M/A 2013 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

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M/A 2013 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

Postby feathhd » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:44 pm

March 2013 IWLA Missouri River Initiative Report

By: Paul Lepisto – Regional Conservation Coordinator

Missouri River Conditions – Drought Impacts Continue

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) will implement drought conservation
measures on the Missouri River Mainstem System as the navigation season begins
April 1st. The ACE will provide minimum flow support for the first half of the
Missouri River navigation season based on water currently in storage in the
reservoir system. The level of flow support for the second half of the
navigation season and season length will be determined following the system
water storage check on July 1st. Minimum service flow range from 25,000 cubic
feet per second (cfs) at Sioux City to 35,000 cfs at Kansas City and are
designed to provide a navigation channel that is 8 feet deep by 200 feet wide.
Full service navigation flows provide a 9-foot by 300-foot channel. The ACE
will also conserve water throughout the navigation season by not providing
navigation flow support when there is no navigation traffic on a reach of the

The continuing wide spread drought in the upper Missouri River basin is
indicating less-than-average runoff in 2013. This year’s runoff above Sioux City
is forecast to be 20.0 million acre feet (MAF). That’s only 81 percent of
average with below average runoff expected each month this year. Extreme to
exceptional drought conditions still exist in Nebraska, South Dakota and
northwest Iowa. The ACE will try to have steady to rising reservoir levels
during the forage fish spawn at the three upper reservoirs - Fort Peck in
Montana, Garrison in North Dakota and Oahe in North and South Dakota. Forage
fish spawn from April to mid-June. Maintaining a steady to rising reservoir
during this period is critical for successful spawning and hatching of forage
and game fish species. The ACE said the drought will also require decisions on
water management issues such as extending boat ramps on the reservoirs.

Meanwhile in sharp contrast to the Missouri River, the National Weather Service
said the Red River in Fargo/Moorhead could see one of the top five floods in
history this spring. The flood outlook says there's a 50 percent chance that the
river will top 38 feet. That would be the fifth-highest crest topping the 37.34
feet crest recorded in 1969.

ACE to Hold Annual Operating Plan (AOP) Meetings

The ACE will hold five public meetings beginning the week of April 8th. The ACE
will provide an update on current water conditions as well as outline their
planned regulation of the Missouri River basin mainstem reservoirs for 2013. As
stated the 2013 runoff season begins with significantly drawn down reservoirs
due to the ongoing drought. In the tri-state area AOP meetings will be held on
Monday, April 8th in Nebraska City, NE at 7 PM at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive
Center. And Wednesday, April 10 in Pierre at 11 AM at the Joe Foss Building -
Matthews Training Center. I will attend and make comments on the AOP at the
Pierre meeting on April 10th. You can view forecasted reservoir and river
information at http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc.

ACE Continues 2011 Flood Repair Work

As we approach the second anniversary of the historic flooding on the Missouri
River the ACE continues to work on flood related repairs from the record high
flows. More than 100 rehabilitation projects at the six Missouri River Mainstem
Dams totaling more than $234 million are being conducted. Some of the repair
projects include: spillway gates, outlet works, scour areas, recreational
facilities, roads and flood control structures. Learn more about the status of
repairs at each of projects at this website: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Media/Fac ... jects.aspx<http://distribution.mymediainfo.com/lists/lt.php?id=fB8KAlBRC1EFBk8CUAdTA09WVFQABQM%3D>.

Lawsuit Planned Over 2011 Missouri River Flood

Some landowners inundated by the Missouri River flood in 2011 are suing the U.S.
government. The suit cites a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that they claim
clears the way for them to receive damages.
St. Joseph, MO attorney Ed Murphy filed the suit saying the flood was
"foreseeable." In 2011 the ACE released massive amounts of water from the six
reservoirs filled by melting snow and record heavy rains in the upper basin. The
high releases lasted over 100 days causing damage from Montana to Missouri.

Murphy will file the suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington.
Plaintiffs in the suit may include people from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa
and South Dakota. Murphy believes this case will be aided by a December U.S.
Supreme Court ruling that said the federal government is not automatically
exempt from paying for damage caused by temporary flooding from the operation of
its dams. In that case the court sided with the Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission in an appeal of a lower court ruling that said the federal government
did not have to pay for damage to thousands of trees after the ACE released more
water than usual from its dam on the Black River. The commission said the
damage amounted to a government taking of its property, and compensation should
be owed under the Constitution. In 2011 County and state officials in the basin
expressed concerns about the high water levels in the reservoirs months before
the flooding began but they were assured by the ACE there was nothing to worry
about as the system could handle the expected runoff.

