Western Water Report: 4 March 2002
HYDROLOGY SPELLS DROUGHT
Snowpack shows little improvement. The following are percentage of average. South Platte, 53%; Laramie/North Platte, 61%; Arkansas, 64%; Upper Rio Grande, 44%; Gunnison, 53%; Upper Colorado, 70%; Roaring Fork, 65%; Yampa/White, 66%; Dolores/San Miguel, 51%; San Juan, 35%; Animas, 37%; Upper Green, 72%; Duchesne, 56%; Price/San Rafael, 53%; Muddy/Fremont/Escalante, 53%; Colorado above Lake Powell, 59%.
COLORADO BILL WOULD HELP KEEP WATER IN STREAMS AND LAKES
Colorado’s SB 156 would at last allow landowners to sell or lease their water rights for instream flows, recognition that water has value in the stream and a move toward protecting the state’s priceless ecosystems. Denver Post; Feb. 12 <http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1002,73%257E395970,00.html>
STATE CHALLENGING COLORADO’S RECREATIONAL IN-CHANNEL DIVERSION LAW
The outcome of a lawsuit involving a kayak park on Clear Creek in Golden may affect several whitewater parks. Attorneys for the State Engineer’s Office are claiming that features used to construct the parks demonstrate insufficient control of water to justify a water right. <http://www.gjsentinel.com/auto/feed/news/2002/02/22/1014380495.05426.4675.5578.html>
COLORADO SPRINGS DROUGHT PLAN
The city utilities is concerned that demand may soon outstrip the city’s delivery system’s capacity. The utility will step up public education on water conservation through mailings, advertisements and tips available on its Web site as well as reducing its own use of water. If this does not reduce water use by 10%, more drastic measures may be implemented. Restrictions could include a ban on all new turf grass. <http://www.gazette.com/stories/0225top1.php>
STATE WILL INVESTIGATE SEPTIC SAFETY
When Teller County Commissioners failed to respond to concerns about domestic wells being contaminated by septic systems, complaints were sent to EPA. EPA referred the matter to the Colorado Dept. of Health. The state will be looking into two issues: whether more septic regulation is needed to prevent pollution of wells and whether some public wells require better treatment to meet drinking water standards. <http://www.gazette.com/stories/0127loc1.php?section=1>
N.M. TO TEST WATER BANK
Long-reluctant New Mexico water officials will test the concept of water banking on the lower Pecos River, a move prompted by treaty violations with Texas. Albuquerque Tribune; Feb. 26 <http://www.abqtrib.com/archives/business02/022502_business_h20bank.shtml>
MEXICO TO REPAY WATER DEBT ON RIO GRANDE
The Foreign Relations Secretariat announced Mexico will begin a new rationing and recycling program along its northern border in an effort to pay back its water debt to the United States. Eleven different projects will soon be underway to modernize irrigation pumps and water-recycling mechanisms to begin the repayment of 1.4 million cubic meters of water the country owes its northern neighbor. The rationing program would not affect or restrict human consumption and that savings would come about mainly from infrastructural changes funded by the North American Development Bank and other agencies. <http://www.thenews.com.mx/noticia.asp?id=20050>
The First International Symposium on Transboundary Waters Management will take place in Monterrey, Mxico November 18-22, 2002. The Symposium’s objective is to review the main issues involved in the management of transboundary basins and aquifers with an integrated scope. Water quantity and water quality management, as well as aspects related to agricultural and industrial development, forests and fisheries, will be considered. Social, economic, political and education issues will also be included, in view of their relevance in the international and interstate water resources arena. Several experts will be invited to give keynote speeches dealing with different topics related to transboundary waters management. Abstracts are welcome until May 20, 2002. Further details can be found at the Symposium web site, <www.TransboundaryWatersMexico.org> .
RESTORATION PAYING OFF
In what is being described as a “renaissance of one of California’s most threatened species of fish,” several creeks in Northern California’s Marin County are seeing “huge” numbers of coho salmon returning to spawn says the S.F. Chronicle 2/14. “After more than a century of abuse,” local stream restoration efforts began in the 1980s, and the returns of not just coho but chinook and chum are all the more remarkable considering that some 3,300 people live adjacent to the spawning areas. The recovery efforts have the support of “almost everybody” and the streams have “become a statewide model for fisheries restoration.”
