Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource Weekly News

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

This Week and Next
In the early morning hours of Wednesday (December 16), the House Rules Committee released a
2009-page, omnibus appropriations bill that would set levels of federal government discretionary spending for the remainder of the 2016 fiscal year. The bill is poised to be approved by House this Friday, before moving on to the Senate for debate and likely passage. On Wednesday, Congress passed another short-term spending extension known as a Continuing Resolution, giving lawmakers through December 22 to clear the long-term measure.

Most of the contentious environmental policy provisions (known as riders) that were being considered by negotiators did not make their way into the final draft, leaving a wake of discouragement and disappointment within the Republican faction. Following release of the measure, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) noted that "it's a disappointment for those of us who wanted to see some real policy prohibitions and policy directions determined by the appropriations process.”  Riders not making the cut included language that would have blocked funding to implement the Clean Water (or Waters of the U.S.) Rule, and a proposed Interior Department "Stream Protection Rule."  To see a fuller summary of items in the omnibus legislation that may be of particular interest to Mississippi River Basin stakeholders, you can check out  this article.

Perhaps most importantly, the omnibus package includes a provision that House appropriators attached to a spending bill back in April - one that urges the U.S. Capitol Police Board to allow sledding on Capitol Hill. Now all that is needed is snow - no small feat in these climate-balmy times.

Up next? Not much - in Washington, DC, at least. As the holidays approach, lawmakers (and your FNB*) will by and large flee the capital once the omnibus spending legislation passes. That leaves us time to look ahead to 2016. As an aid to those who like to gaze into legislative crystal balls, here are the 2016 legislative calendars for the U.S. House and Senate. I would venture to guess that if past election year performance is an indication of future returns, not much will happen in 2016 on the federal legislative front (possible passage of a new Water Resources Development Act being a notable exception).

But did you know that so far this year, over 140,000 bills have been introduced in state legislatures? Next year should be equally as busy, and often those bills get passed and have a significant bearing on water resources. Here is a nice summary table should you care to see when your particular state house of concern will be in session in 2016.
*Friendly Neighborhood Blogger

