Friday, March 20, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative Mayors Promote 2015 Policy Priorities
Over two and one-half days this week, a contingent of 18 mayors representing the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative met with Federal agency representatives, business and environmental leaders, and members of Congress to discuss and promote the Initiative's 2015 federal policy agenda (meeting agenda here). Each year since 2013, the Initiative has presented lawmakers and Administration representatives its policy platform for the year during an annual Washington, DC meeting.  The 2015 four-point policy platform seeks to advance priorities related to trails, byways and bridges; a new USDA "Landscape Resiliency" initiative; restricting coal ash disposal within flood plains; and supporting sustainable River, economic federal spending. More details regarding the 2015 priorities can be seen here.  And here are overviews of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative's 2013 and 2014 policy priorities.

This Week and Next
There was more fallout this week surrounding the Des Moines Water Works water quality lawsuit and the Administration-proposed clean water act jurisdiction rule, including a threat to send the rulemaking process back to square one (see below, under "Water Quality").

Also this week, House and Senate Republicans released and then the Budget Committees approved their respective symbolic wish-lists (otherwise known as budget resolutions), proposing to slash federal spending.  Rumored deep cuts to farm bill programs in the House plan never surfaced in its final resolution.  The Senate and House will each consider their resolutions next week.  Under the textbook legislative scenario, each chamber will vote on its own budget before resolving differences, merging them and voting on a unified budget plan.  That compromise resolution (if passed) would set overall spending levels to guide Senate and House appropriators as they draft spending bills for the upcoming (2016) fiscal year. Congressional leaders are aiming to approve their two resolutions next week before Congress recesses for a two-week spring break.  Leaders then hope to have the differences resolved by mid-April to give the appropriations committees their 2016 spending targets.