COURT SIDES WITH AGRIBUSINESS OVER FISH
A federal judge’s ruling is forcing the Interior Department to restructure how water is divided between urban, agricultural and environmental purposes in California’s Central Valley says Greenwire 2/11. The decision is “expected to make more water available for irrigation” and according to conservationists has “significant ramifications for everything that is going forward with California water.” Under the ruling “all water used for environmental purposes must be counted toward” a strict cap on the amount of Central Valley Project water that can go to ecosystem management and protecting wildlife.
PLAN TO TRANSPORT WATER FROM CALIFORNIA RIVER RILES RESIDENTS
A businessman’s plan to fill giant bags with fresh water from northern California’s Albion River and tow them to thirsty San Diego was met first with laughter, then with anger. Arizona Daily Star (AP); March 1 <http://www.azstarnet.com/star/today/20301RRiverinaBag.html>
FEDS, STATE HEADED TO COURT OVER YUCCA MOUNTAIN WATER
Federal and Nevada officials will square off in federal court on Friday to argue over water permits the Department of Energy needs to construct the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository. Las Vegas Review-Journal; Feb. 28 <http://www.lvrj.com/lvrj_home/2002/Feb-28-Thu-2002/news/18198995.html>
IDAHO’S AQUIFER ‘MINING’ RILES SPOKANE-AREA OFFICIALS
Liberty Lake, Wash., has been unable to obtain any new water rights to supply its growing population, while just across the state line, Idaho officials have granted permits to new power plants to draw millions of gallons from the same aquifer. Idaho Statesman; 2/3 & Spokesman-Review; 2/10 <http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/daily/20020203/LocalNews/218556.shtml> <http://www.spokesmanreview.com/news-story.asp?date=021002&ID=s1099322> <http://www.spokesmanreview.com/news-story.asp?date=021702&ID=s1102805>
REPORT SAYS CUTTING OFF KLAMATH IRRIGATORS DID LITTLE FOR FISH
An unusually blunt National Academy of Sciences report said there was no scientific basis to deny water to Klamath Basin irrigators last summer to help save endangered fish species. The interim report’s authors say it holds “no surprises” and points to the “need for better analyses and better studies,” promising a full report next year that takes a “broader view of the situation.” Washington Post; Feb. 4 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18209-2002Feb3.html>
TRIBES QUESTION KLAMATH REPORT
Tribal leaders are questioning why a report by Oregon State and UC-Davis on last summer’s Klamath Basin water conflict “ignores issues facing tribal fisheries and relies on experts who are not qualified in the highly specialized field of shallow lake science” says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. AP 1/26. An OSU spokesperson said the University couldn’t afford to include “tribal economics” or the depressed state of the lower Klamath fisheries in the narrowly focused study that did not delve into the “context of decades of water shortages.” The tribes contend that “tight deadlines” and “several clear errors in their assessment of existing data,” led the National Academy of Science to reach “flawed conclusions” in their preliminary report says the Oregonian 2/22. NAS panel members admitted that they were asked by Interior Secretary Norton to “address a narrow question, in a short time, without fully analyzing all that is known” about the Klamath Basin’s complex ecosystem. Said one panel member, “we certainly haven’t been able to look at all the evidence.”
BR MOVES FORWARD WITH KLAMATH BA
The Bureau of Reclamation has released the biological assessment (BA) for its Klamath Basin operating plan that conservationists say is a “blunt assault on endangered species laws and could push coho salmon and two types of sucker fish toward extinction,” reports the L.A. Times. 2/28. Reclamation said they would deliver full shares of irrigation water to farmers. The BA must still be reviewed by the USFWS and NMFS, but environmentalists “worry that the Bush administration will pressure wildlife agencies to avoid aggressively countering the Bureau of Reclamation’s approach” which they contend is “devised to test the limits of the Endangered Species Act.”
An innovative water conservation provision, originally offered by Majority Whip Harry Reid (D-NV), survived despite strong opposition from some senators from the interior West. An amendment that would have removed the Reid provision was defeated by a vote of 55-45. One reason the provision survived is that Reid narrowed the scope of the provision to apply to only six states: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Maine, and New Hampshire. If it makes it through conference committee, Reid’s provision would help states promote more efficient irrigation systems and less water-intensive crops, and it would allow states to lease or buy water rights from willing farmers. It would also expand the applicability of a program that allows farmers to voluntarily sell or lease their water rights to the state for a limited time in order to improve instream flow and benefit fish and wildlife.
PESTICIDE DANGER IGNORED
Government agencies are “doing little to address the problem” of pesticides contaminating major watersheds in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California in concentrations that could “harm salmon” says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2/6. The study by the Washington Toxics Coalition of USGS samples taken over the last decade revealed 16 pesticides in “concentrations that can damage aquatic life.” There is “mounting evidence that pesticides at non-lethal levels can hurt salmon” by damaging their sense of smell “which is needed to detect predators, find their home streams for spawning and sniff out food.”
