A collection of letters/testimonies that have been adopted and sent by the Western States Water Council:
On May 8, the WSWC submitted written testimony the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies regarding appropriations for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The testimony highlighted the importance of specific programs within NASA and NOAA that provide critical research, data, and services that support water management in the west.
The testimony reiterated the importance of adequate funding for NASA and NOAA programs to support water management in the west. “Well-informed decisions depend on our ability to observe, understand, model, predict and adapt to climate and weather events, which threaten public health and safety, billions of dollars of economic investments, and our environment. Our present level of investment is not yet commensurate with the potential benefits, which far exceed the costs.”
On April 6, the WSWC submitted written testimony to the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, with a focus on support for USDA programs. The testimony relied on four of the Council’s standing positions, focusing on the need to ensure federal resources are available to rural and agricultural communities to have safe drinking and wastewater infrastructure, technical and financial assistance, access to conservation programs, and help where needed to meet federal mandates and public health goals.
The testimony highlighted the important role of USDA’s Rural Development, especially its Water and Environmental Program. “WEP provides water and waste disposal grants, loans, loan guarantees, predevelopment planning grants, revolving loan funds, technical assistance and training grants, emergency community water assistance grants, and a circuit rider program, as well as individual water and wastewater grants and household water well system grants. The circuit rider program has been especially important for delivering technical assistance to rural communities who otherwise would not have access to critical knowledge and resources.”
EPA AND CORPS RULEMAKING ON WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES
On February 20, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army held a “WOTUS Outreach Webinar for State Partners” to discuss their direction and progress toward revising the jurisdictional definition of “waters of the United States.”
The Presentation included an overview of the rulemaking process, including federalism consultations, feedback from states, and a preliminary assessment of state authorities and programs that the agencies have prepared and plan to transmit to the states next week. The agencies discussed considerations for a proposed rule, including clarifications and definitions for tributaries, wetlands, and exclusions.
State comments regarding federal jurisdictional waters varied, including: (1) traditional navigable waters only; (2) permanent lakes, and perennial streams that contain water at all times except extreme drought; (3) perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams; (4) only wetlands that directly touch waters of the U.S.; and (5) wetlands within a set distance, that have a direct hydrologic connection, or tributaries that have a minimum level of flow. State feedback on exclusions also varied, with comments on groundwater, shallow subsurface flow, farm ponds, artificial drains, stock ponds, dip ponds for fire suppression, municipal storm sewer system features, irrigation ditches, roadside ditches, man-made ditches without perennial flow, ephemeral streams, wet meadows, sheet flow, drain tiles, dry arroyos, prairie potholes, and playa lakes.
In accordance with President Trump’s February 28th Executive Order, Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule, EPA initiated a multifaceted federalism consultation process to obtain state and local government officials’ perspectives. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said they are “restoring states’ important role in the regulation of water,” and working “with our state governments to understand what they think is the best way to protect their waters, and what actions they are already taking to do so. We want to return to a regulatory partnership, rather than regulate by executive fiat.”
EPA is particularly interested in hearing from states regarding the impact of such a change and how states do or would regulate those waters excluded from federal jurisdiction, or “Waters of the State.”
EPA held several webinars to provide an overview of potential changes under consideration for the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to propose a new definition that would replace the approach in the 2015 Clean Water Rule with one that reflects the principles that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia outlined in the Rapanos plurality opinion, indicating CWA jurisdiction includes relatively permanent waters and wetlands with a continuous surface connection to relatively permanent waters.
Below are a few of the letters sent to EPA concerning the development of a new rule.
On August 30, the WSWC sent a letter to the Farm Bill Conference Committee supporting important water-related provisions of the House and Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill. For a copy of the letter see: August 30 2018 Letter and Position to Farm Bill Conference Committee.
CLEAN WATER ACT SECTION 401 CERTIFICATIONS
On August 16, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on S. 3303, the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018. Chair John Barrasso introduced the bill on July 31, in response to perceived abuses by some States of their certification authority. The Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 requires that States certify within one year that any proposed project or activity requiring federal permit or license will comply with Sections 301, 301, 303, 306 and 307 and any related State water quality requirements, including but not limited to State designated uses, water quality standards or Total Maximum Daily Loads and minimum flow requirements. S. 3303 would strike existing language assuring that “applicable effluent limitations or other limitations or other applicable water quality requirements will not be violated,” and replace it with “any discharge made by the applicant into the navigable waters as described in paragraph (1) will