Oregon Legislators Ask Congress to Renew America’s Water

By Julia DeGraw and Ronnette Steed

May 22, 2013

It’s been a good week for clean water lovers. On Monday, May 20, the Oregon State Legislature gave final passage to a memorial to Renew America’s Water with overwhelming bipartisan support as the Senate voted 29-0 on passage. The House previously passed House Joint Memorial 7 by a vote of 55-0.

HJM 7 calls on Congress to reinvest in our deteriorating water infrastructure and it sets an important precedent for other states to follow. The resounding endorsement of the Oregon Legislature to adequately fund our sewer and drinking water systems is something Republicans and Democrats both agree on. Updating and maintaining our public water systems creates much-needed jobs in both urban and rural communities, improves the environmental quality of our lakes, rivers and beaches and ensures clean, safe water for kids in our schools and for families across America.

HJM Chief Sponsor Representative Michael Dembrow (D-45) summed up the need for reinvestment in our water systems with this statement:

“Safe, clean water is one of the most precious public resources that we have. Across Oregon and the rest of this country, our public drinking water and wastewater systems are facing a crisis. These public water systems have provided clean, affordable water to generations, but they are falling into a state of disrepair. Congress must act now to increase investment in state revolving loan programs that assist communities with repairing and upgrading their water infrastructure, to maintain access to affordable water.”

According to a Congressional Budget Office 2010 report, federal investment in water and sewer systems has fallen 82 percent from 1977 to 2009 from about $15.6 billion per year to a mere $2.8 billion. The dismal amount money set aside by Congress also varies widely from year to year, which means municipal public utilities cannot rely on that money to plan important projects. Our public water and sewer utilities need an adequate and reliable source of funding from the federal government. With water systems and pipes built 50 to 100 years ago aging out and new rules for water quality from the EPA, it is high time to bring our public water systems into the 21st century.

Getting our water systems up to snuff and properly maintained isn’t just critical for public health and safety, but it is also good business. If Congress fills the budget gaps for our aging water infrastructure it could create over 5,000 jobs in Oregon alone. Most of those jobs would be in rural communities that need the economic boost the most.

Congress could create jobs, boost the economy, improve the environment and ensure clean safe water for the majority of Americans by passing legislation to Renew America’s water. We have a trust fund for transportation; having one for our water systems is long overdue. If Republicans and Democrats in the Oregon State Legislature can get together to support a full-fledged endorsement to fix our water systems, hopefully they can motivate Congress to do the same.

Ronnette Steed is a Food & Water Watch volunteer in Portland, Ore.

Source:  http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/victory-oregon-legislators-ask-congress-to-renew-americas-water/

Stricter Water Quality Standards for Temperature May Be Coming to Oregon

By Daniel L. Timmons

May 23, 2013

After rejecting revisions to Oregon’s water quality standards last year, a federal court has now approved two related settlements reached among EPA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), and an environmental group that effectively amend the existing standards. Under the new rules, Oregon regulators will no longer have flexibility to deviate from statewide numeric maximum temperature criteria, even for streams that naturally supported healthy salmon populations despite temperatures exceeding the numeric criteria. Oregon’s agricultural and forest products industries may face new compliance challenges as stricter water quality temperature standards are implemented and applied to the activities of these industries. The settlement agreements, however, may be subject to challenge in light of a recent Ninth Circuit decision[1] that limits the ability of federal agencies to use private settlement agreements to modify broadly-applicable regulations. See related article in this edition of the Marten Law Newsletter, M. Conway, D. Timmons, Ninth Circuit Rejects Use of Consent Decree to Short-Circuit Rulemaking Procedures.

Oregon’s Water Quality Temperature Standards

Section 303 of the CWA requires states to set water quality standards that must be approved by EPA. Of critical importance in the Pacific Northwest are maximum temperature criteria established to support salmon, bull trout and other cold-water fish species. With the listing of salmon species and bull trout under the Endangered Species Act in the 1990’s, temperature standards have taken on new importance, and are now a central concern of environmental groups.

When water quality standards are not met on a particular stream, states are required to list the stream as Section 303(d) water quality limited, and to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) limiting the total discharge to the stream. While EPA has no authority to regulate non-point source pollution under the CWA, TMDLs must be set by states and approved by EPA even on streams impaired only by non-point sources of pollution.[2] Importantly, water quality standards and TMDLs are then used by states to develop programs for the management of non-point source pollution. Thus, EPA’s authority to review TMDLs provides the federal agency with a mechanism to indirectly regulate non-point source activities, such as agriculture and forestry.

Revising Oregon’s Water Quality Standards – Easier Said than Done

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) has been discussing revisions to its water quality standards for nearly two decades. In 1996, ODEQ submitted revised temperature standards and other water quality criteria to EPA for approval as required under Section 303(c) of the CWA. After consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), EPA partially approved Oregon’s standards, but rejected temperature standards for salmonids migrating and rearing in the Lower Willamette River. When neither ODEQ nor EPA took any action to develop new standards, an environmental group, Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. In 2003, the court ordered EPA to develop its own water quality standards for Oregon. Nw. Envtl. Advocates v. EPA (Nw. Environmental Advocates I), 268 F. Supp. 2d 1255 (D. Or. 2003).

