Friday, September 4, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week in WOTUS
The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) carousel continued to turn this week, with both opponents and supporters of the contentious rule vying for their respective brass rings.  Lawyers for thirteen states filed a brief before North Dakota District Court Judge Ralph Erickson contending that the rule should be blocked in all U.S. states, while the Obama administration argued in its brief that the rule should apply nationwide, except within the thirteen states named in Judge Erickson's August 27 injunction blocking the rule's implementation.  The Judge had called for the briefs (“addressing the issue of whether the injunction applies nationally or in a limited geographic area”) after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made it clear that the agency intended to interpret his August 27 injunction narrowly and apply the new rule elsewhere across the country.  For good measure, the BCCA Appeal Group, a non-profit Texas corporation, filed an amicus brief with the Court, arguing on behalf of blocking the rule's implementation nationwide.

Other WOTUS news is highlighted, below, and includes a lawsuit against the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers by several environmental organizations who believe the rule is not protective enough, and several requests by industry groups and lawmakers to delay the rule's implementation until after pending legal issues are resolved.  Next up - a United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is set to hear arguments on the EPA's request to consolidate the numerous WOTUS lawsuits at an October 1 hearing in New York City.  Stay tuned!

It was a busy news week beyond WOTUS, as well, and the best bits of that news are summarized below. If you prefer to skip the list in favor of a more concise version of the week’s River Basin news, check out “What We Learned This Week – ‘Starry, Starry Sight’.”

Next Week
Photo: @CraigCaplan
A sure sign that Congress will soon be back in session: the Senate subway was jacked up this week for some routine maintenance before being pressed back into full service next Tuesday.  The Senate will take up a disapproval resolution on President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran soon after lawmakers return. Consideration of the Iran deal has to be concluded by September 17, when a 60-day Congressional review window closes.  Soon thereafter, Congress will want to move quickly on to a stopgap spending measure to keep the government funded beyond the September 30 end to the current fiscal year.  Although a continuing resolution funding the government will probably pass the Senate clear of contentious amendments (or "riders"), that may not be the case in the House, where conservatives will seek to add one or more riders to the crucial spending bill.

