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."

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