Friday, July 31, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

This Week and Next
On Tuesday, the U.S. House passed H.R. 427, the "Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act" by a vote of 243 – 165. Under the REINS Act, federal agencies would be required to submit major rules with an annual economic
AP photo
impact of $100 million or greater to Congress for approval. Two Democrats, Reps. Colin Peterson (MN) and Henry Cuellar (TX), joined a unanimous Republican block in voting for the bill's passage. The legislation now goes to the Senate. This marks the third time in four years that the House has passed the REINS Act. This time, however, the bill could also see Senate action, since that chamber is now controlled by Republicans. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, stating, "there is no justification for such an unprecedented requirement."

House members began their summer recess (running through September 7) a day early, following Wednesday evening votes.  And while the Senate is scheduled to be in session through August 7, expect to see Senators also push to leave town earlier than that, after they consider next week a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and officially punt a cybersecurity bill until September. The House exodus also means that there are only two Senate committee hearings currently scheduled for next week that relate to Mississippi River Basin natural resources, and you can find those detailed here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Interior Department's proposed stream protection rule published in Monday's Federal Register,
    Source: USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program
    kicking off a 60-day comment period Public hearings on the proposal will be held starting in September in Charleston, West Virginia; Denver, Colorado; Lexington, Kentucky; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Republican lawmakers ask Interior Department to extend comment period for newly proposed stream protection rule
  • USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program's new annual web-based reporting system of stream and river water quality is now on-line (see the "Mississippi River Basin - Relative Nutrient Loading from Tributaries" section here:
  • Des Moines Water Works reports spending $1.5 million since December to remove nitrogen largely from agricultural operations from source waters in order to meet  drinking water standards
  • US EPA finalizes its disapproval of Louisiana’s 2014 decisions not to list 43 water quality limited water body segments to the 2014 Louisiana Section 303(d) list of impaired waters
  • Federal judge in Louisiana reopens litigation and sets brief filing timetable on whether U.S. EPA must set water quality standards for the Gulf of Mexico "dead zone"
  • Illinois releases Final State Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy to reduce pollution loading to Illinois waters and the Gulf of Mexico
  • EPA revises, re-issues draft water quality criteria for protecting aquatic life from adverse effects of selenium (see related story below)
  • EPA and environmental groups remain at odds over selenium water quality standards
  • Elimination of mercury monitoring program means Louisiana lacks fresh information about contaminated waters
  • Immigrants in the Midwest - who rely heavily on fish for their diets - often don't realize the threat posed by mercury contamination
  • In Minnesota farm country, tainted water is 'just the way it is'
  • MPR News: Minnesota rain gardens go big to fight pollution, reuse water
  • North Dakota Departments of Health and Agriculture issue blue-green algae advisory
  • "Brain-eating" Naegleria fowleri amoeba has been found in tap water in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana
  • U.S. health officials confirm presence of 'brain-eating' amoeba in water supply of several communities near New Orleans
  • Ohio EPA issues new guidelines for warning residents of toxins from algae in drinking water
  • Environmental groups ask federal appeals courts to force U.S. EPA to respond to petitions asking the agency to revoke West Virginia's and Kentucky's Clean Water Act permitting authority
  • Kentucky man wants to sue state over pollution from mountaintop removal mining sites
Waters of the United States Rule
  • Conservation groups file lawsuit challenging industry exemptions in “waters of the United States” rule; press release: and link to petition:
  • Federal judicial panel consolidates 12 lawsuits challenging EPA's Clean Water Rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
  • 31 states request that U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers delay “Waters of the US” rule effective date
  • Op-ed: Obama Administration Clean Water Rule follows Sen. Howard H. Baker's vision of stewardship
  • U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers will not issue new guidance to their regional offices to help implement new Clean Water Rule
  • Army Corps of Engineers experts disagreed with Administration on scope of, basis for waters of the U.S rule
  • U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: EPA addressed concerns raised by the Army Corps of Engineers about administration's water rule
  • House Oversight Committee looks into allegations that EPA and Army Corps disagreed over development of clean water rule
  • Chair of Senate EPW Committee says that Army Corps memos support case against waters of the U.S. rule (link to related Sen. Inhofe letter here: (see related Agri-Pulse story, below)
  • Internal memos that the Army Corps of Engineers turned over to a Senate committee said to undermine WOTUS rule
  • Montana Standard op-ed by Montana Trout Unlimited: "EPA regs clarify Clean Water Act"
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Kansas farmers are confronting the reality that the famed Ogallala Aquifer could soon run dry
  • Nebraska's unique system for managing its groundwater is catching the eye of other states that are running dry
  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) urges EPA to veto St. Johns Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project along Mississippi River (letter here: and press release here:
  • U.S. Geological Survey analyzes wetlands in the North Dakota section of the Prairie Pothole Region in "Land use and wetland drainage affect water levels and dynamics of remaining wetlands"
  • First survey of U.S. fracking well depths shows shallow fracking is more widespread than previously thought, at the same depth of known water sources
  • GAO reports on Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to assess the impact of extreme weather events
  • How would downstream Mississippi River Basin communities and ecosystems in southeastern Wisconsin and northeast Illinois fare if Waukesha switches to Lake Michigan water?