NO GO ON DAM BREACHING
In what the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition calls a “disappointing but not surprising” decision, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not breach 4 Snake River dams and instead rely on “technical and operational changes” to “improve survival” of imperiled salmon reports SF Gate, AP 2/20. The decision affirms recommendations made in a draft plan for “restoring endangered salmon runs on the Columbia-Snake river system.” According to SOWS, “engineering and technology are not going to save these fish. They need more natural river conditions and they need dam removal to achieve that.”
FED SALMON PLAN GETS “F”
According to a report card by Save Our Wild Salmon coalition, the federal government’s plan for protecting and recovering Columbia Basin salmon has “failed miserably in its first year, with inadequate funding and little progress toward meeting goals” says the Olympian, AP 2/28. The plan was adopted as an alternative to breaching 4 lower Snake River dams, but the coalition found only a quarter of the measures to help the salmon were completed in 2001. The government failed to “make progress called for on water quality, habitat, passage over dams, harvest and hatchery operations.”
Fourteen of 25 groups of wild West Coast Pacific salmon and steelhead may lose their protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, following the federal government’s formal acceptance yesterday of petitions to de-list the groups. Last year, the National Marine Fisheries Service began evaluating the protected status of 23 of the 25 groups after a federal judge found the agency was wrong to declare Oregon coastal coho a threatened species, saying it had only looked at wild populations and not factored into its calculations the number of hatchery salmon in streams. The current petitions, which will be considered as part of the overall reevaluation, were filed by farm and property rights groups traditionally opposed to endangered species protection measures. The fishing organization Trout Unlimited criticized the petitions, saying they failed to live up to NMFS’ scientific standards and would drain much-needed resources. <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2002/02/11/state2105EST7679.DTL>
ONE WAY TO PROTECT SALMON
The Bush administration is nearly doubling the amount of money for protecting endangered wild Atlantic salmon this year says the Portland Press Herald 1/10. All of the additional $5 million will “go toward a key part of that effort: keeping farm-raised fish from escaping and carrying disease or foreign genes into wild populations.” The USFWS is preparing a recovery plan that will “require salmon farms to make sure their fish do not escape or threaten the wild fish.”
FISH FARMING TO EXPAND
British Columbia has announced it is lifting a seven-year moratorium on new Atlantic salmon farms along the coast. There are currently 91 fish farms along the Pacific Coast. Alaska currently prohibits fish farming along its shores to protect its still-healthy native salmon runs and has expressed its intent to maintain this prohibition.
ALBERTA’S SPORT FISHING ABOUT TO CRASH, REPORT SAYS
So many people are taking so many fish from Alberta’s lakes and streams that the sport fishing industry, worth as much as $7 billion a year, is in danger of collapse, according to a new report. Edmonton Journal; Feb. 12 <http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/story.asp?id=%7B705577D2-F879-4391-99CD-2178CD4C8C4B%7D>
GIVE RESTORATION A TRY
Six of eight states in the Missouri River Basin Association, KS, MT, NE, ND, SD and WY, have endorsed giving dam reforms to restore the Missouri River a try says American Rivers 2/13. The states voted to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to “begin testing new operations of the dam and reservoir system over a ten-year period to recreate more natural seasonal water levels in the river,” necessary for the survival and recovery imperiled species and other wildlife.
A Guide to Selected Federal Funding Sources – Is your community working on a riverfront revitalization or restoration project? This funding guide can help! Get the full guide on American Rivers website at: <http://www.amrivers.org/riverfronttoolkit/fundingreport.htm>
FRANKENFISH AND THE FDA
A new threat to wild Atlantic salmon is lurking in the offices of Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Maryland. Aqua Bounty Farms, a Prince Edward Island company, and its Massachusetts affiliate, A/F Protein, have applied for FDA approval of a genetically engineered salmon that grows up to six times faster than normal fish, says the Bangor Daily News, 2/15. To view “Environmental Risks in Using GH Transgenic Atlantic Salmon” go to <www.nbiap.vt.edu/brarg/brasym96/sutterlin96.htm> Its authors say, “Present sterility techniques will probably be adequate for some species in most circumstances, but may not sufficiently reduce risks (or be commercially viable) for other species under other conditions. Considering the lack of present understanding of the fitness (behavioral, physiological and genetic) of such transgenic fish, it may be exceedingly difficult to predict impacts in many situations.”
