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In This Issue
NWRA...Leadership Forum...Monte Carlo Hotel...Las Vegas, Nevada...January 1314, 2015
DROUGHT:...Heavy rains make strides in parched Calif
DRINKING WATER:...Southern Calif. aqueducts at risk if earthquake occurs
INTERIOR:...Department overhauls scientific integrity policies
INTERIOR:...Top staffers set to shape major policy decisions in 2015
New Mexico experience to aid López at Bureau of Reclamation
Oklahoma City's water supply holds steady despite below-average rainfall
January 6-8, The 40th
Annual Meeting of the
Management District
Association, Scottsdale,
January 21-22, Idaho
Water Users Association
Annual Convention,
Boise, ID
January 28-30, Colorado
Water Congress Annual
Convention, Denver, CO
Benefits of Colorado River pulse flow start to show
I-Team: Water pipeline leads to years of court battles
Heavy rains make strides in parched Calif.
February 3-5, Texas
Water Conservation
Association 11th Annual
Texas Water Day,
Washington, DC
Annie Snider, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, December 18, 2014
The second consecutive week of heavy rains in California did not solve the state's
entrenched drought, but it did made a major dent in the hardest-hit parts of the
state, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report released this morning.
Fifty-five percent of California registered in the worst category of drought last
week, with that number now standing at 32 percent -- a 40 percent decrease. More
than 98 percent of the state remains in drought, though, according to a Californiaspecific analysis.
Central and Northern California saw 4 to 12 inches of rain over the week ending
Tuesday. While that rain produced stream and river flooding, it also raised major
reservoirs by 6 to 10 percentage points. But after three straight winters of
subnormal precipitation, they still have a long way to go to be brought back to
The San Joaquin Valley's Trinity reservoir, for instance, stood at 23 percent
capacity at the end of last month. By Dec. 16, it had risen to 29 percent capacity -still well below its 44 percent historical average for this time of year.
Meanwhile, higher-than-average temperatures meant the recent precipitation has
fallen as rain rather than snow in all but the highest elevations, which could spell
trouble for the snowpack down the road.
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But National Weather Service meteorologist David Miskus said there is still plenty
of time left for snowpack to catch up.
"With several more months left in the wet season, it is possible that additional
storms similar to the ones that just occurred will continue to chip away at the longterm hydrological drought, and the addition of lower temperatures would help build
the snowpack," he wrote in this week's monitor. "'Cautious optimism, but sill a long
way to go' would be the very short summary for this week's California drought
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Southern Calif. aqueducts at risk if earthquake occurs
Published: Thursday, December 18, 2014
Key aqueducts that deliver water to millions of people in Southern California could be destroyed if a major
earthquake occurred, according to officials.
The aqueducts, flowing from the Colorado River, Owens Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta,
cross the San Andreas fault 32 times.
Officials are examining ways to prevent damage to the pipes if a tremor were to occur, but projects could cost
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is looking at proposals that would protect water supplies and develop emergency
water sources if an earthquake were to occur. The mayor has called upon the managers of the three aqueducts to
work together to find a solution.
"This is a regional issue, with significant infrastructure costs," said Garcetti. "We all know how precious water is
these days with our historic drought. ... Water is also one of L.A.'s greatest earthquake vulnerabilities, too"
(Xia/Lin, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15). -- MH
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC - - 202-628-6500
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Department overhauls scientific integrity policies
Robin Bravender, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, December 18, 2014
The Interior Department yesterday announced a new scientific integrity policy that officials say will better protect
the agency against misconduct.
The department released an updated and "strengthened" version of its 2011 scientific integrity policy that aims to
provide more clarity on the complaint and appeals process, create an ombudsman role and expand employee
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is likely to tout the new policy during a keynote speech she's scheduled to give this
afternoon at a conference hosted by the nonprofit American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
"Science is at the heart of Interior's mission, so it's important that we continue to lead federal efforts to ensure
robust scientific integrity," Jewell said yesterday in a statement. "Today we are announcing an updated,
strengthened policy to broaden, clarify and underscore our commitment to sound science and to reflect
enhancements based on three years of experience with the current policy."
