Federal Water Tap, May 15: Appeals Court Orders EPA to Regulate Drinking Water Contaminant

The Rundown

  • Federal judges order the EPA to set a limit on perchlorate in drinking water.
  • Federal fisheries regulators propose a salmon experiment in northern California.
  • The Department of Energy wants public input on priority electric transmission line corridors.
  • The DOE also announces funding for hydroelectric dam operators to update their infrastructure.
  • The Army Corps outlines its preferred approach for a controversial Mississippi flood-control project.

And lastly, an interactive map allows users to track the melting of the humongous snowpack in the western United States.

“Because humanitarian staff have not been able to safely move around Sudan to conduct needs assessments, we do not know the full extent to which humanitarian conditions have worsened since April 15. However, we predict that ongoing shortages of food, safe drinking water, medicine, and fuel, coupled with limited access to basic services and care have significantly increased vulnerability for many people, particularly in Khartoum and the surrounding areas.” — Sarah Charles, assistant to the administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the conflict in Sudan, which began on April 15.

By the Numbers

$554 Million: Amount available for “incentive payments” to hydroelectric dam operators to improve their infrastructure. The money comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and applies to three areas of improvement: grid resilience, dam safety, and environment. The payments cover up to 30 percent of project costs. Letters of intent to apply for funding are due by June 22.

News Briefs

Drinking Water Regulation: Perchlorate, Again
A federal appeals court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a limit for perchlorate in drinking water, a year after the Biden administration affirmed a Trump-era decision not to regulate a chemical that is linked with impaired brain development in fetuses.

E&E News reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit “sided with environmental groups,” which had objected to the agency’s decision not to regulate. That decision was itself a reversal of a 2011 determination that perchlorate merited a national limit in drinking water.

Perchlorate is used in jet fuel and explosives such as fireworks.

Mississippi Delta Flood Control
The Army Corps of Engineers presented its preferred option for controlling backwater flooding in the Yazoo area, a region of the Mississippi Delta.

The Corps would install pumps as well as “non-structural” efforts such as buyouts of susceptible properties and elevating homes.

The area has been a center of federal starts and stops for decades. The EPA in 2008 vetoed a previous version of the Yazoo pumps project. Environmental groups objected to the draining of wetlands that could result in a boon for corn, cotton, and soybean farmers.

Comments on the latest proposal are being accepted at the above link through June 5.

Salmon Experiment in California
Federal fisheries regulators propose allowing certain salmon to be released above Shasta Dam, in northern California, to test whether viable populations can be re-established where they no longer live.

The National Marine Fisheries Service would allow the release of winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon in the McCloud and Upper Sacramento rivers as “non-essential experimental populations.” This means they have fewer protections than endangered species, which is the case for both populations of Chinook.

Comments on the proposal are being accepted through June 12 via www.regulations.gov using docket number NOAA–NMFS–2018–0052.

Studies and Reports

Snowpack Monitor
Track the melting of the western U.S. snowpack with this interactive map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Humongous snow piles remain in the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch Range, while the northern Rockies are now below average for the water content of the snowpack.

On the Radar

Colorado River Cuts Public Meeting
The Bureau of Reclamation is hosting its fourth and final public meeting to gather comments on its draft proposal to reduce Colorado River water deliveries as the basin’s two big reservoirs shrink.

The online meeting is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. Mountain time on May 16. Register via this link.

In context: Biden Administration Outlines Options for Colorado River Emergency Plan

Army Corps Hearing
On May 16, a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee will hold a hearing on how the Army Corps of Engineers can respond to drought and water conservation.

Siting Electric Transmission Lines
The Department of Energy is seeking public input as it develops a program to facilitate renewable energy expansion by adding electric transmission lines.

As currently conceived, National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors would be designated near proposed electric generating projects. The corridors would not be the final word on siting, but they would help speed permitting.

The DOE will complete a national study of transmission needs later in 2023 that will inform the location of the corridors.

Comments are being accepted here through June 29.

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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