Utility Looks to Reopen Nebraska Nuclear Power Plant

Nebraska utility officials said a nuclear power plant that has been idle may
restart this spring, but they still have to convince federal regulators the
plant is ready to go. Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) officials say progress
has been made at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant and feel that the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC) will approve a restart. The NRC said important work
still needs to be done at the plant. Fort Calhoun was shut down due to numerous
safety concerns, a small electrical fire, a substandard safety culture and
deficiencies in flood preparation. The NRC has about 480 items that OPPD needs
to complete before the plant can restart. So far OPPD has resolved about 125 of
the items.

Federal Legislative Updates

Senate Committee Passes Water Resource Development Act

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved a new
Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The measure is a major water policy
bill that would authorize new flood protection, navigation and ecosystem
restoration projects. This version of WRDA would also implement reforms to the
ACE’s operation. The bill (S. 601) would be the first WRDA bill passed in five
years. Even with the consensus vote the measure was not without controversy.
Concerns were raised that the bill’s provisions aimed at speeding up ACE
projects could undercut important environmental protections. Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid said he intends to move the WRDA bill to the floor in April or
May. The League is tracking the new WRDA as it winds its way through the

Little-noticed Continuing Resolution Provision May Block Policy Change

Congress has blocked the ACE from starting work on revisions this year. A
provision slipped into the fiscal 2012 omnibus appropriations package prohibits
the ACE from spending money to implement the "principles and guidelines" for
water resources that create a way for spending billions of dollars on ACE-built
projects. The continuing resolution (CR) was based on levels establish in the
2012 bill and carried its policy provisions. The new principles and guidelines
for selecting and designing federal water projects released by the Obama
administration were praised by environmentalists and budget hawks who felt they
encouraged a healthier approach to managing water. The guidelines apply to a
broad range of activities, from locks and dams, the Clean Water Act and Safe
Drinking Water Act state revolving funds. The new guidelines support healthy
ecosystems and encourage nonstructural options, such as expanding wetlands
rather than building levees. The draft guidelines are open to public comment
for 60 days.

Farm Bill may be Casualty of Budget War

The ongoing federal budget battle may make it difficult to complete a farm bill
this fiscal year. The budget resolution passed by the House cuts $31 billion
from commodity and crop insurance subsidies, $18 billion from conservation
programs and $135 billion from the national food stamp program. That’s more
than five times the amount that the House Agriculture Committee proposed to cut
from farm and nutrition programs last year. It's not known if members of the
House Agriculture Committee will follow those directions and cut $184 billion in
any Farm Bill they approve this year. Only two Republican committee members
voted against the budget resolution. If the committee does not follow the
resolution, or proposes to take all the savings out of the food stamps program
as they did last year, it diminishes the chance of passage of a Farm Bill this
year. The Senate’s budget resolution proposes smaller cuts than the House - $23
billion from all farm and nutrition programs, the same amount in the Senate
passed last year. The proposed Farm Bill legislation would save the government
less than previous estimates according to new calculations by the Congressional
Budget Office (CBO). The Senate passed version would produce $13.1 billion in
savings in the next ten years - down from a $23.1 billion estimate last year.
The House AG Committee’s version is now estimated to save $26.6 billion down
from $35.1 billion. The CBO regularly adjusts their formulas for calculating
savings. Changes in commodity prices were responsible for much of the
difference in savings. Senate commodity programs are estimated to cost $3.8
billion more than last year, and House commodity programs would cost $1.1
billion more. The CBO also estimated spending on nutrition programs would be
more than $4 billion higher under both versions of the bill.

