Friday, October 2, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Intriguing Upper Mississippi River Economic Profile Points Toward Future Study Opportunities
Preliminary results of a 2015 Upper Mississippi River Economic Profile were unveiled on September 15 during the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative’s annual organizational meeting in Dubuque, Iowa.   Those results indicate that nine "river-related" economic sectors in 60 River-bordering counties generate over $253 billion in revenue annually, and sustain over 755,000 jobs; findings not unlike those of a related, 1999 Economic Profile of the Upper Mississippi River Region.  The 2015 Upper River profile and its 1999 predecessor provide the reader with a wealth of intriguing economic information.  And while they were limited in scope from a variety of perspectives, the profiles lay the foundation for future analyses that might be broader in nature: more geographically inclusive, evaluating a potential causal link between the River and the region's economic strength, and exploring the economic benefits provided by the River ecosystem to the people living in the region (i.e., ecosystem services).  To read more on the preliminary Economic Profile and future study opportunities, see this review.

This Week . . .
H.R. 719 - a stop-gap federal government spending measure ("CR" or "continuing resolution") - went from bill to law in under 24 hours on Wednesday, ending government shutdown fears, as both the House and Senate passed, and the President signed the measure. The funding treasure chest is now open through December 11.  By then congressional leaders and the White House hope to reach agreement on what government spending will look like through the remainder of the current, 2016 fiscal year (and possibly through the 2017 fiscal year - thereby avoiding fiscal cliff drama during the peak of the 2016 federal election).  In order to stay within the total spending ("sequestration") limit set by the  Budget Control Act of 2011, the CR contains an across-the-board reduction of 0.2108 percent.  The Senate Budget Committee notes that the CR contains language altering certain authorities for several federal agencies (described by the Committee here), including a newly created $700 million account to fight wildfires in Western states (to become available only "if funds previously provided for wildland fire suppression will be exhausted imminently").

The Waters of the United States rule continued to be the focus of court and congressional hearings this week. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers made their case at a Thursday hearing to convince judges on the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to treat as a single unit the many lawsuits challenging the administration's new Clean Water rule. And Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy defended the Army Corps' decisions during the development of the rule before a Senate subcommittee.

And as September turned into October, authority to collect revenue for one of the nation's most popular conservation programs expired.  The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) had been funded annually by revenues from offshore oil and gas development, and over the years accumulated a balance of about $20 billion. Congressional appropriators will still be able to draw upon that surplus until it is depleted, and the program will continue to be funded under the continuing resolution approved Wednesday to the tune of $300 million a year.  But the end to LWCF authority means that oil and gas companies have stopped paying into the Fund. The LWCF supports the protection of federal public lands and waters and voluntary conservation on private land. Largely bipartisan efforts to reauthorized the program will undoubtedly continue, although some some House Republicans hope to overhaul the LWCF before passing any extension.

If you prefer your weekly news in more bite-sized portions, you can get the one-paragraph version here: "What We Learned This Week - 'Southern Comfort'."

