September 2012 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

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September 2012 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

Postby feathhd » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:16 pm

September 2012 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

By: Paul Lepisto – IWLA Regional Conservation Coordinator




Table of contents

Missouri River Updates

Missouri River Surplus Water Reports and Reallocation Study

Missouri River Outdoor Expo

Iowa Outdoor Expo

Missouri River Clean up – Omaha/Council Bluffs

Missouri River Events Update

SD Natural Resource Conservation Service Meeting

Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee

McCook Lake Chapter Visit

News and Notes


Missouri River Updates

Drought Conditions Result in Conservation Measures

The US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) said continued and expanding drought conditions in the Missouri River basin have resulted in reduced inflows to the six Missouri River reservoirs. Runoff into the Missouri River above Sioux City was only 64 percent of normal during August. The 2012 runoff forecast is now down to 20.7 million acre feet (the water needed to cover an acre of land one foot deep) or 83 percent of normal. This is down from last month’s forecast of 21 million acre feet. The majority of the upper basin received less than 50 percent of normal August precipitation. Last year’s historic runoff totaled 61 MAF above Sioux City - nearly 3 times more than this year.


Water levels in the big three reservoirs, Fort Peck, Sakakawea and Oahe, fell 2 to 3.5 feet during August. The total volume of water stored in the Missouri River Reservoir System on September 1st was 54.2 million acre feet, down from 56.4 maf on August 1st. The continuing drought will cause the ACE to shift into conservation measures this winter based on the September 1st storage check with winter releases at minimum levels from December through February. The ACE said that although the runoff continues to slip downward, there is enough water in the reservoir system to continue to provide service to all eight of the congressionally authorized purposes for the remainder of the year. The purposes include flood control, navigation, hydropower, irrigation, water supply, water quality control, recreation, and fish and wildlife.


Based on the annual July 1st reservoir storage check, the ACE is providing a full 8-month navigation season running to December 1st with full service flows. This will provide a 9-foot-deep by 300-foot-wide navigation channel from Sioux City to St Louis. The drier than normal conditions in the lower basin means the ACE will use above normal releases from the six reservoirs to meet navigation targets along the river. Additional precipitation or lack of precipitation in the basin could cause adjustments to the water release rates.


Drought Update

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service (NWS), the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) teamed up to provide two Midwest and Great Plains Drought Updates during September. In a webinar on the 6th Mark Svoboda of the NDMC at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln said current models show the drought conditions, above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation continuing into fall. Rick Nelson a co-chair of the Plains and Prairie Potholes Land Conservation Cooperative (PPPLCC) talked about the drought’s short and long term impact on fish and wildlife in the upper Midwest.


In the webinar held on the 20th South Dakota Climatologist Dennis Todey said the drought eased a bit in the eastern portion of the Midwest but worsened in the western and northern portions of the region. No major weather pattern changes are expected through at least the end of the year. In 118 years of record keeping Wyoming and Colorado had their warmest summers and WY and NE their driest summers, Iowa experienced their second and SD their fourth driest summer this year.


This is the nation's worst drought in five decades - 65.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. is experiencing some type of drought - an all time record. 21.5 percent of the drought area is rated as extreme or exceptional - the two worst classifications. In Nebraska 73.25 percent of the state is in exceptional drought conditions. You can see the latest drought conditions at: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/.


Some drought stricken areas caught a bit of a break early in September with up to six inches of rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac's but other parts of the Midwest weren't as lucky. Most of IA missed out on the rain and the northwest portion of the state in now in exceptional drought. Exceptional drought conditions also spread across nearly all of NE and extended into WY, SD, and Kansas.


Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) officials are warning that this year’s drought has made soil very vulnerable to erosion. The NRCS says the drought has left vegetation without moisture and reduced plant growth that provides protective cover for the soil. Even fields utilizing reduced tillage methods could see damage this year because crop residue is very fragile. The NRCS is advising farmers to keep residue on their fields this year. The worst wind erosion usually occurs in March and April. Crop residue cuts strong winds during those spring months. Producers also can protect fields by eliminating fall tillage.


Missouri River Reservoir Surplus Water Reports and Reallocation Study

The ACE has extended the public comment period for five Draft Missouri River Reservoir Surplus Water Reports and Environmental Assessments until October 10th. Comments from the public will be considered during the development of the final reports for Fort Peck, Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Francis Case and Lewis and Clark. The final reports are expected to be complete sometime early next year.


The ACE is in working to complete three actions concurrently that could impact Municipal and Industrial (M&I) water supply users. Those actions include: The Surplus Water Reports and Environmental Assessments, The Water Reallocation Study and The Administrative Procedures Act Rulemaking.

