Friday, February 27, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

This Week and Next
The House will vote today (Friday) on a one-page funding bill to avert a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (including the Federal Emergency Management Administration), pushing off a possible shutdown for three weeks.  Elsewhere this week, the House passed a bill requiring the EPA to develop a plan for managing the health risks related to cyanotoxins, there were calls for an environmental impact assessment concerning new rail infrastructure being built to handle increased Bakken oil train traffic in the Upper Mississippi Valley, the Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District announced plans to revise its Mississippi River Master Plan, 55,000 gallons of ethanol were unaccounted for from a freight train spill along the Mississippi River, a court found that Nebraska recklessly gambled with water that wasn’t legally Nebraska’s, nearly 400 organizations told Congressional appropriators not to meddle with farm bill programs, and six men started paddling upstream on the Mississippi toward the Arctic Ocean.   Links to these and more can be found below, or digested into a one-paragraph summary, "What We Learned This Week - 'Let me count the ways.'"

Next week the full House may consider  H.R. 1030, the Secret Science Reform Act. and H.R. 1029, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, both of which aim to change the role science plays in EPA rule-making.  The House passed similar bills in 2014.  Next week will also see several River Basin-related Capitol Hill committee hearings, many of the fiscal variety. One notable exception will be a Thursday, House Agriculture Committee hearing "to review the definition of 'waters of the United States' proposed rule and its impact on rural America." You can read the entire list of River-related Hill happenings here.  

