Mo. River Tri State Report

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Mo. River Tri State Report

Postby feathhd » Wed May 02, 2012 10:54 am

April 2012 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Tri-State Report

By: Paul Lepisto

Regional Conservation Coordinator



Table of contents

Missouri River Update

Missouri River Basin Weather Update

Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)

Missouri River Events

Missouri River Institute Symposium

Missouri River Educational Lecture Series

SD Ikes Convention

Pierre Ikes Fundraiser

News and Notes



Missouri River Update

Water Storage Update

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) began April with total flood control storage capacity in the Missouri River reservoir system and is continuing to monitor weather conditions in the basin. Water stored in the reservoir system on April 1st was 56.9 million acre-feet (MAF), leaving 16.2 of the 16.3 MAF of flood control storage capacity available. (1 million acre feet is the amount of water needed to cover one million acres of land one foot deep)



March was the 40th driest March in the last 114 years but ACE officials caution that conditions can change very quickly. They will continue to monitor conditions in the basin and make any water release adjustments as needed.



The ACE’s current forecast for the 2012 calendar year calls for 23.4 MAF of runoff above Sioux City, which is 94 percent of normal. A normal runoff year typically brings in 24.8 MAF of water. Runoff for the 2011 calendar year totaled 61 MAF, 246 percent of normal and the highest in 114 years.



The annual flood control pool is the currently at the ACE’s desired operating zone for the reservoir system and it allows them to serve all eight congressionally authorized purposes: flood control, navigation, water supply, irrigation, hydropower, recreation, water quality control and fish and wildlife.



ACE Holds Public Meetings on Annual Operating Plan
The ACE held a series of public meetings in seven cities throughout the basin in April to update the public on current hydrologic conditions and their planned regulation of the mainstem reservoirs during the coming months. ACE staff members were available at the meetings to discuss repairs and rehabilitation work underway throughout the basin following last year’s flood. ACE officials said the flood control system on the river saved an estimated $8.2 billion in additional flood damage in the basin last summer. I attended the Pierre meeting on April 17th and provided comments on the AOP.

Missouri River Recovery Program Funding Battle

Discussions have begun in Washington DC on the President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2013. The Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP) has requested $90 million for FY 13. A House sub–committee voted to appropriate $71.43 million. A Senate Committee Report indicates support for the $90 M for the MRRP.



Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (R) offered an amendment that would have stripped $40 million in ACE funds from the MRRP and move that money to build and repair levees in the lower Missouri River. Democrats opposed the Blunt measure saying the transfer could open up the MRRP to litigation because it would compromise the ACEs' compliance with existing law. The Blunt amendment narrowly failed by a 14-15 vote.



The annual benefit to the nation from operation of the Missouri River is $1.8 billion. The ACE needs to implement the MRRP to mitigate for the current operation of the dams and channelized reach of the river or would have to make changes in their operation of the river.



Thanks to all of you that responded to the recent IWLA Action Alert on the MRRP. We will need your help contacting your U.S. Representatives and Senators as the budget process continues in Congress.



Missouri River Basin Weather Update

On April 18th the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Climate Forecast Center held its monthly weather update. As mentioned earlier in this report March was one of the driest ever. It was also the warmest March on record in 118 years of record keeping. Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota all had record warmth.



Forecasters said the La Nina weather pattern is weakening and it will be June or July before they have a better idea of what the new weather pattern will be. Ocean water temperatures determine the weather pattern that impact North America. Forecasters say it is still a bit early for them to say if we will see another La Nina, an El Nino, or a neutral pattern for the remainder of 2012. The forecasters talked about drought conditions that are popping up within the basin. May to June is typically the wettest period in this part of the country and if we don’t get rain then, they say we probably won’t get much this year. April rains eased drought conditions in parts of the Missouri River basin somewhat.



Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)

April was a busy month for members of MRRIC. Work Groups prepared proposals that will be considered by the full committee. I attended a Science and Adaptive Management (SAM) Work Group meeting April 11th-12th in Omaha and participated in numerous MRRIC calls and webinars throughout the month.



MRRIC will be meeting in Rapid City May 8th-10th. The committee provides guidance to the ACE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on the Missouri River Recovery Program. The MRRP is designed to recover and restore habitat for three species on the federal Endangered Species List. The species include the Interior Least Tern, the Piping Plover, and the Pallid Sturgeon.



Missouri River Events

The 2012 Missouri River Events kick off this week. The 4th Annual Missouri River Watershed Education Festival will be held this Friday, May 4th at Riverside Park in Yankton. Over 350 students from Nebraska and South Dakota schools will attend river-related presentations.