The Assistant Secretary to the Army (ASA) for Civil Works, Jo Ellen Darcy, directed the ACE to complete Surplus Water Reports for the six Missouri River reservoirs. The Lake Sakakawea report was finalized in July. The remaining five surplus water reports were released to the public in August. The draft reports indicate that surplus water can be made available for sale for up to 10 years for M&I use without affecting the other existing authorized purposes. In the reports, the ACE identifies current and projected M&I use from each reservoir and provide an estimated price to be charged under surplus water agreements. The Flood Control Act authorizes the ACE to enter into surplus water agreements with M&I water users. The ACE has never charged for water from the Missouri River reservoirs, making it the only ACE managed system in the nation where fees are not charged for M&I use.

Email comments on the Draft Surplus Water Reports to: momainstem-surplus-waterreports@usace.army.mil. Again the deadline for those comments is October 10th.


The ASA also directed the ACE to complete a Reallocation Study for the Missouri River reservoirs. The study began in June and will examine whether storage in the reservoirs may be permanently allocated to M&I water supply. The study will examine the effects of reallocation on the other authorized purposes and operation of the reservoirs. One key difference between the Surplus Water Reports and this study is the Reallocation Study would allow the ACE to enter into permanent water agreements.


The ACE has also extended the comment deadline for the reallocation study. The new deadline runs through October 12th. You can suggest what they consider in the study. The next step will be the development of a Reallocation Feasibility Report. A draft will be shared with the public and comments will be considered in the development of a final report which will go to the ASA. If the final report is approved, the ACE will enter into permanent water storage agreements. Email comments to: mailto:moriver%20reallocationstudy@usace.army.mil no later than October 12th. The League has submitted comments on the Surplus Water Reports and will be submitting comments on the scoping for the Reallocation Study. If you would like to see them to formulate your own comments please let me know.


Finally, the ASA directed the ACE to follow the Administrative Procedure Act in pricing water from the Missouri River reservoirs. This rulemaking procedure is a federal law that governs how federal agencies propose and establish regulations. It ensures the public is informed, has opportunity to comment and has access to the record. Rulemaking on the pricing of water is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.


Members of Congress Request Hearings

Five US Senators are asking for a hearing on the proposal by the ACE to charge users for water. SD Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune, ND Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven and MT Senator Jon Tester all signed a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer, chairperson of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, requesting a hearing on the matter. The Senators say they want the ACE to explain the proposal. Thune says the proposal breaks promises that the ACE made to the states more than 50 years ago. SD Representative Kristi Noem has asked for a similar hearing in the House. Representative John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he will consider holding a hearing.


Missouri River Outdoor Expo

The 8th Annual Missouri River Outdoor Expo was held at Ponca State Park near Ponca, NE on September 15th and 16th. An estimated 52,000 people attended over two days, smashing previous attendance records. The League had a booth at the Expo again this year. We handed out League materials and helped kids and adults build bird feeders. I want to extend a big thank you to Mike Gaghagen and Joe Menke from the Grand Island Chapter for their hard work in the booth over the two days. Fran Serr from Yankton Chapter worked all day Saturday. Larry Grill from the West Central Chapter helped out Sunday afternoon. Sid Wagner, Pat and Kelly Kistner and Todd Benson from McCook Lake Chapter helped out Saturday morning. The 2013 Missouri River Outdoor Expo will be held on September 21st and 22nd. Please mark it on your calendars. We need a lot more help in the Ikes booth in Ponca State Park next year.


Iowa Outdoor Expo

The Des Moines Ikes co-sponsored the Iowa Outdoor Expo on September 22nd and 23rd. I helped out in their booth Saturday afternoon and Sunday. The Ikes passed out League information and helped people make bird feeders. Mike and Carol Roland worked very hard in the booth this year and talked to a lot of people about the IWLA. Next year the event will be held on September 28th and 29th.


Missouri River Clean up – Omaha/Council Bluffs

Missouri River Relief coordinated the annual river clean up in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area on Saturday, September 22nd. I helped them out again this year. The clean up attracted around 200 volunteers who gathered an estimated 8 tons of trash, including 68 tires and 19 barrels from along the river. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission provided two boats and captains - Gerald Mestl and Josh Wilhelm helped shuttle teams of volunteers on the river during the clean-up.