Like other agencies, Interior first issued a scientific integrity policy in response to a 2009 directive from President
Obama. The department lists its closed scientific integrity cases on its website and has taskedofficials throughout
its various agencies with overseeing scientific integrity.
Interior's scientific integrity procedures were put to the test in a recent case where Fish and Wildlife Service
employees were found to have repeatedly committed misconduct. Internal documents released in February
showed that two supervisors at the agency had purposely ignored staff concerns in order to shrink the habitat of
the endangered American burying beetle (Greenwire, Feb. 6).
Interior's inspector general last year publicly criticized FWS Director Dan Ashe for not reprimanding the two
supervisors -- Dixie Porter and Luke Bell -- for retaliating against the biologists who uncovered their misconduct. At
the time, Ashe told Greenwire that his agency had reprimanded Porter and Bell for the misconduct finding but was
working to determine the extent of the retaliation (E&E Daily, Aug. 1, 2013).
Michael Halpern, program manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists' Center for Science & Democracy,
credited Interior's scientific integrity policies with helping to bring those problems to light.
"[W]e might not know about these cases, and probably wouldn't have any resolution to them, without a scientific
integrity policy in place," he wrote today in a blog post.
Halpern said the revised Interior policy brings "the department once again to the front of the pack in the Obama
administration's quest to create strong scientific integrity standards within federal agencies and departments." Still,
he added, he sees room for improvement. "Whistleblower protection statements continue to be modest," he said,
and questions remain regarding the definition of conflict of interest.
The "most glaring flaw," he said, is that although the department has been posting details about scientific integrity
cases on its website, it isn't required to do so. "Should the DOI stop publishing closed cases, we'd just have to take
their word that the policy is well-implemented."
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC - - 202-628-6500
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Top staffers set to shape major policy decisions in 2015
Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, December 18, 2014
Ninth in a series on energy and environment staffers worth watching in 2015.
It's been an exciting end to the 113th Congress for the Interior Department, and next year promises to be another
wild ride.
President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with a controversial rider forbidding the Fish and Wildlife
Service from listing the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, a move that could pull the carpet
out from under efforts in the West to preserve the grouse's sagebrush steppe habitat.
In this series, E&E rounds up some of the key players on energy and environmental policy.
Congress this month also passed the biggest public lands package in nearly six years, designating 250,000 acres
of new wilderness in five Western states, establishing or expanding more than a dozen national park units, and
securing permanent protections for more than 140 miles of rivers and creeks.
Other provisions will bring added resources to BLM's oil and gas permitting staff and offer the agency new
authorities to expedite grazing permits across tens of millions of Western acres.
Statutory changes aside, Interior has an ambitious regulatory agenda for 2015 and beyond.
It plans to unveil sweeping rules to govern oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, clamp down on methane emissions
from drill sites, enhance the reliability of blowout preventers and establish a competitive leasing program for solar
and wind projects on federal lands.
Also on tap are final rules for hydraulic fracturing and critical habitat, moves that will have far-reaching impacts on
domestic energy production, the protection of water and the preservation of imperiled wildlife.
There's also the business of managing one-fifth of the nation's landmass and nearly all of its oceans.
BLM will soon finalize a decision to allow the first production of oil in a massive Alaskan reserve. The Bureau of
Ocean Energy Management will decide whether to hold new offshore oil and gas lease sales in frigid and remote
Alaska waters, while also deciding whether to expand drilling opportunities to the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in
And who knows when Interior will face another public relations crisis like Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher whose
defiance of BLM orders to remove his cattle nearly triggered a bloodbath last April?
Interior is a decentralized agency whose decisions are handed down from far-flung corners of the country. But most
major policies are shaped at Interior's headquarters at 1849 C St. NW.
Here are several of the headquarters staffers helping spearhead the agency's agenda:
Sarah Neimeyer, director of congressional and legislative affairs
Interior's congressional affairs shop will have a full workload next year when Republicans take control of the
Sarah Neimeyer, 51, will be Interior's top diplomat to Capitol Hill, where the GOP has a broad agenda to roll back
Obama administration rules restricting oil and gas development and to limit executive action on national
monuments, among other policies.
Neimeyer is no stranger to Congress after serving in the office of then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), former Sen.
Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Sarah Neimeyer. Photos courtesy of Interior.
A native of St. Paul, Minn., Neimeyer is a good communicator and an experienced aide on Capitol Hill, said David
Hayes, a former Interior deputy secretary who worked with Neimeyer before leaving the agency in 2013 to teach at
Stanford University.
"She's been around the block," Hayes said. "She's also a very steady, cool hand."
If the sage grouse rider is any indication, a Republican-controlled Congress will seek more opportunities to attach
policy riders to spending bills. Lawmakers will look to Neimeyer for clues on what legislation Interior will support -and what may be signed by President Obama.
Neimeyer worked as a legislative aide for Wellstone for roughly a decade through 2002. She spent a few years as
a lobbyist for the Wilderness Society before working in Durbin's office from 2007 to 2013.
She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, spending her college summers leading
canoe trips through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota and Ontario, Durbin said.
"Illinois has benefited from Sarah's passion, her practicality and her incredibly hard work," Durbin said in a floor
speech on May 15, 2013, noting Neimeyer's efforts to safeguard Lake Michigan from invasive Asian carp and
pollution. "Whenever safe water, clean air and healthy lands are at stake, you can be pretty sure Sarah Neimeyer is
close by."
John Blair, director of intergovernmental and external affairs
As the nation's largest landlord, with 500 million acres of national parks, wildlife refuges, rangelands, wilderness, oil
and gas fields, and forests, Interior has a lot of constituents to please.
Interior hired John Blair, a Capitol Hill veteran, in January as its chief liaison to governors, mayors, and state and
local elected officials. He also communicates with interest groups like the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club.
Prior to Interior, Blair spent a year as chief of staff to Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). He served as communications
director for Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and was a legislative aide to former Senate Energy and Natural
Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
John Blair.
Before that, Blair developed his political chops as New Mexico director for Obama's first presidential campaign in
The Albuquerque native, who now calls Santa Fe home, is known as an effective communicator who has helped
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell foster positive relationships with Western governors, a key constituency who can
make or break Interior's policy agenda in the West.
"He seems to be playing the role of quarterback for building support for policies and decisions," said one Interior
Blair, 40, has a husband, Billy, and new puppy, "C.J. Cregg," named for a character on the TV drama "The West
An alumnus of the University of Kansas, where he studied political science and communications, Blair is a huge
Jayhawks basketball fan. He considers himself a green chile connoisseur and enjoys film and theater.
David Jayo, senior adviser to the secretary
David Jayo is believed to be the only Interior political aide Jewell brought with her from her previous job as CEO of
outdoor retail giant REI.
Jayo, who was REI's manager for corporate giving from 2009 to 2013, joined Interior in August 2013 to support
Jewell's efforts to hire and connect more youth and veterans to the outdoors.
He is point man in Jewell's ambitious goal to raise $20 million from private donors to help fund 100,000 jobs for
youth and veterans on public lands by 2017. It's a goal that likely will not be met without major buy-in from
corporations like American Eagle Outfitters, which last January pledged $1 million to the program.
David Jayo.
With Jayo's help, Interior has also secured funding from CamelBak, the Campion Foundation, the Youth Outdoor
Legacy Fund and the Coca-Cola Foundation. He works closely with Interior bureaus and nonprofit partners to put
those funds to work on the ground.
Jewell, an avid outdoorswoman who has scaled the nation's highest peaks, believes strongly that technology and
urbanization have created significant barriers to getting outdoors -- a syndrome that author Richard Louv calls
"nature deficit disorder."
Jayo may have less influence over Interior's broader policy agenda, but his work to engage thousands of youth
could pay major dividends for Interior in the coming decades. One-third to half of all Interior employees will be
eligible for retirement in the next five years, Jewell has warned.
"We have a real need to educate a new generation who understands the importance of these places," Jewell said
last May during a youth employment event in Denver.
Hailing from Boise, Idaho, Jayo, 47, enjoys biking, Basque dancing and playing the accordion.
Letty Belin, senior counselor to the deputy secretary
Letty Belin is a highly trusted policy expert who has been with the department since shortly after Obama's
inauguration in 2009.
