Friday, July 10, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Appeals Court Chesapeake Bay Decision has Implications for Mississippi River Basin
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A 60-page ruling issued Monday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in American Farm Bureau Federation, et al., v. EPA has implications beyond the Chesapeake Bay watershed to which it applies.   The case stems from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) 2010 Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (or TMDL) requirement that states meet nutrient runoff reduction goals from agricultural and other sources by certain dates.   That TMDL and a resulting 2011 lawsuit by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Home Builders and seven other co-appellants have drawn national attention, as groups on both sides of the issue saw the potential for the EPA to utilize a similar regulatory approach to water pollution elsewhere across the country.  You can link to further coverage of the ruling under "Water Quality," below.  This article looks closer at the ruling and its implications for nonpoint source pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and beyond.

This Week and Next in Congress
The U.S. House was poised Thursday  to pass its seventh fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill of the year (H.R. 2822): the Interior and Environment spending measure that would fund the EPA, Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service in the fiscal year beginning on October 1.  The bill would cut funding for U.S. EPA programs by about nine percent, and contains language blocking several key Obama administration environmental initiatives, while impacting endangered and threatened species listings for several freshwater mussel, bird and bat species found in the River Basin.  However, House Republican leaders canceled Thursday's vote following an intra-party split over a Confederate flag display amendment.  House Appropriations Committee leaders believe that the bill is now dead for all intents and purposes.  Its demise has pleased some who were fighting the legislation's  many environmental policy provisions (known as riders).  Here is an overview of River Basin-relevant policy riders in the Committee bill, the Basin-significant amendments considered by the House this week and a related Senate bill.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal year 2016 USDA-FDA spending bill that, among other things, followed tradition and cut mandatory funding for the farm bill's Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The bill also includes a policy rider that would delay for one year the implementation of a farm bill conservation compliance provision, which requires farmers who receive federal crop insurance to partake in soil and wetland conservation practices. The White House has officially expressed "concerns" over the spending bill.

Given Democratic opposition to those two spending bills and an increasingly-tight summer legislative calendar, it's extremely doubtful that either of the bills will make their way through Congress and become law before the new fiscal year starts on October 1. However, policy riders can make there way into stopgap funding measures (less likely), or be strategically placed into huge compilations of spending legislation known as "omnibus" measures (more likely).

The House passed the "Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015" on Thursday over some Democratic objections. That bill that would arguably limit the public's ability to challenge certain logging activities on public lands by streamlining the National Environmental Policy Act review process for projects designed to reduce wildfire risks, increase forest resilience to disease and insects, protect water supplies, or enhance habitat for at-risk species.  The White House issued a statement on July 8 in which it "strongly opposes" the bill, in part because it would undermine "fundamental environmental safeguards."

