August 2012 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

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August 2012 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

Postby feathhd » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:44 pm

August 2012 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

By: Paul Lepisto Regional Conservation Coordinator


Table of Contents

Missouri River Update

Missouri River Water Surplus/Reallocation Study

Mississippi River Commission Meetings

Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)

Missouri River Water Trail Update

NRCS State Technical Committee

Missouri River Events

News and Notes


Missouri River Update

Missouri River Runoff Forecast Continues to Decline
The below normal runoff forecast continues for the Missouri River as conditions remain hot and dry. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) now projects the annual runoff of 21 million acre feet (maf) above Sioux City. An acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land a foot deep. This is only 85 percent of normal and a decrease of 2% from their runoff forecast in July. The water stored in the six Missouri River reservoirs on August 1st was 56.4 million acre feet, down 1.2 million acre feet from July’s total. The reservoir system storage is now in the carryover-multiple use zone. The ACE says that zone is designed to store enough water to serve the river’s eight authorized purposes during dry years. Those purposes include: flood control, hydropower, recreation, water supply, water quality, irrigation, fish and wildlife and navigation.


To comply with the Master Manual, the plan that guides operations of the six reservoirs, the ACE will continue releases for commercial navigation through December at full service/full season levels. To continue to support navigation flows on the Missouri River, the ACE has been increasing releases out of the reservoirs. The ACE says that heavy precipitation or the continued lack of precipitation in the Missouri River basin could cause adjustments to their reservoir release rates.


Summer 2012 Produces Record Temperatures

July was the hottest month recorded in the continental US. The average temperature was 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.3 degrees warmer than the 20th-century average. The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936, when the average temperature was 77.4 degrees. This year is on track to become the country's warmest year since record-keeping began in 1895. The previous 12 months are already the hottest on record for the continental US. Record temperatures blanketed the drought-stricken Great Plains, Midwest, and east coast. Accompanying that record heat were dry conditions across much of the country. July was among the 10 driest ever recorded in Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois and Iowa. More than 3,000 heat records were broken across the nation over the last month.


Drought Conditions Continue Across the Missouri River Basin

A webinar updating the massive drought impacting the majority of the US was held August 16th. Doug Kluck from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and South Dakota’s State Climatologist Dennis Todey led the discussion. Todey said the record breaking heat over the center of the country has lessened in mid August but the extreme dry conditions continue. Over 70 percent of the continental US is experiencing some type of drought with over 60% of the nation in severe to extreme drought. Todey said computer models for the Missouri River Basin shows a chance of increased precipitation this fall and continued warmer than average temperatures into November. The next drought update webinar will be held September 6th.


Even though Iowa has seen some relief from the heat, there has been no improvement in rainfall, only half the normal amount fell for the month. Of the 65 river that have protected flow levels, 33 are currently low enough to require irrigation restrictions. The National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln said drought recovery is likely to be slow. The region is past the peak time for precipitation until next spring so big improvements would be unexpected but not impossible. Drought conditions eased in Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, southeast Nebraska and Illinois, but grew in Wyoming and South Dakota. Exceptional drought conditions stretched from areas of Nebraska into Colorado. There’s more on the impacts of this year’s drought under News and Notes in this report.


Forecasters think tropical storm Isaac will roll through Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois this weekend, providing relief from what many are calling the worst drought since 1988. The storm could dump from 4 to 7 inches of rain. Strong winds and the storm surge from Isaac's landfall forced the Mississippi River to flow backwards for nearly 24 hours on August 28 according to the US Geological Survey.


ACE to Complete Fort Peck Spillway Test

The ACE will conduct a test of the spillway at the Fort Peck Dam in MT. The test will determine whether a system that relieves pressure beneath the spillway is functioning properly. Spillway releases of 3,000 to 30,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) over four days will be run. Modeling shows the river rising up to 4.7 feet downstream of the dam with the 30,000 CFS release. Releases from the Fort Peck Power Plants will be minimized to lessen the downstream impact. The test is expected to be completed by September 8th.


