Federal Water Tap, November 18: $US 1.2 Billion Restoration Plan for California Marshes

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service submitted a final plan for the nation’s second-largest tidal marsh restoration, a 50-year $US 1.2 billion project to revive habitat for threatened birds, plants, and animals in the San Francisco Bay.

The voluntary plan sets ambitious goals for 17 species, but comes with no dedicated federal funding.

“Recovery planning sets out a road map for what needs to be done and the costs to achieve that,” Sarah Swenty, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman, told Circle of Blue.

“But the funding doesn’t need to come from the federal government specifically,” Swenty added. “Nonprofits are good at finding funding. The plan will help them make requests to donors.”

The plan covers 500 miles (800 kilometers) of coastal tidelands, from Humboldt Bay in the north to Morro Bay in the south, which is the range of the California clapper rail, the bird that kicked off the state’s tidal marsh restoration in the 1980s.

Renewable Fuels
As expected, the Environmental Protection Agency reduced the amount of renewable fuels required to be blended into gasoline. Acknowledging flat demand for gasoline, the agency cut the ethanol mandate to 15.2 billion gallons, 16 percent less than the volume set by Congress in 2007. By percentage, however, gasoline is still required to be 10 percent ethanol.

Drought Partnership
President Obama announced one of the final pieces of his climate plan, a national drought partnership.

Outlined in a June speech at Georgetown University, the drought partnership promotes three ideas: communication, information, and collaboration. In other words, federal officials want to talk with state and local officials, share the data each has, and improve data monitoring and planning. Soil moisture monitoring, a vital yet patchy set of data, gets special mention.

Earlier this month, the president announced two climate change advisory councils, one comprising federal officials and the other of state and local leaders.

Republican River Dispute
Nebraska should pay Kansas $US 5.5 million in damages for taking more water than allowed from the Republican River, according to a water master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court will rule on the decision next year, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.

Stormwater Bill
Between three and five regional stormwater research centers would be established under legislation reintroduced in both chambers of Congress last week. The Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act, introduced under a different name four years ago by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), emphasizes the use of natural systems to capture the rain and ease the pressure on sewer systems. The bill also provides small grants – no more than $US 3 million – for implementing such projects.

A delegation from Pakistan, including the energy and water ministers, discussed “potential collaborations” on the water-energy nexus with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz during a visit to Washington, D.C., according to the State Department. This is the fifth time the binational working group has met since 2010.

Great Lakes
The federal Great Lakes restoration plan may fail because it does not address climate change or sewage infrastructure, two important factors, according to the government’s internal watchdog. The Government Accountability Office recommends the Environmental Protection Agency and the restoration task force consider these items in the next Action Plan, covering 2015 to 2019.

Food Safety
The Food and Drug Administration extended the deadline for the public to comment on the scope of an environmental review of a food safety rule until March 15, 2014. The FDA said in August that it would review how the “agricultural water” section of its proposed rule, “Standards for Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption,” would affect groundwater supplies. The rule could compel farmers to switch from microbe-tainted surface water to groundwater, adding pressure to an already stressed resource. Comments can be made at www.regulations.gov using docket number FDA–2011–N–092.

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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