Federal Water Tap, October 28: Water Infrastructure Legislation & Studies
Kansas Aqueduct Study
The Army Corps of Engineers will reassess a 600-kilometer (375-mile) aqueduct that would deliver Missouri River water to the High Plains. The aqueduct was part of a 1982 study that analyzed four schemes to increase water supplies in the region served by the diminishing Ogallala Aquifer. The cost of the $US 300,000 reassessment, which should be completed by 2015, will be split between the Army Corps, the state of Kansas, and a local groundwater district in southwest Kansas.
The House passed a $US 8.2 billion water infrastructure act. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which now must be reconciled with the Senate’s version, defunds some $US 12 billion in projects that were authorized in previous legislation. More controversially, the bill sets limits on the time and cost of feasibility studies and environmental reviews. It encourages “programmatic” reviews, which take a broad analysis, rather than project-by-project reviews.
Food Safety, Water Depletion?
The public has until November 15 to comment on the scope of a forthcoming environmental review of a new food safety rule.
Part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed in 2011, the set of rules proposed by the Food and Drug Administration would regulate the microbes in water used to irrigate produce often consumed raw, such as apples or cucumbers. The proposed rule might lead to farmers to switch from surface water to purer groundwater supplies, which, in turn, might add stress to already depleted aquifers. Thus the environmental review. Submit comments at www.regulations.gov using Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0921.
Missouri River Management
The Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River office will hold a public conference call Monday, October 28 to discuss the 2013-14 draft operating plan for the river. The final plan will be released in December. Dial-in details are in the first link.
Kansas farmers are planting less wheat than they did two decades ago. They are also using more-efficient equipment to water their crops, and they are measuring what they use. The findings come from a U.S. Geological Survey assessment of irrigation trends in Kansas from 1991 to 2011. Water use varies depending on the rain, but total irrigated acres have remain relatively constant. Irrigation metering has climbed from 14 percent in 1991 to 93 percent in 2011.
House Hydro Hearing
A House Natural Resources subcommittee will discuss new reservoirs and hydroelectric capacity at a hearing Tuesday, October 29. Witness have not yet been announced.
Census of Agriculture
The shutdown of the federal government earlier this month wounded another program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the release of the nation’s most comprehensive set of agricultural data will be delayed indefinitely. The Census of Agriculture, published every five years, was supposed to be out February 4, 2014. A new release date has not been set.
USGS Webinar Rescheduled
Delayed by the shutdown, a U.S. Geological Survey webinar on the effect of groundwater pumping on river flows has been rescheduled. It will take place Wednesday, November 20. For case studies, USGS hydrologists will discuss two central Nebraska river basins where two million acres of farmland are irrigated. Webinar details and abstracts are found here.
Coal Mining in Texas
The Army Corps of Engineers will undertake a regional environmental review of coal and lignite mining in the Forth Worth District, which covers most of Texas. Public meetings will be held the first week of December in Uvalde, Temple, and Tyler, all in Texas.
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.
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
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