Washington Post - Hurricane Joaquin rapidly intensified over the past 24 hours. It is now a Category 3 tracking west into portions of the Bahamas. Though there continues to be a high amount of uncertainty in the forecast, Hurricane Joaquin could track toward the East Coast this weekend, which continues to be in the National Hurricane Center forecast. At 5 a.m. Thursday, Hurricane Joaquin had sustained winds of 120 mph and a central pressure of 948 millibars. Further intensification is expected in the short term; the National Hurricane Center is forecasting that Joaquin will strengthen into a Category 4 with winds of 140 mph on Friday and Saturday as it tracks north toward the East coast. Read more.
Government Executive - Congress has averted a midnight shutdown, as the House on Wednesday afternoon followed the Senate's example by easily passing a temporary spending bill funding the government through December 11. The stopgap measure passed the Senate 78 to 20 and then cleared the House on a 277-151 vote, despite the opposition of dozens of conservatives with objections to any package that continues to fund Planned Parenthood. Read more.
New York Times - A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the Obama administration's first major regulation on hydraulic fracturing, a technique for oil and gas drilling that has lead to a boom in American energy production but has also raised concerns about health and safety risk. The United States District Court for Wyoming issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Interior Department from carrying out the rules, which were issued on March by the department's Bureau of Land Management. The ruling, however, stops regulations aimed at only a small fraction of the nation's domestic oil and gas production. Read more.
Greenwire - Veteran Justice Department attorney Steve Samuels' license plate made him a celebrity among environmentalists everywhere he drove. "CWA 404." The District of Columbia plate refers to Clean Water Act Section 404, the law's primary wetlands provision. In his 30 years at DOJ, Samuels has become the government's most recognizable expert on the law - though he concedes no layperson ever asked about his license plate. Now Samuels faces his greatest challenge: defending the Obama administration's controsversial Waters of the U.S. rule, or WOTUS, which defines wetlands, marshes, bogs, ponds and streams qualify for Clean Water Act protections. Read more.
Farm Futures - The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water on Wednesday held a hearing to consider the Army Corps of Engineers' participation in crafting and finalizing the Waters of the U.S. regulation, focusing on internal memos released earlier this year. The memos, unveiled by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, suggest the Corps had concerns about the merits of Waters of the U.S. regulation before it was finalized. The hearing provided opportunity to consider allegations based on those memos that he Corps didn't' agree with the U.S. EPA in the process of finalizing the rule, and also that it held the position that the rule would be unable to stand up in court. Read more.
Army Times - In a dispute with Republicans over how defense would be funded, President Obama plans to veto a the 2016 defense policy bill due for a vote in the House on Thursday, a White House spokesman told reporters Wednesday. All but one conference committee Democrat refused to sign the conference report, which reflects a compromise months in the making between House and Senate armed services committees conferences over differences between their two versions of the bill. Read more.
Washington Post - Last week, I published a story drawing attention to the surprisingly cold anomaly in the North Atlantic Ocean that has emerged recently - featuring record cold temperatures from January through August for a substantial area. This is happening despite the fact that the globe as a whole is likely en route to its warmest year on record. I also quoted two prominent researchers who think this pattern reflects a much feared slowdown in Atlantic circulation, a scenario made famous by the film The Day After Tomorrow. Granted, even if they're right, what's happening here will be nothing like the movie. Read more.
Greenwire - One month ago, environmental groups were strategizing over their latest bid: Get the Obama administration to create its first marine monument off New England. They had talks with fishing groups, lawmakers and think tanks. At the end of August, they exchanged emails over their progress - and in one, the president of the Conservation Law Foundation warned everyone to keep quiet about the possibility of a breakthrough at the upcoming our Ocean Conference in Chile. Read more.
E&E Daily - Federal restoration efforts in the Great Lakes received bipartisan praise yesterday as a House panel pushed to reauthorize an initiative cleaning up the world's largest surface freshwater system. U.S EPA, which spearheads the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a multi-agency collaboration established in 2010, didn't find itself in the accustomed hot seat at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. Read more.