Belin worked for four years under Hayes and now works under Deputy Secretary Michael Connor.
She's one of the agency's foremost experts on California water issues and helped guide BLM's oil and gas leasing
reforms and "smart from the start" siting policy for energy projects, according to a former Interior aide.
Letty Belin.
"She's a very skilled and experienced lawyer who has deep expertise on water issues and public lands issues from
her many years of practice in New Mexico," said Hayes, who hired Belin and was one year behind her at Stanford
Law School.
In the 1990s, Belin directed the Environment, Energy & Telecommunications Division for New Mexico Attorney
General Tom Udall (D), who is now a New Mexico senator. She co-founded a natural resources law public interest
firm in Santa Fe, N.M., in 2000, and spent a handful of years as counsel to the Boulder, Colo.-based conservation
group Western Resource Advocates.
She is currently Interior's co-lead on California water issues, including drought and planning, and oversees the
department's Indian water settlement program. She also oversees energy development on tribal lands and helped
Hayes on interagency efforts to curb international wildlife trafficking.
"She has a lot of bandwidth," Hayes said.
Belin also helped draft an implementation plan for Jewell's first secretarial order in October 2013, which called for a
departmentwide strategy for landscape-scale mitigation of impacts from energy development on public lands.
Belin, 62, calls Santa Fe home.
David Haines, deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management
A relative newcomer to Interior, David Haines is a top aide to Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals
Management Janice Schneider, whose portfolio includes BLM, the Office of Surface Mining and Interior offshore
energy bureaus.
Schneider is helping move long-delayed BLM rulemakings across the finish line. High-profile rules seek to
strengthen oversight of hydraulic fracturing, cut down on methane waste from oil and gas wells on public lands, and
consider whether to raise onshore royalty rates.
BLM is also embarking on a major overhaul of rules for how it crafts land-use plans that dictate where and how
activities including drilling, grazing, logging and off-highway vehicle use may occur on the public estate.
David Haines.
Haines' past work seems to suit him well for the Interior job, having spent eight years at Shell Oil Co. working in
upstream and alternative energy development. He also previously served five years in the Marine Corps and was
stationed at embassies in Romania and Oman.
Haines, 39, who was hired last June, oversees onshore and offshore oil and gas development and is a key liaison
to industry. He also focuses on Department of Defense land withdrawals and international agreements.
Haines, who is from Cassopolis, Mich., earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from Morehouse
College and a master of public policy degree from Harvard University.
He likes to write, play chess and golf.
Kris Sarri, principal deputy assistant secretary for policy, management and budget
Kris Sarri in September took on the colossal task of heading Interior's budget and policy shop, which crafts the
agency's $12 billion budget and makes key policy decisions affecting the conservation of lands and wildlife.
A former legislative affairs associate director at the White House Office of Management and Budget who previously
worked in the Senate, Sarri is filling the crucial post vacated by Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and
Budget Rhea Suh, who left in the fall to become president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The office also recently saw the retirement of Pam Haze, a career employee who was among Interior's hardestworking and most respected budget experts.
Kris Sarri.
Sources say Sarri is bringing an astute political mind to the job, particularly as it pertains to Congress, which holds
the agency's purse strings.
"A terrific pickup for Interior," Hayes said. "Sally Jewell is very lucky to have Kris able to step in at this critical
In addition to helping develop the president's budget requests, Sarri's office oversees financial management;
property, procurement and grants management; information resources management; and personnel.
She oversees spending for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, invasive species and wildland fire, all key
challenges at Interior at a time of flat and shrinking budgets that will have an indelible mark on the public lands.
Sarri previously served as deputy director of policy and strategic planning at the Commerce Department, serving as
the secretary's principal adviser on oceans, fisheries, climate, energy, weather and budget issues and as policy
liaison for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She also served on the staff of the Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation and for Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
When she's not crunching budget numbers, Sarri, 46, roots for the University of Michigan football team -- she's a
Wolverine alumna -- and scuba dives with sharks and other large sea creatures.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC - - 202-628-6500
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New Mexico experience to aid López at Bureau of Reclamation
Estevan López
Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 9:42 am | Updated: 7:07 pm, Wed Dec 17, 2014.
