NWRA Annual Conference National Water Resources Association

October 24, 2014
National Water Resources Association
Daily Report
Annual Conference
The Hotel Del Coronado
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November 12 - 14, 2014
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In This Issue
Coping In A Drier World: California's Drought Survival Strategy
Report says Yakima Basin Integrated Plan falls short on water supply
Scientific review board backs underpinnings of
jurisdictional proposal
Annie Snider, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, October 23, 2014
October 28, Utah Water
Users Association and
Utah Water Conservation
Forum, 21st Annual Utah
Water Summit, Utah
Valley Convention
Center, Provo, UT
October 28-30, Montana
Water Resources
Association & Upper
Missouri Water
Association - Joint
Annual Conference and
Educational Seminar,
Billings, MT
November 6-7, Idaho
Water Users Association
A scientific review board has backed most of U.S. EPA's conclusions in a key
technical report underpinning a controversial proposed water regulation.
In a review sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy last week, the Science
Advisory Board said that the agency's report synthesizing the scientific literature
on how different types of streams and wetlands are connected to downstream
waters "reflects the pertinent literature and is well grounded in current science."
The scientific review process has become a lightning rod in the battle over the
Obama administration's proposal to increase the number of streams and creeks
that receive automatic Clean Water Act protection following two muddled Supreme
Court decisions.
EPA has touted that the regulatory proposal is based on sound science and has
said that the 331-page scientific report underpins the proposal. But opponents of
the rule have blasted the agency for moving forward with the proposed rule before
the SAB review of the report was completed. The agencies have twice extended
the comment period, with it now slated to close Nov. 14.
In its 103-page review, the SAB agreed with the connectivity report's findings that
all tributary streams, including those that flow only during certain times of year or
after rainfall, have a strong influence on downstream waters, and that all streams
and wetlands within a river's floodplain have an important influence. The proposed
rule would put both of these types of waters under automatic federal jurisdiction.
However, the board disagreed with the report's third finding, namely that there was
not enough evidence to generalize about the connectivity of waters like prairie
potholes -- waters and wetlands outside the floodplain that don't physically connect
to a downstream water. This category of waters, called "geographically isolated
wetlands," was thrown into jurisdictional confusion following a 2001 Supreme
Court decision.
"The SAB disagrees with this overall conclusion," the board wrote. "To the
contrary, the SAB finds that the scientific literature provides ample information to
support a more definitive statement."
Waters and wetlands outside the floodplain fall under the category of "other
waters" in the administration's proposed rule, which would require regulators to
make case-by-case calls about how important an individual stream or wetland is to
larger downstream waters, and thus whether it falls under federal jurisdiction.
This type of individual analysis is labor-intensive and subjective, and as a result,
environmentalists and sportsmen's groups say, many of the "other waters" simply
don't get protected. They have argued that categories of waters, like the Great
Plains' prairie potholes and the arid West's playa lakes, should be evaluated as a
unit and ruled in or out by category. The agencies asked for comment on whether
and how this should be done in their proposed rule.
Jan Goldman-Carter, senior manager of wetlands and water resources at the
National Wildlife Federation, said the SAB conclusion could open the door to such
an approach.
"I think it pushes things more in the direction of some kind of provision in the rule
that is more protective of at least some non-floodplain wetlands than the case-bycase," she said.
The SAB review also urged EPA to bolster its evidence on how a number of similar
waters or wetlands in a region together influence downstream waters.
31st Annual Water Law
Seminar, Boise, ID
November 6, Columbia
Basin Development
League 50th Annual
Meeting, Moses Lake,
November 23-25,
Nebraska Water
Resources Association &
Nebraska State Irrigation
Association - Joint
Convention, Kearney,
December 2-5,
Association of California
Water Agencies, Fall
Conference & Exhibition
San Diego, CA
December 3-5, North
Dakota Water
Convention and Irrigation
Workshop, Bismarck, ND
December 3-5,
Washington State Water
Resources Association
Annual Conference,
Spokane, WA
January 6-8, The 40th
Annual Meeting of the
Management District
Association, Scottsdale,
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This touches on a hot button within the regulatory debate. The proposed rule
would have regulators consider not just the value of a single stream or wetland,
but the value of that stream in combination with other nearby features -- a concept
called "aggregation." Supporters say that this captures important ecological
functions, but opponents say it's a way of making insignificant waters seem more
"The SAB recommends that the Report more explicitly address the scientific
literature on cumulative and aggregate effects of streams, groundwater systems,
and wetlands on downstream waters," the report states.
