Federal Water Tap, October 10: Reports Galore

Report: Senate Committee Chair Lauds EPA
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released a report touting the importance of the Environmental Protection Agency to America’s health and economic well-being. The staff report from California Democrat Barbara Boxer is salted with numbers (the economic benefit of water quality standards in the Clean Water Act is $11 billion per year) and statements from officials with credentials (President Gerald Ford: “Nothing is more essential to the life of every single American than clean air, pure food and safe drinking water.”)

Report: Wetlands
All types of freshwater wetlands in the U.S. increased in area in the last five years except for forested wetlands, according to a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The report looked at the time period 2004-09. National wetland losses exceeded gains, but on balance the decrease in wetland area (25,200 hectares) was statistically insignificant compared to the size of the nation’s wetlands (44.6 million hectares).

Report: Water Data
As ordered by Congress, a group of federal agencies involved in water management released a report assessing the nation’s capacity to monitor the effects of climate change on freshwater resources. The report concludes that gaps exist. Current methods of data-gathering are insufficient. Agencies need better coordination and integration of the data they collect. And they need to use better forecasting-models to anticipate changes in the hydrologic cycle. The Global Change Research Program is beginning to address some of the concerns by developing a data portal to store and manage water information across agencies.

Speaking of Data Portals…
The Department of Energy has a new energy information hub. Unlike the department’s more technical sites, Open Energy aims to be both an energy-wikipedia for the lay audience and a data clearinghouse. Want to compare utility rates across the country? You can find it here. Don’t know much about solar power? There’s a page for that.

Science Database Terminated
In his 2012 budget President Obama cut a U.S. Geological Survey-managed database that catalogs the nation’s biological resources. The databases, maps and applications will be removed by January 15. Cutting the National Biological Information Infrastructure will save $7 million.

Chesapeake Bay
Projects to control sediment and nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay will receive $10.9 million in federal grants, the Associated Press reports. The Department of Agriculture released a fiscal year 2010 review of its actions in the bay’s watershed.

Loan Guarantee
The Department of Energy has issued a $134 million loan guarantee to a cellulosic ethanol producer. Abengoa will build a plant in Kansas to turn waste material from corn and wheat harvests into biofuel. Cellulosic fuels are expected to play a significant role in the nation’s biofuel policy, but to date, they have not amounted to much.

We Want You
The National Drinking Water Advisory Council is accepting nominations for five vacancies. The council makes policy recommendations to the EPA. New members will serve through December 2014. You have until October 31 to submit nominations to kelly.suzanne@epa.gov, using the subject line “NDWACResume2012”.

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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