As of today, there are just a limited number of Congressional committee activities scheduled for next that only marginally relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources. This may change over the holiday weekend and into next Tuesday, as committee leaders and staff line up hearings, executive meetings and bill markups following their soporific, late summer recess.  You can check out the up-to-date list of the week's Congressional happenings here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States Rule
  • Waterkeeper Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety and local
    Photo: The Hill
    environmental groups file anti-WOTUS rule lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (see related news article:
  • Ruling by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ralph Erickson for the District of North Dakota throws WOTUS rule into doubt
  • EPA won’t cave on clean water water rule, saying regulations will safeguard drinking water for millions of Americans
  • Producer groups ask Obama administration to suspend enforcement of new Clean Water Act rule until court case is resolved
  • Four Mississippi River Basin Senators (op-ed): "EPA's water rule needs more input from farmers and small businesses" (U.S. News and World Report op-ed)
  • 13 States: Obama water rule should be blocked nationwide in the name of consistency and because they will likely win the case (see related article below)
  • Obama administration and states argue in court briefs over the extent of WOTUS injunction: 13 states or nationwide
Other Water Quality News
  • Coast Guard closes part of Mississippi River after oil spill from collision between two  boats near Paducah, Kentucky (also see: Thousands of gallons of oil spilled in Mississippi River after two boats collide near Columbus, Kentucky
  • Opponents of proposed update to Interior Department's stream protection rule vow to fight regulation (see related articles, below)
  • Industry and environmental interests clash at Interior's first stream protection rule hearing
  • Kentucky coal industry, environmental advocates expected to clash in Lexington  over proposed stream protection regulations
  • Federal judge: PPG Industries violated state and federal environmental laws by discharging pollutants from dumpsite into Allegheny River
  • Officials estimate 1,200 barrels of oil have leaked from a West Virginia pipeline into a nearby Ritchie County stream
  • Toxic algal bloom on Ohio River and its tributaries continues to spread - Monroe County: and Wheeling-Ohio County
  • Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge (North Dakota) Issues Blue-green Algae Advisory
  • Ameren coal tar cleanup in Belleville, Illinois to include Richland Creek rerouting, and stream bed, and bank excavation
  • Wisconsin River petroleum-based sediment contamination to be removed in Stevens Point
  • Potentially deadly amoeba found in 4th Louisiana water system
  • Minneapolis waterworks pilot program tests using freshwater mussels as early warning detectors of water quality issues
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • 'Natural' Mississippi River diversion - such as the one that created the Mardi Gras Pass - lies at the center of coastal restoration conflict
  • U.S. District Court judge: $3 billion cost of Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ecosystem
    Photo: LPBF
    restoration must be completely paid by Federal government; ruling: and news article:
  • Times-Picayune Editorial Board: Army Corps responsible for restoring wetlands destroyed by Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet
  • MN DNR cites tribal members for setting a fishing net on Gull Lake in second day of treaty rights challenge
  • Dredging in Indiana aimed at quickly flushing water out of the region prompts concern and debate in downstream Illinois
  • Indiana Department of Natural Resources to re-establish Black Oak Bayou as a functioning Kankakee River valley wetland
  • Limited water quantity issues cloud future of Lower Illinois River trout fishery (Oklahoma)
  • Wisconsin DNR grants available to help municipalities  maintain or remove dams
  • FEMA: the first week of National Preparedness Month is "a good time to consider the true risk” of flooding
  • MPR News: Water rising again in White Bear Lake, but will it stay? (Twin Cities area)
Agriculture -
  • USDA survey shows limited access to land for new farmers 
  • Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission approves "compromise" five-year ban on new medium and large hog farms in Buffalo National River watershed
  • USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service: 80% of rented farm acres owned by non-farmers (and other ownership statistics)
  • Price of Illinois farmland is down by 2-7 percent
Click to enlarge
Climate and Weather -
  • New study finds a climate change link to the May 2015 wettest month on record in Texas and Oklahoma
  • Drought update: lack of precipitation, declining stream flows prompt Louisiana, Arkansas drought index deterioration
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center September drought outlook: most likely areas for drought development: southern Plains, lower Mississippi Valley
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Christian Science Monitor: Starry stonewort and other aliens invading US lakes
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirms state's first cases of invasive starry stonewort in two mid-state lakes
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources identifies six southeastern state lakes harboring invasive starry stonewort
  • Federal judge blocks Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to list lesser prairie chicken as threatened under Endangered Species Act; story: and court order:
  • U.S. District Court lesser prairie chicken ruling casts doubt on Fish and Wildlife Service's listing policy
  • North Dakota and Minnesota researchers: shifting Midwest agricultural landscape making it harder for bees to find enough food
  • University of Minnesota startup company's scientists trying to make common carp a lot less common
  • Accelerating oil and gas development, newly-endangered species prompt Dakota Prairie Grasslands Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
  • Iowa and Nebraska officials: Missouri River threatened by downstream infestation of zebra mussels from southeast South Dakota
  • Over 1,200 comments submitted on EPA proposal to tighten restrictions on pesticide use on crops where bees pollinate
  • Fish and Wildlife Service attempting to remove federal protections for rare Kentucky white-haired goldenrod and keep Kentucky arrow darter off endangered or threatened species lists
  • Off-highway vehicle group predicts "flurry of litigation" against possible government decision to protect the greater sage grouse; story: and letter:
  • Restoration Midwest: Putting the Piece of the Prairie Back Together in Illinois – Bison in the Nachusa Grassland
In the Cities -
  • Anderson, Indiana project utilizing green infrastructure decreased first flush runoff to combined sewers; overflows
  • Inver Grove Heights (Minnesota)  Zero Stormwater Runoff stormwater management system proves successful
  • City of Youngstown files complaint with Ohio Supreme Court in support of putting anti-fracking ballot proposal before voters
  • Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish are late to the riverfront destination development game compared to other cities
In the States-
  • Minnesota Governor Dayton: state will address stream buffer compensation for farmers in the next legislative session
  • Minnesota program certifying farms for protecting water quality is transitioning from four pilot areas to statewide
  • Ohio state House members hold hearing to explore the future of agricultural education in state
  • Ohio’s new nutrient management-manure laws for the Great Lakes may eventually be applied statewide
  • Governor tries new tactic in deadlocked Pennsylvania state budget talks: smaller, quiet meetings
  • Comments due on second draft of Colorado State Water Plan: September 17
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • The homespun tech that's helping to shore up Louisiana's disappearing coastline
  • Obama may back Louisiana use of offshore oil revenue for coastal restoration
  • "Connecting the Delta Region to the International Marketplace" - Panel Discussion on International Trade in Greater New Orleans: Fueling Economic Growth and Resilience (video)
  • First phase of planned offshore-Louisiana megaport could be open by late 2016, backers say
  • Op-ed: "Coastal erosion is killing Louisiana"
Forestry -
  • maps wildfires that are visible to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites and related smoke plumes
  • Source:
  • Op-ed: Federal legislation to address the fire funding crisis also has to address the forest management crisis
Resource Development -
  • White House's Office of Management and Budget is reviewing controversial Fish and Wildlife Service proposed update to its oil and gas regulations  (story:
  • Ohio continues record-setting shale oil and gas production despite falling oil prices and warnings of industry decline
  • 110 barrels of brine and 550 barrels of oil spill at Dunn County, North Dakota well blowout site; no surface water affected
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page)

