities and in court, continued focus keeps replenishing depleted White Bear Lake a priority (Twin Cities area, MN)
  • Many mayors of Arkansas cities would like to see Arkansas River’s shipping channel deepened from 9 feet to 12 feet
  • Arkansas River Task Force members meet to discuss creation of a new low-water dam, and Zink dam improvement costs
  • Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study for proposed Arkansas River harbor project expected to be released soon
  • More barges carrying oil down the Mississippi River, in part due to fracking boom in Pennsylvania, North Dakota
Agriculture -
  • Disputed expansion of Northeastern Wisconsin dairy's concentrated animal feeding operation may have statewide impact
  • Iowa farmers plan a significant 2014 shift from corn to soybeans; planting about 11 percent more than in 2013 (US increase = 7%)
  • USDA: Farm income expected to fall by 27% this year; to its lowest level in four years
  • Sober warning of what lower corn prices could mean for the cost of the new farm bill over the next few years
  • The nearly invisible crisis of Iowa's topsoil: it appears to be eroding at a much higher rate than the USDA estimates imply
  • A growing farmland sale trend: unrealistic expectations from sellers and more caution on the side of buyers
Farm Bill -
  • President Obama signed the $956 billion farm bill on Friday at Michigan State University
  • Ag/FDA Blog-The OFW Law Blog: "Hidden Gems in the Farm Bill"
  • 2014 Farm Bill Summary: Key Farm Safety Net Provisions
  • Energy Programs in the New Farm Bill
  • Conservation Programs in the New Farm Bill
Climate and Weather -
February 11 Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Ferbuary 11 NOAA/NWS national drought update: most of Mississippi Valley remained status-quo last week
  • Snowfall over Missouri River Basin is tracking slightly higher than the 30-year average
  • House passes bill reauthorizing National Integrated Drought Information System; 365 - 21 roll call vote:; bill information:
  • House handily passes bill to extend the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) through 2018 (news coverage)
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Interior Department will consider free-market habitat exchange to conserve and restore imperiled lesser prairie chicken
  • Controversial interpretations of federal and state water laws drive much of Army Corps' Asian carp project costs and timeline
  • Waterloo, Iowa digital tree database will play vital role in invasive Emerald Ash Borer management
  • In recent months, four whooping cranes have been shot; two each in Louisiana and Kentucky
Downtown Davenport, Iowa
In the Cities -
  • Louisville, KY looks to expand natural filtration of Ohio River drinking water with "riverbank filtration system"
  • Bringing Back Mississippi Riverfront Towns Through Bike Trails and Wetlands
  • Casper City Council (WY) approves $450,000 for design and construction of multiple Platte River bank stabilization projects
  • Controversy swirling around proposed park along Mississippi River in Hastings, MN, includes eminent domain issues
In the States-
  • Nebraska lawmakers hope to counter drought and other water stresses by investing in water projects across state
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial: Phosphorus regulation bill would help state address runoff pollution
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Poll: support for restoring coastal wetlands has increased dramatically in Louisiana over the past decade
Federal Budget -
  • House passes a Federal debt-ceiling hike of undetermined size with no added "riders"
  • Senate approves federal debt ceiling hike
  • House Budget Committee passes bill to put Congress on two-year budgeting cycle, but bill's fate is uncertain at best
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Illinois RiverWatch Network to host statewide workshops on volunteer water quality monitoring of Illinois streams
  • USEPA stormwater webinar: Stormwater Management Incentives and Public Private Partnerships; February 25, 1 pm
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Association has posted the February 25-26 meeting packets, including agendas
  • Mississippi River Connections Collaborative Meeting; March 11 - 13, 2014 – Downtown, Memphis, TN
  • Midwestern Governors Association briefing on aquatic invasive species for Congress and the public; March 12; 10 AM ET
  • "Wings Over the Platte" is the region's oldest and largest artist exhibit dedicated to life on the Platte River
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • St. Croix River Association e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Waterfront Bulletin for February 2014
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's February 13 Watershed News
Other news-
  • Resource-strapped U.S. EPA conducted fewer inspections and pursued fewer civil and criminal cases in 2013 than in 2012
  • U.S. EPA preparing to offer buyouts and "early outs" to up to 1,375 employees nationwide and
  • New Senate bill would provide direct funding to states for fisheries management, habitat conservation, boating programs; Legislation: (see article here:
Politics and People-
  • Evidence mounts that Congress has all but wrapped up its most consequential work of 2014
  • League of Conservation Voters releases its annual legislative scorecard on Congress
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announces that Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D) will be Max Baucus's replacement in US Senate
  • Professor Kevin Crow joins the GOP race for retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's (OK) seat.
  • GOP Attorney General Jon Bruning officially enters Nebraska's gubernatorial race
  • Former GOP state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway joins Missouri 2016 governor's race
  • Activist Shelley Hendrix (R) to announce bid for GOP Rep. Cassidy's (R-6-LA) U.S. House seat, which he is vacating
  • Louisiana Republicans urge Sen. Landrieu (D-La.) to oppose President's Interior Department's wildlife and parks programs nominee
  • Senate makes it official: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will chair Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) new powers as Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair could come with political risks
  • Rep. Ralph M. Hall (R-TX-4), the oldest member of Congress, prepares for his final campaign for office (represents Mississippi River Basin district)
  • Nebraska state Auditor Mike Foley enters gubernatorial race, joining crowded GOP primary field
  • Todd Batta nominated as USDA Assistant Secretary of congressional relations, would work closely with House and Senate Agriculture Committees
  • US Rep. Tim Griffin (R-3-Ark.) who months ago said he would not seek re-election,  to Run for Lt. Gov. in Arkansas
  • GOP state Rep. Debra Hobbs plans to lower her Arkansas election sightes down from governor to lieutenant governor
  • House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) plans to retire at the end of the year
Last Word -
Mike Trout - outfielder for the
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
"It’s like a Swiss Army knife. It’s like a Mike Trout." - President Barack Obama, describing the farm bill by referring to the Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels' center fielder, Mike Trout. Trout is known as a "five-tool player" for his versatile skills, and while not a New York Yankee, he's still pretty good.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

