Archive for November, 2012

Nov 28 2012

WA: Ecology to certify water examiners

Published by under Washington

Washington Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant signed an administrative rule on November 28 creating a certified water right examiner program to improve the efficiency of water right permit processing in Washington state.

The program is being created under a 2010 legislative directive and complements Ecology’s “Lean” campaign to streamline the process for water right permit holders seeking final water right certificates. The Water Resources Program at Ecology has been applying Lean efficiency principles to the water right process to make it smoother, less time consuming and more cost effective for permit holders.

The water right examiners will provide final inspections of water right permit holders’ place and purpose of water use, a step currently required of Ecology staff. The program will be administered by Ecology at no additional cost to the public. Water right permit holders will hire and pay their own water right examiners.

“The certified water right examiner program is an important tool in the proof exam portion of the water right permitting process,” Sturdevant said. “We continue to work on ways to make water right processing more efficient and provide quicker access to the water supplies needed for growth and development.”

Increased legal complexities, reduced funding levels and growing competition for limited water resources have contributed to an accumulation of pending water right processing work statewide. Ecology’s Water Resources program is currently operating with 128 total staff with 42.2 FTEs dedicated to writing and processing water right permits. As compared to the 2007-09 biennium, the program budget has been reduced by roughly $7 million and 35 staff.

Despite the reduction in staff and funding, Ecology met and exceeded the Legislature’s goal of issuing 500 water right decisions during the 2012 fiscal year by issuing 689 water right decisions. During the 2013 fiscal year, the Water Resources Program expects to make decisions on at least 500 new water rights and water right changes.

Professional engineers and land surveyors, registered hydrogeologists and water conservancy board members are among those considered initially eligible to become certified water right examiners. Once the rule creating the program becomes effective Dec. 29, 2012, those interested should click on Certified Water Right Examiner Program for application materials.

At that time, an individual interested in becoming a certified examiner will need to apply and meet minimum qualifications, pay a $300 examination fee and, upon passing the written examiner’s test, pay a $200 certification fee. Ecology will then add the individual’s name and contact information to the list of certified water right examiners on Ecology’s website.

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Nov 27 2012

KS: Arkansas Compact meeting set for December

The Arkansas River Compact Administration will hold its annual meeting December 6 in Garden City, Kansas.

ARCA administers provisions of the Kansas-Colorado Arkansas River Compact, including operations of the John Martin Reservoir. Topics to be discussed at the annual meeting include a review of John Martin Reservoir operations, a compliance update, committee reports, and updates from state and federal agencies.

Kansas has three representatives serving on ARCA, including David Barfield, chief engineer of the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources; David Brenn, Garden City; and Randy Hayzlett, Lakin.

ARCA’s Operations, Administrative and Legal, and Engineering committees will meet on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 1:30 p.m. CST (12:30 p.m. MST) at the Clarion Inn Conference Center.

The annual and committee meetings are open to the public. Individuals who require special accommodation should notify Stephanie Gonzales at (719) 734-5102 at least three days prior to the meetings. The annual meeting agenda is posted on the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s website.

The Kansas-Colorado Arkansas River Compact was negotiated in 1948 between Kansas and Colorado with participation by the federal government. Its stated purposes are to settle existing disputes and remove causes of future controversy between Colorado and Kansas regarding Arkansas River water and to equitably divide and apportion the water between Colorado and Kansas, including benefits arising from John Martin Reservoir.

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Nov 27 2012

AZ: BuRec issues proposal on CAP exchange

The Bureau of Reclamation has issued a draft environmental assessment on its proposed approval of an exchange agreement between the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District/Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association (collectively known as SRP).

A 1994 settlement agreement entitles the Nation to up to 13,933 acre-feet annually of Central Arizona Project water. The CAP water can only be delivered via an exchange which allows the Nation to divert water from the Verde River. SRP will then receive an equivalent amount of the Nation’s CAP water entitlement at its CAP/SRP Interconnection Facility. Because this is a federal action, compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act is required. Reclamation is required to approve this agreement on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior.

The draft environmental assessment is posted for public review on Reclamation’s Phoenix Area Office website, www.usbr.gov/lc/phoenix. A hard copy or CD version of the document is available by calling the Environmental Resource Management Division at (623) 773-6251, or by e-mailing jharagara@usbr.gov.