EPA then developed and published draft rules, but the rules were never finalized. See EPA’s Proposed Rule for Water Quality Standards for the State of Oregon, 68 Fed. Reg. 58,758 (Oct. 11, 2003). Instead, after further ESA consultation, EPA approved new water quality standards developed by ODEQ in March 2004. Once again, NWEA challenged EPA’s approval of the standards under the CWA and ESA, and the federal district court again rejected EPA’s approval of certain aspects of Oregon’s water quality standards related to temperature. Nw. Envtl. Advocates v. EPA (Nw. Envtl. Advocates II), 855 F. Supp. 2d 1199 (D. Or. 2012). This case was previously discussed in this Newsletter. D. MacDougal & D. Till, Split Decision on Oregon’s New Temperature Water Quality Standards, Marten Law, Environmental News (Apr. 10, 2012).

Alternative Compliance for Forestry and Agriculture

Among the challenges brought by NWEA was a challenge to Oregon rules that deem compliance with water quality regulations enacted pursuant to the Oregon’s Forest Practices Act[3] and Agricultural Water Quality Management Act[4] to be sufficient to meet the state’s CWA water quality standards. Those statutes and related regulatory requirements already provide comprehensive programs and require “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) to minimize water quality impacts of forestry and agricultural activities. For example, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) rules require written plans for operations near waterways, and provide riparian vegetation retention requirements as well as protection measures for springs, wetlands, lakes and other sensitive waters.[5] Under Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) rules, local water quality management areas have been created, and local area management plans have been developed to manage agricultural runoff and protect the quality of Oregon’s waters.[6] In recognition of these numerous regulatory requirements already placed upon the forestry and agriculture industries, ODEQ rules provide that compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements of the Forest Practices Act or the Agricultural Water Quality Management Act is deemed to be compliance with the temperature water quality standards.[7]

NWEA challenged the ODEQ rules, arguing that the ODF and ODA regulations were de facto water quality standards that required EPA review and approval. Alternatively, NWEA argued that even if they were not water quality standards, they must nonetheless be reviewed by EPA because they affect water quality standards. EPA and ODEQ argued that they were not water quality standards requiring EPA approval, but simply detailed activities required for compliance with such standards. Further, EPA argued that it lacks authority to regulate non-point sources of pollution, such as agricultural or forestry practices, and so could not lawfully review these regulations.

The court agreed with NWEA, ruling that although the compliance standards “do not meet the traditional definition of water quality standards insofar as they do not ‘express constituent concentration, levels, or narrative statements, representing a quality of water that supports a particular use,’” they were “intrinsically intertwined with the promulgated water quality standards and have the potential to supplant, or at the very least, delay the attainment of those standards.” [8] The court reasoned that that the challenged provisions could hinder the attainment of water quality standards in the numerous Oregon rivers impaired by nonpoint source pollution because activities contributing to impairment would be deemed to be in compliance with the standards.

The court concluded that EPA has a nondiscretionary duty to review nonpoint source provisions “which are part and parcel of Oregon’s water quality standards, insofar as the provisions affect how, whether, and when those standards apply to bodies of water.”[9] This is potentially problematic, since EPA has no authority to actually regulate non-point source pollution. By requiring EPA to determine with ODEQ’s BMPs for forestry and agriculture are lawful, EPA will arguably be required to make a de facto judgment as to what BMPs are best – a result that could be viewed as an unlawful regulation of nonpoint sources by EPA.

The Natural Conditions Criteria

Also among the standards at issue in Nw. Environmental Advocates II was Oregon’s Natural Conditions Criteria (NCC), which provides that where ODEQ finds that a waterway’s temperature under natural conditions would exceed the numeric temperature criterion, then the less-protective, higher temperature natural conditions are automatically “deemed to be the applicable temperature criteria for that water body.”[10] While EPA approved this criteria based on its understanding that natural temperature conditions historically supported healthy salmonids populations, NWEA argued that the criteria failed to account for other factors that now limit the ability of cold-water fish to survive and recover under a natural temperature profile, including reduced population numbers, habitat degradation, and limited availability of cold water refugia. NWEA also noted that after promulgating the NCC, ODEQ applied it without exception when setting new temperature TMDLs, effectively swallowing the numeric criteria.[11] This widespread use of the NCC allegedly resulted in water quality standards set as high as 90˚ F, compared to the 64˚ F numeric criterion otherwise required for streams designated for salmon rearing and migration.

