Clean Water Act Interpretation
The Obama administration is mulling regulatory guidance for the Clean Water Act that would reinstate language that was proposed by the George W. Bush administration, but was stymied by opposition from industry groups. Greenwire reports that the new guidance would make a broader claim as to which wetlands and small streams are protected under the nation’s landmark legislation for water quality.
Federal water regulations have been in a state of confusion since a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision did not produce a majority opinion clarifying what qualifies as a wetland or as “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act.
The Bureau of Reclamation gave out a $10 million pipeline construction contract, the first of many for a billion dollar water project in northwestern New Mexico. The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply project will deliver water to the Navajo Nation and other towns through 280 miles of pipeline. It was one of 14 projects that the Obama administration put on the “fast-track” for regulatory approval last October.
The bureau also awarded US$2.4 million for supply and demand studies in five river basins in the western U.S.: the Los Angeles Basin in California; the Pecos River Basin in New Mexico; the Republican River Basin in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska; the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basins in California and the Upper Washita River Basin in Oklahoma.
Rising Seas, Flooded Coasts
On April 19, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources convened to discuss sea level rise and its effect on infrastructure. Witnesses included NASA’s chief scientist, a representative from the New York City mayor’s office, and several researchers.
Adam Freed, the deputy director of long-term planning and sustainability for New York City, urged the committee to continue federal funding for local climate change adaptation and to allow regulatory flexibility in the face of new environmental circumstances.
The Bureau of Reclamation will renovate some of the generating units at Washington state’s Grand Coulee Dam, the facility that is tops in the nation for producing hydroelectric power. The Associated Press reports that the bureau hopes the modern controls will boost power capacity by 240 megawatts. Current capacity is 6,800 megawatts.
The House Agriculture Committee continues its work on the 2012 version of the Farm Bill, the gargantuan piece of legislation that comes up for renewal roughly every five years and covers land use, farm subsidies, crop insurance, and nutrition programs, among many other things.
Last week, the committee completed its field hearings. This week, several subcommittees will work through aspects of the bill during hearings in D.C.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton