Friday, May 22, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week and Next
The week saw some substantive work in the U.S. Congress to move bills along that could eventually set fiscal year 2016 spending levels for the Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA.  House appropriators passed a Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill that would fund NOAA at a level $274 million less than in 2015, and their Senate counterparts passed an Energy and Water spending measure funding the Army Corps at a level $45 million above the current year's level.  The Senate Appropriation Committee also set discretionary spending caps for its 12 subcommittees; allocating $30.01 billion of its $1.017 trillion budget to the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment to distribute among the Interior Department, Forest Service and EPA in its fiscal 2016 spending bill, and $20.5 billion for the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration subcommittee.  You can link to details under "Federal Budget," below.

The activity on and off Capitol Hill regarding the pending Waters of the United States (WOTUS or Clean Water) rule was of a less substantive and more frenetic nature.  Unlike recent weeks when legislation was introduced and considered, no new bills (or even approved amendments to bills) surfaced this past week.  The topic did come up - sometimes loudly - in several Congressional committee hearings and meetings, as well as in a sizable number of White House meetings, as stakeholders rushed to have their voices heard before the final rule is published. Below, under "Water Quality," you can find a lengthy listing of the week's WOTUS news.

Next week will be noticeably quieter and slower in Washington, DC, with the halls of Congress darkened for the Memorial Day recess.  Don't be surprised, however, if the Obama administration uses the Congressional down time to publish its final Clean Water Act (WOTUS) rule.  Controversial announcements are sometimes made during such recesses, and indications from the White House Office of Management and Budget are that the White House review of the final rule is nearing its end.

If you plan on getting out and about this holiday weekend, one recommended destination up and down the Mississippi River is the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, which was recently highlighted as one of America's best waterside drives.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States
  • Obama administration expected to soon announce major clean water rule that clarifying federal authority to limit pollution
  • Opponents of Waters of the U.S. rule go on offensive during Senate "Federal Water Quality Protection Act" hearing
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial Board: "Don't let special interests dilute federal 'Clean Water Rule'"
  • Poll: most voters think Congress should allow Waters of the U.S. rule to move forward; 18% think it should be blocked
  • New York Times: "Critics Hear E.P.A.’s Voice in ‘Public Comments’" regarding Obama administration's proposed water rule (see related EPA blog post below)
  • US EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia defends the agency's proposed water rule education and outreach activities in a blog post
  • Since April 15, the White House Office of Management and Budget has had 17 stakeholder meetings on the proposed water rule
  • Over 100 advocates representing dozens of groups flocking to White House in last-ditch effort to influence WOTUS rule
  • Administration's decision not to run proposed water rule through small business review process troubles key Senate Democrat
  • Senate Environment and Public Works panel Republicans say administration's clean water rule proposal is an example of federal overreach
  • Sen. Hoeven (R-ND) offers amendment to Energy and Water spending bill to defund implementation of Waters of the US rule; then withdraws amendment after debate; link to meeting archive:
Other Water Quality News
  • Mississippi River - Gulf Hypoxia Task Force discusses Midwest’s role in Gulf of Mexico dead zone at Columbus, Ohio meeting
  • Des Moines Register editorial: "Give us results, not spin, on water quality" - "pay attention to measurable progress"
  • Study (Pennsylvania and West Virginia): discharge and accidental spills of oil and gas wastewater to waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment (related article:
  • Interior Department mining stream protection rule comes under scrutiny at House hearing
  • Quad-Cities authorities monitoring apparent Mississippi River oil spill
  • Research: Bisphenol-A may enter into Missouri streams via atmospheric deposition
  • Also see "In the States," below
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Ameren and Franklin County join to block legal challenges to coal ash landfill in Missouri River floodplain
  • Army Corps commander urges waterway infrastructure work; Rock Island District backlog discussed
  • Construction of new Chickamauga lock in Chattanooga, Tennessee may be revived under Army Corps spending bill approved by Senate Appropriation subcommittee
  • Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District will ask for $10 million in Federal money to help with levee repairs
  • Supreme Court asks Army Corps to respond to company's second attempt to convince Court to review wetland jurisdiction case; also see this related news article:
  • USGS: New digital flood inundation maps and an updated flood warning system for parts of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers can help with flood preparation
  • Walter Mondale leads conversation about the future of the St. Croix River
  • USGS publishes report entitled, "The Water-Energy Nexus:  An Earth Science Perspective"
