Friday, January 16, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program Conservation Projects Include Significant Mississippi River Basin Representation
On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the awarding of $372.5 million for 115 conservation projects to be implemented across the nation under USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a program newly authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.  At least one project was selected in each of the 50 states, including numerous projects within the ten main-stem Mississippi River states.  Twenty-four of the selected RCPP projects are focused within eight "Critical Conservation Areas" (CCAs) named in 2014 by NRCS, with five of those 24 designated as Mississippi River Basin CCA projects.  For additional background and more watershed-specific details, see our RCPP announcement summary.

Next Week in Congress and Elsewhere
Monday is a Federal holiday, and the U.S. House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday (to hear the President's State of the Union address), with potential floor votes happening later in the week on the Keystone XL pipeline and Homeland Security (including FEMA) funding on the Senate side, and on a " "Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act" in the House.  Many Congressional committees are still in the process of organizing, which involves formalizing membership, appointing subcommittee members, chairs and ranking members, and outlining committee oversight activities for the upcoming session. Most of the committee action outlined in our weekly preview of watershed-related Hill activities are of that nature.

Also next week, look for the release of USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program findings from its ongoing evaluation of water quality in the principal aquifers of the United States, including several notable findings for aquifers supplying irrigation and public drinking water within the Mississippi River Basin.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • EPA releases final scientific report that underpins the Obama administration's  proposed clean water rule news article: Federal Register notice: EPA web site:
  • Opposition to Obama Administration's proposed clean water rule is a key theme at Farm
    Photograph of water drainage swale with lower 10% planted in
    perennial grass rather than annual crops
    Bureau annual meeting (see related article link under "Agriculture," below)
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) calls on EPA and Army Corps to withdraw proposed clean water jurisdiction rule
  • House  Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plans February 4 hearing on "Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments"
  • Draft Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy public comment period open until January 24; news:   Illinois EPA:
  • Vice President Biden to announce on Friday three new federal drinking and waste water system infrastructure spending initiatives
  • Potential precedent-setter: federal judge rules Oregon dairy farm manure poses significant public health risk from contaminated water Article: and ruling:
  • NPR Morning Edition: Iowa's largest city sues over farm fertilizer runoff in rivers
  • Federal authorities allege company knew about spill-containment dike problems at Elk River (West Virginia) facility years before 2014 spill
  • 2014 spill of coal-cleaning chemical into Elk River in W.Va., traveled farther than first thought
  • Tennessee's environmental regulator sues the Tennessee Valley Authority over unlined coal ash ponds
  • Study: many of world’s smaller bodies of water at risk from climate change, nutrients, land use practices
  • Researchers find elevated levels of ammonium and iodide in fracking wastewater released into Pennsylvania and West Virginia streams
  • Perennial filter strips can reduce nutrient loading, including nitrates, to water bodies and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico
  • North Dakota Department of Health: Brine spill reached the Missouri River
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
Click to enlarge
  • Researchers say barges, rail cars and crews are spread thin as U.S. freight shipments reach record levels
  • Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish Council denies building permit to controversial Mississippi River coal export facility
  • West Virginia coalfield communities see few options to address chronic water quantity, quality and infrastructure issues
  • First USDA 2015 forecast shows near average near normal streamflow forecast for Missouri River
  • Building 360-mile aqueduct to reroute Missouri River water to irrigate western Kansas crops could cost $18 Billion
Agriculture -
  • DTN-Progressive Farmer: “USDA is changing the way it funds conservation" (Regional Conservation Partnership Program)
  • Emotions run high in Indiana industrial hog farm siting fight
  • Proposed hog confinement project creates controversy in Dickinson County, Iowa, on the Iowa/Minnesota border
  • Underground and on rooftops, farms set roots in big cities
  • USDA makes over $18 million available through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program for training and development
  • American Farm Bureau: Excessive federal government regulation threatens the viability of farming and ranching
  • American Farm Bureau Federation 2015 strategic plan includes opposing Clean Water Act jurisdiction expansion; advancing legislation to reform Endangered Species Act
  • Fully and partially autonomous farming systems are close to becoming a reality
  • Latest farmland value survey of high-quality ground: prices level off and even decline in many geographies
Climate and Weather -
2012 drought
  • National Drought Mitigation Center: “How the 2012 central U.S. drought evolved from the floods of 2011: A state-by-state assessment”
  • US drought update: Kentucky and Tennessee: abnormal dryness expanded, drought introduced; Northern Plains and Midwest: broad-scale abnormal dryness, some moderate drought
  • NOAA: 2014 U.S. slightly warmer than average; Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana each had one of 10 coldest years on record (data sets available here
  • Senate to vote on whether climate change is happening
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • eDNA results imply that Asian carp may have reached the Chicago River beyond a carp barrier separating it from the rest of the Mississippi Basin
  • Fish and Wildlife Service releases strategic growth policy to guide expansion of   National Wildlife Refuge System
  • University of Missouri researchers: businesses can contribute to raptor preservation with less lawn development, more native grasslands, woodlots
  • Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries awards $103,448 grant to  Southeastern Louisiana University professor to study bee communities in conservation habitats
  • Food groups  urge the Obama administration to suspend the use of "bee harming pesticides" (copy of food groups' pesticide letter to Obama administration
  • Goats fighting America's plant invasion: Eating machines enjoying a US smorgasbord of invasive plants (In case you need a goat to fight invasive plants, here is a map literally depicting every goat in the US
In the Cities -
  • Six ways city landscapes can be more flood resilient - in pictures
  • Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative mayors plan for March 17-19 meetings in Washington, DC
In the States-
  • Missouri state Senate bill would require DEQ to submit Clean Air or Clean Water Act rule
    implementation plan for Legislature and governor review  (more) Missouri Rep. Mike Moon (R) plans to introduce a more sweeping bill barring state agency rule implementation without Legislature's approval
  • Proposed Missouri tax credit legislation aimed at enlisting beginning farmers
  • Report: West Virginia had inadequate regulations to prevent, and sufficient training and planning to respond to Elk River spill
  • Increased USEPA scrutiny led to better West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection water pollution permit application reviews
  • West Virginia groups oppose move to strip state streams of their designation as potential drinking water sources
  • Indiana Senate bill would block local governments from placing restrictions on large livestock facilities in most rural areas
  • Stakeholders to gather for fifth anniversary Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment celebration and forum
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Environmental group sues Obama administration for refusing to release documents re: extent of Gulf of Mexico fracking
  • Louisiana Gov. Jindal asks state Supreme Court to uphold law banning wetlands damage suit against oil companies
  • Louisiana coastal tourism group wants oil and gas industry to pay for marketing campaign, after its BP money runs out
  • BP will face maximum fine of $13.7 billion under Clean Water Act for 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill (smaller than government claimed)
Resource Development -
  • In a victory for Keystone XL proponents, Nebraska Supreme Court upholds 2012 law giving governor permitting authority for major oil pipelines like Keystone XL
  • Following state court ruling, Keystone XL pipeline company could face new legal challenges from Nebraska ranchers
  • House passes bill to approve Keystone XL pipeline construction, hours after pipeline-favorable Nebraska court ruling (Here is the House 266-153 roll call vote breakdown for passage of the Keystone XL pipeline approval bill
  • Patriot Coal Corp., which has 8 mining complexes in WV and 2 in western KY, moves headquarters from St. Louis to WV
  • Senate agrees to debate Keystone XL pipeline, setting stage for more energy battles
  • Democrats poised to make Republicans cast series of tough votes on legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline
Federal Budget -
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: What to expect in 2015 from Congress - budget and appropriations
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)
  • Upper Mississippi River (UMRBA and UMRR-EMP CC) meetings scheduled for February 10-11; Rock Island, Illinois
  • Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference; Houston, Texas, February 16-19 (highlighting oil spill and ecosystem science research during the five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill)
  • Annual International Water Management Modeling conference, Marriot Courtyard Toronto Brampton, Feb 25-26
  • 2nd Colorado Water Summit; March 3-5, Denver, to cover Colorado Water Plan, Public Private Partnerships, other water management issues
  • National Ground Water Association Upper Great Plains Groundwater Conference; September 22-23; Cheyenne, Wyoming
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 272, January 9: "A Muddy Guitar String 1,000 Miles Long"
  • Winter edition of Army Corps' "Our Mississippi" magazine (PDF file)
  • New report: “The Conservation Social Sciences: What?, How? and Why?”
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy January 14 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 273, January 15; "Bittersweet Twinges in a Watery Wilderness"
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's January 15 Watershed News
  • Gulf Restoration Network January 15 "Gulf Waves" e-magazine
Other news-
  • Journal Science paper authors suggest the Earth could soon cease to be a "safe operating space for humanity"
  • GAO: sue-and-settle lawsuits brought by environmental groups have only a "limited" impact on U.S. EPA regulations
  • Job announcement - Director, Therkildsen Field Station at Emiquon, Lewiston, IL (search closes February 28
  • Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee Conservation Award nominations due February 13
  • How paved surfaces define the U.S. (in state-by-state maps) (related national map on the right)
  • U.S. House passes legislation that would require federal agencies to estimate the economic costs of regulations (roll call tally: (see related article, below)
  • White House threatens to veto House bill designed to curb some of Obama administration’s most costly regulations
  • Many Minnesota public safety workers say they are not prepared to deal with an oil train or pipeline accident
Politics and People-
  • Mike Boots, acting White House Council on Environmental Quality chairman, plans to leave the position in March
  • Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) said Monday that she won't run for governor in 2016
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center recruits six scientists to serve as faculty fellows for 2014-2015 academic year
  • Many candidates lining up for November 3, 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election as filing deadline approaches
  • Pennsylvania Governor-Elect will appoint John Quigley as Department of Environmental Protection Secretary and Cindy Dunn as Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary
  • House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop announces creation of a new Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
  • Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas new chair of once-prominent House Tea Party Caucus
  • PBS NewsHour Morning Line: the 113th Congress wasn’t as unproductive as we gave them credit for 
  • Pew Research graphs proportion of women in Congress, state legislatures alongside those in high corporate positions
Your Moment of Zen - 
Photograph: Ian Plant/Solent News

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