NEWS WORTH NOTING: Westlands Statement on May 2019 CVP allocation increase; Wildlife Conservation Board funds projects; CDFW awarded $8.5M to expand nutria eradication; EPA Spring 2019 Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions; Chair Grijalva cheers enviro funding bills, strong conservation support

Westlands Statement on May 2019 allocation increase

Today the Bureau of Reclamation announced an increased allocation to 70 percent for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project agricultural water service contractors.

This increase is welcome, however, given continued wet hydrologic conditions and current Central Valley Project (CVP) reservoir storage, which is well above the long-term average, it is difficult to comprehend why the allocation remains below 100 percent.

Thomas Birmingham, Westlands Water District’s General Manager, stated: “the 2019 water year will go down as one of the wettest years on record. Reclamation’s inability to provide south-of-Delta CVP water service contractors with full contract supplies is further evidence of the draconian impact ineffective regulations have had on water supplies for people.

These regulations, theoretically intended to protect at-risk fish species, have strangled water supplies while continuously failing to provide effective protection for the species – all of which have continued to decline.

It is for this reason Reclamation has reinitiated consultation on the long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. This consultation enables the development of new biological opinions based on science developed over the last decade. It is the District’s greatest hope these new biological opinions will abandon restrictions on CVP operations that are unsupported by science and lead to absurd water supply reductions. The new biological opinions must protect at-risk fish species from the risk of extinction without unreasonably tying the hands of project operators. The best science currently available has demonstrated that both of these objectives can be accomplished simultaneously.”

Birmingham added, “Decisions that affect CVP water allocations are not the product of some objective formula. Rather, these decisions reflect the exercise of discretion by agency staff, and these decisions affect people and the environment. These decisions affect how much land farmers can plant, how many people will be employed on farms, and how much consumers will pay for food produced by farmers and the people they employ. These decisions affect businesses and communities in every region of the San Joaquin Valley. These decisions affect how much groundwater will be pumped from overdrafted groundwater basins.”

Birmingham continued, “I know that Reclamation staff understands the consequences of the decisions they make. This understanding is demonstrated by their diligent work to revise biological opinions that have produced no tangible benefits for at-risk fish species and have decimated its ability to supply water. The District hopes its colleagues in other federal and state agencies understand and consider the effects on people caused by their exercise of discretion. Further, the District hopes that as a result of work being done by these government officials on the new biological opinions and on voluntary agreements to address the reasonable protection of beneficial uses of water for fish and wildlife in the Bay-Delta watershed, future operations of the CVP will be sufficiently flexible to meet the water supply needs of people.”

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

From the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

At its May 22 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $15 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 21 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Funded projects include:

A $400,000 grant to Pacific Forest Trust for a cooperative project with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mitsubishi Foundation, New Belgium Brewing Company, Flora L. Thornton Foundation, and Mary A. Crocker Trust to plan for climate resilience in key Sacramento River watersheds spanning eight northern California counties.

A $197,000 grant to the California Audubon Society for a cooperative project with Point Blue Conservation Science and the Grassland Water District to develop regional water budget models that display future Central Valley wetland water needs under climate change scenarios in Butte, Merced, Tulare and Kern counties.

A $176,000 grant to the Sacramento Valley Conservancy for a cooperative project with the Sacramento County Department of Water Resources and Recreational Equipment, Inc. to expand public access, improve a parking lot, install educational signs and implement water-efficient landscaping on 11 acres of the State Lands Commission’s Camp Pollock property on the American River.

A $430,100 grant to Trout Unlimited for a cooperative project with the U.S. Forest Service and University of California, Merced for planning and environmental compliance to restore nine montane meadows totaling approximately 75 acres of the Sierra National Forest in Madera and Fresno counties.

A $1 million grant to the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts for a cooperative project with the California Department of Conservation, California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Point Blue Conservation Science, the Smith River Alliance and 10 Resource Conservation Districts. The project will provide technical assistance creating conservation carbon farm plans and developing conservation practice designs that will provide wildlife-enhancing, climate-beneficial management options for producers on working landscapes in nine California counties.

A $1.4 million grant to Ducks Unlimited, Inc. for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to restore wetland fields along the auto tour route within CDFW’s Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Butte County.

