- 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
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.
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.
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