Friday, March 13, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

This Week and Next
This week saw the Des Moines Water Works officially proceed with its lawsuit against three rural Iowa counties over excessive nitrates in its water supply sources, another oil tank train derailment and spill, another oil well drilling brine waste spill, another Congressional hearing on "Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule" (this one a field hearing), and controversy in Minnesota over the Governor-backed stream buffer strip legislation.  There was much more (highlighted below), in what ended up being a fairly busy week in the River region from a water resource standpoint.

Next week, the House Budget Committee (on Wednesday) and Senate Budget Committee (on Thursday) are each poised to mark up their respective budget resolutions, which will effectively be a Republican response to the President’s proposed budget, and set the broad fiscal parameters within which the respective House and Senate appropriations committees will be crafting their spending bills.  In anticipation of drafting those bills, the House Appropriations Committee will hold several hearings on the proposed budgets of Administration agencies relating to some aspect of the Mississippi River Basin's water resources.   There is also another hearing scheduled regarding the Administration's Clean Water Act jurisdiction proposed rule, and one on proposed legislation controlling the management of coal combustion residuals.  You can see the entire list of those hearings, along with more discussion of the budget resolution process, here.

And while all of that activity is happening on Capitol Hill, members of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative will be visiting the Halls of Congress and meeting with several agencies regarding the Initiative's 2016 River priorities (more on that next week).  Finally, back in the River Basin, on Monday, March 16, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is scheduled to speak at the National Farmers Union Convention in Wichita, Kansas, about the need to protect the nation's waters (a talk that will undoubtedly highlight the Administration's proposed clean water rule).

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Des Moines Water Works votes to sue three Iowa counties over nitrates  (see other articles below)
  • Des Moines Water Works Board votes to sue 10 rural drainage districts in and around the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers over elevated nitrate levels
  • Des Moines Water Works' lawsuit - aimed at forcing regulation of forms of agricultural water pollution - may move forward this week (published just before the vote)
  • Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission considers easing rules concerning mercury, other bioaccumulating pollutants
  • Critics say that Minnesota's farm-water cleanup project falls short of water quality and farmer participation goals
  • Illinois settles six-year-old Rock River ethanol spill-fish kill case
  • Oil tanker train derails in Illinois near where the Galena River meets the Mississippi River; steps taken to protect rivers (video:
  • Ohio EPA probing rash of farm manure spills into waterways
  • EPA: Illinois oil train derailment spill poses an "imminent and substantial danger" to Mississippi River
  • Pipeline breach spills 19,000 gallons of salt water in North Dakota
  • CSX Agrees to EPA Order for Clean-up of Areas Impacted by West Virginia Train Derailment
  • EPA awards $300,000 to the Arkansas Natural Resource Commission to reduce sediment and phosphorus in West Fork White River watershed
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a field hearing on "Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments and Stakeholders;" Lincoln, Nebraska, Saturday, March 14, 10:00 AM CDT
  • National Science Foundation: Nutrient pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus in streams reducing their ability to support aquatic life
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Citizens group challenges Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ decision to allow railroad to build second set of tracks through La Crosse River wetland
  • EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy pushes for more clean and drinking water infrastructure money at cities conference
  • EPA Designates Mahomet Aquifer as "sole source" of drinking water in East-Central Illinois and
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends replacing perilous Buckeye Lake dam or draining the lake (Muskingum River Basin)
Agriculture -

