Friday, November 20, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

This Week and Next in Congress
U.S. Senate and House members are now on Thanksgiving recess, not to return until November 30.
However, lawmakers took advantage of their one week in Washington between breaks for Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, incrementally moving some water-related legislation, and continuing behind-the-scene's negotiations on a federal spending bill that needs to be passed by December 11.

First to the bills of cocnern to those interested in water resources: On Thursday morning, members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a popular package of "sportsmen's" measures that was first amended to permanently reauthorize the equally-popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Only Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against the package, saying he preferred the LWCF reauthorization and reform approach included in House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop's (R-Utah) draft bill. That House bill was the focus of a Wednesday Natural Resources Committee hearing. Support for and against the Bishop bill was largely split along party lines at the hearing, with the Chairman reiterating several times that a straight-forward reauthorization was not "going to cut it." Also on Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which would begin the phase-out of plastic microbeads beginning in 2017. Microbeads are present in personal care products and increasingly present in the nation’s lakes and streams. The bill would move next to the full House for consideration.

Meanwhile, following their Thanksgiving break, lawmakers will have only eight days in session before a December 11 deadline to pass an omnibus 2016 fiscal year spending package that is palatable to the White House. If the bill includes environmental policy riders that the Obama administration finds unacceptable, a Presidential veto and government shutdown may be in the offing. Even before getting a bill to the floor, appropriators must divide up a $30 billion spending increase that all sides agreed to in principle in the Bipartisan Budget Act, and figure out how to find the money for the restoration of the Bipartisan Budget Act's $3 billion cut to crop insurance - restoration promised during Budget Act deal-making.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  

Water Quality -
  • Food and Water Watch: Industrial facilities that use unverified agricultural nutrient trading credits to offset pollutant discharges exceeding permit limits violate the Clean Water Act
  • EPA algal toxin strategy: agency to develop list of algal types that could adversely affect health when ingested in drinking water; determine if health advisories should be issued
  • Chesapeake Bay cleanup: Is Iowa next?
  • Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism: Nitrate in water widespread, Wisconsin's
    Click to enlarge
    current rules no match
  • Environmental groups sue Arch Coal Inc. subsidiary over alleged widespread southern West Virginia water pollution (link to complaint
  • Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection finalizes its statewide Nonpoint Source Management Plan (target of 50 nutrient management BMPs/year using state funds)
  • Tractor-trailer crash spills hazardous materials into Ohio's Raccoon Creek, killing almost 6,400 fish
  • Tennessee State University students team up with federal researchers on pollution of the region's water supply
  • Ex-EPA official Ken Kopocis sizes up Iowa water quality efforts
  • Train speed rules didn't apply to ethanol train that derailed Nov. 8, spilling 20,000 gallons into Mississippi River
  • House Energy and Commerce Committee approves on a voice vote the Microbead-Free Waters Act to begin phase out of plastic microbeads; news story:; Committee release
  • Study: Three common insecticides have sublethal toxic effects on several invertebrate aquatic species weeks after they cease to be detected
  • Database developed to be centralized repository for conservation practices to reduce stormwater runoff from agricultural (also see this news story:
Waters of the United States Rule

