Friday, May 15, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

"Waters of the U.S." Debate Continues
On May 12, the U.S. House passed a bill that would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw a controversial proposed "Waters of the United States" (or "WOTUS") rule, and then consult with state and local officials on how to address the Clean Water Act jurisdiction issue while preparing a new rule. The “Regulatory Integrity Protection Act” (H.R. 1732) passed easily on a 261 – 155 roll call vote that was largely along party lines.  Twenty-four Democrats joined with all of the Republican members in voting for the measure.  Mississippi River state Democrats supporting the bill included Reps. Cheri Bustos (IL), Jim Cooper (TN), Robin Kelly (IL), Collin Peterson (MN), Cedric Richmond (LA) and Tim Walz (MN).  The 261-vote total for passage would not be enough to overcome a threatened White House veto, should the House bill be passed by the Senate.  However, its fate in the Senate is less than certain, since the Senate’s own WOTUS bill (S. 1140) differs considerably from the House measure, and Senate leaders may not wish to complicate debate on its bill by considering the House bill on its own merits.

The final version of the proposed WOTUS rule was sent by the EPA and Army Corps for review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on April 6.  The OMB review is typically the last step before final rule publication.  Normally, the OMB review process would take 90 days at the most to complete, with reviews generally completed sometime between 40 and 60 days.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • The Hill: House votes to overturn an Obama administration water jurisdiction rule
  • Iowa farmers ponder effects of Des Moines Water Works water quality lawsuit
    Photo: Dan Charles/NPR
  • State continues to monitor water quality near North Dakota train derailment site
  • Pipeline spill of 63,000 gallons of highly concentrated saltwater is more bad news for North Dakota’s oil industry
  • Washington state pollution settlement called "important precedent holding mega-dairy factories responsible for the environmental and human health impacts of their waste"  (link to court settlement here: and see related op-ed immediately below)
  • Op-ed: Coming federal court action likely to be large regulatory intrusion, as "Minnesota faces looming nitrate wars"
  • Study looks at toxicity of chemical released into West Virginia streams during January 2104 Freedom Industries spill
  • Wetlands created 20 years ago between tile-drained agricultural fields and the Embarras River continue to remove nitrate from water
  • New water quality and weather monitoring buoys being deployed in Upper Mississippi River Navigation Pool 8
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial: How long will it be before drought-stricken stretches of the United States come looking for our water?
  • USDA Press Release: Ogallala aquifer "is being depleted at an unsustainable rate"- USDA Invests $6.5 Million to Help Conserve Water, Improve Water Quality in Ogallala Aquifer Region  (also see this news article:
  • White House Federal Flood Risk Management Standard for new government-funded projects generates controversy (link to FEMA's Standard web site:
  • New Orleans considers joining 2005 St. Bernard Parish lawsuit over damages blamed on Mississippi River Gulf Outlet
  • Construction of BNSF Railway line through La Crosse River marsh could be largely completed before lawsuit is decided
  • Drought expected to persist in upper Missouri River basin into foreseeable future; flood control remains Army Corps' "primary consideration"
  • USDA: flood control structures built in three Nebraska counties helped prevent over $3 million in flooding damages
  • Complaint alleges improper Army Corps' Marseilles lock, dam, and pool management, resulting in severe Marseilles, Illinois area flooding (Illinois River)
  • Army Corps to investigate deepening, maintaining Mississippi River Ship Channel from Gulf of Mexico to Baton Rouge from 45 to up to 50 feet deep; announces open houses, public scoping meetings
Photo: Benjamin Krain
  • South Platte River flooding persists after weekend storms
  • Illinois River at Watts, Oklahoma sets an all time record flood stage at 28 feet following five days of heavy precipitation
  • Arkansas River high and fast; three locks closed, barges held up
Agriculture -
  • Ongoing cuts in USDA conservation funding are putting success of voluntary conservation strategy at risk
  • Number of Wisconsin dairy farm operations falls below 10,000, while number of milking cows
    Spencer Platt/Getty Images
    reaches a record high
  • USDA: South Dakota is defying a downward national farm trend to become an "agricultural powerhouse"
  • FAA gives U.S. farmers approval to spray crops from drones
  • Grist editorial: to avoid future wars over phosphorus and potassium, we need to stop "flushing those elements down the drain"
  • The Week: America is running out of soil
Climate and Weather -
  • U.S. Drought Update: Rain and snows improved conditions in northwest Iowa, western Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and much of Kansas; slight improvement in Nebraska
  • Deputy Agriculture Secretary Harden encourages greater collaboration between farmers and policy makers to deal with climate change
  • Montana Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee is looking for May rain to turn unusually dry spring around