  • Oklahoma to use $131,575 USEPA grant to produce a wetlands status report and implement a wetlands monitoring program
Agriculture -
  • USDA's NRCS is proposing to update some of the National Handbook of Conservation
    Practices; public has until August 20 to comment
  • Op-ed: "Farm and Food: Water problems flow down to Secretary Vilsack"
  • As craft beer industry grows, Iowa farmers are noticing, and some are switching acres from corn and soy to hops
  • Net incomes for Midwest grain farms are sinking to some of their lowest levels ever; data summary and ramifications
  • USDA-NRCS makes fiscal year 2014 updates to its Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act Interactive Data Viewer available online
  • USDA to survey 24,000 farmers on conservation practices in first phase of National Resources Inventory-Conservation Effects Assessment Project
  • USDA "Innovation Challenge" to explore how climate change impacts US food system, with goal of achieving better food resiliency
  • Iowa Farmers Look to Conservation, Voluntary Practices as Water Lawsuit Progresses
  • American Farm Bureau Federation study: “seemingly small irritations” of rail inefficiencies cut farmers’ 2014 profits
  • Illinois Department of Agriculture seeks  research, education, and on-farm demonstration project proposals through Sustainable Agriculture Grant Program
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: local storms over past week mitigated dry soil conditions in west central Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, and northwest Iowa
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook for August (to be published on Friday afternoon
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Conservationists: Endangered Species Act under increased attack by lawmakers who aim to
    Click to enlarge
    restrict wildlife protection
  • States and the federal government are searching for ways to protect managed bees and their wild counterparts (see related map to right)
  • South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission will decide whether to lift bald eagle state endangered species protections in August
  • Zebra mussels found attached to boat exiting Belle Fourche Reservoir in western South Dakota (Missouri River Basin)
  • Birds disappearing from Metairie canal (Louisiana), Humane Society says
  • Work on a pollinator protection plan for Wisconsin will begin with a stakeholder meeting
  • DNR's scientific and natural areas give visitors a glimpse of what Minnesota looked like before European settlement
  • Researchers: mountain lions are recolonizing the Midwest a century after hunting and prey shortages limited their range
  • Demand for conservation seed, both native and non-native, is growing, but sources are limited
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources updates to Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management and Wildlife Action plans open for public comment
In the Cities -
  • Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still experiencing related damage
  • St. Croix County set to buy 53.29 acres of undeveloped land along St. Croix River in St. Joseph  for natural, low-impact recreation
In the States-
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will consider a special August legislative session to provide disaster relief to a premier walleye fishing lake's resorts if the walleye season closes early
  • Wisconsin's budget bill contains a "grab bag of anti-conservation policy"
  • Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources is reorganizing, with some water regulation functions transferred to a "one-stop shop for business assistance" unit
  • After seven months, the legislative sausage-making process to put in place a new Illinois state budget has hit a wall
  • Pennsylvania budget negotiators find a “better understanding” of differences, but no final product
  • Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to issue $62.6 million in budget cuts and fund transfers to shore up state cash reserves
  • Kansas' cash balance could be even smaller next June than lawmakers realized when they approved a tax plan in June
  • North Dakota corporate farming measure likely headed to ballot in 2016
  • In the Arkansas state legislature, more farmers, fewer lawyers making laws
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Louisiana, federal government argue over who pays for Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet
    restoration in court filings
  • "Epic" West Coast port congestion steers Asian ships and cargo to Gulf and East coast ports
  • Desperate $68 billion plan to save Louisiana, the sinking state, from going under
  • New method may help engineers determine coastal impact of dams and levees
  • Ecosystem Services Viewer captures value of three Gulf of Mexico habitats: salt marsh, mangroves, and oyster reefs
  • Louisiana: BP Given 30 days to pay $1 Billion in settlements to local governments across the Gulf Coast
