Friday, May 1, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Water Policy and Money Mix on Capitol Hill
The House began debating H.R. 2028, its fiscal year 2016, $34.5 billion energy and water spending bill, on Wednesday, and soon thereafter considered two amendments offered to remove provisions in the spending bill blocking changes to the way the Clean Water Act is implemented. One amendment would have removed a spending bill provision barring the Obama Administration from changing the definition of fill material under the Clean Water Act. A second amendment sought to remove a provision that effectively blocks the Army Corps from using funds to implement the proposed "Waters of the United States" rule or related guidance. Both amendments were defeated on a voice vote.  Numerous other amendments (see a full list here) were considered (and a majority were passed) by the House late Wednesday and Thursday.  Several of those amendments increased spending lines for Army Corps construction, operation and maintenance, and investigations beyond the levels included in the Committee-passed measure. One prohibits the use of funds for the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Program, and one reduces funding for the Corps' Regulatory Program by $424,000. The House is scheduled to complete consideration of the spending bill today (Friday), with passage expected.

One Waters of the United States Bills Introduced; One Delayed
At a Thursday morning press conference, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Sens. Inhofe (right) and Barrasso (left) introducing 
Senate bill blocking "Waters of the U.S." rule
members announced the introduction of a bill from Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).  The bill, S. 1140, the "Federal Water Quality Protection Act," would block implementation of the Obama Administration's proposed Waters of the United States rule.

Just the day before, the Administration issued a veto threat for a companion House bill (H.R. 1732) that would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the current proposal within 30 days and then within three months to consult with state and local officials on the issue. H.R. 1732, the "Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015," was initially on the House schedule for this week, but floor action has now been delayed until after next week's House recess.

Senate-House Conference Budget Plan Passed by House
The House on Thursday passed a joint House-Senate budget conference plan that aims to balance the federal budget within 10 years by cutting over $5 trillion in spending over the next decade, including $496 billion in discretionary funding for domestic programs, and $4.2 trillion in mandatory spending. The GOP-crafted budget would limit appropriators to using only $19 billion for making changes to mandatory programs (known as "CHIMPS") during fiscal years 2016 and 2017 (mandatory farm bill conservation programs, for example, have often been subject to "CHIMPing").  For fiscal year 2016, the plan sticks to a $1.017 trillion discretionary budget cap set in a 2011 budget compromise, although it would circumvent that deal's defense spending cap by increasing a so-called war fund to around $96 billion.  A Senate vote is expected next week.  To see what else the Senate has on tap for next week relating to Mississippi River Basin's water resources, see here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  
Water Quality -
  • Des Moines Water Works taps into groundwater source as river source nitrate levels exceed federal regulations
  • Senate opponents of water rule drafted "Federal Water Quality Protection Act" with goal of attracting moderate Democrats
  • New Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report reaffirms agricultural and urban runoff as
    Photo: MPCA
    significant contributors to waterways' impairment; news release: (also see MPR News:
  • Congressional Budget Office: House legislation killing Obama administration's controversial waters of the U.S.  rule would cost about $5 million
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health to explore possible national ban on microbeads this Friday
  • Indianapolis Nature Conservancy office's stormwater system demonstrates best practices in rainwater harvesting, filtration
  • Minnesota sewer facilities are aging; expected to cost over one billion dollars in state revolving loan funds to update (statewide clean water project priority list:
  • Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission administrator: people should still care about the Illinois River; despite pollution progress, problems remain
  • Three million gallons of sewage released into Kansas River after Topeka pump station power outage and backup generator failure (related story below, under "In the Cities")
  • States remain concerned about forthcoming coal mining, stream protection rule direction and their involvement after meeting with EPA
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Plan to divert Canadian water south into the Columbia, Missouri, Mississippi and Colorado River systems is being discussed anew
  • Corps of Engineers grants permit for controversial second track through the La Crosse River
    Photo: Peter Thomson, LaCrosse Tribune
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory report: U.S. has over 77 gigawatts in undeveloped hydropower potential; two-thirds of which is concentrated at 100 sites, mostly owned by the USACE and located on the Ohio, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas rivers
  • U.S. Transportation Department designates three new Marine Highway Projects, including Mississippi and Illinois Rivers' container-on-barge service
