Friday, April 10, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Three Mississippi River Basin Waterways listed by American Rivers as "Most Endangered Rivers"
Photo credit: Brian Stansberry
This week the river conservation organization American Rivers released its annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers list, a report that highlights "ten rivers facing urgent threats, and encourages decision-makers to do the right thing for the rivers and communities they support."  In the Mississippi River Basin, the Smith River (in Montana), and Holston and Harpeth rivers (both in Tennessee) were highlighted among the top-ten threatened rivers. The Colorado River once again topped the organization's list.  Follow the above link to see summaries for all ten rivers, and see our overview here, highlighting the three listed rivers in the Mississippi River Basin.

USDA Makes $10 Million in Grants Available for Rural and Agricultural Watershed Research
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced Tuesday that fourteen universities will receive about $10 million in competitive grants to address what NIFA calls "critical water problems in rural and agricultural watersheds across the United States."  The grants are from proposals submitted during fiscal year 2014. Grant recipients in the Mississippi River Basin include Purdue University, the University of Missouri, Ohio State University, the University of Tennessee and the University of Wisconsin. You can find a complete list of the 2014 project descriptions here.  On February 18, the USDA opened the application process for fiscal year 2015.  The application deadline for those grants is July 16.

USDA Funding to Address Mississippi River Basin Nutrient Pollution
High-priority watersheds
(click to enlarge)
Also on Tuesday, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that it would commit $100 million over the next four years to address Mississippi River Basin nutrient pollution under the agency's Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (also known as "MRBI"). NRCS announced that $10 million will be targeted this year toward 27 new projects and thirteen existing projects located in "high-priority watersheds" and mitigate nutrient-containing farm runoff into River Basin waters. The states where funding will be directed for new and existing projects include Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The USDA press announcement is located here, and the full list of existing and new MRBI projects can be found here.  NRCS created the MRBI in 2010 to improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat within selected watersheds of a 13-state area in the Mississippi River Basin.  In February, 2015, NRCS launched a second phase of the MRBI.

What's Next
The U.S. Congress returns to a full workload next week following a two week spring recess, and if you follow this link, you can find a listing of and connect to Congressional activities scheduled for the week that relate to Mississippi River Basin water issues.  Budget negotiators attempt to craft a consensus Budget Resolution that reconciles differences between the House and Senate versions. A Senate-House conference committee could begin its work on a compromise budget as early as next week. The final Budget Resolution, if passed, is not signed by the President, but provides top-line funding limits within which the House and Senate appropriation committees are to work as they draft their fiscal year 2016 spending bills.  House and Senate appropriators are already drafting spending bills for the 2016 fiscal year, and will continue that work next week (expect to see the first of those later in the month).

And with only four of the 31 Mississippi River Basin states having enacted budgets for their respective 2016 fiscal years, it's likely that budget-negotiating will be occurring in most of the Basin's statehouses over the next weeks, as well. For example, Minnesota's House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee next week will be debating, hearing public testimony on, and marking up an omnibus spending bill "appropriating money for agriculture, environment, and natural resources."

