America’s top diplomat said that climate change will stress society because of water. Lake Erie algae bloom was the worst this century while researchers develop an early warning system for algae. Alabama and Florida senators wade into long-running Southeast water fight. Utah congressman redesigns a lauded, and now expired, conservation fund. The EPA solicits information on managing pollution from forest roads, while its science advisers continue to discuss the agency’s fracking study.
“And the prospect of a hotter, drier climate throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia will place even more strain on the most precious and essential resource of all — fresh water. We’ve already seen tensions rise around the basins of the Nile River in Africa, the Indus River in South Asia, and of course, the Mekong River in Southeast Asia.
“Consider that almost every country with land borders shares some international river basins with its neighbors. Historically, this has led to more cooperation than conflict. But if the water starts to disappear, and climate change is expected to significantly alter both access to and the availability of fresh water, imagine the tensions that can rise. There have been books written about war over water. Pressures and demands will steadily increase, and the future may look very different from the past.” — Secretary of State John Kerry, in a speech on climate change and national security. Kerry spoke on November 10 at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Virginia.
By the Numbers
10.5: Severity index for the 2015 Lake Erie algae bloom, the largest in the lake in the last 15 years, according to NOAA researchers. Cities that draw drinking water from the lake were not affected as they were in 2014 because winds did not push the bloom ashore. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
$US 8 million: Funding for water conservation practices for farmers in the seven states that use the Ogallala Aquifer, the nation’s largest underground source of fresh water. New priority areas will be established in Nebraska and Oklahoma. (Natural Resources Conservation Service)
Reports and Studies
Algae Early Warning System
With the algae blooms in Lake Erie and now the Ohio River garnering local and national attention, federal science agencies are beginning a project to help water managers plan for such outbreaks.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey are developing an early warning system for algae that is based on satellite data.
“Automated detection of events based on remote sensing data has the potential to improve the quality and timing of data delivered to resource managers and the public. Automated monitoring may lead to substantial costs savings,” the project leaders wrote in Eos, a magazine of the American Geophysical Union.
Water Study in Arkansas and Louisiana
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin a water supply and flood management study in the Mississippi River Delta of Arkansas and Louisiana.
EPA Seeks Forest Road Stormwater Information
The EPA wants public input on best practices for managing the muddy water that washes off of forest roads during rainstorms. The question of whether to require federal pollution permits for forest roads has swirled in the courts since 2003. The EPA is under a court order to make a determination by May 26, 2016 on whether permits are necessary.
Submit comments regarding forest road stormwater management at www.regulations.gov using docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2015-0668.
Senators Step In to Southeast Water Fight
The senate delegations from Alabama and Florida sent a letter to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee asking that water supply and allocation decisions in a contested watershed be removed from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is updating water management plans for the basin.
The headwaters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin are in Georgia. The three states have filed several lawsuits over water use in the last 25 years. Georgia wants more water for the Atlanta metropolis; Alabama and Florida, both downstream, want more water flowing in rivers and in the Apalachicola Bay, a key fishery. One case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Big Alaska Dam Documents
The Alaska Energy Authority filed an updated study report on the 600-megawatt dam it proposes to build on the Susitna River, north of Anchorage. The report was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal regulator for such activities.
AEA is completing 58 technical and environmental studies of the dam, which, at 224 meters (735 feet), would be the second tallest in the United States and the tallest built since 1973.
On the Radar
Hearing on the Fund Formerly Known As Land and Water Conservation
On November 18, the House Natural Resources Committee will discuss the Protecting America’s Recreation and Conservation Act, which was released last week by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the committee chair. Known as PARC, the bill will replace the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which used $US 16.8 billion in oil and gas royalties over 51 years to fund parks, environmental restoration, historic sites, and trails.
Bishop’s bill, which has drawn the ire of environmental groups, will direct less money to federal land purchases and more to states to use for recreation, and to the Payment In-Lieu of Taxes program, which funnels dollars to counties that have a high percentage of federal land. It also creates an office within the Interior Department to accelerate the permitting of offshore energy development.
Congress allowed the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire on September 30.
Also on November 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the international climate change negotiations. The same day the House Science Committee will criticize the White House’s climate actions, in a hearing titled “The Administration’s Empty Promises for the International Climate Treaty.”
EPA Fracking Study
The EPA’s science advisory panel will hold a public teleconference on December 3 as part of its peer review of the agency’s report fracking and drinking water. The report was published in June.
To be placed on the speakers’ list and make a three-minute comment, notify email@example.com by November 25.
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