Friday, October 23, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

This Week and Next
In the U.S. Senate this week, the largely bipartisan-backed overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act remained stalled over Sen. Richard Burr's demand for a vote on his amendment to reauthorize the (also largely popular) Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  Unless Burr receives unanimous consent to bring up his LWCF amendment, he will not agree to a motion for unanimous consent to bring up the TSCA bill.  To complicate the matter further, Utah Sen. Mike Lee will not let the LWCF amendment go to a vote, as he seeks to amend the law before it goes to a floor vote.  LWCF authority expired on September 30, although this week, the U.S. Treasury Department confirmed that the Fund currently has a $20 billion balance. The LWCF supports the protection of federal public lands and waters and voluntary conservation on private land.

The U.S. House passed legislation on Thursday that would significantly streamline the processing of mining permits on federal lands.  H.R. 1937 was passed on a 254-177 vote. The bill would ease environmental review requirements for mineral production activities, including the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, and it would limit courts' ability to provide redress.  The measure defines minerals broadly as those necessary for national defense and security; for energy infrastructure, including pipelines, refining capacity, electrical power generation and transmission, and renewable energy production; and to support domestic manufacturing, agriculture, housing, telecommunications, healthcare, and transportation infrastructure. Eight Democrats, including the Mississippi River Basin's Reps. Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson of Minnesota joined Republicans in voting for the bill.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put parties on notice this week that it will hold oral arguments on December 8 in Cincinnati on whether it will review appeals of the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule ("Waters of the United States" or "WOTUS" rule) or if the matter should be remanded to a district court. Earlier this month, the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of a multiple states' appeal requesting that the WOTUS rule be stayed from going into effect nationwide.  However, the 6th Circuit's stay in the rule's implementation will last until the court determines if the Clean Water Act gives it authority over the rule or if the states' appeal must be remanded to a district court.  As noted previously here, since the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is also currently considering the same jurisdictional issue, should the decisions of the 6th and 11th circuits differ, jurisdiction could be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) formally declared his bid for Speaker of the House after most GOP conservatives and moderates declared their support.  The announcement clears the way for Ryan to take the Speaker's gavel in hand after a vote next Wednesday.  Also next week on Capitol Hill: there are a few committee hearings already scheduled that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources, and you can see the list here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hold oral arguments on December 8 in Cincinnati on whether it will review appeals of Obama administration's Clean Water Rule (WOTUS) or send appeal to district court; article: and court notice:
  • Advocates ask U.S. EPA to strip Wisconsin DNR of its administration of major water pollution program in absence of progress
  • USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack: Iowans need to place more emphasis on and allocate more
    AP Photo/John Minchillo
    money to reducing nutrient pollution (related story below)
  • USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack met with local and state leaders in La Porte City, Iowa, on Friday to "discuss an innovative project designed to reduce nitrates in the Cedar Rapids water supply" (the subject Middle Cedar Partnership Project is an NRCS RCPP project; described here)
  • USDA is investing up to $225 million for a  second wave of Regional Conservation Partnership Program projects (165 groups invited to submit full proposals by November 10)
  • Ohio River's huge algae bloom a warning for water suppliers
  • Environmental groups and a Louisiana shipping company agree on plan to reduce coal and petroleum coke debris dumps into the Mississippi River
  • North Dakota developing cleanup plan for abandoned oil development waste pit threatening the Little Missouri River
  • USEPA Request for Scientific Views: Draft Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criterion for Selenium (Freshwater)
  • North Dakota oil well spewing after weekend blowout; endangering tributary of the Missouri River (related stories below)
  • Workers cap ND oil and brine spill after three days, although its size and impact on White Earth River are uncertain
  • And here is more coverage of the above and another recent North Dakota oil and brine spill (ND DOH media releases): and
  • Wisconsin waterways have improved significantly under the Clean Water Act
  • EPA publishes final rule requiring electronic reporting and sharing of Clean Water Act NPDES program information
  • Wisconsin DNR accepting comments on proposed multi-discharger phosphorus variance (statewide phosphorus variance)
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Washington Post: "We’re totally mismanaging the Mississippi River basin — and it’s costing us"
  • Research to study how changes in the Mississippi River can impact the Gulf of Mexico
  • FEMA: Guidelines for Implementing Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management, and Executive Order 13690, Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input
  • Wetlands being rebuilt by redistributing River sediment in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana via privately funded project
  • Iowa group wants Corps of Engineers to be more stringent when considering permit applications for Dakota Access pipeline where it passes over waterways
  • Hydropower industry group encourages Congress to move forward with bills to speed permitting process for new projects
  • North Dakota state engineer to end a program allowing farmers to sell their irrigation water for fracking
  • Army Corps of Engineers proposes changes in levels of service at Locks and Dams on the Ouachita and Black Rivers
  • Wisconsin Public Radio: Wisconsin's wetlands are state treasures for several reasons, according to wetland advocates
  • Historic Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority moves 2 Mississippi River sediment diversions toward construction
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources Public Notice of Proposed 2016 303(d) List (impaired waters) and 2018 Listing Methodology
Agriculture -
  • Nebraska Public Radio: interest grows in environmental markets that allow farmers to profit from conservation practices
  • Des Moines Register op-ed: More should be done to help farmers transition to organic production