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 Floodplain Forest Workshop, September 15‐17, Dubuque, Iowa
  • Save the date: Association of State Floodplain Managers  Gilbert F. White National Flood Policy forum; September 17, Washington, DC
  • 12th International Phytotechnologies Conference, Manhattan, KS, September 27-30
  • Tennessee Valley Authority Regional  Resource Stewardship Council  meeting, September 28-29, TVA, 400 W Summit Hill Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 3rd biennial America’s Grasslands Conference; September 29-October 1, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council 2015 Watershed Symposium, October 7-9, Missoula Montana
  • National Research Council committee meeting: Effective Approaches for Monitoring and Assessing Gulf of Mexico Restoration Activities; October 28-29 (location TBD)
  • The Food-Energy-Water Nexus: 16th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment, Washington, DC, January 19-21, 2016
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • A review of Lynne Diebel's book, "Crossing the Driftless," about her paddle across the Driftless Area of Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy August 28 and September 1 TUWaterWays e-newsletters
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 303, August 29; 10-year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina and No. 304, August 31
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers "News and Views" Vol. 28, No. 4; August 2015
  • National Conference of State Legislatures' August 2015 Energy and Agriculture Update
  • Pennsylvania Resources Council September 1, e-newsletter
  • Gulf Restoration Network's September 3 GulfWaves e-newsletter
Other news-
  • American Rivers accepting river nominations for its 2016 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers (deadline October 30)
  • Duke University researchers find naturally occurring radioactivity in coal combustion residuals
    Source: Environ. Sci. Technol.
    from Illinois, Appalachian and Powder River coal basins
  • In a cave beneath South Dakota's Black Hills, researchers find some of the purest water on Earth
  • Rock Island Ecological Services Field Office (Moline, IL) currently advertising to fill a US FWS Fish and Wildlife Biologist position
  • Study: Long-term exposure to pesticide Roundup at levels thousands of times lower than permitted in U.S. drinking water could cause serious liver and kidney problems
Politics and People-
  • Court cases leave some states (including Wisconsin) stuck in "redistricting limbo"
  • Poll: 24% of Americans now view both the GOP and Democratic Party unfavorably
  • Lucy Lou - Border Collie and mayor of Ohio River town of Rabbit Hash - plans to retire as mayor, run for President
  • U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-MN-2) announces that he will retire at the end of this session of Congress
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Abbas Dulleh/AP

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