Archive for May, 2008

May 23 2008

SD: Shutoff rescinded

Published by under South Dakota

Recent moisture in the northern Black Hills has allowed the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to rescind shutoff orders to two junior water right holders along the Belle Fourche River upstream of the Belle Fourche Reservoir diversion dam.

The Belle Fourche Reservoir is currently at 99 percent of storage capacity. The junior water right holders were notified on Friday, May 23, that a March shutoff order had been rescinded. The reservoir was at 54.3 percent of storage capacity when the shutoff was ordered in March.

South Dakota water law is based on the prior appropriation doctrine, which means the most senior water rights on a particular stream have priority based upon date to available water supplies over the junior priority date water rights. State water law authorizes DENR and the Water Management Board to issue water right permits to people who want to put water to beneficial use, such as irrigation, municipal water supply, or commercial use. Although the junior priority water right holders are subject to shutoff orders, state water right law gives domestic use of water from rivers and streams the highest priority. Domestic use includes livestock watering and is not subject to shutoff orders.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, with a 1904 priority date, holds senior water rights for the Belle Fourche Reservoir.

Shutoff orders also issued in March to 50 junior water right holders along the Cheyenne River and tributaries upstream of Angostura Reservoir remain in effect. Angostura is currently 62 percent full. These shutoff orders will remain in place until Angostura Reservoir fills.

For more information on river flows in South Dakota, visit and click on “Real-Time Water Data.” Information can also be obtained by calling DENR’s Water Right Program at 1-800-GET-DENR or visiting

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May 20 2008

AZ: Water study legislation

A bill authored by U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) was approved Wednesday by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Sierra Vista Sub-watershed Feasibility Study Act (S. 1929), authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to study ways to add to the water supply in the Sierra Vista Sub-watershed, which is home to Fort Huachuca, the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA), and nearly 76,000 residents.

The bill authorizes the Secretary to conduct a feasibility study of the alternatives recommended in a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation appraisal level report released last year. The bill authorizes $1,260,000 to pay for the federal government’s share of the study’s cost. The bill requires the non-federal cost share to be at least 55 percent.

SPRNCA, which protects nearly 43 miles of the San Pedro River, serves as a principal passage for the migration of approximately four million birds. It also provides crucial habitat for 100 species of birds, 81 species of mammals, 43 species of reptiles and amphibians, and two threatened species of native fish. The Nature Conservancy has called the area one of the “last great places on earth.”

Fort Huachuca, which is adjacent to SPRNCA, plays a critical role in this country’s national security by, among other things, training soldiers in military intelligence. It also is the largest employer in the area, contributing greatly to the economy of Cochise County and the State of Arizona.

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May 18 2008

CO: Uranium & water bill

Published by under Colorado,mine water

Gov. Bill Ritter on May 20 signed into law a measure that will strengthen water-protection, reclamation and other requirements as the state experiences a resurgence of uranium mining.

House Bill 1161, called the “Land and Water Stewardship Act of 2008” by supporters, was sponsored by Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer and Sens. Steve Johnson and Bob Bacon. It stems from a proposal by a Canadian-based company to begin in situ leach mining in Weld County. The process uses high-pressure water injection to extract uranium from the earth.

The legislation strengthens reclamation requirements and notification requirements to nearby landowners. Other elements of the legislation:

Requires that mining applicants not have any existing violations to the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act or analogous acts issued by other states or the federal government.

Requires a description of at least five such operations that demonstrate that the proposed operation will not contaminate groundwater outside the permit area.
Requires a baseline site characterization and monitoring plan.

Outlines the criteria for the Mined Land Reclamation Board to deny or revoke a permit for in situ leach uranium mining.

Defines all uranium mining operations, whether in situ leach or conventional, as Designated Mining Operations, and requires existing permitted conventional operations to develop Environmental Protection Plans and contingency plans for possible failures at their sites. Also expands oversight by the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety during construction. There are 32 permitted conventional operations in the state – three of which are in production.

Contact:_Evan Dreyer, 720.350.8370, Governor Bill Ritt

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May 15 2008

MI: Great Lakes bills differ

The Michigan state legislature on May 15, in approving the Great Lakes Regional Compact, moved to try to block diversion of water from the Great Lakes to outside the region.

Eight states are planned to be participants in the agreement.

Lawmakers remained at odds, however, on water diversions within the state – other than directly from the Great Lakes. Those could include waters from some in-stream streams, ponds and lakes as well as groundwater. Such legislation is prerequisite to the state’s participation in the larger compact.

Legislation would require water users to obtain permits after withdrawing more than a certain amount of water. A Senate proposal would set that limit at two million gallons per day, and a House proposal would set it at about half as much. The issue has pitted environmental and business groups against each other.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin still have not reached final action on the agreement. Four other states, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, have done so.
See Detroit (MI) Free Press, May 15; article by T

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May 14 2008

WA: Olympia, Nisqually agree to terms

The City of Olympia and the Nisqually Indian Tribe on May 14 held a joint signing ceremony at the City of Olympia’s McAllister Springs water source to announce a historic partnership that involves a new regional water source known as the McAllister Wellfield.

The new regional water source partnership between the City of Olympia and the Nisqually Tribe is believed to be the first of its kind between a municipality and an Indian tribe.

The Olympia City Council on Tuesday, May 13, authorized the Mayor to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that involves the joint development of the McAllister Wellfield, including mitigation of potentially impacted water bodies. The MOA also provides for the creation of a Stewardship Coalition to benefit the Nisqually Watershed. The Nisqually Tribe approved the MOA on February 28, 2008. A proposed transfer of water rights to the wellfield still requires Department of Ecology approval. The City and the Tribe hope to be operating the McAllister Wellfield by 2012.

