Friday, June 26, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week and Next
In the River region, the wet week just ending included Red River, Illinois River, Mississippi River and Des Moines River flooding; the lifting of a two-week nitrate drinking water advisory in Columbus, Ohio; the banning of synthetic microbeads in Indiana; and a serious proposal to pipe quite a bit of Mississippi River water from Arkansas to Texas each year for “up to 75+ years.”

Meanwhile, in the nation's capital, the White House threatened to veto two spending bills - one being a House measure funding the U.S. EPA and Interior Department, and the second, a Senate Commerce, Justice and Science, spending bill that in part funds NOAA and the National Science Foundation.  The House started to debate the former piece of legislation on Thursday: considering 32 amendments before adjourning until July 7.  One approved change would reduce funding for the EPA Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement by $2 million.  And money for several approved funding increases for Department of Interior programs will come from EPA administrative funds.  An amendment offered by  Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and approved by a voice vote would shift money from EPA's Science and Technology program to its National Estuary Program, funding coastal and estuary restoration.  Final consideration of the spending bill - including debate on most of the contentious issues - was put off until the House returns from its July 4 recess.  Thus far Democrats have not offered any amendments to strip the more controversial policy riders from the bill (such as the language blocking implementation of the Obama administration's new Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule).

You can find the links to these and many other River-related news pieces, below. And for those with limited time or attention spans we do provide the one-paragraph summary of the week's news in "What We Learned This Week - 'Billions and Billions'."

This week we forego the usual look-ahead to next week in Congress, as there will be no next week in Congress.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • National Network on Water Quality Trading releases "Building a Water Quality Trading
    (click here to view report)
    Program: Options and Considerations"
  • Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) backs WOTUS rule reform in speech to National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
  • Columbus, Ohio lifts two-week nitrate advisory, saying tap water is safe, but water problems aren't over
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection drafts Nonpoint Source Management Plan-2014 Update for public comment designed to meet pollution reduction milestones
  • Indiana banning synthetic plastic microbeads in order to protect water resources
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (Alton, IL) launches Great Rivers Ecological Observation Network
  • EPA urged to seize opportunity to update wastewater pollution guidelines for power plants (Effluent Limitations Guidelines for the Steam Electric industry)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Moderate to major flooding predicted in Illinois, Upper Mississippi River valleys
  • High Mississippi River has Army Corps of Engineers watching sand boils, seepage on levees 
    Photo: Laura Simon
  • Rains continue to keep water levels high across Wisconsin
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial: A waterlogged nation fails to learn from its repeated floods 
  • Record rainfall swells parts of Mississippi River to flood stage; closes Red River locks
  • USDA announces new web based tool to proactively monitor dams in real time
  • Amid drought and flooding, states and cities look to harvest the rain, reuse stormwater
  • National Flood Insurance Program probed at Senate hearing; Sen. Schumer: program a "circus"  Sen. Shelby: "something's wrong"
  • Company proposes to pipe 840 thousand acre feet of Mississippi River water to Texas each year for “up to 75+ years”
Agriculture -
  • Earnings in the U.S. farm sector plunged 22.4% in the first quarter of 2015, with all but nine
    states posting declines
  • U.S. Plains flooding since May refills soil moisture, farmers' wallets
  • NPR: Local Food Is Still A Niche. Can It Grow Beyond That?
  • USDA announces $17.5 million to help partners protect, restore, enhance critical wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands
  • North Dakota Natural Resources Conservation Service seeks bids for conservation work amid conflict allegations
  • National Working Group on Cover Crops and Soil Health releases recommendations for USDA agencies and programs
  • Insurance Journal: Floods tend to grab more headlines, but drought is actually much more costly in terms of its impact on agriculture
  • Louisiana farmers brace for worst year since 2008
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: No tangible dryness severity change in Wisconsin and Minnesota; reductions in southeastern South Dakota and adjacent Nebraska dryness
  • Missouri farming at a standstill as storms flood local fields
  • Pennsylvania expands drought watch to 37 counties, six in Ohio River Basin
  • EPA report:  U.S. may face up to $180 billion in economic losses because of drought and water shortages by end of century
  • USDA releases departmental regulation to strengthen action on climate change adaptation
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Lead fishing tackle ingested by fish is killing Minnesota loons and other birds
In the Cities -
  • LaCrosse Tribune editorial: Forget municipal boundaries; Think of 7 Rivers Region as a single,
    Photo: Southeast Missourian archive
    dynamic area without borders
  • FEMA seeks public comment on new preliminary flood maps for Orleans Parish (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Minneapolis says goodbye to river shipping
  • Dutchtown, Missouri in final stages of federal flood buyout project (Mississippi River)
In the States-
  • The Citizens' Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency met for the last time Tuesday
    States' News This Week
    following Legislature's elimination of the board
  • Wisconsin Republicans, who control the Legislature, are balking at Governor's demands for the state’s budget
  • With the clock ticking down to a new fiscal year, Pennsylvania still doesn't have a budget
  • Term limits helping reshape next Louisiana Legislature
  • With fiscal year 2015 coming to a close, more than a dozen states have yet to strike a budget deal, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin
Source: NASA
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • $225,000 grant awarded to University of New Orleans will be used to continue studying Louisiana’s coastline changes
Forestry -
  • U.S Forest Service deploys army of silver flies to help save the Eastern hemlock forests
Resource Development -
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to allow mining companies to look for metals in seven northeastern counties (some in Mississippi River
    Photo: ryangop (Instagram)
  • Over 100 biofuel industry representatives are in Washington this week, pushing for a strong Renewable Fuel Standard
  • Federal judge blocks implementation of Bureau of Land Management regulations for fracking on federal land, hours before they were set to take effect
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health kept a log of health complaints related to natural gas development that reveals agency’s limited follow-up
  • There were 35 earthquakes in Oklahoma between June 17 and 24, prompting regulators to consider new oil and gas drilling restrictions
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
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
  • “Missouri River Invasives” with fisheries biologist Sam Stukel, Sioux City Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, June 28, 2 PM
  • "Integrating Natural Capital into Decisions" June 30, 9 to 11 AM, Resources for the Future, Washington, DC (and the Internet)
  • Iowa State Fair (August 13-23) announces 15 new foods for this year's fair, its most ever, including golden fried peanut butter and jelly on a stick
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • 1 Mississippi campaign June newsletter: "Ashes to Ashes – Floods to Floods"
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's June 19 Watershed News
  • American Farmland Trust's June edition of "The Dirt"
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 294, June 23, "Care For Our Common Home"
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Waterfront Bulletin for June 2015
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy June 24 TUWaterWays e-newsletter (will be posted here eventually:
  • The Great Rivers Partnership June 2015 e-newsletter
Other news-
  • Key lawmakers are sharply divided on how to extend Land and Water Conservation Fund, authority lapses September 30
  • Interior Department releases "Economic Report for Fiscal Year 2014"
  • Senators discuss possibility of a regulatory budget that would limit federal agencies' rulemaking abilities
  • Twin Cities activists say Lake Calhoun needs a new name, as the current one honors a pro-slavery South Carolinian
  • Scientists explore ways to keep synthetic estrogens out of rivers and seas
  • World Health Organization's cancer research agency places the herbicide 2,4-D on its list of "possible" carcinogens
  • Criticism comes "fast and furious" after WHO calls 2,4-D "possibly carcinogenic to humans"
  • U.S. Conference of Mayors' resolution urges Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • EPA issues new safety requirements for underground storage tanks to protect water sources from petroleum leaks
  • U.S. House approves bipartisan bill to update industrial-chemicals regulations for the first time in nearly 40-years (link to bill:
  • Army Corps finds 'low-level' radioactive contamination in two parks along Coldwater Creek (St. Louis County)
  • Ceres Trust calls for applications for competitive Organic Research Initiative program grants in 12-state North Central region; topics include ecosystem health, water conservation, soil, integrated systems
Politics and People-
  • Trent Kelly (R-MS-1), winner of a recent special election, is named to House Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., announced Monday he will seek a sixth term in Congress
  • Green groups upset over Sen. Mark Kirk’s (R-IL) recent record on climate are mulling a campaign against his 2016 reelection
  • White House tries again to obtain Senate approval of Janet McCabe (Office of Air and Radiation) and Kenneth Kopocis (Office of Water) as assistant EPA administrators
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Uli Deck/AP

