Friday, March 27, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Mississippi River Collaborative Meets in New Orleans
Representatives of the Mississippi River Collaborative, along with supporting regional and national organizations, gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana this week to review the Collaborative's progress and plan future initiatives designed to advance Mississippi River water quality improvements, and wetland restoration and protection.  Founded by the McKnight Foundation, the Collaborative's goals in the ten-state Mississippi River corridor are to leverage its members' respective capabilities to restore the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River, restore and protect floodplains and wetlands, achieve cross-boundary and interagency coordination among government agencies to foster improvements to the River's water quality and resilience, and (particularly within Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois) reduce agricultural pollution - focusing on areas with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus input to waterways.

Senate Budget Resolution Amendment Votes Provide Opportunities for Issue-Testing
A wide ranging and lengthy series of votes on non-binding amendments to the Budget Resolution were debated on the Senate floor this week, providing issue-backers and opponents opportunities to see who is supporting a variety of issues. Several of the amendment issues are relevant to agriculture and water resources in the Mississippi River Basin and elsewhere. For example, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) offered an amendment limiting the EPA's ability to adopt "an expanded and broad regulatory definition of ‘Waters of the United States,’" which was approved on a 59-40 vote (Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), already on record opposing the rule, did not vote). In the Mississippi River Basin, Democratic Senators McCaskill (MO), Manchin (WV), Heitkamp (ND) and Klobuchar (MN) joined Republicans in voting to approve the Barrasso amendment. Klobuchar voted against a similar Barrasso amendment in 2013.  In light of the Klobuchar stance shift, and the missing Cruz opposing vote, Senate opponents of the proposed water jurisdiction rule may have the 60 votes needed under Senate rules to pass legislation limiting the its implementation.

Ninety-nine senators voted to approve an amendment from Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) establishing what amounts to a budgetary placeholder for "keeping the Federal Water Pollution Control Act focused on protection of water quality." Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AL) offered an amendment to require the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider the "cumulative economic effects" of critical habitat designations, which was agreed to, 52-42.

The amendment roulette proceeded into the early hours of Friday morning, when the Senate passed its budget resolution before recessing for two weeks (here is the final list of 52 amendments voted on Thursday and Friday, and the results of each vote).