  • Obama administration urges Supreme Court against reviewing Mississippi claims that Tennessee is stealing groundwater
  • Flooding South Platte River diverted into Nebraska irrigation canals to help minimize flooding and recharge aquifers
  • National Weather Service in Wichita issues flood warning for the Arkansas River at Arkansas City
  • Arkansas River Valley experiences highest water levels in years
Agriculture -
  • Wisconsin outpaced its neighboring states in the growth of farmland property values last year
  • New iPhone and Android app allows Nebraska farmers to map treatment strip research; coordinate with University researchers
  • USDA reminds farmers to certify conservation compliance by June 1 deadline
Climate and Weather -
  • National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center looks for widespread drought improvement across the Plains through the summer
  • Dartmouth-led study finds that climate change's future impact on Midwest water cycle is
    Click to enlarge
  • USDA-NRCS to provide $21 million in farm bill conservation assistance to areas experiencing exceptional or extreme drought, including Kansas and Oklahoma in the Mississippi River Basin
  • Large El NiƱo becoming more likely in 2015; news article and NOAA analysis
  • US drought update: storminess reduced drought’s footprint across U.S. mid-section
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology releases draft Community Resilience Guide for public feedback; comments due June 26
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • New genetic analysis of freshwater mussels suggests that they aren't as bad off as previously
    Photo: Gerald Herbert—AP
    thought; study:; news article:
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA propose major changes in Endangered Species Act listing process
  • White-nose syndrome spreading in Wisconsin bats
  • House approves Defense bill amendment #38 to prohibit Lesser Prairie Chicken's endangered species act listing until 2021, and delist the American Burying Beetle as threatened or endangered (229-190 vote) (see related articles below)
  • House acts to de-list prairie chicken, bar grouse listing
  • Attempt to circumvent sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken protections is part of House GOP push to roll back environmental regulations
  • Obama administration announces the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators
  • Fish and Wildlife Service study looks at paddlefish in Lake Sharpe (Missouri River)
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources working to keep invasive species out of state's most popular state parks, including Itasca State Park
  • South Dakota Department of Agriculture is using biocontrol agents to treat infestations of Purple Loosestrife along state water bodies
  • Journal of Endangered Species Research: Endangered river fish: threats and conservation options
  • Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service propose new rules changing the petition process by which the public can request they list species as threatened or endangered
  • Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to remove protections for the Louisiana black bear, because the species has recovered (related article:
  • Center for Biological Diversity urges West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps to scrutinize impacts of proposed strip mine on Big Sandy crayfish and northern long-eared bat
In the Cities -
  • Kansas City Council will vote on May 21 on ordinance requiring large buildings to assess,
    Source: WWLTV, New Orleans
    report energy and water use
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa residents eligible for up to $2000 reimbursement to implement Stormwater Best Management Practices
  • Cedar Rapids kicks off Middle Cedar Partnership Project to improve water quality, with help from USDA matching grant
  • New  "Trade District" neighborhood along the New Orleans Mississippi River front a possibility
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul tied for the top spot in a national Trust for Public Land ranking of large U.S. cities' parks
In the States-
  • Clock runs out on Minnesota's 2015 Legislature with some funding bills left in limbo, including $540 million omnibus legacy bill; however, funding was approved for environment,
    States in the News This Week
    natural resource and agriculture (see related articles below)
  • New Minnesota law beefs up waterway buffers somewhat, but final funding is not yet a done deal
  • Minnesota House re-passes $540 million omnibus legacy bill; Senate does not (funds clean water, outdoor heritage, parks, more)
  • Minnesota Governor Dayton indicates that legacy bill that cleared the House could be taken up in a special session
  • Environmental groups want Gov. Mark Dayton to reject a Minnesota spending bill for agriculture and the environment
  • Proposed revisions to Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act open for public comment (governs how DNR seeks and considers public input and evaluates and discloses the environmental impacts of pending projects)
  • Priorities for Wisconsin water quality protection set through 2017
  • Iowa DNR has released the most recent draft of the state’s impaired waters list
  • Farmers and ranchers who open their property to tourists could be shielded from certain lawsuits under new Nebraska bill; link to bill:
  • Wyoming doesn’t want people to know how much cow poop is in its water, under a  controversial and confusing new law
  • Missouri state legislature logjam killed scores of bills, made session one of the least productive in recent memory