The new SAB review follows a previous endorsement from the board of the
agency's overall water rule. In a letter sent to McCarthy late last month, the board
said "the available science provides an adequate scientific basis for the key
components of the proposed rule" (Greenwire, Sept. 30).
Supporters of the rule have said these two scientific endorsements should pave
the way toward finalization of the proposed rule.
But opponents of the rule argue that the conclusions mean little to the regulatory
"The SAB review process has been flawed from the beginning because EPA's
limited charge questions for the SAB did not give the SAB panel the opportunity to
evaluate the key issue: whether EPA's connectivity report adequately addresses
the significance of the connections it identifies," Deidre Duncan, an attorney who
leads the industry coalition opposing the rule, said after the board's September
That coalition, the Waters Advocacy Coalition, has argued that the rulemaking
process itself has become muddled and confusing, with a number of new
documents coming out during the waning days of the public comment period.
"The [Administrative Procedure Act] does not allow the Agencies to keep altering
the regulatory landscape throughout the rulemaking process," the group wrote in a
recent letter
to the administration. "Indeed, the public cannot be expected to provide
meaningful comment on a moving target."
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy
Publishing, LLC - www.eenews.net - 202-628-6500
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Enviros tell Jewell that saving sage grouse means killing grazing permits
Scott Streater, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, October 23, 2014
An environmental group is challenging Interior Secretary Sally Jewell not to renew hundreds of expiring federal
grazing permits within greater sage grouse habitat, arguing that doing so will undermine the Obama
administration's massive effort to incorporate grouse conservation measures into land-use documents across the
At issue are 453 federal grazing allotment permits covering hundreds of thousands of acres and more than 120,000
head of cattle that are set to expire next year. The permits are also within so-called Priority Areas for Conservation
(PACs) identified by the Fish and Wildlife Service across the sage grouse's 11-state Western range. The PACs are
designed to help the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and state wildlife officials prioritize areas for
the protection, conservation and enhancement of grouse habitat.
An attorney representing the Western Watersheds Project yesterday sent a letter to Jewell urging BLM not to
renew the grazing permits without first conducting an environmental review analyzing the impact of the allotments
on the grouse habitat.
BLM is required under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the Fundamentals of
Rangeland Health to conduct these reviews, according to the four-page letter submitted for the Western
Watersheds Project by Todd Tucci, a senior attorney with Advocates for the West in Boise, Idaho.
"It is long past time for BLM to ensure that livestock grazing within the most important habitat for the Greater sagegrouse is compatible with protecting and enhancing sage-grouse populations and habitat, including adopting both
seasonal and use restrictions," Tucci wrote.
But BLM, according to the letter, has never undertaken "analysis and review of the sage-grouse habitat conditions"
on at least 175 of the permitted allotments. And it has failed to analyze the rest of the grazing allotments in
question for at least a decade.
BLM has a long backlog of environmental reviews on grazing permits, and Congress has approved "grazing riders"
in appropriations bills that BLM says exempt the agency from FLPMA and National Environmental Policy Act
reviews on the grazing permits.
Western Watersheds Project has challenged in federal court BLM's renewal of grazing allotments within sage
grouse habitat without conducting any environmental analysis of the impact of this livestock and cattle grazing on
the grouse and its habitat.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill in Idaho last month issued an order siding with the environmental group. Winmill,
among other things, ruled the congressional grazing rider does not exempt BLM from the requirements of FLPMA
when renewing the grazing permits.
That means, Tucci said, the grazing permits must comply with agency policies regarding greater sage grouse
conservation, as well as other mandates included in resource management plans (RMPs) that govern how the
federal lands are managed.
BLM is currently working to amend 98 RMPs and Forest Service land-use plans covering millions of acres to
incorporate sage grouse protection measures. Federal, state and local leaders across the West are trying to protect
the bird in hopes that it prevents Fish and Wildlife from listing it for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
But none of what BLM and Western state leaders are doing to save the grouse will matter if the hundreds of
grazing permits inside grouse PACs are renewed without environmental reviews first being conducted, Tucci said.
