Friday, November 13, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

Endangered Species Act Issues are Nuanced and Multifaceted
If you ever needed proof that the issues central to informed discussions on the status and future of the Endangered Species
Act (ESA) are both sophisticated and complex, look no further than this past Tuesday's Farm Foundation Forum panel presentations on "The Endangered Species Act of the Future." The Forum proceeded from an overview of what many deem to be a successful 11-state effort involving governments, landowners and industries to prevent the ESA listing of the greater sage grouse. But the panel members went beyond that singular example to explore in detail and nuance the varied perspectives on the ESA, giving the audience a glimpse into how those diverse views might shape the future of the Act, itself, and of landscape, agricultural, species and ecosystem conservation overall [That future will likely entail a just-announced USDA initiative to engage farmers and ranchers in the monarch butterfly's 11-state migration range in efforts to improve habitat and turn around that species rapid numbers decline (possibly avoiding a potential ESA listing)].

Layered between informed and informative opening and closing remarks, respectively, by Jason Weller (Chief, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service) and Alex Echols (representing the Sand County Foundation) were distinctive and notably refined presentations by Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, U.S. Department of Interior, David Willms, Policy Advisor to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Brian Rutledge, Vice President of the National Audubon Society, and Wyoming rancher Patrick O'Toole, who is also President of the Family Farm Alliance.  Biographies of all of the presenters can be seen here, and both their panel remarks, and the subsequent question and answer session can be found here in an audio format.  A listen is highly recommended.

Federal Spending Legislation Takes Shape - Policy Riders Are in Play
For the next several weeks behind the scenes in Congress we'll find House and Senate appropriations committee members and staff diligently crafting an omnibus 2016 fiscal year spending package that both meets the conditions of the bipartisan budget deal signed into law three weeks ago (H.R.1314 - the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015), and (they hope) that can be passed by both chambers while avoiding a Presidential veto.  Potential political potholes along the road to enactment arise from Republican plans to propose a number of spending bill riders (or amendments) that address contentious policy, including those blocking implementation of the final Waters of the U.S. rule, and the proposed Interior Department stream protection rule (other possible environmental riders include those overturning recent changes to ozone emission standards and the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan). Some Democrats and their staff are softening a previously hard-line Democratic anti-rider position, and now indicate that it will be impossible to pass a totally rider-free spending bill.

Negotiators have until December 11 to prepare spending legislation and get it passed. After that date, the continuing resolution currently funding the federal government expires. The alternatives to passing an omnibus bill by then are a federal government shutdown or yet another short-term extension. Congressional staff indicate that appropriators are unlikely to finish their spending bill negotiations until the week of November 30 at the earliest.