While narrative criteria are generally permitted under CWA regulations to “supplement” numeric criteria, the court found that the NCC instead “supplants rather than supplements the numeric criteria by allowing Oregon to replace the numeric criteria (determined to be protective of salmonids) with a new numeric standard during the TMDL process.”[12] In effect, the NCC effectively allowed ODEQ to replace the numeric standards approved by EPA with less-protective standards during the TMDL process, unlawfully circumventing the statutory requirement for EPA review and approval of all state water quality standards.[13] Accordingly, the court found that the NCC violated Section 303(c) of the CWA and rejected EPA’s approval of the flexible standard.

The Recent Settlement Agreements

In its February 2012 opinion, the court directed the parties to confer regarding remedies, resulting in an initial settlement of several issues, and a final settlement agreement resolving the remainder of the case. The initial settlement, approved by the court in January 2013, stays EPA’s review of the above-described forestry and agriculture BMPs, and requires ODEQ to propose amendments to the regulatory water quality standards to remove the forestry and agriculture BMPs from being deemed compliance with state water quality standards. If the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (OEQC) does not pass such amendments, then EPA must review the forestry and agriculture regulations as water quality standards under Section 303(c).

A recent Ninth Circuit case, Conservation Northwest v. Sherman (Conservation Northwest II), No. 11-35729, 2013 WL 1760807 (9th Cir. Apr. 25, 2013), however, may cast doubt upon the validity of this stipulated agreement. See M. Conway, D. Timmons, Ninth Circuit Rejects Use of Consent Decree to Short-Circuit Rulemaking Procedures, Marten Law, Environmental News (May 23, 2013). That case provides that EPA cannot enter into consent decrees that amend effectively amend regulations without going through otherwise required formal procedural requirements, and ODEQ is subject to similar procedural rulemaking requirements under the Oregon Administrative Procedures Act.[14] While the settlement agreement may not technically amend the ODEQ rules, it does define the content of the amendments that ODEQ is required to bring to the OEQC, thereby limiting public involvement in the drafting of the rules. Given the stipulation that EPA will review the rules if OEQC does not amend them accordingly, OEQC may have strong incentive to simply rubber-stamp ODEQ’s stipulated proposed amendments. While the public, including the agricultural and forestry industries, must be given an opportunity to provide comments on the proposed rules, this opportunity comes very late in the process. At the very least, this short-circuited procedure violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Oregon APA and the Oregon Legislative Assembly’s stated policy that “whenever possible the public be involved in the development of public policy by agencies and in the drafting of rules.”[15]

The final settlement agreement, approved by the court in April 2013, sets aside the NCC and remands it to EPA for review within 120 days under Section 303(c). Given the court’s prior rejection of the criteria as unlawful, EPA will presumably have little choice but to deny approval of the criteria. EPA or ODEQ may then promulgate replacement regulations. For example, new standards might provide that where a natural temperature profile is warmer than the numeric criterion, individual deviations from the numeric temperature criteria could be allowed upon EPA review and approval under Section 303(c). Alternatively, EPA may simply deny any future deviation from the numeric criteria. Affected industries should participate in any rulemaking process to help ensure that any new rules adequately take their interests into consideration.

While the EPA has agreed to once again review Oregon’s NCC and will likely amend or eliminate the provision, the Settlement Agreement provides that it does not “preclude NWEA from challenging any final agency actions taken pursuant to this Order.” Thus, future lawsuits will likely continue to arise as Oregon implements the amended standards through TMDLs for individual streams and development of management programs for achieving water quality goals.

Conclusions

Water quality temperature standards in the Pacific Northwest will remain a hot-button issue, particularly for non-point sources, such as agriculture and forestry. With the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Decker v. NEDC confirming that forest roads are not required to receive discharge permits under the CWA, see M. McCurdy, No Permit Required for Stormwater Discharges from Logging Roads, Supreme Court Rules; Attention Shifts to EPA Rulemaking, Marten Law, Environmental News (Mar. 25, 2013), the forest products industry should expect environmental groups to look closely at state-level BMPS and other regulations designed to address non-point source runoff.

While ODEQ has historically provided that compliance with BMPs provided under ODOF and ODA regulations was sufficient to demonstrate compliance with water quality standards, ODEQ must now propose amendments to its regulations to eliminate these exemptions. With continued efforts to restore listed salmonids and heightened attention on forestry and agricultural practices as non-point sources of thermal pollution, these industries should be prepared for new efforts by ODEQ to implement BMPs or other regulatory requirements designed to implement water quality temperature standards, including standards that may require improvement over natural conditions.

For more information, please contact Daniel Timmons or any other member of Marten Law’s Water Quality practice group.

[1] Conservation Northwest v. Sherman (Conservation Northwest II), No. 11-35729, 2013 WL 1760807 (9th Cir. Apr. 25, 2013).

[2] Pronsolino v. Nastri, 291 F.3d 1123, 1132 (9th Cir. 2002).

[3] ORS 527.610 to 527.992.

[4] ORS 568.900 to 568.933.

[5] OAR Chapter 629, Divisions 635 to 660 (Water Protection Rules).

