Friday, April 11, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Proposed Changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard: Where Things Stand
The Renewable Fuel Standard (or RFS) program was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and established the first renewable fuel volume mandate in the United States. The alternative fuel-use mandate was updated by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. In November 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed changes to the RFS for the 2014 calendar year, marking the first time since the RFS was put in place that EPA suggested that the nation reduce its mandated minimum level of usage. The RFS changes would apply to cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel.

Because the RFS and EPA's proposal to change the standard have broad economic and environmental ramifications, EPA's proposal has been followed closely by agriculture, land use, biofuel, petroleum-based fuel, environmental and food stakeholders, among others (see related articles, below, under "Resource Development").  The demand for those fuels can drive agricultural land use decisions by farmers throughout the U.S., particularly in the Midwestern corn belt states, where plentiful corn and soy can be used as feedstocks for biofuels.   Over 140,000 comments were submitted during the proposal's 60-day comment period. The EPA has said that it intends to complete a review of those comments and make a decision regarding its proposal in June. In anticipation of the agency's decision, we provide an overview of the history and status of the RFS here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • LEAD STORY: EPA Administrator argues that Clean Water Act rule would provide certainty to those whose work encroaches on wetlands, streams
  • Republican agriculture-state senators question EPA Administrator over Clean Water Act rule proposal, priorities
  • Fifteen Senate Republicans say that the USEPA is using the wrong legal justification for a proposed Clean Water Act regulation
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approves bill to prevent EPA from retroactively vetoing Army Corps Clean Water Act permits
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources to increase inspections of coal-ash ponds in wake of high-profile accidents
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency seeks comments on Upper Mississippi River water quality improvement report, protection plan
  • Activist group says Iowa is limiting input on proposed water quality rules
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
Proposed New Madrid levee system is cited by American
Rivers as one reason for listing (click to enlarge)
  • LEAD STORY: American Rivers places Middle Mississippi River among "America's Most Endangered Rivers for 2014" - threatened by outdated flood management (related articles:
  • Grassroots effort could revive Grand Kankakee Marsh (Kankakee River Basin)
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources launches project to study sustainability of groundwater use in three Central areas of the state
  • MPR: Minnesota  farmers irrigating without permits as groundwater levels drop
  • U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday closed the Mississippi River at Sabula, Iowa after a barge struck a railroad bridge
  • After barge accident in Iowa, Mississippi River traffic may reopen Friday
  • Speakers blast Ameren plan for ash landfill in Missouri River floodplain
  • Report: Louisiana leads country in domestic maritime industry due to proximity to Lower Mississippi River
  • Corps of Engineers: Missouri River runoff higher than average, but not concerning
  • Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduces four bills designed to encourage use of and improve water efficiency measures
Agriculture -
  • Last winter, U.S. beekeeping industry lost nearly half of its bee colonies, and the numbers keep falling - why Congress should care
  • The five states with largest share of farm bill direct payments and crop insurance payouts over the 2004-2013 crop years
  • Farmers, ranchers can sign-up for USDA farm bill disaster assistance programs beginning April 15
  • 28 national groups urge House, Senate Agriculture appropriators to oppose cuts to farm conservation programs
  • Wildlife and environmental groups are claiming victory for conservation practices in the new farm bill
  • Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) wants U.S. Department of Agriculture to designate Lower Mississippi River Valley as Critical Conservation Area
One-month drought change map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • United States drought grew slightly in March, endangering more crops and creating Dust Bowl-like conditions
  • NOAA/NWS weekly drought monitor update: improvements in Midwest drought; expansion in Plains
  • Windy, dry conditions prompt National Weather Service to issue "critical fire danger" warning across parts of Midwest
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Republican and Democratic divisions over how to update 40-year-old Endangered Species Act surface during hearing
  • Divisive House GOP bill would promote sale of federal lands to fund endangered species habitat improvements
  • Kentucky officials have called a retreat in their five-year battle to contain the invasive emerald ash borer 
    Alligator Snapping Turtle
  • Wisconsin wildlife officials want to give the state's invasive species list its first overhaul
  • Bald eagles continue their comeback in Twin Cities stretch of the Mississippi River, with at least 48 nesting pairs
  • Alligator snapping turtles are at risk in Mississippi River, other rivers draining into the northern Gulf of Mexico
  • New USGS-developed DNA Tool Helps Scientists Identify Invasive Species of Aquatic Plants
  • Three environmental groups plan to sue Interior Department to force stronger protections for lesser prairie chicken
  • Upper Arkansas River fishing is better than ever before, after nearly 30 years of work
In the Cities -
  • LEAD STORY: Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative mayors meet with decision-makers in Washington to push River environmental and economic sustainability
  • LEAD STORY: Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative mayors' 2014 federal policy platform: (PDF file)
  • In  search for water and money, Wichita City Council looks for new water sources and ways to pay for it
  • Editorial: No perfect water supply solutions presented at Tuesday’s Wichita City council workshop, but solution needed
  • Park restoration is changing Minnehaha Creek (Twin Cities Metro area - Minnesota)
  • Some costs, funding for Tusa's Arkansas River stormwater projects still uncertain
Louisiana Coastal Region-
  • Louisiana State Legislators urged to drop legislation prohibiting levee authorities from filing wetland damage suits
  • Louisiana regulators suing oil, gas companies propose waiving fees due from companies if they agree to begin settlement negotiations
  • Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) says she doesn't support a south Louisiana levee authority's lawsuit against oil and gas companies
Forestry -
  • Senate Agriculture Committee approves bill to designate 20,000 acres of wilderness in Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest  (see bill here:
Resource Development -
  • Advanced biofuels supporters tell Senate Agriculture Committee to stick with advanced, cellulosic biofuels Renewable Fuels Standard
  • Biofuels proponents find sympathetic ears among agriculture senators during Renewable Fuel Standard proposal hearing
  • Biofuel executive says Obama administration has halted investments in advanced biofuels plants
  • State bill would delay Minnesota's soybean-fuel mandate
  • NRDC: Fracking in the Bakken threatens Missouri River watershed health
Federal Budget -
  • House passes Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) federal fiscal year 2015 budget in a tight 219 to 205 vote
  • Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.): good chance that Congress will reduce administration’s proposed Army Corps of Engineers budget cut
  • Testimony of EPA Administrator before Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Association of State Wetland Managers Wetland Mapping Consortium webinar April 16, 3 PM ET
  • Arkansas River Basin Water Forum set for April 22; Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado
  • Lower Mississippi River Waterway Safety Advisory Committee will meet on April 23 in New Orleans re: navigation safety
  • 2014 Cooperative Extension Centennial Convocation; May 7-8, Washington, DC
  • Conference: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development; May 29-30, Washington D.C.
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Waterfront Bulletin for April 2014
  • Pennsylvania Environmental Council Spring 2014 "Forum" e-newsletter
  • Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota (BALMM) "Currents" e-newsletter
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy April 8 TUWaterWays edition (PDF file)
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's Watershed News: April 10
Other news-
  • Pennsylvania Environmental Council and and Dominion honor local groups at Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards
  • Center for American Progress: The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems
  • Barren River Area Development District says the Green River (Kentucky) hasn't been living up to its tourism potential
  • Interior Secretary unveils new landscape-level mitigation strategy across millions of acres of federal land
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues its fiscal year (FY) 2014 to 2018 Strategic Plan
Politics and People-
  • Businessman Aaron Miller selected by GOP delegates to challenge U.S. House incumbent Democratic Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN-1)
  • Eight members selected by USDA to serve on National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board
Last Word -
Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, first published on April 10, 1925 by Charles Scribner's Sons.

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