Friday, August 29, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News - Friday Edition

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Report Suggests Collaborative Strategies to Reduce Mississippi River Basin Nutrient Pollution
Photo credit: University of Iowa
A U.S. Water Alliance report released last Friday highlights the collaborative strategies that might be undertaken by various Mississippi River Basin stakeholders to reduce nutrient pollution. The 28-page report, "Coming Together to Protect Mississippi River Watersheds: Agriculture and Water Sector Collaboration for Nutrient Progress," is the outcome of a year-long series of conversations among River Basin agriculture, wastewater and drinking water leaders, with the participation of environmental, academic and scientific, business, local, state and Federal agency representatives. It recommends that nutrient loading to the waters of the Basin be reduced by expanding effective watershed-based cooperative leadership and decision-making; developing and implementing market nutrient-reduction mechanisms; improving decision- and market-supporting data, monitoring and modeling; and developing "Watershed Protection Utilities" (institutions focused on cost-effective nutrient-reduction results). The report focuses on nutrient pollution that this summer contributed to a Gulf of Mexico "dead" or hypoxic zone measuring 5,052 square miles, impacting an aquatic ecosystem that supports valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries (you can link to addition articles on the report, below, under "Water Quality").

The Week in Brief
For those of you wishing to avoid the dreaded details, here is our one-paragraph synopsis of the week just past: "What We Learned This Week - 'And It Was Just Right.'"

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • State of the World’s Rivers: Mississippi River Basin among world's top 10 "priority basins for remediation" due to fragmentation, poor water quality
  • U.S. Water Alliance report highlights collaborative agriculture, water, wastewater strategies to reduce Mississippi River Basin nutrient pollution  and
  • No solutions in sight for Gulf of Mexico dead zone
  • EPA region 7 administrator discusses nutrient pollution in Iowa waters during Farm Progress Show talk
  • EPA writes "Mapping the Truth" blog to correct "myths and misunderstandings" about Waters of the United States rule (related article here:
  • Farm groups use mapping technology in latest effort to block EPA from finalizing new
    Iowa map from National Pork Producers Council
    meant to show waters that could be subject to 
    new Clean Water Act rule (Photo credit: NPPC).
    Clean Water Act regulations
  • House Science Space and Technology Committee posts EPA waters and wetlands maps to its website
  • EPA says maps released by House committee are not connected to rule clarifying Clean Water Act regulatory authority
  • House committee asks EPA to release information about 2013 agency contract to create states' waters and wetlands maps
  • West Virginia plans to sample Elk and Kanawha rivers this week to see if January’s chemical leak affected fish health
  • Deadly Naegleria fowleri amoeba found in the water system of St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana
  • Monitoring of Ohio River continues after last week's Duke Energy plant oil spill; spill was larger than first reported
  • ExxonMobil Pipeline Company agrees to pay a civil penalty related to 2012 crude oil spill from pipeline near Torbert, Louisiana
  • Tyson Foods could lose $millions in government contracts if found guilty in EPA criminal probe of Missouri wastewater release
  • National Environmental Education Foundation launches algal bloom photo conference to help document U.S. algal blooms
  • Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization is updating its Watershed Management Plan; seeks public comment
  • EPA awards $9,165,000 to Arkansas Natural Resources Commission for wastewater system improvement projects
  • EPA awards $100,000 to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for water quality management planning
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • University of Iowa's $25.7 million flood mitigation construction continues on schedule (Iowa River)
  • Indiana University research: "Goldilocks plant growth" may make river deltas resilient to environmental factors that threaten their existence
  • Army Corps of Engineers installs new concrete stabilization mats on Mississippi River bank (New Orleans area)
  • Greenup County, Ky. residents may be barred from buying federal flood insurance because local officials haven't met program requirements
  • Missouri River might help alleviate grain railroad backups, but infrastructure spending, water allocation changes may be needed first (see related story under "Resource Development," below)
  • H.R. 5189, Energy and Water Research Integration Act, would advance understanding of, research in energy-water nexus
  • New Alliance for Water Efficiency campaign encourages rate reform to promote water conservation
  • Report: Large-scale dams are likely having a detrimental impact on water quality and biodiversity around the world
Agriculture -
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy editorial: "Right to farm" - Corporate wolves dressed as local sheep
  • U.S. corn and soybean crops are likely to top records this year, reflecting favorable growing season weather
  • Even though crop prices are falling, costs to grow next year’s crops is not; will push many U.S. farmers into the red
  • The August 21 USDA Conservation Compliance for Specialty Crop Producers webinar is archived here:
  • Corn grit weed blaster tested in Minnesota farm fields showing promise as an alternative to herbicides
  • Commodity prices have taken a noticeable dip this past year; farmland values will not necessarily follow, however