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Nov 24 2012

ID: Deciding a water right claim without water

The November 20 SRBA Court decision on a water right claim didn’t reach the interesting question of whether the adjudication could set a water right decree in a case in which there was no water.

That claim was filed by the Idaho Water Resources Board, seeking zero cubic feet per second in Snake River flow at the Milner Dam. The flow at that point ordinarily is siphoned off completely by water users, and replenished below the Milner.

The claim was objected to by Idaho Power Company, which said both that the claim should not exist as requested, and that the state had not followed proper procedures in requesting it.

Other parties also objected, including the Idaho Water Users Association and a number of water districts.

A decision by a special master in the case held inn favor of the state board. An oral argument was held in October.

In reversing a decision by one of the adjudication’s special masters, it did disallow a water right with prejudice.

SRBA Judge Eric Wildman said that, first, the state did not provide for a zero-water right “when it adopted the 1976 State Water Plan as a matter of law.”

The plan does provide for a protected flow of 0 cfs at Milner Dam gsging station, and “the Special Master agreed with the Board’s position that when it adopted the above-quoted language in Policy 32 it appropriated, pursuant to its constitutional power, a water right for a zero cfs minimum stream flow at the Milner Dam Gaging Station. This Court disagrees.”

Willdman said that the Idaho Constitution (in Article 17, Section 7) “grants the Board two separate and distinct constitutional powers at issue here. First, it grants the Board the authority to ‘formulate and implement a state water plan.’ Second, it grants the Board the authority ‘to appropriate public waters as trustee for Agency projects.’ That the board has the constitutional authority to appropriate public waters is unquestioned. However, its authority in this respect is not unbridled. The plain language of Article 15, Section 7 itself provides that the Board may only exercise its authority ‘under such laws as may be prescribed by the legislature.’ And in this case the Legislature has enacted laws to regulate the method and means by which the Board may exercise its constitutional right to appropriate water.”

The board did not follow the prescribed “application, permit and license procedures” in the case of the Milner claims, Wildman said.

And, he said, the “plain language” of the 1976 water plan did not specially create a water right claim at the Milner Dam.

He noted that “the Board argues thst memorializing the zero cfs minimum stream flow established by Policy 32 as a water right is necessary to avoid uncertainty and confusion to water users as well as the water master in administering rights.”

But the judge countered, “a number of provisions already exist which effectively memorialize and provide for the enforceability of the policy. These include the 1976 Water Plan itself, which the Idaho Supreme Court held became effect upon adoption …”

More important, he said, was the SRBA General Provision 4 in Basin 02 (the mid-Snake River area). It effectively provides for the right in question, the judge concluded.

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Nov 23 2012

NE: State issues Republican River forecast

The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources released its preliminary forecast for the Republican River Basin in November at the Nebraska Republican River Management Districts Association meeting in Imperial.

This forecast serves to notify local natural resources districts (NRDs) in the Republican River Basin when they are required to perform additional management actions due to limited water supplies. The water supplies in the basin that are available to Nebraska are determined by a 1943 Interstate Compact signed by Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado.

Brian Dunnigan, Director of the Department, said, “The forecast is a significant advancement over past tools that were available to the Department and basin NRD’s and allows for the greatest opportunity for Nebraska to optimize its use of available water supplies in the basin.”

Past non-compliance with the Interstate Compact is the subject of current litigation before the United States Supreme Court. Since that period of non-compliance (2005-2006), the Department and basin NRDs have taken significant steps to support efforts to reduce groundwater pumping and identify other management actions that are designed to ensure that Nebraska will comply with the terms of the Compact, even during dry periods.

Dunnigan said, “It is unfortunate that these dry periods require these additional actions, but I am confident that we are now well prepared to proactively address the dry conditions that the basin is currently facing.”

The final forecast by the Department will be completed prior to January 1, 2013. Should the final forecast by the Department still indicate a potential shortfall next year, the next steps for the NRDs will be to develop and implement the necessary actions to keep their individual groundwater uses limited to their individual water supplies or in the alternative curtail groundwater pumping within the rapid response area. The next steps for the Department will require the issuance of closing notices to all surface water appropriations of natural flow, including those to store additional water subsequent to January 1, 2013.
These closing notices will not prevent the release and use of water that is in storage on
December 31, 2012.