Also next week, there are several water resource-related Congressional hearings, including yet another "Waters of the United States"-impact hearing, a second of two hearings on the management of coal combustion residuals, a hearing on the implementation of farm bill crop insurance program, and a handful of agency budget priority oversight hearings.  To see the full list with links to the committees' hearing web sites, you can visit this page.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Delay or restart of EPA-Army Corps of Engineers' proposed clean water rulemaking process floated as possibilities by House Republicans
  • EPA water chief: proposed clean water rule issues "thoroughly vetted . . . it's time for us to go final with the rule"
  • EPA Administrator McCarthy to farmers, ranchers: agency could have done better rolling out clean water proposed rule
  • Opinions on proposed federal water rule aired at Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) field hearing in Lincoln
  • House Subcommittee reviews definition of “waters of the United States” proposed rule, impact on rural regions; story: (Subcommittee press release, links to testimony:
  • County government, state agriculture representatives tell House Agriculture subcommittee that EPA has yet to consult with them on proposed clean water rule
  • Des Moines Register Editorial: Not enough was done to avoid Des Moines Water Works' water quality lawsuit
  • Des Moines Water Works water quality lawsuit is part of intensifying efforts around the country to treat agriculture like other industries
  • Iowa DNR Director: Enforcement would be difficult if the Des Moines Water Works nutrient lawsuit is successful
  • Updated ORSANCO report: Ohio River once again leads the nation for industrial pollution
  • Louisiana lists lists bodies of water where work is needed to meet Clean Water Act criteria; public comments open through March
  • Two former Freedom Industries officials plead guilty to criminal water pollution charges related to 2014 Elk River, West Virginia chemical spill
  • More guilty pleas for polluting Elk River, West Virginia in 2014
  • House Agriculture Committee approves H.R. 897, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, regarding pesticide regulation in or near waterways (hearing web page:
  • Proposed oil drilling and fracking project in St. Tammany Parish receives Louisiana water quality certification (still needs a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Federal judges return seven environmental damage lawsuits filed against oil and gas companies by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes to Louisiana state courts
  • FEMA State Mitigation Review Guide (March 2015, effective March 2016),  emphasizing community risk reduction planning
  • Senate Democrats introduce  S. 741, "The Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act" (Sen. Cardin press release) (bill:
  • Early signs are positive for the latest crop of big infrastructure public-private partnerships
  • Kansas officials: current plan to pump Missouri River water 360 miles uphill to water-thirsty western Kansas will probably never flow
  • Leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduce Federal Emergency Management Agency reauthorization bill: FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act (bill:
Agriculture -
  • Farm, anti-hunger groups well-positioned to avoid major cuts in agriculture, nutrition spending under GOP budget plans (see more under "Federal Budget," below)
  • Op-ed: A serious deterioration of the farm economy could happen if the farm bill is altered again
  • Agriculture is an industry that is particularly suited to benefit from drone technology; however it's a legal “gray area”
  • Washington Post editorial: "A costly farm bill"
  • Planting is expected to start early in the northern U.S. Corn Belt after a dry winter, but it's stalled in the south
Climate and Weather -
  • Tale of five droughts - There are five distinct U.S. agricultural regions currently experiencing various levels of drought
  • US drought update: Abnormally dry area expands in much of Upper Plains; moderate drought occupies most of Minnesota  (more detail: drought pressure is expanding in the northern Corn Belt centered on Minnesota and adjacent states
  • Growing Minnesota drought may spur increased and more intense wild fires
  • Group of Mississippi River mayors to send a delegation to this year's international climate talks in Paris
Karner blue butterfly photo
by John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Conservation and food safety groups threaten lawsuit vs. EPA over impacts of pesticide Sivanto on native pollinators
  • First comprehensive assessment for continental US finds that nonnative plants are more widely distributed than natives
  • University of Maryland research: widely used imidacloprid insecticide tied to honeybee deaths isn’t sole cause of fatalities
In the States-
  • Governor Dayton asks farmers to support Minnesota stream buffer plan
  • Minnesota Public Radio: Farmers see Minnesota 50-foot stream buffer proposal as a taking
  • 5,000 acres of wildlife management areas would be impacted by Minnesota state land sell-off bill
  • State Rep. Paul Thissen proposes Minnesota bill to modify the makeup of the state's Clean Water Council
  • Green Bay Press-Gazette op-ed:  Wisconsin Gov. Walker's proposal to eliminate citizen 
    States in the news this week
    oversight of Department of Natural Resources is wrong for state
  • Out of water pollution concerns, Wisconsin Senate bill would prohibit making personal care products containing microbeads in 2018; selling them in 2019  (bill:
  • West Virginia lawmakers approved a measure on Saturday to roll back strict water-protection rules enacted last year
  • Columbus Dispatch editorial: Strong Ohio algae rules needed; rules should apply statewide, with no sunset clause
  • Indiana lawmakers approve bill reauthorizing council focused on invasive species threats; story: bill:
In the Cities -
  • Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative mayors in Washington, DC to promote 2016 Federal policy priorities
  • Eldon, Missouri to receive free place-based sustainability technical assistance for trail project under EPA program
    From NOAA Gulf Coast Report
    Gulf Coastal Region-
    • House Democrats quietly back President's proposal to divert billions in future offshore oil and gas dollars from Gulf Coast states
    • NOAA releases series of reports detailing changes in land cover across U.S. from 1996 to 2010 including Gulf of Mexico Coastal Area
    Forestry -
    Resource Development -
    • Uneven state rules, trade secrets fuel fracking debate; Industry disclosure requirements vary state to state
    • Meskwaki Tribe objects to Texas company's plans to construct a 343-mile crude oil pipeline across 18 Iowa counties
    • Fight over Keystone XL pipeline project doesn't stall new oil pipeline boom
    • Environmental groups push Interior Department to strip West Virginia regulators of mining oversight powers
    Federal Budget -
    • House Budget Committee passes Budget Resolution on a party-line vote, sending it on to the full House
    • Senate Budget Committee approves GOP budget resolution in 12-10 party-line vote, sending it on for full Senate debate next week
    • House Budget Committee FY 2016 budget instructs Agriculture Committee to cut $1 billion, Natural Resources, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees to cut $100 million each over ten years; proposes to convert Supplemental Nutrition Insurance Program to state block grant program (State Flexibility Fund); ignores sequestration
    • Senate Republican budget resolution calls for balancing the budget in 10 years; deep cuts in non-defense spending
    • Long-term budget plan unveiled by House Republicans would leave farm bill programs virtually untouched
    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) 
    • Mississippi River Commission schedules annual high-water inspection trip for March 23-27, four stops from New Madrid, Missouri to Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    • Security and Sustainability Forum Webinar: The Mississippi River: Is Sustainable Infrastructure a Watershed Solution; March 25; 12 PM EDT
    • St. Croix River Association March and April events listing
    e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
    Other news-
    Politics and People-
    • Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) to resign at end of March, following new questions about expense reimbursements
    • Special election will be held to replace resigning Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock
    Your Moment of Zen -

    Detail from Echinus-Diadema 2009. ©Philip Taafe
    Photograph: Carl-Strüwe Archive

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