Federal Water Tap, April 3: Knocking Down Regulations

Build Them Faster
Continuing his mission of cutting red tape and making federal review processes leaner, President Obama signed an executive order to speed the pace of approval for infrastructure projects. The order establishes a committee comprised of cabinet-level departments, which will submit a plan for a streamlined, coordinated review process for water, energy, transportation and telecommunications projects. An online “dashboard” will be created so that the progress of key projects can be tracked from a single site.

Blocking the EPA
Nearly three dozen Republican senators have signed on to a bill that would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from enacting a proposed interpretation of the scope of the Clean Water Act. The draft guidelines were published last year in response to a U.S. Supreme Court case and would expand the definition of “waters of the United States,” which is the broad, vague term used in the CWA.

Six House and Senate Republicans sent a letter to the Obama administration’s regulatory honcho explaining their position.

Budget Comments
At a hearing on the president’s 2013 budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers, Rep. Tim Bishop, a New York Democrat, lamented the proposed budget cuts. Referring to the proposed 5.4 percent cut, Bishop said that “we are now at a critical threshold where these reductions are jeopardizing the ability to sustain our infrastructure and protect our citizens.”

Jo-Ellen Darcy, who oversees the Army Corps civil works program, told the subcommittee that the budget request is a “fiscally prudent, appropriate level of investment in the nation’s water resources infrastructure and in the restoration of its aquatic ecosystems.”

Flow Change?
The Bureau of Reclamation is considering changing how it operates Glen Canyon Dam, which is on the Colorado River in northern Arizona. The changes could affect hydropower generation, recreation, and the riparian ecology. Comments submitted during the public comment period are now available on the project’s website.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

Author: Brett Walton  is a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. He writes our Federal Water Tap, a weekly breakdown of U.S. policy. Interests: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Pricing, Infrastructure.

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