A $4 million grant for the acquisition of approximately 1,781 acres of land by CDFW for a cooperative project with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, American River Conservancy, and California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) for the protection and preservation of riparian and oak woodland habitat, and deer and mountain lion habitat, and to provide for potential future wildlife-oriented public use opportunities in El Dorado County.

A $3.2 million grant to the Escondido Creek Conservancy for a cooperative project with CNRA to acquire approximately 282 acres of land for the protection of oak woodlands, grasslands, plants and chaparral that support a variety of wildlife including deer and mountain lion. This purchase will also increase the protection of regional wildlife habitat corridors and provide potential future wildlife-oriented public use opportunities in an unincorporated area in north San Diego County.

For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

CDFW Awarded $8.5 Million to Expand Nutria Eradication Operations; Nutria Confirmed in Stockton, Heart of the Delta

From the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today was awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria eradication operations.

The funding was awarded in a competitive process as part of the Delta Conservancy’s Proposition 1 Ecosystem Restoration and Water Quality Grant Program. The money complements state funding anticipated in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019-20 budget, which together will establish a dedicated Nutria Eradication Program within CDFW and vastly expand field operations across the entire area of infestation.

The grant funding represents the second, significant award from the Delta Conservancy. In 2018, the Delta Conservancy awarded CDFW $1.2 million over three years that, along with grants from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant Program, largely enabled CDFW’s eradication efforts to get off the ground.

To date, CDFW has prioritized detection and eradication efforts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to limit the invasive rodents’ spread and impact on California’s most important water resource and the heart of the state’s water delivery and infrastructure.

Last week, CDFW confirmed via trail camera video the first nutria detected in Stockton. This is the northernmost nutria detected to date and is approximately 16 river miles north of the nearest known nutria population near Manteca, where CDFW and its partners have been actively trapping. The Stockton detection is within the heart of the Delta. CDFW immediately responded with trapping in the area, redirecting additional resources to the Delta, and surveying for upstream source populations.

Since first discovering nutria in Merced County in 2017, CDFW and its partner agencies have taken or confirmed the take of 510 nutria in five counties – 430 from Merced County, 65 from San Joaquin County, 12 from Stanislaus County, two from Mariposa County and one from Fresno County. Nutria have also been confirmed in Tuolumne County.

Nutria, which are native to South America, have established populations in more than a dozen states, including Oregon, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, and the Delmarva Peninsula region of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

In California, nutria pose a significant threat as an agricultural pest, a destroyer of critical wetlands needed by native wildlife, and a public safety risk as their destructive burrowing jeopardizes the state’s water delivery and flood control infrastructure. CDFW is working with both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to eradicate nutria from the state.

Any suspected nutria sightings should be reported immediately to CDFW’s toll-free public reporting hotline at (866) 440-9530. The e-mail address to report sightings is invasives@wildlife.ca.gov. CDFW’s nutria eradication webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/nutria offers references for identifying nutria and distinguishing nutria from other similar aquatic animals.

EPA Spring 2019 Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions Shows Commitment to Strong Environmental Protection and Regulatory Reform

From the US EPA:

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the rest of the federal government, released the Spring 2019 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which provides updates to the public about regulatory activity. EPA’s Spring 2019 Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions continues to support President Trump’s commitment to regulatory reform while simultaneously advancing the Agency’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment.

“From reducing NOx emissions from heavy-duty trucks to cost-benefit reforms to addressing emerging chemicals of concern, EPA’s latest regulatory agenda reflects the Trump Administration’s commitment to protecting the nation’s air, water, and land while at the same time alleviating unnecessary regulatory burdens,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.  “The Spring Regulatory Agenda lays out our regulatory reforms that will reduce pollution and support the President’s historic economic growth – the combination of which improves lives and the environment.”

EPA’s Spring Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions shows continued progress in reducing regulatory burden as envisioned by Executive Order 13771.  Along with 35 actions that are appearing for the first time, this agenda lists 57 actions that are expected to be deregulatory. Examples of both include:

  • The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks
  • Regulatory Determinations for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFAS)
  • Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehciles: Heavy-Duty Engine Standards
  • On-Highway Heavy-Duty Trailers: Review of Standards and Requirements
  • Clarification of State Certification Procedures Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act
  • Clean Air Act Benefit-Cost Reforms
  • Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration
  • Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act; Reconsideration of Amendments
  • Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States
  • Pesticides; Agricultural Worker Protection Standard; Revision of the Application Exclusion Zone Requirements

To access EPA’s Spring Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions:  https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaMain.

