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Federal Water Tap, February 1: Senators Propose $US 600 Million for Flint, Plus House Hearing on the Lead Crisis

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The Rundown

Michigan senators propose federal funds for Flint while the House Oversight Committee schedules first congressional hearing on the drinking water crisis. Wetland banking program gets federal funding. EPA publishes draft pesticide general permit. The Supreme Court is hearing another Clean Water Act case. A damaged natural gas pipeline beneath the Delaware River is being replaced. U.S. irrigation is projected to decline with climate change.

“The water crisis in Flint is an immense failure on the part of the State of Michigan to protect the health and safety of the City’s residents. While the State must accept full responsibility, the federal government can leverage investments the State needs to make.” — Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) introducing federal legislation to help Flint.

By the Numbers

$US 400 million: Federal dollars proposed by Michigan’s senators to fix Flint’s water infrastructure. The money would have to be matched dollar-for-dollar by state funds. (Rep. Debbie Stabenow)

$US 200 million: Federal dollars proposed over 20 years to study the effects of lead poisoning in Flint. The money would go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Rep. Debbie Stabenow)

$US 9 million: Initial funding for a Natural Resources Conservation Service wetland “mitigation bank.” This type of program allows for wetlands to be paved or drained in one area but restored in another, thus resulting in no net change in wetland acreage. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Studies and Reports

Water Asset Management: Taking Care of Your Pipes
Repairing or replacing pipes before they break is a measure of prudent water asset management. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture are training small utilities on asset management, but the federal agencies ought to track the results of its efforts, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

Declining Irrigation in a Warming United States
U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers summarize the highlights from a November 2015 paper on the effect of climate change on U.S. irrigation. Irrigated acres are expected to decline as the country warms. Why? Either more rain reduces the need for irrigation, or less water constrains the ability of farmers to irrigate. In some cases, dryland farming (meaning without irrigation) may become more profitable.

News Briefs

Flint Hearing
On February 3, the House Oversight Committee will hold the first congressional hearing on the Flint lead crisis.

Called to testify are EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials, the Virginia Tech researcher who helped identify the lead problem, and the former Flint emergency manager who was in charge when the city switched its water source to the Flint River.

The crisis has already claimed one federal official, Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 administrator. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the committee chairman, issued a scalding statement following Hedman’s resignation, who stepped down because of the regional office’s mishandling of the Flint crisis.

“EPA is rife with incompetence and Region 5 is no exception,” Chaffetz said. “Mismanagement has plagued the region for far too long and Ms. Hedman’s resignation is way overdue. The lack of accountability throughout the EPA has allowed problems to fester and crises to explode. One resignation will not change the top to bottom scrubbing EPA needs, but it is a step in the right direction.”

Flint Legislation
Michigan’s senate delegation is attempting to provide $US 600 million in federal funding for Flint. The senators are doing so by introducing an amendment to a large energy bill that is being debated in the Senate.

When asked for comment, the White House said it is reviewing the proposal. “We do believe that it’s appropriate for Congress to pass legislation that would give the city of Flint and the state of Michigan the resources that they need to address this situation,” Josh Earnest, the press secretary, told reporters.

Energy Policy Modernization Act
A number of amendments to the energy bill involve water. One would prod reservoir operators to change how they manage their dams in order to adapt to drought and water supply variability. According to the amendment from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), at least 15 reservoirs would alter their “rule curves,” the guidelines for when a dam is filled and when water is released.

A second amendment, from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) would establish a drought fund for the federal agency that sells hydropower from federal dams. The fund would be used by the Southwest Power Administration to purchase outside power when water levels in the reservoirs are low.

Pesticide Pollution General Permit
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft pesticide pollution general permit. The terms are similar to the 2011 permits, which are renewed every five-years. General permits are required for point sources – irrigation districts, pesticide manufacturers, mosquito control districts. General permits apply to broad industrial categories, and are not tailored to individual facilities.

Public comments are being accepted through March 11 at www.regulations.gov?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss using docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2015-0499.