. . . and Next
On October 8, House Republicans will pick Speaker John Boehner's successor to run the chamber and are also expected to select a new slate of leaders to help the new Speaker do his or her job. Not much  is on the Congressional agenda as of now that relates to the Mississippi River Basin's natural resources. Currently-planned meetings include a wildfire hearing and a business meeting to consider (among other items) a handful of regulatory reform bills.  As other activities are scheduled, they will be posted here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • New York Times: Toxic Algae Outbreak Overwhelms a Polluted Ohio River
  • Illinois urges precaution over potential for exposure to toxins in Ohio River from harmful algal bloom
  • Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy defends decisions on Waters of the U.S. rule before Senate subcommittee
  • An injunction in the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit won’t hurt farmers, here’s why not
  • EPA finalizes rule revising regulations governing toxic metal wastewater discharges from Steam Electric Power Generating plants; story: and EPA web page: (related story below)
  • New U.S. EPA wastewater discharge rules could move coal-fired power plants to close ash ponds across the country
  • New USGS Field and Lab Guide to Freshwater Cyanobacteria
  • Studies identify high levels of bacteria and phosphorus in Valley Branch watershed water bodies (Minnesota)
  • Updated watershed health report cards are now available for each of Minnesota's 81 major watersheds
  • U.S. cities and water-consuming public bearing rising cost of keeping water safe to drink
  • Southern Illinois water systems in need of help to address future needs that will cost millions of dollars
  • Mississippi Delta growers prepare for anticipated runoff regulations by enacting a "proactive water conservation" approach
  • U.S. EPA continues to review aspects of West Virginia's Clean Water Act regulatory program oversight
  • Illinois environmentalists plan to continue litigation efforts to force Interior Department's OSMRE to take over state's strip-mine program
  • Minnesota Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources meets this week to discuss freshwater resources, algal blooms, climate
  • New Minnesota cropland buffers to be 'case by case, ditch by ditch'
  • Kentucky years late on statewide nutrient water pollution management plan
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources publishes draft 2016 303(d) List of impaired surface waters; DNR background website: and list:
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Indiana's drinking water infrastructure upgrade needs-a look at their costs and how much
    Photo: WDNR
    federal aid is available
  • Tennessee has highest percentage nationally of unspent money from federal program used to improve local drinking water systems (Drinking Water State Revolving Fund)
  • Wisconsin DNR: Brook trout found within reclaimed cranberry marsh and Beaver Brook flowage demonstrate habitat restoration success
  • League of Women Voters: Army Corps draft environmental impact statement for proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project/Glade Reservoir project insufficient (South Platte River watershed)
  • Army Corps decides to decrease release of water from the Garrison Dam to the frustration of Missouri River users
  • High water changes Platte River landscape; has "mixed impacts on the ecosystem and wildlife habitat"
Agriculture -
  • U.S. District Court ruling on EPA livestock data rule marks a defeat for environmental groups (court opinion:
  • El NiƱo weather phenomenon is causing havoc for US rice farmers in the Mississippi Delta –
    Photo: Brian Peterson / Star Tribune
    Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana – and Texas
  • University of Kentucky Coldstream Dairy Research Farm breaks ground on new stall-less barn designed to maximize cow comfort
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee reviews research innovations achieved by the nation's agricultural colleges and universities
  • WPR: Majority of new farmers in Wisconsin are first-generation, state finds
Climate and Weather -
  • Study: Short winters driven by climate change threaten temperate fish populations
  • US weekly drought update: pronounced dryness in parts of Oklahoma; expansion of Abnormal Dryness in eastern North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota, southeastern Wyoming, northwestern Nebraska
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center drought outlook for October: except in southern Wisconsin most of the central U.S. should see at least some drought improvement
Photo: John Weiss | AP
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • The Licking River (Kentucky): A healthy sign as endangered fanshell and other mussels thrive
  • Eleven genetically rare bison released into Minneopa State Park near Mankato, Minnesota in effort to expand herd
  • Houston, Minnesota, along the Root River, is home to the International Owl Center
  • Los Angeles Times editorial: The greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken: let science decide
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation allocating $3.3 million in 22 grants to save the monarch butterfly
  • At Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee briefing on Endangered Species Act reform, Republicans claim bipartisan support - while no Democrats attend
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to list eastern massasauga rattlesnake as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (range includes parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa)
  • Interior Department seeks nominations for new members to its Invasive Species Advisory Committee (deadline November 30)
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service designates critical Midwest and Plains habitats for the Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling butterflies; Federal Register: (also see this news story:
  • Fish and Wildlife Service makes it official: Greater Sage-grouse will not be Endangered and Threatened (Federal Register)
In the Cities -
Courtesy of city of St. Paul
  • Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative Annual Meeting, September 16 press conference video archived here:
  • Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative mayors prepare for Paris UN climate change summit
