Friday, December 19, 2014

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Happy Holidays!
There will be no Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News edition next week.  The Weekly News summary will return on the first Friday of 2015.

This Week and Next (Year)
There was significant news in the water resource arena this week. The White House Council on Environmental Quality released a finalized version of Interagency Guidelines, which "lay out the detailed methodology for conducting implementation studies, clarifying terminology as well as the applicability of and analysis called for under implementation" of the "Principles, Requirements and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies."  The draft Guidelines, (accompanied by the final Principles and Requirements) were initially released in March 2013 for public comment.  In other water news, a large number of environmental groups, and local and state leaders sent letters to the USEPA requesting that it utilize an infrequently-used Clean Water Act provision to veto the contentious Army Corps of Engineers' St. Johns Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project.  And the Army Corps released its Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam closure draft environmental assessment.  It will accept public comments on the draft assessment through January 23.

The U.S. Senate officially adjourned this week, following a last-minute push to pass a comprehensive fiscal year 2015 spending bill, and confirm over 50 Obama judicial and executive branch nominees (which did not include several high-profile U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nominees, including Ken Kopocis to be Assistant Administrator for water). Before leaving, the Senate also overwhelmingly passed and sent on to the President H.R. 5771 (the "Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014"), which is a legislative package that included a one-year renewal of expired tax provisions and a 9-cent increase in the diesel fuel tax that supports the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.  That Fund is used to pay for inland waterways infrastructure projects' design and construction.