  • League of Conservation Voters launches Facebook ad campaign to criticize Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) for votes in support of measures to block Clean Water Rule
  • Testimony at Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wisconsin field hearing on federal regulations is critical of Waters of the U.S. rule (related news article
  • Op-ed by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa): EPA's WOTUS rule "ill-conceived"
  • Tennessee farmers closely watching political fight over Obama administration's clean water rule
  • Iowa moves to intervene in federal court challenge to Waters of the U.S. rule
  • Coalition of Texas development interests files WOTUS legal challenge in District Court for the Southern District of Texas, targeting the rule's treatment of Texas coastal wetlands
  • Agricultural organizations this week sent a letter to members of the Senate about Clean Water Rule (Agri-Pulse audio) (copy of ag groups' letter
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • U.S. Supreme Court appoints special master to oversee Mississippi-Tennessee interstate water dispute, recommend ruling to the court (background article:
  • Op-ed: "Is hydropower green? Not really. Nothing alters a river as totally as a dam" (Minneapolis StarTribune)
  • 'No net loss of wetlands' because of Bakken pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners official says
  • Grain shipments enjoying bargain Mississippi River navigation system barge rates (down 66% from 3-year-average)
Agriculture -
  • USDA announces availability of $350M for conservation easements nationwide under
    Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP consolidates three former programs – the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program); news story:; USDA release:
  • Journal of Environmental Science and Policy: Investing in the transition to sustainable agriculture
  • Former NRCS Chief Bruce Knight's thoughts on Natural Resources Conservation Service's fine tuning the Conservation Stewardship Program (Agri-Pulse)
  • Environmental Working Group urges Congress not to roll back budget deal provisions that would lower the cap on returns for crop insurance companies
  • Analyst: Bakken pipeline would be a boon for Midwest grain farmers by freeing up freight rail service
  • Oklahoma Stewardship Council opposes "Right to Farm" proposal on November ballot, saying it favors factory farms
  • Nebraska cattle feeder may face county fines, shutdown over large cattle population, "sham" attempts to circumvent rules (Platte River)
  • New USDA NRCS Organic Farming Handbook released
Climate and Weather -
Click to enlarge
  • World Meteorological Organization: El NiƱo strengthening, will be among biggest on record
  • Weekly NOAA US drought update: Large areas of precipitation across Plains to Midwest and Lower Mississippi Valley brought additional drought relief
  • Report card explores preparedness actions each state is taking to prepare for current and changes in climate threats
  • NOAA: Last month was hottest October globally since record-keeping began 136 years ago
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Study: increased drainage of smaller wetlands in Prairie Pothole region reduces piping plover breeding habitat
  • Over 150 groups call on President Obama to oppose a series of anticipated riders against Endangered Species Act protections
  • Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) urges Endangered Species Act reforms at Western Governors' Association's workshop
  • New study: Cougar numbers are recovering in the Midwest, breeding populations established in Nebraska, North and South Dakota
  • USDA, EPA butt heads on honey bee and pesticide initiative, highlighting lobbying conflicts
  • Scientists say they have found the "missing link" in the debate over the risk of pesticides to bees
  • USGS study: Snake species in nine Midwestern and Eastern states experiencing fungus-caused population declines
  • Yellowstone National Park authorities want to kill 1,000 (one in five) bison to bring population down to target size
In the Cities -
  • DuPage County (Illinois) Stormwater Management accepting grant proposals for projects to improve County’s stream and river quality
  • Poorest town in the poorest state: Tchula, Mississippi (US’s most deprived communities series)
  • St. Louis, Missouri joins global compact among cities' mayors committed to taking action on climate change
In the States-
  • Judge rules that Wisconsin DNR can't impose groundwater monitoring requirements as a condition for high-capacity well permits
  • Wisconsin DNR invites public input on agency approach for evaluating fish passage at dams
  • Months-long impasse over a Pennsylvania budget poised to end - - - in December
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board approves final draft of state water resources plan addressing use, conservation and river health (Plan is available at
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Louisiana coastal official to Congressional panel: federal government's lack of overarching plan to fight Louisiana land loss wastes money
  • Plaquemines Parish Council (Louisiana) votes to dismiss 21 lawsuits against 68 oil and gas companies over alleged damage to wetlands
  • Partnership plans to restore four miles of embankment along Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Lafourche Parish, LA
Resource Development -
  • Rising energy demand is straining freshwater supplies globally; U.S. oil demand disproportionately responsible