FISH BAN PROPOSED IN CA
A coalition of lawmakers, environmentalists, and fishers are angling to ban genetically modified (GM) fish from California. One proposed ban would prevent live transgenic fish from entering the state; another plan would require special labeling for GM fish sold for consumption in California stores. One other state, Maryland, has restricted genetically altered fish, and federal rules to protect the endangered Atlantic salmon block such fish from Maine. Environmentalists worry that GM fish could escape from pens and breed with their wild counterparts, to the detriment of the gene pool of the species. Proponents of genetic modification see a potential profit in transgenic species because fish farmers could get bigger fish to market for less money. Under the proposed California legislation, anyone convicted of owning transgenic fish or planting them in state waters could be fined up to $50,000. <http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000015089feb28.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience>
HATCHERY REFORM REPORT OUT
The “congressionally blessed” Hatchery Scientific Review Group has released its recommendations for the “first systematic attempt to reform Washington’s fish-hatchery system, the world’s largest” says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2/20. The 218 recommendations focus on two main areas, emphasizing “quality over quantity,” and changing the hatchery system to be “more in tune with Mother Nature.” Because hatchery fish comprise a “large amount of the current commercial and recreational catches,” fishermen, many Indian tribes and Northwest politicians favor reforming the hatcheries so that they “will not hurt wild fish and will in fact aid in their recovery.”
AQUATIC NUISANCE SPECIES (ANS)
The theme at the annual meeting of the ANS Task Force was that government action is critical to successful management of invaded ecosystems to maximize native biodiversity. Everyone is affected, including agriculture, natural resource managers, environmentalists, recreationists, business and commerce, and other interests. New strategies and public-private partnerships need to be developed to elevate the issues, find new funding and promote research and management initiatives. The Headwaters v. Talent Irrigation District decision, requiring approval under the Clean Water Act’s National Permit Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) before applying pesticides and herbicides to waters of the United States, has created a real challenge to federal and state programs to eradicate invasive species.
Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) has introduced the Stop Westward Aquatic Threats Act (H.R. 2732) to amend the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to: (1) provide the public with information and education on the threat of zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species and how to prevent their westward advance; (2) work with States that contain aquatic nuisance species to develop and implement a prevention plan that includes inspections of vessels at boat launches and elsewhere (including vessels involved in the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Expedition); and (3) prevent the westward movement of zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species beyond the 100th meridian, by monitoring water bodies, educating boaters leaving infected water, and providing rapid response capacity in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The bill would authorize the Director of the of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force to make grants to states to develop management plans which identify those areas or activities within the state for which assistance is needed to eliminate or reduce the environmental, public health, and safety risks associated with aquatic nuisance species.
LONGEST DROUGHT SINCE 1965 IS DRYING THOUSANDS OF WELLS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Until recently, Robert Madison didn’t worry much about his water well. The 20-foot-deep well provided just enough for his family of 12. Then it, and much of the East, began to dry up. Since last summer, his family has had to cut showers short and cart drinking water into the home from a nearby spring. Now he is one of hundreds of New Hampshire residents waiting out the second-worst drought in state history. “I’m telling the kids it’s time to take spit showers,” he joked. “The teenagers don’t like that.” <http://enn.com/news/wire-stories/2002/02/02122002/ap_46373.asp>
WATER COMPANIES LIABLE
Utility companies can be sued for violating safe drinking water standards, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided. The decision is significant because it allows thousands of victims of polluted water to seek financial compensation from the private and public utilities that pipe tap water into homes; in the past, victims mostly targeted the industries responsible for contaminating the water. In the case heard by the court, some 2,500 people living near a Superfund site in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley argued that they became sick — in some cases with cancer — after drinking water containing toxic chemicals. In addition to suing industrial polluters, the residents went after utilities, a first for the state of California. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said he hoped the decision would force utilities to be more concerned with the quality of the water they sell. <http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000009026feb05.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience>
Saying that chemical contamination in the city’s water supply led to miscarriages and infant deaths, 25 women have sued Chesapeake, Va., and almost 170 more plan to do so. According to a growing number of studies, the chlorine commonly used to purify drinking water can cause birth defects and miscarriages when it mixes with organic matter, such as fertilizer in surface water. In what has become a test case for the nation, the Chesapeake women are arguing that the city did not adequately warn them when toxins in their tap water reached harmful proportions — sometimes almost 10 times higher than established danger levels. The women are seeking nearly $1 billion in damage, but chemical and water industry reps say there is no conclusive evidence that chemicals in tap water damage fetal development.
