Archive for June, 2008

Jun 18 2008

WA: Ecology starts rainwater rules

Published by under rain water,Washington

To clarify regulations governing the collection and use of rainwater, Ecology is seeking the public’s help in drafting a statewide rainwater rule.

Three open house sessions for education and public discussion about collecting rainwater for beneficial use are scheduled this month in Everett, Lacey and Wenatchee.
Ecology doesn’t require homeowners to obtain water right permits to collect and store small amounts of rainwater. The new rule for the first time would define how much rainwater may be collected and used before a permit is required. The rule isn’t intended to regulate storage and release of rainwater when no “beneficial use” will be made of the water.

Under state law, beneficial uses include recreation, irrigation, residential water supplies and power generation.

Washington law identifies rainwater as a water resource of the state. Residential rainwater collection systems can range from a 50-gallon rain barrel to cisterns of 30,000 gallons or more. Commercial systems can be much larger. Ecology is seeking public comment on what the threshold should be for requiring a water right permit for those systems that could affect the water supply of senior water right holders or stream flows in some river basins.

Non-potable uses of rainwater typically include toilet flushing and irrigation for gardens. In water-short areas such as the San Juan Islands, some homeowners use rainwater as the sole source of their water supply. Ecology is especially interested in encouraging rainwater collection in urban areas like Puget Sound where it can be used to reduce stormwater runoff and supplement municipal water supplies.

“A statewide rule would remove the ambiguity about rainwater collection from existing water law,” said Ken Slattery, manager of Ecology’s Water Resources Program. “We want to ensure that collection and storage of rainwater happens in a way that is consistent with the protection of stream flows and water rights.”

The new rule won’t affect the current rainwater permit in the City of Seattle or future permits in San Juan County. Here are highlights of those permits:

Seattle Public Utilities received a regional water right permit from Ecology to capture and put to use approximately 23,000 acre-feet of rainwater that falls on rooftops in areas of the city served by combined stormwater/sewer systems.

? Beginning this fall, island-wide water right permits will be issued in San Juan County where some island residents use rainwater for their water supply.

Read more about rainwater collection at Ecology’s new rainwater website:  Contact:
Dan Partridge, 360-407-7139,
Kurt Unger, Ecology rule writer, 360-407-7262, kung461@ec

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Jun 17 2008

Rio Grande projects identified

The International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, has identified works it will be undertaking during the current year to maintain the Rio Grande flood control project and stabilize the international river boundary in the area of El Paso, Texas-Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. The works are being carried out in conformance with Minute No. 313, Maintenance in the Rectified Channel of the Rio Grande, a Commission agreement concluded earlier this year. Minute No. 313 makes recommendations for works in critical locations where the Rio Grande channel has problems conveying normal and flood flows as a result of sediment, vegetation growth, and levees in poor condition.

“This agreement will enable the Commission to undertake critical work to remove sediment caused by the 2006 flood,” said U.S. Commissioner Carlos Marin.
Mexican Commissioner Arturo Herrera stated, “This Minute helps to address the problem by establishing a clear mechanism for distribution of maintenance works in the Rio Grande channel between both countries for this region.”

The agreement covers a 91-mile (146.5 km) reach of the river from El Paso, Texas-Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua downstream to Fort Quitman, TX. In accordance with the agreement, each country will be responsible for removing sediment from specific river reaches totaling 45.5 miles (73.23 km) each. The work will be carried out by personnel or contractors from the U.S. Section and the Mexican Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission. Each section will also be responsible for maintaining the floodway and levees in its own country.

Minute No. 313 identifies priority sites affected by flood flows during storms in August 2006. The priority works include sediment removal and levee repairs in both countries. Both Sections began work at priority sites in 2007. The U.S. Section has already restored the U.S. river levee from near Asarco to the Zaragoza International Bridge. The Mexican Section, using funds provided by the U.S. Section, removed sediment from a portion of the concrete-lined Chamizal Project channel through central El Paso-Ciudad Juarez. The Mexican Section, in cooperation with Mexico’s National Water Commission, also removed sediment from critical reaches of the river channel in the Juarez Valley and did vegetation removal and clearing along the Mexican levee in the same area.
In accordance with Minute No. 313, the U.S. Section Work Plan for 2008 includes stabilization of the river bank for 200 feet (60 m) downstream of International Dam, which has already been completed, silt removal and channel realignment between International Dam and the Chamizal Project, and environmental permitting to realign the river in future years at the Guayuco and Diablo Arroyos in Hudspeth County (the river alignment has changed due to the impact of the arroyos).

This year, Mexico will be removing sediment along the river channel between American Dam and International Dam, with work expected to be undertaken from June through October, and at three other segments totaling 11 miles (18.4 km) between the Zaragoza International Bridge and Ft. Hancock, TX- El Porvenir, Chih. The Mexican Section will also be doing work on its levees.

The Commissioners observed that prior to Minute No. 313, there was not a clear understanding of the responsibilities to be undertaken by each Section, making it difficult to schedule and arrange necessary maintenance work on an ongoing basis. Failure to remove silt and attend to other maintenance tasks presents a risk of municipal flooding and could result in a change in the river’s course, altering the international boundary. Minute No. 313 also allows each country to better plan and allocate funding.

