Friday, August 28, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
Neither Here Nor There
The U.S. Congress is scheduled to reconvene, following its summer recess, on September 8, and once in session, Congress will have only three workweeks left until the end of the 2015 fiscal year and eleven legislative weeks until the year's Congressional calendar runs its course. Those tight production windows are especially daunting given the autumnal legislative agenda facing Congress: the September 30 need to authorize fiscal year 2016 funding for most Federal agencies; an October 29 expiration of Highway Trust Fund authority and associated mid-December prediction for when transportation funding will run dry; and a forecast mid-November to early-December Federal debt ceiling collision.

An alternative to clock-watching: the National Zoo Panda Cam
Closer on the event horizon is today's (August 28) scheduled implementation date for the Clean Water Rule (also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule). Three Federal District courts (in Georgia, North Dakota and West Virginia) were petitioned by a total of 24 states and one mining company (Murray Energy) to issue an injunction blocking Friday's rule implementation. One of the petitions was successful. Late on Thursday, Judge Ralph Erickson of the District Court in North Dakota found that the 13 states petitioning that Court to block the rule met conditions necessary for a preliminary injunction, including that they would likely be harmed if the rule became effective and that the states are likely to succeed in their underlying lawsuit. On Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia effectively denied Murray Energy's request to block the rule from taking effect. And late on Thursday, Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia also declined a plea from 11 states to block the rule, saying she lacked jurisdiction. Judge Erickson's injunction only affects the states involved in that particular petition: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The rule is effective today elsewhere in the U.S.

As a service to the sane among us not yet keeping track, as of this Friday, there are only 438 days until the 2016 Presidential election. And along that lengthy campaign trail, the Waters of the U.S. rule is not gaining the attention of its many candidates. One exception is Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who said at this month's Iowa State Fair that he is "taking it seriously," noting that something needs to be done to fix "the most convoluted regulatory system in the world," and going on to tell the Fair crowd what the Governor said they didn't need to be told: "I don't need to tell Iowans about the EPA rules as it relates to water and air that will stifle the need for industry to be created and for agriculture to work feeding the world."

Should you be looking for something to do while these various clocks wind down to their inevitable "witching hours," we recommend checking out the panda cam from the National Zoo. It's "safe for work," much more therapeutic than clock-watching, and you may even catch a glimpse of the newborn panda cub.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States
  • U.S. District Court judge in North Dakota blocks Obama administration's controversial Clean Water rule from going into effect (NY Times) and (E&E Greenwire) Also see: Federal judge blocks Obama’s water rule - The Hill
  • AP: Things to Know: EPA Water Rules Take Effect in Some States
  • Judge blocks WOTUS; Obama administration says it will largely enforce the regulation as planned
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia rebuffs Murray Energy's request to block Clean Water rule from taking effect
  • Federal judge in West Virginia declines to block implementation of Obama controversial water rule, saying court does not have jurisdiction
  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture letter requests delay in Friday's implementation of WOTUS rule
  • Sen. Inhofe warns that new Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule could spur crackdown on sewer systems
  • Farmers, public agencies still searching for answers as new 'waters of the U.S.' begins
Other Water Quality News