[6] OAR Chapter 603, Divisions 090 to 095 (Agricultural Water Quality Management Program).

[7] OAR 340-041-0028(12)(e), (f).

[8] 855 F. Supp. 2d at 1209.

[9] Id. at 1212.

[10] OAR 340-041-0028(8).

[11] Nw. Envtl. Advocates II, 855 F. Supp. 2d at 1216.

[12] Id. at 1217–1218.

[13] Id. at 1218.

[14] ORS 183.310 et. seq.

[15] ORS 183.333(1).

Source: http://www.martenlaw.com/newsletter/20130523-oregon-stricter-water-quality-standards

There are alternatives to the Bay Delta Plan

C ross-posted from Restore the Delta | The Restore the Delta Coalition, which Alliance for Democracy supports, has put out an alternative proposal to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to meet California’s water needs without further damaging the Bay-Delta ecosystem.

Restore the Delta maintains that the “Responsible Exports Plan
by the Environmental Water Caucus, offers a truly comprehensive plan for both the Delta and the state.

The Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) is a statewide consortium of groups working to achieve comprehensive, sustainable water management solutions for all of California.   Among other measures, the EWC plan would:

  • Focus on fixing the South Delta pumps which will still be in use with the BDCP and several other alternative plans for the Delta, using known, not experimental technology.
  • Take only a sustainable yield of water from the Delta based on documented information regarding flow standards from the 1960s to the present 2010 State Water Resources Control Board hearings.  Presently, 3 million acre feet is the maximum safe yield amount for exports from the Delta.  This is the maximum cap in the EWC Plan.
  • Allow for habitat in the Delta with sufficient flow.  And it does so without weakening Delta communities by keeping habitat on already existing public lands and on wide levees.
  • Increase flow in the San Joaquin River, reduce reverse flow in Old River, and connect Delta flows to San Francisco Bay to enable salmon to reach the sea and return to spawn.
  • Improve water quality and quantity for all Delta communities.
  • Reduce discharges of salt, selenium and boron into the San Joaquin River that impair south and central Delta agriculture.
  • Not introduce new infrastructure into the heart of the Delta outside of Clifton Court.
  • Support wide levee standards set in the Delta Protection Commission’s Economic Sustainability Report.
  • Preserve the “common pool” in the Delta to ensure that Southern California will continue to have a stake in Delta protection.
  • Call for the largest investment in regional self-sufficiency. $2.7 billion, of all Delta plans in new regional water projects to conserve, recycle and reuse water outside of the Delta.  Studies predict that up to a million acre-feet of “new water” can be created for every $1 billion invested in water efficiency programs.
  • Generates jobs.  Economists estimate that investments in water efficiency projects create 10 to 20 jobs per $1 million spent.    BDCP estimates that it will only result in 5-7 jobs per $1 million spent.

The anticipated cost for all the strategies the EWC plan proposes works out under $10 billion, with a sustainable yield of Delta exports.  And it would provide south-of-Delta with about a million acre feet of more water than what is presently being exported.

From this starting point, the State can then contribute additional funds to construct new water efficiency projects to create “new water” as it sees fit in its budget.

And because the proposed water supply strategies are local and regional, the State won’t need to spend up to $55 billion over the next half century on a piece of infrastructure that will turn North Delta agricultural land into an industrial eyesore and be useless in a series of drought years.

May 28: Experts to Analyze Costs of Peripheral Tunnels:

Media Advisory |  Restore the Delta  will present a panel of experts to brief interested media on the cost and financial burden of the proposed Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), including Peripheral Tunnels, at 1:30pm on Tuesday, May 28, as the Brown Administration releases its financial impacts.

The panel will look at key questions such as : Whom would the Peripheral Tunnels benefit? What are the true costs of the Peripheral Tunnels? Who would pay? Is there a more cost-effective solution?

“The BDCP contemplates the largest public works project in our history,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “The State refuses to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis, in violation of its own policies.”

The panel of experts includes Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta; Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific; Adam Scow, Food & Water Watch; and Carolee Krieger, California Water Impact Network.

The panel can be listened to by calling 1-404-920-6442   Code: 593244#

For more information and contact details: visit Restore the Delta

Nestle Chairman Says Water Is Not a Human Right

Peter Brabeck

Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck

Keithpp’s Blog

April 15, 2013

In a candid interview for the documentary We Feed the World, Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck makes the astonishing claim that water isn’t a human right. He attacks the idea that nature is good, and says it is a great achievement that humans are now able to resist nature’s dominance. He attacks organic agriculture and says genetic modification is better. (View the video at http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/nestle-chairman-says-water-is-not-a-human-right/.)

Nestlé is the world’s biggest bottler of water. Brabeck claims – correctly – that water is the most important raw material in the world. However he then goes on to say that privatisation is the best way to ensure fair distribution. He claims that the idea that water is a human right comes from “extremist” NGOs. Water is a foodstuff like any other, and should have a market value.

He believes that the ultimate social responsibility of any Chairman is to make as much profit as possible, so that people will have jobs.