ACE Awards Contracts to Repair River Structures

The ACE awarded contracts worth tens of millions of dollars and established a pool of contractors to bid on other repairs for the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project (BSNP) - the channelized reach of the Missouri River between Sioux City and St Louis. Damages to the BSNP from the 2011 flood required separate repair contracts funded by Disaster Relief Appropriations Act (DRAA) dollars. A contract for $19,557,000 has been awarded for repairs from the confluence with the Mississippi River to Rulo, NE. In June the ACE also awarded a $2 million contract for repair work on the BSNP those repairs were completed in August. Only four contractors can bid on future work. The repairs are not to exceed $45 million over the next five years. More than $31 million of DRAA funds have been received for BSNP flood recovery. The repairs will take three to four years to complete.


Oahe Dam Dedication Anniversary

On August 17th a big crowd gathered at the Oahe Dam north of Pierre to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dam’s dedication. President Kennedy spoke at the dedication a half a century ago. The dam forms Lake Oahe the 4th largest reservoir in the US and the 14th largest reservoir in the world. The ACE and the Great Lakes of SD Tourism Association organized the event. Over 1400 people took tours of the Oahe intake structure and powerhouse during the anniversary event.


Missouri River Water Surplus/Reallocation Study

The ACE wants your input on five new draft water reports for Missouri River reservoirs: Fort Peck, Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case and Lewis and Clark Lake. The reports quantify “surplus” water available for Municipal and Industrial (M&I) use from the reservoirs. The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo Ellen Darcy, plans to complete surplus water agreements and pricing of reservoir water for M&I purposes. Surplus water agreements would be in place for five years, with an option for a five-year extension. The reports follow the finalized Surplus Water Report for Lake Sakakawea.


Surplus water is defined as water stored in a reservoir that is not required because the authorized need for the water never developed, the need was reduced, or water that could be more efficiently used for M&I use rather than for an authorized purpose. These draft reports propose that surplus water is available and quantifies an amount for sale in each of the reservoirs. The reports recommend that the federal rulemaking process be used to establish pricing for the water. If this process is approved, it would allow the ACE to develop a pricing model, inform the public about the pricing, invite public and agency response to the proposal, and provide time for any revisions before a formal pricing model is set. That process could take up to 18 months. In the meantime the ACE’s has entered into temporary surplus water agreements to continue to meet regional water needs until a permanent reallocation study is completed. There will be no charge for water until rulemaking process is completed and approved.


Public meetings on the proposal were held to begin the scoping process for the water reallocation study. At the Pierre meeting SD officials urged the ACE to stop the proposed plan saying the proposal is unfair and violates states' rights to manage the water. In a letter SD Governor Dennis Daugaard said upstream states have the right to manage the river's natural flows, or water that would flow through the system without the reservoirs. SD Attorney General Marty Jackley said the plan violates federal laws that recognize states' rights to control water uses and SD will challenge the proposal in court if the ACE goes ahead with the plan. The SD congressional delegation also urged the ACE to drop its plan. Kevin Keckler, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said Sioux tribes hold senior water rights to the Missouri River and opposed the plan saying "how can they sell something they don't own?"


Three Representatives from upper Missouri River states have requested a federal hearing to review the ACEs’ plan to charge fees for stored water in the reservoirs. Representatives Kristi Noem of SD, Rick Berg of ND and Denny Rehberg of MT sent a letter to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica and Ranking Member Nick Rahall requesting the hearing. Noem attended a public meeting in Pierre where many people expressed frustration over the ACEs’ plan. In their letter the Reps said they believe the proposal contradicts the legal and historical precedents of the dam system on the Missouri River.


The plan proposes requiring payments from users who take water from the reservoirs, while people downstream of the six dams would not have to pay anything. The ACE said two federal laws require contracts with those withdrawing water for M&I use and a fee should be charged. The Missouri River the ACEs’ largest system is the only ACE system in the nation that does not charge for M&I water storage.


M&I use (water supply) is one of river’s eight authorized purposes. The other seven authorized purposes are: flood control, hydropower, recreation, water quality, fish and wildlife, irrigation, and navigation. The proposed pricing for M&I water would be based on a per acre foot of storage – the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land one foot deep. The rates proposed would range from $17.19 for water from Lake Oahe to $174.66 per acre foot for water from Lewis and Clark Lake.


At the Pierre meeting I asked that the ACE consider the following questions in the scoping process.


· This fee has never been imposed for water from the Missouri River system. Why now? This is the equivalent of NFL officials coming out at halftime and saying the second half of the game will be played under different rules.


