Government Goings-on — July 2015

alDulaneyby Alan Dulaney

All’s quiet on the State front, but not so on the Federal level. And like water, some Federal actions and resources will flow downhill to our level.

Almost every state agency in Texas that has anything to do with water has joined in a complaint filed in Federal court on June 29. Texas seeks a judgment that the recent rule on Waters of the United States, promulgated by the EPA and Corps of Engineers, is unconstitutional and must be overturned. The WOTUS issue remains a hot stinking mess, and Texas isn’t the only state filing a court challenge; Arizona with 12 other states sued as well. I think WOTUS is almost certainly headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the confusion over the WOTUS definition originated in 2006 with the Rapanos decision. Section 404 permit applications depend on the WOTUS definition. Which is why AHS is offering a workshop at the 2015 Annual Symposium on this subject. If your business touches on Section 404 permitting or surface water in general, you need to attend this year’s Annual Symposium (click here to register online.)

California’s Congressional delegation is busily drafting legislation to apply Federal resources to the ongoing extreme drought. The most comprehensive bill seen so far is that authored by Congressman Jared Huffman, who proposes both emergency measures and long-range planning. EPA, the Corps, and Bureau of Reclamation would be the big winners in this $1.365 billion (by my count) bonanza, but there is money for many other agencies and programs as well. Some of that is bound to spill over into Arizona and other Western states.

On the Colorado River, May runoff has apparently been more than expected. Projected water level elevations at Lake Mead likely will not trigger a shortage declaration for 2016. The late advent of a weak El Nino phenomenon has helped. But one month doesn’t cure the effects of 15 years of drought. The probabilities of a shortage declaration for 2017 remain high.

Water scarcity is a fact of life in the semi-arid West. As hydrologists and water professionals, we need to explain the facts to the public and decision-makers. And that is another reason you need to sharpen your knowledge skills by attending the 2015 Annual Symposium in Phoenix!

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