Federal Water Tap, August 15: Making Water Investments

The Price of Restoration
As part of the Everglades restoration project, the Department of Agriculture announced it would allocate $100 million to the state of Florida under the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Miami Herald reports. The money will be paid to ranchers in four counties northwest of Lake Okeechobee who give up development rights on as many as 24,000 acres. Eventually the marginal pasturelands will be converted to wetlands, which will improve water quality. Last year the program spent $89 million to acquire rights to 26,000 acres.

Money for Food
On Thursday during a speech at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced an additional $17 million for the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa. Last Monday President Obama made available $105 million in emergency aid for the region.

Fracking Panel
A seven-member panel convened by the Department of Energy released its first set of recommendations for improving the environmental performance of fracking. The panel recommends, among other things, disclosure of fracking fluids (except for “genuinely proprietary information”) and better protection of water and air quality. The panel, which will released a second report in three months, has been criticized by the scientific community for the ties many of its members have to the natural gas industry.

Great Lakes Restoration
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced nearly $5 million in grants for seven projects in northern Michigan through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The projects—located around Traverse City, home of Circle of Blue—include sediment management from a dam removal, stormwater management and watershed protection for Grand Traverse Bay.

The National Science Foundation announced a 10-year, $434 million grant to establish NEON—the National Ecological Observatory Network. Divided into 20 observation zones, the network will allow researchers to “understand the biology of the entire continent rather than the biology of a specific place,” according to David Schmiel, the project’s chief science officer, in an interview with Nature.

Water Insecurity
The August 2011 Global Waters newsletter from the U.S. Agency for International Development focuses on the agency’s work to make communities more resilient to climate change: glacier monitoring in Peru, soil management in Mali, water and energy in India, flood warning systems in the Zambezi River Basin, and a slew of projects in the Maldives.

Drinking Water Regulation
The Environmental Protection Agency will form a panel comprising representatives of small businesses, water systems serving fewer than 10,000 people and not-for-profit organizations. The panel will advise the agency as it prepares a plan to regulate the chemical perchlorate in drinking water. Nominations, due August 26, can be made by following this link.

The Bureau of Land Management is extending the public comment period for its environmental review of a groundwater pipeline proposed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which supplies water to the Las Vegas area. Comments must be received by October 11 and can be emailed to nvgwprojects@blm.gov

Green Tech Thumbs
The Environmental Protection Agency has selected five U.S. capital cities as partners in the Greening America’s Capitals program. The cities—Jackson, Miss.; Lincoln, Neb.; Montgomery, Ala.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Washington, D.C.—will receive technical assistance for designing green infrastructure to manage things like storm water and sewers.

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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