  • Kansas-based research study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests global warming will cut U.S. wheat yields (Washington Post article:
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Missouri Department of Conservation lake sturgeon program aims to re-establish giant fish
    Photo: Dave Tunge/Dakota Aerials
  • Invasive species began appearing in Minnesota's lakes and rivers about 150 years; they're still a problem today
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources efforts to save walleye pay off in all but one of the 10 large lakes with historically big populations
  • Army Corps Missouri River scientists use computer flow models to explore cost-effective ways to build sandbar bird habitat
  • Army Corps hopes to provide better understanding of and appreciation for Mississippi River land management challenges and opportunities at Alton, Illinois meeting (for historical background, see: “'Slumlord' of the Flood Plain Cabins on Public Land Are Hard to Dislodge;" St. Louis Post Dispatch, 1994
  • Tennessee Valley Authority agrees to pay some costs of running three federal fish hatcheries, representing a "permanent funding fix"
  • Fish and Wildlife Service will contribute $3.8 million to 27 North and South America migratory bird conservation projects
  • New South Dakota fishing and boating rules in effect to help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species in state water bodies
  • U.S. beekeepers report that 42 percent of the honeybees they managed last year died, the second-highest percentage since USDA surveying began (also see this related E and E article:
  • House Agriculture subcommittee holds hearing on the federal coordination and response regarding pollinator health
  • Over 2,000 pounds of caviar from paddlefish are harvested in North Dakota each year in the waters where the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers meet
  • Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing multi-year plan for evaluating need to protect about 650 plants and animals under Endangered Species Act
  • Proposed House Defense authorization bill amendment "reverses and prohibits the further listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened or endangered species until 2021" (amendment #119).  House scheduled to finish debate on the bill and vote on that amendment this morning (Friday).
In the Cities -
  • Op-ed: Feel-good stories are nice, but there's a role for academia in bringing scientific rigor to changes in local government performance
In the States-
  • Pennsylvania Builders Association unhappy with the way DEP is implementing 2014 
    States in the news this week
    amendments to state's Clean Streams Law with respect to riparian buffers
  • Inspector General: No evidence Ohio Gov. Kasich unduly influenced coal permits or pushed out staffer at Ohio EPA
  • Five Indiana counties to address sediment and logjam issues in lakes and rivers with $320,900 in state DNR grant funding
  • Minnesota House passes omnibus agriculture policy bill that promotes agritourism; increases Best Management Practices Loan Program maximum
  • Minnesota Senate passes omnibus agriculture bill language scaling back bee protection legislation passed last year
  • Biggest discrepancy between Minnesota Senate and House legacy bills is in Clean Water Fund appropriations
  • Joint Wisconsin House-Senate Committee agrees to continue to support matching grant, farmer-led watershed initiative
  • Wisconsin could lose as many as 80 County Extension agents under Governor's proposed $300 million University of Wisconsin system cut
  • Illinois Environmental Protection Agency refers May 2, South Fork River train spill enforcement action to state Attorney General
  • Iowa Department of Agriculture statewide cost-share available for farming water quality conservation practices
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources plans to report 725 impaired water bodies to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this summer
  • Kentucky Division of Water opens 60-day comment period (through July 13) on draft 2014 list of impaired waters
  • Missouri House passes bill that "changes the definition of 'waters of the state'" on a 118-32 vote, eliminating a reference to "waters of the United States lying within the state"
  • Drive gains momentum for vote to overturn North Dakota Legislature's decision to loosen state's ban against corporate farming
  • Kansas River and Missouri River regional differences and similarities are topics of Kansas Water Vision Team meetings
  • $1 billion more is needed to make Louisiana's state budget work
  • Many states expect to meet, exceed revenue forecasts for the current fiscal year, due to unexpected April tax windfalls
  • 22 states are projecting budget shortfalls based on information compiled by Associated Press  including Illinois (FY2016), $6 billion; Kansas (FY2016), $800 million; Louisiana (FY2016), $1.6 billion; Oklahoma (FY2016), $611 million; Pennsylvania (FY2016), $2 billion; West Virginia (FY2016), $195 million; Wisconsin (FY2016 and FY2017), $650 million combined from Mississippi River Basin; article: and list:
  • Data on state legislature elections show incumbents winning at record rates (96.5 percent in 2014)
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Ducks Unlimited has been awarded five grants to restore more than 21,800 acres of coastal prairies and marshes in Texas and Louisiana
