Federal Water Tap, February 27: Water Infrastructure

Pipes on Tap
On Tuesday a Senate subcommittee will listen to officials from local governments speak about water infrastructure problems. The mayor of Baltimore, the manager of a water system in suburban Washington, D.C. and the director of an Alabama water association will speak. This is the second time in the last three months that subcommittee chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has called a hearing on water infrastructure.

In December, when the director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s wastewater division testified, Cardin said that “we need to pay attention to our nation’s water infrastructure for the sake of preserving the confidence of the American people so that, in fact, when they do turn their faucets on, they will get clean, safe drinking water.”

Million’s Pipeline
Citing a lack of information about the proposed route and about its hydropower components, federal regulators denied a preliminary permit for a 501-mile pipeline that would cross the continental divide. A preliminary permit is necessary for an applicant to do the surveying, mapping and financing planning necessary for a construction permit.

The pipeline, which is being pursued by Colorado developer Aaron Million, would take water from two diversion points in Wyoming and deliver it to communities along the eastern slopes of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The pipeline would also generate hydropower along the way, which is why the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission handled the permitting decision.

If Lewis and Clark Couldn’t Do It
The U.S. Supreme Court, according to Bloomberg News, ruled in favor of power companies in a case that clarified who can claim ownership of a river. The court decided that the stretch of the Missouri River on which PPL Corp. has dams was not navigable at the time of statehood, and therefore the state of Montana could not claim ownership—nor annual rent payments from the company.

Both sides used the 1804-06 voyage of Lewis and Clark to bolster their arguments about the river’s navigability—PPL to claim that the Great Falls section in question was not navigable (because the expedition had to portage around it), and the state of Montana to claim that the river, as a whole, was (because the expedition continued).

Bristol Bay
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release a draft report assessing how large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed would affect water quality. The agency is looking for experts to peer review the report. Make nominations by March 9 via this link.

WASH Compact
The U.S. government has signed a $66 million compact with the government of Cape Verde, an island nation off the coast of western Africa. Signed through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency, the compact includes US$41 million for water, sanitation and hygiene.

In particular, the grant seeks to improve coverage by reforming national water regulations and restructuring local utilities so that they operate more efficiently and provide better service. A portion of the grant will be used for infrastructure improvement.

Shale Resources in Alaska
The U.S. Geological Survey released its first-ever assessment of technically recoverable shale oil and shale gas resources on Alaska’s North Slope. The estimates show that there is a 50 percent chance of finding more than 849 million barrels of oil and a 50 percent chance of finding more than 1.1 trillion cubic meters (40 trillion cubic feet) of gas.

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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