CARGILL PORK FINED $1 MILLION FOR DUMPING WASTE IN RIVER; 53,000 FISH DEAD
Cargill Pork agreed to pay a $1 million fine for illegally dumping waste that prosecutors said contaminated five miles of a Missouri river and killed 53,000 fish. Cargill will also pay $51,000 in restitution for the federal Clean Water Act violation at the 17,000-pig farm near Martinsburg, about 75 miles northwest of St. Louis. <http://enn.com/news/wire-stories/2002/02/02212002/ap_46455.asp>
ALLEGHENY LUDLUM STEEL CORP FINED $8.24 MILLION FOR CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATIONS
A federal district court has ordered Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation to pay the second highest penalty that a judge has awarded to the United States after trial under the Clean Water Act (CWA) since the law was passed in 1972. The penalty is for 1,122 days of violation. Finding that Allegheny Ludlum gained a savings of $4.1 million from its delay and failure in spending money on necessary environmental controls, the court ordered the company to pay a penalty double that amount to reflect the history and seriousness of the violations, and the company’s lack of effort to prevent them over a seven year period.
WETLAND REPLACEMENT A DUD
A study by Washington state’s Dept. of Ecology has found that “only about 13% of the man-made wetlands in Washington are fully successful” says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, AP 2/3. Federal law requires developers to mitigate every acre of wetlands destroyed with 1.78 acres of replacement wetlands but the National Academy of Science “determined that the government is not enforcing the mitigation requirement.” Replacing wetlands is quite costly and the main reasons for failure includes bad design, improper construction and mostly “because they are not adequately maintained.”
STATES SLACK OFF ON ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT
States have always played a crucial role in enforcing environmental standards, yet during the 1990s this role expanded even more dramatically as “devolution” became the vogue. Passing on enforcement responsibility to the states has led to a “business friendly” approach in environmental enforcement, which is part of a larger philosophical shift at the state level away from “deterrence-based enforcement” to “compliance assistance programs.” Read why this new approach is inadequate to protect the environment. Available at <http://www.ombwatch.org/execreport/enforcement.html>
Inconsistent State Approaches Complicate Nation’s efforts to Identify Its Most Polluted Waters. GAO-02-186, January 11. <http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-02-186> (You may not want to download this pdf file unless you have a high-speed connection.)
STATE OF US PUBLIC HEALTH DRINKING WATER RELIABLE BUT BILLIONS IN REPAIRS NEEDED TO MAINTAIN SYSTEM THROUGH THIS CENTURY
In a “state of the state” review of the nation’s public drinking water systems, how safe the water is and an examination of other water related issues by researchers from the Water and Health Program at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Press release: <http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/press/releases/press2132002b.html>
HOME WATER USE EFFICIENCY
EPA is promoting water efficiency in the home by offering on-line information on saving water and reducing utility costs. Water efficiencies in the home can be improved by detecting and fixing leaky faucets, installing high efficiency clothes washers and toilets, and watering the lawn and garden with the minimum amount of water needed. Fixing a silent toilet leak may save as much as 500 gallons per day. Installing high efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances can help a typical family of four reduce indoor water use by one-third, save about $95 per year on its water and sewer bill, and cut energy use by as much as six percent. Water efficiency continues to play an important role not only in protecting water sources and improving water quality, but also in reducing the amount of energy used to treat, pump and heat water — currently about eight percent of U.S. energy demand. Water heating accounts for 19 percent of home energy use. If 20 percent of U.S. homes used high efficiency clothes washers, national energy savings could be 285 billion BTUs per day — enough to supply the needs of over one million homes. For more information on what you can do to improve water efficiency in your home visit: Water Saver Home at <http://www.h2ouse.net>
LIVING WITH THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT IN COLORADO
A Workshop/Discussion Series 4/24, 5/29, 6/19, 7/15 & 9/19, Sponsored by the Natural Resources Law Center, Renaissance Hotel, 3801 Quebec, Denver.
Session One: A Short Course on the Endangered Species Act Session Two: The Meaning and Implementation of Take Under the ESA Session Three: ESA and The Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse Session Four: ESA and Water Use in Colorado Session Five: Living With the Endangered Species Act in Colorado Sessions vary in price from $50 to $150. All five can be purchased for $300. To participate, send your name, address, phone, fax and email address, along with payment by check, purchase order, or credit card info to: Natural Resources Law Center, University of Colorado School of Law, UCB 40, Boulder, CO 80309-0401 303-492-1288, Fax: 303-492-1297, <Jpatton@spot.Colorado.edu>
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