USGS Briefing to Focus on Mississippi River Basin Water Quality Trends

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program will present a public and Congressional briefing on trends in nutrients and pesticides in the Nation’s rivers and streams on April 11, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. The briefing will be cosponsored by the Northeast-Midwest Institute and Water Environment Federation.
Nutrients concentration in Nation's streams
and groundwater

At the briefing, Lori Sprague, Surface-Water Trends Coordinator for NAWQA, will present findings on trends in nutrient and pesticide concentrations, focusing on the Mississippi River Basin, which covers about 40% of the Nation. The Mississippi River Basin landscape encompasses many of the agricultural, urban, and climatic influences on water quality that impact national water quality trends. A highlight of the briefing will be information on trends in nitrate levels from the Mississippi River Basin to the Gulf of Mexico, first reported in late October, 2013.

At the briefing, NAWQA will also address several important questions that have arisen regarding how and why these trends have emerged. For example, nitrate loading to the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River increased more than 10 percent from 1980 to 2010, despite efforts to improve and expand the use of agricultural and urban water quality management practices that might arguably result in a reduction of nitrate loading. NAWQA found that one increasing source of nitrate is the slow movement of nitrate-rich groundwater into streams and rivers. Slow movement of nitrate in groundwater can cause delays in realizing any of the water-quality improvements sought from recently applied nutrient management practices. On the other hand, NAWQA found that pesticide contamination trends are largely dependent on pesticide use (i.e., declining pesticide usage has been reflected in declined water concentrations, while newly introduced pesticides are appearing in increasing concentrations in streams and rivers as their use has increased).

Dr. Suzanne Bricker of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Ocean Assessments, Status, and Trends Branch will also speak, describing her work to assess estuarine health and will relate that to the trends seen in NAWQA’s monitoring and assessments.

The briefing will be free and open to the public.  Details on the briefing location are yet to be determined, and will be made available at a later date.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

Below are the U.S. House and Senate hearings and meetings currently scheduled this week that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources.   In addition, on Monday, the full House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2431 - The National Integrated Drought Information Systems Reauthorization Act of 2013 (Sponsored by Rep. Ralph Hall / Science, Space, and Technology Committee). That bill would amend the National Integrated Drought Information System Act of 2006 to specify that the National Integrated Drought Information System Program's purpose is to better inform and provide for more timely decision-making to reduce drought related impacts and costs.

Links are provided to the relevant Committee pages on the Internet.  Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these may be, as well (follow the appropriate link).  All times are Eastern.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Habemus Morbi Rutrum! ("We Have a Farm Bill!")
"Habemus Morbi Rutrum!" (U.S. Capitol Building)
On February 4, the Senate passed a compromise House-Senate Conference Committee farm bill on a 68-32 roll call vote. Forty-six Democrats, 20 Republicans and two independents joined together to vote for the Farm Bill conference report. The House had previously (on January 29) passed the bill, by a 251-166 margin. The bill has been sent on to the President for his signature, ending three years of often contentious deliberation.  The President is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday during an event at Michigan State University, alma mater of Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

There were several notable votes in opposition to the bill from Senators representing Mississippi River Basin states. Both Oklahoma Sens. Tom Coburn (R) and Jim Inhofe (R) voted against the conference report, as did Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Pat Roberts (R-KS). Grassley, a longtime member of the Agriculture Committee, cited provisions passed by the Senate but then removed from the final bill that would have reduced the number of people associated with one farm who can collect farm subsidies. Roberts indicated in a news release that he "voted against final passage of the 2014 Farm Bill conference report because it goes backwards towards protectionist subsidy programs, instead of forward with innovative and responsible solutions for producers and the taxpayer.”