  • Iowa State University Extension survey: Iowa farmers committed to clean water but unsure of Gulf impact (also see
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency seeks comments on report on reducing pollutants in Lake Winona, 17 stream sections in Mississippi River-Winona Basin
  • Des Moines Register editorial: Iowa's waterways are a disgrace, as officials post microcystin warnings at a record pace
  • Blue-green algae concerns continue on the Ohio River
  • Chicago River still teems with fecal bacteria, tests show
  • EPA updates core requirements of the federal water quality standards regulation that interprets part of the Clean Water Act (Federal Register notice:
  • Environmental groups sue West Virginia coal company in federal court over alleged regulated waterways pollution
  • Environmental groups threaten to sue EPA over fracking wastewater rules
  • Owner of North Dakota well used to dispose oil and gas operation wastewater indicted on 13 charges
  • Illinois lawmakers and the president of a state coal association ask Interior Department to hold off on issuing stream protection rules for mining
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Mapped: The countries that will face the biggest water shortages by 2040 
    Source: The Telegraph
  • Impassioned opposition expressed at Mississippi River Commission meeting against proposed New Madrid levee (also see: U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO-8) adamant New Madrid floodway project needs to go forward
  • Journal of Applied Ecology: Prioritizing barrier removal to improve functional connectivity of rivers
  • La Crosse River levee system would need significant changes to gain federal recognition as flood protection
  • Executive Order 13690 and the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard - Background and Opportunities for Public Input
  • No frac sand at Winona's Mississippi River port this year; although falling frac sand demand hasn't affected overall traffic
Click to enlarge
Agriculture -
  • Mississippi farmers preparing for "inevitable" regulations regarding nutrient transport out of fields
  • Nebraska rancher shares his fascination at the lush diversity of the shortgrass ecosystem
  • USDA Economic Research Service: Net farm income expected to drop to $58.3 billion this year, a steep 36 percent decline
Climate and Weather -
  • NOAA: globally, no other month was as hot as this July in records that date back to the late
  • El Nino a ‘friend of the Midwest' according to Iowa climate experts
  • US weekly drought update: Louisiana and Oklahoma dryness prompted condition degradations
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center monthly drought outlook for September (will be published next Monday)
  • NOAA’s Green Infrastructure product suite helps coastal communities reduce extreme weather impacts
  • NASA: Sea levels worldwide rose an average of nearly 3 inches (8 cm) since 1992
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Public comment period closes Friday on USEPA's proposal on mitigation for pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees
  • Fish and Wildlife Service is opening more areas to fishing and hunting on 21 national wildlife
    New Landscape Conservation Cooperative Map
    (click to enlarge)
    refuges, including several in Mississippi River Basin
  • Independent Petroleum Association of America wants the American burying beetle removed from the endangered species list
  • USDA Secretary Vilsack announces four-year, $211 million Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 strategy
  • Western Governors' Association to undertake a review of the Endangered Species Act with eye toward effecting changes
  • Fish and Wildlife Service releases Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Impact Statement for the comprehensive conservation plan
  • The Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network has revised its region map
  • Fish and Wildlife Service may reconsider details re: proposed Endangered Species Act protections for Appalachian crawfish facing threats from mountaintop-removal coal mining
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers what it calls concrete steps to boost the number of Lake Mille Lacs walleye
In the Cities -
  • Brookings Institution: Post-Katrina New Orleans is bouncing back, but not for the better
  • Racially disparate views of New Orleans’ recovery after Hurricane Katrina
  • New Orleans has built the infrastructure to protect itself from hurricanes, but can it win a
    Photo: Getty
    battle against rising seas?
  • It was New Orleans’ musicians, not its politicians, who saved the city post-Katrina
  • Is New Orleans in danger of turning into a modern-day Atlantis?
  • New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu unveils experimental plan to bring water into city in an effort to prevent it from sinking