What We Learned This Week - "Billions and Billions"

Columbus, Ohio lifted its two-week nitrate drinking water advisory, although its water problems aren't really over. Indiana joined a growing list of states banning synthetic plastic microbeads to protect its water resources. Floods tend to grab more headlines, but drought is actually much more costly in terms of its impact on agriculture. The U.S. may face up to $180 billion in economic losses because of drought and water shortages by end of century. And here are some flood headlines: Rainfall and resulting high waters closed some Red River locks; moderate to major flooding is predicted in the Illinois and Upper Mississippi River valleys and the Army Corps of Engineers is watching sand boils and levee seepage along the Mississippi River. The Agriculture Department announced a new web based tool to proactively monitor 12,000 dams nationwide in real time. The National Flood Insurance Program was called a "circus" in a Senate hearing. An Arkansas company proposed to pipe 840 thousand acre feet of Mississippi River water from Arkansas to Texas each year for “up to 75+ years.” That's about 274 billion gallons of water each year. Lead fishing tackle ingested by fish is killing Minnesota loons. The Citizens' Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency met for the last time. The White House said it might veto a House EPA and Interior Department spending bill and has serious concerns over a Senate Commerce, Justice and Science, spending bill. There were 35 earthquakes in Oklahoma and regulators are rethinking the need for new oil and gas drilling restrictions. Activists said that Minnesota's Lake Calhoun needs a new name, as the current name honors a pro-slavery South Carolinian. The U.S. Conference of Mayors urged Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund. However, key members of Congress disagree on how to do that. And last but not least, if you want find "golden fried peanut butter and jelly on a stick" at this year's Iowa State Fair, there's an app for that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For (UPDATED)

This Thursday and Friday, the U.S. House is scheduled to consider its Interior and Environment spending bill - funding the Department of Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Forest Service. That bill will become the seventh annual appropriations measure passed by the House this year. It would cut funding for EPA programs by about nine percent, and contains riders blocking key Obama Administration climate change and clean water policy, and putting a halt to endangered and threatened species listings (NOTE: The House has since canceled Friday votes so that a delegation of several dozen lawmakers can join the President for a memorial service in Charleston, South Carolina).

