Friday, April 17, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week and Next
The week we are about to exit was filled with new water-relevant legislation and regulation, some of which may become final, and many that will likely pass quietly into obscurity. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee moved a bill on to the full House that would require the Obama Administration to re-do its proposed rule clarifying the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction.  And a House Appropriations Subcommittee attached a provision to its Army Corps of Engineers spending bill that would prohibit the Corps from spending money in that rule's implementation.  The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act, and a bill to reauthorize the EPA's National Estuary Program.  The USDA made available its long-anticipated draft Conservation Compliance Interim Final Rule, and announced plans to officially publish the rule next week.  And the U.S. EPA published the first national standards for coal combustion waste disposal, which will become effective in 180 days. Although a bill "improving coal combustion residuals regulation," approved this week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would modify those regulations somewhat.  There are additional links to information about these and other River Basin-related news items, below.

Next week, Congress is again in session, and among other items, will take up potential reforms to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, fracking, funding for and the scope of National Science Foundation research, and Federal Emergency Management Agency funding (you can see the current list of Congressional committee activities here that are relevant to the Mississippi River Basin).

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States

  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passes H.R. 1732-Regulatory Integrity Protection Act on a nearly party-line 36 to 22 vote; would require EPA and Army Corps to withdraw proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, and restart the rulemaking process. Two Democrats, Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY) and Cheri Bustos (IL), joined Republicans voting for the bill. News article:; Link to the committee meeting page:; Link to bill:
  • House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee approves spending bill with provision to prevent the Army Corps from using funds to implement a "Waters of the United States" rule (see Section 105, page 10 of spending bill text
  • At House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing Western states say they were not adequately consulted on Waters of the U.S. proposed rule
  • 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Minnesota property owner can file legal challenge to an Army Corps jurisdictional determination; news article on 8th circuit ruling; second news article - ruling establishes a "split between appellate courts that could reach the Supreme Court" (link to ruling:
Other Water Quality News