  • Youngstown, Ohio wanted to move forward with an anti-fracking ballot initiative, despite recent secretary of state ruling; however, the Mahoning County (Ohio) elections board voted to keep Youngstown proposal off the ballot
In the States-
  • Tennessee may join the handful of states that charge citizens for seeking public information
    Mississippi River Basin States in the News
    from the government
  • Pennsylvania’s long-running budget stalemate is reaching a fork in the road that could lead either to a breakthrough or GOP veto override attempt
  • Pennsylvania's budget impasse remains firmly in place; Republican majority fails to override any portion of Governor's budget veto
  • Pennsylvania Governor and GOP legislators put off plans to resume deadlocked state budget talks
  • Arkansas lawmakers advance proposed five-year ban on new hog farms in the Buffalo National River watershed
Gulf Coastal Region-
Photo: David Kidd
  • Scientific American: Mississippi River mouth must be abandoned to save New Orleans from next Hurricane Katrina; three nationwide design teams reveal realistic plans to massively rebuild the disintegrating delta
  • Southern Louisiana picks a fight with big oil to save the wetlands
  • Aerial planting of mangrove seeds proving to be effective method of protecting struggling marshes in Louisiana
  • Rising sea level threatens coastal restoration, New Orleans levees, scientists say
Resource Development -
  • Montana environmental groups claim that Interior Department illegally approved coal mining expansion northeast of Billings
  • Iowa regulators receive 3,700 letters objecting to a proposed oil pipeline across the state
  • Environmental groups plan to appeal last week's federal court decision upholding leasing of over 1.6 billion tons of Powder River Basin coal
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • CBO: Debt ceiling will be hit by early December, when the Treasury Department is expected to run out of cash
  • OMB: Federal agencies facing nearly $1.8 billion in budget cuts due to sequestration in House appropriations bills
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
  • Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance Webinar: Stream/Wet Meadow Restoration, September 8, 3 PM ET
  • Webinar: Use of NRCS Conservation Practice Standards and Specifications; September 9, 2-3:30 pm ET
  • UW-Madison Academy Talk: The state of Wisconsin forests and its changes over the last 100 years, October 8, 7–8:30 pm
  • Wisconsin Academy Member Meeting; November 6-7, in and around the University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Minnesota Watershed Network fall meeting, November 19, 9:30 am-3 pm, Pizza Ranch, New Ulm, Minnesota
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy August 20 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch, August 29, 10-year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency ‏Watershed Connections - August 2015
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch, August 25, This weekend on the River!
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council, August 27, Watershed News
Click to enlarge
Other news-
  • Ojibwe band member rice harvest outside reservation boundaries without Minnesota permit goes beyond fish and wild rice issues (see later news: Minnesota DNR grants one-day wild rice harvesting permit, avoids treaty rights court battle
  • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to address the closure of coal combustion residual impoundments at its coal-fired power plants; seeks public input
  • Industry groups and environmentalists file grievances against USEPA coal combustion waste disposal rule
  • Sacramento Superior Court judge orders California to write stricter controls for agriculture water runoff in three counties
  • Based on Fortune's list of 50 companies that are changing the world, here are nine that are revolutionizing the food game
  • Lawns now cover an area three times larger than any irrigated U.S. crop
  • Pew Charitable Trusts Stateline analysis: 1,300 rural counties in 46 states have lost population since 2010; a look at the causes and ramifications
  • FEMA: "Louisiana Recovery Update: Katrina and Rita by the Numbers"
  • Welcome to Quakelahoma: the state that has gone from having about two noticeable earthquakes a year to about two a day
  • Minnesota railroad industry official says disclosing emergency response plans to public "is like giving terrorists a road map on how to do something bad"
  • Position opening: St. Croix River Corridor Steward sought
Politics and People-
  • Op-ed by Michael Brown: Stop blaming me for Hurricane Katrina
  • Kentucky GOP greenlights joint Senate, presidential run for Rand Paul
  • North Dakota's Republican governor Jack Dalrymple will not seek re-election in 2016; open race could lure Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • Villa Park Mayor Deb Bullwinkel (D) enters race for Illinois 8th District House seat currently held by Tammy Duckworth
Your Moment of Zen -
Photo: James Edward Freaney/GuardianWitness