Even as the House moves ahead on appropriations, it appears increasingly likely that the Senate will not pass any individual spending bills for the 2016 fiscal year, and that Congress is headed toward stop-gap spending legislation or one or more "omnibus" packages containing the elements of individual spending bills (or both).

Below are the U.S. House and Senate activities currently scheduled for this week that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources.  Links are provided to the relevant committee web pages, and, where appropriate, to pieces of legislation. Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these should be, as well (follow the appropriate link).  All times are Eastern.  This page will be updated as warranted. 

  • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee oversight hearing to examine the National Flood Insurance Program; 10:00 AM, room 538 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • Joint Hearing of the Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committees to "Account for True Cost of Regulation and Explore the Possibility of a Regulatory Budget;" 10:00 AM, room G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • House Rules Committee meeting to set the rules for consideration of the fiscal year 2016 Interior and Environment appropriations bill; 5:00 PM, room H-313 Capitol Building.
  • Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing entitled “Assessing and Improving Flood Insurance Management and Accountability in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy;” 10:00 AM, room 538 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • POSTPONED - House Appropriations Committee meeting to markup Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill; 9:30 AM, room 2359 Rayburn House Office Building - new date and time to be determined.
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing on several pieces of legislation, including H.R. 1107 to require the Secretary of the Interior to submit to Congress a report on the efforts of the Bureau of Reclamation to manage its infrastructure assets. “Bureau of Reclamation Transparency Act,” and H.R. 2749 to amend the Reclamation Safety of Dams Act of 1978. “Dam Authorization, Maintenance, and Safety (DAMS) Act of 2015;” 10:00 AM, room 1324 Longworth House Office Building.
  • House Natural Resources legislative hearing on H.R. 1937, to require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to more efficiently develop domestic sources of the minerals and mineral materials of strategic and critical importance to United States economic and national security and manufacturing competitiveness (including provisions for expedited environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act), the “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015;” 10:30 AM, room 1334 Longworth House Office Building.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

This Week and Next

For the first time in six years an Interior, Environment and Related Agencies spending bill has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. And while the Committee's Republican leaders applauded the effort, many Democratic Committee members decried the bill's cut to Environmental Protection Agency programs, and its many riders blocking environmental policy and putting a halt to endangered and threatened species listings. A companion House spending bill achieving many of the same ends passed out of that chamber's Appropriation Committee this week, as well - a bill over which the Obama administration expressed "serious concerns." The House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee released and then approved its fiscal year USDA-FDA spending bill providing funding for discretionary programs, but also (as is customary) cutting several mandatory programs, including the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Implementation Program, Rural Energy for America Program, and Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). That bill includes a policy rider that would delay for one year the implementation of a conservation compliance provision of the farm bill, which requires farmers who receive federal crop insurance to partake in soil and wetland conservation practices. Another rider would prevent the USDA from drafting its upcoming dietary guidelines based on the environmental footprint of foods. Lastly on the spending front, the Senate Appropriation Committee advanced its fiscal year 2016 Homeland Security spending bill that in part funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Among other things, the bill would provide $100 million for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program; more than provided in the current fiscal year, but much less than what the President requested in his budget. All of these rider-laden bills will eventually meet up with a promised Democratic blockade on the Senate floor.  Links to spending bill details and related news articles can be found below, under "Federal Budget."
    Elsewhere this week, we were provided a weekly helping of Clean Water Act rulemaking opinions; on-again, off-again Minnesota state spending legislation included provisions that environmental advocates found both good and not-so-good; Eastern pumas were declared extinct; flooding continued in southern parts of the River Basin and high streamflows in the northern parts; predictions were made for an “average” 2015 Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” later this summer; and the world is depleting most of its largest aquifers at alarming rates. Links to all of this and more can be found below, or in one, brief paragraph in “What We Learned This Week – ‘He's dead Jim’.”
      Next week . . . variations of the same theme (you can look here for a preview of the currently-scheduled River-relevant Congressional activities on tap for next week).

      Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

      Water Quality -

      • Brookings Institution: What the new clean water rule means for metro areas
        Photo: Kenny Kemp, Gazette file photo
      • USEPA Blog: "The Facts about the Clean Water Rule and Agriculture"
      • Environmental organizations give mixed reviews on Obama Administration's final Clean Water jurisdiction rule
      • Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul op-ed: "Clean water rule just more outrageous government overreach"
      • EPA releases Safe Drinking Water Act Ten-Day Health Advisory concentrations for two cyanobacterial toxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin
      • Study evaluates adequacy of water quality (nutrient) monitoring in helping to determine agricultural management practice effectiveness in Lake Erie basin; findings transferable to the Mississippi River Basin; report links: and press release:
      • Studies uphold drinking water health advisory levels issued after 2014 West Virginia chemical spill
      • Freedom Industries and WV DEP reach $2.5 million settlement on 2014 West Virginia spill site cleanup
      • Sierra Club: Regulators are severely underestimating the health risks from power plant water pollution
      • Environmental groups file complaint in West Virginia federal court accusing mine owner of polluting waterways with selenium
      • Recent Ohio Supreme Court case could impact enforceability of discharge limits in Wisconsin wastewater permits (link to referenced Ohio Supreme Court ruling:
      • Several Southern Illinois lakes have fish consumption advisories
      Photo: Jeff Matthews

      Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -

      • New NASA data show the world’s largest aquifers are being depleted at alarming rates (including the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer) (related article, below)
      • Researchers say in a pair of new studies, that we don't know how much water is left in the world's large aquifers
      • Fracking and water: Quantity, not just quality, a concern, even in water-rich states like Ohio
      • Many Louisiana farmers, ranchers face 'total loss' from flooding
      • Heavy river flows slow McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System barge traffic
      • NY Times: Thirsty Colorado's rain barrel debate is a microcosm of intense fights across the region over water rights
      • Army Corps of Engineers seeks nominations for stakeholder representatives on the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee
      • Refurbished 110-year-old Sartell Hydro facility on the Mississippi River is now providing power for a Wisconsin dairy co-op
      • Survey: majority of consumers are concerned about water supply and water infrastructure issues in their communities
      • U.S. Forest Service withdraws its proposal for managing groundwater resources on National Forest System lands

      Agriculture -

      • Minnesota farmers find healthy soil works for crops, bottom line; employ cover crops and no-till
      • Retired Metro transit bus will soon be converted into St. Louis MetroMarket's first mobile farmers market
      • North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner suggests coalition to help animal agriculture in the state
      • Volume of U.S. farmland sales down 40% as values slide

      Climate and Weather -

      • Gulf of Mexico disturbance poses major flood threat for Texas, Oklahoma, Ozarks
        Source: NOAA
      • Arkansas braces for flooding, tornadoes
      • US drought update: some Northern Minnesota and adjacent Wisconsin dryness continues; only a few areas of Great Plains dryness and drought remain following deluges of the last 1 to 2 months
      • NPR Living on Earth: research shows we are getting close to runaway global warming
      • North Dakota Game and Fish Department's draft state wildlife action plan includes analysis of climate change impacts on wildlife
      • Climate change is as much an accepted fact in climate science as plate tectonics is in geology and evolution is in biology
      • U.S. Ag leaders to explore Papal climate change encyclical’s connection to farming at international symposium
      • NOAA data: 2015 is on pace to be the hottest year globally on record

      Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -

      • Hydrilla, a highly invasive water plant, has been discovered growing at Pymatuning Lake (Ohio River Basin)
      • Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks seeks public comment on options that could establish state bison herd
      • First black bear observed in Indiana in over 140 years
      • Fish and Wildlife Service intends to formally remove the Eastern cougar from the endangered species list due to extinction  (also see: and Federal Register notice
      Photo: Shutterstock

      In the Cities -

      • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania flexes its sustainability muscle
      • The persistent rains that have soaked Kansas City, Missouri demonstrate effective rain garden effectiveness
      • Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative now an independent nonprofit organization

      In the States-

      • Controversial Minnesota environment and agriculture state spending bill was rejected,
        States in the news this week
        changed, accepted, changed and accepted again
      • Minnesota spending bill includes stream buffer provision, but critics say it rewards special interests at expense of environment
      • State lawmakers pull the plug on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens' Board
      • Missouri lawmakers' agriculture-related bills raise questions about conflicts of interest
      • Kansas legislators end longest regular session in history after addressing $400 million budget deficit
      • Louisiana lawmakers resolve largely self-inflicted budget crisis with one-year fixes that will lead to problems next year
      • National Association of State Budget Officers report details each state's estimated fiscal 2015 spending, governors’ budget proposals
      • Except for decreases in Iowa, Mississippi and South Dakota, the per capita Gross Domestic Product grew in all of the Mississippi River Basin states last year (the greatest increase being in Louisiana); Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota posted 2014 declines in agriculture and forestry industries

      Gulf Coastal Region-

      • NOAA, partners predict an average 'dead zone' (5,483 square miles) for Gulf of Mexico in 2015
      • June 16 public-television special, "By the River of Babylon" explores South Louisiana culture and environment
      • Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System provides data in support of resilient Gulf communities, ecosystems, economies
      • NASA studies Louisiana’s changing coastal wetlands

      Forestry -

      Resource Development -

      • Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge floods (Red River basin) expose gaps in Fish and Wildlife Service oil and gas management (see related link below)
      • Oil and Gas Wells and Pipelines on U.S. Wildlife Refuges: Challenges for Managers
      • Ohio Department of Natural Resources considers leasing a large part of Perry State Forest for strip mining coal
      • Star Tribune: Is Minnesota prepared for a Bakken oil train disaster?
      • Iowa’s U.S. congressional delegation calls for hearing in state on USEPA ethanol targets
      • Iowa Utilities Board staff find more than 90 questions or deficiencies in a proposed crude oil pipeline plan
      • Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) introduces legislation to repeal the federal renewable fuel standard
      • North Dakota’s oil production has peaked
      • Illinois, Indiana and Missouri researchers among those selected to receive ARPA-E grants to accelerate biofuel crop development

      Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -

      EPA and Interior Department Funding

      • Obama administration has "serious concerns" with House fiscal year 2016 Interior-EPA spending bill
      • House Appropriations Committee approves Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill on a 30-21 vote, funding Interior Department, USEPA, and U.S. Forest Service, and including several controversial environmental policy riders; meeting archive: (draft bill: and accompanying Committee report:
      • Tuesday - Senate Appropriations Subcommittee approves fiscal year 2016 Interior and Environment spending bill, cuts EPA by $538.8 million, blocks WOTUS rule news coverage here and audio webcast archive here
      • Thursday - Full Senate Appropriation Committee advances fiscal year 2016 EPA and Interior Department spending bill that blocks key environmental regulations, endangered species listings; story:; bill hearing page and links: committee release:
      • Democrats express frustration with spending cuts and multiple policy riders in Senate's fiscal year 2016 EPA-Interior spending bill
      • The Hill: Senate panel advances $30B spending bill for fiscal year 2016 that targets EPA rules
      • Senate Appropriation Republicans move to block initiatives to curb global warming, issue new clean water rules, regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal land

      USDA Funding

      • Wednesday - House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee releases FY 2016 USDA-FDA spending bill cutting CSP and EQIP mandatory farm bill conservation programs, Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP); news article:
      • Thursday - House Appropriations subcommittee approves fiscal year 2016 agriculture-FDA spending bill (bill: and summary:
      Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Funding
      • Senate Appropriation Committee advances fiscal year 2016 spending bill funding Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), providing $165 million above the FY2015 enacted funding for mitigation programs, including $190 million for Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment Program and $100 million for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program

      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)

      • Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission will hold its annual Ohio River Sweep on June 20
      • Webinar to explore potential for Minnesota farm producers to develop current and future institution markets, June 25, 3 pm CDT
      • “Missouri River Art and Photography” exhibit artist’s reception, Elizabeth Rozier Gallery, Jefferson City, June 27, 2-4 PM

      e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -

      Source: NFWF

      Other news-

      • Water Environment Research Foundation looking to fund new water quality research projects
      • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announces Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund 2015 Request for Proposals (due date July 15)
      • Senate EPW Committee Chairman may support bill aimed at changing U.S. EPA's new coal combustion waste disposal rule
      • Chi–Cal Rivers Fund is now accepting applications for green infrastructure, habitat improvement competitive funding
      • Federal appeals court will not reconsider ruling on Army Corps of Engineers' streamlined strip coal mine permit program
      • One small infrastructure investment can increase bicycle ridership by 75 percent in just one year
      • Paddle Ohio launches 2015 Summer paddling events on state-designated wild, scenic and recreational rivers and water trails
      • Mississippi River News and Insights: How to get out on the River this summer
      • New Senate regulatory reform bill would encourage federal agencies to minimize regulations' costs, improve transparency
      • Nature: Two new studies confirm that wastewater disposal caused sharp rise in central US earthquakes

      Politics and People-

      • Scientific American: "How Scott Walker Dismantled Wisconsin's Environmental Legacy"
      • Sen. Stabenow announces changes in Senate Agriculture Committee Democratic staff; Chris Adamo jumps to White House Council on Environmental Quality
      • Confidence in all three U.S. government branches remains low, according to a new Gallup poll
      • Louisiana’s four gubernatorial candidates vow not to raid Wildlife and Fisheries funds

      Your Moment of Zen -

      Photograph: NASA

      What We Learned This Week - "He's dead Jim"

      Environmental organizations gave mixed reviews on the Obama Administration's final Clean Water jurisdiction rule. New NASA data show the world’s largest aquifers are being depleted at alarming rates and that we don't really know how much water the aquifers contain to begin with.  This year is on track to be the hottest year globally on record.  Among scientists and popes, climate change is pretty much an accepted fact.  The Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern puma extinct and will remove it from the endangered species list.  Black bears are not extinct in Indiana, which saw its first black bear in over 140 years.  Interior and Environment Appropriations bills making their way through both the U.S. House and Senate would cut U.S. EPA funding significantly and contain numerous policy "riders" blocking controversial environmental policies.  The Gulf of Mexico should see an average-sized "dead zone" this summer.  The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative became an independent nonprofit organization.  State legislators rejected, changed, accepted, changed and accepted again Minnesota's controversial environment and agriculture state spending bill that axed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Citizens' Board and contained a stream buffer provision that the Governor wanted. Louisiana's lawmakers resolved a largely self-inflicted budget crisis that will return again next year.  And last but not least, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says that a newly-passed state budget that increases sales and other taxes does not count as a tax increase.

      Thursday, June 18, 2015

      Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For (UPDATED)

      Photo: Getty
      Below are the U.S. House and Senate activities currently scheduled for the week ahead that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources.

