Friday, September 11, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week . . .
The Waters of the United States (also known as the "Clean Water") rule continued to make headlines this past week. On Tuesday (September 8) the Attorneys General for Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana filed paperwork with the United States District Court for the Southern District Of Texas seeking a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the rule in those states. The states contended in their brief that the arguments made by Judge Ralph Erikson of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota (in his August 27 ruling blocking the rule from taking effect in 13 states) applies to them, as well.

In a related matter (also on Tuesday), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to decide whether a jurisdictional determination made by the Army Corps under the Clean Water Act constitutes a final agency action, and can thus be challenged in court. Specifically, the Corps is seeking a review of an April 2015 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that a Minnesota peat mine property owner could challenge in federal court a finding by the Army Corps that a waterway was subject to federal permitting.

Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a related case, finding that the Army Corps "jurisdictional determination" is not a final action subject to judicial review. However, subsequently, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an Army Corps jurisdictional determination may be a final action, subject to judicial review. If the administration is not successful in its appeal of that 8th Circuit decision (in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc., et al.), it would create a split in opinions by lower courts and could open the door for landowners to seek judicial review of findings by the government that a waterbody is subject to federal permitting. While the Hawkes suit was brought under the old jurisdiction rule, any Supreme Court decision would apply to jurisdictional decisions made under the new Waters of the United States rule, as well.

. . . and Next
Several Congressional hearings are already scheduled for next week that relate to the River Basin and
Gulf Coast's water resources. The House Agriculture Committee will be evaluating Farm Bill programs over two days of hearings, and a field hearing in New Orleans, Louisiana will take up the topic of "Impacts of Federal Policies on Energy Production and Economic Growth in the Gulf."  Almost certainly, the need for a Continuing Resolution to fund the Federal government beginning on October 1 will  be considered by Congress next week, as well, given that the House will have only six working days left starting next Tuesday before the current fiscal year ends.  Absent the Continuing Resolution, the government faces the perennial  specter of a midnight shutdown on September 30. You can find the latest listing of these and any newly-scheduled River-relevant Congressional activities here, updated throughout the upcoming week "on-the-fly."

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Waters of the United States Rule
  • Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana Attorneys General seek injunction to block implementation of Obama Administration Clean Water (WOTUS) Rule in those states
  • North Dakota U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson rules that there are “significant prudential reasons to limit the scope” of water rule injunction to 13 states
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) seeks to impeach U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy over WOTUS statements made to Congress
  • Obama Administration asks Supreme Court to decide Army Corps Clean Water Act jurisdictional determination case  (link to petition:
Other Water Quality News