Next Week
Next week's Congressional committee activity includes several hearings of interest to Mississippi River Basin and Coastal Louisiana water resource stakeholders; one being a legislative hearing on a bill authored by Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah to "reauthorize and reform the Land and Water Conservation Fund."  You can see the entire list of water-relevant committee hearings here.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
Wisconsin Train Derailments and Spills
  • Wisconsin: train carrying crude oil derails and leaks oil one day after train derailed on the Mississippi River (related stories below)
  • Canadian Pacific Railway: broken rail caused an oil train derailment in southeastern Wisconsin
  • Crews clean up after train derailment, ethanol spill on Mississippi River in western Wisconsin  (photo to the right)
  • Mississippi River backwaters' clean up from train derailment, ethanol spill continues; environmental impacts unknown
  • BNSF Railway says Wisconsin rail ethanol spill was not harmful to aquatic life
  • Officials say Wisconsin "dodged a bullet" following the spill of thousands of gallons of ethanol from a derailed train
  • Federal officials investigating what caused two Wisconsin weekend train derailments-ethanol and crude oil
  • Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) urges House leadership to immediately bring his rail safety legislation to a floor for a vote
  • Recent train derailments in Wisconsin show the need for safety upgrades and better emergency response planning
Other Water Quality News
  • Safe, clean drinking water eludes many Wisconsinites faced with metal and nitrate pollution
  • About 1,000 barrels of crude oil spilled from a pipeline in rural Oklahoma; "no water was contaminated"
  • North Dakota Department of Health notified of 250 barrel (10,500 gallon) brine spill in Stark County; "some" collected
  • North Dakota Department of Health notified of pipeline leak; approximately 225 barrels (9450 gallons) of crude oil released
  • National implications: Farm organizations, home builders ask U.S. Supreme Court to consider blocking the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay pollution limits
  • State to revive mercury testing program for fish caught in Louisiana waters for the first time since 2008
  • Over 50 business organizations turn up pressure on 10 moderate Democrats and Independent who voted against Senate WOTUS-blocking bill (related news article
  • Consortium of aquatic scientists opposed Senate Resolution invalidating Clean Water Rule
  • 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denies environmental groups' request to force U.S. EPA to respond to petition to withdraw West Virginia's Clean Water Act permitting authority
  • Illinois Nutrient Science Advisory Committee members named; will guide nutrient water quality standards development
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment files notice of intent to sue US EPA over its failure to oversee development of state's water quality standards under Clean Water Act
  • Coal mining cleanup in Ohio waterways showing mixed results as legacy pollution persists and
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee gearing up for next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
  • Obama administration files petition with U.S. Supreme Court regarding two pending appeals in water cases (related story:
  • Petitioners ask Army Corps to be more transparent with its processing of permit applications
  • Nebraska irrigators served by Republican River basin irrigation district sue state for sending water to Kansas in 2014
  • USDA expands water resource investment in Ogallala Aquifer Initiative; adds focus areas in Nebraska and Oklahoma
  • US Army Corps of Engineers' Pittsburgh District requests input on Ohio River  riverfront habitat restoration project
  • Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana looks to add two new levee projects to its proposed 2016 parish budget
  • The Future of Ag Water: Increase Irrigation Efficiency and Sell Conserved Water
  • Over 200 groups send letter urging House members to vote against "North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act; "an unprecedented assault" on rivers, people and wildlife (link to bill
  • Purdue University study: Current flood models do not account for cities' impact on local rainfall patterns
  • EPA releases draft National Wetland Condition Assessment for comment
Agriculture -
  • Top USDA official says climate change poses a serious threat to Midwest agriculture
  • EPA and USDA partner with producers, and environmental and scientific experts to develop technologies to recycle nutrients from livestock waste
Climate and Weather -
  • Figures compiled by the World Meteorological Organization showed strong growth  and new records during 2015 in concentrations of all three of most important heat-trapping gases
  • "Drought creep” intensifies across southern Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas
  • NOAA US drought update: dryness expanded in parts of Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois; was alleviated in the Lower Mississippi River Valley, southeastern Oklahoma
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • USDA launches new conservation effort to aid monarch butterflies
  • Public can comment through Nov. 19 on proposal to allow Wisconsin corn growers to treat seed with repellent to stop Sandhill Crane feeding
  • Researchers find fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in Nebraska bats, marking the westernmost detection of the fungus
  • Western state wildlife officials urge oil and gas companies to enroll in voluntary plan to conserve lesser prairie chicken habitat
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources live bald eagle cam video streaming now from Twin Cities nest
  • Bureau of Land Management to hold nine public hearings over proposal to withdraw up to 10 million acres of federal lands in six states from new mining claims in an effort to protect the greater sage grouse
In the Cities -
  • Minneapolis City Council resolution targets oil train safety through the city
  • New Orleans officials hope to use BP spill money to help fund huge disaster mitigation plan
  • The Guardian: Blighted Beattyville, Kentucky, where hostility to the US’s first black president and his "war on coal" runs deep
  • U.S. EPA invites nominations for possible appointment to its Local Government Advisory Committee (December 14 deadline)
In the States-
  • Illinois Pollution Control Board asks state EPA to detail how it will implement new federal coal-ash disposal rules (related: Illinois Pollution Control Board Acts on Concerns Regarding Coal Ash Waste from Electric Generating Plants
  • Wisconsin state lawmakers introduce rail safety bill in wake of two derailments
  • Critics say politicized state environmental agency threatens Wisconsin's water
  • Lake associations, river groups, local governments can apply for Wisconsin DNR surface water planning grants through December 10
  • Kansas slashes current fiscal year revenue estimate by $159 million, announces budget adjustments
  • Pennsylvania budget deal near with higher sales tax, but many decisions still need to be agreed to and
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Funding for Louisiana's 50-year master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane storm surge protection at least $71 billion short
Forestry -
  • EPA solicits comments and information on public and private programs to protect water quality from forest road stormwater runoff
  • USDA announces $10.6 million in available funding for projects to restore southern and southeastern longleaf pine ecosystems (including in Mississippi and Louisiana)