And just to underline what a lovely man he is, he also thinks we should all be working longer and harder.

Consequences of water privatisation

The consequences of water privatisation have been devastating on poor communities around the world. In South Africa, where the municipal workers’ union SAMWU fought a long battle against privatisation, there has been substantial research (pdf) about the effects. Water privatisation lead to a massive cholera outbreak in Durban in the year 2000.

The Nestlé boycott

Nestlé already has a very bad reputation among activists. There has been a boycott call since 1977. This is due to Nestlé’s aggressive lobbying to get women to stop breastfeeding – which is free and healthy – and use infant formula (sold by Nestlé) instead. Nestlé has lobbied governments to tell their health departments to promote formula. In poor countries, this has resulted in the deaths of babies, as women have mixed formula with contaminated water instead of breastfeeding.

Tell Nestlé they are wrong – water is a human right

There is Europe-wide campaign to tell the European Commission that water is a human right, and to ask them to enact legislation to ensure this is protected.

If you live in Europe, please sign the petition.

Original article published by Union Solidarity International.

 

 

Water war between Klamath River farmers, tribes poised to erupt

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — For decades this rural basin has battled over the Klamath River’s most precious resource: water that sustains fish, irrigates farms and powers the hydroelectric dams that block one of the largest salmon runs on the West Coast.

Now, one of the nation’s fiercest water wars is on the verge of erupting again.

New water rights have given a group of Oregon Indian tribes an upper hand just as the region plunges into a severe drought.

Farmers and wildlife refuges could be soon cut off by the Klamath Tribes, which in March were granted the Upper Klamath Basin’s oldest water rights to the lake and tributaries that feed the mighty river flowing from arid southern Oregon to the foggy redwoods of the Northern California coast.

Within weeks, the 3,700-member tribes are poised to make use of their new rights to maintain water levels for endangered Lost River and Shortnose suckers, fish they traditionally harvested for food. Under the “first in time, first in right” water doctrine that governs the West, the Klamath Tribes can cut off other water users when the river runs low.

Low flows have already raised tensions between tribes and farmers who draw from the river’s headwaters. Cutting off water this year could dry up farmland and bring that looming conflict to a head.

“A lot of people’s water could be shut off, and that has huge implications and it affects peoples’ livelihoods to the core,” said Jeff Mitchell, a tribal council member and its lead negotiator on water issues. “But I also look at our fishery that is on the brink of extinction. We have a responsibility to protect that resource, and we’ll do what we need to do to make sure that the fish survive.”

The tribes’ cutting off water could also spell the end to a fragile truce that was supposed to bring lasting peace to the river. A coalition of farmers, fishermen, tribes and environmentalists forged the Klamath Restoration Agreements three years ago to resolve the distribution of water and restore habitat and bring back salmon by removing four hydroelectric dams. But the deal has languished in Congress, and a year of drought and discord could unravel it for good.

Before the attempt at compromise, the Klamath had lurched from crisis to crisis for more than a decade: water shut-offs that left farmland fallow, flows so low they caused a mass fish die-off, recurring toxic algae blooms that fouled reservoirs, and salmon population declines that closed 700 miles of coastline to fishing.

The tribes fear that exercising their new water rights will make them a target for retaliation or violence. Klamath County is 86% white, and the long history between Indians and some farmers is strained.

Some of the farmers resented payments that some tribal members received after the U.S. government terminated their federal recognition and dissolved their reservation in the 1950s.

In recent months, members monitoring water levels have reported being threatened by farmers, and the tribes have sought assurances from law enforcement that they will be protected. State officials have taken the unusual step of assembling a 15-person Klamath Action Team to protect public safety and stave off water conflicts as the region plunges into a severe drought, said Richard Whitman, natural resources policy advisor to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

::

The truce was supposed to bring peace along the Klamath. Instead the discord has surged since it was signed and sent to Congress, where it has sat unsigned.

Several environmental groups say the deal provides too much water to irrigation interests and not enough for fish and wildlife. Conservative groups have organized in opposition to dam removal and the Endangered Species Act through the Tea Party Patriots and have unseated pro-restoration officials from local posts in the watershed’s upper basin. In February, the Klamath County Board of Commissioners voted to withdraw from the deal altogether.

Tom Mallams, a hay farmer and tea party member from Beatty, Ore., who was elected Klamath County Commissioner in November, said the new tribal water rights are being used as a hammer to try to force opponents to sign on to the deal.

“The supporters of this are desperate,” he said. “They’re making a last-ditch effort to make it go through right now because they know it’s dying. I think some people will sign on to it in sheer desperation, but there is no trust in those agreements.”

Becky Hyde, a cattle rancher who lives across the road from Mallams on one of the Klamath’s upper tributaries, is a close ally of the Klamath Tribes and worked for years to build support for the settlement. Now, she is trying to assess how many of her and her neighbors’ pastures will go dry.