What We Learned This Week – "Pleas, Pleas Me"

Mississippi farmers are preparing for what they see as the "inevitable" nutrient regulations coming from the Federal government. Iowa farmers say they are committed to clean water but are less sure of farm impacts on the Gulf of Mexico's water quality. Meanwhile Iowa officials are posting microcystin health warnings at a record pace, and blue-green algae concerns continue on the Ohio River. Two U.S. District Court judges declined to issue preliminary injunctions against the Waters of the United States rule, but one did not - blocking today's rule implementation in thirteen states. Environmental groups sued a West Virginia coal company in federal court over alleged water pollution, as other environmental groups threatened to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its fracking wastewater rules. The Independent Petroleum Association of America wants the American burying beetle removed from the endangered species list, from where it has has long bothered the oil and gas industry. New Orleans was in the news . . . a lot; as were the city's musicians, and Hurricane Katrina, which would have been ten years old this week.  Sea levels worldwide rose an average of nearly three inches since 1992. 1,300 rural counties in 46 states lost population since 2010. The Tennessee Valley Authority intends to close its coal combustion residual impoundments and is seeking the public's input, while both industry groups and environmentalists filed grievances against the USEPA's new coal combustion waste disposal rule. And last but not least, lawns now cover an area three times larger than any irrigated U.S. crop.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Executive Order 13690 and the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard - Background and Opportunities for Public Input

On January 30, 2015, President Barack Obama released Executive Order 13690, "Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input," to  further the President’s June, 2013 Climate Action Plan.  The Climate Action Plan directed federal agencies to take appropriate actions needed to reduce risks to federal investments, and to specifically “update their flood-risk reduction standards.”  The new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard ("FFRMS" or "Standard") builds upon Executive Order (EO) 11988 governing federal actions in floodplains (issued in 1977).  After Executive Order 11988 was issued, the Water Resources Council[1] issued implementing guidelines for agencies to assist with incorporating the standards of the EO into their policies, procedures, and programs.  The new Standard is meant to be incorporated into existing Federal department and agency processes used to implement EO 11988.