Contact: Sally Spener 915-832-4175  sallyspener@ibw

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Jun 15 2008

QB: Province looks at water royalties

Published by under Quebec,Royalties

The government of the province of Quebec appears to be rolling ahead with an idea dating back at least three decades but never taken seriously until recently: Collecting royalties from major consumers of the province’s water.

The bill starts with the premise, shared by most other regional governments in North America, that the water in the province is a common resource and trust and owned by the people of the province.

But Bill 92 would also impose the requirement that large users of water (anyone using more than 75,000 liters per day) apply for a permit for use; the permit would expire after 10 years, but could be re-applied for.

Any costs relating to water use would be paid by the water user.

The law would apply to bottlers of spring or other water. Revenues would go into the province’s recently created Green Fund.

Reference – See the Montreal (QB) Gazette

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Jun 15 2008

OR: Rogue bill mapped

Tributaries of the lower Rogue River and other recreational hotspots in western Oregon will be permanently protected by the “Oregon Treasures” legislation introduced by Representatives Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer and Senator Ron Wyden.

The legislation will protect 143 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in the lower Rogue River watershed, an area of unparalleled recreational opportunities. These rivers also provide clean, cold water that is important for salmon and steelhead. Based on the threat of harmful logging along these tributaries, American Rivers named the Rogue one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers earlier this year.

“The Rogue River is an economic engine for local businesses like ours,” says Frank Armendariz, manager of Oregon River Sports in Eugene. “The protections proposed today by Congress will ensure that the Rogue stays clean and healthy and can sustain Oregon businesses and communities for generations to come.”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Rogue River was among the original eight rivers protected in 1968 as a national treasure. A Wild and Scenic designation protects the recreational, scenic and wildlife values of rivers and streams.

In addition to the protections for the Rogue River, the Oregon Treasures legislation would also expand the Oregon Caves National Monument in southwest Oregon by nearly 4,000 acres. The River Styx, a unique river which flows through the Oregon Caves, would become the nation’s first subterranean Wild and Scenic river, flowing completely underground. The legislation would also protect 132,000 acres of Wilderness around Oregon’s iconic Mount Hood. Places like the Columbia Gorge and Boulder Lake would be off limits to logging and road building thereby protecting them for future generations.

“This kind of leadership is truly in the long-term economic best interest for southern Oregon,” said Rich Wilkinson, a Gold Hill, Oregon resident and owner of Rogue Klamath River Adventures, a company that has guided rafting and fishing trips on the Rogue for more than 20 years. “Locals here recognize that fostering a vibrant tourism and recreation economy on the Rogue River is a far better economic plan than degrading our natural heritage for small, short-term gains.”

More information on the campaign to Save the Wild Rogue, including contact information for over 60 business and conservation partners, can be found at  Contact: David Moryc, American Rivers, 503-307-1137; John Sterling, The Conservation Alliance, 541-410-4930; Frank Armendariz, Oregon River Sports, 541-334-0696; Rich Wilkinson, Rogue Klamath River Adventures, 541-855-8770  or 541-531-92

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Jun 15 2008

EPA: Permits not needed for transfers

The Environmental Protection Agency is announcing a rule to clarify that permits are not required for transfers of water from one body of water to another. Such transfers include routing water through tunnels, channels, or natural stream courses for public water supplies, irrigation, power generation, flood control, and environmental restoration.

“EPA’s Water Transfer Rule gives communities greater certainty and makes clear they have the flexibility to protect water quality and promote the public good without going through a new federal permitting process,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “Clean water permits should focus on water pollution, not water movement. EPA is committed to working with our state, tribal, and local partners to reduce environmental impacts associated with transfers and will continue to use all appropriate tools such as standards, best management practices, and watershed plans.”
Thousands of water transfers currently in place across the country are vital to the nation’s water supply and infrastructure systems. Whether a permit is needed under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System has been an issue in numerous court cases in recent years.

The final rule defines water transfers as an activity that conveys or connects waters of the United States without subjecting the transferred water to intervening industrial, municipal, or commercial use. Pollutants introduced by the water transfer activity itself to the water being transferred would still require an NPDES permit. Furthermore, this rule does not prevent states or tribes from using their own authorities to address water transfers, including the use of non-NPDES permits.

In 2004, the question of whether NPDES permits were necessary for water transfers went before the U.S. Supreme Court in South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians. The court did not rule directly on the issue, which left unresolved the uncertainty many felt about the need for an NPDES permit. EPA issued an interpretive statement in 2005 explaining that Congress intended water resource-management agencies and other state authorities to oversee water transfers, not the NPDES permitting program. This rulemaking codifies that position.

Over the last several years, EPA has been advancing water quality improvements related to water transfers and other hydrologic modifications through watershed planning and management measures.

For example, last summer EPA issued the National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Hydromodification guidance that provides recommended best management practices for addressing the effects of changes in flow.

The recently released Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters can assist communities as they analyze water quality priorities in their watersheds and identify management measures to reduce causes of impairments.
More information on the rule:  Contact: Shakeba Carter-Jenkins (202) 564-4355

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