  • Bipartisan group of U.S. Senators pushes bill to improve pipeline safety (link to bill:
  • West Virginia company uses "dummy proof" technologies to convert fracking wastewater into distilled water and road salt
  • Iowa Utilities Board begins debating pipeline project to carry Bakken crude oil through the state
  • For the first time in a decade, North Dakota Bakken oil patch posts a year-to-year production decline
  • For the first time in years, North Dakota's oil is now traveling by pipelines more than trucks
  • In potentially illegal move, Iowa Utilities Board head withholds funding for state's renewable energy research center
  • Bureau of Land Management seeks Ohio public input over potentially opening part of Wayne National Forest to fracking
  • Coal companies scrap applications for federal leases containing nearly 2 billion tons of Wyoming Powder River Basin coal reserves
  • Conservation groups call for increased restrictions on Powder River Basin energy production to stem wildlife decline
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • Critics of Obama administration's environmental rules meet with House appropriators to push for inclusion of riders in omnibus spending bill
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan: Republicans will force President to accept some conservative policy riders in spending bill
  • House Democrats: any 'poison pill' spending bill amendments are dead on arrival
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
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources Water Quality Standards Workgroup Meeting;
    December 10, 10 am–1 pm, Jefferson City
  • 2015 Illinois Farm Economics Summit to explore "Nutrient Loss Challenge and Farm Bill Conservation Programs" (mid-December, multiple dates and locations)
  • St. Croix River Association presents: An Afternoon with Mark Twain featuring Don Shelby; January 24, 2016, 2 PM, Hudson
  • River memories-sharing spurred by “Remembering the Bohemian Flats: One Place, Many Voices” exhibit
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 220; November 16; "Paul Orr: Myths and Misconceptions"
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy November 17 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Feedlot Update - November 2015
  • America's Waterway River Currents Newsletter - November 2015
  • Wisconsin DNR: Wisconsin River Basin Clean Waterways Project Quarterly Newsletter
  • Gulf Restoration Network's November 19 GulfWaves e-magazine
  • Montana Watershed Coordination Council's November 19 Watershed News
Other news-
  • Food Policy Action announces National Food Policy Progress Report for the 114th Congress
    Click to enlarge (scored food policy issues include domestic and international hunger, food safety, food access, farm subsidies, animal welfare, food and farm labor, nutrition, food additives, food transparency, local and regional food production, organic farming and the effects of food production on the environment)
  • Indiana University researchers awarded funding to study water resources, climate variability
  • Environmental Defense Fund seeks to fill Mississippi River Delta and Natural Infrastructure Economist position
  • National Audubon Society Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition position opening: Communications Associate, New Orleans, LA
  • House passes two-week extension of Highway Trust Fund to give congress more time to finalize long-term reauthorization
  • The House Natural Resources Committee releases "federal footprint" map of federal lands, as well as lands with federal environmental designations or resources subject to federal environmental regulations
  • Artist's proposal to drape 6 miles of fabric above Arkansas River gorge faces what's likely its final legal test
  • OMB releases Fall 2015 Regulatory Plan and the Unified Agenda; includes important regulatory actions that agencies are considering for issuance in FY 2016
Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • House Natural Resources Committee Democrats release analysis focused on Committee members' districts benefiting from LWCF money
  • House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop attempts to make case for reforming Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund gains support of the Evangelical Environmental Network and 50 venture capitalists
  • Senate committee approves sportsmen's legislative package including Land and Water Conservation Fund renewal amendment (link to amended bill:
Politics and People-
  • Colin O'Neil, Center for Food Safety director of government affairs, named new Environmental Working Group director of agriculture policy (bottom of article)
  • Illinois state senator Napoleon Harris enters Democratic U.S. Senate primary race, with winner taking on Mark Kirk (R)
  • McKnight Foundation hires Brendon Slotterback as Midwest Climate and Energy program officer
  • Illinois Governor appoints farmer and State Representative Raymond Poe to be Department of Agriculture Director
  • Republican candidates are backing down on "war on coal" rhetoric, finding it doesn't resonate with younger voters
  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sues US Department of Agriculture, alleging censoring of scientists
  • New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Kentucky state legislator Robert Stivers named as two of Governing magazine's Public Officials of the Year
Your Moment of Zen -

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