Friday, February 13, 2015

What We Learned This Week - "Slip slidin' away"

The Department of Agriculture rolled out a "new MRBI" - the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative's second phase. The Hypoxia Task Force extended its target date from 2015 until 2035 for shrinking the Gulf of Mexico dead zone by two-thirds. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Drinking Water Protection Act after considerable discussion.  The Obama Administration looks to finalize its proposed clean water rule by the summer.   Proposed state bills in West Virginia and Minnesota would, respectively, weaken water protections and require legislative approval of new water quality regulations.  Groups in Tennessee joined in a lawsuit to protect Nashville's drinking water source.  Memphis, Tennessee will form a task force to focus on its water resources.  The Midwest is flooding more frequently. The Army Corps of Engineers said that money spent on its civil works projects means jobs.  Alarmed by rapid deforestation, the Minnesota DNR ordered an environmental review that will temporarily halt jackpine forest conversions to potato fields.  Riverfront ground was broken in Baton Rouge for a new $45 million, 33-acre Center for River Studies.  Competition between commodity crop farms and industrial water users in middle-America is resulting in severe crop income losses.  Between 2008 and 2013, corn used 14 percent more water from irrigation, while water use for all crops combined declined.  Most small farms are unsustainable.   U.S. farm income is poised to drop for a third straight year, while 2015 should see a 15-percent increase in federal payments to producers and landowners.  A slowdown in their growth has people wondering if farmers markets have peaked?   The Iowa Great Lakes may be the next "hog-confinement battleground."  And last but not least, Brainerd, Minnesota area residents experienced an "ice quake" last month.

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