  • "Policy Matters" - Evaluating Use of Conservation Policies for Pollinators
Climate and Weather -
  • U.N. draft report cites “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts" of climate change
  • Shorter winters in Rockies could limit supplies for downstream users (i.e., Missouri River Basin)
  • Obama administration working on global non-binding climate accord to “name and shame” countries into reducing carbon emissions
  • Washington Post editorial: "The country’s sinking climate debate"
  • NOAA U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook report through November 30: drought alleviation in Plains expected
  • Weekly U.S. drought update: Midwest dryness retreats, except in Missouri, where it expands; drought persists in Oklahoma and Kansas
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook for September (will be published on Friday, August 29)
Mississippi Gopher Frog
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Alliant Energy under mandate to develop fish passage on Wisconsin River at Prairie du Sac dam; Asian carp raising issues
  • Judge upholds FWS designation of 6,477 acres of private Mississippi and Louisiana land as frog's critical habitat
  • Researchers find about half as many mussels as in the past during August 2014 Iowa River survey
  • Vanishing  greater sage grouse ignites debate over endangered species rules
  • Environmental groups call for federal protection for monarch butterfly, at risk from rise of genetically modified crops
  • Illinois expands its state wildlife code to protect black bears, gray wolves and cougars
In the Cities -
Concept drawing of Tulsa’s new gathering place
  • Chlorination of ammonia-laden Des Moines and Raccoon rivers' waters may have contributed to trihalomethanes in Ankeny, Iowa drinking water
  • Groundbreaking planned for "A Gathering Place of Tulsa," a "world class" 100-acre waterfront park along Arkansas River
  • Old coal-mining towns in Tennessee are taking sometimes desperate measures to improve their economies
In the States-
  • Iowa farm groups launch initiative to accelerate pace and scale of water-quality improvements across state
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requests comments on Tiered Aquatic Life Uses addition being considered for state water quality standards
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • "Losing Ground" - this is what Coastal Louisiana stands to lose in the next 50 years
    Coastal Louisiana Land Loss Analysis (source:
  • River Diversions And The Fate Of Louisiana's Coast
  • Water Institute of the Gulf-focused primarily on Louisiana coastal research-looks to expand scope beyond state borders
  • EPA awards $485,000 to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for testing water quality along state’s Gulf Coast
Resource Development -
  • Environmental Protection Agency sends final Renewable Fuel Standard to the Office of Management and Budget, triggering a broader review of proposed cut
  • Arkansas emergency officials' records: Up to 33 Bakken oil trains pass through Arkansas weekly
  • New York Times: Grain piles up, waiting for a ride, as trains move bumper crop of North Dakota oil
Federal Budget -
  • Nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office raises its projection for this fiscal year's federal deficit to $506 billion
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • Free webinar series (September 4 and 11): Tips to engage non-operator landowners in natural resource conservation
  • Webinar: Is a Water Quality Trading Program Right for Your Facility? September 11, 1-2 PM ET
  • U.S. Geological Survey announces Sept. 17-18 Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science meeting
  • International Water Conference; November 16-20, San Antonio, Texas
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's August 28 Watershed News
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch, No. 254, August 25 - "Search for the Healthy City"
  • Green Lands Blue Waters Update, highlighting the advancement of Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's August 27 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
Other news-
  • Memo to West Virginia's leaders: Not all industry hates EPA
  • Obama hits the gas on regulatory initiatives, including EPA climate and water rules
Politics and People-
  • New York Times’ Upshot model now increases Republicans’ odds of winning control of
    Click to enlarge
    U.S. Senate to 64 percent
  • Scott Walker - Mary Burke, Wisconsin Governor's race outcome could shape U.S. political scene for years to come
  • Command of Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division transfering from Peter DeLuca to Michael Wehr effective August 29
  • Following days of outcome uncertainty, Republican nominee to represent Wisconsin’s 6th District is state Sen. Glenn Grothman
  • Incumbent Rep. Scott DesJarlais officially wins GOP Tennessee 4th District primary, beating state Sen. Jim Tracy by 38 votes
  • Former Oklahoma state Sen. Steve Russell (R) wins Okla. GOP primary runoff; expected to succeed Senate nominee James Lankford in the House
  • 7Rivers Alliance (Upper Mississippi Valley) announces hiring of Lisa Herr as its new executive director
  • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson announces new House Agriculture Committee Minority staff
  • There aren’t many Plains States' competitive political races, but here are five to watch in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas
  • The top five "races to watch" in the Midwest are in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin
Your Moment of Zen -
In north Omaha, Nebraska, art briefly brings condemned homes to life - public art created by Watie White 
and placed in the windows of condemned houses tell the stories of those who lived there. 
