Federal Water Tap, February 14: Budget Proposal Adds $403 Million for Oahu Drinking Water

The Rundown

  • A budget proposal to keep the government operating includes millions to respond to a fuel leak from an Oahu naval base that contaminated drinking water.
  • The Defense Department appeals a Hawaii state order to drain the fuel tanks at the center of the Oahu drinking water incident.
  • Bipartisan legislation in Congress would update the Army Corps’ approach to protecting shorelines from the impacts of climate change.
  • The Interior Department releases $725 million from the federal infrastructure bill for abandoned mine cleanup in 2022.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris visits Newark to discuss lead pipe removal.

“You all are role models for community leaders around the country who may have — through their frustration and pain with this issue — have thought that and wondered whether it makes a difference. You all are proof that it makes a difference. It makes a difference.” — Vice President Kamala Harris, praising community members for pushing the leaders of Newark to commit to removing lead pipes in the city. Harris visited New Jersey’s largest city to highlight its pipe-removal effort as an example for the country.

By the Numbers

$403 Million: Funding proposal in Congress to address drinking water contamination on Oahu from a fuel leak at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Jet fuel leaked from a bulk storage complex in November and entered a key aquifer for the island’s water supply. The proposal is included in a continuing resolution that would keep the government operating through March 11, 2022. The current CR expires on February 18.

$725 Million: Funding allocated in 2022 to clean up abandoned mines and surrounding lands. The funding is the first tranche of $11.3 billion that will be distributed to 22 states and the Navajo Nation — all coal producers — over the next 15 years as part of the federal infrastructure bill.

News Briefs

Oahu Drinking Water Incident
Lawyers for the U.S. Navy asked a judge to reverse a state order that the military drain a fuel storage complex on Oahu that contaminated drinking water as a result of a fuel leak, Hawaii Public Radio reports.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige ordered the Navy in December to drain the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. Navy officials, after rebuffing the governor, agreed to comply with the order in January. Now they will argue in court that the state has exceeded its authority and the order should be rescinded.

Shoreline Protection Bill
A bipartisan bill introduced in the House and Senate would update the Army Corps of Engineers’ approach to protecting shorelines in an era of rising seas and stronger hurricanes.

The SHORRE Act states that it is national policy and a “primary mission” of the Army Corps of Engineers to protect shorelines and the communities living along them from the impacts of climate change. That includes river shores in addition to coasts.

The bill would emphasize shoreline protection that incorporates natural features as part of the design – things like wetlands, sea grass, and oyster reefs. Priority areas include: the Delaware Bay (home state of two bill sponsors), the Louisiana coast (home state of two other bill sponsors), Great Lakes, Oregon coast, Upper Missouri River, Kanawha River in West Virginia.

Beach nourishment — funneling sand into eroding beaches — is reauthorized for 50 years for beaches in Delaware, Florida, and Georgia.

There are also financial changes intended to benefit low-income communities. The bill would decrease to 10 percent the amount that local and state agencies must contribute to a project. That applies to cost-share requirements for designing a project, as well as for constructing a project that prioritizes natural features over concrete.

Studies and Reports

Get the Lead Out Caucus
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) announced a bipartisan group that will educate their colleagues about the dangers of lead.

In addition to Tlaib, the Get the Lead Out Caucus includes Reps. Debbie Dingell (D) and Peter Meijer (R) of Michigan and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D) of Delaware.

“We are going to provide a working group bringing us all together in this national crisis that we have,” Tlaib said.

On the Radar

PFAS Drinking Water Regulations Meetings
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold two public discussions on how its regulation of two forever chemicals will affect marginalized communities.

The virtual meetings will be held March 2 and April 5. Registration is required.

The EPA expects to release draft standards this fall for the chemicals PFOA and PFOS, and finalize the standards by fall 2023.

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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