Missouri River Events

The Missouri River Events Planning Committee met in Yankton on the 21st to work on the 2013 events that will be held in the Yankton area. The Missouri River Watershed Education Festival will be held on Friday, May 3rd, the clean-up will be May 4th and the Clean Boat Event will begin on May 11, 2013. The festival will expand the number of presentations this year to accommodate the expected rise in students. This year 425 students attend and the committee is preparing for even more in 2013. The committee will meet again later this fall.


SD Natural Resource Conservation Service Meeting

On September 26th I attended a South Dakota NRCS State Technical Committee work group meeting in Huron. We discussed the 590 Conservation Practice pertaining to nutrient management on agricultural land. The work group revised the language on the rules pertaining to application of manure on frozen or snow covered soil. The new language will now go on to the full State Technical Committee for approval in November. The League also is a member of the State Technical Committee.


Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee

In September MRRIC work and task groups continued to develop items via numerous conference calls and webinars. Those proposals will be presented for the full committee’s consideration at the next meeting in Omaha October 23rd-25th. MRRIC is a 70 member committee made up of federal, state, tribal, and stakeholder representatives from throughout the basin. MRRIC provides guidance to the ACE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on the current Missouri River Recovery Program. The MRRP is working to recover habitat for three federally listed species; the interior least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon. Recovery of habitat for those species will also provide great benefits to other fish and wildlife species and increase recreational opportunities for people along the river.


I represent the League on the committee and many of its work and task groups. On September 28th I was notified that I have been reappointed to the committee for another 3 year term that runs through September of 2015.


McCook Lake Chapter Visit

On Saturday, September 29th I attended the McCook Lake Chapter’s September Steak Fry. Thanks to the members for the delicious supper, a fun evening and for their long, on-going support of the Missouri River Initiative.


News and Notes

Farm Bill Update

The House has adjourned until after the November election without taking up the Farm Bill or considering a short term extension of the current Farm Bill. House leaders delayed work on the bill because of divisions over proposed cuts to the food stamp program - a major component of the bill. Without an extension, the 2008 farm bill expired September 30th. The expiration will not immediately affect the bill's large commodity subsidy and nutrition programs but several conservation and energy programs will be unable to enroll new participants.

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill with a bipartisan 64-35 vote in June. Republican leaders in the House have said they lack the votes to pass the package. The expiration ends enrollments for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Wetlands Reserve, Grassland Reserve and Healthy Forest Reserve programs - all easement programs. The Conservation Stewardship Program also loses most of its ability to fund new enrollments. It’s uncertain what the next steps will be regarding the Farm Bill. The House may start working on it after the November election or vote to extend the current measure. Stay engaged with your US Senators and Representative on this critical issue.

Keystone XL Pipeline Update

Opponents of an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico said the proposed reroute of the Keystone XL oil pipeline still crosses sensitive land in Nebraska and continues to threaten the Ogallala Aquifer. TransCanada, the company proposing the line, unveiled three proposed adjustments to the path through Nebraska responding to concerns raised by landowners, environmentalists and state regulators. Those changes have failed to satisfy opponents of the project. The pipeline has faced intense opposition from groups that object to the crude it would carry from Alberta's oil sands fields, as well as from Nebraskans who worry about damage a potential leak could cause to the state's water supplies and to the environment. President Obama rejected a permit required to build the northern segment of the line across the US border, citing concerns over Nebraska's sensitive Sand Hills region among his reasons for rejecting it. The company reapplied and expects an answer on its new application early next year. Construction has started on the southern portion of the pipeline, which didn’t require a permit.


Invasive Species Update

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) collected a single live juvenile zebra mussel from Upper Gar Lake on a sampling plate used to monitor for the presence of zebra mussels. Additional sampling was conducted in Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, East Okoboji Lake, Upper Gar Lake, Minnewashta, and Lower Gar Lake to try to determine the presence of veligers which are the microscopic larvae of zebra mussels. No additional mussels were found on samplers placed throughout the Okoboji chain of lakes and no veligers were found in any of the samples. Had they shown up, it would indicate that natural reproduction had occurred in the lakes. Veligers are detected by analyzing water filtered from the lake. The DNR will monitor for the presence of mussels and veligers and ask lakeshore homeowners to check their hoists and docks when they take them out this fall. Zebra mussels are an aquatic invasive species that have spread throughout many lakes in the Midwest and around the country. Known populations within Iowa include Clear Lake, Lake Rathbun, Bluebill Lake, and the Mississippi and Maquoketa rivers. Currently there is no effective treatment to eradicate or control the mussels once they have infested a waterbody.


