Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News (Pre-Holiday Edition)

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

WOTUS - The Second Third Fourth . . . Next Chapter
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers officially published the
final Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule (a/k/a “Waters of the United States” or "WOTUS" rule) in the Federal Register on Monday (June 29).  The Administration maintained a fairly low profile on the controversial issue on Monday and waited until Congress was out of session (and lawmakers out of town) to officially publish the rule. The rule is now set to become effective on August 28.  Beyond the predictable rhetoric, the impending effective date will spur both legal and legislative challenges seeking to block its implementation. As if on cue, on Monday, three separate lawsuits were filed in three U.S. District Courts by attorneys general from 18 states to stop the new rule. On Tuesday, nine more states sued to stop the water rule, bringing the total to 27.  We've summarized these latest developments, along with a few of the more likely future scenarios here.

Next Week
Next Tuesday, members of the U.S. House and Senate return from their week-long holiday recess, and we should see House members renew their floor debate over the fiscal year 2016 spending bill funding the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The bill 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.  You can follow this link for a preview of that floor action, as well as a listing of Congressional committee activities currently scheduled for next week related to the Mississippi River Basin's water resources.  

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • EPA issues final 2015 updated national recommended water quality criteria for human health
    for 94 chemical pollutants
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency news release: "Blue-green algae: If in doubt, stay out"
  • North Dakota Department of Health "dropped ball" on years-long Ransom and Cass counties' arsenic-contaminated groundwater case
Waters of the United States
  • USEPA and Army Corps of Engineers officially publish the final Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule - becomes effective on August 28 (related Agri Pulse article:
  • Congressional Budget Office: Senate bill aimed at killing Obama administration's clean water rule would cost $5 million over next five years
  • Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi sue Obama administration in federal court to stop new clean water regulation (WOTUS) (see complaint and request for review here:
  • 13 states file anti-WOTUS suit in U.S. District Court for the District of ND claiming rule violates Clean Water Act; story: and link to complaint:
  • Ohio and Michigan file suit to block Obama administration's clean water rule; Lawsuit: and Ohio AG press release:
  • Nine more states sue to stop the Obama administration water rule in U.S. District Court (on Tuesday); news story: and complaint:
  • Op-ed by former Rep. Larry Combest (R-Texas): "The EPA's big land grab"
  • EPA releases its responses to about 1 million comments submitted on the proposed clean water rule (warning: it's over 7,000 pages long)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Flood insurance eligibility suspended for 15 Missouri localities because of
  • noncompliance with National Flood Insurance Program floodplain management requirements
  • U.S. Supreme Court agrees to consider longstanding Mississippi claim that Tennessee is
    Click to enlarge (source: USGS)
    stealing its groundwater
  • Four locks on the Mississippi River closed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since Saturday due to flooding
  • USGS study finds that water use in shale oil and gas wells in Ohio River Basin among highest in nation - study: (related Ohio news: See map to right
  • The amount of water needed to cool U.S. power plants has dropped substantially
  • USGS: High Plains aquifer in Great Plains, Mississippi Embayment aquifer in the lower Midwest unsustainably managed
Agriculture -
  • Des Moines Register: Iowa farmers reeling from rainfall
  • Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register
  • Heavy rains and flooding reduce Indiana's corn and soybean crop by nearly $300 million
  • Midwest flooding continues threatening soybeans and corn
  • Minnesota's multi-billion-dollar food industry is trying to cope with major shifts in consumer attitudes, other stresses 
  • Scientific model suggests a society collapse in less than three decades due to catastrophic food shortages, absent policy change
  • Introducing the wireless farm: When your cow's eating patterns suddenly shift or your crops are ready to harvest, you'll know it in the "Internet of Things" world
  • USDA reports show top states for Federal local food system investments include Kentucky, Wisconsin, Mississippi
  • In St. Louis, an urban farmer uses a rooftop and food to spur renewal
  • AGree report calls for food and agriculture research reform
  • USDA: 88.9 million acres of corn planted in 2015, a 1.7 million acre drop from 2014; soybean acreage up 2 percent
Click to enlarge (Source: NOAA)
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: continued improvements over Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota; no changes in Great Plains 
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook (for July): expect west-central Montana drought development and drought removal across the Plains, and upper Ohio and Tennessee Valleys (see map to right
  • This June was officially the wettest in Illinois history
  • "HydroClim Minnesota" summary of June/July climate and resulting/predicted water resources impacts
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Multi-agency Asian carp strategy (2015 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework) includes possible new lock and dam at junction of Mississippi River and Lake Michigan watersheds
  • South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks discovers invasive rusty crayfish in state waters; threatening native crayfish
  • Western Governors' Association's new Chairman: priority for year ahead will be "wildlife management" - "Habitat conservation, recovery of species, making the law better" (includes CO, KS, MT, ND, OK, SD, WY in the Mississippi River Basin)
  • Population of federally-threatened Lesser Prairie Chicken in southern Great Plains grew by about 25 percent over the past year
  • Officials consider closing a popular Montana bison hunting area in effort to encourage animals to roam more widely
  • Apparent long-term decline in Minnesota's yellow perch populations has state officials concerned
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set to 21 species for reclassification under the Endangered Species Act, including Illinois Chorus Frog and Blanding's turtle (also see: Minnesota turtle may get federal endangered status
In the Cities -
  • New PBS documentary exposes human toll of oil boom-bust cycle in Williston, North Dakota
    Photo:Chris Granger, Times-Picayune
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee to require verification of infiltration rates for newly constructed stormwater management structures
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma is a leader in storm-water management and resilient floodplain design in the United States
  • Pittsburgh residents turn increasingly to rain barrels to deal with excessive rain and runoff
  • LaBelle, Pennsylvania-an old coal town on the Monongahela River-struggles with 360-acre coal waste legacy
  • Sunken city or surging metropolis? 9 visions for the future of New Orleans
  • Clarksdale, Mississippi and Helena-West Helena, Arkansas become Mississippi River Delta "sister" cities
In the States-
  • Compromise on ditch buffer initiative becomes Minnesota state law
    Mississippi River Basin States' News
  • Illinois EPA Launches Online Tool Provides Public Access to Highly Sought Agency Records
  • Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoes 19 budget bills that he said would create a nearly $4 billion deficit
  • Illinois Gov. Rauner and statehouse Democrats far apart as ‘mess’ of shutdown looms; stopgap extension eyed (also see: Budget Stalemate Cripples Illinois Government
  • Illinois is not the only Mississippi River Basin state struggling to pass a state budget - Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are too
  • Iowa state politics cited as case study for "why it's hard to see progress in state governments' environmental efforts"
  • With July 1 deadline looming, Pennsylvania House passes GOP-created budget proposal to the dismay of Democrats (Democratic summary shows it's a mixed bag of cuts and increases for environmental and agriculture programs:
  • Pennsylvania Legislature passes and then sends state budget bill to Governor Wolf, who vetoes it and
  • Proposed Pennsylvania Senate bill invalidates DEP regulations proposed to ensure conventional oil and gas wells protect the environment and makes agency restart the proposal process (more: see NPR analysis of bill here
  • South Dakota Board of Water and Natural Resources approves $23.7 million for water and waste infrastructure projects
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • BP agrees to settle with Gulf Coast states and federal government for up to $18.7 billion in environmental, state damages from 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill
  • U.S. Supreme Court will not hear BP and Anadarko appeals over potential federal fines for their 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill roles
Forestry -
  • Senate bill introduced to "expedite and prioritize forest management activities to achieve ecosystem restoration" and borrowing significant NEPA review-streamlining language from H.R. 2647
Resource Development -
  • Senators urge USDA, EPA and DOE to uniformly recognize and support biomass energy as sustainable and significant
  • RFS: Hundreds turn out in opposition, including appeals from two Midwest governors, of proposed plans to reduce biofuel standards in the U.S. gasoline supply
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page)