Several Congressional meetings and hearings are already planned for next week that may be of interest to Mississippi River watershed stakeholders.  While that list will likely grow, you can preview the currently-scheduled activities here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • Murray Energy Corp. (on June 29) and a coalition of industry organizations (on July 2) file
    Photo: Amy Burgin
    legal challenges to Obama administration's water rule
  • Oklahoma files legal challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma against the EPA's Clean Water Rule, arguing that the measure violates the Administrative Procedure Act, the Clean Water Act, the 10th Amendment and the Commerce Clause
  • Two views on WOTUS in July 9 Louisville Courier Journal: Textbook example of government overreach Clean Water Act rules have strong basis
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch Editorial: Missouri Attorney General "Koster chooses Big Farm over clean water. Bad move."
  • House Republicans take aim at waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and proposed Clean Power Plan at EPA Administrator hearing
  • Third Circuit Court of Appeals issues major opinion upholding USEPA's pollutant load numbers (TMDL) for Chesapeake Bay (nationwide implications); Greenwire story: and appeals court opinion:
  • Agri-Pulse: Farmers the 'losers' as Chesapeake Bay pollution limits upheld
  • State environmental data show that high nitrate levels plague 60 Iowa cities
  • Iowa Department of Agriculture announces four water quality improvement projects employing farm conservation practices
  • Des Moines Register: Collaboration vs. litigation: Two approaches to high nitrates
  • USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack op-ed (Des Moines Register): "We've made water quality a priority"
  • Studies identify water quality problems and remedies for the Vermillion River watershed (Minnesota)
  • Wisconsin Gov. Walker signs bill to phase out sale and manufacture of personal care products containing microplastics
  • EPA prepares to sample well water and surface water for contamination following derailment of CSX tank car hauling 24,000 gallons of acrylonitrile in Tennessee
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources opens Clean Water State Revolving Fund Additional Subsidization Affordability Analysis draft policy for public comment
  • Cleanup, environmental monitoring nearing completion after February train derailment, ethanol spill into Mississippi River near Dubuque
  • MPR News: Has deadly water amoeba found a home in Minnesota? and an earlier story:
  • Coalition of environmental groups sues US EPA over new industrial stormwater permit; lawsuit: and news story:
  • Limited court filings hint at West Virginia spill case against Eastman Chemical Co. and West Virginia American Water Co.
Source: USFWS
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Army Corps of Engineers: Missouri River Basin runoff remains above average due to widespread rainfall
  • Colorado state water plan includes eight regional basin implementation plans; includes moving more water from west to east of continental divide
  • Journal of Earth Science study: flood risks in Midwestern U.S. may be underestimated by as much as five feet; story: (study abstract:
  • Environmental restoration construction surges on the Upper Mississippi River
  • Little Platte River and Fishing River flooding concerns remain after storms pummel the Kansas City, Missouri area
  • North Dakota officials see progress in their crackdown on illegal water sales as permit holders overpump, rake in profits
  • New Illinois study finds 92% of flood damage claims are from homeowners and businesses outside floodplains; Center for Neighborhood Technology calls for adjustment of policies and investments (related press release below)
  • New Department of Natural Resources report examines issues and strategies for dealing with urban flooding in Illinois
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announces new wetland screening process for stormwater, CAFO and waterway/wetland permits
  • Federal appeals court denies Obama administration request to reconsider wetland jurisdiction ruling, solidifying circuit court split
  • Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet drastically changed the nature of the Lake Pontchartrain ecosystem
Agriculture -
  • Corn Refiners go on attack against Big Sugar's federal subsidies, calling them an unsustainable political burden for the agriculture industry
  • Orion Magazine: "Buying the Farm" - activists see a battle looming for the control of U.S. food production
  • U.S. farmers are eager for drones, but most can't legally fly them
  • More animal feedlots expanding or starting in south-central Minnesota
Click to enlarge
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: parts of central to western Kansas drying out while dry conditions in Minnesota and Wisconsin were eliminated
  • Office of Management and Budget for the first time asks federal agencies to submit budgets that include climate impacts on federal facilities' construction and maintenance
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Preliminary equipment runs and testing indicate that Grafton, Illinois Asian carp processing plant will meet expectations
  • Photo: Catherine Herms
  • Minnesota's loons could benefit from BP Gulf payout
  • Wisconsin Karner blue butterfly (photo, right) conservation program could be a model for future efforts
  • Emerald ash borer has been confirmed in Fort Madison, Iowa, bringing the number of confirmed counties in Iowa to 26
  • Department of Natural Resources: Invasive zebra mussels have been confirmed in Fish Trap Lake near Motley, Minnesota
  • Groups petition for protection of subspecies of moose in Midwest
In the Cities -
  • New Orleans groundwater and subsidence: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”
  • 75-mile-long Little Miami Scenic Trail expanding, putting it closer to downtown Cincinnati
In the States-
  • Talks but no progress on Pennsylvania budget compromise and
    Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
    (click to enlarge)