  • “Budget Issues Move to the Front Burner- Potential Farm Bill Implications”
  • Efficiency and better environmental outcomes being seen more as an integral part of farming
  • Study describes outcomes of one of the few concerted efforts to manage an agricultural region for nitrogen (Central Platte River Valley of Nebraska)
  • Landowners in Iowa develop model for land conservation through newly-formed nonprofit, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust
  • Proponents of changes to North Dakota's anti-corporate farming law argue benefits of large-scale farming operations
  • Standoff over a huge dairy opens a new chapter in Minnesota's battle over big feedlots
  • Abandoned Kentucky tobacco factory is transforming into massive local food hub
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) asks USDA to clarify how it is making offsite wetland determinations on farmers’ land (also see:
  • Soil-conservation farming is gaining converts
  • GAO: Farmers in drought-prone Plains region, other high-risk regions often aren’t charged enough for crop insurance (also see this related article:
  • Ducks Unlimited farm bill conservation program work in Prairie Pothole Region raises concerns with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)
Climate and Weather -
Click to enlarge
  • US drought update: ongoing dryness continued across northwest Arkansas, eastern Kansas, and northeast Oklahoma; abnormal dryness was expanded across northeastern Iowa and most of Wisconsin, Minnesota
  • Just when everyone had pretty much written it off, El NiƱo finally emerges
  • Climatologists: No need to worry about drought yet in Minnesota
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Iowa DNR and Agriculture Department form monarch butterfly consortium
    Brandon Road Lock and Dam on Des Plaines River south of Chicago
  • Fish and Wildlife Service reopening of public comment period on listing black pinesnake as a threatened species  (in Mississippi Basin found in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee)
  • A new hypothesis on why the bees are vanishing: synchronicity
  • Greater sage grouse experts warn Obama administration to take stronger, more scientifically sound steps to protect bird
  • USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to extend partial gypsy moth quarantines in areas of Virginia, West Virginia, Minnesota, and Wisconsin
  • Asian carp "swarm" south of Chicago as consensus on permanent solution eludes nation
In the States-
  • Minnesota buffer strip bill has support from sports groups, opposition from farmers
    States in the news this week
  • Minnesota farmers criticize Governor Dayton's stream buffer conservation plan
  • Bipartisan coalition of Minnesota state lawmakers pushes back against new state water quality regulations
  • Critics say Wisconsin DNR rule change will allow it to ignore public concerns, skip environmental impact statements
  • State revenue shortfalls worry Kansas Farm Bureau President
  • West Virginia state Senate approves new Kanawha River drinking water protections, declining to repeal year-old standards
  • Oklahoma state Senate approves legislation creating committee to analyze drought relief projects, including interbasin transfer
  • Under new Colorado rule, operators will have stricter guidelines for how they extract oil and gas in floodplains
  • Indiana, Colorado lawmakers move toward banning microbead plastic particles in cosmetics
(link to open related report:
In the Cities -
  • Dubuque to use EPA brownfields grant to develop area-wide plan, implementation strategy for 33-acre South Port area along Mississippi River
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • GOP senators criticize President's proposal to divert over $3 billion in future offshore oil and gas revenues destined to Gulf Coast states to fund national priorities
Forestry -
  • House Natural Resources Committee leaders urge U.S. Forest Service to abandon controversial groundwater proposal
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Resource Development -
  • PNC Financial joins growing list of banks no longer financing coal-mining companies that pursue mountaintop removal
Federal Budget -
  • Republican leaders are expected to unveil House and Senate budget resolutions next week, with sequester caps in place
  • Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases its updated baseline Budget Projections for 2015 to 2025
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)
  • Webinar: Watershed Approach Handbook: Improving Benefits Associated with Wetland and Stream Restoration and Protection Projects; March 18, 1 PM ET
  • March 19 Shale Symposium: What Communities Need to Know, available streaming live at 10 AM ET
  • Jon Brandt Policy Forum: Strategies for Investing in Rural America; April 14, 2:30 PM EDT, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC
  • Save the dates: Green Lands Blue Waters 2015 Conference to be held on November 3 and 4 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • EPA’s Nonpoint Source News-Notes, Issue #97 (March 2015)
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 279, March 10
  • Gulf Restoration Network March 10 "GulfWaves" - Dispersants, Pythons and Oysters
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy, March 10 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • March 11 issue of the Resource newsletter from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Other news-
  • Green groups: Congress should work to reauthorize and fully fund Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • U.S. Supreme Court ruling means federal regulators will be able to change rules at a faster pace
  • Ohio River Trail to accommodate walkers, bicyclists, canoeists, kayakers; link river towns, create transportation alternative
  • Why fresh water shortages will cause the next great global crisis
  • Journal - American Water Works Association: Buried No Longer: Confronting America's Water Infrastructure Challenge
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3 Vacancy Announcement - Chief, Endangered Species (Bloomington, MN)
  • U.S. EPA receives poor grades for its handling of the Freedom of Information Act from Center for Effective Government
  • Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service critique some provisions of popular "Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act"
  • Brookings Institution: Spending on U.S. crumbling infrastructure = zero
Politics and People-
  • Kentucky Presidential primary change allows Rand Paul (R-KY) to run for President while keeping Senate seat
  • Majority of U.S. adults place more trust in state and local governments than they do the federal government
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images

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