  • H.R. 1644, “STREAM Act," that would block implementation of the Department of Interior's proposed stream protection rule, passes out of House Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 23-12
  • EPA plans to set the first federal limits on toxic metals (mostly from coal ash) in power plant wastewater discharges (see related story below)
  • As EPA prepares to release a new rule governing coal ash (applying to wastewater), the rule's potential reach is seen as limited
  • States rarely punish companies for oil development industry wastewater spills
  • 17-mile stretch of Mississippi River near Paducah, Kentucky fully reopens as Coast Guard continues to respond to oil spill
  • Increasing nitrate levels in Minnesota drinking water are a costly challenge for homeowners
  • Interior Department Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement extends proposed stream protection rule comment period until October 26
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Ohio FreshWater Accountability Project to appeal U.S. District Court ruling in Army Corps Freedom of Information Act case
Agriculture -
  • National Corn Growers Association President's main request for lawmakers: Leave the farm bill nutrition title where it is
  • Petition period opens for 2016 Wisconsin Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Enterprise Areas
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service: researching the use of gypsum to help reduce phosphorus runoff
Source: NOAA (click to enlarge)
Climate and Weather -
  • US drought update: abnormally dry swath develops in Central Plains; dryness eases in Minnesota and Wisconsin but expands in Mississippi and Louisiana
  • Climate change continues delivering warmer temperatures and heavier rains to Minnesota lakes and their inhabitants
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Fish and Wildlife Service settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity sets deadlines for deciding if 10 snails, insects, birds, mussels and fish warrant federal protection, including aquatic species in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia (Press release:
  • Invasive spiny waterflea drives troubling trend in Minnesota lakes for native zooplankton and
  • Minnesota updates its list of lakes and rivers infested with aquatic invasive species
  • Excavation begins at Eagle Marsh, Indiana for a berm reconstruction project designed to halt the spread of aquatic invasive species between Mississippi and Great Lakes basins
  • Three-judge federal appeals court panel finds that U.S. EPA erred in allowing use of insecticide linked to pollinator decline
  • White House OMB reviewing rule that would expand definition of what activities constitute "destruction or adverse modification" of critical habitat (news story:
  • Frogs in suburban lakes are mostly female, raising questions of whether endocrine-disrupting chemicals are to blame
  • Why walleye is Minnesota's 'holy grail of fish'
  • Minnesota Governor Dayton will insist that the Department of Natural Resources allow ice fishing on Lake Mille Lacs
  • Fish and Wildlife Service announces availability of final recovery plan for endangered dusky gopher frog (Mississippi) (FWS species profile
In the Cities -
  • Researchers evaluate Indianapolis-based effort to reconnect people to waterways through invasive species management (paper:
  • In thriving Nashville, a very negative race for Mayor (see related story, below, under "Politics and People")
In the States-
  • With walleye in decline, the Minnesota DNR becomes the prey
  • No breakthroughs in quiet talks mean it's on to a stopgap Pennsylvania state budget
  • Ramifications of budget indecision in Illinois highlighted in message from Moody's Investor Services
  • North Dakota lawmakers hear about the ongoing concerns in the oil patch, particularly related to roads, bridges, water, sewer and social needs
Photo: Louisiana State U School of Architecture
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Rising sea levels make access to Louisiana's Highway 1 increasingly difficult
Resource Development -
  • Dane County, Wisconsin backs off attempt to require Enbridge to set up a cleanup fund in case of a pipeline spill
  • Oil-waste disposal regulations that seem to have limited earthquakes in southern Kansas are set to expire in two weeks
  • After County prosecutor sides with anti-fracking advocates in Youngstown, Ohio, elections board hires outside counsel to defend its referendum decision
  • Cleanup of 2013 North Dakota pipeline spill moving slowly due to a lack of natural gas to power equipment
  • Wyoming strikes deal with bankrupt Alpha Natural Resources over mine cleanup financial assurance requirements
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration slashes coal production forecast to a near three-decade low
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) 
  • Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources will review Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund proposals; new state buffer law; September 16-17, St. Paul, MN
  • Missouri Water Protection Forum, Water Quality Standards Workgroup meeting, October 5, 1-3 PM, Lewis & Clark State Office Bld, 1101 Riverside Dr, Jefferson City
Photo: courtesy of Overburden film
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency September 2015 Industrial Stormwater News
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's September 8 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • New documentary, "Overburden," captures the impact of the coal industry on Appalachian communities
  • Green Lands Blue Waters Update, September 9
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Feedlot Update - September 2015
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's September 10 "Watershed News
Other news-
  • USDA: Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Kentucky top the nation's list for food insecurity
  • Op-ed: While the clock is ticking on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Congress has a chance to save it
  • Wisconsin groups plan event to discuss the "energy-water nexus" and how the two issues are interrelated
  • Indiana Parks Alliance supports reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Broad coalition of hunting and fishing interests call on Congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Amidst concern over his skepticism of climate change, Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox will gain control of National Geographic assets
Politics and People (Days until the 2016 election: 424) -
  • Indiana farmer Kip Tom enters crowded Republican Third District U.S. congressional race
  • Former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge (D) announces run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas)
  • Congressional conservatives agitating for a government shutdown taken to task on Wall Street Journal's editorial page
  • North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) announces that she will not run for governor in 2016
  • Republican Darin LaHood projected to win special election to replace former Illinois 18th district Rep. Aaron Schock, who resigned in March
  • Nashville, Tennessee elects its first female mayor, Democrat Megan Barry, in a Thursday runoff vote
Your Moment of Zen - 
Photograph: Carlos Perez Naval

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