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • U.S. District Court orders Stabl Inc. to pay $2.2 million penalty for Clean Water Act violations (Lexington, Neb.)
  • "How Protective of Designated Use are Nutrient Criteria?"
  • Wisconsin DNR proposes to add 192 waterways to list of lakes, rivers, streams failing to meet water quality standards
  • Kansas Attorney General joins other states in appealing USEPA’s proposed regulation of nutrients in farm, lawn runoff
  • Environment and Energy: Twenty-one states join agriculture interests' appeal challenging court decision upholding USEPA's Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan
  • Washington Post: AGs in 21 states are backing attempt to derail EPA’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, fearing use of that authority elsewhere (Here is their joint amicus brief filed this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit:
  • Federal grand jury investigation launched into West Virginia chemical spill that left 300,000 people unable to use water supply
  • Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, in water supply lake has cost Columbus, Ohio $723,000 in treatment expenses
  • American Farm Bureau at House committee hearing: expanded EPA/Army Corps Clean Water Act jurisdiction would negatively affect farmers (PDF of Farm Bureau testimony:
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • House - Senate negotiations over final Water Resources Development Act back "on track" after mid-winter's stall
  • Army Corps to invite contractors for $1-5 million Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers dredging services
  • IWMI Study: best way to protect wetlands is to find the right balance between farming and conservation
  • Proposed water pipeline to carry Missouri River water into the Red River Basin gets state legislative look
  • National Weather Service: minor flooding in Ohio River valley may continue into Saturday and
  • Ice-clogged Illinois River slows barge traffic
  • Army Corps is closely monitoring Ohio River during unusually icy winter
  • Residents evacuate as ice-clogged Platte River floods Kearney, Nebraska neighborhood
  • After receiving criticism during 2011 Missouri River flood, Army Corps of Engineers vows to be more transparent and open
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approves North American Wetlands Conservation Act, would extend conservation program authority
Farm Bill- 
  • New farm bill pares down conservation programs to just 13 by combining smaller programs, folding others into larger ones
  • The Hill: "Senate sends farm bill to Obama"
  • President is expected to sign the farm bill into law Friday during an event at Michigan State University
  • Washington Post editorial questions central premise of farm bill: that U.S. agriculture requires centralized planning
  • Kansas City Star: Farm bill easily passes Senate, will change operations for farmers nationwide
  • New York Times: Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers
  • How did your senators vote on the farm bill (interactive map)
  • Here's how the Senate's 68-32 farm bill passage vote broke out (by Senator and state):
  • The story behind how the "conservation compliance" provision came to be included in the final farm bill
  • Des Moines Register editorial: Taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance under farm bill comes with an important conservation "string"
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow (D-Mich.) offers defense of farm bill's controversial aspects
Agriculture - 
  • National Corn Growers Association to create science advisory council to develop practices that boost soil health (The Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund are providing technical support)
  • Arkansas groups suing in hopes of moving hog farm away from Buffalo River: one of last free-flowing U.S. rivers
  • Number of Iowa manure spills last year was a 65 percent jump from 2012, when 46 spills occurred
Climate and Weather -
February drought forecast
lick to enlarge)
  • National drought monitor: significant precipitation deficits mount in Louisiana; Missouri River down substantially
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center February drought outlook (see figure to right)
  • New USDA "climate hubs" program designed to help farmers, ranchers, rural communities combat climate change, adapt to extreme weather
  • Senate approves Drought Information Act of 2013; bill to keep a federal drought information system going but with budget cut
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
American Burying Beetle
  • Plan being considered for consistent fish catch limits in all of Mississippi River's Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa waters
  • Iowa State University researchers: Honey bee threats include farm pesticide, loss of habitat to urban sprawl
  • Five large oil, gas companies enroll in plan to keep lesser prairie chicken (southern Great Plains) off endangered species list
  • Stunning migration of trumpeter swans turns Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary into tourist hot spot (Alton, IL)
  • South Dakota State University research: more diverse ant population marks a more completely-restored grassland
  • Newly-introduced bill would require separating Lake Michigan from Mississippi River watershed in Chicago area
  • Fish and Wildlife Service documents: two officials repeatedly committed scientific misconduct in estimating Oklahoma endangered insect's range
In the Cities -
  • Brainerd (Minnesota) seeks applications for Mississippi River Partnership Plan steering committee membership