Two Minnesota Conservation Officers pulled into a parking lot in Two Harbors recently and couldn’t believe what they saw — a shopping cart covered with zebra mussels in the back of a pickup truck. The owner of the truck was from North Dakota and told the officers he was on vacation and saw the shopping cart next to dumpsters on the Duluth waterfront. He planned to drive up the North Shore to Grand Marais before returning to North Dakota. He was going to display the shopping cart at his business. He didn’t know is that it’s against Minnesota law to transport or possess zebra mussels or other invasive species. He was cited for unlawfully possessing and/or transporting a prohibited invasive species and given instructions how to appeal or pay the $500 fine.


Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) Update

Nebraska’s Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) says the state’s white-tailed deer herd is experiencing significant losses due to EHD. More than 3,000 EHD deer deaths have been reported over the past two months, mostly in northern and eastern Nebraska. In response the NGPC will consider reductions in 2012 antlerless deer permits at its Board of Commissioners October 26th meeting in North Platte. Permit reductions of 20 to 50 percent are recommended in 18 antlerless only units, and the River Antlerless permit quota is recommended to change from “unlimited” to 4,500 permits. If changes are approved, they will go into effect after the commission meeting. All permits purchased prior to the approved changes will remain valid.


Humans are not at risk for handling or eating venison from infected deer. If a hunter harvests a deer that appears sick, they can bring the carcass to a NGPC office or conservation officer and request revalidation of the permit. EHD is spread by midges, a small flying insect. Cattle may be infected however few will develop clinical symptoms of fever, lameness or oral lesions. Livestock producers should seek the advice of a veterinarian if they encounter these symptoms in cattle. Deer do not transmit this disease to cattle. EHD infected deer are often found dead near water and sometimes show evidence of bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth. The NGPC wants to determine the extent of the disease and its possible effects on the deer population. Please report any deer deaths that may be attributed to EHD to their nearest NGPC office.


The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department made adjustments to some hunting units and unsold licenses have been pulled in some counties due to the EHD outbreak. GF&P will continue to monitor EHD and will provide additional recommendations to the GF&P Commission at its October meeting. GF&P will be conducting ground surveillance, collecting reports from the public and using flights to help determine the severity of the disease. GFP is notifying deer hunters that they can voluntarily return a deer license for any season prior to the start of that season and receive a full refund. GF&P asks people who see sick or dead deer to contact their local conservation officer or call the nearest GF&P office. There have been reports of 1100 deer killed by EHD across the state so far this year. More than 40 cattle herds in southeastern SD have reported signs of the illness that include fever, ulcers in the mouth, excessive salivation and lameness.


Iowa Pheasant Numbers Up

A mild winter and dry spring have boosted Iowa’s pheasant numbers. Results from August roadside surveys show a 16 percent increase over last year. Iowa pheasant hunters should harvest approximately 125,000 to 200,000 roosters this fall. The IA DNR said that forecast falls well below what hunters want to see. Iowa traditionally harvested a million or more birds annually for the past four decades. Upland biologist say with two or three more years of normal winters and springs hunters could again shoot 600,000 to 800,000 birds. That’s if, and it’s a big if, the state’s 1.6 million Conservation Reserve Program acres remain steady. Record high corn and soybean prices are an incentive for farmers to plow CRP land back into crops. Over the last 20 years, Iowa has lost the equivalent of a 9-mile wide band of prime pheasant habitat, stretching from Omaha to Davenport. The Iowa pheasant season opens on October 27th.


A Record Year for Lewis & Clark Recreation Area

The Lewis and Clark Recreation Area near Yankton is seeing a record number of visitors this year. Through Labor Day the number of day visitations to the park is up nearly 5 percent from where it was in 2011 and the amount of campers staying on the grounds are up an average of more than 10 percent making 2012 the best year the area has ever had.


And finally there’s this…..

Fisherman Has Unusual Find Inside of Trout

Nolan Calvin and a few friends spent a day on Idaho’s Priest Lake recently and planned a meal of smoked trout. In preparing the fish for the meal Calvin made an unusual discovery - a human finger inside a trout’s stomach. The left hand pinky finger was nearly perfectly preserved inside the fish. The finger had been in the lake for more than two months and was more than eight miles from where it was separated from its owner. Haans Galassi had been wakeboarding on Priest Lake earlier this summer when his hand became trapped in the towline. Unable to free his hand the rope severed his fingers.


Investigators from the Bonner County, ID Sheriff’s Office were able to trace the finger back to Galassi using fingerprint analysis. Galassi couldn’t believe that someone had actually caught the fish that had eaten his finger in the deep and sprawling lake. A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office said the incident is among the strangest things they have encountered. He add that there’s still three more fingers out there so they don’t know what’s going to happen next.
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