Friday, June 5, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week - Waters Glut
The Obama Administration's release of its final Clean Water Act (WOTUS) rule sets up a new but strangely familiar phase of efforts to thwart the rule, using two tactics. First, legislative efforts to block the rule will continue, in the form of riders or stand-alone bills to de-fund the rule's implementation or to require its withdrawal. Ultimately, however, since this is a paramount regulation of the Administration, the President would very likely veto any such efforts, and there is little chance that Congress could override a veto. Second, given the high visibility of the rulemaking effort, and the number of parties and interest groups that commented on the rule, litigation is likely. In addition to possible suits from industry sectors, look forward to state efforts to block the rule. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is preparing to seek an injunction against the rule, and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has indicated her intent to challenge the rule. Challenges to the rule will likely argue that the federal government exceeded the authority allowed under the
Clean Water Act in regulating "navigable waters."

It should be noted that environmental groups are pouring through the lengthy rule, and not all have come out decidedly on its behalf yet.  In fact, at least one group has come out against the rule, saying that it didn't go far enough in protecting U.S. waters.

Non-navigable water in the form rainfall continued to dampen much of the U.S. Plains and Midwest this week, resulting in some River Basin flooding, and in dramatic drought relief, which is projected to continue through the remainder of June.

You can find all of the details on this week's items, below, and summarized in one handy, digested paragraph in "What We Learned This Week - "Blosom, we hardly knew ye'."

Up Next - Irregular Disorder
Early year hopes are fading fast for a normalized passage of fiscal year 2016 spending bills first by the House, then the Senate, followed by the President's signature (so-called "regular order"). The House has passed four of its 13 spending bills so far, including an Energy and Water bill (funding the Army Corps of Engineers), and a Commerce, Justice and Science measure (funding NOAA) but the White House has threatened to veto both for various reasons. The Senate has yet to pass any of its individual spending measures, although an Energy and Water bill has been sent by appropriators to the full chamber. The White House has threatened to veto that bill, as well. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, vow to use Senate rules to block the entire appropriations process in an attempt to raise strict spending caps adopted in 2011 under "sequestration" legislation, while expanding funding for Democratic priorities. In other words, don't look for passage of all 13 appropriation bills before the fiscal year expires on September 30.  

Several River Basin states find themselves equally stalled in budgetary gridlock, notably Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, who are embroiled to various degrees in fiscal legislative delays and stalemates.

The work of Congressional committees continues on a variety of fronts of possible interest to Mississippi River followers, and for a glimpse ahead to committee activities already scheduled for next week relating to River water resources, see "Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For."

