Water to the People
Federal and tribal officials signed a water rights agreement with the White Mountain Apache Tribe at a ceremony July 30, one of four such settlements signed in the last two years.
The agreement settles the tribe’s claims to water from the Gila River and Little Colorado River and authorizes the U.S. government to allocate $US 200 million to build a system to deliver water to its reservation in eastern Arizona. The agreement authorizes a separate $US 78.5 million fund for environmental restoration.
Calling the agreement equitable and praising the work of former Arizona Senator John Kyl, who shepherded many settlements through Congress, tribal chairman Ronnie Lupe told the audience in Washington, D.C. that access to the water will change his people.
“Take a moment the next time you sit at your desk,” he said, “and imagine in the not-too-distant future a young child in the small village of Carizzo on our reservation stepping up to a kitchen sink and opening up the faucet for a clean and refreshing drink of water. No longer will black water from old wells pour from that faucet. Be proud that you helped make that quality of life come true for that child and for many other on our reservation.”
The agreement was authorized by legislation signed by President Barack Obama in December 2010.
BLM To Analyze Oil and Gas Development in California
In response to legal challenges, the Bureau of Land Management will prepare an environmental review of oil and gas development on public lands overseen by its Hollister, California field office. This office overlaps part of the Monterey shale, a geologic formation many energy boosters have hyped as the next candidate for an hydrocarbon boom powered by hydraulic fracturing.
The BLM will solicit comments for the next 60 days regarding the scope of the study, and it will hold public meetings this fall.
Answer Our Questions
Seven Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency asking for more information about the agency’s study of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. The six-page letter includes 13 questions that touch on the agency’s methods, spending, and use of regulatory powers. The representatives expect a response by August 13.
Dredging, Salinity and Groundwater
A proposal to scoop millions of tons of sediment and rock from the bottom of a 21-kilometer (13-mile) stretch of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida will have a limited effect on the area’s uppermost aquifer, according to a study from the U.S. Geological Survey. The Army Corps of Engineers wants to deepen the mouth of the river to accommodate today’s breed of behemoth cargo ship. Concerns about saltwater pushing into the surface aquifer appear to be confined to a small area. The deeper Floridan aquifer is not at risk, the USGS says.
The Army Corps announced an extension of the public comment period for the draft environmental impact study of the Jacksonville port project. Comments can be submitted through September 30 to Paul.E.Stodola@usace.army.mil.
Salmon Stay on the List
The federal agency that oversees endangered species living in the ocean says that a petition from water users in northern California to take a group of Coho salmon off the endangered species list has no merit. This is the fourth attempt by the Siskiyou County Water Users Association in the last three years to delist the iconic fish. None of the attempts has succeeded.
Spend the Money
After reports that states were sitting on heaps of money from a federal fund for drinking water projects, the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog is investigating. The Office of the Inspector General will do field work in five regions and states – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri, and New Mexico – to see if states are working to reduce their stockpiles of cash and whether realistic projects are being selected.
Meanwhile, the State Department’s own internal watchdog is looking into an allegation that a department contractor for the environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline had financial ties to an oil industry lobby group, The Hill reports.
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