· If this proposal is approved, how would the money raised from it be used? Would it be used for mitigation of fish and wildlife habitat lost when the reservoirs were built that, for the most part, has not taken place in Nebraska, the Dakotas and Montana.


· Why after all these years do many people who live near the river still have to haul water from other sources for their domestic use when water supply is an authorized use?


· How would “surplus” be determined during drought conditions that drastically drop reservoir levels? Could signed agreements be cancelled or suspended if water is not available? If so, where would the buyers of water meet their needs?


· If the proposal is approved and agreements are signed, in the case of low water levels, what determines which authorized purpose would continue to get water, the ones that meet or exceed expectations outlined for them in the Pick-Sloan Plan, such as recreation, or those that have fallen dramatically short of Pick-Sloan expectations, such as navigation?


· The Missouri River reservoirs are all linked together, what happens on one impacts the others, so if approved, how will this become a system-wide approach?


· Sediment buildup is reducing the storage capacity of the Missouri River reservoirs. Won’t that sediment buildup greatly reduce the long-term potential for this proposal?


· Is this proposal only for inter-basin use or could M&I water be purchased for use outside of the Missouri River Basin?


· Instead of charging for water has the Corps considered charging a fee for the tons of sand and gravel that is currently being mined, without any fees, from the river in the state of Missouri contributing to riverbed degradation and other issues in the Kansas City reach?


· If this plan is approved, could the storage fee be made retroactive to 2011? Many people along the river would like to know where to send the invoice for the storage they provided for the Corps on their property during the 2011 flood.


Please let the ACE know your thoughts on this proposal email comments on the Surplus Water Reports through September 10th at momainstem-surplus-waterreports@usace.army.mil. Comments on the M&I Reallocation Study will be accepted until September 28th at: moriver-reallocationstudy@usace.army.mil. See the report at http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/html/pd-p ... plans.html. Let me know if you have any questions.


Mississippi River Commission Meeting

The Mississippi River Commission (MRC) conducted a low-water inspection trip in the Missouri River Basin in mid August from Bismarck to Washington, MO. The commission travels the tributaries of the Mississippi every 5 years. Four public meetings were scheduled so the MRC could hear concerns on matters affecting the Missouri River basin. The responsibilities of the MRC include the Mississippi River and its tributaries from its headwaters to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. At the meeting in Fort Pierre several groups, local governments and I presented information stating concerns about flood control, sedimentation, invasive species and the importance of the recreation industry along the Missouri River.


Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)

In its 18th meeting in Billings MRRIC advised the ACE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to proceed with seven recommendations developed for recovery of the Missouri River by the Independent Science Advisory Panel. The recommendations were in response to a request by MRRIC for the ISAP to evaluate the man-made spring pulse defined by the 2006 Master Manual Water Control Plan. MRRIC also developed a preliminary recommendation on preserving sandbar habitat that was naturally created by the flood of 2011 for the least tern and piping plover. That habitat will erode without protective actions. The committee also tentatively agreed on a recommendation on the ACEs’ 2013 work plan for the Missouri River Recovery Program.


MRRIC is comprised of stakeholders, Tribal and state and federal agencies throughout the Missouri River Basin. The Committee advises the ACE and FWS on management of the Missouri River system, and on recovering three endangered species, the least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon. I represent the League on MRRIC and many of its Work Groups. The next MRRIC meeting will be October 23rd-25th in Omaha. MRRIC Work Groups are developing recommendations for consideration at that meeting. For more information on MRRIC you can go to: http://www.mrric.org/ or http://www.moriverrecovery.org/.


Missouri River Water Trail Update

On August 14th the Missouri National Recreational River (MNRR) Water Trail Committee met in Vermillion. We reviewed drafts of 13 new informational signs that will be installed at access sites along the 39 mile District of the MNRR from Fort Randall Dam to Lewis and Clark Lake. This is the second phase of a water trail along the Missouri River. Phase one runs from Gavins Point Dam to Sioux City. The League partners with other groups and agencies on development of the water trail.