Noteworthy @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Water Quality -
  • In the Ohio River's ‘Chemical Valley,’ a debate over good jobs and bad health: C8 in the region's water
  • GAO finds that the EPA broke the law with its social media push for the Clean Water (WOTUS) Rule; EPA disagrees with findings
  • Lack of spending bill rider leaves some farmers worried about future of Clean Water Rule
  • North Dakota researchers are concerned about the lack of reliable data about oil pipeline spills in the state
  • North Dakota regulators are considering easing a $2.4 million fine against a Texas company for a pipeline spill that went unnoticed for three months
  • Cleanup under way on 42,000-gallon water and clay spill at North Dakota pipeline site
  • National Academies: EPA should develop rigorous, risk-based guidelines for reuse of untreated residential wastewater, stormwater runoff
  • St. Cloud State University study will look at impact on fish of pharmaceuticals that can enter rivers and lakes through wastewater treatment plant effluents
Water Resource Management (Floodplains, Dams, Navigation, Wetlands, Flooding, Supplies, etc.) -
  • Supreme Court will consider whether federal determination that a wetland qualifies for Clean
    Water Act protection can be subject to court challenge
  • National Academies report: Data gaps prevent FEMA officials from understanding how rising prices for federal flood insurance will affect policyholders
  • S. 611, a bill to provide financial and technical assistance to small, rural drinking water systems, signed into law by President
  • Barges on the Ohio River in western Pennsylvania are diversifying their loads as coal shipments decline
  • Pair of towboats collide on the Lower Mississippi River near Memphis; one sinks as a result
  • Army Corps of Engineers is inspecting New Orleans levee system as Mississippi River rises more than 12 feet above sea level (related story below)
  • Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District, levee officials keep eye on rising Mississippi River
  • Water Environment Federation report: "Rainfall to Results: The Future of Stormwater"
  • New report examines proven strategies for reducing green infrastructure costs
  • Interior Department announces plans for new Natural Resource Investment Center to leverage private capital to help meet water infrastructure and conservation needs  (administration's fact sheet:
  • Pueblo Conservancy District's Arkansas River levee work expected to resume in February
Agriculture -
  • North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) seeks nominees Administrative Council
  • Field to Market releases Request for Proposals for the technical development of a revised Water Quality Metric
  • Lawyer of environmental, animal rights coalition tells court that two new Wyoming laws improperly bar them from gathering agricultural information
  • USDA issues long-awaited final rule guiding eligibility for farm program payments; story: USDA release:
  • Several varieties of pigweed adapt rapidly to develop Roundup resistance and emerge as farm "super pest"
  • Iowa farmland values drop 3.9 percent from 2014 levels
Climate and Weather -
  • NOAA Weekly US drought update: much of the Plains and Mississippi Valley dryness is alleviated except in the Dakotas and adjacent Minnesota; Indiana drought remains largely unchanged
  • USGS study confirms a wetter South Dakota climate east of the Missouri River over the last six and a half decades
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopens public comment period on proposed rule listing Big Sandy crayfish and Guyandotte River crayfish as endangered species (Kentucky and West Virginia)
  • Fish and Wildlife Service initiating 5-year status reviews under Endangered Species Act for several listed Mississippi River Basin plants and animals
  • Effort to keep Mississippi River Basin Asian carp out of the Great Lakes appears stymied
  • USFWS has not halted any of the 88,000 actions and developments considered potentially harmful to the nation’s endangered species over the past seven years
  • USFWS National Fish Passage Program awards $1.6 million to support Midwest fish passage projects, including these in the Mississippi River Basin: Eel River, Indiana, Wapsipinicon River Basin, Iowa, Moniteau Creek, Missouri
  • North Dakota Game and Fish Department proposes to extend aquatic invasive species prevention practices statewide
In the Cities -
  • Cincinnati Connects proposes 42-mile bicycle, pedestrian loop to link disconnected bike trails
In the States-
  • Minnesota state legislature scheduled to reconvene at noon on March 8, must adjourn by May 23 (here is a list of all the U.S. states' 2016 legislative calendars:
  • Wisconsin DNR $3 million surface water management grant application deadline approaching (February 1)
  • National Association of State Budget Officers reports that states' spending will rise in 2015 for the sixth straight year, as states settle in to a slow-growth era
  • Pennsylvania DEP announces major reorganization of water management responsibilities (organizational chart:
  • Pennsylvania lawmakers aim for state budget bill by week's end
Gulf Coastal Region-
  • Jefferson Parish, Louisiana deciding how it will spend $20 million from BP settlement
  • Louisiana coastal project offers new shoreline stabilization and restoration solutions for wetlands
  • Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council announces initial activities that the Council will fund and prioritize for further consideration (more: news article coverage
  • Editorial, The Daily Comet: "It'll take more than common sense to save Louisiana's coast"
  • Nature: Mississippi River is the primary contributor of sediment for most coastal wetland development
Forestry -
  • EPA extends comment period until February 12 for "Opportunity to Provide Information on Existing Programs that Protect Water Quality from Forest Road Discharges"
Resource Development -
  • Environmental groups object to bankruptcy deal between West Virginia DEP and coal company Alpha Natural Resources Inc. over mine reclamation liabilities
  • Groups file complaint with regulators over Arch Coal financial bonds guaranteeing reclamation in Wyoming
  • EPA publishes final rule setting Renewable Fuel Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 (effective February 12, 2016)
  • Minnesota Supreme Court upholds lower court decision requiring an environmental study for the Sandpiper pipeline project
  • Opponents of proposed Bakken oil pipeline accuse Iowa DNR of trying to prevent them from
    publicly voicing objections
  • Part of Bakken pipeline would go over publicly owned Iowa land and water, including the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers; Iowa decision due in 2016
  • Illinois regulators follow South Dakota's lead and approve their state's portion of the Bakken Pipeline
  • Op-ed: Pennsylvania's pipeline infrastructure task force put industry first and the public last
  • Obama administration may appeal federal court ruling in Wyoming that temporarily blocks new regulations on fracking on federal land
  • Frac sand industry officials are optimistic that 2016 will be a better year for the market in Wisconsin and Minnesota than 2015
  • Company aiming to build 255-mile pipeline to carry gas from shale across Ohio (partly in Mississippi River Basin)
Federal Budget (You can follow the status of all of the fiscal year 2016 appropriation bills on this web page) -
  • Proposed fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill released early on Wednesday morning (House vote anticipated on Friday)
Events -
  • Association of State Wetland Managers Webinar: "Improving Wetland Restoration "Success": What We've Learned So Far" December 15, 3 pm ET
  • Mighty Quapaw Solstice-Christmas Party, at sunset on December 19, Banks of the Sunflower River, Clarksdale, Mississippi
  • FEMA offers advanced floodplain management course; April 11–14July 11– 14, and August 29 – September 1, 2016, Emmitsburg, Maryland
e-Newsletters, Publications, Journals, Multimedia  -
  • Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 325, December 14: Mountain Classroom: the Mighty Mississippi
  • Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy December 16 TUWaterWays "Water News and More"
  • NW PAssages e-magazine December 2015
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Waterfront Bulletin for December 2015
Other news-
Click to enlarge
Politics and People-
  • It's increasingly unlikely that additional USEPA officials will gain Senate confirmation during this presidency (related table to the right)
  • Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on Monday became the longest serving governor in U.S. history
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany announces run for Louisiana US Senate seat
  • American Farm Bureau Federation members will have four candidates to consider in January in vote for AFBF President
Your Moment of Zen -

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