The FFRMS and Executive Order 13690 ensure that agencies expand management from the current base flood level to a higher vertical elevation and corresponding horizontal floodplain to address current and future flood risk and ensure that projects funded with Federal money last as long as intended.  The new Standard requires all future federal investments in and affecting floodplains to meet a level of resilience established by the Standard, including investments where federal funds are used to build new structures and facilities, or to rebuild structures and facilities that have been damaged.  The Standard applies to all Federal activities[2] except those "in the interest of national security, where the agency action is an emergency action, where application to a Federal facility or structure is demonstrably inappropriate, or where the agency action is a mission-critical requirement related to a national security interest or emergency action."

The Standard encourages the use of natural features and nature-based approaches in the development of alternatives, provides a higher vertical elevation and corresponding floodplain, where appropriate, to address current and future flood risks, and provides for three approaches to establish the Standard's elevation and flood hazard area (among those three approaches, preferring a climate-informed science approach).  Importantly, EO 13690 does not prohibit building in floodplains, and does not apply to private investments in structures, facilities or homes.  The Standard will not affect flood insurance premiums or the requirements for participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.

The Mitigation Framework Leadership Group (MitFLG)[3], established through the National Mitigation Framework developed the new Standard and is tasked with periodically  reassessing the Standard in order to provide recommendations for updating it to the Water Resources Council in consultation with the Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force (FIFMTF)[4].

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published Draft Guidelines for Implementing Executive Order 13690 on behalf of the MitFLG in the February 5, 2015 Federal Register, opening up a public comment period that closed on May 6, 2015.  Comments submitted on the draft Guidelines can be found on this page.  The MitFLG will revise the draft Guidelines, based on input received during that public comment process, and provide recommendations to the Water Resources Council, which will then issue amended Guidelines informed by stakeholder input.

Opportunities for Public Input
The initial public comment period on the Draft Guidelines for Implementing Executive Order 13690 closed on May 6, 2015 (see Figure 1).  However, there will be additional opportunities for interested parties to suggest changes to the manner in which the new Standard is being implemented: first, when agencies modify existing policy through a rulemaking process requiring public comment; second, as the FFRMS is formally reassessed on an annual basis by the MitFLG; and third, through less formal communications with agencies as they continually assess opportunities to enhance or modify the Standard and how it is being applied.  Each opportunity is explored below.

1.      Formal rulemaking: EO 13690 tasks the Water Resources Council with issuing amended Guidelines to provide direction to agencies on the implementation of Executive Order 11988 consistent with the new Standard.  After the revised Guidelines are issued by the Water Resources Council, Federal agencies will use the Guidelines to update policies, procedures and regulations for implementing the Executive Orders. The agency and program-specific updates are anticipated to provide for additional public engagement.  EO 13690 states that agencies will have flexibility in implementing the new Standard and will incorporate input from the public and stakeholders on their specific programs and policies (emphasis added).[5] 

Specifically, within 30 days after the Water Resources Council issues amended  Guidelines, each agency is required under EO 13690 to “submit an implementation plan to the National Security Council staff that contains milestones and a timeline for implementation of this order and the Standard, by the agency as it applies to the agency's processes and mission.“  In many cases, the agency implementation plan will include formalized rulemaking that may be subject to additional public input (assuming the changes represent major revisions to existing procedures).  With respect to this policy revision, EO 13690 states, “to the extent permitted by law, each agency shall, in consultation with the Water Resources Council, Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Council on Environmental Quality, issue or amend existing regulations and procedures to comply with this order, and update those regulations and procedures as warranted.” 

2.      Annual reassessment: EO 13690 directs the MitFLG, in consultation with the FIFMTF and after seeking stakeholder input, to reassess the Standard annually to determine if updates are warranted and then to provide any recommendations to the Water Resources Council (emphasis added).  The Water Resources Council is in turn directed to issue an update to the Standard at least every five years.   

3.      Continuous reassessment: EO 13690 directs Federal departments and agencies implementing the FFRMS, to continually identify implementation challenges as well as opportunities to enhance or modify the Standard, in order to “ensure that the FFRMS continues to meet its stated objectives.”  The Federal departments and agencies are also directed to “collect feedback on implementation from relevant programs and offices, identify potential gaps in the process, and outline areas for improvement with the Standard,” and to provide that information to the MitFLG as part of the annual reassessment of the Standard mentioned in item number 2, above.  Ongoing stakeholder dialogue with Federal agencies as they implement the new Standard will inform this ongoing assessment process.

Figure 1. FFRMS and Implementing Guidelines Development Process (Source: FEMA)


[1] The Water Resources Council was established by the Water Resources Planning Act (79 Stat. 244), July 22, 1965.  It is composed by the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Secretary of Energy.
[2] Among other things, EO 11988 described "Federal Actions" to which the FFRMS applies as any Federal activity including: “(1) acquiring, managing, and disposing of Federal lands and facilities; (2) providing Federally undertaken, financed or assisted construction and improvements; and (3) conducting Federal activities and programs affecting land use, including but not limited to, water and related land use resource planning, regulating, and licensing activities.” 