Photo credit: Watie White.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What We Learned This Week - "And It Was Just Right"

A draft U.N. report predicts “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts" from the continued release of climate changing gases, using the word "risk" 351 times in just 127 pages.  The Mississippi River Basin is ranked among world's top ten "priority basins for remediation" because it is so highly fragmented and has poor water quality.  A new report recommends collaborative strategies to reduce Mississippi River Basin nutrient pollution.   The Obama Administration is ramping up its output of new regulatory initiatives, including EPA climate and water rules.  Farm groups are painting the map red in a messaging effort designed to block the EPA from finalizing one of those water rules.  A Congressional committee is also posting water maps, and its members criticizing the EPA in the process.  Indiana University researchers believe that "Goldilocks plant growth" may be the key to sustaining resilient river deltas.  U.S. corn and soybean crops will probably break production records this year, reflecting favorable growing season weather; resulting in a sharp decline in corn prices, leading to pain for a hitherto robust Corn Belt economy. The excess grain is backing up on farms and silos, awaiting empty trains - trains mostly being used to carry a "bumper crop" of North Dakota crude oil. Up to 33 of those Bakken-oil-loaded trains pass through Arkansas weekly. Grain-filled barges travelling down the Missouri River might help alleviate the transportation bottleneck, but infrastructure spending, and water allocation changes may be needed first.  Some of the excess corn might be used in a new "weed blaster" being tested on Minnesota farm fields.   Last, and actually least, the Republican odds of taking control of the U.S. Senate are improving, as the Mississippi River states of Iowa, Kentucky and Arkansas become possible "wins."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Report Suggests Collaborative Strategies to Reduce Mississippi River Basin Nutrient Pollution

Photo credit: U.S. Water Alliance
A U.S. Water Alliance report released last Friday highlights the collaborative strategies that might be undertaken by various Mississippi River Basin stakeholders to reduce nutrient pollution. The 28-page report, "Coming Together to Protect Mississippi River Watersheds: Agriculture and Water Sector Collaboration for Nutrient Progress," is the outcome of a year-long series of conversations among River Basin agriculture, wastewater and drinking water leaders, with the participation of environmental, academic and scientific, business, local, state and Federal agency representatives. It recommends that nutrient loading to the waters of the Basin be reduced by expanding effective watershed-based cooperative leadership and decision-making; developing and implementing market nutrient-reduction mechanisms; improving decision- and market-supporting data, monitoring and modeling; and developing "Watershed Protection Utilities" (institutions focused on cost-effective nutrient-reduction results). The report focuses on nutrient pollution that this summer contributed to a Gulf of Mexico "dead" or hypoxic zone measuring 5,052 square miles, impacting an aquatic ecosystem that supports valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Ohio lays out plan to assist cities with testing and treating drinking water, help farmers to prevent algae growth
  • Editorial: Timely attack by Ohio legislators on the state's toxic algal blooms will translate into votes
  • Farm fertilizers contaminate watershed that supplies Columbus, Ohio's drinking water
  • Lake Erie algal bloom crisis is putting pressure on U.S. farm states to tackle agricultural pollution problems
  • Op-ed: Clean water is worth an Iowa special legislative session
  • Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.): proposed EPA waters of the U.S.  rule "is wrong for Missouri and wrong for America”
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency seeks public comments on proposed 4,800 hog confined feed units in Blue Earth County
  • Draft water pollution report for Pomme de Terre River watershed in west-central Minnesota open for public comment
  • Wisconsin DNR fines farm owner less than $500 for manure spill extending months (Little Eau Pleine River basin)
  • U.S. EPA's response to the Duke Energy oil spill on Ohio River
  • Crews continue to remove oil, contaminated water from Ohio River near Cincinnati following Duke Energy plant spill
  • Coast Guard proposes increase in liability limits for oil spill damage under 1990 Oil Pollution Act to keep pace with inflation
  • MN Dept of Ag certifies farms in Stearns County SWCD under state Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program
  • Federal judge: Army Corps can ignore mountaintop removal-public health link studies when approving new Clean Water Act mining permits
  • American Indian Tribe environmental director says public left "in the absolute dark" re: massive North Dakota brine spill
  • Richland Creek Watershed Alliance fears 8,500-gallon fuel spill into basin wasn't contained; threatens suit (Tennessee)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Army Corps: Higher-capacity ports, expanded locks and dams, other infrastructure improvements needed in Mississippi River Basin
  • Plaquemines Parish's $50 million, 7.8-mile long, forested ridge project along Mississippi River to be bid next month
  • EPA finalizes long-delayed cooling water intake rule to protect fish, larvae, other species from entrainment, impingement; story: and rule:
  • On the books since 1988, the nearly $3 billion Ohio River Olmsted Locks and Dams project is now scheduled to be completed in 2020
Agriculture -
  • In case with national implications, the American Farm Bureau Federation files amicus brief in closely-watched appeal of landmark U.S. EPA-led Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan
  • Conservationists use GPS tracking to gain a better understanding of how cattle move across 2400-acre Minnesota prairie
  • Cornell University software developed to help farmers simultaneously save money and mitigate environmental impacts from excessive nitrogen
  • New website to focus attention on "the critical role of healthy soils in vibrant natural resources
  • 2012 census of U.S. agriculture signals a small but consistent pattern of growth in agribusiness among Latinos
  • Farm groups claim USEPA improperly released personal information of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)
  • List of Regional Conservation Partnership Program pre-proposal projects asked to submit full proposals by Oct. 2 to USDA-NRCS; PDF file: - 19 from Mississippi River Basin
  • Monsanto expects to begin selling herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, paired with a new and stronger weedkiller, in 2016
Climate and Weather -
  • US weekly drought update: scattered pockets of both drought deepening and relief evident across Mississippi River Basin
  • Climate change reflected in altered Missouri River flow: Montana and Wyoming water shortages and Dakotas flooding
  • Louisville, Kentucky, the fastest-warming city in the U.S., reaches for the brakes
  • After a wet start to the 2014 growing season, northern and central Illinois has seen a significant drop in rainfall (A larger regional map also shows drier conditions in parts of Iowa, Indiana and Ohio over the past 30 days
  • Warmer oceans are likely playing a part in changing land temperatures, including the cool Midwest 2014 summer
Arctic grayling
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Illinois company is the latest of a growing number of firms to test various Asian carp marketing opportunities
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Upper Missouri River population of Arctic grayling does not warrant Endangered Species Act protection and
  • New study: Midwest species to experience risks from combined exposure to both climate and land use change; story:; study abstract:
In the States-
