Friday, November 14, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~

House Passes Bill to Reauthorize National Estuaries Programs
Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary
(click to enlarge)

On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2566, a bill "to reauthorize the National Estuary Programs," the U.S. EPA's suite of individual programs designed to improve the quality of estuaries of national importance, including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary complex: an estuary system that encompasses 4.2 million acres of wetlands, ridges, forests, farmlands and communities (including New Orleans and Baton Rouge) between the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River in southeastern Louisiana.  The bill was passed on a voice vote.  If passed by the Senate, H.R. 5266 would reduce funding for the Programs from $35 million to $27 million annually through fiscal year 2018.  The bill would also limit the funding that can be spent on overhead costs, and specifies specific issues to be addressed through the Program's competitive grant provision, including low dissolved oxygen conditions and related nutrient management, flooding, harmful algal blooms and invasive species.  The Senate could possibly take up H.R. 5266 as passed by the House, or it could vote on a related "Clean Estuaries Act of 2014," S. 2042, introduced in February.  That Senate reauthorization bill would maintain funding at its current level, and make some targeted changes to the Programs, mostly centering on the management of the initiative.

This Week and Next
Today is the last day to comment on the Obama Administration’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule, and the past week saw a flurry of comments submitted, along with related media releases, on opposing sides of the issue.  There was also quite a bit of Gulf Coast-related news, along with some new lame duck, federal legislative activity of note. The week even saw the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA disagreeing with The Weather Channel over how good a place that New Orleans is to own a home. We’ve selected the best bits of it all for your morning education and entertainment, and organized them below. But if you prefer a bite-sized, one-paragraph version of the news, see “What We Learned This Week: Turn Left on Red,’” which is designed to be easily consumed before downing your first cup of morning coffee.

