Friday, August 7, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

WOTUS Rule Lawsuits Are Consolidated
On July 31, a Judicial Panel on Multi-District litigation agreed to consolidate 12 lawsuits brought against the Waters of the United States (Clean Water) rule into one case to be heard before the 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati, Ohio. Because the lawsuits against the rule address common issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers requested to have the petitions consolidated by the Judicial Panel, which agreed and then randomly selected a circuit court to hear the challenges. The random lottery "winner" - the 6th Circuit Court - covers parts of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, and is characterized as relatively moderate, compared to the traditionally more liberal 9th and 2nd Circuit Courts, where environmental groups filed petitions against the rule at the outset.  You can find links to this and other rule-related news, below, under "Water Quality."

U.S. Senate Passes Algal Toxin and National Estuary Program Bills
Before fleeing Washington for five weeks, the U.S. Senate passed two fairly non-controversial water-related bills.  One bill (H.R. 212) directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and submit to Congress a strategic plan for assessing and managing risks associated with algal toxins in drinking water provided by public water systems. H.R. 212 was previously passed by the House, and will now be sent on to the President for his signature. The second bill (S. 1523) reauthorizes through fiscal year 2020 the EPA National Estuaries Program, a place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of 28 estuaries of national significance, including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary in southeastern Louisiana (bounded on the east by the Mississippi River).  A related reauthorization bill (H.R. 944) passed the House in June, but it differs somewhat from the Senate bill.  Those differences will need to be resolved before a consensus bill is considered and potentially passed into law.

New USGS On-Line Water Quality Tool Reports on Mississippi River Basin Tributary Relative Nutrient Loading
The U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program launched a
new online graphical data tool at the end of July to provide data on national ambient water-quality conditions by annually summarizing nutrient and sediment concentrations and loads, along with flow information for 106 river and stream sites across the country, including in the Mississippi River Basin. Throughout the Mississippi River Basin, the tool can be used to evaluate nutrient loading to coastal areas and large tributaries.  Persons can contact NAWQA Program Chief William Wilber with questions or feedback regarding the online tool or any other components of the NAWQA Program (telephone: (703) 648-6878; email:

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
(Click to enlarge)
  • This year's Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" area is above the historic average, at 6,474 square miles (also see this related Mississippi River Collaborative release:
  • Dead zone off Louisiana coast slightly larger than last summer, but triple the size of the target set by a task force
  • Voluntary measures haven't stopped algae blooms in Gulf of Mexico
  • Des Moines business group offers to broker deal settling Water Works' water quality lawsuit against three Iowa counties
  • Op-ed: “middle ground” farm-level water quality plans supported as solution to Iowa's ag-related water quality problems
  • Senate passes bills reauthorizing National Estuary Program; requiring EPA to develop strategic plan to protect drinking water from algal toxins
  • Humans spike ecosystems with active pharmaceuticals, feminizing male fish, confusing birds, and worrying scientists
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: too much road salt is winding up in Twin Cities lakes and streams; story: (news release:
  • EPA issues Final 2014 Effluent Guidelines Program Plan re: control of industrial wastewater discharges
  • No cause determined yet for fish kill last week on the south branch of the Whitewater River, Minnesota
  • North Dakota Department of Health notified of August 6, 4,260 barrel-produced water (brine) spill (August 7 update: No surface waters were impacted
  • Farmers near Dyersville, Iowa show off efforts to reduce impaired Hewitt Creek watershed pollution
  • Government Accountability Office: Improved Financial Indicators Could Strengthen EPA Oversight of Clean and Drinking Water SRFs
  • Arch Coal Inc. and 14 subsidiaries settle with Obama administration to resolve over 1,000 Clean Water Act violations in several states, including Kentucky, Pennsylvania,and West Virginia
Waters of the United States Rule

  • 12 lawsuits brought against Obama administration “waters of the US” rule to be heard as one case before 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Five agricultural groups request that U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers delay new clean water rule effective date; letter: and story:
  • Internal Army Corps documents on clean water rule may open door to environmental group legal challenges citing National Environmental Policy Act

Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Op-ed: Hydropower industry attempting power grab to make it difficult-if not impossible-to ensure
    Wikimedia commons
    fish passage, other modern dam improvements
  • House bill introduced to give developers more options to mitigate wetlands damages under federal requirements; conservationists say bill's approach would gut the government's no-net-loss policy; story: and bill:
  • Sensors, satellites and software helping to grow more crops with less water
  • La Crosse County judge halts train traffic on new rail line until court can look at how traffic could potentially harm La Crosse River wetland
  • "Fishermen" oppose Mississippi River diversions to fix Louisiana coast
Agriculture -
  • Revolutionary political, economic and social shifts are necessary to avoid unprecedented food system chaos
  • With Idaho law gone, attention turns to other "ag-gag" states, including Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa
  • University of Minnesota researchers say agriculture is expected to be the first big beneficiary of drone technology
  • South Dakota State University researchers find that corn pests are less of a problem when there's a diverse population of bugs
  • State farming organizations plan to put Illinois at forefront of worldwide agriculture; develop Food and Agriculture RoadMap
Click to enlarge
Climate and Weather -
  • US Drought update: a week of heat after a period of general dryness brought advance of dryness across central Wisconsin into northeastern Iowa, western and northern Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma and southwest Arkansas
  • NOAA: most likely area for drought development in August is the Lower Mississippi Valley and East Texas
  • It's almost a certainty that we're headed for the strongest El NiƱo of the past 100 years
Photo: Conrad Wilson | MPR News
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources updates its list of lakes and rivers infested with aquatic invasive species
  • Walleye fishing on Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota closes, as catch exceeds tight seasonal quota (see related articles, below, under "In the States")
  • Yellowstone National Park fisheries managers moving ahead with plan to destroy invasive brook trout in Soda Butte Creek
  • Public comment sought on strategic plan addressing St. Croix River watershed aquatic invasive species
  • Zebra mussels reported in Lake Stella in Central Minnesota
In the Cities -
  • New York Times: Is New Orleans Safe? The state’s master plan could avert a watery demise. But it would cost many billions
  • Ten years on, Hurricane Katrina's scars endure for black New Orleans
  • New metric is being used by Williston, North Dakota to measure oil boom-bust population changes: sewage flow
In the States-
  • Center for State and Local Government Excellence: Nearly three-quarters of states and
    Mississippi River Basin States in the News
    localities reported making new hires in the past year
  • Mille Lacs walleye decline may spell trouble for Minnesota DNR, as Republican state legislators zero in on agency
  • Minnesota Legislative Working Group on Mille Lacs Lake focused on the how and why of the walleye problem
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton partially revives environmental citizen's board eliminated during 2015 legislative session
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources releases list of 118 DNR land parcels under review for possible sale in second year of efforts resulting from Wisconsin Act 20
  • Amid Illinois’ budget stalemate, scores of workers begin receiving layoff notices
Photograph: OLI/Landsat-8/Nasa
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Study: Sea defenses not enough to protect delta cities from rising flood risk; ‘Eco-based’ engineering systems may be key to protecting cities; those on the Mississippi may become up to eight times more at risk from rising tides, storm surges or catastrophic downstream floods; The Guardian story: (study abstract:
  • Report assesses impacts of Outer Continental Shelf activity on coastal communities' public infrastructure, services and populations following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (large PDF file)
Forestry -
  • U.S. Forest Service warns that two-thirds of its budget could go to fighting wildfires within a decade
  • Department of Natural Resources monitoring shows forestry operations are protective of Wisconsin water quality
Source: Washington Post
Resource Development -
  • Washington Post article and maps show all U.S. electricity capacity by source, including hydropower (hydropower map to right)
  • Alpha Natural Resources, one of U.S.'s largest coal mining companies, files for federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
  • Alpha Natural Resources Inc. expressed concern about mine-cleanup liabilities as it filed for federal bankruptcy protection
  • Coal miners are "battling each other for scraps" in the Illinois and Powder River (coal) basins
  • Minnesota ublic Utilities Commission will require state to study the cumulative environmental impact of two new Enbridge Energy pipelines
  • Oklahoma regulators tell energy companies to sharply reduce underground wastewater disposal in earthquake-prone area
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) - 
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will begin negotiations with Democrats to prevent a government shutdown at end of September
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
  • Wisconsin August Natural Resources Board meeting, 8:30 AM, August 12 (streamed live; will be available on demand)
  • USGS webinar: Wisconsin Edge-of-Field Monitoring Experience: Perspectives and Lessons Learned; August 12, 2 pm ET
  • EPA Green Infrastructure program webcast: Paying for Stormwater-The Benefits of a Utility; August 13, 1-2:30 PM ET (register here:
  • National Academy of Science meeting: Effective Approaches for Monitoring and Assessing Gulf of Mexico Restoration Activities; August 24-26, New Orleans, LA
  • Missouri Water Protection Forum, Water Quality Standards Workgroup, September 15, 1 – 4 PM CT, Lewis and Clark State Office Building, 1101 Riverside Drive, Jefferson City
  • EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets, September 15-17, University of Nebraska (register by August 31)
  • National Science Foundation meeting: Environmental Research and Education Advisory Committee; September 16-17, Arlington, VA (open to public)
  • National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration 2016 Conference - Call for Dedicated Session Proposals (deadline October 1)
  • 8th Annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference, October 6-7, Grand River Center, 500 Bell St., Dubuque, Iowa
  • America's Watershed Initiative Mississippi River Watershed Caucus, October 14, from 8:30 AM- 4 PM, St. Louis, Missouri
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
Other news-
  • Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduces bill to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually (link to bill:
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduces "Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act" press release: and bill link:
  • PEER issues report on prehistoric burial site mismanagement and desecration at Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa
  • Washington Post: Pursuing the unsettling question of how many cows contribute their parts to be in one hamburger
Politics and People-
  • Washington Post ranks 2015's 364 acronym-named bills by acronym quality - and there are some pretty bad ones
  • Pew Research Center: "Current Congress is looking a little more productive – so far"
  • Iowa and Arkansas AGs to co-chair newly formed National Attorneys General Agriculture Committee
  • Mississippi truck driver Robert Gray-a virtually unknown candidate-claims state's Democratic gubernatorial nomination
  • Renee Turner named new programs director for Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division Civil Works Integration Division
  • Democrat Katie McGinty to run for US Senate in Pennsylvania
  • September 10, Nashville, Tennessee mayoral race runoff vote anticipated, assuming none of seven candidates wins 50%+ of Thursday vote
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Anuar Patjane

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