“A year like this,” she said, “may be the only thing that gets the people who represent us in Congress to get serious.”

Under the settlement, the Klamath Tribes agreed not to use their water rights to shut down the largest group of irrigators. In exchange, the tribes would see restored habitat and the probable return of their salmon fishery and would regain some 92,000 acres of private forestland, a small portion of the reservation the U.S. government dissolved when it terminated their federal recognition in the 1950s.

The Klamath River basin was harnessed for large-scale irrigation by the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s 1905 Klamath Project, turning a relatively dry expanse on the Oregon-California border into a rich belt of farms and homesteads, many settled by World War I and World War II veterans. The irrigated lands now support 1,400 farms on 200,000 acres, where fields of alfalfa, potatoes, grains and mint feed from an intricate system of canals, drains and pumps.

Clashes over the water supply boiled over in 2001, when the federal government cut off water deliveries to Klamath Project farmers in order to protect endangered suckers and coho salmon from a drought. The enraged farmers made national news after they formed a massive “bucket brigade” to manually pass water into irrigation canals as an act of civil disobedience.

The Bush administration resumed water deliveries the next year, leaving so little flow that tens of thousands of fish in the river’s lower reaches washed up dead. The fish kill devastated California’s Karuk and Yurok tribes, who depend on the salmon harvest.

Confidential settlement negotiations began in earnest around 2006, when regulators made it clear that PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of billionaire Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., would have to make expensive modifications to its series of dams near the California-Oregon border to get them re-licensed. The company agreed to the removal, a condition that was ultimately linked to the 2010 agreement.

Last month, the U.S. Department of the Interior recommended the removal of all four Klamath dams. In one of his last acts in office, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urged Congress to approve the agreement and fund $800-million worth of habitat restoration and water management programs.

“Once again the communities of the Klamath Basin are facing a potentially difficult water year under a status quo that everyone agrees is broken,” Salazar said in a statement.

Not everyone, though, seems ready to move on.

On country roads here, roadside signs in favor of the settlement compete with those reading “Stop the Dam Scams.” The Klamath Tribes keep their official seal off government vehicles to prevent windows from being broken and tires flattened. And a giant metal bucket still stands outside the county government building in downtown Klamath Falls to commemorate the demonstrations 12 years ago, when the flow of irrigation water stopped.

Source:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-klamath-20130507,0,1265691.story

Act Now! Email the Transportation Committee about the East-West Corridor today!

Good morning Mainers,

 

We have an opportunity right now in the legislature to kill, or at least significantly hinder, the East-West Corridor proposed by Peter Vigue of Cianbro.  Please help by emailing members of the Transportation Committee by this Tuesday, May 7!

 

Just last week on April 30, over thirty people submitted written testimony on six bills that addressed various concerns about the EWC, particularly: Transparency and public access to information, expending taxpayer money on private projects, and assessing environmental, cultural, and economic impacts.

 

We believe that to address all of these concerns, the Committee should: 1) Strengthen the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act to expand the scope of the Act to include public-private-partnerships and private Significant Transportation Projects; and, 2) Repeal the Public-Private-Partnership law, because it contradicts the STPA and creates a loophole, and is harmful to the pubic interest.

 

Our deadline is this Tuesday, May 7, because at 1pm in Room 126 of the State House, the Transportation Committee will work these bills.  We believe they are motivated to pass something.  For one, the committee chair, Senator Ed Mazurek, sponsored one of the bills.  Another committee member, Senator Linda Valentino, sponsored another.  Finally, we swept the day with clear support of these bills and opposition to the EWC!  Let’s give them a simple and clear solution by emailing them today!

 

Message Example:

 

Dear Senator Mazurek, Representative Theriault, and honorable members of the Transportation Committee,

 

I have learned that you’ll be in work session on May 7 to address all the East-West Corridor bills.  I believe that the issues and concerns raised by all of the bills may be resolved very simply.  I recommend that you address the bills by:

1) Strengthening the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act to expand the scope of the Act to include public-private-partnerships and private Significant Transportation Projects; and,

2) Repealing the Public-Private-Partnership law, because it contradicts the STPA and creates a loophole, and is harmful to the pubic interest for many reasons.  This is not a necessary tool and the Maine Turnpike Authority is a good example of that.

 

Thank you very much for taking these steps to protect the public’s best interest.

 

Email Contact List: (copy this list and paste it into your email)

EdMazurek1@aol.com, SenLinda.Valentino@legislature.maine.gov, RCollins7@maine.rr.com, RepCharlesK.Theriault@legislature.maine.gov, RepAnn.Peoples@legislature.maine.gov, RepAndrew.McLean@legislature.maine.gov, RepChristine.Powers@legislature.maine.gov, arthurverow@hotmail.com, rw556@aol.com, RepWayne.Parry@legislature.maine.gov, RepJames.Gillway@legislature.maine.gov, bob@bobnutting.com, RepBeth.Turner@legislature.maine.gov

 

 

Questions? FMI visit: www.stopthecorridor.org

Despite City of Anacortes Assurances, Water Shortages Loom in the Future

14-SkagitRiver-IreneCallender

Skagit River

Despite city’s assurances, shortages loom in the future

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:41 PM

Reader Commentary, Anacortes American

Wednesday, April 24, 2012

BY ROSS O. BARNES
Anacortes, Wash.

