Federal Water Tap, December 26: Water Spending Woven into Budget Deal

The Rundown

  • Congress passes a $1.7 trillion budget deal.
  • The Army Corps finalizes a plan for a river diversion to rebuild land on the Louisiana coast.
  • The Army Corps also releases a draft review of a massive water-diversion tunnel through California’s contentious delta region.
  • Congress sends several water-related bills to the president.

And lastly, the EPA’s draft drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS are due by the end of the year.

“We know that inaction is not the answer. And insufficient action will mean serious consequences for the entire basin. Because if a solution is not developed by the basin, Commissioner Touton will figure it out for us. And as much as I enjoy working with the commissioner, I think it’s better for everyone if the federal government doesn’t make these tough decisions.” — Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), addressing the Colorado River Water Users Association conference.

By the Numbers

$23 Million: Funding secured from the federal infrastructure bill to build a new water treatment facility for the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, in central Oregon. The community has struggled for years with unreliable water.

In context: The Oregon Community Desperate for Water

News Briefs

Budget Agreement
Congress agreed to a $1.7 trillion budget, a spending deal that also allocates funds to various water needs.

Items in the package include:

  • $600 million for drinking water infrastructure in Jackson, Mississippi.
  • $140 million for replacing water treatment infrastructure damaged by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire in New Mexico.
  • $1.4 billion to the Rural Utilities Service for loans to rural areas for water and waste disposal infrastructure.
  • $368 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
  • $1.6 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $1.1 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Congress Passes Water-Related Legislation
Also before the holiday break, Congress sent several water-related bills to the president.

One bill authorizes the U.S. Geological Survey to establish a research and monitoring program for saline lakes in the Great Basin, which is centered on Nevada.

Another bill authorizes a flood-monitoring program within NOAA that is modeling on a similar program for droughts.

Also passing both chambers were a trio of bills related to water rights for tribes in Arizona. One allows the Colorado River Indian Tribes to lease their water for use off of the reservation. Another settles water rights for the Hualapai Tribe.

Louisiana Land-Building
The Army Corps of Engineers finalized approval for a $1.4 billion project to rebuild eroding land along the Louisiana coast.

The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion will provide an off-ramp for sediment-laden water from the Mississippi River. Those land-building particles will be shunted during periods of high flow. They will exit the river at the diversion point south of New Orleans and be funneled to the Barataria Basin, where they are intended to restore coastal wetlands.

Studies and Reports

Delta Tunnel Environmental Review
The Army Corps of Engineers published a draft environmental review of a contentious water diversion tunnel through California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin delta.

A water conveyance through or around the delta has been a point of conflict in state water politics since the 1970s. The latest version would be a key piece of infrastructure for moving water from north to south. Its backers say the project helps the state adapt to rising seas and a changing climate by providing alternate diversion points.

Opponent argue that the project maintains the status quo in California’s water export system and harms delta communities.

Public comments are due February 14, 2023 and can be sent to DLL-DCP-EIS@usace.army.mil.

On the Radar

Drinking Water Standards for PFAS
The EPA said it would publish draft drinking water standards for the chemicals PFOA and PFOS by the end of 2022. Time is running short to meet that deadline.

Environmental Financial Advisory Board Meetings
The expert group that advises the EPA on matters related to environmental finance will hold public meetings January 24-26, 2023.

The board will discuss the EPA’s $25 billion fund for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other finance topics.

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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