  • Illinois farmer  Howard Buffett uses cover crops, no-till planting, other practices to improve soil health and water quality, offset climate change
  • Ohio State University soil specialist seeks farmers for a study on if natural gas pipelines impact crop production
  • Reuters: Lawsuits are piling up against Monsanto over Roundup ingredient glyphosate cancer concerns
  • Weed control research, soil health and fertility, and coping with water management top organic producer concerns
  • New online database aims to shed light on deals involving large purchases of farmland globally
  • USDA release: USDA Invests in New Market Opportunities in Local and Regional Food Systems
Click to enlarge
Climate and Weather -
  • NOAA weekly US drought update: minor expansion of northern and central Plains drought and dryness; rapid expansion of dryness and drought in parts of Midwest; significant drought impacts to area stretching from southern Oklahoma and central and eastern Texas to the Mississippi Delta
  • Commercial and private fishing in Montana are vulnerable to the effects of climate change
  • Study: Climate change adding billions to U.S. hurricane costs
  • Hottest global September on record marks fifth straight month to break its temperature record this year
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association: 2015 likely to be hottest on record, breaking record set in 2014
  • Indiana scientists write to Governor, the legislature and state officials offering to teach them climate change fundamentals
Source: USFWS
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service releases results of studies on small fish movement (including Asian carp) and barge traffic  The results indicate that small fish can become entrained between barges and subsequently transported measurable distances, through a lock and dam system, and across electrical barriers. (see map to the right)
  • Wyoming Stock Growers Association files lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming in Cheyenne to block federal sage grouse conservation plans
  • With Mille Lacs winter walleye season coming, Minnesota DNR sees positive signs in fish survey results
  • Zebra mussels found in 85-acre Lake Sylvia, northwest of St. Cloud
  • Minnesota DNR updates list of lakes and streams infested with aquatic invasive species in state
  • Invasive Old World bluestem grasses threaten Kansas pastures
  • Federal and state officials: large population of feral hogs in Arkansas is causing problems for farmers and
  • Illinois drops internal emerald ash borer quarantine after survey confirms its presence in 10 new counties
In the Cities -
  • Oklahoma City: how the creation of parks, sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaped walking trails helped to turn around an obesity epidemic
In the States-
  • Ohio lawmakers to hear two plans for bond issue to improve water quality statewide
  • Harrisburg Patriot-News concludes that Pennsylvania regulators "ignored citizens' constitutional right to clean air and water" in regulating shale gas industry
  • Amidst budget stalemate, low Illinois' bond rating dropped even further due to "continued deterioration of the state's financial flexibility"
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Details of BP settlement show oil spill caused trillions of marine wildlife deaths
Resource Development -
  • White House expresses strong opposition to legislation that would speed up mining permits on
    public lands (related story below)
  • House approves bill to speed up the permitting process for mining resources deemed "strategic or critical"
  • NPR: States are often left on the hook for cleaning up abandoned infrastructure after energy booms wane
  • Google Timelapse: Three decades of Powder River Basin coal mining in the Thunder Basin National Grassland
  • While Minnesota's and Wisconsin's frac sand industry is seeing a downturn, advocates continue fight to shut it down for good
  • Protesters deliver to Iowa Utilities Board over 1,000 objections to a proposed crude oil pipeline through Iowa
  • Judge dismisses lawsuit filed by Iowa landowners challenging a proposed crude oil pipeline
  • Powder River Basin Resource Council petitions Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to stop allowing Arch Coal to self-bond
  • Enbridge, Minnesota regulators ask state Supreme Court to reverse lower court ruling requiring full environmental review of Sandpiper pipeline project
  • Environmental advocates say FERC policies hinder appeals on pipeline projects
  • Pipeline opponents continue push to overturn Nebraska law that would allow companies to bypass regulatory commission on route approvals
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • Senate Democrats, environmental groups intend to fight inclusion of "poison pill" policy riders in budget negotiations
  • Congress’ crucial effort to strike a year-end federal fiscal deal is faltering before it’s really started
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 River meetings scheduled for November 16-18 in St. Paul, Minnesota; preliminary agendas posted
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Wisconsin DNR Floodplain and Shoreland Management Notes: Autumn 2015
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 307; October 19, Deep in the Heart of Louisiana
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 209: Gators and Freighters; Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Waterfront Bulletin for October 2015
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy October 20 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Feedlot Update - October 2015
  • October 21 Green Lands Blue Waters update
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council October 22 Watershed News

Other news-
  • U.S. Treasury confirms $20B balance for Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • House Natural Resources Committee releases draft bill to reauthorize and reform the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act
  • Senators reintroduce bill to reauthorize Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act - program to promote federal land sales, purchases
  • With new federal coal ash storage rules in place; Tennessee Valley Authority says it's ready
  • Wry chuckle of the week: "Why I hate farmers markets" Clare Doody - Washington Post
  • Obama administration blamed for massive regulatory delays
  • Wisconsin DNR Job Announcement: Mississippi River Water Policy and Planning Expert
  • Job opening: Research Ecologist position with U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
  • Minnesota agency: disaster prevention and response plans submitted by five rail companies do not fully meet state requirements
Politics and People-
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is likely headed for a December runoff with his top Democratic rival in Louisiana's governor race
  • Leading Republican raises concerns over two Obama nominees for Department of the Interior positions
  • House Speaker John Boehner schedules GOP October 28 conference meeting, for vote on his replacement
Your Moment of Zen -
Time Lapse of Rotunda Scaffold Installation 2015

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