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • Appeals court orders federal judge to reconsider 2013 ruling that EPA must decide whether more stringent rules are needed to curb nutrients flowing into the Mississippi River (link to the appeals court ruling: (related stories below)
  • Appeals court: U.S. EPA deserves significant deference in deciding whether to set Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" - related water quality standards
  • Natural Resources Defense Council says appeals court ruling on EPA 'dead zone' strategy not all bad news
  • NOAA, federal partners design ‘early warning system’ for freshwater toxic algal blooms (also see: NASA joins with EPA, NOAA and USGS in new $3.6 million effort to put satellite eyes on U.S. harmful freshwater algal blooms
  • Environmental groups sue Patriot Coal Corp. in federal court over alleged "widespread water pollution" from West Virginia operations
  • Three northwest Iowa counties sued by Des Moines Water Works seeking legal allies; Sierra Club may intervene on Water Works behalf
  • EPA Region 7 settles with Jefferson County, Missouri, property owner to resolve Clean Water Act violations
  • Ship hits 2 others on Mississippi River in Louisiana; 420 gallons of oil spill; nine-mile stretch of waterway closed
  • Small Mississippi River oil leak Thursday prompts Moline, Illinois to monitor drinking water plant intake
  • University of Michigan Professor of Sustainability: Industrial corn farming is ruining our health and polluting our watersheds
  • Environmental Protection Agency proposes ban on publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities taking untreated unconventional oil and gas waste fluids (Federal Register notice:
  • Hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage could get into Ohio River before the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District fully repairs treatment plant
Waters of the U.S. Proposed Rule
  • U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers send final clean water act jurisdiction rule to White
    House for review
  • EPA sends proposed rule redefining extent of its authority over water pollution control to the White House; story: and EPA blog post:
  • EPA Administrator McCarthy lauds Twin Cities' drinking water solutions, rallies support for proposed federal clean water rule
  • Minnesota Farmers Union leaders meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to discuss rule defining Waters of the U.S.
  • Witnesses blast proposed new federal waters of the U.S. rule during Senate subcommittee field hearing in Alaska
  • Chairmen of three House committees seek U.S. EPA's documents on controversial clean water act jurisdiction rule
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • American Rivers issues 2015 America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, list includes Smith, Holston and Harpeth rivers in Mississippi River Basin
  • Proposed copper mine puts Smith River on American Rivers' list of most endangered rivers for 2015
  • Despite White House proposed cuts, appropriators look to provide lock and dam money, while inland shippers seek to capitalize on a movement to solve waterways infrastructure problems
  • Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear declares statewide emergency following heavy rains and
    Bonnet Carre Spillway
  • First round of new, higher federal flood insurance premiums kicks in
  • Army Corps of Engineers holds Missouri River conditions and operations meeting in Pierre on 2015 plans for managing Missouri River reservoir system
  • Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources announces $2.2 million in June 2014 flood recovery grants to 17 counties
  • With Mississippi River water levels rising, Army Corps of Engineers prepares to test the Bonnet Carre Spillway next week (St. Charles Parish, Louisiana)
  • Army Corps of Engineers decreases annual runoff forecast for Missouri River Basin above Sioux City, Iowa due to below normal mountain snowpack
  • Environmental Law Reporter: Addressing Affordability and Long-Term Resiliency Through the National Flood Insurance Program; article:  (abstract:
  • National Research Council releases report on affordability of flood insurance to provide input to FEMA’s affordability framework
  • Public comments sought on final Northwest Area Water Supply environmental study (project to supply Missouri River water to Northwest North Dakota)
  • USDA: $73 million to be spent this year rehabilitating and assessing dams in 23 states, including Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming
  • Study: Minnesota converted most wetlands between 2008-2012
  • Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR-3): Intermodal transportation, linking Arkansas River water, rail and truck routes, is vital
  • South Platte River Basin Roundtable presents their basin implementation plan, detailing long-term regional water priorities at Longmont meeting (pages 3-5)
Agriculture -
  • Bracing for their leanest season in eight years, U.S. farmers are skimping on everything from
    Click to enlarge
    machinery to fertilizers
  • EPA approves Enlist Duo herbicide (glyphosate and 2,4-D choline) for use in additional Mississippi River Basin states
  • USDA to provide $332 million to protect and restore agricultural working lands, grasslands and wetlands
  • University of Wisconsin study: conversion to cropland outstripping conservation - 7.34 million acres of uncultivated land were converted to cropland between 2008 and 2012
  • Iowa soybean acres expected to top 10 million for first time since 2006; Nationally, record 84.6 million acres predicted
  • Farm Futures: "Chesapeake Bay ag authorities and farmers alert Illinois Soybean Association farmers of EPA's regulatory implications for the Midwest"
  • Big feedlots feed big worries in southern Minnesota
  • Drainage water management in Illinois can provide greater control over water; allow for surface water until April for migrating birds
  • USDA:  nearly 2,700 applicants will receive disaster assistance through Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program
  • National Research Council: more research needed on ways to improve productivity, lessen economic and environmental impacts of livestock farming
  • 2015 Locavore Index ranks states most committed to locally-sourced food (two River Basin states make top ten: Wisconsin #6; Montana #7)
  • Monsanto's Climate Corporation claims its analyses help farmers make more efficient decisions about seed, water use and fertilizer
  • "Mo Fo Lo Po" - more food, low pollution - is goal of science, industry, farm, government and NGO group working under NSF grant
Climate and Weather -
  • PNAS: global climate change disturbs continental margin ecosystems; commits them to
    NOAA Midwest Drought Update
    millennia of ecological recovery
  • US weekly drought update: northern part of the Midwest remained dry, with dryness expanding in northern Indiana and into west-central Illinois; winds and warmer than average temperatures added short-term insult to long-term Southern Plains drought
  • White House Fact Sheet: Obama Administration Announces Actions To Protect Communities From The Impacts Of Climate Change
  • How Midwest farmers perceive and respond to extreme weather brought on by climate change varies considerably