  • New “meta-analysis” of existing scientific studies provides clearer picture of poorly-defined
    Photo Credit: Elizabeth Shogren/NPR
    water risks associated with farmland pesticide application  (related news story
  • Des Moines Register editorial: 14 facts to weigh in Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three Iowa counties (graph from editorial:
  • New global study, "The murky future of global water quality," projects rapid deterioration in water quality; Midwestern United States is one of the vulnerable areas
  • Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) seeks public comment on proposed Ohio River water pollution mixing zone changes (related story below)
  • Nonprofits rally together to bring attention to mercury discharges into Ohio River
  • Alleged bias in Illinois River (Oklahoma) phosphorus loading study denied
  • Officials contend that Oklahoma rivers are clearer despite no ruling in ten-year-old poultry waste case
  • Edwards, Mississippi egg producer to pay $900,000 for Clean Water Act violations (nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, Black River tributary)
  • New studies indicate that pavement sealant getting into waterways kills fish, alters DNA long after application
  • PEER protests EPA oil development wastewater disposal permits for Wind River Indian Reservation (Missouri River Basin)
  • Two Tennessee environmental groups file lawsuit in federal court against the Tennessee Valley Authority over coal-ash storage pond groundwater contamination
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Corps of Engineers asks local residents for input on how Little Tallahatchie River reservoir (Mississippi) should be managed
  • Dutch studies: Twitter messages can be used to create real-time flooding maps
  • Water managers from forty states expect to see water shortages in at least some areas in the next decade
  • NWF blog: what else the $165 million New Madrid Floodway project might buy
  • Kentucky Farm Bureau's recently-launched Water Management Working Group looks to address water resource issues, policy
  • Coal barge sinks in Ohio River at Racine Locks and Dam
  • Containerized Cargo Ballet at an Unidentified Port (a mesmerizing robotic video) (perhaps coming soon to a Mississippi River Basin port near you)
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approves H.R. 1471 - FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act, moving bill on to the full House; committee meeting page:; link to bill:
  • In that same markup session (above), the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R. 944 -  a bill to reauthorize the EPA's National Estuary Program; link to bill: (reauthorizes the program at $27 million a year through fiscal year 2020 - an $8 million reduction per year from current levels)
  • Newly-introduced House "Water Rights Protection Act" would forbid Interior and Agriculture departments from conditioning land-use permits on the transfer of private water rights to the federal government; bill: (related story:
Agriculture -
  • Chicago Council on Global Affairs: U.S. needs to revamp agriculture policy to align with nutrition goals
  • USDA reminds farmers to certify conservation compliance by June 1 deadline
  • USDA makes available its draft Conservation Compliance Interim Final Rule (to be published next week in the Federal Register)
  • Researcher contends that Corn Belt commodities-related economic diversity has changed very little since the 1930s
  • USDA designates two more Kansas counties as natural disaster areas due to drought damages and losses (total number now 11)
  • Three major U.S. crop trade groups meet to explore enhancing transparency and communication
  • 79-year-old Salina, Kansas farmer continues his 40-year work on perennial crop-based solutions to soil erosion
  • Farmers, food processors, distributors, lenders, market leaders discuss strategies for expanding local food supplies in Kentucky
  • Agriculture industry is expected to capture as much as 80% of all U.S. commercial drone use
  • Residential and agricultural interests clash over proposed Indiana pig facility
  • New Grist series on the loss of mid-sized farms and what that means for rural America
  • Midwest farmers eager to see end to Cuba embargo by U.S.
  • USDA’s Risk Management Agency: farmers so far have received $8.8 billion in indemnity payments for their 2014 crops
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: some Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota areas improved after rains; minor improvements in Oklahoma, Arkansas, southeast Kansas; South Dakota drought expanded northward
  • Study: climate change will leave the Yellowstone National Park vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires and shrinking snowpack
  • West Virginia's Board of Education amends, then adopts climate change language in newly-approved K-12 science education standards
  • Downpours on upswing: Research finds flooding on the rise in central U.S.
  • EPA releases summary of major climate change-related 2014 accomplishments of EPA's national and regional water programs
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Republican House Natural Resources Committee leaders will back Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization, with changes
  • Center for Biological Diversity files lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service asserting that
    Photo credit: Noel Burkhead, USGS
    FWS has failed to protect four fish found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia waterways (lawsuit:
  • Asian carp "attack" Washington University rowing team at Creve Coeur Lake (Maryland Heights, Missouri)
  • Work on Yellowstone River dam to start this fall in bid to help endangered pallid sturgeon pass upriver
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources' effort to reduce Illinois River Asian carp "shows promise"
In the Cities -
  • Des Moines, Iowa announces intent to participate in the Compact of Mayors: global coalition
    Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Redux
    of mayors and city leaders voluntarily making commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions
  • St. Charles, Missouri purchases Bangert Island for shore-line development, prompting new concerns over long-protected Missouri Riverfront wildlife area
  • New Orleans goes hard-core to combat blight. But can that save the Hurricane Katrina-blighted Lower Ninth Ward?
  • Researchers measured the "happiness" of vulnerable New Orleans residents before and after Hurricane Katrina, and the results are uplifting
  • $26.2M state flood mitigation grant awarded to Burlington, Iowa for flood walls, other barriers along Mississippi River
  • Infusion of state funds and Ohio River bank stabilization will catalyze Owensboro, Kentucky Riverfront redevelopment
  • Chicago city officials: Chicago River plume not sewage - likely a mix of rust, dirt flushed by stormwater runoff surge
  • St. Paul, Minnesota gets EPA grant to plan West Side Flats cleanup (120-acre Mississippi Riverfront site)
  • Saint Cloud Times: St. Cloud's neglected riverfront needs upgrade
  • EPA to host free April 21 webinar on sustainable solutions for Alexandria and Pineville, Louisiana (both bordering the Red River)
  • Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District is closing in on a major wastewater mitigation milestone
In the States-
  • Minnesota state House hearings begin on omnibus agriculture finance bill
  • Work begins on $787 million Minnesota omnibus environment finance bill-contains several 
    States in the news
    controversial provisions
  • In Minnesota, buffer strips are a rallying cry for cleaner water
  • Wisconsin state lawmakers to consider bill that would ban microbeads-plastic exfoliant in personal care products (link to Wisconsin Assembly bill version:
  • WISC editorial: "Banning state employees from talking about climate change is embarrassment" (Wisconsin)
  • Chicago Tribune: Mum's the word on global warming at Wisconsin land agency
  • Missouri Supreme Court upholds limits to damages that property owners can recover in nuisance lawsuits against agricultural operations (ruling overview/summary; link to opinion:
  • Kentucky Division of Water public listening sessions in May will help define any revisions to state's water quality standards
  • Louisiana House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment to take up bill next week approving the 2015-2016 annual plan for integrated coastal protection and restoration (link to plan: House bill:
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection plans three public hearings  on proposed changes to regulations governing oil and gas extraction
  • Indiana DNR Division of Forestry releases Strategic Plan for 2015-2019
  • North Dakota lawmakers pass bill to create pilot project aimed treating and recycling oil drilling waste
  • Landowners claim new Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission water supply and building drilling setback requirement favors energy industry

Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Study: chemical dispersant used in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon accident is more toxic to coral than oil
  • Documentary film trailer released: “Dispatches from the Gulf” - about scientific research to improve ability to understand, respond to, and mitigate the impacts of oil pollution on marine and coastal ecosystems
  • National Geographic News: Is Gulf oil spill's damage over or still unfolding?
Resource Development -
  • EPA vows to address the ongoing uncertainty surrounding ethanol and the renewable fuel
    Click to enlarge
  • $2.6 billion Sandpiper oil pipeline project remains under administrative review in Minnesota as sides debate its necessity (see subsequent update below)
  • Minnesota administrative law judge finds that Enbridge Inc.'s 610-mile Sandpiper project warrants state-issued "certificate of need"
  • Natural gas, solar and wind industry job increases have not occurred in West Virginia and Kentucky, where there were significant coal industry job losses
Federal Budget -
  • House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee approves spending bill setting FY 2016 Army Corps' budget at $5.6 billion ($865 million more than the White House requested); news story:; subcommittee meeting web page:; spending bill text:
  • House GOP and Democratic leaders nominate their eight Budget Committee members (5 Republicans and 3 Democrats)
  • Senate appoints entire Budget Committee roster as conferees to negotiate budget resolution compromise with House
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)
  • Third Minnesota River Congress to be held Thursday, April 16, at Turner Halle in New Ulm
  • EPA’s Second Water Quality Modeling Webinar: “Brick by Brick : How Water Quality Models are Developed” April 23 1:00 PM ET
  • Climate Change and Human Health Symposium; George Washington University, Washington, DC (and online), April 24
  • Spring 2015 Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force Meeting; May 20, Crowne Plaza, Columbus, Ohio and via webcast
  • Ohio River Paddlefest Weekend; June 18-20, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Volunteers sought to clean up, learn about and explore 65 miles of the Wapsipinicon River (Iowa); July 11-16
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 284, April 10
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 285, April 15
  • April 14 Green Lands Blue Waters update highlighting Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy April 15 TU Waterways e-newsletter
  • New University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute podcast series "demystifies" aquifers and watersheds
  • Spring edition of the Army Corps of Engineers “Our Mississippi” magazine
Other news-
  • Knoxville News Sentinel editorial: Tennessee River organizations set example for care of rivers, streams
  • U.S. EPA's first national standards for coal combustion waste disposal became official today (Friday) with their Federal Register publication - the rules become effective in 180 days, and will apply to new and existing coal combustion residuals landfills, surface impoundments and lateral expansions, and require the closure of any landfill or surface impoundment that cannot meet applicable performance criteria
  • House Energy and Commerce Committee approves H.R.1734 - Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act - bill to modify the U.S. EPA's coal ash rule; link to bill; links to Committee meeting page and press release:
  • House Judiciary Committee passes "Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act" - No major regulations would go into effect without congressional approval under the bill
  • Some top Mississippi River Basin state exports for 2014 (based on Washington Post article and Obama Administration report
  • EPA official: House proposal to reform US toxic chemical laws could “delay evaluations for some of the most dangerous chemicals indefinitely”
  • U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization: Over-consumption, climate change threaten food security, water supply in many regions
Politics and People-
  • Illinois State Senator Darin LaHood says he will "fight in Washington to keep river traffic a priority" as U.S. representative
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D) signals stronger interest in 2016 West Virginia governor run
  • National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) names Jeremy Peters as its new Chief Executive Officer
  • Center for American Progress: over 30 percent of 2014 Congressional roll call votes have been energy- and environment-related, most of those in the House have been aimed at blocking climate change efforts
  • Gallup poll: 48% of U.S. adults think government is doing too little when it comes to safeguarding the environment
Your Moment of Zen -
Image credit: Geneco

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