The City of Olympia’s primary source of water since the 1940s, McAllister Springs is located at the headwaters of McAllister Creek in northeastern Thurston County.

Although the springs produce high-quality water, the location is vulnerable to potential contamination. The Nisqually Indian Tribe currently relies on shallow, low-producing wells next to the Nisqually River as its main source of water. Because of the source vulnerability and supply limitations, both the City of Olympia and the Nisqually Tribe have been looking for options to develop and secure a more sustainable source of water.

With this agreement, the City and the Tribe will move their potable water sources to a location known as the McAllister Wellfield. The wellfield taps a large aquifer with very high-quality water, and it will provide a more reliable, protected and long-term sustainable source of water for both the City of Olympia and the growing Nisqually Tribe community.

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May 14 2008

CO/NE: Platte legislation signed

The President on May 8 signed into law legislation to implement the federal share of the Platte River recovery implementation plan as part of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S. 2739). The sponsors of the legislation, United States Senators Ben Nelson, Wayne Allard, Ken Salazar and Chuck Hagel, applauded this final step ensuring the future vitality of the Platte River region.

In late 2006 the Governors of Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming and the Department of Interior signed the final program agreement after working together since 1997 to develop a recovery plan that benefits certain species yet allows continued water use and development along the Platte.

S. 752 – passed out of the committee as HR 1462 – will authorize the Secretary of Interior to proceed with the program and includes $157 million to carry it out. The cost will be shared 50/50 by the states and federal government. Through the program the states will provide benefits for the endangered and threatened species as well as land, water, and scientific monitoring and research to evaluate benefits of the program.

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May 10 2008

CA: Scenic legislation up

Four of California’s most picturesque desert treasures are now one step closer to being protected forever. Just minutes ago, members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee overwhelming approved the Desert and Mountain Heritage Act (H.R. 3682). The bill, sponsored by Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), would add the North Fork of the San Jacinto River, Fuller Mill Creek, Bautista Creek, and Palm Canyon Creek to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Contact:  Garrett Russo; American Rivers  (202) 347-755

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May 08 2008

MT/WY: State replies in SCOTUS case

Attorney General Mike McGrath said Friday that the state has filed its reply to Wyoming in the ongoing case in the United States Supreme Court.

It is the latest step in a case that began when Montana sued Wyoming in February 2007 in an effort to enforce the provisions of the Yellowstone River Compact. Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota entered into the compact in December 1950, and the states’ legislatures ratified it. The U.S. Congress consented to the compact in October 1951.
The original complaint asked the court to order Wyoming to deliver more water in the Tongue and Powder Rivers according to the compact and award the State of Montana damages, costs and other relief.

Wyoming filed a motion to dismiss in April and it now has the opportunity to review and respond to the brief Montana filed Friday.

The United States Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases and controversies between the states.

Contact:  Lynn Solomon, (406) 444-0582 or Judy Beck, (406) 444-5774 May 9 Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath

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May 08 2008

NM: Water assistance now law

Published by under New Mexico

President Bush on May 8 signed a law that includes legislation authored by U.S. Senator Pete Domenici that will give New Mexico added federal water planning assistance to more accurately assess its water resources.

Domenici’s New Mexico Water Planning Assistance Act (S.255) was included in S.2739, an amalgamation of 62 individual bills cleared by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It was signed by Bush Thursday.

The New Mexico water legislation, which was cosponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman, authorizes the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and U.S. Geological Survey to provide specific technical assistance to the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (OSE) for assessing water resources in New Mexico and their future use.

The new law authorizes BOR and USGS to provide technical assistance to the state of New Mexico, and authorizes an annual $3.0 million for five years to the OSE to perform hydrologic models of New Mexico’s most important water systems, basins and tributaries.

The technical and financial assistance will help the OSE acquire hydrologic data, assess existing water resources, coordinate efforts with federal water management initiatives, and assist with numerical analysis and modeling to provide an integrated understanding of water management options.

Domenici is ranking Republican on the Energy Committee, as well as the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds federal water agencies. Domenici authored similar legislation in the 109th Congress, and it separately cleared both the Senate and House, but neither measure was sent to the White House to become law.

Still pending before the Senate is a separate committee-passed Domenici bill, the New Mexico Aquifer Assessment Act (S.324). It would authorize the USGS to assess groundwater aquifer resources in the Estancia Basin, Salt Basin, Tularosa Basin, Hueco Basin, and Middle Rio Grande Basin in New Mexico. Bingaman also cosponsored this measure.

Chris Gallegos  (202) 224-7082 U.S. Senator Pete Domenici

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May 07 2008

NM/AZ: Navajo claim settled

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici on May 7 reported that legislation they wrote to settle the Navajo Nation’s water rights claims in the San Juan River Basin has cleared its first hurdle. With today’s approval by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the measure can now be considered by the full Senate.

The legislation reflects a 2005 agreement between the State of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation, which needs congressional approval. It recognizes approximately 600,000 acre-feet per year of water to the Navajo Nation for agricultural, municipal, industrial, domestic and stock watering purposes. It also authorizes federal funding for the Navajo-Gallup Pipeline project and various water conservation projects in the basin.
Under the Bingaman proposal, which Domenici strongly supports, the federal government would contribute funding over about two decades to construct the pipeline and perform other activities to implement the agreement. The bill authorizes $870 million to construct the project, although some of that cost will be paid by the State of New Mexico and the communities served.

The measure also provides an assured source of funding to pay for the project, ensuring that settlement is implemented. It does this by setting aside surplus revenues in the Reclamation Fund to pay for the Navajo settlement, and future settlements. Upon enactment, these funds would be made available without further appropriation.
Representative Tom Udall introduced the measure in the House of Representatives.

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