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Urban and rural interests in Iowa and elsewhere continue to argue over how to clean up
    polluted surface waters
  • Senate bill introduced stripping USEPA of authority to issue Clean Water Act permits for pesticide spraying over waterways (link to companion House bill here:
  • Dept. of Interior's proposed rewrite of the stream buffer zone protection rule is now slated for a June release
  • Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) introduces legislation taking aim at Interior Department OSMRE stream protection rule
  • US EPA developing app to help water-quality managers and public determine level of toxic algae in water sources
  • US EPA extending the comment period on new regulations for oil and gas extraction wastewater under the Clean Water Act
  • Company accused of dumping oil field waste into Mahoning River tributary expected to change its innocent plea
  • Cleanup of a 2013 North Dakota oil pipeline spill will take at least two more years
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency monitoring crews begin 8th year of ten-year effort to assess river, stream and lake conditions
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Agencies, cities get creative to protect lakes and streams
  • Medications, cosmetic ingredients, and endocrine disruptors found in Minnesota lakes and streams (from MN Pollution Control Agency) and  (news article)
  • Minnesota Department of Health 2014 drinking water annual report: 10 percent of state noncommunity drinking water systems have groundwater sources affected by surface nitrate discharges (Related story: Minnesota Drinking Water Report Exposes Problems in Some City Systems
  • May 2015 Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force Meeting materials have been posted online
  • Kentucky Court of Appeals tells state Division of Water to reanalyze a coal plant's 2010 wastewater discharge permit, curb mercury, other toxins
Reaction to Waters of the United States Rule
  • Fight over Clean Water Act rule enters new phase
  • Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) introduces legislation to cut EPA funding until the agency withdraws Waters of the U.S. rule
  • Agriculture, oil and home-building industries line up to attack rule aimed at protecting wetlands and waterways
  • Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is preparing to seek an injunction against Waters of the U.S. rule
  • Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge indicates intent to challenge Waters of the U.S. rule
  • North Dakota Farmers Union: Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority in final Waters of the U.S. rule
  • League of Conservation Voters launches $300,000 national ad campaign to boost support for Waters of the United States rule
  • Environment America launches $1.8 million effort in Maine, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Minnesota and Colorado, in support of "Waters of the U.S." rule
  • Moderate swing vote senators, including Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), remain uncommitted on the Obama administration's controversial water rule
  • Senate Small Business Committee approves (by a vote of 11-8) "resolution expressing the Sense of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship that the Waters of the United States rule will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities" Committee meeting web archive: (see this related article:
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Op-ed: Agriculture’s water resource irrationalities arise from lax regulation and mistaken pricing
  • Letter to the Peoria Journal Star editor: EPA should do better job of protecting wetlands; "block the destructive New Madrid Project" (also see: Letter to the Editor (Quad-City Times
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduce Urban Flooding Awareness Act to direct FEMA, NAS to study urban flooding (link to Senate bill:
  • As Oklahoma and Texas rain stops, downriver Arkansas and Louisiana brace for Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers' flooding
  • Arkansas River boat traffic-already slowed by recent flooding-halted after natural gas pipeline rupture
Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Agriculture -
  • Farmers and ranchers can get conservation planning help online from USDA on new Conservation Client Gateway
  • Neil Young looking to release an entire album dedicated to slamming agrochemical corporation Monsanto - working title "The Monsanto Years"
  • House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee reviews the financial health of farm country (see related article, below)
  • Lawmakers: 'Precarious' farm financial situation proves case for farm bill
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Organic agriculture is far more profitable than conventional farming
  • Sen. Charles Grassley calls on USDA to finalize its actively-engaged rule for the 2016 crop year
  • There's a nitrogen pollution link between a dairy farm on Colorado's Eastern Plains and biological weirding in Rocky Mountain National Park
Climate and Weather -
Click to enlarge
  • Drought relief continues in water-logged Midwest, and southern, northern and central Plains, including most of Kansas and Oklahoma
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook for June: Across the Nation's midsection, forecasts favor continued pattern of near to above average precipitation, leading to further drought reductions
  • NOAA 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook predicts below average number of storms
  • Decades of quiet hurricane seasons for many Gulf and East Coast cities have some worried that residents are unprepared
  • Amendment approved to House Commerce spending bill "Prohibits funds from being used to implement, administer, or carry out  the National Climate Assessment, the IPCC report, the UN's Agenda 21, and the Social Cost of Carbon, etc."
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee "going to try to build a broader Western water package"
  • Eight maps that reveal Americans' incoherent opinions on climate change
  • Brookings Institution: U.S. population surging in drought-stricken areas
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Source: United States Geological Survey
In the Cities -
  • Nashville, Tennessee debates how to prevent another devastating flood
  • Nashville hopes to make "The Nations" neighborhood more resilient to weather-related events by creating green alleys
  • Hannibal: the Mississippi River town where Mark Twain = $$$
  • Greening the Pittsburgh Wet Weather Plan Charrette Project addressed overflow of sewage into area rivers
In the States-
  • Minnesota Gov. Dayton vetoes two major budget bills, including agriculture-and-environment
    States in the news this week
    bill containing stream buffer provision
  • Minnesota state Joint House-Senate Committee meeting today (Friday) to consider vetoed/unfinished state spending bills
  • Bike advocates are fuming at a possible Wisconsin budget measure to impose a $25 tax on new bikes
  • Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee restores some of Governor’s proposed  Stewardship Fund cuts; limits shoreline zoning protections (link to spending bill:
  • Wisconsin Finance Committee reduces level of cuts proposed by Governor for University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension program
  • Wisconsin proposes "quicker, less expensive" general permit covering maintenance dredging of navigable waterways
  • Wisconsin creating Office of Open Government to help public obtain government records more quickly and consistently