  • Louisiana is expected to see a $1.2 billion dollar budget shortfall next year
  • Iowa environmental protection leaders unanimously approve rules to guide regulation of state livestock facilities (see two related stories, below)
  • Iowa environmental groups wanted much tougher Iowa livestock-water quality rules
  • Iowa advocacy group files complaint alleging conflict of interest in state's approval of water pollution rule
  • Missouri activists fight American Legislative Exchange Council over state's new “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment
  • West Virginia governor slow to appoint members to new commission to help improve state’s public drinking water protections
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Council tasked with spending fines linked to 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill puts out call for ecosystem restoration projects
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy releases new report on financing comprehensive coastal restoration and protection
  • NOAA analysis: Coastal development taking its toll on U.S. wetlands, forests; article: and NOAA release:
Forestry -
  • Minnesota’s timber industry worried over implications of possible northern long-eared bat endangered species designation
Resource Development -
  • Ties between Center for Sustainable Shale Development, oil and gas companies highlight differing views among environmental groups
  • Fighting to keep the oil boom out of vistas seen from little-known, North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Testimony ends in Kanawha State Forest-area surface mine review (West Virginia)
Federal Budget -
  • House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI): Republicans won’t shut down government over a September budget showdown
  • USDA: Funding for the Vegetation and Watershed Management Program has been cut 22 percent since 2001; Wildlife and fisheries habitat management by 17 percent
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • August 26 public meeting to be held re: Hay and Wells creeks' bacteria-tainted water polluting Lake Pepin (Mississippi River)
  • State Level Nutrient Reduction Strategies Webinar-Minnesota Watersheds Nutrient Planning Portal; August 27, 10 AM CDT
  • Webinar: “Innovative Approaches to Financing and Funding Stormwater and Green Infrastructure Investments;” 1 PM EDT, August 27
  • The Depths of Environmental Arts, Culture and Justice; Biennial Conference, June 23- 27, 2015; University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho (call for papers open)
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • Three job openings (water quality): Natural Resource Social Science Lab; Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) now accepting proposals for watershed sampling grants in Upper Mississippi and Minnesota river basins
  • Editorial: Minnesota Public Safety Department sides with public information advocates on oil train information release
  • Interactive map of the week: Where people who lived in each state in 2012 were born
Politics and People-
  • Dispute erupts over hiring Executive Director for Minnesota's $100 million annual Legacy Amendment spending for the outdoors
  • State Sen. Chris McDaniel asks Mississippi court to declare him the winner of June 24 Republican runoff for Senate seat
  • Montana Democratic Party nominates state Rep. Amanda Curtis to replace retiring Sen. John Walsh on November U.S. Senate ballot
  • Many Republicans privately acknowledge climate change realities, but see little political benefit to speaking out
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) touts his work for Kentucky farmers but tends to skip Senate Agriculture Committee hearings unrelated to Kentucky
  • The Hill lists 65 people who may run for U.S. President in 2016
Your Moment of Zen - 
International Space Station crew members photographed this nighttime image of the Gulf of Mexico coastline from 
some 225 miles above the Earth (photo credit: NASA)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What We Learned This Week - "So Bigger I Got"

People are calling upon Ohio and Iowa state legislators to address water pollution in their respective states. A U.S. House Representative thinks that a proposed national water quality rule is "wrong for Missouri."   An Iowa advocacy group filed a complaint in federal district court alleging that the state's August 19 approval of new Clean Water Act rules was illegal.  By its own estimate, the Wisconsin DNR fined the owners of a dairy farm that spilled manure into a nearby wetland for months on end about $0.00077 per gallon of manure.  At the other end of the expense spectrum, first authorized in 1988, the nearly $3 billion Ohio River Olmsted Locks and Dams project is now on track to be completed in 2020. That's spending money at the rate of just over a quarter of a million dollars a day.  Meanwhile, the state of Louisiana will operate in the red next year; losing money at a nearly $3.3 million per day clip.  The Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division believes that higher-capacity ports, expanded locks and dams and other infrastructure improvements are needed in the Mississippi River Basin.  The U.S. EPA released its long-anticipated cooling water intake rule to protect fish and other aquatic organisms, drawing the ire of both environmental groups and Congressional Republicans.  Many of those Republicans will acknowledge the realities of climate change in private, but see little political benefit to recognizing them publicly.  Some green groups want to be connected with the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, and others don't. From 1996 to 2011 the Gulf Coast region lost 996 square miles of wetlands due to land subsidence, erosion, storms, sea level rise and other factors.  And last but not least, according to a New York Times correction, "bald eagles and ospreys . . . eat fish, and their poop is white; they do not eat berries and excrete purple feces."  Now you know.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What We Learned This Week - "I'll Be Back"

Harmful algal blooms are becoming more common, and have impacted all 50 U.S. states.  Some people in three of those states (TexasOklahoma, and  Nebraska) don't particularly like the Obama Administration's proposed "Waters of the United States" rule.  The Army Corps of Engineers completed its emergency dredging operations in the Upper Mississippi River, opening the River to barge traffic. The Treasury Department set the ground rules for how Gulf Coast states can spend the civil fines levied as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Even though it’s a serious long shot, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski plans one last effort to push an omnibus spending bill once Congress returns from its recess.  Missouri is hosting the longest non-stop canoe and kayak race in the world this week. Some Iowa farmers are buying new equipment and adopting new practices to cope with increasingly-volatile weather patterns. It's not a great idea to let your children grow up to be small-scale farmers.  The Arnold Schwarzenegger of weeds refuses to die and is headed toward the Midwest. A Government Accountability Office report found fault with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) analyses of the costs and benefits of its regulations.  Journalism and science advocacy groups believe that the U.S. EPA is blocking its science advisers from speaking freely.  Adults in large U.S. cities - such as the Mississippi River Basin cities of St. Louis, Louisville, Indianapolis, Memphis, Cincinnati and New Orleans - tend toward the liberal side of the political spectrum, even when they’re within conservative states. Residents in two blue-leaning Mississippi River states voted in Tuesday primary elections (here are the results: Wisconsin and Minnesota).  Eight of the ten Mississippi River states are among the 24 in the U.S. that have never had a female governor. And last but not least, Americans' evaluation of Congress continues to be dismally low.