The City of Anacortes’ 55 million gallons per day of continuous and 11 million gallons per day of interruptible Skagit River water rights are recognized as a principal water supply resource in Skagit County that will be increasingly called on to supply the future needs and growth of Skagit County residents and businesses.

With commendable foresight, the city took advantage of temporary inexpensive funding opportunities to rebuild its water treatment plant to technological state-of-the-art and to fully exploit the hydraulic capacity of the existing water intake structure on the Skagit River. The plant is now ready to serve the needs of water customers for the next 40 years or so.

However, Anacortes officials torpedo and submerge this “good” story with other actions and statements that demonstrate they have neither the sense of responsibility nor basic intellectual honesty to be trusted as stewards of an essential public water resource.

City Council member Cynthia Richardson’s commentary on local water issues in the March 6 American is typical of the self-serving fairy story on water promulgated by City Hall that misdirects and misinforms the public on the reality of future supply and demand issues in the Anacortes water supply system.

Ms. Richardson spins an anecdotal tale of Skagit River hydrology that, although factually correct in the narrow sense, is irrelevant to the technical and legal constraints on future water supply in Skagit County.
I can discuss here only a small sample of Anacortes’ irresponsible actions and misstatements on Skagit County water supply issues.

Skagit County has projected water supply needs and preliminary water system planning to the year 2050. This Skagit County Coordinated Water System Plan (CWSP) is part of the Anacortes Comprehensive Plan, and Anacortes is legally obliged to operate its water supply system in conformity with the long-range planning horizon and policies of the CWSP.

The current CWSP was published in 1999, which predates the severe future water supply constraints introduced by the infamous Skagit Basin In-stream Flow Rule that has spawned endless controversy and litigation between “water factions” in Skagit County. Thus, the water supply projections of the CWSP must be modified by subsequent legal developments such as the In-stream Flow Rule, which is a Washington state administrative regulation, and the state Municipal Water Law of 2003.

The distribution of future population growth in Skagit County assumed by the CWSP is not supported by current comprehensive planning in Skagit County, so water demand projections are best evaluated by combining the two principal municipal water system service areas — Anacortes and Skagit PUD — to avoid speculation on where long-term urban growth will occur in the county (this is one reason for having coordinated countywide water supply planning).

Indeed, there are multiple interties between the Anacortes and PUD water systems, and PUD is a major wholesale customer of the Anacortes water system. Also, the boundary between the two water system service areas may change in the future to achieve better balance between water supply and demand.

The In-stream Flow Rule does not contemplate increasing the existing continuous Skagit Basin water rights of the Anacortes and PUD water systems to meet future demand. This fundamental restriction on future water supply was not considered by the earlier CWSP.

To quantify the magnitude of Anacortes’ irresponsible actions and misstatements, I need to discuss a few actual numbers from the CWSP and other water planning documents.

For the year 2050, the CWSP projects a potential peak water demand in the combined Anacortes/PUD service areas of 117.8 MGD against combined Anacortes/PUD continuous Skagit Basin water supply rights of 82.5 MGD — a supply deficit of 35.3 MGD, that must be met, if at all, from raw water storage reservoirs.

PUD has a raw water storage reservoir that will allow it to fully utilize its 8.3 MGD of interruptible water rights that cannot be drawn during low-flow conditions in the water source areas that coincide with the peak demand period of late summer and early fall. The 8.3 MGD is typically not available for about one-fourth of the year, which reduces the average yearly interruptible draw to 6.3 MGD and the peak demand deficit to 29 MGD versus averaged water rights.

Anacortes has no significant raw water storage capacity, so the future utility of its 11 MGD of interruptible water to meet dry season peak demand is unknown. Against this serious peak demand deficit, the CWSP projects and allocates a total of 21 MGD of industrial water use for the whole of Skagit County to the year 2050 — 16 MGD to Anacortes and 5 MGD to PUD.

But as stated above, all of this water may not actually be available, or may have to be “taken” from other users during periods of peak demand. In spite of the county water supply deficits projected in the Anacortes Comprehensive Plan, Anacortes signed a contract with Tethys Enterprises to supply up to 5.5 MGD of new industrial water out to 2050. Combined with the existing 12.9 MGD of water used by Shell and Tesoro refineries, the Tethys contract alone brings the large industrial water use in the Anacortes system to 18.4 MGD or 2.4 MGD greater than Anacortes’ projected industrial allocation in the CWSP.

The Tethys contract also uses up all of the 1 MGD of new industrial water use allocated to the rest of Skagit County through the PUD, plus another 1.4 MGD.