      There are six Congressional work weeks to go before its scheduled five-week summer recess, and all eyes on Capitol Hill are warily watching the slow pace at which spending bills are moving along (or not moving along, which is closer to reality).  The House Appropriations Committee is considering one such spending bill of River relevance this Tuesday, and the Senate two. However, prospects continue to be poor that the regular processing of appropriation legislation will happen at a rate needed to meet a looming September 30 fiscal year deadline.

      The U.S. EPA's new coal combustion waste disposal rule is one non-spending issue of River-region interest to be discussed this week (by members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee).  As early as next week, the House should schedule a vote on a bill to modify that rule somewhat (H.R. 1734 - introduced by West Virginia Republican Rep. David McKinley).

      Links are provided to the relevant committee web pages, and, where appropriate, to pieces of legislation. Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these should be, as well (follow the appropriate link). All times are Eastern. This page will be updated as warranted.

      • House Appropriations Committee meeting to markup the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill (funding, in part, the Interior Department, USEPA, and U.S. Forest Service), 10:15 AM, room 2359 Rayburn House Office Building.
      • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Homeland Security meeting to markup the "Fiscal Year 2016 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill" (funding, in part, the Federal Emergency Management Agency); 10:30 AM, room 138 Dirksen Senate Office Building (no meeting Internet link available yet).
      • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies meeting to markup "Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill" (funding, in part, the Interior Department, USEPA, and U.S. Forest Service); 2:30 PM, room 124 Dirksen Senate Office Building (no meeting Internet link available yet).
      • House Agriculture Committee business meeting to consider legislation, including H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, as amended by the House Committee on Natural Resources; 10:00 AM, room 1300 Longworth House Office Building.
      • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee oversight hearing to "examine the Environmental Protection Agency's final rule to regulate disposal of coal combustion residuals from electric utilities; 9:30 AM, room 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
      • NEW - Senate Appropriations Committee meeting to markup the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2016, and the Homeland Security Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2016; 10:00 AM, room 106, Dirksen Senate Office Building.
      • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture meeting to mark up fiscal year 2016 spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration; 10:30 AM, room 2362-A Rayburn House Office Building.
      • Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management hearing "Re-examining EPA’s Management of the Renewable Fuel Standard Program" (EPA's proposed mandates for blending ethanol and other alternative fuels into the national gasoline and diesel supply); 9:30 AM, room 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
      • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power legislative hearing on several pieces of legislation, including: S. 593, the Bureau of Reclamation Transparency Act; and S. 982, the Water Rights Protection Act; 2:00 PM, room 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

      Friday, June 12, 2015

      Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

      ~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
      This Week and Next
      The week now ending saw spills of an unusual variety (piglets in Ohio and cattle in Oklahoma) and releases of a more usual kind (swine manure in Oklahoma), drought relief throughout most of the River Basin and Red River flooding in Louisiana, Capitol Hill critiques of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (regarding the Waters of the United States) and the Army Corps of Engineers (on the one-year anniversary of WRRDA), and a farmland-nitrate-induced drinking water advisory in Columbus, Ohio. Also in the news: legislation authorizing Minnesota’s stream buffer requirement is poised today (Friday) to pass through the state Legislature for a second time, and the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis was permanently closed in an effort to thwart the relentless upstream movement of Asian carp. Most of this and more can be found below (or, if you prefer, digested into one handy paragraph in “What We Learned This Week - 'How sweet it is'”).

      This week in Congress included committee activity on spending bills that would fund the USEPA, Interior Department, U.S. Forest Service, NOAA and the National Academy of Sciences. Those bills were laden with riders that would block agency spending to implement several environmental policies, including climate research, endangered species protection and the Obama Administration's Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule. A Senate committee approved a standalone bill that would thwart implementation of that jurisdiction rule, as well. Don't expect any of those bills to become law in anything close to their present versions.

      Next week’s Capitol Hill activity scheduled so far can be viewed in “Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For.”  In addition to more spending bill activity, next week will see a Senate oversight hearing concerning the Environmental Protection Agency's final rule to regulate disposal of coal combustion residuals from electric utilities.

      Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

      Water Quality -
      • Nitrate levels increase in Columbus, Ohio drinking water, as advisory continues (water source:
        Photo: Dan Olson, MPR News
        Scioto River watershed)
      • USDA-ERS: restoring and protecting wetland is a cost-effective "secret weapon" in the battle to control nutrient runoff
      • Duncan, Oklahoma, prominently displays a statue of Erle P. Halliburton, but water pollution has sparked dozens of lawsuits
      • Swine manure impoundment release results in fish kill in tributary to Ocheyedan River (Iowa)
      • According to recent research, scientists have found artificial sweeteners in bodies of water around the world
      • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center deploys water quality and weather monitoring buoy on Carlyle Lake (Kaskaskia River)
      • Op-ed: Montana DEQ is ignoring “contaminants of concern” from septic systems, municipal sewage treatment plants
      • St. Croix Watershed Research Station director: Lake bottoms' sediments can show how or if certain farming practices affect water quality
      Waters of the United States
      • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) will not support legislation to kill Obama administration's controversial water rule
      • National Law Review: "The Practical Application of the Significant Nexus Test: The Final Waters of the US Rule"
      • Draft House Interior Department and U.S. EPA FY 2016 spending bill contains several policy riders aimed at key environmental regulations, including definitions of navigable waters and fill material (related articles under "Federal Budget," below)
      • Interior Secretary Jewell and environmental groups slam "dreadful" policy riders in House Interior and Environment spending bill (related articles under "Federal Budget," below)
      • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approves S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, to "require the Secretary of the Army and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to propose a regulation revising the definition of the term “waters of the United States” (link to bill: (also see articles below)
      • Senate Republicans advanced legislation to kill Clean Water Act rule and set sweeping restrictions on waters regulated
      • Senate committee advances bill to overturn Obama clean water act rule after fierce partisan debate
      • U.S. EPA asks federal appeals court to reconsider a wetland jurisdictional ruling; story: EPA petition:
      • Minnesota's water war: Clean Water Act rule-based battle brews over needs of tourism, agriculture
      • Agri-Pulse: Farm Bureau analysis says final WOTUS rule should be scrapped
      • Op-ed: "A frenzy over birdbaths, puddles and the waters of the US"
      Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
      • One year after Water Resources Reform and Development Act passage, uncertainty surrounds key Army Corps projects
      • Government Accountability Office report: federal agencies have made limited progress monitoring Missouri River basin snowpack, soil moisture following 2011 flooding
      • MPR: On Tuesday night, the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock (Minneapolis) ran its final cycle.
        William Lager | MPR News
        Here's an interactive guide to the closing:
      • End of an era: Upper St. Anthony Falls lock (Mississippi River at Minneapolis) closes
      • FEMA announces Flood and Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants; proposals due August 28; Flood: and Pre-Disaster Mitigation:
      • FEMA issues 2015 National Preparedness Report summarizing progress in building, sustaining, and delivering on 2011 National Preparedness Goals
      • Homes, farmland flood in rural northwest Louisiana from overflowing Red River
      Agriculture -
      • Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.): Congress should 'reassess' 2014 farm bill law that pared down conservation
      • Agriculture and conservation groups ask Agriculture Department to simplify its conservation compliance implementation rule
      • The trend is relentless-the average age of American farmers continues to creep upwards
         Source: Flickr: Soil Science
      • Federal Reserve Bank: Cropland values in Minnesota and Northern Plains are lower than a year ago
      • USDA-NRCS plans to revise methods for completing agricultural land wetland determinations in Louisiana to allow offsite determinations
      • Reinvigorating the agricultural economy in southeastern Minnesota
      • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency seeks comments on proposed Nicollet County hog feedlot that would generate 1.7 million gallons of manure/year
      • House Agriculture Subcommittee holds public hearing to review the implementation of Farm Bill conservation programs
      • Minneapolis Star Tribune: Organic farmers see green both in sustainability and profits
      Climate and Weather -
      • We’re all climate change deniers at heart
      • US drought update: Except for spots in South Dakota, Kansas and Colorado, U.S. midsection drought-free for first time since October 2014
      • Montana Farmers Union publishes reports on climate change effects on agriculture
      • National Farmers Union to the USEPA: Climate change impact on farmers is real
      • Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL): focusing on adapting to, not preventing, climate change would be better use of government dollars
      • Journal Science publishes new NOAA analysis: Data show no recent slowdown in global warming
      • May was wettest month in U.S. records
      Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
      • New coalition of dozens of conservation and gardening organizations aims to plant 1 million
        Photo credit: Jupiter Images
        pollinator gardens
      • South Dakota officials move to remove eagles from threatened list as number of nests increases
      • MPR News: Programs give farmers incentive to create bee habitat
      • Alabama CDNR report: Northern Alabama’s bat population at risk from white-nose syndrome (CDNR release:
      • House Interior and Environment appropriations bill  directs Interior Secretary to take Minnesota's gray wolves off endangered species list (related articles under "Federal Budget," below)
      • Fish and Wildlife Service proposes expanded hunting or fishing in 21 National Wildlife Refuge System units (11 in Mississippi River Basin)
      Click to enlarge
      In the Cities -
      • Nashville, Tennessee Metro Council rejects contentious $100 million flood-protection proposal
      • Small Towns, Big Ideas: Reimagining Southeast Minnesota, by Jay Walljasper, explores innovative examples of economic resilience that could serve as models for the entire Midwest
      • New Orleans faces a terrifying future as sea levels rise
      • Flooding burdens Shreveport wastewater plant (also: Everything you need to know about Red River flooding:
      In the States-
      • Deals move Minnesota state budget toward finish line, making no one happy; action needed
        States in the news
        before July 1