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • Environmental groups expand scope of lawsuit against USEPA re: its approval of new Kentucky water quality standards
  • USEPA pursuing criminal investigation into a chemical spill at a Missouri poultry-processing plant in May
  • “Common Sense Nebraska” coalition protests Obama Administration's proposed rule clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction
  • People line up in Oklahoma on both sides of "Waters of the U.S." proposed rule debate
  • Texas to USEPA: if you promulgate Waters of the United States rule we will have "no choice but to challenge the rule in federal court" article: (letter:
  • Scientific American: harmful algal blooms are becoming more common, affect all 50 states, and are fed by agriculture
  • Blue-green algae that hit Toledo often found in Wisconsin lakes; prompted WI DNR warning earlier this summer
  • University of Kentucky media release: "Algal Blooms Pose Danger to Livestock"
  • USGS finds insecticide in Iowa waters; linked to bee declines in other studies (related USGS July news release here:
  • 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denies coal mining company request to reconsider Clean Water Act permit shield ruling
  • 580 gallons of oil spill into Mississippi River Tuesday after two ships and barge collide at port near New Orleans
  • Arkansas Department of Health warns of mercury in Lake Ouachita fish
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Barge shipping traffic resumes as Upper Mississippi River emergency dredging by Army Corps ends; dredging details:
  • Under terms of a Plaquemines Parish-Army Corps agreement, lower Mississippi River dredge materials can be used for marsh creation
  • Groundbreaking held for $260 million hydroelectric plant at Des Moines River dam near Knoxville, Iowa (project web site:
  • Carnegie Energy and Climate Program report: Underestimating Oil and Water Challenges in the Northern Great Plains
  • Johnson County, Iowa officials call for new Coralville Lake Army Corps' management study in wake of another summer of Iowa River flooding
  • Army Corps of Engineers agrees to extend comment period for planned Ohio River fracking waste off-loading barge facility
  • North Dakota becomes sixth state whose residents have joined in a lawsuit against Army Corps of Engineers over Missouri River flood damage
Agriculture -
  • Minnesota potato fields offer look at how the nation's largest grower is rethinking the way it uses
  • NY Times: The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn't making a living
  • Corn-fed ethanol plant in south-central Nebraska, idle since 2012, reopens thanks to improved market
  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) thinks we've failed at bridging the gap between production agriculture and consumption
  • It's Iowa State Fair week, which means butter sculptures galore! (oh . . . and politicians
  • Farmers await government decisions on new herbicide version and on genetically modified crops designed to resist it
  • Farmland values in Iowa and other parts of the Corn Belt have likely plateaued
Climate and Weather -
Regional Drought Update: Midwest
(click to enlarge)
  • US drought update: new areas of dryness and moderate drought in western Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee; new areas of dryness in central Indiana; Plains drought improved significantly
  • Dry summer conditions in many parts of Kentucky diminish crop production for some farmers after bumper 2013 yields
  • NPR: Extreme weather patterns in Iowa are making it more difficult to produce corn - farmers learning to adapt
  • Climate change means that North Dakota conditions are now better for raising corn than wheat; a big benefit for farmers
  • NOAA National Climatic Data Center graph depicting precipitation required to end current drought in one month
  • What is the hottest temperature you've seen this summer? - Over 1,000 farmer respond (map)
  • Regional Guides Developed for Teaching the 2014 National Climate Assessment
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth (or "carelessweed") has devastated Southern cotton farms and is poised to wreak havoc in the Midwest
In the Cities -
  • Tulsa's Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force proposes endowment for Arkansas River dams' maintenance
  • Springfield, Illinois project will capture rainwater runoff and use it elsewhere
In the States-
  • Ohio farm and environmental groups say new state law that will certify fertilizer use doesn’t go far or fast enough
  • Montana completes rulemaking for new nitrogen and phosphorus water quality standards
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Gulf coastal oyster harvest has nose-dived since 2010 BP spill
  • Treasury Dept to publish rule (August 15) on how Gulf Coast states can spend civil fines from 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (pre-publication text:
Resource Development -
  • Stanford University research: Energy companies fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed
  • West Virginia Mine Board holds first public hearing focused on mine located near Kanawha State Forest
Federal Budget -
  • Senate Appropriations Chair plans one last effort to push an omnibus spending bill once Congress returns from recess
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 340 endurance kayakers and canoeists paddle down Missouri River across the state
    Missouri 340 event paddlers on Missouri River
  • USDA webinar: Conservation Compliance for Specialty Crop Producers; August 19, 2 PM EDT
  • Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota ("BALMM") to meet August 20 in Oronoco
  • Wetland Mapping Consortium webinar: Surface Waters and Wetlands Inventory: A More Comprehensive Dataset of the Nation’s Water Resources August 20, 3 PM EDT
  • U.S. EPA informational webinar: recent amendments to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund; August 21 from 2-4 p.m. EDT
  • Details on Army Corps listening sessions on Water Resources Reform and Development Act implementation (three yet to be held: August 27, September 10 and 24)
  • Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's 2014 Clean Water Summit; September 11; Chaska, MN
  • Mississippi Minute Film Festival solicits 60-second videos of Twin Cities' Mississippi River for October 20 event
  • 2014 Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference will be held in Duluth, Minnesota on October 20-22
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's August 8, Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota "Currents"
  • Bi-weekly Green Lands-Blue Waters Update, highlighting Mississippi River Basin continuous living cover on agricultural land
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's August 12 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Pennsylvania Environmental Council's August 2014 "Forum" e-newsletter
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council Watershed News for August 14
Other news-
  • Government Accountability Office report finds fault with EPA’s analyses of the costs and benefits of its regulations (related article:
  • Job: WV DEP seeks Environmental Resources Specialist to help coordinate stream and wetland restoration/mitigation
  • U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is using August recess to tour Wisconsin’s "freshwater coasts"
  • Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is using August recess to discuss importance of the Mississippi River and Obama administration's "executive overreach"
  • Bike-trail project to connect Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Water pays: Fishing license sales set another record in North Dakota following wet year
Politics and People-
  • Journalism, scientific advocacy groups: USEPA is blocking its science advisers from speaking freely to the public, press
  • Rep. Scott DesJarlais now up by 37 votes in Tennessee U.S. House GOP primary, but vote likely won't be decided until sometime next week
  • Wisconsin’s 6th District GOP U.S. House primary now "too close to call"
  • Tom Emmer decisively wins GOP primary for Minnesota’s open 6th District; likely to succeed retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann
  • Complete Wisconsin and Minnesota  primary election results from Tuesday
  • Large U.S. cities tend toward the liberal side of political spectrum, even when they’re within conservative states
  • New, free website includes voting history, campaign finance data, other contact information for members of Congress, staff
  • Americans' dismal evaluations of Congress continue, with 13% approving and 83% disapproving in an August Gallup poll
Your Moment of Zen -
A herd of bison grazes in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone national park, Wyoming. Photograph: Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Monday, August 11, 2014

Army Corps to Host Four Listening Sessions on Its Implementation of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act

Maxwell Locks and Dam on the Monongahela River
On Wednesday, August 13, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will host a call-in and on-line listening session regarding its implementation of the recently-passed Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). Signed into law on June 10, 2014, WRRDA reauthorized and amended the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), and authorizes flood control, navigation, and environmental projects and studies by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The August 13 session (the first of four planned) will address Deauthorizations and Backlog Prevention, and Project Development and Delivery. Here are the detailed agendas for the four listening sessions, which will each cover different WRRDA implementation topics. As detailed in a related July 29, Federal Register notice, the Army Corps intends to provide an opportunity for public comment on the matter during each of the listening sessions, and is also providing an opportunity to submit written comments outside of the sessions. Call-in and Internet log-in information for Wednesday’s session, and each of the subsequent sessions (on August 27, and September 10 and 24), can be found here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Virtual Newspaper for an Aquatic World~

New USDA Rule and Policy Will Change Conservation Dynamics
A recently-published U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) interim rule and a new USDA policy issued this week change several ground rules for certain USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) conservation programs. The agency published what it is calling a "minor" interim rule (along with a request for public comment on the rule) in the August 1 edition of the Federal Register. The interim rule became effective on that date, making nondiscretionary changes to several NRCS program regulations that required adjustments in light of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (commonly known as the "farm bill") or otherwise required to implement NRCS administrative "streamlining improvements and clarifications." those changes include "addressing the required review of operating procedures of the State Technical Committee, adding reference of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act program regulations, adding reference of the RCPP to, and expanding the definition of, “acreage owned by Indian Tribes” under the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP), revising and simplifying the Regional Equity provision, and adjusting the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program to correspond with changes to payment provisions under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)." Additionally, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack delegated to NRCS the agency's administrative responsibility to implement the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), as well as several internal NRCS administrative changes. Interested persons may submit comments on the interim rule on or before September 30, 2014. The regulation can be accessed and comments submitted by using this link.