Up Next
House Republicans on Wednesday narrowly passed their Budget Resolution; one that would arguably balance the federal budget in nine years while increasing overseas' war spending, cutting domestic programs and beginning the process of Medicare privatization.  GOP negotiators will now attempt to reconcile the two similar plans with the goal of presenting a unified Republican budget to both chambers for approval sometime in mid-April.  The final Budget Resolution, if passed, is not sent to the President, but provides top-line funding limits within which the House and Senate appropriation committees are to work as they draft fiscal year 2016 spending bills.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • The Senate Agriculture Committee met Monday to consider “the impacts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ‘Waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) rule”
  • Former assistant secretary of Army for Civil Works says proposed water rule could be vulnerable in court
  • Key Senate Democrats seem to be open to delaying controversial EPA-Army Corps' proposed clean water rule (link to Barrasso amendment:
  • In an indication of support, a non-binding Sen. Barrasso amendment limiting the scope of EPA's ‘Waters of the United States’ definition passes Senate 59-40
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sees "major problems" with proposed "Waters of the U.S. rule" (bottom of transcript)
  • After a quarter century, Ohio EPA lifts all "Do Not Eat" fish consumption advisories for the Mahoning River (Ohio River tributary)
  • Now-bankrupt Freedom Industries pleads guilty to three pollution charges related to 2014 spill that contaminated West Virginia river
  • Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission will hold an April 14 public hearing on changing a prohibition of mixing zones for bioaccumulative chemicals of concern
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Army Corps seeks public input on its plans to revise policy relating to eligibility criteria for levee and coastal projects
  • Scientific advisory panel gives green light to Louisiana's continued planning for major lower Mississippi River sediment diversions (see related article below)
  • Opposing opinions on Mississippi River diversions highlight contentious nature of coastal Louisiana master plan
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Urges Integrated Approach By Utilities,
    Mississippi River at Natchez, Mississippi
    Officials to Address Water Issues
  • Corps of Engineers chief says Mississippi River’s infrastructure will need money from a variety of sources
  • NOAA spring outlook: Risk of moderate flooding for parts of central and eastern United States
  • Mississippi River at Natchez is projected to reach flood stage today (Tuesday)
  • Modernizing water infrastructure in the Ohio River Basin
  • United Nations: water consumption practices will cause a 40 percent shortfall in global water supplies in 15 years
  • Supreme Court declines to review Army Corps' Louisiana Clean Water Act jurisdiction case
  • New Madrid flood-control project finds supporters, few foes at Mississippi River Commission New Madrid meeting (related article below)
  • Environmental groups plan to continue urging Clean Water Act veto of planned Southeastern Missouri flood-control project
  • Barge traffic has begun moving again on the Mississippi River in the Quad-City area
  • Project intended to carry Missouri River water to Red River valley to augment local water sources on hold
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduces a bill to modify Corps small-port dredging; story:; bill:
  • FEMA ties state natural disaster mitigation planning to funding
  • Louisiana state legislators are confident they will obtain state/federal funds to raise Mississippi River levee in Tensas Parish
  • Oklahoma cities looking to build low-water dams on the Arkansas River look to wetland mitigation banks as a solution
Agriculture -
  • For the first time this century, Corn Belt farmland cash rents are beginning to recede
    Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media/KUNC
  • “Sustainable agriculture” is a trendy term. It sounds impressive, but what is it?
  • The Atlantic: Farmland without farmers: As industrial agriculture replaces people with machines, the landscape loses its stewards
  • Coast to coast, the topic of U.S. water and agriculture is flooding the conversation in farmland
  • POLITICO analysis shows the total 2014 farm bill package still "bends farm aid downward"
  • U.S. farm groups want the Federal Aviation Administration to relax proposed regulations on commercial drones
  • Organic dairy farming struggles to keep up with demand
  • NPR: Colorado may be poised "to become the Silicon Valley for agriculture in the 21st century"
  • Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) suggests he may introduce legislation to reverse what he calls cover crop disincentives
click to enlarge
Climate and Weather -
  • More Iowa rainfall means six times as many flood events, eroding soil, stripping nutrients, difficult water management
  • NOAA: December 2014 to February 2015 was warmest winter ever recorded worldwide
  • US weekly drought summary: Abnormal dryness, moderate drought in western Dakotas, Minnesota; steady or worsening drought over central Plains
  • The Gulf Stream system may be weakening sooner than anticipated; story: and study:
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
In the Cities -
New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Mayor Roy Buol attends meeting in Washington, DC with Viking River Cruises to discuss possible cruise stop in Dubuque's future
  • World's largest river cruise line wants to make Davenport a tourist destination in 2017
  • Port of New Orleans cargo shipments hit 14-year high in 2014 at 8.37 million tons
  • St. Cloud Times editorial: Costly St. Cloud, Minnesota trail should be tied to vision for the entire Mississippi riverfront
  • Plans move forward on a potential riverfront development along the Mississippi River in Brainerd, Minnesota
In the States-
  • Op-ed: Another stark contrast between Wisconsin and Minnesota governors: The environment
    States in the news this week
  • Grand Forks Herald op-ed: Dayton targets farmers with Minnesota buffer-zone proposal
  • Bill Introduced in Minnesota Legislature to incentivize biomass, biofuels, biobased-chemicals (link to bill:
  • St. Cloud Times op-ed: "Ag runoff needs attention; mandated buffers won't help" (Minnesota)
  • Minnesota state House Ways and Means Committee sets state spending targets cutting into Governor's environmental budget
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency releases plan to protect wild rice from industrial pollution; calls for sediment monitoring
  • Missouri lawmakers pass bill aimed at spurring dairy industry growth; providing insurance subsidies, other incentives
  • Proposed Louisiana DEQ policy change re: focusing resources on highest-priority water bodies open for public comment (link to draft policy:
  • Colorado state lawmakers vote to allow people to store up to 110 gallons of rainwater flowing off their roofs (bill:
  • The top policy issues in the 50 states, according to the reporters who cover them (Washington Post story
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • BP report: Gulf rebounding from Deepwater Horizon explosion, oil spill; government officials, environmentalists: BP results are "cherry-picked"
Resource Development -
  • Obama administration announces new fracking standards requiring companies to disclose chemicals used in natural-gas extraction
  • Algae from clogged waterways could serve as biofuels and fertilizer
Federal Budget -
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)
  • Midwest Biodiversity Institute and Ohio Wetlands Association 2015 Vernal Pool Workshop; March 28, Delaware, OH
  • Registration open: “The Once and Future River: Imagining the Mississippi in an Era of Climate Change” U of MN, April 8-10
  • 10th National Monitoring Conference – Working Together for Clean Water; May 2 - 6, Tampa, Florida
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Gulf Restoration Network March 20 GulfWaves e-newsletter
  • March Missouri Coalition for the Environment update:
  • Green Lands Blue Waters Update on efforts to advance Mississippi River Basin agricultural land Continuous Living Cover
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's March 25 TUWaterWays e-newsletter will be eventually found here:
Other news-
  • Popular weedkiller Roundup's active ingredient glyphosate declared a "probable carcinogen" by World Health Organization
  • Monsanto calls for World Health Organization to retract report calling Roundup ingredient glyphosate a "probable carcinogen"
  • New York Times op-ed (by Mark Bittman) re: glyphosate - "Stop Making Us Guinea Pigs"
  • American Society of Microbiology’s journal mBio study links three widely used herbicides to antibiotic resistance
  • Most federal funding for public transportation, bikeways, pedestrian trails would be eliminated under House bill introduced last week by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY-4):  (link to bill:
  • River farm commodity markets become active as ice dissipates on upper Mississippi River and high water drops on Ohio
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture issues new regulations for its rural business development grant program
  • Three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel orders Army Corps to reevaluate streamlined strip mining permitting process
  • U.S. EPA defends its new rule to address the disposal of coal combustion waste at House hearing (hearing web site:
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee votes 16-5 to create state-focused system to regulate coal combustion waste disposal
  • Obama administration is set to release long-awaited plan to fight spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Politics and People-
  • Former U.S. Rep. Robert Kastenmeier (D) who represented the Wisconsin 2nd District for 32 years, dies at 91
  • Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) announces that he will not seek reelection in 2016
  • Gallup poll: U.S. adults less worried about most environmental problems than they were a year ago, or in the late 1990s-early 2000s
  • Senate budget resolution "vote-a-rama" - A charade with consequences
Your Moment of Zen -
Bettendorf, Iowa Photo Credit: Nicolas Doak

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