[3] The MitFLG was formed in 2013 to coordinate mitigation efforts across the Federal government and to assess the effectiveness of mitigation capabilities as they are developed and deployed across the U.S. The MitFLG includes local, state and tribal representation, as well as members from the following Federal organizations:
  •      Department of Agriculture
  •      Department of Commerce (NOAA and FEMA)
  •      Department of Defense (Corps of Engineers)
  •      Department of Energy
  •      Environmental Protection Agency
  •      General Services Administration
  •      Department of Health and Human Services
  •      Department of Homeland Security
  •      Department of Housing and Urban Development
  •      Department of the Interior
  •      Department of Justice
  •      Small Business Administration
  •      Department of Transportation
[4] Responding to a mandate in the 1968 National Flood Insurance Act, the Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force was established in 1975 to develop a “unified national program for floodplain management. FEMA, with support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reconvened the Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force in 2013 with the overall goal of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public by reducing flood losses and protecting the natural environment.

[5] Some agencies have started to analyze the extent to which EO 13690 and the new Standard influence their programs.  See, for example, "HUD Statement on EO 13690 and Its Applicability to Mortgages, Refinancing, and Mortgage Insurance” (07/2015); "The Applicability of EO 13690 and FFRMS to USACE Permitting Authorities” (8/2015); and "The Applicability of Executive Order (E.O.) 11988/13690 to FEMA Programs - Fact Sheet."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Water Quality -
  • A federal judge in North Dakota has granted a Friday hearing on states' request to block Waters of the U.S. rule
  • Toxic algae closing Iowa beaches at record numbers
  • North Dakota Departments of Health and Agriculture urge avoidance of blue-green algae
  • U.S. Geological Survey researchers find neonicotinoid pesticides in over half of U.S. urban and agricultural streams; abstract: and story:
  • New University of Nebraska-Lincoln study suggests that nitrates may play a key role in increasing uranium contamination in groundwater
  • Abandoned coal mines throughout Ohio still taint state rivers and streams with polluted water
  • Wood County (Wisconsin) Board poised to pass groundwater protection ordinance; op-ed: it's the "right thing to do" in fight against nutrient pollution
  • Environmentalists and coal operators at odds over proposed Department of Interior mining stream protection rules
  • Investigators from several Minnesota agencies seek answers to cause of substantial Whitewater River fish kill three weeks ago
  • EPA settles with Iowa Fertilizer Company and Orascom E&C USA for Clean Water Act (stormwater) violations
  • One of last executives charged in West Virginia spill that left 300,000 without tap water pleads guilty to federal violations
  • Army Corps confirms radioactive contamination in yards by Coldwater Creek (St. Louis County, Missouri)
Source: Wisconsin DNR
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • A decade after Katrina, are America's flood frequency estimates dangerously wrong?
  • Groundwater: Diminishing Resource, Increasing Conflict - As high-capacity wells proliferate in Wisconsin, water in groundwater-fed streams and lakes is being diverted
  • Voters to decide whether Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District needs more borrowing power to finance flood-control projects
  • Canal proposed for Arkansas River through south Tulsa; called less costly than more dams and lakes
Agriculture -
  • Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program funding now available nationwide; proposals and pre-proposals due in October and November (grant- and region-dependent) (also see this from NSAC:
  • Federal Reserve: Farmland values dip in Midwest
Source: CNN (click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • Weekly drought update: dryness introduced in upper Ohio Basin, Oklahoma, elsewhere in the River Basin: status quo or drought relief
  • Op-ed: "El Niño: Why now is the time to act"
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • There's some good news and bad regarding aquatic invasive species in Minnesota lakes and rivers contains
  • MPR News: Upper Mississippi River mussels making a comeback
  • Wildlife officials grapple with Yellowstone park's surging bison population 
  • Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies: sage grouse numbers rebound from 2007-2013 free fall
Photograph: Alec Soth
In the Cities -
  • The New Yorker photo essay: "City of Water" - the spirit of New Orleans is rooted in the city’s below-sea-level precariousness
  • Rebuilt confidence in New Orleans flood controls fuels rebuilding, but the new flood controls never addressed the wild card of climate change
In the States-
  • Illinois commits to pay out nearly 90 percent of the cash it normally spends even though there’s no budget in place
  • Six weeks into the current state budget cycle, Louisiana is forced to cut $4.6 million from state services; more cuts likely as oil revenues fall
  • Proposed Colorado constitutional amendment would allow local governments more power over oil and gas regulations
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • The Great Boot Debate: Why do all Louisiana maps look essentially the same as they did in the
    Photo: NOAA
    1930s? Is it time for a change?
  • FEMA press release: "Mississippi Hurricane Katrina: A Decade of Progress through Partnerships"
  • The Acadiana Advocate editorial: "Threat to Louisiana’s people, heritage due to coastal erosion, rising seas is real"
  • New NOAA National Habitat Policy affirms that healthy habitat is “vital to resilient coastal and ocean ecosystems and communities”
Resource Development -
  • Arkansas officials consider expanding hydropower to make up for lost coal capacity, contending that "the rivers are not producing as much as they can"
  • Environmentalist seeks to take over mines from bankrupt Patriot Coal Corp. in effort to turn coal green, revive Appalachia
  • Kentucky town wants Republican politicians to stop blocking federal efforts to help local economies adapt to coal's decline
  • Dane County leaders consider ways to work around Wisconsin budget provision blocking a local requirement that Enbridge Energy pipeline company purchase oil spill insurance
  • Public comment sought on application for Wisconsin's Green Tier program by Badger Mining Corporation's industrial sand operation
  • Advocates in Houston County (southeastern Minnesota) seek to ban large-scale frac sand mining
  • Landowners new lawsuit contends that the Iowa Utilities Board has no authority to allow company access to private property to build pipeline
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • When Congress returns from its August recess, it faces a tangle of fiscal deadlines and contentious partisan battles
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)
  • Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 2015 Clean Water Summit: "Reconnecting Rainwater and Groundwater" September 15, 8:30 AM-4:30 PM; MN State Hwy. 5
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council public meeting on draft Initial Funded Priorities List; September 15, 5:30 PM CT, Homer L. Hitt Alumni Center, New Orleans
  • Ohio State University-sponsored Farm Science Review, September 22-24, Molly Caren Agricultural Center, London, Ohio (background:
  • Minnesota Water Resources Conference; October 13-14, St. Paul RiverCentre
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • St. Croix River Association e-newsletter with upcoming events
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's August 14 Watershed News
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 301; August 17: 80 years in 80 Days
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Waterfront Bulletin for August
  • Green Lands Blue Waters e-newsletter; re: Continuous Living Cover on agricultural land in the Mississippi River Basin
Illustration: Brian Stauffer
Other news-
  • Chippewa group's plan to gather wild rice on Hole-in-the-Day Lake in Nisswa runs afoul of Minnesota DNR
  • You can now rate the quality of federal government services (such as the US EPA and US Forest Service) on Yelp
  • Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announces $42 million in funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to states
  • Corn wars: The farm-by-farm fight between China and the United States to dominate the global food supply
  • USDA to invest $20 million to help 15 states increase recreational public access on private farm, ranch, and forest lands
  • Supreme Court raisin ruling may have breathed new life into the public trust of ownership doctrine for wildlife
Politics and People-
  • Iowa Democrat Jim Mowrer will challenge freshman GOP Rep. David Young for the U.S. House 4th District seat; Kim Weaver (D) looks to face off against Steve King (R) in Iowa 3rd District
  • Democratic state Sen. Karen Tallian drops out of Indiana's gubernatorial race, leaving John Gregg as the sole Democratic contender
  • Kentucky Coal Association plans second closed-door meeting with state’s leading gubernatorial candidates: Matt Bevin (R) and Jack Conway (D)
  • At the Iowa State Fair, Presidential contenders spoke with voters, played festival games, and ate an array of food on a stick
Your Moment of Zen - 
Photograph: Greg Morgan/Barcroft Media

What We Learned This Week - "Things on a Stick"

