Federal Water Tap, December 12: Lawmakers Finalize Water Resources Development Bill

The Rundown

  • Lawmakers reach a deal on the next Water Resources Development Act.
  • The CDC releases new guidance for investigating cancer clusters linked to environmental hazards.
  • The EPA issues new guidance for reducing PFAS discharges in wastewater.
  • A bill in the House would limit attorney fees for Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits.
  • The Army Corps issued a permit for a contested reservoir in northern Colorado.
  • EPA responders are at the site of an oil spill in northern Kansas.
  • A new water-measuring satellite sponsored by NASA will be launched this week.

And lastly, senators from western states urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist farmers with water supply shortages.

“In addition to new funding provided by Congress, the dire drought conditions in the West require more resources and even more creative and tailored solutions through USDA programs, particularly given many existing programs do not translate well to the needs of Western agriculture.” Excerpt from a letter co-signed by 16 western senators. The senators asked that the USDA give special consideration to farmers in their states.

By the Numbers

588,000: Gallons of oil spilled from a pipeline in northern Kansas that is part of the Keystone pipeline system. EPA emergency coordinators are at the site, where response crews from TC Energy have deployed booms, earthen dams, skimmers, and vacuums to corral oil in Mill Creek and remove it.

3,215: Miles of river in Oregon that would be designated as “wild and scenic” under legislation from the state’s senators.

News Briefs

Water Resources Bill
Lawmakers tied together two big legislative items, yoking a defense spending bill and a water infrastructure bill that authorizes billions of dollars of Army Corps of Engineers flood control, navigation, and ecosystem restoration projects.

Traditionally passed every other year, the Water Resources Development Act is a fundamental piece of water legislation. This year the bill authorizes:

  • Greater collaboration with Indian tribes
  • $34 billion project to reduce flood risk in coastal Texas
  • $3.2 billion project to construct new shipping facilities at Soo Locks in northern Michigan
  • More comprehensive evaluation of flood risk in feasibility studies

On the other side of the bill, the military spending portion also addresses water issues. Those Provisions include:

  • Authorizing the closure of the Red Hill underground storage tanks that were involved in a fuel spill in November 2021 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
  • A monitoring program to track fuel contamination in groundwater from the Red Hill spill
  • A number of reports on the Defense Department’s activities to reduce PFAS contamination and halt the purchase of firefighting equipment made with the chemicals
  • A federal report on how tire chemicals that enter the stormwater system affect salmon in the Pacific Northwest

Army Corps Issues Reservoir Permit
The Army Corps issued a key Clean Water Act permit for a proposed reservoir in northern Colorado that will be located outside of Fort Collins.

With a planned capacity of 170,000 acre-feet, Glade reservoir is part of the $2 billion Northern Integrated Supply Project, a municipal water supply project. The federal permitting process began in 2004.

At least one environmental group stated it will challenge the permit in court.

In context: Big Water Pipelines, an Old Pursuit, Still Alluring in Drying West

Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Bill
Legislation filed in the House would place a cap on attorney fees in lawsuits claiming compensation for people exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune.

Earlier this year, President Biden signed the PACT Act, which deals with health hazards due to military service. The act allows military veterans, their families, and others who were exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune to sue the federal government for compensation.

The drinking water at the North Carolina marine base was contaminated with the solvents TCE and PCE, plus benzene and other industrial chemicals from 1953 until 1987.

Studies and Reports

Reducing PFAS Discharges in Wastewater
The head of the EPA Office of Water issued updated guidance for reducing PFAS discharges in wastewater.

The five-page document outlines steps that state agencies can take when writing Clean Water Act permits.

Investigating Cancer Clusters
The CDC released new guidance for state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments investigating cancer clusters linked to environmental hazards.

On the Radar

Water-Measuring Satellite Launch This Week
On December 15, a new satellite that will measure weekly changes in the world’s rivers, lakes, wetlands, and oceans will be launched into orbit.

The SWOT mission launch is scheduled for 6:46 a.m. Eastern. It will be streamed live online for early risers.

The mission is a joint venture between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatial, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency and the UK Space Agency.

In context: New Satellite Will See Water’s Big Picture

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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