This Saturday, May 5th the 11th Annual Missouri River Clean up will take place in the Yankton area. Volunteers are needed and the event starts at 8 AM Saturday at the boat ramp in Riverside Park.



The Clean Boat Event, the invasive species awareness activity, will run from mid-May to mid-June this year. Volunteer teams will hand out information on aquatic invasive species and talk to boaters and anglers at boat ramps in the Gavins Point Dam area. Invasive species, especially Asian Carp and Zebra Mussels are in the Missouri River but have not been found in Lewis and Clark Lake above Gavins Point Dam. Boaters can prevent their spread with three simple steps; Clean, Drain, and Dry. Clean all weeds and mud off your boat and other equipment. Drain all water from livewells, baitwells, and bilge areas of your boat. And allow your boat and equipment to thoroughly Dry before launching it in another body of water.



Other upcoming Missouri River Events to mark on your calendars include:

· July 11th – Missouri River/lake Sharpe Clean up – Pierre – 5 – 8 PM

· September 8th – Missouri River Clean up – Sioux City

· September 22nd – Missouri River Clean up – Omaha/Council Bluffs



Please let me know if you have questions about any of the events. We would love to have your help with these events this year.



Missouri River Institute Symposium

The University of South Dakota held their annual Missouri River Institute Research Symposium on April 5th in Vermillion. Researchers from universities, federal, state and local agencies discussed the science of the Missouri River and impacts of the 2011 flood. Groups contributing to the symposium included the National Park Service; Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks.



Missouri River Educational Lecture Series

Missouri River flooding and other topics were presented at the biannual Missouri River Educational Lecture Series held April 26-28th at Ponca State Park near Ponca, Nebraska. I attended the sessions on the 26th and 27th. The lecture series was sponsored by: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Nebraska State Historical Society, University of South Dakota's Missouri River Institute, Better Ponca Foundation, National Park Service and the Nebraska Humanities Council.



SD Ikes Convention

The SD Division of the IWLA met in Huron for their annual convention April 27th-29th. The Ikes heard from interesting speakers and conducted annual business. I provided an update on Missouri River activities and events.



The keynote speaker at Saturday’s banquet was Doug Hofer the director of SD Parks and Recreation. Hofer talked about Blood Run along the Big Sioux River. This site is set to become a new state park for South Dakota and Iowa. Hofer said the site is unique with burial mounds, refuse pits and artifacts.



Hofer also said crews are making progress in fixing flood damage at South Dakota's parks and recreation areas and he expects all parks and recreation areas to be in good shape by the Fourth of July. He says about 40 of the state's 60 parks and recreation areas were damaged by flooding last year. Hofer says total flood damages amounted to about $9 million, and about $6.5 million from state funds and reallocated parks and recreation money is available now for the highest priority repairs.



Thanks to the Beadle County Ikes for their hospitality and the great job in hosting the convention.



Pierre Ikes Fundraiser

The Sunshine Chapter in Pierre held a successful fundraising event on April 3rd. The Chapter is battling back from massive damage from last year’s Missouri River flood. Members worked hard to gather donations and they set up a dinner and auction that generated a lot of the needed funds for repairs.



There is still a lot to do and much more money needs to be raised; but it was a good start on the Chapter’s road to recovery.



News and Notes

Farm Bill Update

The current Farm Bill will expire on September 30th and Congress is currently debating a new Farm Bill. Many of the country’s farm groups are expressing opposition to a proposal advanced by environmental groups in the debate to require farmers to again comply with conservation requirements in order to receive crop insurance.



The farm groups warn of "unintended consequences" of attaching conservation compliance to their top safety net. Crop insurance and conservation compliance were linked from 1985 until 1996 then Congress dropped the requirements in order to encourage more farmers to sign up for crop insurance.



The groups said one of the potential consequences could be the potential loss of financing from lenders and also "an undermining of the public/private partnership between the federal government and crop insurance companies and a potentially unbalanced approach to a new mandate" depending on how the program is applied to the different types of crops.



The American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers and several crop insurance providers were among the groups objecting to re-coupling crop insurance and conservation compliance. Crop insurance is subsidized between 60-70 percent by U.S. taxpayers. The League and other conservation groups are pushing hard to get conservation compliance joined to crop insurance again in this Farm Bill.