  • Trio of sea-level rise, storm surge and heavy rainfall exposes coastal cities to potentially catastrophic flooding (study:
  • Louisiana state Senate committees discuss plans for spending $8.9 billion from BP oil spill
  • Louisiana governor’s new coastal director warns against diverting coastal restoration funds to other uses
Resource Development -
  • Officials from Nebraska and Iowa warn cuts to the Renewable Fuels Standard will harm their states' economies
  • Governors of Iowa and Missouri urge U.S. EPA to set robust renewable fuel targets
  • Multi-state group of opponents seeks to block crude oil pipeline from North Dakota to as far as the Gulf coast
  • For Illinois farmers, the impacts from underground coal mining can last for decades
  • Judge sets October 19 trial date for Keystone pipeline eminent domain challenge in Nebraska
  • Three Iowa landowners sue Iowa Utilities Board over agency's granting eminent domain for building proposed Bakken crude oil pipeline
  • Opposing sides in the debate over Keystone XL oil pipeline face off before South Dakota regulatory panel
  • NY Times: Can Montana’s Smith River survive a nearby copper mine?
  • National Wildlife Federation files notice of intent to sue U.S. Department of Transportation over oil pipeline oversight failures and their impacts on surface waters
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • Senate Democrats are refusing to allow votes on spending bills that do not lift the budget caps under sequestration
  • Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: Lawmakers will likely have at least until the end of October to raise the nation’s borrowing limit
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)
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin Association posts its August 4-5, meeting packets,
    Click to enlarge
    including agendas and background materials; Onalaska/La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Forest Workshop, Sept 15-17, Holiday Inn - Dubuque, Iowa. Register here: (agenda to the right)
  • Mississippi River Commission public meetings, 9 AM CT, August 14-21, on board MISSISSIPPI V at City Front, Cape Girardeau, Missouri (August 14), Mud Island Landing, Memphis, Tennessee (August 17),  Lake Village, Arkansas (August 19),  City Dock above the USS Kidd in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (August 21)
  • Duquesne University Presidential Conference on the Integrity of Creation: Climate Change, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Wisconsin Wetlands Association 21st Annual Wetland Science Conference, February 23-25, 2016, Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • Save the dates: National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration, April 18-22, 2016, Coral Springs, FL
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • Report: Over half of Land and Water Conservation Fund spending over past four years has
    supported local and state projects, not acquisition of new federal lands
  • Beloved Iowa farm headed for auction
  • 15% of U.S. adults (24% in rural areas) do not use Internet, according to Pew Research Center analysis of survey data
  • H.R. 427, the "Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act" passed by the House on July 28 by a vote of 243 – 165
  • Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus introduces bill reauthorizing hunting and angling-friendly programs, including North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Federal Land Transaction Facilitation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation
  • Paddle out to The Floating Library: You won't need a library card to visit this one-of-a-kind spot in Minnesota, but you will need a boat
  • Position: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Natural Resource Social Science Lab, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Republicans sound alarm about deluge of "midnight regulations" that could be pushed through in waning days of Obama administration
  • Justice Department's environment division announces new position to foster better relationships with state and local governments
  • NOAA releases Chemical Aquatic Fate and Effects (CAFE) database, estimates  fate and effects of thousands of chemicals, oils, and dispersants
  • Canoe-sharing service could connect points within 72-mile-long Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in 2016
Politics and People-
  • Illinois state Sen. Tom Cullerton drops bid for Illinois’ open 8th District U.S. House seat
  • U.S. Water Alliance names Radhika Fox, the head of a water infrastructure investment campaign, as new president
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: How Pennsylvania's gas industry gained influence with the Corbett administration
  • Four state Farm Bureau presidents have expressed interest in taking over as the next leader of the national office
  • Jim Stump, longtime professor at Bethel College, Indiana, resigns "because God said otherwise” on the topic of evolution
Your Moment of Zen -

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