NRCS State Technical Committee

The SD Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Technical Team met in Pierre on August 8th. Updates on the US Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Programs were provided to the team by members of the NRCS staff. The League is a member of the SD Tech Team. Following the Tech Team meeting another session was held to develop ideas for the “Field Office of the Future”. The NRCS has gathered input from local conservation districts but wanted ideas and input from other conservation partners. The meeting focused on two questions: What conservation services and assistance will landowners want in 10 years and how will they want these services/products delivered? The Tech Team will work to further develop ideas generated at the session.


Missouri River Events

Missouri River Outdoor Expo

Your help is needed at the 2012 Missouri River Outdoor Expo (MROE) at Ponca State Park near Ponca, NE September 15th and 16th. This will be the 8th Annual MORE. Over 40,000 people attended the Expo in each of the last two years. The MROE has over 80 hands-on events and activities teaching people about the outdoors and new recreational opportunities. The League will have a booth at the Expo again this year. Ikes from NE, SD, and IA have staffed the booth at the Expo the last four years. We hand out information about the League and on conservation issues. We help kids and adults build bird feeders out of plastic bottles teaching the value of recycling and increasing awareness in birds and nature. It also gives us time to talk with them about the League.


Please click on this Doodle Poll http://mail.iwla.org/exchweb/bin/redir. ... pwf4xmps6g to sign up for all or parts of the 15th or 16th. You will be able to go see the rest of the MROE while you are there. We need clean bottles with caps to make the bird feeders. If you can't attend but have some clean bottles that you would like to donate to this project please send them with someone from your Chapter or Division that plans to attend.


Siouxland Missouri River Clean up Date Moved Back

Local organizers have said that because of last year’s flood damage to the riverfront this year’s clean-up will be land based. Volunteers will work along the river and transport items gathered to a collection point. They are now looking at either September 29th or October 13th - more on this in the coming days.


News and Notes

Farm Bill Update

No action has been taken on a new Farm Bill due to the August Congressional recess. The Conservation Title in both the House and Senate Farm Bills contain roughly $58 billion for conservation programs. That is a 10% cut from the 2008 Farm Bill. Both versions contain a new regional partnership program that targets conservation funding to priority conservation regions and could provide approximately $7.8 million per year in additional Farm Bill funds for conservation work. But, both bills cut conservation funding by approximately $6 billion and propose consolidating 23 conservation programs to 13.


The steepest cuts would be to the popular Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) resulting in a loss of at least 5 million acres of grassland, stream buffers, and wetland habitat nationwide. Those acres will be put back into a crop rotation. The nationwide CRP acreage enrollment cap would drop from 32 million acres in 2012 to 25 million acres by 2017.


The House has no conservation compliance requirement on crop insurance. Currently taxpayers subsidize crop insurance premiums. Conservation Compliance would require participating farmers to provide protections for soil, water, and wildlife on approximately 500 million acres of farmland. The Senate version contains a Conservation Compliance requirement.


A Sodsaver provision was rejected by the House AG committee despite strong support from sportsmen and conservation groups including longtime support from the League. This provision would have made farmers who plow any native prairie ineligible for crop insurance for five years. Sodsaver was included in the Senate version of the Farm Bill.


Federal Subsidies Causing Nationwide Habitat Loss

Farmers converted more than 23 million acres of grasslands and wetlands to cropland between 2008 and 2011 in response to high commodity prices and large government subsidies. This is according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Defenders of Wildlife. The report found that most of the converted acres were for corn production in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, and in Texas and Oklahoma. The two groups said the findings should be a "wake-up call" and warned that government subsidies are overturning conservation gains made in the past, impair water quality and threaten wildlife habitat.


Among the converted acres were more than 8.4 million acres for corn, 5.6 million for soybeans and 5.2 million for winter wheat. Eleven states had habitat losses of at least 1 million acres. Texas, with 3,078,789 acres converted largely to winter wheat and cotton, and South Dakota, with 1,940,920 acres converted largely to corn, wheat and soybeans, ranked first and second. Iowa ranked third, in habitat loss with 1,505,202 acres — with 876,792 acres converted to corn and 625,127 acres converted to soybeans. Other million-acre states, listed in descending order, were Nebraska, Oklahoma, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin.