Even before the Congressional lights were turned out, the Washington policy focus had shifted to 2015, when fiscal year 2016 appropriations, the Keystone XL pipeline, immigration, and filling Executive Branch nominee vacancies (or not) promise to appear early and often on the Congressional agenda.  It's unlikely that passage of the 2016 spending bills will proceed smoothly. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that the Republican-controlled Congress will seek to roll back administration environmental and energy policies by attaching policy riders to the annual spending measures.  And barring Congressional action, strict spending caps (prompted by a sequestration mandate) will be back in effect for fiscal year 2016.  Despite Republican intentions, Democrats’ views on these issues will still matter, since the GOP will lack a 60-vote, filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Links to more information on all of these items, and others, are found below.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Despite stiff opposition, EPA is moving ahead with plans to finalize proposed Clean Water Act
    Click to enlarge
    rule by spring 2015
  • Environmental groups sue U.S. EPA for failing to strengthen regulations preventing pollution from storm water runoff as required by 2003 court order
  • Alpha Natural Resources Inc. agrees to address water pollution concerns at four West Virginia mountaintop-removal coal mines
  • Grand jury indicts six executives of Freedom Industries Inc. for violating the Clean Water Act (Elk River spill in West Virginia) (also see:
  • Farm groups: U.S. EPA's recent proposal to update reporting requirements for water pollution permits is inconsistent with other related policy
  • USGS report: "Urban Stream Contamination Increasing Rapidly Due to Road Salt" (news story:
  • Environmental groups announce intent to sue over water pollution from Patriot Coal operations in Boone County, West Virginia
  • Iowa's nitrate reduction strategy based on voluntary monitoring is questioned as levels in Des Moines area rivers increase
  • Upper Missouri River Waterkeeper files notice of intent to sue U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act for failing to make a decision on proposed water quality rules in Montana
  • Federal agencies, private partners announce challenge to spur development of  water monitoring nutrient sensors (related graphic, above)
  • Saving money and the Twin Cities lakes, streams and groundwater from the effects of salt
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Obama administration finalizes Interagency Guidelines portion of "Principles, Requirements
    USGS Report abstract link
    and Guidelines" to guide federal water resource investments Interagency Guidelines: (Principles, Requirements and Guidelines web site:
  • News article on the Administration's release of the finalized Interagency Guidelines
  • Army Corps releases Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam closure draft environmental assessment for public comment through January 23 (related Federal Register notice:
  • Environmental groups, local officials send letter asking U.S. EPA to veto St. Johns Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project using obscure Clean Water Act provision (letter here: (related article below)
  • Environmental groups, local officials urge EPA to nix Mississippi River levee extension
  • Universities of Iowa and Buffalo partner in roll out of new CrowdHydrology water resource crowdsourcing effort
  • Senate passes package including a 9-cent increase in fuel tax that supports the Inland Waterways Trust Fund
  • New USGS report: "High Plains Aquifer Groundwater Levels Continue to Decline"
Agriculture -
  • North Dakota agricultural groups pressure USDA to stop using conservation organizations as contractors in offices regulating wetland compliance
  • Farmers in the Midwest are increasingly turning to land-based, indoor fish farms
  • NSAC provides an overview of what the final federal $1.1 trillion spending bill means for agricultural conservation
  • Report: The health of agriculture in the U.S. Midwest depends significantly on  immigration reform
  • USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack: Cuba deal a boon for U.S. farmers
  • Easing of Cuba restrictions creates opportunity for Upper Midwest agriculture
  • Farmers are poised to lower plantings of corn and soybean in 2015
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Invasive mussels prompt South Dakota fisheries officials to consider to modifying invasive species management plans
  • House Natural Resources Committee Republicans raise concerns about Endangered Species Act peer review process
  • Southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming study: success of greater sage grouse nesting is strongly related to the height of the grass around the nests
In the Cities -
  • Dubuque plans to convert approximately 240 alleys to “green alleys” over the course of new 20-year project
  • Three promising pathways to finance sustainable cities
In the States-
  • West Virginia regulators told by state appeals board to improve program to protect against falsification of coal company water samples
  • Gov. Brownback’s steep tax cuts not set in stone as Kansas faces $7 billion budget shortfall through 2019
  • Ohio Controlling Board approves funding for separate efforts to monitor streams for toxic algae, invasive Asian carp
  • District court judge dismisses lawsuit seeking to stop Iowa from enacting rules governing large livestock facilities
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources concedes that lapsed rules didn’t adequately protect streams from pollution, then allows more frac sand mining
  • Wisconsin governor wants to keep hunting, fishing fee receipts designated to support those activities
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • BP appeals federal district court's ruling that it was grossly negligent in actions leading up to 2010 Gulf oil spill
  • After over four years of closure since BP spill, waters around Elmer's and Grand Terre islands off Louisiana coast now open for commercial fishing
  • WWLTV Investigation: "Tainted Legacy: Legislature's fixes create obstacles to oil and gas cleanup" (Louisiana Coast) (also see these other segments of the investigative report: and
Resource Development -
Click to enlarge
  • North Dakota oilfield waste with elevated levels of radioactivity can be disposed in state landfills instead trucked out of state, under proposed rules
  • Oklahoma group plans peaceful protest in Norman over environmental concerns about water, oil and natural gas drilling
  • Five public hearings set on Sandpiper Pipeline Plan through northern Minnesota; map: story:
  • Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.): Keystone XL pipeline will be 2015 GOP Senate's first order of business
  • Bipartisan Policy Center publishes report outlining 40 different options that it says could improve U.S. ethanol mandate
Federal Budget -
(click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • US weekly drought update: dry conditions expanded across much of northern Louisiana; but for most of the Mississippi River Basin, it was status quo
  • Globally, sea levels have risen in the past 50 years, in some places by a foot or more (part 4 of Reuters series) (related chart to the right)
Other news-
  • EPA enforcement actions decline again; agency blames shutdown, budget woes (also see - from EPA: US EPA releases annual enforcement results for Fiscal Year 2014
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment seeks to fill opening for Clean Water Policy Coordinator; deadline January 9
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council seeks to fill Executive Director position
  • Minnesota woman, and owner of "Moo-seum," seeks Guinness Book record for cow memorabilia
  • In 2014 in the Mississippi River Basin, there were a corndog spill near Shreveport, La., Bud Light spill in North Dakota, and food-coloring spill in Kentucky
  • Britain who paddled the Mississippi River solo releases a video of his journey
  • Tennessee Valley Authority says it is in the final stages of cleaning up site of large, 2008 Tennessee coal ash spill
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)
  • 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit; Feb. 18-19, 2015, Arrowwood Resort, Alexandria, Minn.
  • Save-the Date: StormCon - North American Surface Water Quality Conference & Expo; August 2-6, 2015, Austin, Texas
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • U.S. Global Change Research Program December 2014 newsletter
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center's Fall River Education newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Watershed Network News for December 17
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch; No 269, Dec 17 “I Saw Three Canoes Come Sailing In…”
  • Gulf Restoration Network's December 18 Gulfwaves e-newsletter issue
  • The Horinko Group's Fourth Quarter 2014 "Sustainabulletin"
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council December 18 Watershed News
Politics and People-
  • High-profile nominees for USEPA positions were not among those approved in last-minute Senate confirmation push.  These include: Ken Kopocis to be assistant administrator for water; Victoria Wassmer to be chief financial officer; Tom Burke to be assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development; Janet McCabe to be assistant administrator for air; Ann Dunkin to be assistant administrator for environmental information; and Jane Nishida to be assistant administrator for international affairs.  You can see who was confirmed here:
  • Kentucky's secretary of state threatens to block Rand Paul (R-KY) from running both for president and U.S. Senate in 2016
  • The U.S. Senate's 2015 calendar will features fuller weeks and fewer breaks
  • Senate Republicans announce committee assignments for the 114th Congress, majority gains them extra committee seats
  • Senate Democrats announce their committee spots for the 114th Congress
  • 2015 Senate Agriculture Committee assignments finalized, new members include Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse
  • New House Oversight and Government Affairs Interior subcommittee to oversee EPA, Interior Dept, Energy Dept, USDA
  • One of the most unproductive and least popular Congresses in history has ended
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Mike Groll/AP

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