Bill Would Limit Crop Insurance Subsidies

Legislation introduced in both the House and Senate would limit crop insurance
subsidies. The bill would scale back subsidy levels to before the Agriculture
Risk Protection Act of 2000. This act greatly expanded the federal crop
insurance program. The bill would save more than $40 billion over the next
decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Currently, the federal
government subsidizes about 62 percent of the premium that farmers pay for
insurance against risks such as drought. The high level of crop insurance
subsidies causes farmers to go to the most expensive form of insurance and under
the program's revenue insurance option producers could make more through
insurance in a bad year than what they would have expected to make in a good

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid out more than $14 billion in crop
insurance subsidies for producers suffering losses for the 2012 season. That
number could go as high as $17 billion when all the damage is added up.

The Environmental Working Group, which tracks farm subsidies, says the majority
of the funding goes toward a small percentage of the farm population. Twenty-six
farm businesses received more than $1 million in premium support in 2011. EWG
says that the high rate of subsidies spurs farmers to convert land that
otherwise wouldn't be planted.

As an example, the conversion of grassland to cropland includes not only native
prairie but now pioneer cemeteries. Minnesota Public Radio reported a Grant
County, MN cemetery has been plowed up by a landowner for crop production. The
farmer whose field included the cemetery acknowledged clearing the cemetery and
is cooperating with the investigation. Investigators will look carefully at the
site this spring to see if human bones were dug up during the conversion. The
county attorney will decide if charges will be filed in the case. Damaging a
cemetery, even if it’s abandoned, is a felony under Minnesota law. Even if the
farmer owns the land, the cemetery is still protected. A state archeologist
called the Grant County case the most egregious cemetery destruction he has seen
but it’s not the first. He said the state currently has three or four active
cases where farmers have started to chip away at boundaries of cemeteries or
removed the headstones and plowed right over the top of it. In one case a
farmer simply piled the headstones in a ditch and then plowed up an entire

Protect Our Prairies Act reintroduced in the House

South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem and Minnesota’s Tim Walz reintroduced
legislation in the U.S. House to protect America’s remaining native grasslands
with a national sodsaver provision in the Farm Bill. The Protect Our Prairies
Act (HR 686) has the support of nine bipartisan co-sponsors. It reduces
taxpayer-funded incentives to destroy grasslands. The act would reduce crop
insurance subsidies for the first four years for crops grown on native sod and
certain grasslands converted to cropland. It also reduces crop insurance premium
subsidies so they are proportionate to the production capability of the land,
rather than insuring newly converted acres at the same rate as land farmed for
years. This could save taxpayers $200 million over 10 years, according to the
Congressional Budget Office. It’s critical that the House Agriculture Committee
include this sodsaver provision in the 2013 Farm Bill and have it be effective
nationwide, not just in the Prairie Pothole Region. The League has long fought
for a Sodsaver Provision in the Farm Bill. Please contact your members of
Congress and ask them to support a nationwide Sodsaver Provision and eliminate
the incentives for landowners to break grasslands for cropping. Our fish,
wildlife, water and air quality depend on it.

New Report Touts Benefits of Conservation Compliance

A new report released by former U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary
Jim Moseley says that over the last 25 years a little-publicized farmland
conservation effort has been one of the most effective. The report, Conservation
Compliance: A 25-Year Legacy of Stewardship, explains how conservation
compliance required farmers to implement conservation measures in return for
federally funded farm support. Compliance saved millions of wetlands and kept
billions of tons of soil on farms. Moseley said the program has helped save 295
million tons of soil per year and kept an estimated 1.5 million to 3.3 million
acres of vulnerable wetlands from being drained. The report also urges Congress
to reattach conservation compliance to crop insurance premium assistance in the
next farm bill reauthorization. The League also supports re-coupling
Conservation Compliance to Crop Insurance premiums subsidies.

Pipeline Bill may see House Vote before Memorial Day

House Republicans have introduced a bill to force approval of the Keystone XL
pipeline and plan to bring it to the floor before summer. The bill, H.R. 3, has
no scheduled hearings or markups but that could come soon after Congress returns
from its spring recess in April and that the bill could be on the House floor by
Memorial Day. Nebraska Representative Lee Terry is the legislation's lead
sponsor. He said that the environmental reviews for the pipeline have taken too
long and that this legislation is meant to prevent further delays. The Keystone
XL would transport crude from Alberta's oil sands to refineries in Texas. The
bill is expected to clear the House but will face a more difficult road in the