  • North Dakota establishes Federal Environmental Law Impact Review Committee to pursue lawsuits related to federal environmental laws or regulations
  • New Kansas law threatens state courts’ budget based on the outcome of court decisions
  • Center for American Progress Action Fund assesses strength of the democratic process in each of the 50 states; in the Mississippi River Basin, Montana, Colorado and Minnesota ranked 2nd, 3rd and 7th; Mississippi, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee rated 46th through 49th, respectively
  • Generally, $100 is worth more in Mississippi River Basin states than elsewhere in the U.S.
Environmental Law Institute (click to enlarge)
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Environmental Law Institute: Deepwater Horizon Settlement – Some Answers, New Questions
  • Times-Picayune Editorial Board: With BP cash, Louisiana could jump start coastal restoration
  • Working to enact Louisiana’s coastal restoration master plan will be a major challenge for the next governor
Forestry -
Resource Development -
  • The amount of coal produced from Appalachian mountaintop-removal mining has dropped
    Photo: Devin Wagner - Argus Leader
    over 60 percent since 2008 (related story:
  • Peabody Energy asks Wyoming District Court judge to strike lyrics of John Prine, 1971 protest song from federal lawsuit; song criticized Peabody's mining practices in Kentucky (see related "Your Moment of Zen" below)
  • Wisconsin state budget provision exempts Enbridge from environmental insurance requirement for its pipeline running through Dane County
  • South Dakotans sound off for and against Keystone XL pipeline before state Public Utilities Commission
  • Athens County, Ohio Commissioners will request moratorium on new oil-and-gas fracking waste injection wells
  • Kansas Sierra Club plans legal action over oil industry wastewater disposal practices linked to earthquakes
  • Cellulosic ethanol plant provides a "second harvest" for Kansas wheat farmers
  • Bloomberg Business: "Refracking Is the New Fracking"
  • Wyoming regulators will let Peabody Energy Corp. provide its own financial assurances for three operations in state
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • Budget brinkmanship grips DC as Republicans and Democrats are locked in increasingly bitter debate over spending
  • New York Times: “Republicans Aim to Hamper Obama’s Policies With Spending Bills”
  • House 2016 Interior-EPA spending bill debate continues to focus on contentious environmental amendments (or "riders")
  • White House expresses "concerns" to House Appropriation Committee Chairman over FY 2016 USDA-FDA spending bill
  • White House expresses concern over, threatens veto of Senate Interior and Environment spending bill due to its riders
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)
  • Capitol Hill Briefing: Study evaluates water quality monitoring in relation to Lake Erie Basin agriculture, July 14, 10 AM (video will be made available after the briefing)
  • Farm Foundation Forum: Water Challenges for the Future, July 15, 9-11 AM EDT, Washington, D.C. (and live audiocast)
  • Water Environment Federation Great Water Cities Summit 2015, July 21-22, New Orleans, La.
  • Agricultural and Food Law Consortium Webinar: State and Federal Legal Developments in Agricultural Nutrient Management, July 24, noon EDT
  • Conference: "Commerce and Conservation Along the Missouri River," July 29, Jesuit Hall, Washington, Missouri
  • Water Environment Federation 2015 Stormwater Congress, September 26-30, Chicago, Ill.
  • Upper Mississippi River meetings (UMRBA, UMRR Coordinating Committee), August 4-5, Onalaska/La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • Ecological Society of America 2015 Annual Meeting, August 9-14, Baltimore Convention Center
  • Greater Peoria International Asian Carp Conference; August 21, Peoria, Illinois; Conference web site: and news story:
  • Midwestern Governors Association to host regional poverty summit September 22 - 23 in Kansas City, Kansas
  • How to Address Water as a Business Risk and Opportunity, October 5, 1-4 pm, World Wildlife Fund-Washington, DC
  • Save the Dates: National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration, April 18-22, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Coral Springs Marriott Conference Center, Florida
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 295, July 2: "Sunscreens and Democracy"
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 296, July 7: "Paddling with the Pope"
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's July 2 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's July 3 Watershed News
  • St. Croix River Association July 7 e-newsletter
  • Green Lands Blue Waters July 7 e-newsletter re: Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Feedlot Update - July 2015
  • U.S. EPA’s Nonpoint Source News-Notes, Issue #98 (July 2015)
Other news-
  • Environmental and safety groups are planning a week of protests against transporting crude oil
    Photo: Laurie Skrivan,
    by train
  • South Dakota DENR accepting applications for projects eligible for federal Clean Water Act, Section 319 nonpoint source control grants
  • Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are working on a companion to House coal ash disposition bill
  • Franklin County Commissioners approve zoning code changes that may derail efforts to block Ameren Missouri coal ash landfill in Missouri River floodplain
  • The Metropolitan Council (Twin Cities, MN) seeks to fill a Senior Environmental Scientist-Water Quality Monitoring position
  • Green Lands Blue Waters seeks to fill new position of Watershed Initiative Coordinator #job
  • Wildlife artists can submit entries for the 2016 Minnesota Trout and Salmon Stamp from August 3-14
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee Republicans spar with EPA Administrator over science, regulations
Politics and People-
  • State Sen. Darin LaHood easily wins GOP Illinois' 18th District primary, making him favorite to win September special election
  • What's behind Sen. Mark Kirk's (R-IL) battle with environmental groups?
  • Sen. David Vitter's twelve committee 'Field Hearings' aid his run for Louisiana Governor
Your Moment of Zen -

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