Friday, December 11, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

~Most of the Water News - None of the Spin~
This Week and Next
Part way into this week Congressional leaders admitted that progress was agonizingly slow on negotiations to deliver a final fiscal year 2016 spending bill before today's (December 11) deadline. Yesterday, the Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution that runs through next Wednesday, December 16, and the House intends to pass the measure today.  Leaders hope that the extra five days will allow lawmakers time to reach agreement on spending levels and a host of contentious policy riders, the fates of which remain within the realm of rumors.  Even after taking this weekend off, Senators and House members should still have plenty of opportunity to craft a spending bill, since next week's committee calendars are practically empty. There are no committee activities currently scheduled for the week ahead that relate to the Mississippi River Basin water resources.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati heard oral arguments on
whether it has exclusive jurisdiction to review appeals relating to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS or "Clean Water") rule. The case outcome rests on the Court's interpretation of a section of the Clean Water Act that determines when lawsuits can skip lower court review and move directly to a U.S. Court of Appeals. Most of the WOTUS cases in federal district and appellate courts are in a holding pattern until the Sixth Circuit Court decides (likely later this month). The three-judge Sixth Circuit Court panel seemed to signal on Monday that the appeals court would be the proper venue to hear WOTUS appeals. That decision would suit the Obama administration, which argued on Monday that the Sixth Circuit should take up case. If the Sixth Circuit Court panel decides otherwise that lower (district) courts have jurisdiction, the decision would provide an opening for WOTUS rule opponents to file numerous challenges, resulting in various, likely-conflicting, decisions, as assorted district court judges come down on different sides of the rule. Such a decision would would stretch out the appeals process overall, giving rule opponents a chance to wait for an administration that might view the rule less favorably. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals also will hear oral arguments on the same issue, during the week of February 22, 2016, on an appeal of a district court ruling that jurisdiction lies exclusively in the court of appeals. Should the Sixth and Eleventh Circuits reach contrary conclusions on jurisdiction, that issue, rather than the actual merits of the challenges, could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week  
Water Quality -
  • Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy: state program to improve farm runoff is ineffective in removing nitrates
  • 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges signal that WOTUS rule case belongs in appeals court - not district courts, against wishes of rule's challengers (related article below)
  • US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing arguments Tuesday on whether jurisdiction to
    review Clean Water Rule lies exclusively with the courts of appeals
  • US House passes microbead ban bill on voice vote; bill now headed to the Senate (link to bill:
  • Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) calls on Senate to follow House lead and pass bill to ban plastic microbeads in personal care products
  • EPA approves water quality rules meant to protect southeastern Montana cropland from natural gas drilling wastewater produced in Wyoming
  • EPA proposes to let cadmium criteria for freshwater remain flat for acute exposure and less stringent for chronic exposure
  • North Dakota Department of Health notified of 213-barrel source water spill at well owned by Denbury Onshore in Bowman County; 33 barrels not contained
  • Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to fine coal mining company over thousands of Clean Water Act violations, effectively barring company from operating in state
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans grill Interior Department over proposed stream protection rule (link to hearing archive web page:
  • AgriPulse: Water quality trading markets subject of hot debate
  • Q and A with Des Moines Water Works manager on how legal challenge to upstream drainage districts is being funded and on the state's voluntary water quality standards
  • Four separate challenges to EPA's power plant effluent limits will be consolidated into one U.S. Court of Appeals case (Fifth Circuit) (link to rule:
  • EPA and West Virginia DEP settle with companies to restore and protect Turkey Creek, and tributary, where 20 unauthorized dams were constructed that blocked natural trout streams and damaged water quality
  • America’s Great Waters Coalition's October 20 webinar on nutrient pollution in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River now available online
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL-12) urges 'no action' on Mississippi River St. Johns Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project
  • Disputes over the Republican River continue to cost Nebraska millions in legal expenses
  • In the face of an Obama veto threat, the U.S. House passes "Red River Private Property Protection Act" to address property dispute issues; in a largely party line vote (253 - 177)