Contact your U.S. Senators and tell them to support re-coupling of Conservation Compliance with Crop Insurance in the new Farm Bill. It will protect wetlands, grasslands, and other habitats - improving fish and wildlife populations and water and air quality across the nation. So far re-coupling of the two does not appear in the new bill.



Also after a lot of hard work by a broad range of groups and individuals, SD Senator Thune along with Senators Johanns of NE, Brown of OH, and Bennet of CO were able to convince the committee leadership to include a provision in the bill at the last minute that limits crop insurance benefits and premium subsidies and commodity subsidies on cropland converted from native sod or land that has never been tilled. This is the “Sodsaver” provision the League’s Ag Policy Director Brad Redlin has worked tirelessly on for the last few years. Encourage your Senator to support this provision.



Conservation Groups Blast the Re-emergence of Clean Water Act Policy Riders

Conservation groups blasted a rider that House lawmakers again attached to a major spending bill seeking to block the Obama administration from approving new Clean Water Act policy. The provision, introduced by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) as an amendment to the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill for 2013, would cut off money for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop or implement new guidance on how to interpret federal jurisdiction over waters under the Clean Water Act. The amendment passed on a vote of 29-20.



The guidance seeks to restore federal protection of streams and wetlands that were left unprotected by two Supreme Court decisions that attorneys on both sides of the issue agree were muddled and difficult to interpret. Opponents say the proposed guidance misinterprets those decisions to give the federal government unconstitutional regulatory control over waters across the nation. Rehberg introduced a similar amendment to a spending bill last year that failed to win final approval.



Also, House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-FL) has introduced H.R. 4965. This bill would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the ACE from finalizing last year's proposed guidance to regulators on how to interpret federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The legislation would also prohibit the guidance from being used as the basis for any decision or new regulation concerning the scope of the Clean Water Act.



The Obama administration - along with many environmental and hunting and fishing groups - say the proposal would restore federal protection to a number of streams and wetlands that lost protection following the two recent Supreme Court decisions. The administration says the proposal would also provide clarity to businesses and landowners.



Keystone XL Pipeline Update

TransCanada, the company proposing to build a new oil pipeline across America, has submitted a proposal for a new route through Nebraska. The new 173.5-mile corridor would run as much as 100 miles to the east of the original pipeline pathway to avoid Nebraska's Sandhills. The altered route would start in Nebraska's Keya Paha County by the South Dakota border. From there it would move the pipeline two counties eastward and end in Merrick County.



The company said it has submitted a planned route for the pipeline to Nebraska officials. The state has become a focus of concern for the pipeline, which would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.



President Obama blocked the pipeline earlier this year, citing uncertainty over a planned route intended to avoid Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region. U.S. State Department approval is need because the $7 billion pipeline crosses a U.S. border.



Wind Power Generation Increases

South Dakota and North Dakota rank among the top three states in the percentage of electric power generated by wind. A new report from the Earth Policy Institute says 22 percent of South Dakota's electricity last year was provided by wind power. Iowa generated 19 percent of its electricity from wind last year. In North Dakota, the wind supplied 15 percent of the state's electric power. The institute says about 3 percent of the nation's electricity came from wind turbines last year. A federal tax break for the wind energy industry is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.



Asian Carp Get into Iowa’s Lake Okoboji

Commercial fishermen have netted dozens of silver carp in East Okoboji Lake, leading to concerns that the fish could threaten boaters at one of Iowa’s premier vacation spots. Tourism is a $213 million business in the Iowa Great Lakes located in northwestern Iowa. The discovery adds pressure to a yearlong effort to build an electric barrier to keep Asian carp out of the lakes.



Silver carp leap out of the water when they are disturbed by nearby commotion and have injured boaters in other states. The fish can grow as large as 100 pounds. The filter-feeding fish compete with young game and forage fish for food. Local people and business owners in the Great Lakes area had hoped to raise $700,000 to install an electric barrier in time to prevent the dangerous carp from getting to lakes.



Lake Zorinsky near Omaha Re-opens for Recreation

A lake near Omaha that was drawn down in late 2010 to eradicate zebra mussels has reopened. Karie Decker, an invasive species project coordinator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said tests conducted last year showed no signs of live zebra mussels or their larvae in Lake Zorinsky. The lake has since been refilled and restocked with fish after it was closed to the public for more than year.



The 255-acre lake was drained after a live zebra mussel on a beer can was pulled from the water. The small striped mollusks can clog drains and pipes, foul cooling systems, kill off native species and render power boats inoperable. Drawing down the lake allowed cold temperatures to freeze and kill the mussels.