More information can be found in the presentation given at the
NRRMDA meeting
.

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Nov 21 2012

CA: BuRec progresses on valley transfer

The Bureau of Reclamation has released for public review the draft environmental documents for the approval to transfer up to 45,000 acre-feet of water by the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District to the Colusa Drain Mutual Water Company.

Approval of the transfers would provide the CDMWC with up to 15,000 acre-feet of base supply water and 30,000 acre-feet of Central Valley Project water from GCID on an annual basis from 2013 through 2017. This water would be used solely to maintain existing agricultural practices on lands served by the CDMWC.

The Draft Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact were prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and are available online at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_projdetails.cfm?Project_ID=11550. If you encounter problems accessing the documents online, please call 916-978-5100 or email mppublicaffairs@usbr.gov.

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Nov 20 2012

Colorado River provision signed in US-Mexico agreement

The United States and Mexico signed Minute 319 to the 1944 Mexican
Water Treaty
related to the use of the Colorado River on November 20 in San Diego, California. The Minute is a five-year cooperative agreement between Mexico and the United States (on behalf of the seven Colorado River Basin States – including Arizona) that will help ensure that the Colorado River system is able to continue to meet the needs of stakeholders that rely on its flows.

Minute 319 provides a framework for: long-term planning and conservation activities; protection of water levels in Lake Mead to reduce the potential for water shortage; and potential development of additional sources of water from joint United States-Mexico water development projects.

This agreement benefits the State of Arizona through carrying forward provisions of Minute 318, approved in December 2010, allowing for the storage of Mexico’s water in Lake Mead, thus providing additional protection against shortage for US water users.

A Memorandum of Agreement among the United States, the seven Basin States (including Arizona) and water agencies in the United States was also signed today in conjunction with Minute 319.

This MOA provides Arizona water users additional certainty regarding the implementation of Minute 319 and further cements the cooperative nature of the management of the Colorado River among the US parties.

From the Wikipedia entry on the management of the treaty:

The International Boundary and Water Commission (Spanish: Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas) is an international body created in 1889 by the United States and Mexico to administer the many boundary and water-rights treaties and agreements between the two nations.

The organization was created as the International Boundary Commission by the Convention of 1889, and given its present name under the 1944 Treaty. Under these agreements, the IBWC has a U.S. section and a Mexican section, headquartered in the adjoining cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The U.S. section is administered by the Department of State; the Mexican part by the Secretariat of Foreign Relations. Some of the rights and obligations administered by the IBWC include:

distribution between the two countries of the waters of the Rio Grande and of the Colorado River;

regulation and conservation of the waters of the Rio Grande for their use by the two countries by joint construction, operation and maintenance of international storage dams and reservoirs and plants for generating hydroelectric energy at the dams;

protection of lands along the river from floods by levee and floodway projects;

solution of border sanitation and other border water quality problems;

preservation of the Rio Grande and Colorado River as the international boundary;

demarcation of the land boundary.

The U.S. and Mexican commissioners meet at least weekly, alternating the place of meetings and are in almost daily contact with one another. Each section maintains its own engineering staff, a secretary and such legal advisers and other assistants as it deems necessary.

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Nov 19 2012

TX: Water managers hit social media

Published by under Texas

The Texas Water Development Board on November 19 launched two social media accounts to provide new opportunities to communicate with its stakeholders across the state—from Texas residents, to water entities and legislators.

TWDB’s Facebook page will feature photos of TWDB-financed projects, news about drought and other water-related issues, announcements of meetings and webinars, and more.

The agency’s Twitter account (@twdb) will keep followers up to date on the state of water in Texas.

Both accounts will cover topics such as conservation, reservoir and lake levels, statewide water needs and State Water Plan implementation.

Melanie Callahan, executive administrator of TWDB, stated that “participating in social media allows us to engage in an ongoing and important discussion about water issues in the state. We hope many Texans will join the conversation.”

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Nov 19 2012

WA: State sets Dungeness standards

Washington Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant has signed a new water management rule for the Dungeness watershed that secures water supplies for current and future uses in the Sequim area for the benefit of people, community development, agriculture and fish.

The rule won’t go into effect until January 2.