      • Minnesota state House and Senate scheduled to convene today (Friday) for special session, voting on three budget bills and
      • Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial: Legislature 2015: Special interests win, environment loses with Minnesota ag bill
      • Outmaneuvered: How many of Governor Dayton's Minnesota priorities were sunk in the budget negotiation process (stream buffer provision one of few surviving)
      • Wisconsin's farm to school program is growing resulting in more access to locally produced foods
      • Iowa lawmakers adjourn 2015 regular session after approving a $7.3 billion state budget
      • Missouri Department of Natural Resources to form work group to create state water quality trading framework
      • Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection solicits nominations for 2015 Environmental Excellence Awards
      • Kansas Legislature pushes through bill to avert Saturday midnight government shutdown, but state still has no budget
      • Kansas lawmakers drafted a new plan with increased taxes late Thursday night to avoid deep program cuts
      • Louisiana lawmakers adjourn regular session after approving state’s $24 billion budget (budget "winners and losers" -
      • NY Times: States - including Iowa, Wisconsin and Louisiana - confront wide budget gaps even after years of recovery
      • State legislative calendars' update by National Conference of State Legislatures
      Gulf Coastal Region-
      • Sens. Vitter (R-La.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduce bill to reauthorize National Estuary
        Graphic: Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune
        Program but at reduced funding level; place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of 28 estuaries of national significance, including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary in southeastern Louisiana (bounded on the east by the Mississippi River) (companion to House-passed HR 944
      • Louisiana’s music, wetlands inspire new documentary
      • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Louisiana to restore Caillou Lake Headlands ("Whiskey Island" Terrebonne Parish)
      Forestry -
      Resource Development -
      • Peabody Energy - one of the five largest coal companies operating on the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana -  does not have adequate funds or insurance to clean up its own mining operations
      • A couple who owns land in North Dakota loses court challenge over Sandpiper oil pipeline, eminent domain
      • Iowa Utilities Board will likely make a ruling on the proposed $3.8 billion, 1134-mile Dakota Access crude oil pipeline in December or January
      • Thousands of activists march through Minnesota capital in opposition to Enbridge’s planned $2.6 billion Sandpiper oil pipeline (also see related article, below)
      • Minnesota PUC approves Enbridge's Sandpiper pipeline but still leave open possibility for an alternative route
      • Fracking and its restriction are creating a new dividing line between U.S. red and blue states
      • EPA releases Renewable Fuel Standard Program Standards for 2014, 2015, 2016, and Biomass-based Diesel Volume for 2017
      Federal Budget  (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
      • House Appropriations Committee releases its Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment spending bill (funds DOI, USFS and EPA) (see related articles below)
      • House Appropriations subcommittee approves fiscal year 2016 spending bill for Interior Department, Forest Service, USEPA
      • House appropriations subcommittee approves Interior-EPA spending bill cuting funding, with numerous policy riders
      • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee approves Commerce, Justice spending bill; with level NOAA and NSF funding
      • U.S. Senate likely to spend weeks on spending bills that have little chance of becoming law
      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)
      • Building a Water Quality Trading Program: Options and Considerations; June 18, 8:30 AM-noon EDT, World Resources Institute, Washington, DC (tie-in with webinar available)
      • EPA State Level Nutrient Reduction Strategies webinar: BMP Selection to Solve Identified Water Quality Problems; June 16, 2 PM CDT
      • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy second Rural Climate Dialogue/webinar, Grand Rapids, Minnesota; June 22, 2 pm CDT
      • North American Wetlands Conservation Council meeting re: wetland grants; June 23, 8:30 AM (PDT), Courtenay, BC, Canada
      • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizen Board meeting, June 23, 9:00 AM CDT, St. Paul, Minnesota
      • South Dakota Governor’s Agricultural Summit, July 9, The Lodge, Deadwood SD (with Speakers from World Wildlife Fund and Protect the Harvest)
      • 4th biennial symposium of the International Society for River Science (ISRS), August 23- 28, La Crosse, WI
      • CLEAN GULF Conference, New Orleans, La., November 10-12
      e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
      • New book - "Bringing Conservation to Cities" - "explores the new urban conservation frontier"
      • June 4 Gulf Restoration Network's Gulf Waves e-newsletter
      • Montana Watershed Coordination Council June 6 Watershed News
      • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota (BALMM) June 8 "Currents" e-magazine
      • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency June 2015 Industrial Stormwater News
      • Mississippi River Delta News: June 8
      • Green Lands Blue Waters E-News Update, June 11, re: Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
      • June 11 Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy TUWaterWays e-newsletter will be posted here (shortly, if not already)
      • New EPA Video (YouTube): Science Safeguards Drinking Water from Harmful Algal Blooms (see below)
      Other news-
      EJSCREEN: New Orleans (click to enlarge)

      • USEPA releases EJSCREEN, an environmental justice screening and mapping tool (includes impaired streams layer, among many)
      • Restore America's Estuaries report: "Impact Assessment: Federal Coastal Habitat Investments Support People, Fish, and Wildlife"
      • Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index for May reflects energy and agriculture pullbacks; predicts slowing economic growth
      • Pennsylvania tops U.S. states in turning old rail lines into trails
      • Wisconsin DNR accepting applications for grants to local government, nonprofit conservation organizations to fund land acquisition, recreational development
      • House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans ask Government Accountability Office to scrutinize USEPA's environmental grants management
      Politics and People-
      • New York Times editorial: G.O.P. Assault on Environmental Laws; Bill Clinton threatened or used vetoes to block that assault. Mr. Obama should be prepared to do the same
      • House Minority Whip launches "Whip Watch" mobile app,  gives floor updates information on latest House developments
      Your Moment of Zen -
      Photograph: PMBrem/GuardianWitness