  • New House Republican bill would streamline the licensing process for nonfederal hydropower projects
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources accepting public comments on Statewide Groundwater Restoration Plan (plan:
  • The Oklahoman editorial: Arkansas River basin study should be of keen interest to Oklahoma policymakers
  • Judge rejects federal request to delay Hurricane Katrina flood damages' lawsuit settlement conference
  • Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee coordinator: partner collaboration has been key to lower Mississippi River health rebound
  • NRDC: Three reasons why new federal flood protection standards are a good idea
Agriculture -
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service extends deadline to  comment on Agricultural Conservation Easement Program interim rule until May 28
  • Newly-introduced "Flexibility to Farm Act" would allow states to opt out of Federal
    Click to enlarge
    regulations that pose "a significant adverse effect" on agriculture operations; bill: and story:
  • Department of Justice won't challenge a federal court ruling that USDA and SBA violated environmental laws in providing loans to large hog farm in northwest Arkansas
  • Federal economist uses land records, Census data, satellite images to estimate continental US, each state's land value (see chart to right)
  • Environmental Working Group report: "Boondoggle: 'Prevented Planting' Insurance Plows Up Wetlands, Wastes $ Billions" (PDF file) Related article: Group blasts prevented planting insurance in Prairie Pothole region
  • Dynasty Trust succession-planning strategy enables families in some cases to keep farm operations within their bloodline
Climate and Weather -
  • US weekly drought update: severe drought plaguing the West and High Plains continued to expand into Minnesota; dryness eased in Tennessee, Iowa and Illinois
  • NWS Monthly Drought Outlook for May: outlook for the Plains states and Midwest is uncertain with improvement less likely in the north and across Upper Mississippi Valley
  • New study links weather extremes to climate change; news coverage: (study:
  • New study finds that the U.S. experienced a hurricane "drought" over the last nine years
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment for Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge (Louisiana) available for public review/comment
  • Ecological Monographs paper: "Fragmentation and dewatering transform Great Plains stream fish communities" story: (link to abstract:
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee research: Male minnows exposed diabetes drug ubiquitous in wastewater effluent feminizes and impacts fertility of male fish
  • USDA confirms that highly pathogenic H5N2 virus is present in Kentucky wild birds within the Mississippi Flyway
  • Twenty Mississippi River paddlefish being fitted with transmitters to track them, better understand population dynamics
  • Snake lovers visit Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois for annual reptilian migrations
  • North American Bird Conservation Initiative released its 2014 Farm Bill Field Guide to Fish and Wildlife Conservation this week
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates critical habitat for two freshwater mussel species: the Neosho mucket (483 river miles in  Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma) and rabbitsfoot (1,437 river miles in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee) Federal Register notice: (related story below)
  • Critical habitat area for two types of freshwater mussels is smaller than originally proposed by Fish and Wildlife Service
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: "Healthy Prairies Mean Healthy Monarchs; Welcoming Fire Back to the Landscape"
  • House Republicans introduce new legislation seeking to reshape Endangered Species Act
In the Cities -
  • America’s atomic legacy still haunts St. Louis area, including Coldwater Creek and its floodplain (Missouri River tributary)
  • Obama Administration announces eight additional "promise zones" to build community 
    Photo: Ryan Schuessler
    prosperity; including Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and  St. Louis/St. Louis County in the Mississippi River Basin
  • Town of Wyoming, Minnesota is taking legal action against six makers of "flushable" wipes over clogged sewers
  • Vicksburg's Mississippi Riverfront Park erosion problems mount; could lead to park relocation
  • Opposition expected against proposed Kansas City, Missouri ordinance requiring large building owners to measure, disclose water and energy use
  • Lawrence, Kansas taking precautions to protect drinking water after Topeka sewage leaks into Kansas River
  • Bass Pro Shops opens megastore, tourist destination in Memphis Pyramid
  • Whistleblower lawsuit alleges that Leavenworth, Kansas defrauded FEMA over flood payments, illegally dumped sewage
  • POLITICO: "Mayors to Washington: Do something" - workforce education, crumbling infrastructure top mayors' wish list
In the States-
  • Minnesota House passes $787 million omnibus environment finance bill, would create 
    States in the News
    independent peer review of some water quality standards, legislative approval of others (45 environmental and conservation groups line up against "dirty water" provisions of the bill
  • Minnesota state House passes legacy fund bill providing $540 million for environment, arts, parks, trails, other state resources
  • Iowa House and Senate subcommittees advance bills limiting use of eminent domain on pipeline and transmission projects