To access EPA and other agencies’ regulatory budgets: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaEO13771

For more information about regulatory reform at EPA:
https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/epa-deregulatory-actions

Chair Grijalva Cheers Environmental Funding Bills as House Appropriators Provide Strong Conservation Support, Oversight of Trump Admin Efforts

From the House Natural Resources Committee:

Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today thanked the House Appropriations Committee for increasing environmental funding in a pair of fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills, which now head to the House floor. The Committee’s just-approved bills – one for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies and the other for Commerce, Justice and Science – provide crucial funding support for Department of the Interior and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conservation and science programs that President Trump’s budget proposal nearly eliminates.

“A Democratic majority in the House of Representatives means conservation and science get the funding they need, not starvation budgets and excuses about keeping Big Oil happy,” Grijalva said today. “What a government chooses to support should reflect what the people value, and these bills reflect the public demand for action on climate change and strong conservation of our natural resources. This is just the beginning of the work House Democrats are doing to protect our planet and make sure Americans have the highest quality of life possible.”

Grijalva especially thanked Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Betty McCollum, and Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair José Serrano for making environment quality – and oversight of the Trump administration’s environmental agenda – a priority.

Key Democratic priorities in the appropriations bills include:

Increased Oversight Funds for Department of the Interior

Nearly $56 million for the Office of Inspector General, approximately $4 million above the enacted level and $4 million above the president’s budget. Report language directs the Department to use the increase of funds to hire auditors, investigators and mission support staff to meet workload requirements.

$1 million increase for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. This increase is directed to be used for the hiring of additional personnel to assist the Department with its compliance and backlog of FOIA requests.

Halting Trump’s Department of Interior Reorganization

The Interior funding bill denies funding for President Trump’s unjustified reorganization of the Department of the Interior, noting in the bill, “On numerous occasions the Committee has sought background information to substantiate the costs of the reorganization but has not received even the most rudimentary data explaining how such costs eventually pay for themselves or translate into better service for the American public.”

Oil Leasing at the Department of the Interior

The bill requires the Department of the Interior to report all regulatory waivers, departures, and alternative compliances it approves when issuing offshore drilling permits.

The bill also requires the Department of the Interior to set a revenue floor for any Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lease sale in FY 2020. The provision requires a minimum bid necessary to meet the Administration’s unrealistic revenue projections.

Requiring Environmental Review For Boundary Waters

Language included in the bill specifies that no action to advance mining in the Boundary Waters area of Minnesota should occur until outstanding questions are answered and a key environmental study is completed and reviewed:

“Until the departments address the question of whether mining, especially copper-sulfide ore mining, is appropriate on National Forest System lands in the Rainy River Watershed, no action to advance mining in this area should occur… Accordingly, the Committee directs the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Forest Service, to reinstate and complete the Rainy River Watershed mineral withdrawal study…. Further, the Committee directs that the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture shall…forego taking any action that would advance mining within the watershed during the period of study and review.”

Funding our National Parks & Protecting Public Lands

The bill provides $523.9 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including $244 million for the federal program and $280 million for state programs.  The total is $85 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $491 million above the president’s budget request.

$3.39 billion for the National Park Service, $168 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $649 million above the president’s budget request. Within this amount, the bill includes:

  • $2.65 billion for Operation of the National Park System, $144 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $221 million above the president’s budget request. This increase includes funding for 500 new staff at park units.
  • $74 million for National Recreation and Preservation, $9 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $41 million above the president’s budget request.
  • $122 million for the Historic Preservation Fund, $19 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $89 million above the president’s budget request. Within this amount, the bill includes $67 million for State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, $16 million for Save America’s Treasures grants, $23 million for competitive grants to preserve the sites and stories of underrepresented community civil rights, and $10 million for grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

$657 million for Deferred Maintenance, including Construction, Cyclic Maintenance, Repair and Rehabilitation activities, which is equal to the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $135 million above the president’s budget request.

Indian Country Programs

$3.5 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education, $432 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $739 million above the president’s budget request.