E&E Daily - Florida lawmakers are vowing to fight for a legislative fix after the Army Corps of Engineers yesterday proposed a plan for managing a hotly contested Southeast river system in a way that would send less water to the Sunshine State. Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been at war for decades over the management of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. Georgia currently draws about 360 million gallons a day from the system, the main source of water supplying metropolitan Atlanta, and wants more for its booming populations. Read more.
New York Times - The Ohio River, transformed by mining and industrial waste and sewage overflows into the nation's most polluted major waterway, has a new and unexpected tormentor this fall: carpets of poisonous algae. Pads of toxic blue-green algae have speckled nearly two-thirds of 981-mile river in the last five weeks, experts say, in an outbreak that has curbed boating, put water utilities on alert and driven the river's few hardy swimmers back to shore. The only other recorded toxic algae bloom, in 2008, covered perhaps 40 miles of the river. In contrast, the latest bloom stretches 636 miles from Wheeling, W.Va., to Cannelton, Ind., and traces of algae have appeared as far west as Illinois. Read more.
Wall Street Journal - Some communities on the New Jersey shore began preparing Wednesday for the possibility that Hurricane Joaquin will hit the region this weekend, rekindling still-raw memories of the devastation from superstorm Sandy three years ago. Union Beach, N.J., which is still in the middle of a $200 million residential rebuilding effort following Sandy, started constructing 5-foot-high dirt berms along its shoreline on Wednesday. The work is costing the town $400 a day and is expected to take two to three days, said Mike Harriot, the borough's emergency-management coordinator. Read more.
Associated Press - Deep inside a complex of huge tanks, drinking water for Iowa's capital city is constantly cleansed of the harmful nitrates that come from the state's famously rich farmland. Without Des Moines Water Works, the region of 500,000 people that it serves wouldn't have a thriving economy that has become a magnet for tech companies such as Microsoft. But after decades of ceaseless service, the utility is confronting an array of problems: Water mains are cracking open hundreds of times every year. Rivers that provide its water are more polluted than ever. And the city doesn't know how to afford a $150 million treatment plant at a time when revenues are down and maintenance costs are up? Read more.
Florida Water Daily - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has awarded its second construction contract this year for the Kissimmee River Restoration project, a large-scale Everglades restoration project spanning through Highlands and Okeechobee counties. The $4.7 million construction contract was awarded to BCPeabody Construction Services Inc. of Tampa, Fla. on Monday (Sept. 28). Read more.
Newsworks - The long-awaited dredging of the Shark River will begin soon, the state Department of Transportation announced. Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co. of Chester, Pa. will remove approximately 102,000 cubic yards of sediment comprised of sand and silt to "restore the state channels to allow safe passage for recreational and commercial traffic," according to a state release announcing the $7.6 million contract. Read more.
NJ Advance Media - Under normal odds, the chance that a New York City or Jersey Shore resident would witness a so-called "500-year flood" - one with massive storm surge and flooding - would be so low, many residents would never live to witness one. But now according to new research, those residents today could witness ocean flooding of that magnitude very 24 years. That's the conclusion a team of scientists from five institutions who looked at hundreds of years of proxy sea level data, determined in a paper published today. Read more.
27east.com - The environmental group that has sued East Hampton Town and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over plans to bury a half-mile wall of sandbags under an artificial dune on Montauk's ocean beach say that they will seek a temporary restraining order in federal court to stop the project. Contractors are expected to mobilize at the site this week to prepare for the project, which is intended to be a temporary shield to protect the hamlet's downtown against erosion and flooding from future storms. Read more.
Nasdaq Globe Newswire - Dredging at the Port of Houston Authority's Barbours Cut Container Terminal is now complete. The Houston Pilots Association has given authorization for the Port Authority to receive vessels with a 45-foot operating draft at its Barbours Cut Container Terminal. Improvements to the Barbours Cut channel are projected to result in over $900 million in combined local, state and national economic benefits over the next 50 years, according to a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Read more.