Blue-green algae plagued Iowa and North Dakota waters, raising cyanotoxin-related health concerns.  Researchers found neonicotinoid pesticides in over half of the U.S. streams they sampled.  A federal judge in North Dakota ordered a Friday hearing on a thirteen-state request to block the new Waters of the United States rule. The cause behind a significant Whitewater River fish kill three weeks ago has yet to be determined.  Upper Mississippi River mussels and High Plains sage grouse are making a comeback, and that's a good thing. Yellowstone River region bison are making a comeback, too, but some say that's not so good. At the Iowa State Fair, Presidential contenders spoke with voters, played festival games, and pretended to be normal by eating things on a stick.  The new flood control structures that are fueling a New Orleans rebuilding burst ignore the impacts of climate change. In the wake of falling oil revenues, Louisiana was forced to cut $4.6 million from state programs. Louisiana maps today look essentially the same as they did in the 1930s, but the River delta landscape they represent don't.  A Chippewa group's plans to gather wild rice from a Central Minnesota lake drew warnings from the state DNR.  A second round of closed-door meetings between the Kentucky Coal Association and the state’s leading gubernatorial candidates drew media criticism, and one candidate won’t say whether he plans to attend. And last but not least, the culprit in an ongoing, "novel" pollution event in the Boulder Creek watershed was finally nabbed.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States
  • 13 states ask federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction against Waters of the U.S. rule before its August 28 implementation date; news stories: and; North Dakota press release:; states' motion:
  • American Farm Bureau Federation says new maps show how Clean Water Act (WOTUS) rule will affect Pennsylvania, Virginia and Montana waterways' regulation
  • EPA: Farm Bureau maps “are highly inaccurate depictions” that  “visually exaggerate the waters covered” by WOTUS rule
Other Water Quality News