The bill accepts the proposed separation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. Amounts below reflect the separation. Within the $3.5 billion, the bill includes:

  • $1.7 billion for operation of Bureau of Indian Affairs Operation of Indian Programs, $141 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level for the same programs and $188 million above the president’s budget request.
  • $146 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs Construction, $26 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level for the same programs and $88 million above the president’s budget request.
  • $12.8 million for the Indian Guaranteed Loan Program, $2 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $12 million above the president’s budget request.
  • $1 billion for Bureau of Indian Education Operation of Indian Programs, $96 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level for the same programs and $133 million above the president’s budget request.
  • $387 million to Bureau of Indian Education Construction, $149 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level for the same programs and $318 million above the president’s budget request.
  • Fully funds Contract Support Costs.

Increasing the Insular Affairs Budget

$117 million for the Office of Insular Affairs, $13 million above the 2019 enacted level and $33 million above the president’s budget request.

Protecting Wildlife and Endangered Species

$289 million for Ecological Services to support the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), $37.2 million above the FY19 enacted level and $49 million above the president’s budget request. Within this amount, the bill includes:

  • $23.4 million for Species Listing, $5.1 million above FY19 enacted and $12.4 million above the president’s budget.
  • $113 million for Planning and Consultation, $6.9 million above FY19 enacted and $5.5 million above the president’s budget.
  • $34.7 million for Conservation and Restoration, $2.3 million above FY19 enacted and $8.2 million above the president’s budget.
  • $117.9 for Recovery, $22.8 million above FY19 and $22.9 million above the president’s budget.

A nearly $5 million increase for extinction prevention programs for critically endangered species at the brink of extinction:

“The Service is encouraged to use this increase to develop and support dedicated extinction prevention programs for critically endangered species at the brink of extinction, including, but not limited to, species such as listed Hawaiian plants and forest birds, freshwater mussels, and butterflies, and to report back to the Committee within 90 days of enactment of this Act on the establishment of these programs.”

The bill voices deep concern that Trump administration de-listing and down-listing decisions for endangered species are based more on politics than science. The bill includes language and funding to address this:

“The recommendation does not accept the proposed budget reductions for de-listing and down-listing, State of the Birds, White Nose Syndrome, Prescott Grant Program and Wolf Livestock Demonstration Program, and includes a total of $8,000,000 for Recovery Challenge grants.”

National Wildlife Refuge System Law Enforcement

The Interior funding bill provides $45.3 million for law enforcement of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is intended to provide an additional 40 full-time positions to be dispersed nationwide to ensure every refuge has law enforcement coverage.

Protecting wildlife from the Proposed Border Wall

The bill requires the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to provide a report to the Committee identifying the impacts of the Southern border wall on wildlife and imperiled species. Chair Grijalva strongly opposes the border wall proposal and thanked the Committee for acknowledging its severe environmental impacts.

NOAA Scientific Research and Public Partnerships

 The bill denies the president’s request to eliminate several grant programs and public partnerships that help the country prepare for climate change and rising sea levels. The bill provides:

  • $81 million for Coastal Zone Management Grants, $5.5 million above 2019 enacted level. The president’s budget request eliminates the program.
  • $60 million for the Title IX Fund for coastal resilience, $30 million above the 2019 enacted level. The president’s budget request eliminates the program.
  • $73 million for the National Sea Grant College Program, $5 million above 2019 enacted level. The president’s budget request eliminates the program.
  • $12 million for Sea Grant’s Marine Aquaculture Program to research safe and sustainable aquaculture, the same as the 2019 enacted level. The president’s budget request eliminates the program. Report language encourages NOAA to partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to reach urban communities impacted by rising seafood prices.
  • $29 million for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, $2 million above 2019 enacted levels. The president’s budget request eliminates the program.

NOAA Ability to Recover Protected Species

$325 million for marine mammal, sea turtle, Atlantic salmon, Pacific salmon, species recovery grants, and North Atlantic right whale recovery, $7.6 million above 2019 enacted levels and $18.9 million above the president’s budget request.

$65 million for Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery. The president’s budget request eliminates the program.

$73.5 million for fisheries enforcement, $3.7 million above 2019 enacted levels and $19.4 million above the president’s budget request.  This includes Joint Enforcement Agreements that leverage state and territorial law enforcement capabilities through the Cooperative Enforcement Program, which the president’s budget request would eliminate.

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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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