The study's results are similar to another report by economists at the University of California, Davis, and Ohio State University that found the availability of crop insurance encourages the planting of crops in areas that would not otherwise be considered for crops. Currently, the USDA subsidizes an average of 62 percent of crop insurance premiums for the nation’s farmers. Projections show that the crop insurance will cost taxpayers $90 billion over the next decade. Both the House and the Senate have proposed to expand crop insurance in their new versions of the farm bill.


At this year’s national convention in Lincoln the League adopted a resolution asking the USDA and the Farm Service Agency to record and make available to the public the number of wetland and grassland acres converted to cropland and for coupling Conservation Compliance to Crop Insurance. Your help is needed to support the Farm Bill’s conservation programs, tying Conservation Compliance to Crop Insurance and a nationwide Sodsaver Provision when Congress returns from recess in September.


More on the Drought – Impacts on Fish

Thousands of fish have died across the Midwest as the sizzling summer dries up rivers and raises water temperatures in some spots to nearly 100 degrees. In Sioux Falls water temperatures of over 90 degrees, low-river levels and ammonia released from John Morrel plant combined to kill fish in the Big Sioux River.


In Iowa about 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon have died and on the Des Moines River 58,000 fish died along 42 miles of the river in water temperatures up to 97 degrees. Nebraska fishery officials said they’ve seen thousands of dead sturgeon, including the endangered pallid sturgeon, catfish, carp, and other species in the Lower Platte River.


The warm weather and warm water has prompted concerns about microcystin, a product of blue-green algae in Iowa. There are currently advisories for total microcystins for the beaches on Big Creek Lake, Green Valley Lake, and Rock Creek Lake. Blue-green algae can grow quickly and become very abundant in warm, shallow, undisturbed surface water that receives a lot of sunlight – conditions that have been prevalent throughout the state this summer.


How warm is the water this summer? Lake Michigan hit 82 degrees Fahrenheit in July, and Lake Superior, the northernmost Great Lake, had an average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. A year ago, the temperature of Lake Superior was 56 degrees or about average.


Wildlife Concerns

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) continues to kill deer over much of Nebraska, spreading from the Missouri River to as far west as Garden County. This disease has occurred in the state since the 1970s, but this year it seems to be more widespread. EHD normally occurs in late August to early September when hot and dry conditions exist. This year it started showing up in areas of the state in mid-July. The disease, spread by biting gnats, poses little threat to cattle and no problems for humans.


Because of this year’s outbreak, NE hunters may see fewer deer this fall. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) biologists say they will not know the full impact of the disease until after the close of the deer seasons. Deer populations typically have recovered fairly quickly following past EHD die-offs.

The NGPC has no plans to modify 2012 deer seasons in response to EHD losses. Deer killed by EHD are often found near water and sometimes show evidence of bleeding from the eyes, nose or mouth. Infected animals are lethargic, disoriented and unafraid of people. Game and Parks remains interested in determining the extent of the disease and its possible effects on the deer population. You are asked to report any deer deaths that may be attributed to this disease to their nearest NGPC office.


The SD Game, Fish and Parks Department (GFP) is asking landowners and hunters to be on the lookout for deer that have succumbed to EHD. People who see sick deer or find several dead deer in one area are asked to contact their local conservation officers or call the Pierre GFP office at 605-773-5913. Deer may continue dying from EHD until a hard freeze reduces the midge populations. For more information on the EHD virus visit http://mail.iwla.org/exchweb/bin/redir. ... 252FHD.pdf


This year’s drought is already causing concern for SD Game, Fish & Parks about next year. The lack of vegetation caused by this year’s extremely dry conditions may result in pheasants and ducks having a hard time finding adequate nesting cover next spring.


In Iowa some vegetation is up to two months ahead of a typical growing schedule. Reports have oak trees dropping under-developed acorns due to the dry conditions. The trees can't support them, so they're dropping them much earlier than a normal year. Fewer acorns, a major food item for deer, turkeys, squirrels and other species, could mean weaker wildlife going into winter.


Drought Causing Problems for Commercial Navigation

Extra water is being released from the Missouri River Reservoirs in an attempt to increase river levels on the lower Missouri River. The river is so low along its final 220 miles into St Louis that sandbars in four spots are impeding barge traffic. Five cement-toting barges were grounded on August 10th about 40 miles outside St. Louis. The convoy was broken into two then moved. The ACE said releases from Gavins Point Dam are running at 38,500 cubic feet per second or 8 percent above normal for this time of year.


