Friday, March 7, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Obama Administration Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal Released
President Obama released his administration's proposed fiscal year 2015 budget on Tuesday, and while the proposal and its more detailed appendices (available here) are voluminous, below is a short outline of some of the major budget line items that relate to Mississippi River Basin water issues (Links will direct you to that particular agency's budget narrative document).  
  • The proposal would cut the Environmental Protection Agency's budget for fifth consecutive year; funding the agency at $7.89 billion, $309.9 million below the EPA's enacted level for fiscal year 2014. The EPA budget includes $581 million in cuts to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs).
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture would see $23.7 billion in discretionary funding under the budget proposal, a decrease of roughly $938 million from the 2014 enacted level.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works would be funded at $4.5 billion; a $934 million, or 17 percent, decrease from its 2014 enacted level.  The budget provides $825 million for Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Valley Division civil works program, including $33 million for the “Upper Mississippi River Restoration, IL, IA, MN, MO, WI” line item; a program historically known as the Environmental Management Program (or EMP).  
  • The budget would provide $12 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of the Interior (a three percent increase over the fiscal year 2014 enacted level), including $59.1 million for the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA).
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at
March 4 Budget Briefing
It is good to keep in mind that the Administration's budget proposal is just that - a proposal.  In recent years nothing closely resembling the President's budget requests have made their way through Congress and been reflected in appropriation measures that were finally passed. During this mid-term election year, in particular, the budget plan has much more to do with messaging behind the budget numbers than the numbers themselves.  In fact, at a Tuesday budget briefing, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made that very point, stressing that his agency's budget was, effectively, a "message document," and that its message is, "we need to reform a lot of what we do," and "need to be innovative" in the face of a changing, challenging world and limited financial resources.

Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For
Speaking of the President's budget proposal, eight of the nine U.S. House and Senate hearings and executive meetings currently scheduled for next week relating to Mississippi River Basin water resources deal with the Administration's budget request.  If you want to wade into that budget policy deep end, follow this link to see what's on tap for next week. 