  • Online Nashville Low Impact Development Tour; Spotlighting Low Impact Development in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Latest report in McKnight's “Food for Thought” series: "A River Runs Through Us-Why the Mississippi River is crucial to Minneapolis-St. Paul's future"
  • Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, OH announced as one of four 2014 U.S. Water Prize winners
  • Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group releases its final Report, Findings and Recommendations (press release:
  • Cities utilize mix of green and traditional infrastructure in combined sewer overflow control
  • Big oil projects being planned for both sides of the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Lake Pontchartrain storm surge protection for Mandeville, Louisiana could cost nearly $30 million, engineer says
  • Eight teams to develop proposals to rescue Mississippi River delta wetlands from sinking into the Gulf of Mexico
Forestry -
  • Farm bill boosts forest restoration; gaining both timber and environmental interest support for forestry measures
  • Mississippi River Basin subwatersheds will see some of USDA's $30 million this fiscal year to address wildfire threats and water quality
Resource Development -
  • Study: Policymakers should be cautious when it comes to allowing new sand-mining operations in northeastern Iowa
Federal Budget -
  • House GOP divided on debt ceiling, while Obama administration says Congress needs to lift ceiling this month
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar
  • Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee and federal agencies to hold public meeting on Missouri River Recovery Program; Feb. 11-13, Kansas City
  • State Level Nutrient Reduction Strategies Webinar; February 19, 10-11:30 CST; details and log-in information:
  • Army Corps to hold Feb. 19 public meeting at Wolk Lake, MO on two Middle Mississippi River training structure projects
  • Upper St. Croix Basin Forestry Conference: roll of healthy forests in keeping water clean; February 27; Hinckley, MN
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment annual meeting; March 2, 1-3 pm Ruthie's Grill, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO
  • Midwest Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration Chapter Meeting; March 28-30; St. Paul, MN
  • Save the dates: 2014 America's Watershed Initiative Summit; Louisville, Kentucky; September 30-October 2
  • Living Lands and Waters now coordinating 2014 Great Mississippi River Cleanup up and down entire Mississippi River; more information here:
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Bi-weekly Green Lands Blue Waters update, highlighting  Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's Watershed News February 6 edition
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's February 6 TUWaterWays newsletter (pdf file)
  • National Water Research Institute February 6, E-Newsletter
  • Water Environment Federation's "Stormwater Report" for February 2014
Other news-
  • Environmental Protection Agency agrees to establish rules for coal ash disposal by Dec. 19, as part of environmental and citizen group lawsuit settlement
  • Fish consumption advisories unlikely to effectively reduce prenatal exposures to persistent organic pollutants
  • Research using Susquehanna, Delaware, Allegheny and Shenandoah river water indicates estrogenic compounds may change fish heart development
  • Comment deadline on Ozark National Scenic Riverways General Management Plan: February 7
  • Four new job postings at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Alton, Illinois
  • Opening of Mississippi River levee bike path in Louisiana delayed as Army Corps fixes problems
  • Cost of dealing with sediment dredging materials piled along Minnesota River threatens to run into the millions
  • Taking the longer view of public-private partnerships for conservation and environmental management
  • House passes broad package of hunting, fishing measures; blocking Democratic endangered species, climate amendments (see H.R. 3590 - Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2013 here:
  • Extreme Midwestern temperature fluctuations have brought a rare natural phenomenon known as "frost quakes"
  • Canadian Pacific oil tanker train leaves 65-mile long oil spill trail from Red Wing to Winona along Mississippi River
Politics and People-
  • New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu wins landslide victory and a second term
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has chosen his chief of staff, Tina Smith, as his running mate for this year:
  • Oklahoma Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman announces he's challenging GOP Gov. Mary Fallin in 2014 election
  • Garret Graves, Louisiana's point person on coastal issues, announces his resignation
  • Iowa bridge construction contractor Robert Cramer announces entry into GOP race for retiring Rep. Latham's (IA-3) seat
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advances key Obama Administration Interior and EPA nominations (including Ken Kopocis, nominee to be EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water)
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) may act swiftly in appointing a U.S. Senate successor to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and
  • With Sen. Max Baucus off to China as the next U.S. ambassador, key Senate committees' chairs up for grabs
  • Mike Boots to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality; to take position later this month
Last Word
"(They) have the farsightedness and confidence in what they know is happening to ignore the headless chicken brigade and do something practical to help." - Britain's Prince Charles, paying tribute to youngsters vying for the Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize, while dismissing climate change "deniers."