Next week should see the U.S. Senate vote on S. 2280, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would largely run through several Missouri and Lower Mississippi River watershed states. The House is voting today (Friday) on a companion bill (H.R. 5682), and almost-assuredly will pass the measure.  Our weekly outlook of next week’s other River Basin-related Capitol Hill activity is summarized (and updated, as needed) here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • U.S. EPA Local Government Advisory Committee suggests ways the agency can improve controversial proposed clean water rule
  • Environment Minnesota Letter to the Editor: "The Clean Water Act: Final Thoughts as EPA Public Comment Period Ends"
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 375 trade associations, local chambers submit 58 pages of comments against clean water rule (comments here:
  • Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority votes unanimously to oppose proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule
  • Environmental groups threaten to sue Tennessee Valley Authority over water pollution concerns near coal ash dumps
  • Complaints about a troubled Wisconsin manure-processing plant referred to the state Department of Justice
  • Researchers try to identify upstream factors that could explain Lake Pepin phosphorus increases
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers dispute Weather Channel's characterization of New Orleans as worst place in the U.S. to own a home
  • Army Corps: maintenance work will continue on Mississippi River near Nashville despite crop transport delay concerns
  • Colorado's state water plan is premised on more people and scarcer water
  • Gov. Sam Brownback unveils a nearly completed 50-year Kansas state water plan
  • Army Corps approves construction of contentious Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana coal terminal opposed by coalition of Gulf of Mexico environmental groups
Agriculture -
  • Completion of proposed Regional Conservation Partnership Program project reviews (under new Farm Bill) is delayed at least until December
  • NRCS requests comments on conservation performance measurement tools
  • Corn and soybean 2014 harvest numbers now favor prices that will be profitable for producers in 2015-16
  • GAO: the Food and Drug Administration's fruit and vegetable pesticide testing program is not "statistically valid"
  • U.S. agricultural companies reach agreement with farm groups on principles governing the companies’ use of crop data
  • Farmland values declined across much of the Midwest in the third quarter, continuing a slowdown (Also see: U.S. Midwest farmland values steady, weakness seen ahead
November 11 Drought Map
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: long-term water deficits continues to mount in Minnesota; Northern Plains and Upper Mississippi Valley landscape is freezing and very little soil moisture recharge possible this year; drought largely persists in Southern, Central Plains
  • Purdue and Iowa State universities study: Crop producers, scientists hold different views on climate change, and its possible causes
  • Washington Post editorial:  “China and the United States are finally leading on global warming"
  • Research provides climatogical analysis of flooding as far inland as Illinois and Wisconsin, associated with North Atlantic tropical cyclones
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Coalition of scientists, conservationists and corporations asks Obama administration to extend
    Monarch Butterfly
    Endangered Species Act protections to monarch butterfly
  • Blanchard, Okla. residents taking new measures to ensure monarch butterflies have suitable migratory habitat
  • Riverine Fisheries International facility planned in western Kentucky to catch, process and sell invasive Asian carp
  • Platte River Recovery Implementation Program plan focuses local efforts on bird and fish species protection
Map of Conservation Vision Area in 
Louisiana Gulf Coast Region
(Click to enlarge)
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Environmental groups identify land-conservation priorities in the Gulf of Mexico region
  • Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority recommends five projects for Restore Act oil spill fine money
  • House passes bill to reauthorize the National Estuary Programs; link to bill:
  • Smithsonian study: Dead zones to expand due to climate-change induced warming waters
In the Cities -
  • Three multi-disciplinary teams awarded $15,000 each to develop unique strategies for using New Orleans' sizable amount of vacant land
Resource Development -
  • Report: Over 40 percent of frac sand producers in Wisconsin have broken state environmental rules in recent years
  • U.S. Senate reaches agreement to vote on S.2280, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, next week
  • U.S. House to begin consideration (Thursday) of H.R. 5682-bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline (link to bill here: 
Federal Budget -
  • Omnibus spending bill funding federal agencies through September 2015 won’t be released for several weeks
Events - Information on all past and future events listed here each week can be viewed in the on-line calendar, located above and to the right (and here as a stand-alone calendar) 
  • Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance webinar, November 17, 3 pm ET; Impact of Wetland Drainage on the Hydrology of a Northern Prairie Watershed
  • Webinar: Climate Change and Corn Belt Agriculture in the Midwest; November 18, noon- 1 PM EST
  • The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association has posted the UMRBA and UMRR-EMP CC November 18-19, 2014 meeting packets
  • Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's 2014 Watershed Conference; Nov. 19-21; Best Western Inn of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs
  • Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization workshops on Vermillion River Watershed Plan 2015; Nov. 19, Dec. 3 and 11
  • Date change: December 9 Great Waters Webinar: "Time to End the Slime – Addressing Nutrient Pollution" 3 PM EST
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Watershed Network News - November 12
  • Find the latest Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's November 11  TUWaterWays weekly e-newsletter
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch, No 265, Wednesday, Nov 12; "Fine Tuning: The 1972 Clean Water Act"
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's November 13 Watershed News
Other news-
  • Position announcement: Prairie Rivers Network (Illinois) Executive Director
  • Water-its scarcity, quality and the regulations affecting it-is a growing business problem that many companies haven’t noticed
Politics and People-
  • Mid-term election turnout, over all, was 36.4 percent; only the 1942 federal election had a lower rate: 33.9 percent
  • Mid-term election turnout changed notably in several Mississippi River Basin states compared to the 2010 mid-terms
  • Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf (D) names Katie McGinty, former PA Department of Environmental Protection secretary, as  chief of staff
  • Democrats win all 11 House races too close to call on Nov. 4, including Brad Ashford's (D-Neb.) defeat of incumbent Rep. Lee Terry (R)
  • U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is not "big on hierarchy"
Your Moment of Zen -
Banded iron rock, mineral layers compressed in vibrant colours found in the Hammersley Range, Western Australia. Photo by Mint Images/ Frans Lanting/Getty

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