  • Center for Data Innovation calls on Congress to create a robust national coastal mapping information platform to allow for coordination among federal agencies (see page 6)
  • As part of RESTORE Act Science Program final plan, NOAA announces 10 long-term Gulf of Mexico research priorities
Forestry -
  • Ruffed Grouse Society petitions Forest Service to intensively log more eastern and southern forestland (Regions 8 and 9) for habitat creation
  • Government Accountability Office report: Restoring forests on a landscape scale has both benefits and challenges
Resource Development -
  • Poll: environmental degradation and water contamination are most prevalent reasons for people to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline
  • Resistance to pipeline bigger than Keystone XL thwarts Enbridge, Inc. plans in Wisconsin
  • Landowners near Nebraska site of proposed oil field waste injection well file lawsuit in attempt to stop the project
Federal Budget -
  • House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee approves by voice vote Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill that cuts National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by $274 million, increases National Science Foundation by $50 million
  • Over 130 farm, conservation and wildlife organizations urge Congressional appropriators in letter to support Farm Bill conservation program funding
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 National Conference of State Legislatures webinar: The Guests That Won't Leave: How States Are Dealing with Invasive Species; 1 PM ET, May 15
  • Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District public meeting re: cottage site leases, May 18, 6 PM CT, Alton, Illinois (see here for definition of "cottage site"
  • Association of State Wetland Managers Webinar: Prairie Pothole Wetland Restoration; 3 PM ET, May 19
  • Wetland Mapping Consortium Webinar: Minnesota GIS driven “Restorable Wetland Prioritization Tool” May 20, 3:00 PM ET
  • Water Resources in the United States: Science Briefing, May 21, 10:30 AM-1 PM ET, US Capitol Visitors Center
  • South Dakota Kayak Challenge, 72 miles on Missouri River between Yankton, S.D. and South Sioux City, Neb., May 23-24
  • Quad Cities Pollinator Conference, June 10-11, Jumer’s Casino and Hotel, Rock Island, IL
  • USDA NRCS State Technical Committee meeting, June 30, 8:30 AM-Noon, University of Missouri Bradford Research and Extension Center
  • May 19 Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board meeting canceled; next scheduled Board meeting is June 23
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • National Water Quality Monitoring Council's "National Water Monitoring News" Spring 2015 e-newsletter (Volume 10)
  • America's Watershed Initiative May 2015 "America's Watershed Update"
  • Green Lands Blue Waters May 8 update, highlighting Mississippi River Basin Continuous Living Cover efforts
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's May 8 Watershed News
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's May 13 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
Other news-
  • New federal rail safety rules may make it harder for the public to know about Bakken oil trains moving through their cities
  • The Nature Conservancy’s Missouri Chapter seeks to fill “Watershed Restoration Specialist” position
  • Wilson State Park Switchgrass Trail named "Most Popular Mountain Bike Trail" in Kansas (full U.S. list here, by state
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is accepting applications for 2015 "Growing Greener Plus" Watershed Protection and Restoration Grants
  • Several states' positions change in League of American Bicyclists' Bicycle Friendly State ranking: Minnesota maintains second place; Wisconsin drops six spots; Illinois down three; Pennsylvania moves up seven; National group blames Wisconsin slide on Governor Walker's cuts
  • Brookings Institution: Three U.S. infrastructure bad habits that need correcting: overemphasized federal role; fiscal austerity and political gridlock; funding-driven prioritization
Politics and People-
  • Guardian investigation: FBI breached own internal rules when it spied on campaigners against
    the Keystone XL pipeline
  • President to nominate former US EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks as EPA's Assistant Administrator for Administration and Resources Management
  • Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) announces intent to challenge Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in 2016 Senate race
  • Stymied by Washington, DC gridlock, the lobbying industry expands rapidly in the states
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has emerged as one of the most disliked members among his Senate peers
  • Billionaire coal mine owner James Justice announces he is running for West Virginia governor as a Democrat
  • None of 13 candidates win special election outright for open U.S. House seat in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District; resulting in a June 2 runoff
  • First Republican presidential debate (and traditional end to election-time Congressional productivity) on track for August 6
  • Wisconsin State Sen. Tom Tiffany admits he asked Governor for DNR scientist job cuts, due to excessive focus on climate change
  • Nearly 200 Iowa scientists and academics want presidential hopefuls coming to state to answer climate change questions
Your Moment of Zen - 
Photograph: Toby Melville /Reuters

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