On the Radar

Clean Water Act in the Supreme Court
The nation’s highest court is again reviewing what course of action property owners have once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determines that Clean Water Act permitting requirements apply to their land.

At question in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc. is whether property owners can challenge the Army Corps’ jurisdictional determination in a federal court before having to undergo the permitting process.

The case has significant implications for development at sites that are potentially subject to the [Clean Water Act]” by easing the regulatory burden for parties that are pursing permits to develop land, writes Russell Prugh of Marten Law. The Supreme Court heard a similar case, Sackett v. EPA, in 2012, ruling unanimously that EPA enforcement orders could be challenged in court.

The Army Corps filed its opening brief on January 22 but oral arguments have not been scheduled.

Stream Rule Hearing
On February 3, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to discuss the Stream Protection Rule, a proposed regulation for reducing the damage to watersheds from coal mining.

Energy System Review
On February 4, top U.S. energy officials will host a public meeting on the second comprehensive review of the U.S. electricity system.

Speaking at the event, which will be webcast live, are Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and White House science adviser John Holdren.

Delaware River Pipeline
A natural gas pipeline beneath the Delaware River that was damaged by the Army Corps of Engineers during dredging operations is being replaced. Paulsboro Natural Gas Pipeline Company will lay 2.6 miles of new pipeline under the river.

Public comments on the environmental review will be accepted through February 18. File comments at www.ferc.gov?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss using docket number CP16-27-000.

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.

The post Federal Water Tap, February 1: Senators Propose $US 600 Million for Flint, Plus House Hearing on the Lead Crisis appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

Source: Water News

Source: Water Industry News

The Stream, February 1: United Arab Emirates Modifies Weather to Make Rain

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The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

Pinched by shrinking groundwater reserves, the United Arab Emirates is pursuing research projects to modify weather passing over the country to create as much rainfall as possible. Farmers in South Africa are drilling wells hundreds of meters deep to reach water, and Japan is building the world’s largest floating solar farm. Detroit is considering a plan to make its water more affordable for residents, an international contest is seeking new ideas to finance urban water fixes, and six officials involved in a West Virginia chemical spill will be sentenced this month.

“There are many techniques to secure water resources. But only precipitation enhancement can produce a lot of water for industrial use, irrigation etc. cheaply.” –Masataka Murakami, a researcher at Japan’s Nagoya University, on efforts in the United Araba Emirates to use weather modification techniques to increase rainfall. Groundwater supplies are increasingly stressed in the country. (Guardian)

By the Numbers

By The Numbers

500 meters Depth beyond which some farmers in South Africa are now having to drill wells to find water amid a severe drought. Times Live

$1.8 million Prize money to be awarded to the winner of the Dreampipe contest, which seeks innovative ideas about how to finance fixes for leaky urban water infrastructure. Reuters

Science

Science, Studies, And Reports

Detroit is considering a plan to introduce tiered pricing for the city’s water system, reducing rates for customers who conserve water. The plan will be presented today in a report by the city’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Affordability. Michigan Radio

On the Radar

On The Radar

Six officials involved with a 2014 chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, which shut down water supplies for the capital city of Charleston, will be sentenced this month on criminal charges. The officials face between one and three years in prison, as well as thousands of dollars in fines. Associated Press

Construction is beginning on a floating solar plant in a reservoir near Tokyo, Japan. The plant is expected to be the world’s largest floating solar farm, capable of supplying electricity to 5,000 homes. Yale Environment 360

The post The Stream, February 1: United Arab Emirates Modifies Weather to Make Rain appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

Source: Water News

Source: Water Industry News

Scientists find some clues to climate change in plants

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Bend Bulletin: The National Parks Service is partnering with citizen scientists to track when plant species flower, leaf out or set seed. The way plants grow gives clues to changes in the environment and the impact of climate change. “Plants, as we know, have the most sensitive biological responses to climate change,” said Nancy Fernandez, a climate change intern with Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. “They are sensitive to temperature change and precipitation.” Fernandez discussed plant responses to…
Source: Waterconserve News

Source: Water Industry News