  • House Republican Leader McCarthy outlines July House legislative agenda; at least some appropriations bills expected to move

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)
  • TODAY: Wisconsin DNR and DHS experts will answer questions about algal blooms live on-line on Thursday, July 2 at noon CT
  • Webinar: Advances in Water Quality Trading as a Flexible Compliance Tool
  • (sponsored by The Freshwater Trust), July 8, 1 PM ET
  • The Omaha Green Infrastructure Tour: Stormwater Management’s Shifting Paradigm, July 9, 9:00 AM-3:30 PM CT
  • EPA Extreme Events and Climate Adaptation Planning Workshop, July 14-15, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Minnesota River Congress' fourth Congress: July 23, Turner Hall, New Ulm, MN
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers and MN DNR are offering free 4 day training on floodplain management; July 27-30, Minneapolis
  • Webinar: Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, July 30, 2 PM ET
  • National Research Council meeting: Effective Approaches for Monitoring and Assessing Gulf of Mexico Restoration Activities; August 24-26, New Orleans (project information:
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • St. Croix River Association's July Events Summary
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers June 2015 "News and Views"
  • Gulf Restoration Network's July 1 GulfWaves e-newsletter: "Dead Zone, the Pope and a Dam Victory"
Other news-
  • EPA issues clarification on effective dates for new rules governing power plant combustion waste (coal ash); story: (here is the Federal Register clarification:
  • Farmers and activists continue the fight against a proposed 23,000-acre coal mine in central Illinois
  • Missouri River Water Trail website provides information to explore the River
  • Poll: slight majority of Americans prefer living in a single-family house in the suburbs or a rural area even if it means long commutes; Significant minority would choose living in an urban area, with a short drive to work or opportunity to use public transportation, bike or walk
  • Like Lake Calhoun, other bodies of water in Minnesota have drawn efforts to change their names
  • McKnight Foundation awards $865,000 to six groups working to reduce agricultural pollution in four Upper Mississippi River states
Politics and People-
  • Jack Sullivan, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources science bureau director,  will resign after his office is targeted for severe budget cuts
  • Pat Murphy (D-Iowa) planning a new bid for the Iowa U.S. House seat he lost to Republican Rod Blum in 2014
Your Moment of Zen -
Anne Wilson/Ikon Images/Corbis

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