(click to enlarge either map)
Resource Development -
  • President Obama rejects application to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast
  • Keystone XL oil pipeline supporters plan their next steps following President Obama's permit rejection
  • Enbridge mapping possible 'twin' of major tar sands line through Wisconsin
  • Analysts say President Obama's rejection of Keystone XL project may eventually boost rail shipments out of Alberta
  • After five years of work, Obama administration's proposed regulatory overhaul fails to patch hole in US pipeline safety net
  • Signs of a developing shale gas economy dot the Ohio River in Marshall County, West Virginia
  • Southern Illinois community braces for another coal bust cycle cycle as one of two large mines is scheduled to close within six months
  • Coal "isn’t going anywhere," according to the head of the World Coal Association - it's simply "moved to Asia"
  • Des Moines Register: 12 things to know about proposed Bakken oil pipeline (through Iowa) (related story below)
  • Iowa commission voting on the Bakken pipeling project is one of the most inexperienced utility commissions in the country
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
  • Webinar: Navigating the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit: How the Toolkit can support local planning and decisions for enhanced community resilience, November 19; 12:00 - 1:00 pm ET
  • Association of State Wetland Managers Webinar: Improving Wetland Restoration Success Project-Novel Ecosystems and Restoration; November 19, 3 PM ET
  • USEPA Science Advisory Board Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel  Public Teleconference,  December 3, 2-6 PM ET
  • 76th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, January 24-27, 2016; Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • StormCon 2016-annual surface water quality conference; Indianapolis, Indiana, August 22 - 25, 2016
  • Presentations from the 2015 Minnesota Water Resources Conference are now posted on University of Minnesota website
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 219, November 9: "Gators and Freighters"
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy TUWaterWays e-newsletter for November 10
  • Fall edition of Army Corps of Engineers' "Our Mississippi" magazine
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Waterfront Bulletin for November 2015
  • NW PAssages November e-magazine, exploring NW Pennsylvania's greenways and natural heritage
Other news-
  • Tennessee Clean Water Network seeks to fill a staff attorney position
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announces RFP for 2016 Five Star and Urban Waters
    Restoration grants
  • Voting open for 2016 Pennsylvania River of the Year through December 4; Ohio, and Kiski-Conemaugh rivers nominated
  • Annual ‘Greening The Statehouse’ environmental event in Indiana this year will focus on coal ash management rules
  • New GOP bill - H.R.3939 - would "require that the workforce of the Environmental Protection Agency be reduced by 15 percent"
  • Republicans disagree over House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop's plan to reform Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Chances of a Senate vote on bill to overhaul TSCA dim because of protracted Land and Water Conservation Fund fight
  • Western Values Project ad tries to convince three Republicans to oppose their party's Land and Water Conservation Fund bill
  • City Parks Alliance: " A Smart Investment for America's Health: Land and Water Conservation Fund"
  • River Life blog: America’s Watershed Report Card: A Good Start Despite/Because of the Controversy
  • Controversial herbicide glyphosate can now be approved for relicensing in the European Union
Politics and People-
  • Obscure North Dakota federal district judge Ralph Erickson takes lead role in fight over Obama clean water act rule
  • Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R, At-Large, Wyoming) will not seek re-election in 2016
  • Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity joint "State Integrity Investigation" grades states based on laws and systems they have in place to deter corruption; three states graded higher than D+
  • Columnist fired after writing article critical of Ducks Unlimited donor regarding access to ranchland near Ruby River (Missouri River Basin in Montana)
  • Gallup poll: Congress' job approval rating slips to 11 percent
Your Moment of Zen -

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