Federal Water Tap, August 1: Flooding

Federal Flood Insurance Program Could Go Underwater
Climate change could devastate not only landscapes and structures, but a national insurance program that pays for their rehabilitation, according to a soon-to-be-released report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The study estimates that areas described as ‘flood plain’ could grow by 40 to 45 percent by the end of the century, Greenwire reports. That would double the number of policies covered by the National Flood Insurance Program, a program recently taken to task by the Government Accountability Office for its ineffective management. The GAO said that unless the program addresses myriad organizational and policy issues its “long-term financial solvency will remain in doubt.”

Flood Warnings Unheeded
Officials at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were warned months in advance about the potential for serious floods in the Missouri River basin, but they waited too late to act on those warnings, according to thousands of emails obtained by the Argus Leader, a Sioux Falls, S.D. newspaper. The email chain traces the Corps’ response from nonchalance in January—when a lower basin irrigator asked questions about reservoir capacity—to utmost concern in April—when heavy rains and a rapidly melting snowpack produced record flows on the Missouri.

Foreign Affairs Funding
The House Appropriations Committee released a fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill for foreign operations. Many programs face significant cuts. Money allocated for water and sanitation projects under the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act would be cut more than 50 percent from FY2010. The bill provides no funding for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment on whether and how it should test for toxicity caused by low doses of Bisphenol A, an organic compound used in many plastics and in the liners of food and drink containers. Last year Canada became the first country to declare BPA a toxic chemical.

As a prelude to rule-making, the EPA is considering testing BPA’s toxicity in organisms and its presence in the environment. Comments on how the agency should proceed must be received before September 26. They can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov, referencing docket number EPA–HQ–OPPT–2010–0812.

Begin Transmission
The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service released a draft environmental impact statement for the Gateway West project, a 1,100 mile high-voltage transmission line from Wyoming to Idaho that will connect conventional and renewable energy sources in the Rocky Mountain region. The public comment period ends October 28.

At the same time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will prepare an EIS for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, an outline for developing solar, wind and geothermal projects in the Mojave and Colorado deserts of Southern California. A bill signed this April requires California to get 33 percent of retail electricity sales from renewable energy.

The EPA has released a report on keeping raw sewage out of water bodies. The report focuses on combined sewer overflows in New Jersey, New York and Puerto Rico.

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.

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