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • EPA's proposed clean water rule resisted by some Arkansas counties, agricultural groups,
    congressional members
  • 36,000 gallons of oil-water mixture recovered from containment trenches since last week's West Virginia oil train derailment (photo,  right)
  • Poll: Most Iowans support Des Moines Water Works water pollution lawsuit
  • ORSANCO 2013 Toxic Release Inventory Analysis report: ninety-two percent of reported Ohio River releases were nitrate compounds (Story:
  • EPA weighs in on Harpeth River, city of Franklin, Tennessee wastewater pollution federal court case
  • Groups ask to intervene in Kentucky enforcement action, citing insufficient fines imposed against coal company for multiple water quality reporting violations
  • Doing a little to curb Mississippi River fertilizer pollution could go long way to breathing life back into the Gulf
  • H.R. 212-bill requiring U.S. EPA to develop a strategic plan for protecting drinking water from cyanotoxins-passes House 375-37
  • House Appropriations Chair Rogers (R-KY-5) criticizes Interior Department plan to protect waterways from coal mining
  • Exploring New Ways of Measuring Water Quality Project Success
  • Officials still dealing with aftermath of freight train derailment that spilled ethanol into Mississippi River (Iowa)
  • 21-month prison sentence imposed for man who conspired to falsify coal industry water pollution tests at West Virginia mining operations
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
    Mississippi River Lock and Dam 7
  • Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District proposes to revise its Mississippi River Master Plan; seeks public input
  • Eight months in, the extent of "reform" as a result of 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act is unclear
  • NPR Morning Edition: Army Corps St. John Levee New Madrid Floodway project pits farmland against flood threat
  • Resources for the Future: Understanding Flood Risk Decisionmaking: Implications for Flood Risk Communication Program Design
  • Illinois River Valley hopes for a share of Housing and Urban Development $1 billion flood resiliency money
  • FEMA hurricane disaster recovery funds to Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes (Louisiana) will fund repairs, measures to protect against future damage
  • Ducks Unlimited to restore 680-acre Platte River property wetlands habitat
  • Supreme Court rules Nebraska must pay Kansas in interstate Republican River battle (ruling:
  • It will take longer, cost more than originally estimated to rebuild the Arkansas River levee through Pueblo, Colorado
  • Army Corps of Engineers updates public on status of repairs to Illinois River's Marseilles dam and nearby riverfront levee
  • USDA to invest $84 million to help communities in 13 states recover from natural disasters, including 2013 flooding in Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado; 2014 flooding in Tennessee (list of projects:
Agriculture -
  • USDA opens public comment period for Agricultural Conservation Easement Program interim final rule (link to Federal Register notice to be officially published tomorrow:
  • Senate Agriculture Committee members on Tuesday reviewed the implementation of the Farm Bill after one year (related article below)
  • Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Stabenow is concerned over cuts to USDA
    conservation programs; USDA Secretary says they are due to a shrinking staff
  • 392 agriculture, nutrition, conservation, rural development, finance, forestry, energy, trade, labor, equipment manufactures and crop insurance sector organizations urge Congress to reject further cuts to farm bill programs
  • National Journal: Agricultural science is in trouble
  • UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General: today's model of agricultural production not suitable for 21st century food security challenges
  • USDA announces over $160 million available to fund food and agriculture research, education, and extension
  • Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee: cutting crop insurance subsidies is a non-starter
  • Some Midwestern farmers breaking farmland lease contracts with landowners due to lower commodity prices and reduced farm income
  • Renewal option open through March 31 for agricultural producers, forest landowners with expiring NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program contracts
  • North Dakota sees a sharp decrease in the number of small farms and ranches; part of growing trend toward fewer but larger farms
  • Food waste is increasingly being seen as a serious environmental and economic issue
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: Locally-heavy rain and snow eased Mississippi and Ohio Valley drought conditions; Central to Northern Plains, Upper Midwest remained dry; severely dry conditions in western Oklahoma
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook for March (will be published on Saturday afternoon)
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Newly-introduced bill designed to address "spread of invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins"
  • 12 "most destructive invasive plants and animals" in the United States include feral hogs, European starling, emerald ash borer, nutria in Mississippi River Basin
  • Spring bird migration is well underway across Wisconsin
  • Eagle Nature Foundation executive director: Upper Midwest bald eagle populations declining; researchers: they're not
  • Minnesota farmers face a 'perfect storm' after court wolf protection ruling
In the States-
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials warn that state legislators' push to ease state
    wild rice water pollution standards could lead federal oversight
  • Iowa state bills would tighten regulations on manure fertilizer application 
    River Basin states in the news this week (link to Senate bill version:
  • Kentucky State House panel approves first overhaul of Kentucky's oil and gas drilling regulations in a generation (link to bill:
  • Kentucky Oil and Gas Conservation Commission disallows citizens' fracking questions at permit hearing
  • Missouri "Right to Farm" constitutional amendment opponents ask Missouri Supreme Court to hear their challenge
  • North Dakota Senate votes to allow non-family farm corporations to own or lease agriculture land (bill link:
  • North Dakota House approves legislation to regulate oil and saltwater gathering pipelines (bill link:
  • South Dakota Senate approves bill establishing nine river basin natural resource districts to oversee water, drainage management (link to bill:
  • West Virginia Senate starts work on bill to scale back law spelling out safeguards to prevent storage tank spills (link to bill:
  • Indiana Senate defeats proposal that would have added "right to farm" protections to the state's constitution (link to bill:
  • Pennsylvania Senate Committee approves bill to create Marcellus Shale health advisory panel (bill link:
In the Cities -
  • Work on two of Iowa City's major flood protection projects is behind schedule
  • Right-of-way disagreement over proposed Greater Cincinnati, Ohio River bike trail along rail line corridor may end up in court
  • Viking River Cruises-a major European river cruise company-to launch American river cruises from New Orleans
  • EPA guide: Green Infrastructure Opportunities that Arise During Municipal Operations
Gulf Coastal Region-
Forestry -
  • Forest Service temporarily halts controversial proposal to better gauge impacts of surface uses upon groundwater
Resource Development -
  • Crude oil boom translates into major rail investments along Upper Mississippi River corridor, along with calls for an environmental impact assessment
  • DOT predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over next two decades
  • EPA to Release Renewable Fuel Volumes this Spring for 2014, 2015 and 2016
  • Iowa Gov. Branstad fires ethanol warning shot to 2016 presidential candidates, with launch of launch of "America’s Renewable Future" nonprofit
  • Bill introduced by Sens. Feinstein (D-CA) and Toomey (R-PA) would strip corn ethanol from EPA renewable fuel standard
  • ActionAid report says food-based federal biofuel mandates threaten food security
  • Houston County, Minnesota close to adopting a permanent ban on frac-sand mining
  • President Obama vetoes legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline
  • Five possible ways the Keystone XL pipeline saga could end
Federal Budget -
  • House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittees criticize U.S. EPA's fiscal year 2016 budget request for its focus on climate change (link to hearing archive:
  • House will vote today (Friday) to prevent Homeland Security shutdown tomorrow (includes FEMA funding)
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) 
  • Aldo Leopold weekend celebration theme is “Water Ethic;” February 27-28, La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • Focus 2015: A Forum of Communities for Urban Sustainability; Washington, DC, March 5 and 6
  • Training: Application of Quality Assurance and Quality Control Principles to Ecological Restoration; March 6, Superior, WI
  • National Geographic meetings to promote national, Mississippi River tourism; March 9-10, Moline, IL
  • EPA webcast on “Watershed Approach Handbook: Improving Benefits Associated with Wetland and Stream Restoration and Protection Projects”  March 18, 1:00 PM ET
  • Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society Biennual Meeting, St. Charles, Missouri, March 22-25 (one day concurrent overlap with UMRCC meeting, below)
  • Annual Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee annual meeting, March 25-26, St. Charles, Missouri
  • Illinois RiverWatch Offering Training Workshops for Adults, 4-H and Student Groups; March through May
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers 39th Annual National Conference, "Mitigation on my Mind" - May 31-June 5, Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, GA
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 278, February 23, National Geographic Geotourism Project
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's February 24 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Green Lands Blue Waters update, focusing on Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers February "News and Views"
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's February 56 "Watershed News"
Other news-
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee advances 2 bills aimed at science behind EPA rules (committee markup meeting page:
  • USDA seeks grant proposals to increase recreational public access on private agricultural, forest lands
  • Team of six paddlers ascending the Mississippi River in first stage of a journey with the Arctic Ocean as its goal
  • USDA Announces $14 Million in Grants Supporting Economic Growth for Rural Communities
  • Debate beginning to take shape over the merits of a paved recreational trail through the Minnesota River valley
Politics and People-
  • League of Conservation Voters releases annual scorecard of environmental voting records of all members of Congress
  • U.S. EPA's Region 7 chief Karl Brooks to step down; take on new job at EPA Washington, D.C. headquarters
  • Former Gov. Ted Strickland will seek to challenge Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman in 2016
  • Kansas Governor Sam Brownback elected Chair of the Midwestern Governors Association for 2015
  • Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) hints at a possible comeback bid in final speech as U.S. State Department envoy to Africa
  • Mississippi Governor schedules May 12 special election to fill 1st district House seat left vacant by Rep. Alan Nunnelee's death
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

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