New South Dakota Walleye Limits Explained

A reminder - there are new walleye regulations for Lake Oahe this year. In an
effort to reduce the large number of small walleyes in the reservoir, anglers
are allowed a daily limit of eight walleyes. Of those, no more than four may be
15 inches in length or longer and the daily limit may include no more than one
fish 20 inches or longer. The possession limit for Lake Oahe is 24 per angler,
after three fishing days. You can fish Oahe and another waterbody on the same
day but the first four walleye you keep count as your standard, statewide daily
limit. You can’t keep a walleye from another waterbody in South Dakota if you
have already kept four or more walleyes from Lake Oahe that day. And any walleye
caught and kept that day, in addition to your standard statewide four-fish
limit, must be from Lake Oahe. Anglers may have up to 24 walleyes from Lake
Oahe, in possession. Anglers may possess an additional eight walleyes provided
they are taken according to the daily limit from other waters within the state
other than Lake Oahe. The increased daily and possession walleye limits are in
place to get Oahe back in balance. The lake lost the vast majority of its
forage base in the record releases from Oahe Dam in 2011. There are too many
walleyes in the reservoir in relation to the prey fish species.

State agencies in North and South Dakota are cooperating on a project to tag at
least 40,000 walleyes in the next four years as part of a project to learn more
about the fish population in Lake Oahe. About 500 of the tagged fish each year
will be given a "reward" tag - and an angler who catches one and turns in the
tag to researchers will be given $100. The reward tags hopefully will help
increase angler participation in the study. The study will compile information
on fish movement to aid management. SD Game Fish and Parks (GF&P) and South
Dakota State University will be working on the tagging project. Also, GF&P will
be spawning walleyes in the Moreau River arm of Lake Oahe. They are looking for
volunteers to help with these two projects. The department works everyday of
the week once the fish begin to spawn usually around April 15th or so depending
on weather. GF&P is looking for one or two people each day to help from April
15 - May 10. If you are interested in helping contact Kyle Potter, SDGF&P -
Fort Pierre,
(605) 223-7705 or at kyle.potter@state.sd.us<mailto:kyle.potter@state.sd.us>

Missouri River Natural Resource Committee Conference

On March 12th and 13th I attended the Missouri River Natural Resources
Committee’s Annual Conference and BiOp forum in Jefferson City, MO. The
conference focuses on presentations from researchers who monitoring fish and
wildlife on the Missouri River, especially the three federally listed species,
the least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon. Due to the federal sequester
less than half the people that had attended in previous years attended this
year’s conference. Many presentations by federal agency staff members were
cancelled as was the final half day of the conference. The presentations were
informative and meeting with other people involved with the Missouri River made
the trip worthwhile.

Missouri River Events Update
Several 2013 Missouri River Events are quickly approaching. The first ever
Ponca State Park Missouri River Clean up will be near Ponca, NE on Saturday
April 20th. The event will begins with sign up at 8 AM and will conclude by
noon. Also this year’s Yankton area events will be held starting in early May.
The 5th Annual Missouri River Watershed School Festival will be held Friday, May
3rd at Riverside Park in Yankton. About 400 students are already signed up for
the event. The 10th Annual Yankton Area Missouri River Clean up will be held
Saturday, May 4th from 8 to noon. And the 5th Annual Missouri River Clean Boat
Event, the invasive species awareness event will take place in the Gavins Point
Dam area near Yankton Saturday, May 11th to June 1st. Your help would be greatly
appreciated at each of these events, please let me know if you can help and I’ll
get you additional information. There will also be Missouri River Clean up
events in Pierre and Sioux City later this year. I’ll send you more information
on those events later this spring.

Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)

The members of the committee’s work and task groups continue to work via
conference calls on assigned tasks. The full committee will meet again in Rapid
City in May. I represent the League on MRRIC and many of its work and task
groups. MRRIC is charged by Congress to provide guidance to the Ace and the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Missouri River Recovery Program. The
recovery effort is underway to recovery habitat for fish and wildlife in and
along the Missouri River. You can learn more about MRRIC at

NE Deer Harvest Declined in 2012 – From: NGPC

The drought and accompanying outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD)
last year caused significant reductions in whitetail deer populations, permit
sales and harvest in Nebraska. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC)
responded to the outbreak in October by reducing antlerless permit quotas and
hunters purchased fewer permits and harvested fewer deer. Deer permit sales in
2012 declined 13 percent to 122,214. Total deer harvest fell 30 percent to
60,548. The whitetail buck harvest fell 29 percent to 26,309; whitetail
antlerless harvest dropped 36 percent to 24,974; mule deer buck harvest declined
3 percent to 7,325; and the mule deer antlerless harvest fell 8 percent to
1,940. NGPC Biologists say the statewide mule deer and whitetail populations are
similar to what they were 10 years ago and the herds will recover over the next
four or five years. Loss of habitat due to drought, increased crop production
and a goal to keep deer populations at a level acceptable to most landowners
will likely keep deer numbers well below those seen the past few years.