  • Minnesota Court of Appeals upholds new water quality standards for rivers; story:
    Source: Wikimapia and ruling:
  • Bipartisan coalition of downstate Illinois state lawmakers wants Interior Department to extend public comment period on new stream protection rule
  • Scientific American: analysis shows that several thousand near-surface fracking wells pose threat to U.S. drinking water supplies
  • Federal judge approves $5 million settlement among Exxon Mobil, Arkansas and the federal government over 2013 Pegasus pipeline crude oil spill
  • Federal judge rules in favor of plaintiffs in case brought against Fola Coal over conductivity pollution from West Virginia mines (ruling:
  • Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals warns of high PCB and mercury in Devil's Swamp Lake and Bayou Baton Rouge biota (along Mississippi River)
  • Draft USDA-FSA environmental assessment: Arkansas hog farm not likely to have significant detrimental impact on Buffalo National River basin; story:; draft report:
  • ORSANCO considers extending mixing zone policy to allow power plants and other industry to exceed Ohio River wastewater mercury standards
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune op-ed: "From runoff to ruin: The undoing of Minnesota's lakes"
  • Targeted changes to agriculture practices in Wisconsin result in significant reduction in surface water phosphorus
  • Allegheny County, Pa., (Pittsburgh metro area) emphasizes 'green' infrastructure in $2 billion antiquated sewer network upgrade
  • Study: blue-green algae pose increasing threat to U.S. drinking, recreational water
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Louisiana state leaders renew calls to fix wetlands outside New Orleans destroyed by Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping channel and
  • Army Corps of Engineers cost-benefit analysis: Replacing aging Chickamauga Lock (Tennessee River) would cost over twice the initial estimate
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) disputes new Army Corps' economic assessment; backs Chickamauga lock project completion
  • Army Corps of Engineers partners with Riverlife to study options to restore degraded Ohio River banks near Pittsburgh
Agriculture -
  • USDA ERS: number of U.S. farmers markets tripled over the past 15 years to 8,476 in 2014
  • Rapidly shifting consumer preferences are causing visible fractures within Minnesota agriculture
  • MinnPost Op-ed: U.S. needs a strong Renewable Fuel Standard
  • Monsanto Co. petitions Agriculture Department to deregulate corn variety that withstands weedkillers dicamba and glufosinate (PDF file of petition)
  • Northeast Arkansas town residents seek to resurrect their school system as a K-12 agriculture academy
  • USDA stuns market watchers by forecasting large corn, soybean harvests; potentially hurting some cash-strapped farmers
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper: Co-managing fresh produce for nature conservation and food safety
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: some dry areas of the Midwest and Plains recovered over the past
    Source: NASA
  • NOAA updates their El Niño outlook: it looks like this year’s will be the strongest since 1997-1998
  • Investigating organizations report that FEMA fails to adapt its response programs to predicted and observed climate-induced changes
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Native moth damaging cherry trees, turning large swaths of the Allegheny National Forest brown
  • Pilot program next summer "will put a substantial number" of walleye in Lake Mille Lacs; let Minnesota conservation officials assess the impact
  • Next steps uncertain for Minnesota special legislative Mille Lacs walleye working group
  • South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission removes bald eagle from the state’s threatened species
  • The first comprehensive plan to protect bees and other pollinators in Wisconsin is being developed
  • USDA's APHIS to lead 'nationally coordinated program' to manage feral swine
  • Newly identified tadpole disease found across the globe, threatening already-declining frog populations further
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) supports permanently severing Great Lakes-Mississippi River basin connection in Chicago to hold Asian carp at bay
The Historic New Orleans Collection
In the Cities -
In the States-
  • Op-ed: If Wisconsin is going to kill DNR's Water Division, let's make sure that our water resources don't die with it
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial: Wisconsin DNR reorganization holds promise, but
    River Basin States in the News This Week
    agency needs more employees
  • In Illinois, separate agency budgets cover half the pay for Gov. Rauner's staff, in a process known as "off-shoring"
  • As the Pennsylvania budget impasse stretches into its second month, Legislature explores to do when reserves are gone
  • Pennsylvania state budget: No deal in sight as Harrisburg goes into dog days of summer
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Outside of levee-protected New Orleans, efforts have lagged to protect small towns and villages losing land every year to coastal erosion
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council releases Gulf of Mexico restoration projects recommended to receive first round of BP oil spill fine funding under RESTORE act
  • How to save a sinking coast? Hurricane Katrina created a Louisiana laboratory
  • Louisiana Eats: Conservation and conscience on two Gulf Coast farms
Photo: LaCrosse Tribune
Resource Development -
  • State judge rules that West Virginia pipeline planners cannot access private property for surveys without a landowner's permission
  • As a new frac sand mining operation grows around their farm, Wisconsin owners protect it from future development
  • New residential lofts in Minneapolis will be powered mostly by hydropower that once fed historic mill built in 1880s
  • Company about to start strip mining for coal on 741 acres of 18,011-acre Egypt Valley Wildlife Area (eastern Ohio)
  • Washington Post op-ed: Five myths about coal
  • An analysis of the federal pipeline approval process shows a decision on Keystone XL is taking far longer than usual
  • Study: Railroads are more than 4 ½ times riskier than pipelines for moving oil
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • The U.S. is once again coming close to hitting the "ceiling" for overall debt
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
  • Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana meeting; August 19, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Webinar: Wisconsin's Healthy Lakes Initiative Grant Program, August 20, noon - 1 pm CT
  • EPA Board of Scientific Counselors Safe and Sustainable Water Resources BOSC Subcommittee meeting, August 27-28, Cincinnati, OH
  • DOI's Office of Surface Mining announces Schedule of Public Hearings from September 1 through 17 for its proposed Stream Protection Rule (in Denver, Colo.; Lexington, Ky.; St. Louis, Mo.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Big Stone Gap, Va.; and Charleston, W.Va.)
  • Public Listening Session for Water Resources and Climate Change Adaptation Group (via webinar), September 9, 2-4 PM ET
  • National Water Quality Monitoring Council Webinar: "Effective Science Communication with emphasis on visual science communication tools" September 15, 2 pm ET
  • Upper Mississippi River Conference and Student Summit, October 14-16, Davenport, Iowa
  • Convening: "The City Upstream and Down: How integrated water resources management can help cities manage water resources sustainably;" October 28 - 30, Racine, WI (NOTE: convening participation is limited to 25 cities)
  • Wildlife Habitat Council Conservation Conference 2015 - November 11-12, Hilton Baltimore, MD
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's August 7 Watershed News
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 300, August 10, "Wild Miles on the Big River"
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's August 11 Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota (BALMM) "Currents"
  • EPA launches new Clean Water State Revolving Fund web site
Photo: Des Moines Register file
Other news-
  • Tulane University opens registration for $1 million Nutrient Reduction Challenge to develop plan to reduce amount of nutrients entering world's waters
  • Here's a 10-point checklist to help you get ready for another Iowa State Fair, including a guide to selfies, how to avoid politicians, and where to find the fabled butter cow
  • Welcome To Cancer Alley: the 85-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, home to more than 150 industrial plants and refineries - an interactive look at the effects of poverty and pollution in Louisiana
  • Report: despite pushing to do so, states are ill-prepared to administer public lands within their boundaries; story: report:
  • The Guardian: "Reading American cities: books about the Twin Cities" - Minneapolis and St Paul have a compelling and distinctive literature
  • The National Geographic Society meets with tourism community representatives over its Mississippi River rebranding initiative
  • Veterans on Mississippi River trip find paddling eases pain of war
Source: Gallup
Politics and People-
  • 14 percent of U.S. adults approve of the way Congress is doing its job, according to a new Gallup survey
  • Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin) leads New Democrat Coalition seeking autumn movement on often-stymied issues
  • Nashville mayoral race results mean there will be a September 10 runoff between top two finishers: Megan Barry and David Fox
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: NPL/Rex Shutterstock