- President Biden highlights water infrastructure in the State of the Union.
- The GAO explains how federal agencies can better implement cybersecurity laws.
- A Department of Energy lab offers grant funding for treating oil and gas wastewater.
- In Congress, lawmakers introduce bills on tribal water rights settlement, a water-supply tunnel in California, and animal feeding operations.
- The Justice Department objects to a state-led settlement of a Rio Grande lawsuit.
And lastly, the U.S. begins reporting methane emissions from reservoirs and dams.
“To our knowledge, the U.S. is the first country to include estimates of methane emissions from flooded lands in their greenhouse gas inventory.” — EPA press office, to the news site The Revelator. Last year, the U.S. included methane emissions from dams and reservoirs in an annual greenhouse gas emissions report to the United Nations.
By the Numbers
3: Mentions of water in President Biden’s State of the Union speech. Biden called out the administration’s emphasis on replacing lead drinking water pipes and the need to fortify infrastructure against extreme weather.
$18 Million: Grant funding from the National Energy Technology Laboratory for research and development projects to treat, recycle, or manage wastewater from oil and natural gas extraction. The funding also applies to projects focusing on wastewater from coal-fired power plants. The application deadline is April 12.
Water Bills in Congress
Early filings from the first weeks of the new Congress:
- Josh Harder, a California Democrat who opposes building a tunnel to move water through the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, introduced a bill that would prohibit the Army Corps from permitting the multibillion-dollar project.
- California’s senators — Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla — introduced a bill to affirm water rights claims of the Tule River Tribe. The tribe would have the right to 5,828 acre-feet of water annually from the South Fork Tule River. The bill authorizes $518 million for tribal water development projects.
- Eighteen House Democrats sponsored a bill to place a moratorium on large concentrated animal feeding operations.
Rio Grande Lawsuit
The Justice Department objected to a tentative settlement between New Mexico and Texas over use of water from the Rio Grande, E&E News reports.
Federal lawyers argued that the settlement terms would endanger the viability of a federal irrigation project in southern New Mexico.
Studies and Reports
The Government Accountability Office looked at how federal agencies can better implement a 2021 law that expanded their cybersecurity responsibilities.
The EPA is the support agency for the water and wastewater sectors. The GAO suggests that the agency develop a technical assistance network that can help utilities plug holes in their IT systems. The agency responded that any assistance would be voluntary.
On the Radar
Glen Canyon Dam Meeting
A working group that advises the Bureau of Reclamation on the operation of Glen Canyon Dam will hold public meetings on February 15 and 16.
The agenda shows presentations on Colorado River hydrology, potential experiments this year, a strategy for dealing with non-native fish, and state/tribal perspectives.
Flood Control in Nebraska
The Natural Resources Conservation Service will prepare an environmental impact statement on ways to reduce flood risk in Nebraska’s Wood River watershed, which most recently flooded in 2019.
NRCS will evaluate a variety of options, including widening the river channel, restoring wetlands, or building levees, diversion channels, holding ponds, and dams. Non-structural measures will also be considered: property buyouts and zoning changes.
A draft assessment is expected in late summer 2024.
Senate Climate Hearing
On February 15, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the effects of climate change on the federal budget and global economy.
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