  • Iowa Legislature appears headed toward an extended session as House-Senate state budget deadlock continues
  • Illinois legislative session ends with an unresolved, $3 billion state budget deficit
  • Divided state legislatures produce gridlock, not compromise - except in Kentucky
  • New Missouri agricultural law brings into question the degree of lobbying influence on state legislators
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment's Missouri Legislative Wrap-up
  • Kansas Governor proposes income tax cut and raises sales tax in a bid to overcome fierce legislative divisions and delays over state budget
  • Monthly revenue from oil taxes has fallen by from 45-75 percent in top 10 oil-producing states since last July (including Oklahoma, North Dakota, Louisiana and Kansas)
  • The Myth of State Policy Innovation: often, policies are replicated among states with little attention to their efficacy
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • NASA’s series of stark satellite images, its “World of Change” project, reveals years of Louisiana coastal change
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers $9 million in competitive grants to help coastal communities deal with weather, climate hazards (proposal deadline July 24)
  • House approves bill to reauthorize but cut $8 million in funding for U.S. EPA National Estuary Program, a 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)
  • Louisiana coastal authority awards three grants for research on river diversions and soil strength
Forestry -
  • Forest Service proposes to improve habitat, species makeup in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin, Townsend Project
Map source: USGS
Resource Development -
  • Department of Interior releases Wyoming Powder River Basin Regional Management Plan including 28 new coal leases
  • North Dakota will begin holding public hearings on a proposed 1,134-mile, $3.78 billion Dakota Access Pipeline
  • EPA releases 2014, 2015 and 2016 fuel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS); background article: (also see article below)
  • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson: RFS Announcement a Setback for Rural America
  • After fighting off plan to sell, Minnesota farmers increase their investment in a cooperatively owned ethanol plant
  • Report finds that Wisconsin supplied nearly half of U.S. demand for frac sand in 2014
  • Illinois lawmakers approve bill requiring study of frac sand mining impacts; citizen group says bill doesn't go far enough
  • EPA releases Draft Assessment on the Potential Impacts to Drinking Water Resources from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities; but has not caused "widespread" impacts (Related news article below)
  • Environmental Protection Agency concludes that hydraulic fracturing has not caused major harm to drinking water supplies
  • USDA announces restart of Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was reauthorized by 2014 Farm Bill
  • Minnesota tribes press concerns over Sandpiper pipeline plan, wild rice (related article below)
  • Minnesota Public Utilities Commission expected to vote this Friday (June 5) on a proposed crude oil pipeline; Friends of the Headwaters opposes the project
  • State says coal operator is making progress in addressing a record number of environmental violations at Kentucky strip mines
Federal Budget -  (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page)
  • Senate Energy and Water fiscal year 2016 appropriations report (with Army Corps of
    Photo: Shutterstock
    Engineers spending details) as approved by Senate Appropriation Committee
  • White House Office of Management and Budget outlines "serious concerns" with Senate energy and water development spending bill
  • House passes FY 2016 spending bill for Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (link to bill:  Bill includes $5.2 billion for NOAA, which is $274 million below this fiscal year's enacted level, and $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation; an increase of $50 million above fiscal year 2015 and $329.3 million below the President's request.
  • White House objects to, threatens to veto House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
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)
  • National Great Rivers Research and Education Center ecologist will speak on River issues at Piasa Palisades Group of the Sierra Club event, June 8, 7:30 PM CT,  Alton, Illinois
  • Association of State Wetland Managers Improving Wetland Restoration Success webinar: Riverine/Riparian Wetland Restoration; June 9, 3 PM ET
  • Ohio State U Climate Change Webinar: Assessing Green Infrastructure Costs and Benefits in Toledo, OH and Duluth, MN; June 16, noon ET
  • Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board meeting, June 17, 9:30 AM CDT, State Capitol, House Committee Room 1, 900 North Third Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
  • USDA Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board meeting,  June 17, 1 PM, CDT, U.S. Forest Service, 8221 S. Highway 16, Rapid City, SD
  • USEPA will hold a hearing on the  2014, 2015, and 2016 Renewable Fuel Standards,  Kansas City, Kansas, June 25, 9 AM CDT
  • USEPA webinar: Building Public Support for the Value of Water Infrastructure, June 25, 1 PM EDT
  • Great Mississippi River Photo Shoot, July 4, all day along the Mississippi River from the source to the Gulf
  • Water Environment Federation webinar: Advances in Water Quality Trading as a Flexible Compliance Tool. July 8, 1-3 pm EDT
  • Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD; August 9-14
  • USEPA Science Advisory Board Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel public teleconferences: Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and 19; Washington, DC public meeting: Oct. 29-30
  • Emerging Contaminants Summit, March 1–2, 2016, Westminster, Colorado
  •  National Water Quality Monitoring Council 10th National Monitoring Conference: Working Together for Clean Water, May 2-6, 2016, Tampa, Florida
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • House Majority Leader McCarthy announces his June House agenda (includes Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act) 
  • White House lays out regulatory plan for coming year in its Unified Agenda; story: (link to agenda:  
  • Interior Secretary Sally Jewell continues campaign to prompt Congress to reauthorize, fully fund Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Washington Post: Which federal agencies actually will respond to your requests for information and which won’t
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman criticizes Administration for its handling of FOIA requests
Politics and People-
Source: Missouri History Museum
  • Leo Drey-who donated 146,000 forested Missouri acres to foundation to protect the lands for the public-dies at 98
  • Remembering Leo Drey, Missouri Coalition for the Environment's first President
  • Trent Kelly (R) wins Mississippi first district special congressional election; will finish the term of the late Alan Nunnelee
  • Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer concedes state's Republican gubernatorial race to Matt Bevin
  • Environmental Defense Fund names Diane Regas as its new executive director,
  • Pennsylvania senate confirms Governor’s nominee, John Quigley, to head  Department of Environmental Protection
  • Pew Research poll: Millennials rely on Facebook for their news far more than any other source and are less interested in politics than older generations
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Zuma/Rex Shutterstock

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