The rule is needed to address the water supply challenges of the Dungeness. Most of the water is already legally “spoken for” and the amount of water available for use varies greatly across the watershed and throughout the year. The demand for water for farm irrigation and lawn watering is highest in the summer and early fall when spawning fish need water in streams. Insufficient stream flows from water diversions have contributed to the listing of four fish species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act: Chum salmon, Puget Sound Chinook Salmon, Puget Sound Steelhead and Coastal-Puget Sound Bull Trout.

A logjam in the debate on how to address these water supply challenges was finally broken this year thanks to unprecedented cooperation and collaboration among local water users and local and tribal governments. Ecology now has a water management rule that adheres to the principles and goals outlined in an agreement (pdf) signed and supported by key local leaders in early 2011. Ecology is a member of the Local Leaders Water Management Group (LLWG) that includes Clallam County, City of Sequim, the Dungeness Agricultural Water Users Association, Clallam Conservation District and Clallam Public Utility District. A letter for support for the work of the LLWG and rule making in the Dungeness from Bell Creek on Sequim Bay to the Bagley Creek sub-basin was written by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

“I’m excited to announce a new era in water management for the Dungeness thanks to local community leaders who were willing to reject the water wars of the past and work together on water supply solutions that let everyone who needs water come away from the table a winner,” Sturdevant said.

The Ecology director said those solutions include:

Preventing permanent reductions in Dungeness River flows or small streams due to new appropriations.
Local agreements that make water available to meet new water use mitigation requirements associated with new water use.
Financial assistance for essential water uses for property owners to help them adjust and adapt to the new mitigation requirements.
Support of a budget request to the state Legislature to fund water supply and flow enhancement projects.
“From the beginning, I have been working with Ecology to ensure that they adopt rules which both protect the resource and recognize that landowners, water users and developers are critical stakeholders with legitimate needs that state water law recognizes must be addressed,” said state Sen. James Hargrove of the 24th Legislative District. “I believe the final rule with the state’s contribution to mitigate in-house domestic use strikes this balance.”

“This new rule for managing water tries to balance the needs of Clallam County citizens as well as our natural resources. I wouldn’t settle for anything less,” said Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire.

“Our tribe is delighted with this important Department of Ecology decision that protects essential and culturally important natural resources in our community – our salmon and wildlife,” said Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman W. Ron Allen. “Our tribe has been an active participant in watershed planning for many years and we feel firm water use controls are essential to protecting and restoring our natural resources. I am particularly grateful that the Dungeness Water Users Association made decisions that employed a balanced approach, allowing a water exchange to be created and providing mitigation for new water uses in the valley.”

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Nov 15 2012

TX: Edwards user fees stay steady

Published by under Edwards Aquifer,Texas

The Edwards Aquifer Authority 2013 budget will fully fund the first-year implementation of a habitat conservation plan, but will not require an increase in user fees. The EAA Board of Directors, at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, adopted a $33.5 million budget that includes a $13.1 million general operating fund and a $20.4 million habitat conservation plan fund supported by an overall aquifer management fee rate of $84 per acre foot of Edwards groundwater authorized for municipal and industrial users.

The $84 aquifer management fee rate for municipal and industrial users is unchanged from 2012. The $2 rate for agricultural use is set in statute (EAA Act) and also remains unchanged for 2013. The $84 fee rate is made up of a $47 per-acre-foot rate to fund the general operating fund and a $37 per-acre-foot rate to fund implementation of a habitat conservation plan that is currently pending approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In other action, the board approved various changes to its rules. Changes made to existing water quality protection rules are intended to minimize non-point source pollution risks to the aquifer by clarifying and adjusting how the EAA regulates the storage of regulated substances on the recharge zone and specific portions of the contributing zone. More specifically, the rule changes include a provision that allows new aboveground storage tanks on the recharge zone, but only with the incorporation of acceptable tertiary containment measures. The rule changes also include a ban on the use of coal tar pavement sealant products on the recharge zone within Comal and Hays counties as a means to further protect aquatic life in the two major aquifer-fed springs ecosystems.

Other rule changes include the creation of one uniform annual deadline for the transferring of groundwater rights, and the addition of new requirements for permitted wells aimed at enhancing the accuracy of reported groundwater use. The updated rules take effect November 23, which is 10 days from the date of their adoption.

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