Under the new, August 6, FSA policy, highly erodible acreage will not be eligible for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) early termination, otherwise available for certain CRP contracts during the upcoming 2015 fiscal year (if those contracts have been in effect for at least five years). The policy also states that land within an average of 120 feet of a perennial stream or body of water will also be ineligible to opt out early, as will land enrolled in FSA's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • NOAA reports an average but large Gulf of Mexico hypoxic ("dead") zone for July 27-August
    (click to enlarge)
  • Attorneys general from 15 farm, ranching states send letter to USEPA objecting to proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule
  • Farm Bureau launches animated video targeting Obama Administration's proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule
  • Fifteen state attorneys general ask EPA Administrator to withdraw interpretive rule identifying 56 conservation practices exempt from Clean Water Act regulations
  • Commission overseeing Iowa water quality regulations plans to consider adoption of new controversial rule next month
  • Environmental Working Group study: Iowa lost 15 million tons of soil via erosion into waterways
  • Smallmouth bass, white suckers captured in Ohio, Delaware, Susquehanna rivers in Pennsylvania found to be intersex; possible link with pollution; Study:; news report:
  • Environmental Health Perspectives: Crisis and emergency risk communication: Lessons from the Elk River (WV) spill
  • Proposed EPA selenium Clean Water Act guidelines generate mining interest positive feedback, environmental opposition
  • Federal judge approves $27.8 million settlement from Tennessee Valley Authority to those harmed by 2008 coal ash spill
  • Minnesota starts to think about re-using wastewater
  • Fish kill reported on the Salt Fork River for the third straight year (Oklahoma)
Harmful Algal Blooms
  • Mississippi River Collaborative media release: "From Toledo to the Gulf, Water Pollution Threats Increasing"
  • MinnPost "Earth Journal" - Toledo's water pollution crisis shows "we're moving in the wrong direction"
  • Green groups say Toledo water pollution highlights nationwide problems with agricultural runoff, water protection
  • Ohio Regulators Aim to Help Water Problem With Fertilizer Licenses
  • Environmentalists and water officials say Des Moines, Iowa could easily find its water tainted as did Toledo, Ohio
  • Louisville Water Company: Ohio River flow puts Metro Louisville at lower risk of problems from algal blooms like those found in Toledo
  • "Toxic Algae, Drinking Water and Why Madison Won’t Be Toledo"
  • Harmful algal blooms have been reported in every US coastal state; their occurrence may be on the rise; NOAA background summary:
  • Environmental Health Perspectives: New Tools for Detecting, Monitoring, and Preventing Harmful Algal Blooms
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Groundbreaking Northwestern U.S. settlement may have implications nationwide for Army
    Corps pollutant releases from its dams
  • East Bank Levee Authority asks federal judge to find that new Louisiana law doesn't block wetland loss suit against energy companies
  • Army Corps, Plaquemines Parish, La. sign agreement to build wetlands in West Bay
  • Army Corps of Engineers awards $65.8 million contract for construction of "critical" Plaquemines Parish, La. floodgate
  • Draft Army Corps' supplemental environmental assessment for repairs to Council Bend chute, Pottawattamie County, Iowa available for public review
  • Draft environmental assessment for modification of 73 Missouri River dike structures available for public review
  • Mississippi River port district in Southwestern Illinois will more than double in size under terms of new state law
  • Three dredges have been employed to remove sediment, restore barge traffic, in the Upper Mississippi River
  • Barges may sail down Mississippi by this weekend following massive Minnesota silt and sand deposit dredging effort
  • Helping decision makers prioritize where to restore and protect wetlands is the purpose of a new Minnesota online tool
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration releases new tool that maps flooding risks at energy infrastructure sites
Agriculture -
  • New USDA Conservation Partnership Program receives nearly 600 pre-proposals, with 60 coming from the Mississippi River Basin Critical Conservation Area (Final proposals requested from about 230 applicants-due by October 2).
  • USDA Conservation Interim Rule Open For Comment Through September 30
  • USDA "makes progress" on 2014 Farm Bill implementation: Disaster Relief, Risk Management, Conservation Partnerships, Research Foundation
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) wants USDA "to hear directly from farmers about how conservation compliance requirements are burdening them”
  • USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory now lists 8,268 markets, an increase of 76 percent since 2008 - These Mississippi River Basin states exhibit the biggest increases in the numbers of farmers markets: Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana and Nebraska
  • USDA Environmental Impact Statement takes herbicide 2,4-D-resistant crops one step closer to deregulation, even though they could increase problematic weed resistance for farmers
  • 'Superweeds' resistant to herbicides emerge to challenge farmers, with giant ragweeds plaguing Minnesota
  • Fifty Democratic members of Congress ask EPA, USDA not to approve new herbicide and related genetically engineered crops
  • Percentage land value increases between 2013 and 14 are highest in Corn Belt states; figure: and report:
  • Farmers will soon be able to get advice about conservation at local elevators through program being piloted in Iowa
  • Missouri voters approve "right to farm" amendment that may limit future environmental regulations aimed at agriculture sector
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: impacts from short-term Midwest and Northern Plains dryness slow to emerge; effects of a multi-year drought persist in Southern Plains
  • Statewide average temperature for July was 70.3 degrees in Illinois, tying July 2009 record cool
  • The new "normal?" - For the first time, more than half the world's population was born after 1985, which was the last year the Earth was cooler than average
  • Colorado Climate Prediction: More heat waves, wildfires, drought (18 states receive water originating in Colorado)
  • Pilot-Tribune Special Report: Climate change impacts Northwestern Iowa
  • NOAA lowers its forecast for the 2014 hurricane season, following the recent lead of other experts
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Experimental underwater speakers designed to repel Asian carp deployed on Mississippi River near Genoa, Wisconsin
  • Over 7,000 Asian carp removed from Illinois River during weekend at 9th Annual Redneck Fishing Tournament (Bath, IL)