In summary, Anacortes (1) ignores the long-range water demand/supply forecasts of its own comprehensive water planning documents that project serious potential water supply deficits by 2050 in Skagit County, (2) contracts to give all of the projected new industrial water supply for all of Skagit County, plus more, to one new industrial customer, and (3) requires that all of that overallocated water be delivered within Anacortes city limits.

And then Anacortes complains that increasing numbers of Skagit County residents and their government representatives are antagonistic to Anacortes’ shortsighted actions and continuous misstatements with respect to county water supply issues that will affect everyone and every business and community in Skagit County.

A more detailed discussion of the quantitative water supply and demand projections for Skagit County, including graphical presentations, can be found at www.evergreenislands.org under the title City of Anacortes Petition to Modify UGA Boundary, posted January 29, 2013.

URL: https://goanacortes.com/letters/entry/letters_april_24_2013

 

Salmon Estuary would be next to largest bottling plant operation in North America

Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin By Sandra Spargo DSCN4671

  • Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary

In 2009, a $671,000 grant was spent to restore the Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary.

Chinook salmon now have access to a nearly 60-acre tidal channel estuary and marsh complex.

The estuary is located at the northeast end of Similk Bay, in the Whidbey Basin of Puget Sound, one of 12 pocket estuaries that had been identified as a high priority restoration site in the Chinook Recovery Plan, part of the Puget Sound Shared Strategy.

According to Skagit County Planning and Development Services, “While the [Anacortes] petition application references the construction of [Tethys Enterprises, Inc.] beverage bottling plant, this specific project, or another, and their potential impacts or merits are not within the scope of the County’s review.”

Thus, citizens are forced to object to an urban growth area (UGA) petition that would eventually allow Anacortes to rezone the 11.15 acres to light manufacturing next to Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary, because any manufacturing—especially North America’s largest bottling plant operation—could pollute the lagoon.

In the Anacortes American of Dec. 5, 2012, Tethys CEO Steve Winter stated, “We definitely plan to use the property [11.15 acres] in the UGA expansion. It could be used for anything. It could be used for rail transportation staging or it could be used for the [one-million-square-foot] building.”

How would storm water runoff from a one-million-square-foot building and train and truck oil drippings be managed away from the close-by estuary?

Moreover, the rainy season couples with high tides to produce high water levels in the estuary.  Data collection in the Whidbey Basin indicate that juvenile salmon displaced from Skagit River delta habitat as a result of flood events could reach the lagoon site in as little as five or six hours.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACT STEERING COMMITTEE

The Growth Management Act Steering Committee is comprised of representation, including tribal communities, as follows:

  • City of Anacortes
  • City of Burlington
  • City of Mount Vernon
  • City of Sedro Woolley
  • Port of Anacortes
  • Port of Skagit
  • Swinomish Tribal Community
  • Samish Indian Nation
  • Skagit County
  • Skagit Transit
  • Town of Concrete
  • Town of La Conner

 

Salmon Estuary next to largest bottling plant operation in North America

Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin By Sandra Spargo DSCN4671

  • Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary

In 2009, a $671,000 grant was spent to restore the Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary. Chinook salmon now have access to a nearly 60-acre tidal channel lagoon and marsh complex. The estuary is located at the northeast end of Similk Bay, in the Whidbey Basin of Puget Sound, one of 12 pocket estuaries that had been identified as a high priority restoration site in the Chinook Recovery Plan, part of the Puget Sound Shared Strategy. According to Skagit County Planning and Development Services, “While the [Anacortes] petition application references the construction of [Tethys Enterprises, Inc.] beverage bottling plant, this specific project, or another, and their potential impacts or merits are not within the scope of the County’s review.” Thus, citizens are forced to object to an urban growth area (UGA) petition that would eventually allow Anacortes to rezone the 11.15 acres to light manufacturing next to Turners Bay Salmon Pocket Estuary, because any manufacturing—especially North America’s largest bottling plant operation—could pollute the lagoon. In the Anacortes American of Dec. 5, 2012, Tethys CEO Steve Winter stated, “We definitely plan to use the property [11.15 acres] in the UGA expansion. It could be used for anything. It could be used for rail transportation staging or it could be used for the [one million square foot] building.” How would storm water runoff and train and truck oil drippings be managed away from the close-by estuary? Moreover, the rainy season couples with high tides to produce high water levels in the lagoon.  Data collection in the Whidbey Basin indicate that juvenile salmon displaced from Skagit River delta habitat as a result of flood events could reach the lagoon site in as little as five or six hours.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACT STEERING COMMITTEE

The Growth Management Act Steering Committee is comprised of representation as follows:

  • City of Anacortes
  • City of Burlington
  • City of Mount Vernon
  • City of Sedro Woolley
  • Port of Anacortes
  • Port of Skagit
  • Swinomish Tribal Community
  • Samish Indian Nation
  • Skagit County
  • Skagit Transit
  • Town of Concrete
  • Town of La Conner