Federal Water Tap, February 23: Georgia Seeks Dismissal of U.S. Supreme Court Water Lawsuit

The Rundown

A new reservoir is planned for northern Texas. Georgia seeks to dismiss Florida’s Supreme Court lawsuit while the Bureau of Land Management failed in its attempt at a lawsuit dismissal. Study looks at 10-year agriculture forecasts. Budget hearings continue in the Senate.

By the Numbers

54,000: hatchery-born Chinook salmon that will be released this week into the San Joaquin River in California (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

Reports and Studies

Texas Reservoir
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a draft environmental review of the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, a large water storage project proposed for northern Texas. The North Texas Municipal Water District, a water wholesaler for 1.6 million people in the Dallas suburbs, expects a reliable annual supply of 126,200 acre-feet from building a 3.2-kilometer (two-mile) dam across the creek. A 56-kilometer (35-mile) pipeline will deliver the water to existing distribution system.

Because the project will damage some 6,180 acres of wetlands, the district must, according to federal law, offset the damage so that no “net loss” of wetlands occurs – a directive that looks only at raw acreage and not the function of the ecosystem. The district purchased a riverside ranch downstream of the reservoir for restoration and to meet the wetlands policy. Comments are being accepted through April 21 and should be emailed to ceswt-ro@usace.army.mil.

World Agricultural Trade
Some 43 percent of the increase in the world wheat trade in the next decade will come from Africa and the Middle East, reckons the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its 10-year agricultural outlook. Saudi Arabia will end domestic wheat production by 2016 due to concerns about water scarcity, one of the factors pushing up wheat imports in this region.

News Briefs

Florida v. Georgia
Lawyers for Georgia argue that the U.S. Supreme Court should dismiss Florida’s lawsuit over water use in a shared river basin because the United States is not a party to the lawsuit. Federal participation is essential, they claim, because several Army Corps dams are located in the basin and would be affected by any change in water allocations.

“Florida can only get relief through an order that is binding on the United States, and yet the United States has refused to subject itself to an order entered in this case,” states the motion to dismiss that was filed on February 12.

Las Vegas Pipeline Lawsuit
The federal Bureau of Land Management struck out in its attempt to dismiss a lawsuit against a groundwater pipeline proposed by the water authority that supplies Las Vegas, reports Courthouse News Service.

In December 2012, the BLM, the largest land manager in the American West, allowed the 423-kilometer (263-mile) pipeline to cross federal land. Green groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, quickly filed lawsuits to block construction. The U.S. district court judge’s decision not to dismiss allows the federal suit to continue.

Sewer System Upgrade
Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, and the operator of its water system reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over stormwater and sewage overflows into the Susquehanna River, the longest on the U.S. Atlantic coast.

According to the federal consent decree, Capital Region Water, the operator, must make a host of improvements to the sewer system’s operation and infrastructure, among them an upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant’s nutrient-removal technology by February 2016. Fines and a failure to adopt sewage management plans required by federal policy will be addressed in a subsequent settlement.

On the Radar

Aquifer Pollution Briefing
The U.S. Geological Survey will hold a briefing on Capitol Hill on March 6 to discuss its recent report on pollution in key U.S. aquifers. Cosponsored by the Northeast-Midwest Institute and Water Environment Federation, the briefing is free and open to the public. RSVP to cbarbour@usgs.gov.

Budget Hearings
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold hearings on Tuesday and Thursday on the 2016 budget requests for the Interior Department and the U.S. Forest Service.

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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