  • Obama administration issues veto threat over proposed bill on property boundaries' dispute
    Republican River at Junction City, KS
    along Red River (Oklahoma and Texas)
  • Sens. Rob Portman (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) introduce bill to aid communities facing water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades
  • An Interstate Battle for Groundwater: Mississippi and Tennessee are locked in a dispute over who can use Delta’s aquifers
  • New Horinko Group study looks at role of green infrastructure in addressing water management challenges - "Nature, Economics, and Resilience"
  • EPA issues guide for developing stormwater prevention plans to minimize stormwater runoff from small construction lots
  • Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) introduces bill eliminating U.S. EPA's power to veto some Army Corps of Engineers' projects and aimed at reducing "frivolous lawsuits"
  • Missouri River reservoir system releases reduced by Army Corps in late November, marking end of flow support for Missouri River navigation season
  • President signs landmark freight transport bill that will benefit ports; inland ports and terminals are in the funding mix
  • Pumped beyond limits, many U.S. aquifers are in decline
Agriculture -
  • In Minnesota's farm country, clean water is costly; better farm practices can help limit water pollution
  • USDA NRCS delays overhaul of Conservation Stewardship Program until 2017 sign-up
  • New $7.3 million permanent exhibit meant to teach how food is produced is coming to the St. Louis Science Center
  • Review on Antimicrobial Resistance report: Farmers need to dramatically cut the amount of antibiotics used in agriculture, because of the threat to human health
  • Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the Farm Foundation to form a Soil Health Institute
  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR-1) introduces HR 4175 - Groundwater Conservation Incentive Act of 2015 - to allow a deduction for conservation expenditures to reduce groundwater consumption
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management holds hearing to examine current state of U.S. cotton industry; AgriPulse article: Subcommittee release:
  • House Agriculture subcommittee holds hearing on USDA’s use of Census of Agriculture authority to acquire farmers' personal financial information; archived hearing site and subcommittee release:
  • Gross income for southwestern Kansas farms is down by 20 to 30 percent
  • USDA FDA: sales and distribution of antimicrobial drugs approved for on-farm use increased 3 percent from 2013 through 2014
Climate and Weather -
  • Dane County, Wisconsin board approves funding for climate action plan
  • Missouri's dependence on coal and prospect of more intense heat waves, rainfall make Paris climate negotiations relevant for region
  • Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters "The Promise of Paris: An Interview with Wisconsin Leadership at COP21"
  • NOAA weekly US drought update: general improvements in dryness and drought throughout the River Basin
  • NOAA: September through November saw “record and near-record warmth” almost everywhere across the U.S.
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • Wisconsin 2015 aerial surveys document a record number of bald eagles since the surveys started 43 years ago
  • Yellowstone National Park has more gray wolves now than at any point since the species was reintroduced; pressure mounts to lift endangered species protections
  • Senate passes bill by unanimous consent that would make the bison the national mammal of the United States
  • Wildlife officials plan to use GPS collars to track the movements of destructive feral hogs in two Tennessee national parks
  • USDA announces $40 million in funding to help ranchers restore and protect greater sage-grouse sagebrush habitat
In the Cities -
  • Residents see benefits since launch of integrated Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan
  • From Paris: Mayor Landrieu touts New Orleans' resilience
  • Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passes "Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act " to recognize and fund communities that adopt plans to handle ecosystem challenges and economic opportunities along their waterfront; link to bill:; Committee meeting web site:
  • St. Paul Mayor Coleman, other mayors, address Mississippi River issues at Paris climate talks
  • Video of Mississippi River Cities and Towns Mayors' Initiative's December 8 "Global River Talks: Sustaining the World’s Food-Producing Rivers" COP 21, Paris, France (also embedded below)
In the States-
  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture seeks comments through Jan. 26 relating to proposed state Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule designed to protect groundwater
  • Ohio Clean Water Compliance and Affordability Act (S. 2358) would set up pilot program to manage wastewater and stormwater using integrated planning
  • Among the major challenges facing Kentucky's new Governor is crafting a new, two-year spending plan for the state by January 26
  • Pennsylvania state budget agreement may be collapsing
  • Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Senate-amended budget bills kill conventional drilling regs, cut growing greener watershed funding, delay climate plan
