Federal Water Tap, March 19: A Busy Week for Congress

Hear Ye, Hear Ye
Last Thursday the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs heard testimony on tribal water rights settlements. Federal officials talked about the Obama administration’s preference for negotiated settlements instead of litigation. Some 16 negotiations are in progress, two of which—the Blackfeet and the Navajo-Hopi—have legislation under consideration in Congress. The chair of the Western States Water Council legal committee told the Senate committee that federal funding for these settlements is “necessary” but has “proven to be difficult.”

Hearings of note this week include:

Flood Predictions
Last year’s historic spring floods on America’s major rivers will likely not happen this year, according to a forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Normal river levels and low snowpack mean that rainfall will be the primary factor for the flood season. Only the Ohio River basin and parts of Louisiana and southern Mississippi have an “above-normal” flood risk.

Environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed two lawsuits in federal court to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to control nutrient pollution in the nation’s rivers, the Associated Press reports. One lawsuit, filed in New Orleans, seeks nutrient standards in the Mississippi River valley. The other, filed in New York, targets publicly owned sewage treatment plants.

Solar Review
The Bureau of Indian Affairs released a final environmental impact statement for a solar power project 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. K Road Power will build a 350-megawatt photovoltaic station on the Moapa River Indian Reservation. The company chose photovoltaic panels, in part, because they use less water than concentrated solar thermal technology.

Because of an inadequate plan for controlling sewer overflows, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an order to the sewer authority for Buffalo, N.Y. to submit a new plan for meeting federal water quality standards. Due April 30, the plan will cost as much as $500 million to carry out, according to the EPA. The exact amount depends on the options chosen.

The EPA working group on affordable ways for small communities to meet the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water will have two public meetings this week, both via webcast. On Tuesday, the group will discuss small-scale treatment technologies. To register for the meeting, go here.

On Thursday, the group will discuss the EPA’s affordability criteria. To sign up for that meeting, go here. Space is limited for both.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a final environmental impact statement for a new conservation area at the headwaters of the Everglades in central Florida. Federal officials have a goal of conserving up to 150,000 acres through a mixture of conservation easements and land acquisitions.

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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