Despite the widespread drought the ACE says there’s plenty of water in the upstream reservoirs to accommodate additional releases and for the entire barge navigation season while still meeting the other purposes on the river. A barge operator said his company is towing lighter loads on the Missouri to keep from grounding. Even though the river is receiving its full allotment of navigation waters, he said it just doesn’t seem to be enough. So far this year his company has brought one six-barge load to Nebraska City and plans another in a couple of weeks. Under a full navigation season, barges could use the river at Omaha until November 24th.


The problems on the Missouri are minor compared with those on the Mississippi River. The Mississippi this month is expected to be more than 55 feet below last summer’s flood peak, according to the ACE nearing the record low set in 1988. As a result of navigation problems, the ACE is spending $18 million dredging the Mississippi’s channel and attempted to clear a route through the low water. No dredging is being done on the Missouri River, and it would be undertaken only if low water actually closed the river for an extended period.


NE Tightens Baitfish Regulations

At their August 31st meeting in Broken Bow Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners approved changes in regulations for collecting baitfish. They amended two sections in the regulations making it unlawful for any individual to transport baitfish, or any bait dealer to take baitfish, away from the Missouri River downstream of Gavins Point Dam and all other rivers and streams located east of US Highway 81 from the SD border to York, north of Interstate 80 from York to Lincoln, and east of US Highway 77 from Lincoln to the Kansas border. This will reduce the likelihood that Asian carp and white perch are captured in the Missouri River and its tributaries and spread further.


Zebra Mussels spreading in one of Minnesota’s Top Walleye Lakes

The number of zebra mussels in Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota's most popular walleye lake, has increased 41 percent from last year. Scuba divers counted 7,700 zebra mussels per square foot, or about 53 per square inch in one area. The invasive species attach to rocks and other surfaces. Zebra mussels also attach to vegetation. Boaters must remove all aquatic weeds when they load their boats at ramps. This is the time of year when zebra mussels produce microscopic larvae called veligers. The young of the year mussels can be spread to other lakes in minnow buckets, livewells or in boat bilge areas. Prevent the spread of invasive species. Clean, Drain, and Dry your equipment when you have been on the water.


Nebraska Officials Kill Fish in North Platte Lake

The NGPC has started a complete makeover of a North Platte lake by killing off the lake's fish population with the chemical rotenone. Before the treatment the NGPC salvaged desirable fish from the lake and stocked them in other lakes. NGPC officials said undesirable species dominated the fishery limiting angling opportunities. The lake will be restocked this fall with largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish. A ban on live baitfish will go into effect following the renovation at the lake.


FWS Decision Blocks Endangered Beetle Removal until Keystone XL Pipeline is Approved

A FWS decision regarding the endangered American burying beetle could delay construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline by up to a year if the federal government approves the project. The pipeline developer TransCanada Corporation called the FWS assessment premature. A FWS official said the agency will not allow researchers contracted by TransCanada to trap and relocate beetles from the path of the controversial pipeline, which would transport oil sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, until federal officials approve the project. Previously, researchers were allowed to remove the beetles and remove grass to prevent the insects' return, but a lawsuit filed last year prompted FWS attorneys to revisit the rule. Now research projects on endangered species that require disrupting the creatures will not be allowed before major projects secure a federal permit. It is unclear how many beetles are in the pipeline's proposed path. If the permit is approved construction is expected to take two years. TransCanada said work could be altered to adjust to the FWS decision without affecting that schedule.


Yellowstone River Oil Pipeline Spill Probe to Conclude

A document that reveals the reason behind the pipeline break that caused an oil spill in the Yellowstone River in MT last year is expected to help end a federal investigation. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recently received the report from the Exxon Mobil Corporation that details the cause of the leak. The documents were not open to the public. Officials have speculated the pipeline was damaged by debris after flood waters exposed it, but an official cause has not yet been released. Fifteen hundred barrels of oil were spilled into the river, a key tributary to the Missouri, and it took nearly an hour to shut down the pipeline after the pipeline break. Despite months of effort to clean up the spill, only 1 percent of the oil was recovered. Exxon Mobil has now buried the pipeline and two others deeper below the riverbeds. Other companies have done the same with other pipelines. A decision on whether Exxon Mobil will face penalties for the spill will be made by the end of September.