  • Day-long "Farmers Lead the Way" meeting highlights how Upper Midwest climate shifts are changing the way people farm
  • National Weather Service hurricane-prediction program funding cut by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Photo credit: Pete Pattavina/USFWS
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • MN DNR: Watch the Minnesota skies for American white pelicans migrating northward to prairie pothole region
  • US EPA is restricting new products, uses of neonicotinoid pesticides blamed for declines in bee populations
  • Fish and Wildlife Service lists the northern long-eared bat as "threatened" under Endangered Species Act
  • Fish and Wildlife Service proposes that two rare species of Appalachian crayfish be added to federal endangered species list (Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia)
  • Work begins to return herons to Heron Island in Minneapolis
  • First wild bison born in Illinois (Nachusa Grasslands) in about two centuries
  • Rare moose sightings reported near the North Platte River Valley along the Nebraska Panhandle
  • The neonicotinoid insecticide clothianidin is a likely contributor to monarch butterfly declines in North America
In the Cities -
  • Federal judge approves consent decree requiring Fort Smith to make nearly $500 million in sewer system improvements (Arkansas River) (Fort Smith city directors then voted Tuesday to increase sewer rates by 60 percent
  • FEMA awards $186,801 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds to Nelsonville, Ohio, for the acquisition and demolition of residential structures in the Hocking River floodplain (Ohio River Basin)
  • Adrian, Minnesota's nitrate-contaminated water highlights a larger problem for Minnesota
  • St. Louis and Grafton mayors meet with Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and barge industry to discuss boosting region’s ability to ship more goods on the Mississippi River
In the States-
  • Public comment period open for proposed, more stringent changes to Pennsylvania oil and gas
    States in the news this week
    industry regulations
  • MPR: Legislation supporting agribusiness and industry moves through Minnesota's House and Senate with Republicans back into the majority
  • Inclusion of environmental and consumer experts on Minnesota board proposed to oversee new agricultural research grants being discussed by legislators
  • Hundreds of millions more sought for clean water efforts as Minnesota House committee discusses appropriations bill (bill:
  • Minnesota Governor Dayton hears from both sides at Northfield stream buffer meeting
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial: Walker's budget taking Wisconsin in wrong direction on runoff pollution
  • Wisconsin state Board of Commissioners of Public Lands enacts ban on staff communication on climate change
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources administrators considering eliminating the agency’s Bureau of Science Service
  • Iowa Environmental Protection Commission will address water quality monitoring contracts at April 14 meeting
  • Kansas Senate and House budget negotiators agree to restore cuts, including nearly $1 million proposed for Cooperative Extension, agricultural research, wetland center
  • Oklahoma farm rights bill would amend state's Constitution; parties disagree on whether it would meet intent of protecting state farming, ranching practices
  • Kentucky Nonpoint Source (NPS) Pollution Control Program grants available; proposals due by May 15
  • South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks launches new website to inform anglers, boaters about new statewide aquatic invasive species rules
  • Forty-six states will begin the fiscal year 2016 on July 1. As of March 31, seven states have enacted budgets for that fiscal year, including Kentucky, West Virginia, South Dakota and Wyoming in the Mississippi River Basin
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Mapping Louisiana's Gulf Coast: As more and more land washes away, "it will all just be the Gulf soon, it seems"
  • Plaquemines Parish moves ahead with plans to restore island that nearly vanished after oil BP oil disaster
Forestry -
  • USDA NRCS and Forest Service accepting applications for the Missouri Ozark Highlands Restoration Partnership
Resource Development -
  • Oil boom and bust in North Dakota has trapped people, with little hope of work or escape
Federal Budget -
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy sets April GOP agenda in memo to members; Energy and Water Development spending bill, which funds the Department of Energy, Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers, will be the second spending bill on the docket
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)
  • Love the Mississippi River during Earth Month (April) with various activities at national, state and local parks
  • St. Croix River Association's Spring Events e-newsletter (April 8 - May 3
  • Midstates Community and Economic Development Conference: joint rural development project of 12 Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota organizations; April 9; South Sioux City, Neb.
  • Monthly Iowa Learning Farms webinar to focus on focus on Iowa State University prairie strip research April 15, 1 PM CDT (link to log on:
  • Roundtable: The Energy-Water-Food Nexus: Risks and Opportunities for the Private Sector; Washington, D.C. April 17, 1-3:30 PM
  • Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance Webinar: Square Peg, Round Hole: Maximizing Conservation in a Flood-Insurance Construct, May 5, 3 PM EDT
  • Upper Mississippi River meetings (UMRBA and UMRR Coordinating Committee), May 5-6, St. Louis, Missouri and
  • NOAA webinar: Water Hazards and Community Resilience, June 4, 1- 2 PM EDT
  • Upper Mississippi River Conference Call for Presenters, October 14-16, 2015
From: NW PAssages
(click to enlarge)
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center requests proposals for research projects utilizing center's mesocosms (East Alton, Illinois)
  • Four Western Pennsylvania environmental, conservation and education programs share annual environmental awards
  • Corps of Engineers is hiring interdisciplinary scientists (Biologist, Ecologist, Wildlife Biologist or Fish Biologist) in Rock Island and St. Louis Districts
  • Organizations announce South Dakota finalists for the 2013 Leopold Conservation Award
  • Living Lands and Waters Tennessee River Tour barges stop at Knoxville to host educational workshops, river cleanups
Politics and People-
  • Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) announces late August special election window to select successor to ex-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL-18)
  • FEMA Region 6 Office new Deputy Administrator: Moises Dugan (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas)
  • West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) says that he will decide whether to run for governor no later than Memorial Day
  • House Appropriations Chairman announces vice chairs for the 12 subcommittees that will soon begin writing annual spending bills
  • Top mining company official was in line for Wisconsin DNR post, records confirm
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/AFP/Getty Images

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