Two South Dakota Sites Make Worldwide Top 10 Lists

The state of South Dakota recently earned spots on separate top ten lists
compiled by active travel company Austin-Lehman Adventures. The Mickelson Trail
in the Black Hills received the number seven position on their top ten bike
rides. And the state of South Dakota was named number 10 on the company’s list
of best wildlife viewing destinations. That list specifically cited Custer State
Park for the variety of wildlife, from the bison to prairie dogs, big horn
sheep, pronghorn antelope, wild turkeys, elk and mountain goats.

Unique Park Created in South Dakota and Iowa

Good Earth State Park at Blood Run is a new state park is southeast of Sioux
Falls in the hills along the Big Sioux River in Lincoln County and on the east
side of the river in Lyon County, Iowa. The park will preserve the memory of the
Oneota tribal culture that inhabited Blood Run as long as 600 years ago. It
also features the beautiful and rare oak savannah hillsides. With land in both
South Dakota and Iowa, Good Earth at Blood Run will be the first state park in
the U.S. collaboratively owned and managed by two states. In 1970 the U.S.
Department of the Interior designated 3,000 acres of Blood Run as a National
Historic Site worthy of preservation. Land purchases by Iowa and South Dakota,
allowed for approximately 600 contiguous acres on both sides of the river to
make up the current park boundaries. The SDGF&P; the Department of Tribal
Relations; and the State Historical Preservation Office have scheduled a tribal
consultation meeting on April 8th in Sioux Falls. Tribes have been invited to
participate as the state makes plans for the park and is seeking tribal
participation in completing a Traditional Cultural Properties survey for the new
park and in developing interpretive programs and materials.

Asian Carp Pose a Bigger Threat

New research finds the reproductive habits of Asian carp are more adaptable than
scientists had earlier thought. The non-native species eats tremendous amounts
of plankton hurting native fish. Researchers found Asian carp eggs in parts of
a river thought to be too narrow or slow-moving for successful carp spawning.
They also found carp eggs drifting in the water as late as September. Previously
researchers thought carp spawning ended in July. This is why the League
coordinates the annual Missouri River Clean Boat Event each year to help educate
boaters and anglers about the threat of invasive species.

Missouri River Officials Introduce New Mobile Ranger Station

The National Park Service (NPS) on the Missouri National Recreational River near
Yankton will be introducing something that they hope will attract more visitors
to the park - a new mobile ranger station. The station, inside a trailer will
be taken to events to get more people to visit the National Park on the Missouri
River. The trailer will have displays and features and it is a mobile visitor
center. The NPS will be taking the trailer to sport shows and outdoor festivals
in the region. The trailer is expected to be ready to hit the road by May.

And finally, these two items…..

This Spill Could Leave You Very “Polluted”

Recently the workers at the Chivas Brothers Ltd. whiskey plant in Dumbarton,
Scotland could smell Scotch through the sewer system in the plant. A
spokeswoman for the company behind Chivas Regal Scotch whiskey said the spill
was accidental. Workers thought they were releasing waste water but instead
released Scotch whiskey. The spokeswoman would not say how much whiskey was
accidently dumped but said it was less than the 4,755 gallons estimated in media
reports of the incident.

“Dead” Deer Jumps Out of Trunk

A Michigan man hit the young deer near Kalamazoo recently. Thinking the animal
was dead he decided to bring the meat home to his family. When he stopped on
the way home two police officers noticed the damage to his vehicle and
questioned the man about what had happened to his car. He told them about the
collision with the deer and the officers asked him to open up the trunk so they
could inspect the carcass. That’s when all three men were in for a big
surprise. The frightened animal jumped out of the trunk and then ran into a
wooded area apparently none the worse for wear.
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