2012 SD Pheasant Count Up from 2011

The annual August pheasant brood counts in SD show the statewide pheasant population is up from last year, and an excellent pheasant season is expected this fall. The increase was credited to a mild winter and ideal weather during the nesting and brood-rearing season. The GFP says the pheasants-per-mile index for 2012 is 4.21, up 18 percent from the 3.57 index of 2011. Much of the improvement in the pheasant counts came from areas of the state that had a good habitat. More than 1.5 million pheasants were harvested last year. The 2012 Pheasant Brood Survey Report, complete with comparisons for the different areas, can be found at http://mail.iwla.org/exchweb/bin/redir. ... ntent%253D


Lewis and Clark Water Project Pushes for Additional Funding

The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) has been asked to request more funding for the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System in SD, MN and IA. Representative Tim Walz and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and met with BOR Commissioner Michael Connor in Worthington, MN. They said $35 million a year is needed over the next decade to finish the $462 million project to bring Missouri River water to 300,000 people. Water started flowing through the system this summer after more than two decades of planning and construction, but federal funding for upcoming construction is uncertain due to budget cuts. Next year's proposed federal funding for Lewis and Clark is $4.5 million.


A Well Traveled Walleye

A 17-inch two pound walleye tagged and released in Lake Oahe has had quite a year. Jesse Schanilec of Fargo caught the fish near Yankton in Lewis and Clark Lake this week. The fish was tagged last year as part of a Pierre group’s fundraising effort. The walleye would have been worth $1,000 if it was caught last year. The walleye survived passing through three dams Oahe, Big Bend and Fort Randall to get into Lewis and Clark Lake.


And finally these two items

He Says the Buck started it….

Mark Christianson farms near Fertile, MN. Recently he came out of his house and saw a whitetail buck coming at him. Christianson said the buck reared up on his hind legs and began hitting him with its front hoofs. Christianson grabbed the buck and wrestled him to the ground. After wrestling with the deer Christianson was able to get away. He went into the house, grabbed a rifle and shot the eight-point buck. The confrontation left Christianson with black eyes and bruises over his arms, shoulders and chest.


Mark and his wife Judy had seen the buck with up to 18 other deer days before in their yard. All of the deer, except for the buck, would run when the couple opened the door. Two days before the fight, Mark saw the deer near a shed. He said the buck was 8 feet away, and came right up to him. Mark went in the shed and the buck stuck his nose right up against the window and banged his antlers against the wall. Mark tried to run toward the house, the buck followed, and Christianson had to jump into a car.


On the day of the fight Judy had been napping. She woke to hear her husband hollering "He got me!" Mark was dripping blood and was shaking trying to load his gun. The buck was still standing in the yard when Mark shot him. The buck went down nearby Mark followed and shot him a couple more times.


Christianson had contacted the Norman County Sheriff’s Office and the MN Department of Natural Resources even before the animal picked the fight because the deer had sounded "wheezy". The deer’s carcass was sent to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul. Disease specialists have ruled out rabies but continue to check for other diseases, such as chronic wasting disease or Lyme disease. An official with the MN DNR said that deer normally are afraid of people and they don’t know why this one would attack. The conservation officer who investigated the incident sent a report to the county attorney for review. Christianson won't be charged with shooting the buck out of season.


Bear Visits Candy Shop

A bear managed to open the front door of an Estes Park, CO candy store and feast to his heart’s content.

Store owner Jo Adams arrived at the shop and noticed a few candy wrappers on the floor and some dirt on the counter. She thought a squirrel might have gotten in. She called for help to clean up and to find the squirrel. When family members arrived, Adams looked at surveillance cameras to find the culprit - a hungry bear.


The bear made seven trips in and out of the candy shop by prying open the front door, which had an unsecured deadbolt. He would steal up as much candy as he could hold then take it outside and eat it. Surprisingly, nothing else was damaged. “He was very clean and very careful” Adams said. After cleaning the store, throwing away any candy the bear might have touched and fixing the deadbolt, the candy shop re-opened for business.


You might think that having so much merchandise eaten or thrown away would be bad for business, but the popularity of the bear actually drove more customers to the shop. Some customers ordered “what the bear ate.”
F/H/D
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