Friday, May 8, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
It's a Budget!
For the first time since the 2010 fiscal year, both chambers of the U.S. Congress agreed on the same budget. On Tuesday,
the Senate passed a nonbinding budget conference report (S.Con.Res. 11) on a 51-48 vote (every Senate Democrat and two Republicans voted against the budget). The House passed the budget conference agreement last Friday before taking this week off. Next, the House and Senate Budget committees will use the resolution's budget framework to establish guidelines for each chamber's twelve Appropriations subcommittees to follow in crafting the 2016 fiscal year's spending bills. Recall that the House last week passed its fiscal year 2016, $34.5 billion energy and water appropriations bill, the first spending bill out of that chamber this year.

Appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over funding for Federal departments and agencies that manage key Mississippi River Basin programs, and links to their web pages are:
  • Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (USDA, except the U.S. Forest Service) (Senate and House web pages) 
  • Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies (Army Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior-Bureau of Reclamation) (Senate and House web pages)
  • Homeland Security (Department of Homeland Security, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency) (Senate and House web pages) 
  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (USEPA; U.S. Forest Service; Department of the Interior, except Bureau of Reclamation and Central Utah Project) (Senate and House web pages)
You can track the status of and link to each House and Senate subcommittee spending bill for the next fiscal year at this web site.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States Issue
  • Spending bill that would block Army Corps' WOTUS rule implementation passes House but with less than a veto-proof majority
  • Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's House agenda for week of May 11  includes WOTUS-blocking bill (H.R. 1732
  • NRDC and NWF launch Waters of the U.S. ad campaigns aimed at swaying Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); NRDC Minneapolis Star Tribune ad: and NWF radio ad: (Also see this related E&E Greenwire article re: ad campaigns aimed at influencing Sens. Casey (D-PA) and Klobuchar (D-MN)
Other Water Quality News
  • USDA economist: USDA must reframe how it implements voluntary conservation programs to effectively address water quality issues
  • Lawmakers and industry representatives back plan for federal phaseout of microbead plastic particles
  • Capitol Hill briefing recap: "Nutrient Trading – Can it Help Make the Lake Less Green?"
  • West Virginia DEP says new Freedom Industries liquidation plan would shortchange 2014 chemical spill site cleanup
  • Whitewater River (Indiana) shows little impact from Sunday fertilizer spill (no elevated ammonia; "only a few dead fish")
  • Oasis Petroleum notifies North Dakota officials of oil production products' spill near Smishek Lake (White Earth River) (also see: "significant" 63,000-gallon brine spill enters North Dakota lake
  • Public comment sought on Wisconsin point source phosphorus discharge multi-discharger variance concept
  • EPA issues health advisory values that states and utilities can use to protect consumers from elevated levels of algal toxins in drinking water (see related story, below)
  • New EPA cyanobacterial microcystin advisory differs from WHO recommendation, leading to officials’ questions
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
Photo: Vincent Laforet/New York Times
  • Wildlife Mississippi sign-on letter to Army Corps' supports findings and approach of draft Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment (link to draft Assessment here:
  • Missouri River runoff half of average in April; a result of lack of Plains snowpack and below average Dakotas' precipitation
  • Sens. Vitter and Cassidy (R-La.) hold New Orleans field hearing on flood insurance rate impacts on small businesses and economic growth 
  • New Federal Emergency Management Agency policy requiring states to address climate change before they can become eligible for grant funding is drawing fire from congressional Republicans (see related article below)
  • Senators Vitter and Cassidy (R-La.) want FEMA to drop new rule's linkage of mitigation grants to climate change action
  • Supporters ask for $48 million in Minnesota bonding money this year for project to carry Missouri River water to Iowa, South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota
  • Judge rules that federal government must pay for Hurricane Katrina damage due to Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet's role in amplifying storm surge (see related article, below)
  • Federal judge rules that federal government must pay for some of the flood damage from Hurricane Katrina and subsequent storms (see ruling here:
  • Advocates highlight need for large, Mississippi River diversions as part of Louisiana’s coastal restoration plan
  • "Steady progress" continues at the site of the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project (Des Moines River)
  • USGS report: aquifer recharge from Little Arkansas River likely slowing advance of Equus Beds salt plume toward Wichita water supply wells