By Staci Matlock
The New Mexican
Estevan López spent a dozen years managing water controversies in drought-prone New Mexico as
director of the Interstate Stream Commission and the deputy state engineer.
That training was about the best anyone could get for managing the nation's largest water wholesaler,
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said his longtime colleague, former state engineer John D'Antonio. The
U.S. Senate confirmed López on Wednesday as the federal agency's new commissioner.
D'Antonio worked closely with López, his deputy for nine years. "New Mexico is a sort of microcosm of
the issues he will deal with at the federal level," D'Antonio said by phone from his Albuquerque office at
the Army Corps of Engineers.
In New Mexico, López dealt with tribal water rights, traditional acequias, interstate stream compacts,
rivers that crossed state boundaries and battles over who had first dibs on the water. He'll deal with all
those issues on a larger scale as head of the Bureau of Reclamation.
Read entire article HERE.
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Oklahoma City's water supply holds steady despite below-average rainfall
After steadily dropping through the summer, water levels at the six reservoirs where the Oklahoma City
draws water have hovered at a combined 52 percent of total capacity since late November. City officials
say cooler weather has helped keep water consumption in check.
by Silas Allen Modified: December 18, 2014 at 8:17 pm * Published: December 18, 2014
photo of jogger at Lake Hefner - Photo by Sarah Phipps
Despite below-average rainfall, Oklahoma City's drinking water supply has held steady for several
After steadily dropping through the summer, water levels at the six reservoirs where the city draws water
have hovered at a combined 52 percent of total capacity since late November. City officials say cooler
weather has helped keep water consumption in check.
The city's accessible water supply stood at 52.24 percent of its total capacity Wednesday. City residents
are under mandatory, permanent odd-even watering restrictions, meaning residents with even-numbered
addresses can water on even-numbered days and residents at odd-numbered addresses may water on
odd-numbered days. More severe restrictions would take effect if the available water level dips below 50
Read entire article HERE.
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Benefits of Colorado River pulse flow start to show
Courtesy of NASA
This image of the Colorado River produced by National Aeronautics and Space Administration imaging technology, shows the changes in
vegetation before and after the Minute 319 pulse flow that started in March 2014. Green areas represent places where vegetation was
healthier and greener after the pulse flow. .
December 18, 2014 5:30 am * EMERY COWAN Sun Staff Reporter
Until last spring, it had been 13 years since the waters of the Colorado River had reached the Sea of
Cortez. Instead of the lush riparian area it once was, the Colorado River Delta has become a parched
But during the last week in March, water again started creeping through the dry expanse, meandering
toward the ocean thanks to a historic agreement between the United States and Mexico to help restore
the delta. Part of the policy agreement, named Minute 319 for a decision by a boundary commission,
called for a pulse flow of 105,392 acre-feet of water that would mimic natural spring flooding.
In the months since the event, scientists monitoring the pulse flow have started to see signs that the
water did in fact produce the ecological jolt that governments, scientists and conservationists were
hoping would occur.
Read entire article HERE.
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I-Team: Water pipeline leads to years of court battles
Posted: Dec 17, 2014 5:48 PM ESTUpdated: Dec 18, 2014 4:16 AM EST
By Glen Meek, I-Team Reporter | By Kyle Zuelke, Photojournalist
John Entsminger, SNWA general manager
-- The Southern Nevada Water Authority is moving ahead with plans to import water to the Las Vegas
valley from underground aquifers in rural parts of Nevada.
But is the plan still workable after decades of court battles over the environmental impact of a giant
The pipeline would run across 300 miles of public land and requires federal approval. There are serious
concerns about the project -- which include predictions of devastating environmental effects.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority recently had a literal breakthrough.
"The tunnel boring machine, after excavating three miles under Lake Mead over the past three years,
encountered and began penetrating the intake structure that has been waiting patiently on the bottom of
Lake Mead," said Marc Jensen, SNWA engineering director.
But amid cheers about progress on a third intake to draw water from Lake Mead, the water authority took
action with much less fanfare on another multi-billion dollar project. The board decided to move forward
with a plan to build a 300-mile long pipeline to pump water to Las Vegas from sources in rural Nevada.
Read entire article HERE.
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