  • South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard proposes ambitious state budget bolstered by better-than-expected revenues
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approves Initial Funded Priorities List totaling approximately $183 million of ecosystem restoration projects (related background materials at link below)
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council background information on proposed initial funded priorities list of Gulf Coastal restoration projects
  • Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association releases new plan for Red Tide Warning System
  • The Courier (Houma, Louisiana) editorial: "Move quickly to restore the coast"
  • Louisiana gains $52.2 million in Restore Act coastal restoration projects, but loses some future funding
Forestry -
  • US Forest Service publishes "Community Forest and Open Space" proposed rule revision; open for comment until March 7, 2016
Resource Development -
  • Obama administration expresses concern about coal mining self-bonding deals in states like West Virginia and Wyoming
  • U.S. taxpayers could be left with multibillion-dollar liabilities if large coal companies are pushed to bankruptcy as part of a practice known as "self-bonding"
  • Iowa regulators will decide in coming months extent to which oil company can use eminent
    Click to enlarge
    domain to build Dakota Access pipeline
  • Federal judge rejects key parts of lawsuit brought by tribal and environmental groups seeking to block upgrade of Alberta Clipper pipeline through northern Minnesota  (see figure to right)
  • Developer behind Dakota Access oil pipeline project wants Iowa regulators to move faster on its permit-approval process
  • Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week over whether local governments can ban fracking
  • Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passes bill to update pipeline safety oversight, require prioritizing the completion of existing rules; link to bill:; Committee meeting web site:
  • Fish and Wildlife Service publishes draft rule to increase oversight of oil and gas operations in national wildlife refuges; comments due on or before February 9, 2016; Federal Register notice: and news article:
  • Obama administration considers declaring over 67,000 Tennessee acres unsuitable for surface coal mining following up on state's 2010 petition (related Federal Register notice:
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page)
  • Citing slow progress toward a spending bill resolution, Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution running through next Wednesday to ward off government shutdown
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

e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Photo essay  (Elliot Ross in The Guardian): "Family, faith, floods and fires: life for America's farmers – in pictures"
    Photo: Elliot Ross @elliotstudio
  • Green Lands Blue Waters December 4 e-update re: Continuous Living Cover on Mississippi River Basin agricultural land
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy's December 8 TUWaterWays e-newsletter
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's December "BALMM Currents" e-newsletter
Other news-
  • America's Watershed Initiative pushes to improve Mississippi River watershed's economy and environment
  • Stormwater Magazine article on marking ten years of coal tar sealant research and progress
  • Mississippi River Network seeks to fill Campaign Coordinator position to manage 1 Mississippi public communications campaign (job location: Chicago)
  • Job opening: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Long Term Resource Monitoring Field Station Team Leader/ Mississippi River Coordinator
  • GAO report: Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries represent a growing percentage of all traffic fatalities and injuries
  • Work to remove approximately 10,000 tons of MCHM-contaminated soil starts at former
    MetroNews staff photo
    Freedom Industries site, West Virginia
  • Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) introduces bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) op-ed: "Why I let the Land and Water Conservation Fund expire"
  • Western governors disagree over whether the Land and Water Conservation Fund should be reformed before being reauthorized
  • Several major electric industry trade groups call on Congress to amend USEPA's new coal ash disposal rule with rider
  • River Life blog: "What Would a 'River Studies' Curriculum Look Like?" (via @RiverLifeUMN)
  • Potential grant could clean up Brownfield sites on both sides of the Ohio River (Steubenville, Ohio region)
Politics and People-
  • Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: don't look for any breakthrough legislative accomplishments in 2016
  • New Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) appoints former coal executive, Charles G. Snavely, to lead state's Energy and Environment Cabinet
  • U.S. Congressman John Fleming (R) launches bid for open Louisiana U.S. Senate seat
  • Matt Bevin (R) inaugurated 62nd Kentucky Governor, succeeding Steve Beshear (D), who was term-limited
  • U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) expects return to House Agriculture Committee after his election to the Republican Steering Committee
  • Senate confirms Richard Howorth to a second four-year term as a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors
Your Moment of Zen -
Photograph: Will Snow/GuardianWitness

No comments:

Post a Comment