  • Invasive species observed in Green Lake (zebra mussel) and Games Lake (Eurasian watermilfoil), Kandiyohi County, Minnesota
  • Ad campaign blames "activist lawyers" and "flawed science" for looming greater sage grouse endangered status listing (also see this E&E article:
  • Researchers conduct first survey of Minnesota's native bees
In the Cities -
  • The Cost of Stormwater: Why Beckley, WV Sanitary Board customers are charged an additional stormwater fee each month
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • BP asks U.S. Supreme Court to throw out part of settlement of claims for damages from its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill
  • Gulf spill researcher: Bacteria degraded gaseous hydrocarbons (and maybe BTEX compounds) from BP oil spill, not PAHs
Forestry -
  • U.S. Forest Service will award $1,875,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect 4,800 acres of prime developable Tennessee forest land
Resource Development -
  • Up to 20,000 gallons of fracking-related hydrochloric acid spilled in alfalfa field near Hennessey, Oklahoma
Federal Budget -
  • Senate appropriators release draft $30.7 billion fiscal 2015 spending bill to fund Interior Department, EPA, Forest Service
Events -  Information on all past and future events listed here can be viewed in the on-line calendar (here as a stand-alone calendar)
  • "Six splashy ways to have fun at Second Saturday" at Coldwater Spring (Minneapolis) (that's August 9)
  • Mississippi River Commission will conduct annual low-water inspection trip on Mississippi River August 15-22 (four public meetings)
  • NWRI Clarke Prize Conference: Research and Innovations in Urban Water Sustainability;  November 7, Huntington Beach, CA
  • Save the date: Conference on Continuous Living Cover farming; November 19-20, in Decatur, IL (details later here
  • Fall Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee meetings announced
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • U.S. Geological Survey announces "Climate Matters" semiannual newsletter; to see first issue, visit:
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's August 5 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • America's Waterway August 2014 "River Currents" e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Waterfront Bulletin for August 2014
  • America's WETLAND Foundation July newsletter
Other news-
  • Female environmental champions around the world are routinely harassed and threatened for their work
  • Farmland, grasslands and forest are all expected to be converted to urban use as US cities sprawl over the next 50 years
  • Over 5000 yellow rubber duckies raced on Saturday in Brainerd Jaycees Lil' Rubber Duckie Race on Mississippi River
  • Minnesota's Great River Greening has land and water, community-based restoration volunteer positions open
Politics and People-
  • Ken Kopocis to replace EPA's acting water chief Nancy Stoner, who will lead Pisces Foundation's new water program; Lisa Feldt to replace Bob Perciasepe as EPA's acting deputy administrator
  • USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan Garcia is retiring after 37 years with USDA
  • Pew Research: Congress continues its streak of passing few significant laws
  • McDaniel challenges Mississippi's US Senate runoff vote results; Experts say that it is very unlikely to succeed
  • Mississippi state Republican Party chairman: McDaniel should move his primary election challenge to courts
  • Incumbent Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts takes 48 percent of the vote to win U.S. Senate primary election
  • Roll Call says that Mississippi Basin Sens. Walsh (MT), Pryor (AR), Landrieu (LA), Udall (CO) and Franken (MN) are on top ten "vulnerable" list
  • Sen. John Walsh (D) announced Thursday that he’s dropping out of the race for his Montana seat
  • Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS-1) wins narrow victory in hard-fought congressional race against challenger Alan LaPolice
  • Incumbent Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) has survived a primary scare from Weston Wamp
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) easily wins Tennessee's Thursday Republican primary
Your Moment of Zen -
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as photographed on August 4 by the European spacecraft, Rosetta.
Rosetta entered into orbit around the comet on August 5, following a six billion kilometer, ten-year chase.

What We Learned This Week - "We'll Never Be Royals"

The size of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone this July was average but still quite large.  Residents of Des Moines, Iowa could find their water tainted as did Toledo, Ohioans recently, but people in Madison, Wisconsin, Peoria, Illinois  and Louisville, Kentucky have been told not to worry.   A groundbreaking Northwestern U.S. settlement may have implications nationwide for Army Corps pollutant releases from its dams. The new USDA Conservation Partnership Program received nearly 600 pre-proposals; 60 from the Mississippi River Basin Critical Conservation Area. Voters in Missouri approved a "right to farm" amendment that may limit future environmental regulations potential impacts on its nearly 100,000 farms.  Across the border in Kansas, cattle like to sing along to trombone music.  Neither Missouri nor Kansas are among the states with the biggest increases in the number of farmers markets, but Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana and Nebraska are.  Last Friday, 50 members of Congress asked the EPA and USDA not to approve a new, potent herbicide, "Duo," which contains 2,4-D, or to deregulate genetically engineered crops resistant to 2,4-D.   On Wednesday, a USDA Environmental Impact Statement took those herbicide-resistant crops a step closer to deregulation.  Duo is meant to kill "superweeds," such as the giant ragweeds that are plaguing Minnesota; the result of the widespread use of another potent weed-killer: Roundup.  Congress maintained the "status quo" this past year, continuing a recent practice of passing few laws of significance.  That is perhaps why, for the first time, a majority of U.S. adults disapproved of the job their own member of Congress is doing.  Sen. John Walsh of Montana won't be one of those members come January; he's bowed out of his Senate race.  There was a shuffling of acting senior executive positions at the USEPA, while another senior executive will soon exit from the USDA.  Experimental underwater speakers designed to repel Asian carp were deployed on the Mississippi River near Genoa, Wisconsin, but it's likely too late. Also a bit late, over 7,000 Asian carp were removed from the Illinois River during a "Redneck Fishing Tournament."  5,000 yellow rubber duckies raced down the Mississippi River on Saturday.  For the first time, more than half the world's population was born after 1985: the last year that the Earth was cooler than average.  And last but not least, everyone’s favorite government-sponsored bear, Smokey, turns 70 years old this weekend.