    St. Paul contest to promote neighborhoods along Metro Transit's Green Line light-rail corridor announces award recipients
  • Pioneer Press editorial: St. Paul: A mighty view of a mighty river - the opportunity of the new century
In the States-
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoes Republican stopgap state budget; calls on Republican leadership to get serious
  • Final Wisconsin DNR Surface Water Grants Program Materials now available on Proposed DNR Program Guidance Web page
  • South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard: "state agencies are doing what we can to fight burdensome federal regulations"
  • Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley considers additional cuts to state services funded through General Fund budget following already-deep Department of Environmental Management cuts, despite legislative language forbidding it
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • October 21 date set for final Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority decision on construction of river diversion
  • The Advocate editorial: Louisiana needs to save the beauty that changed how Audubon saw nature
  • Louisiana coastal protection authority to present recommendations next month about where Mississippi River sediment diversions should be created to build up coastal marsh land
Forestry -
  • State and tribal witnesses tell House Natural Resources Committee that US Forest System timber policy is flawed
Click to enlarge
Resource Development -
  • Onshore U.S. oil production sites spilled 716,844 barrels of oil, produced water and other material in at least 9,728 incidents in 2014
  • South Dakota regulators start a two-week hearing on whether to allow Dakota Access Pipeline through the state
  • Oil bust: In North Dakota, oil is staying in the ground, workers are headed home and brand-new houses are sitting empty
  • Keystone XL pipeline developer will withdraw lawsuits seeking to gain access to Nebraska private properties, opting to go through the state regulatory commission
  • South Dakota Public Utilities Commission begins oil pipeline hearings; environmental study may be condition of construction
  • Federal court ruling rejects NWF and Sierra Club challenge that oil pipeline from Illinois to Oklahoma needed a full National Environmental Policy Act review
  • Brainerd Dispatch op-ed: Minnesota Governor Dayton's Sandpiper pipeline comments lack common sense foresight
  • Federal judge: Obama administration does not have authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands
  • There’s turmoil in the coal market and Inland Waterways barge operators are feeling the heat
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: high-level budget talks between congressional leaders and the White House to start “very soon”
  • Glide path to avoiding a shutdown this week sets up an even bigger clash in December
  • Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: Congress will need to address the debt limit by Nov. 5 or risk default on nation’s 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)
  • Wisconsin Water Quality Standards Workgroup October 5 meeting to focus on proposed numeric nutrient criteria for lakes scheduled for the upcoming water quality standards review
  • The State of Wisconsin's Forests with ecologist David Mladenoff, Madison, WI, October 8, 7–8:30 pm
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment 46th Environmental Achievement Awards and Grassroots Gala, October 23, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference, October 29-30, Marriott Chicago O'Hare
  • Save the Date-24th North American Prairie Conference; From Cemetery Prairies to National Tallgrass Prairie, July 17-20, 2016,  Illinois State University (Normal, Illinois)
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy, September 29 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Watershed Connections - September 2015
  • September 2015 Great Rivers Partnership e-newsletter
  • The Horinko Group's Third Quarter 2015 Sustainabulletin
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota October "Currents" e-newsletter
Other news-
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund authority lapses; efforts to reauthorize the popular program will continue (related stories below)
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund supporters mount last-minute push to expedite an extension
  • National Governors Association urges congressional leaders to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • House passes RAPID Act "to streamline the regulatory review, environmental decision making and permitting process" on largely party line 233-170 vote
  • United Nations member states agree on new set of sustainable development goals; 2030 agenda
    includes 17 goals, based on 169 targets
  • National Parks Conservation Association files federal lawsuit challenging gravel pit approval near near 'cradle of conservation' in North Dakota (complaint:
  • Augsburg College classroom on the Mississippi River h/t @RiverLifeUMN
  • Wisconsin River Trail Organization receives $200,000 Wisconsin DNR grant for trail construction
  • Mississippi River Fund changes name to Mississippi Park Connection to better reflect people-River connecting mission
Politics and People-
  • Directors of Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois State Fair step down under politically-charged circumstances
  • Memphis,Tennessee's A C Wharton heads into an October 8 election as perhaps the most endangered incumbent big city mayor in the country
  • Justice Department attorney Steve Samuels faces his biggest challenge defending the Obama administration's controversial Waters of the U.S. rule
  • Amidst ethics probe, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY-1) announces that he will not seek re-election to a 12th term
  • Kentucky's Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer will run for U.S. Congress in Kentucky's 1st District
  • Newly elected Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) appointed to two House committees that oversee environmental and science policy
  • The speculation begins: Who will win John Boehner’s Cincinnati-area House seat?
Your Moment of Zen - 
Pearl Damour and Stewart Hall, How to Build a Forest. New Orleans’s Contemporary Arts Center. Image via Instagram.

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