  • Arkansas River communities' engineers release report describing project, estimating costs for several low-water dams
  • El Paso County's flood mitigation project on its way to Colorado Governor's desk, after months of controversy (Arkansas River)
  • In wake of tornadoes, flood warnings issued for Oklahoma, Nebraska, Louisiana streams, Mississippi River
  • New Ceres report ranks food companies on water risk management; to encourage companies, shareholders to protect waterways
  • Brookings paper on financing transportation infrastructure calls on Army Corps of Engineers to carry out high-priority projects funded by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund's surplus
Agriculture -
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) issues new conservation practice standards, updating the National Handbook of Conservation Practices.  Changes go into effect immediately (also see National Conservation Practice Standards web site)
  • USDA makes $235 million available for farm and ranch conservation through Regional Conservation Partnership Program (pre-proposals due July 8) (also see this AgriPulse article:
  • University of Illinois agricultural economist provides an overview of USDA's revised conservation compliance regulation
  • Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory: study linking U.S. biofuel policies to the loss of grasslands lacked statistical proof (original article that DOE commented on:
  • Colorado embarks on federally-backed $3.4 million water efficiency project tapping irrigation water to generate electricity
  • Kentucky's hemp production is expected to surpass 1,700 acres this year
  • Op-ed: Management Of Resources Is Important To A Farmer’s Image
  • What farm cooperatives can do for the food system and farmers
Photo source: NOAA (click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • NOAA: in April for the first time, the ppm of atmospheric CO2 were over 400 globally for a month (story:
  • Obama administration convenes local and state leaders and experts to encourage infrastructure planning incorporating climate change preparation
  • US drought update: abnormal dryness expands into Missouri, northwestern Iowa; drought expands in Minnesota; the week's Plains rains fell outside most primary drought areas
  • NOAA: U.S. planting zones "have shifted ever so subtly over the past few decades in response to warming climate"
  • Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub publishes "Regional Vulnerability Assessment" encompassing Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado; press release: (assessment:
Photo credit: Creative Commons
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Western Minnesota Cooper's hawk is first wild bird in the state to test positive for H5N2 virus
  • Invasive Emerald ash borer regulated area expands in Minnesota with the addition of Dakota County
  • Minnesota invasive-species research center under fire for not doing enough
  • Anglers confirm that Missouri state-endangered lake sturgeon are reproducing in the Mississippi River
  • Four Tennessee groups file suit in Federal District Court to protect threatened blackside dace from strip mining
  • Tamarisks once used to stabilize riverbanks and to provide Plains windbreaks has become a pervasive, water guzzling, invasive
  • Over reliance by farmers on glyphosate for weed control is leading to more resistant weeds; problem bigger in soybean production
  • Fish and Wildlife Service proposes new Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge comprehensive conservation plan
  • Lesser prairie Chicken has lost over 80 % of its range to oil and gas, wind energy sector development
  • Wisconsin wildlife officials considering BNSF Railway request to construct La Crosse River marsh railroad line during endangered black tern nesting season
In the Cities -
  • Advocate for sustainable Pittsburgh riverfront development pushes for improvements to Allegheny River trail
  • Washington, Missouri poised to buy land on Missouri Riverfront for trail extension
  • A multi-million dollar green space project is under construction along the Ohio River in Newport, Kentucky
  • Des Moines advances plans for rail port transloading facility
In the States-
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial: Don't backpedal on Minnesota Gov. Dayton's "buffer
    States in the news this week
    strips" bill
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune op-ed decries "massive finger-pointing campaign against (Minnesota) farmers"
  • Winona Daily News op-ed:  proposal to require Minnesota stream buffer strips is one of state's most important conservation initiatives in decades
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he's not about to relent on plan requiring farmers to leave more space between cropland and sensitive waterways
  • Bill banning the sale of soaps and other personal care products containing plastic microbeads passes the Minnesota Senate
  • Cost of complying with new Wisconsin phosphorus-reduction water quality regulations could be more than $7 billion over 20 years
  • Missouri House of Representatives passes H.B. 479; would stop release of farmers' and ranchers' private information to the public (link to bill:
  • Nebraska counties looking to expand livestock operations could receive planning and infrastructure funding under state senate bill (link to bill:
  • Environmental groups, including Save the Illinois River, express concern about the reach of upcoming Oklahoma “Right to Farm” amendment ballot measure
  • Colorado enacts law promoting water conservation in the land use planning process
  • Pennsylvania House votes to cut their own ranks from 203 to 151, and to reduce the Senate from 50 to 37
  • Forty-six states begin fiscal year 2016 on July 1. As of May 4, eight Mississippi River Basin states have enacted budgets for FY 2016 (seven Mississippi River Basin state legislatures have adjourned for the year
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • NOAA launches searchable website with post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill data (link to site:
  • NOAA announces long-term Gulf of Mexico ecosystem research priorities (RESTORE Act spending)
  • St. Bernard Parish (Louisiana) votes down hurricane protection levee and drainage infrastructure maintenance tax hike
  • Environmental groups, locals worry Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin may be destroyed by a proposed industrial facility
Resource Development -
  • Study: Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fracking wells and associated pollution disproportionately in poor rural communities (link to study abstract:
  • Minnesota appeals court hears sand mine owner argument that they should be exempt from trout stream setbacks
  • Freedom of Information Act-obtained documents reveal existing Keystone 1 pipeline had deeply corroded in multiple spots
  • South Dakota Public Utilities Commission sets Keystone XL pipeline certification  hearing for July 27-31 (see related article below)
  • New round of South Dakota hearings on Keystone XL project construction permit may pit activists against pipeline supporters
  • U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduces bill to speed up federal approval process for oil and gas pipelines
  • Obama administration conducting last review step of proposed annual ethanol and biodiesel blending mandates for 2014, 2015, 2016
  • Seven Senate Democrats (six from Mississippi River Basin states), and several biodiesel producers hold press conference to push EPA to set strong RFS mandates through 2017
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)
  • "Artists' Eye at Coldwater Spring" Saturday, May 9, Minneapolis - via the Mississippi River News and Insights
  • Fifth Blue Vision Summit in Washington DC, May 11-14
  • National (climate change) Adaptation Forum: Action today for a better tomorrow, May 12-14, St. Louis, Missouri
  • St. Croix River Association public meeting about planned Enbridge oil pipeline across St. Croix headwaters; May 14, Spooner, WI.
  • Value of Water Coalition public forum: Riding the Wave of Water Innovation, Minneapolis, MN, May 15, 8 -10:30 AM CT
  • Eight nationally-renowned chefs to cook "underutilized seafood" like Asian carp at "Trash Fish
    Chicago;" May 18, 6:30 pm CT
  • Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce 2015 Environmental Policy and Awards Conference, May 21, Waukesha, WI
  • NOAA Webinar: Precipitation Patterns, Supply Planning and Demand Curves: The Complexity of Assessing Water Supply Risks; May 21, 1 PM ET
  • NOAA Webinar: Water Hazards and Community Resilience; June 4, 1 PM ET
  • Society of Environmental Journalists Conference: Weather, Water, Energy: News in Every Neighborhood; October 7-11; University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • American Water Summit, October 20-21, Denver, Colorado
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • International River Foundation's 2015 North American Riverprize Finalists include Sun River
    Credit: Samuel Munoz
    Watershed Group (aka "Medicine River" - Missouri River watershed)
  • Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to protect 27-square miles of high quality Clarion River tributaries, habitat for several species of concern (Ohio River Basin)
  • Proposed Minnesota and Wisconsin bills could cut funds for aesthetics planned for interstate bridge over Mississippi River
  • Authorities are hunting for vandals who spray-painted a cliff face in the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways in Missouri
  • The Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy is currently recruiting for a Freshwater Strategy Manager
  • The City of Minneapolis, Minnesota seeks to fill Water Resources Regulatory Coordinator vacancy
  • Northern Plains Nitrogen plans massive fertilizer plant for northwest of Grand Forks, North Dakota
  • Mississippi River megafloods wiped out biggest ancient Native American civilization of Cahokia
  • Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) says Senate coal ash disposal amendment is likely at some point to "improve on" an EPA coal ash disposal rule
  • Missouri National Recreational River visitors spent over $5.5 million dollars and supported 88 jobs in local area
Politics and People-
  • Prairie Rivers Network names new Executive Director, Carol Hays
  • U.S. Forest Service ranks second (behind the State Department) of federal government agencies in Forbes annual America's Best Employers list, followed by the NIH, Coast Guard, NASA and Army Corps of Engineers; Arkansas is the top state employer
Your Moment of Zen (for Mother's Day) - 
Photograph: Marc Latremouille/Media Drum World

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