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week 

Water Quality -
  • Coal Firm to Pay Record Penalty and Spend Millions on Water Cleanup in 5 States (Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia)
  • The Columbus Dispatch editorial: Smarter farming, cleaner water
  • 20,000 gallons of untreated Cargill pork processing plant waste water spills into the Des Moines River (Ottumwa, IA)
  • EPA asks court to overturn ruling that it must re-examine a request for rules to curb river pollution leading to dead zones
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Waterways industry leaders still waiting on congressional negotiators to close the deal on Water Resources Development Act
  • 38 House members urge House-Senate Conference Committee negotiators to finalize WRDA; but bill "weeks away" at best
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) endorses a House flood insurance bill that she calls 'far from perfect' (see additional story below)
  • House votes to scale back reforms to federal flood insurance programs in significant retreat from two-year-old reform bill - - Here is the link to the bill: H.R. 3370
  • Opinion: Maintain the best features of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act
  • Barge fleeting operation planned on Ohio River near Mauckport, Indiana
  • Central Ohio River officials look to  re-designate 220 miles of  River to improve region’s port ranking with Army Corps of Engineers
  • Over 200 plaintiffs from Northwest Missouri, Northeast Kansas, eastern Nebraska, western Iowa and South Dakota to sue U.S. government over Missouri River flooding
  • Water, land and litigation: Lawsuit renews vigorous debate over future of Missouri River
  • As Montana mountain snowpack water content continues to rise, so does amount of runoff expected in Missouri River basin
  • Army Corps of Engineers: mountain snowpack in the Missouri River's upper basin is high, but flooding less likely than in 2011
  • National Weather Service in Quad Cities reporting an elevated risk for flooding along Rock River this spring
Agriculture -
  • USDA Secretary outlines key upcoming 2014-15 dates for disaster relief, conservation, other farm bill programs
  • Here's is USDA's web page dedicated to 2014 Farm Bill conservation programs and their implementation:
  • USDA releases fact sheet comparing conservation programs between the 2008 and 2014 farm bills
  • House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) holds his annual Farm Forum with the focus of the day being new Farm Bill
  • Farmers won’t sign up for new farm bill programs until their 2014 spring crops are in the bin next fall
  • Drought is single leading cause of production losses to crop farms, followed by excess moisture, hail, freezes, heat
  • Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) urges USDA to better address interplay among traditional, organic and genetically modified agricultural systems
  • One-third of U.S. organic farmers experience problems in their fields due to nearby use of genetically-modified crops
  • President's budget proposes several reforms to federal crop insurance program not contained in just-passed farm bill
  • House subcommittee recognizes Cooperative Extension Service contributions to agriculture, youth, rural communities
  • Under USDA's ERS definition, family farms represent 97.6 percent of all U.S. farms and are responsible for 85 percent of U.S. farm production
  • USDA National Ag Water Management Team drainage water management introductory video:
  • Bipartisan group of House members introduce bill to prohibit USEPA from releasing  livestock producers' personal data
  • Iowa Secretary of Agriculture says On-Farm Network will help make state's Nutrient Reduction Strategy successful
Climate and Weather -
March 4 Drought Monitor Map
(click to enlarge)
  • Expansion of abnormal dryness across lower half of Mississippi Valley halted by rain; little change in the north
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center's March drought outlook
  • Even while adapting to its impacts, most Wisconsin farmers remain climate change skeptics
  • President signs bill reauthorizing program that provides drought forecasts, support to drought-vulnerable communities
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • NRDC has petitioned EPA to restrict use of glyphosate herbicide to protect dwindling monarch butterfly population
  • Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes agreement designed to protect lesser prairie chicken and its dwindling habitat and
  • The polar vortex has put invasive insects' advances on hold in dozens of states
  • Anglers hired to net 2 tons of carp from Silver Lake, MN to improve water quality
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces availability of the final revised recovery plan for the Pallid Sturgeon
  • Sens. Cardin (D-MD), Crapo (R-ID) reintroduce National Fish Habitat Conservation Act; aimed at protecting U.S. fish habitat
  • Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) introduce bill to reform the Endangered Species Act; story: bill details:
In the Cities -
  • City to redefine 5.5-mile stretch of Mississippi riverfront to be home to "a park for all of Minneapolis"
In the States-
  • West Virginia water contamination emergency declared over; while state House debates water regulatory bill (related story below)
  • After weeks of debate and rewrites, West Virginia House passes bill with new safeguards for storage tanks, public water supplies
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • The Atlantic Cities: Louisiana's Coastline Is Disappearing Too Quickly for Mappers To Keep Up
Resource Development -
  • Former Interior Secretary Salazar: TransCanada Corp. should fund land conservation as condition of Keystone XL pipeline approval
  • Louisiana and Mississippi have high hopes for shale oil boom
  • North Dakota commission receives over 500 public comments proposing places to protect from energy development
  • Public will not be allowed to comment on oil wells planned on North Dakota private land under state regulators plan
  • Company's plan to replace its 46-year-old crude oil pipeline across Minnesota faces opposition from environmental groups
  • Wisconsin Senate committee approves bill to prohibit local governments from creating new sand mine regulations
Federal Budget -
President's Budget Proposal 
  • Administration proposes a 17 percent cut to Army Corps of Engineers' fiscal year 2015 budget compared to last year's levels
  • Administration proposes to invest over $1.2 billion improving parks, public lands ahead of the Park Service's 2018 centennial
  • EPA budget proposal would fund agency at $7.9 billion in fiscal year 2015; cut of about $300 million or 3.7 percent
  • Army Corps seeks funding in the President's budget for flood-risk study first proposed in 2007
  • President’s fiscal year 2015 budget includes $825 million for Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Valley Division civil works program
  • USDA proposes to close 250 Farm Service Agency offices around country in effort to "redesign" the way it does business
Other Budget News
  • Environmental group coalition lays out "green investments" budget wish list for Congress and the White House
  • Senate Democrats will not write FY 2015 budget, one year after passing their first budget resolution in four years
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • March 11 Ohio River Basin Trading Project event marks world's first interstate water quality trading project (Cincinnati)
  • Midwestern Governors Association briefing on aquatic invasive species; March 12, 10 AM; U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
  • USEPA webinar: how to finance affordable stormwater management through use of innovative P3 approaches; March 18, 1 pm ET
  • Banking on Ecological Success in Appalachia: Water, Species, Standards, and Trends, Pittsburgh, PA, March 24
  • "State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit" to focus on restoration, March 24-27, Houston, TX
  • EPA Watershed Academy Webcast: Improving Water Quality by Using Cover Crops and Other Conservation Systems, March 25, 1 pm ET
  • Nitrogen Science Summit prompted by water quality concerns; March 28, 8 am-4:15 pm; University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Water Quality Standards Academy to be hosted April 28 - May 2, 2014, Washington, DC; Applications are due March 21
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Industrial Stormwater News: March 2014
  • Bi-weekly Green Lands Blue Waters update
Other news-
  • House votes 229-179 to approve bill that would set first-ever deadlines for agencies to complete  environmental reviews; story: bill details here:
  • Job announcement: Research Associate (Systems Ecology) - Louisiana State University, Coastal Sustainability Studio - Baton Rouge, LA
  • National Park Service annual report: National parks generated over $26 billion in economic activity in 2012
  • 13-agency Federal Urban Waters Partnership initiative aims to Improve environmental and outdoor education
Politics and People-
  • Senate Republicans intensify effort to block Ken Kopocis as President's EPA water office nominee
  • Kathryn Sullivan confirmed as new NOAA administrator by the Senate, easily passing on a voice vote
  • Businessman Jim Bernhard has told several Democratic sources he intends to run for Louisiana governor in 2015
  • According to one source, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) will "definitely run for reelection" in 2014
  • New York Times: The 2014 Senate primary and general electoral landscape at a glance (also includes state-by-state analysis)
  • Rep. Ralph M. Hall (R-TX-4) finds himself in runoff in 2014 race for his current job after Tuesday's primary election (represents Mississippi River Basin district)
  • Attorney Ricky Wilkins likely to wage 2014 primary bid against Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) in his Memphis-based district
Last Word -
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." 
Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, who died on March 7, 322 BCE

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