NEWS WORTH NOTING: House passes bill to support critical water infrastructure for tribes, local communities; Grijalva: Republicans still scamming the public on Endangered Species Act; Weekly water and climate report

From the House Committee on Natural Resources:

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3281, the Reclamation Title Transfer and Non-Federal Infrastructure Incentivization Act. Introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), this bipartisan bill establishes a voluntary, streamlined process for local utilities, states or tribes to pursue title transfers.

“Our communities can’t flourish without access to water. That’s why this bill provides needed reforms that give localities more control over their own water resources. We need to bring our nation’s water infrastructure into the 21st century. This bill does that while saving money for taxpayers and providing the flexibility needed for water users in our western states. I’m grateful for Rep. Lamborn’s hard work on this legislation and look forward to working with the Senate to move this bill to the president’s desk,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) stated.

“I am pleased to have introduced and help pass the Reclamation Title Transfer and Non-Federal Infrastructure Incentivization Act. This Act will streamline the administrative process and remove cumbersome, bureaucratic hurdles for the Interior Department. Federal water projects have been a critical asset to many Colorado farmers for generations. The Bureau of Reclamation has played an essential role in constructing many of these facilities. However, over the years, populations in the west have continued to grow while the infrastructure aged. Many facilities are in disrepair and require new investment. Uncertain federal funding and burdensome regulation cripple development of critical water resources. This Act maintains congressional oversight while granting local water districts the flexibility to fulfill the needs of their communities. H.R. 3281 allows districts to leverage local investment and encourages local control. I support this Act to ensure Colorado’s agriculture will continue to prosper and our communities to grow and flourish,” Rep. Lamborn said.

Background:

Currently, local water managers, who are already responsible for operation and maintenance of Bureau of Reclamation water projects, require an Act of Congress to take ownership of a federally owned water facility.

H.R. 3281 allows the administration to develop title transfer agreements with utilities and authorize the transfer administratively, while still retaining Congressional oversight over each transfer.

Stakeholder support for this legislation includes:

“The Family Farm Alliance strongly supports this legislation. Under currently law, Reclamation can contract out operation and maintenance to nonfederal entities such as water districts, but can’t transfer ownership without an act of Congress. This bill would authorize Reclamation to transfer ownership to other entities administratively and provide Congress a window to disapprove the transfer.” – Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance

“We appreciate your leadership on the many issues facing our nation’s water suppliers and urge passage of H.R. 3281. Once enacted into law, H.R. 3281 will ensure there is a workable title transfer process. Without it, irrigation districts seeking a title transfer would have to reply on Congress to specifically authorizes their transfer. To date, Congress has only authorized 30 transfers.” – Charles Freeman, district manager of the Kennewick Irrigation District

“The Authority commends the Committee and the sponsors of H.R. 3281 for developing legislation to facilitate the title transfer process, and the Authority supports its passage by the House. H.R. 3281 would streamline the title transfer process while continuing to guard the interests of the public, the environment and the Federal Treasury. In doing so, the legislation would provide an incentive for the Authority and similar agencies West-wide to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of title transfer and to actively engage Reclamation in discussions that could produce benefits for water users and the Federal government alike.” – Jason Phillips, CEO of the Friant Water Authority

Grijalva: Republicans Still Scamming the Public on Endangered Species Act, Pushing Destructive Corporate Favors as “Reform”

From the Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee:

Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva today said that House Republicans’ announcement this afternoon of a suite of nine bills that gut the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is part of their undisguised years-long pattern of pushing unpopular, environmentally destructive favors for corporate supporters. Grijalva questioned the thinking behind Republicans’ in-your-face partisan destruction of one of America’s bedrock environmental laws.

Without the ESA, Grijalva pointed out, species like grizzly bears, gray wolves and bald eagles would never have recovered from their drastic, human-caused population declines. Grijalva questioned Republicans’ frequent insistence that the law needs major reforms given the ESA’s notable successes and the fact that 90 percent of listed species are recovering within their scientifically expected timeframes.

“Republicans in Congress are scamming the public as a favor for their corporate supporters, not making serious policy, and there’s no reason it should advance any further,” Grijalva said today. “To judge by their actions rather than their words, the only things they see when they look at the natural world is dollars that aren’t in their pockets yet. They don’t seem to care how many endangered species have to die for them to build one more mine, dig one more oil well or install one more pipeline. They have sacrificed every other value we hold dear in the pursuit of a quick buck, and they’re doing a poor job of hiding it.”

Despite constant, misleading Republican rhetoric to the contrary, the law already allows for flexibility in protecting endangered wildlife and requires that federal, state, tribal and local officials work together to prevent extinction. Species are only listed under the ESA after state management has proved insufficient to protect habitat and prevent extinction, calling into question Republicans’ rote demands for state authority.

Weekly water and climate report: Southwest monsoon season arrives

From the USDA:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

Severe thunderstorms, high winds, and heavy rain from the first major storm of the monsoon season caused damage throughout Phoenix and surrounding towns in Arizona this week.  The high winds caused home and building damage, power outages, and arrived with a haboob of blowing dust. The precipitation led to flash flooding in the area and was reportedly responsible for a train derailment.

Flash flood watches and warnings are currently posted from southern California to New Mexico and southern Colorado.

Although the start of the monsoon provides welcome rain to relieve the extremely dry conditions in the region, much more precipitation will be needed to increase soil moisture and streamflows to more normal conditions.

Click here to read the report.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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