Since 1988, zebra mussels have spread through the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and Missouri River basins and waters around the country. Zebra mussels were found in Lake Offutt at Offutt Air Force Base in eastern Nebraska in 2006. That lake was drained and chemically scoured in an attempt to eliminate them.



Law to Help Address Nebraska’s Invasive Species Issues

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed LB 391 into law, giving the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission a tool to help control and prevent the spread of invasive species in the state. According to Dave Tunink, NE Game and Parks fisheries division assistant administrator and Lincoln Ikes member, the legislation introduced by state Senator Ken Schilz of Ogallala prohibits the possession, import, export, purchase, sale or transport of aquatic invasive species. It also allows Game and Parks to adopt and promulgate rules and regulations governing the inspection, decontamination, and treatment of watercraft capable of containing or transporting aquatic invasive species.



Rules and regulations are being drafted and will be available for public review later this year, including a listing of aquatic invasive species. The bill outlines penalties for boaters who refuse to submit to a boat inspection by an authorized inspector or refuses to allow watercraft decontamination. This summer, the Nebraska Invasive Species Project and Game and Parks will have authorized inspectors providing information at reservoirs across the state.



Karie Decker, Nebraska Invasive Species Project coordinator, said the new law also creates the Nebraska Invasive Species Council, which will serve as an advisory council for state invasive species policy. It will coordinate invasive species management and research across the state for the prevention and detection of invasive plant and animal species.



Alliance forms to fire up Hunting in Iowa

Outdoor enthusiasts and business groups announced the formation of a new organization to promote hunting in Iowa, hoping to reverse years of declining interest in the activity. Hunting Works for Iowa will stress the economic boost that hunting gives to the state. The organization estimates that hunters spend more than $288 million in the state annually and create 6,200 jobs, according to the Iowa Retail Federation, which is taking part in the effort.



The new organization, which includes about 45 groups, plans to boost hunting by keeping a close watch on public policy decisions and pushing for hunting-friendly regulations while making the case that the sport benefits the state economy.



The number of hunting licenses issued in Iowa has declined for 10 straight years, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The agency issued 194,019 resident hunting licenses in 2001 and that had dropped to 160,466 by 2011. Officials blamed several factors for that drop, including recent harsh winters that have hurt wildlife populations, less animal habitat and an increasingly urban population that is less likely to hunt.



Landowners Receive $5 million from SD Game, Fish and Parks

Landowners in South Dakota received more than $5 million in the past year from the state Game, Fish and Parks Department for granting public hunting access on their land. That represents about 9 percent of GFP’s operations budget and about 5 percent of the department’s total budget of $82 million. About $50 million of GFP’s budget annually comes from license, park and camping sales, with about $5 million of general funding from the Legislature and depending on the year about $20 million to $30 million in federal aid.



The biggest portion of the access money went to landowners in the James River valley who enrolled in the special Conservation Reserve Enhancement program run by the department. The department paid $2.2 million to the holders of those contracts. They currently number 582, covering about 62,300 acres, with each agreement each scheduled to run 10 to 15 years. The department can take up to 100,000 acres. An equally large amount went to about 1,400 landowners who placed property in GFP’s walk-in area program. More than 1.3 million acres were contracted in 2011 at a cost of about $2.2 million to the department.



2011 SD Pheasant Harvest topped 1.5 million Birds

South Dakota is such a hotspot for pheasant hunting that even a down season still is very good. Hunters harvested more than 1.5 million pheasants in South Dakota during the 2011 season, according to an estimate by the SD Game, Fish and Parks Department. That was down from an estimated 1.8 million roosters taken by hunters in 2010.



The smaller harvest was expected, after the tough winter of 2010-2011 and the loss of habitat as farmers converted more grass acres to crops. The 2011 harvest was still the ninth-highest in the past 20 years.

Hunters again turned out in large numbers despite the lower expectations. Non-resident hunters totaled 95,077, down from 100,189 in 2010, while South Dakota hunters numbered 69,120, down from 72,465.



Bill to Increase the Cost of the Duck Stamp Introduced

Senate Bill S. 2156 would allow the Interior Secretary to adjust the price of the duck stamp, the license needed to hunt migratory waterfowl, every five years. The price of a stamp is still only $15 and has not increased since 1991. Because of that, the Duck Stamp has lost half of its purchasing power for land and habitat according to FWS Director Dan Ashe. Increasing the fee to $25, as suggested in the administration's fiscal 2013 budget, has the support of many sportsmen's and conservation groups, including Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, and the League.
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