  • Missouri House passes Senate-amended bill changing the definition of “waters of the state”
  • Kentucky Division of Water unveils new water health portal (link to portal:
Photo: NASA Aqua satellite
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Decade-old oil leak off of Louisiana Gulf Coast shows little signs of abating
  • Louisiana Chenier Ronquille Island barrier island restoration project builds on pre-BP spill work
  • NOAA issues call for proposals under federal funding opportunity for new Regional Coastal Resilience Grants Program
  • Environmental Assessments and Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Draft Phase IV Early Restoration Plan available for comment; June public meetings set
Forestry -
  • House Ag Committee Approves National Forest Foundation Reauthorization Act (the National Forest Foundation Act established a National Forest Foundation to benefit the activities of the U.S. Forest Service by encouraging, accepting, and administering private gifts of money and property)
Resource Development -
  • Iowa landowners rally at the state capitol to support tougher restrictions on eminent domain, oppose oil pipeline through state
Federal Budget - (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page)
  • Senate Appropriations Committee votes along party lines to approve spending caps for its 12 subcommittees; allocating $30.01 billion of its $1.017 trillion budget to the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment to distribute among Interior Department, Forest Service and EPA programs in its fiscal 2016 spending bill, and $20.5 billion for the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration subcommittee
  • House Appropriations Committee passes FY 2016 spending bill cutting $274 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's budget (article:
  • Senate Appropriation Committee approves fiscal year 2016 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill funding Army Corps (link to bill web page:
  • Senate Appropriations subcommittee markup of annual interior and environment spending bill is planned for June 16
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)
  • American Wetlands Month National Webinar: The Ramsar Treaty/Convention on Wetlands May 27, 2-4 PM EDT
  • Webcast: "Community Based Public-Private Partnerships and Alternative Market-Based Tools for Integrated Green Stormwater Infrastructure: A Guide for Local Governments"  May 28, 1-2:30pm (EDT)
  • Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management Dakotas Resource Advisory Council meeting, June 9, Deadwood, South Dakota
  • The Wetlands Initiative's Dixon Waterfowl Refuge BioBlitz, Hennepin and Hopper Lakes, near Hennepin, Illinois, June 13-14
  • 2015 Gulf of Mexico Alliance All Hands Meeting, June 16-18, IP Hotel & Casino, Biloxi, MS
  • Meeting: Army Corps' Chief of Engineers Environmental Advisory Board, 9 AM-noon, June 23,  Alexandria, VA (open to public)
  • Ohio Environmental Council's new home Open House, 1145 Chesapeake Ave. Suite I, Columbus, Ohio, June 25, 4-6 pm
  • Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, January 24 - 27, 2016, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan (call for workshops open)
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • Obama administration unveils semiannual regulatory agenda detailing rules that agencies will make top priorities in next year
  • Bipartisan alliance of 38 mayors call on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Nijmegen, Netherlands makes room for the River Waal and takes on a new identity
  • 2015 Chi-Cal Rivers Fund Request for Proposals will be available June 15 at (Chicago/Calumet watershed, part of Illinois River basin) - informational webinar June 22; register:
  • Wichita Eagle lists some of the best of an estimated 2,000 miles of Kansas' land and water trails
  • Lewis and Clark Museum at Great Falls attracts almost 50,000 visitors annually
  • Rain Garden smartphone app is now multi-state; includes plant, sizing and soils information for 13 states, including Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the Mississippi River Basin
  • From July 10 through July 14, the Coast Guard is proposing to cut down on Ohio River boat traffic in Cincinnati where the MLB All-Star Game will be held; public has until June 1 to comment
  • Job opening: Minnesota DNR seeks to fill a Long Term Resource Monitoring, Mississippi River Coordinator position
  • Fish and Wildlife Service plans to survey nearly 9,000 people to help define the role of nature and the outdoors in U.S. society
  • Leaders from 34 countries meet in Memphis for 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Rural Development Conference
  • USDA releases new Regional Development Priority policy
  • Minnesota River stakeholders continue to move closer to forming an entity that will serve as basin organizing hub
  • Several witnesses tell Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee that  bill designed to improve transparency and accountability of EPA's scientific advisory process needs more work
  • Great River Road National Scenic Byway from Minnesota through Louisiana is lauded as one of America's best waterside drives
Politics and People-
  • Former Rep. Baron Hill (D) announces that he will run for Indiana's open U.S. Senate seat in 2016
  • In both the U.S. House and Senate, men outnumber women in senior staffer positions
  • A vicious Republican gubernatorial primary in Kentucky ends in a virtual tie; outcome won't be decided for days
  • State Attorney General Jack Conway secures the Kentucky Democratic Party's gubernatorial nomination
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Tony Margiocchi / Barcroft Media

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