"If they continue to argue that FLPMA does not apply to grazing [permit renewals], then all this effort to amend the
RMPs that they're doing, none of this will matter," he said. "It'll be a foregone conclusion that the grouse needs to
be protected under ESA."
Emily Beyer, an Interior spokeswoman, said the agency cannot comment on the letter due to the Western
Watersheds Project lawsuit and the ongoing litigation.
The letter comes just about a week after Jewell visited ranchers in Wyoming and praised them for signing
agreements to protect prime sage grouse habitat covering nearly 40,000 acres of private ranchlands (E&ENews
PM, Oct. 15).
But if BLM allows grazing on federal lands to harm prime grouse habitat, the efforts of ranchers on private lands
won't be as effective, Tucci said.
He wrote in his letter to Jewell that "BLM must take immediate action to prioritize completing full environmental
review on all grazing rider permits issued within sage-grouse Priority Areas for Conservation."
BLM needs to complete these reviews, and any resulting modifications in the grazing permits, "within two to three
years," he wrote.
He also wrote this needs to be done prior to reauthorizing any of the grazing permits to "ensure that grazing is
compatible with sage-grouse conservation."
"They are going to hopefully change course now," he said in an interview. "If they don't, I feel confident I can walk
into any federal courtroom and have it stopped."
Reprinted from E&E News PM with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC
- www.eenews.net - 202-628-6500
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Mega-Water Utilities Join to Fund Colorado River Conservation Projects
By: JIM TROTTER | October 23, 2014
Denver Water will join with Central Arizona Project, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and
Southern Nevada Water Authority and Reclamation to put forward some $11 million to fund new Colorado River
water conservation projects.
The proposals being solicited are intended to demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary efforts to reduce
demand for Colorado River water, which seven states and Mexico share. The Southwest is the nation's hottest and
driest region, where population growth and warming pose continuing threats to water supplies.
Ongoing drought has squeezed the Colorado since 2000, shrinking water levels in major reservoirs. In July,
reservoir levels in Lake Mead near Las Vegas dipped to the lowest level since iconic Hoover Dam began filling in
the 1930s.
As of Oct. 22, Mead's surface elevation was at 1,082 feet, seven feet above the 1,075 feet benchmark at which the
U.S. secretary of interior could declare a shortage on the river. Mead has dropped more than 125 feet since 2000,
when it was 91 percent full at 1,210 feet.
Read entire article HERE.
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Coping In A Drier World: California's Drought Survival Strategy
Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 7:44 pm
The San Luis Reservoir in central California is the largest "off-channel" reservoir in the U.S. It is currently at less than 30 percent of
its normal capacity.
Kirk Siegler NPR
The past few years have been California's driest on record. Forecasters predict that punishing droughts
like the current one could become the new norm.
The state uses water rationing and a 90-year-old water distribution system to cope until the rains
come. The system is a huge network of dams, canals and pipes that move water from the places it rains
and snows to places it typically doesn't, like farms and cities.
"The system that we have was designed back in the 1930s through 1950s to meet population and land
use needs of the time," says Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources in
Read entire article HERE.
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Report says Yakima Basin Integrated Plan falls short on water supply
The Wymer canyon, which includes Lmuma Creek, is the site of a water storage reservoir in the proposed
Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. However, a new study now says the plan doesn't provide for an adequate
amount of water storage. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)
Phone: 509-577-7674
By Kate Prengaman / Yakima Herald-Republic
[email protected]
The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is designed to improve the region's water supply security in the
face of future droughts, but a new outside review says that the p lan might not provide enough water
"The proposed water storage projects, under the future use and climate change scenarios, collectively
will not provide enough water volume and predictable water supply for both a sustainable ecosystem
and agricultural industry in the Yakima Basin," concludes the report by environmental consulting
firm Normandeau Associates, based in New Hampshire.
Normandeau's Curt Thalken presented the results of the study to the plan's work group at its
quarterly meeting on Wednesday, but few members expressed concern about the findings, which
included critiques of the plan's economic analysis of drought impacts and the way it accounted for
the water needs of fish and the impacts of climate change.
Read entire article HERE.
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