Thursday, July 3, 2014

What We Learned This Week - Floods, Drought, Body Doubles and Jumping Frogs

Near-record rains caused extensive flooding last week in parts of Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas, swamping farmland and forcing the Army Corps of Engineers to close several Mississippi River locks.  The June rains throughout much of the Midwest, and continued wet weather expected in July mean that the drought will continue to fade into memory throughout much of the River Basin, except in Oklahoma and northeastern Tennessee.  The U.N. World Meteorological Organization is "expecting about the same (global temperature) levels" during this year's upcoming El NiƱo episode as there were during the last (2009-2010) - the hottest year on record. The Missouri Public Service Commission unanimously approved Ameren Missouri’s plan to build coal ash landfill in the Missouri River floodplain.  The Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule proposed by the Obama Administration will "enable litigious environmental groups to jeopardize fireworks displays throughout the country," according to a group of GOP senators. That statement may be one reason why the U.S. Environmental Agency's Administrator Gina McCarthy will be "barnstorming" the Midwest in coming weeks, "setting the record straight" on the proposal.  Appalachian waterways affected by mountaintop removal coal mining have fewer fish and less aquatic diversity. In other "loss" news, the Prairie Pothole region has suffered an "alarming" rate of wetland acreage loss over recent years, while scientists fear they've lost a protracted battle against the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that is killing off ash trees across North America.  Congress quietly deleted a key Congressional ethics requirement requiring disclosure of free trips lawmakers take, and who pays for them.  A conservative group is suing in an attempt to overturn Sen. Thad Cochran's defeat of Chris McDaniel by a 6,700-vote margin in the June 24 Mississippi runoff for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination.  Elsewhere in the Mississippi River political scene, Conservative Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister (R) recanted his April pledge to retire.  Nine-term incumbent Frank Lucas, congress-member from Oklahoma was murdered in Ukraine in 2011 and replaced with a robot body double, according to a recent primary election losing candidate for the congressman's seat.  But the weej's political news doesn't mean that one should classify Oklahoman, Louisiana or Mississippi as "red." According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, U.S. political views are more complicated and subtle than that. If you want to see what the governors of Oklahoma, Mississippi or Louisiana (or any other state) think about climate change, check out this handy, interactive map. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editors suggest that one message to those governors on climate change might be, “Global warming: Take it seriously or your beer will suck.” That's important, since the number of U.S. breweries more than doubled (to 869 from 398) between 2007 and 2012 according to the U.S. Census Bureau  - and they all use a lot of water. And last but not least, if "litigious environmental groups" have quashed your local fireworks displays, you can still celebrate the July Fourth holiday in water-friendly style by running over to the "National Tom Sawyer Days" in Hannibal, Missouri on Saturday to watch their annual frog jumping contest.

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