  • Oklahoma House passes bill calling for statewide vote on whether right to farm, ranch shall be "forever guaranteed" (link to bill:
  • North Dakota State Water Commission budget will provide $4 million for Bismarck area flood levee projects
  • Pennsylvania rejects oil and gas association call to remove four members from DEP oil and gas policy advisory board
  • State senator angered over recent Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission wastewater decision proposes studying Commission's dissolution
  • Texas bill would scale back process allowing the public to challenge industrial applications for environmental permits
Photo: NASA
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • New website allows visitors to see where Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill restoration projects are taking place
  • Geological Society of America: Engineering a better future for the Mississippi Delta depends on accurate estimates of current subsidence rate
Resource Development -
  • Trout Unlimited says proposed Tintina Resources' Montana copper mine project could harm trout-spawning Smith River tributary (Missouri River Basin)
  • Risks to rivers are a concern leading into public meeting on Enbridge Energy plan to increase oil flow through Wisconsin pipeline
  • South Dakota Public Utility Commission postpones decision on renewing expired Keystone XL pipeline permit
  • Oklahoma Geological Survey scientists suspected oil and gas activity-earthquake link as early as 2007; kept quiet to avoid upsetting industry
  • Big Ox Energy begins construction of $30 million, South Sioux City anaerobic digestion plant that will convert ag-food organic waste into methane
  • Environmental group Appalachian Voices  releases new online mapping tool in fight against mountaintop mining
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
  • Free Stroud Water Research Center webinar: Tips for Success in Establishing and Maintaining Forested Stream Buffers; May 5, 12 pm ET
  • USEPA Webcast: Getting More Green for your Stormwater Infrastructure; May 5, 1 pm – 2:30 pm EDT
  • Dialogue for Agricultural Policies in the Americas, Washington, DC, May 6, 11 am-1 pm (streaming live here:
  • Mississippi River Forum, May 8, 8:30 AM-12:30 PM CT, Science Museum of Minnesota, 120 West Kellogg Boulevard, Saint Paul, MN (agenda:
  • EPA public meeting on potential state and public water system actions to prepare for and respond to cyanotoxin health risks in drinking water; May 11, Arlington, Virginia or online via webinar
  • Public meeting: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Technical Mapping Advisory Council; May 12–13, Reston, Virginia (related to flood mapping in support of the National Flood Insurance Program)
  • EPA Webinar: “Interpreting and Using Water Quality Models,” June 3, 1 pm Eastern
  • Annual cooperative Water and Natural Resources Tour; Republican River Basin; Nebraska, Colorado, June 23-25
  • Tribal Lands and Environment Forum, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, August 17-20; Call for Proposals open
  • Annual Meetings of the Entomological Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America co-located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 15-18
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Book jackets :The James (1939), Lower Mississippi (1942),
and The French Broad (1955)
  • J of Freshwater Biology Special Issue: Synthesizing Ecosystem-Level Effects of Consumer- Driven Nutrient Dynamics in Fresh Waters
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Library features new digital exhibit  celebrating the Rivers of America series of books
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's April 29 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers April "News and Views"
  • Green Lands Blue Waters April 30 e-newsletter on efforts to advance Mississippi River Basin agricultural land continuous living cover
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Watershed Connections - April 2015
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment's spring 2015 newsletter; "The Alert"
Other news-
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passes S. 544, Secret Science Reform Act by 11-9 vote; Committee Press Release: (link to bill: (also see two related items below)
  • White House threatens to veto Secret Science Reform Act  
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passes GOP bill targeting "secret science" underlying USEPA regulations
  • DOT gears up for Friday release of rule strengthening tank car and operating standards for trains carrying crude oil
  • U.S. ports see costly delays as cargo ships and volumes grow
Politics and People-
  • Rep. Betty McCollum wins Sen. Al Franken's 5th Annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish
    Annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition
    Competition with "Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Wild Rice Hotdish"
  • US EPA invites nominations for its Science Advisory Board (nomination deadline May 27)
  • Pew Research Center: Conservatives are among the most politically active Americans
  • Indiana Gov. Mike Pence indicates he is more broad-minded about climate change, although he remains skeptical
  • Democratic New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announces he won't run for governor
  • Jay Martin hired as Director of Ohio State University "Field to Faucet" water quality program (program to ensure safe drinking water, maintain agricultural productivity in the state)
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Dave Haylock/REX Shutterstock

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