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.

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