Supreme Court’s Murky Clean Water Act Ruling Created Legal Quagmire

Lawyers rarely agree on anything, but here’s an exception: They all say the Supreme Court bungled Rapanos v. United States, a major wetlands case, almost five years ago.

Attorneys representing all interested parties say lower court judges, regulators, the business community and individual landowners continue to suffer as a result of the confusion sown by the justices whose main job is to provide clarity in the law.

The case concerned the efforts of Michigan landowner John Rapanos to develop a property that, much to his dismay, was designated as a wetland. He hadn’t applied for a permit and was subsequently the target of U.S. EPA civil and criminal enforcement actions.

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Congresswoman Grace Napolitano Headlines Joint WRD And County Sanitation Districts Press Event

Federal Funds Awarded to Help Develop Local Water Supplies

Lakewood, CA /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-38th) today announced the award of $300,000 in 2010 WaterSmart funding to the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD). At a joint press conference with officials from WRD and the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, Napolitano said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) award will be used to develop WRD’s Groundwater Basin Master Plan.

“WRD’s grant application was among the highest rated in the country,” Napolitano said, “reflecting the national importance of developing local water supplies in our region to reduce reliance on increasingly vulnerable and expensive imported supplies from Northern California and the Colorado River.”

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Desert hydroelectric power project awaits federal decision

By JANET ZIMMERMAN
The Press-Enterprise
 

In the future, when Inland residents flip a light switch or turn on an air conditioner, the power could come from a desert hydroelectric plant that would create and store energy.

Federal regulators are considering a license application for the proposed $1 billion-plus Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project east of Joshua Tree National Park. The 1,100-acre plant would be housed at the abandoned Kaiser iron-ore mine, near where another group wants to build the world’s largest landfill.

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Comment:

The Feds shouldn’t get involved. It’s California’s power plant and California’s electricity. We’re a big state. We can take care of ourselves.

Aganomics question on farm water

From David Zetland at Aguanomics:

Economists often assume that people use their foresight to weight the costs and benefits from actions on their current and future selves.

For example, a farmer without neighbors* will not overdraft an aquifer today because he will want water tomorrow, for himself or his descendants.

But what if he makes a mistake and really does use the water “unsustainably”?

There appear to be three ways to respond to this mistake:

  1. He’s screwed up. Let him suffer.
  2. The government should intervene, to rescue him from his folly and regulate sustainable use.
  3. Allow the market to correct the problem, so an outside buyer replaces him and restores sustainability, i.e., the long term flow of value from the land and water.

Note the problems with (2) that do not exist with (3). The government is a monolith that can make a similar mistake (intervening too much or too little or in the wrong way), but many market players compete to provide the best solution. Second, the government does not get rewarded for clever action (more profits) so there’s no incentive to get things right. A new buyer, OTOH, would benefit from the profits of a good action.

What do you guys think of this problem and the solutions? Do you have example of wise governments or dumb markets? Please DO ignore problems and solutions involving property rights and/or commons.*


* I am intentionally avoiding a tragedy of the commons race among neighbors to pump before others do, etc. 

Economists often assume that people use their foresight to weight the costs and benefits from actions on their current and future selves.

For example, a farmer without neighbors* will not overdraft an aquifer today because he will want water tomorrow, for himself or his descendants.

But what if he makes a mistake and really does use the water “unsustainably”?

There appear to be three ways to respond to this mistake:

  1. He’s screwed up. Let him suffer.
  2. The government should intervene, to rescue him from his folly and regulate sustainable use.
  3. Allow the market to correct the problem, so an outside buyer replaces him and restores sustainability, i.e., the long term flow of value from the land and water.

Note the problems with (2) that do not exist with (3). The government is a monolith that can make a similar mistake (intervening too much or too little or in the wrong way), but many market players compete to provide the best solution. Second, the government does not get rewarded for clever action (more profits) so there’s no incentive to get things right. A new buyer, OTOH, would benefit from the profits of a good action.

What do you guys think of this problem and the solutions? Do you have example of wise governments or dumb markets? Please DO ignore problems and solutions involving property rights and/or commons.*


* I am intentionally avoiding a tragedy of the commons race among neighbors to pump before others do, etc.

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Trager Water Report comment:

Generally, the private solutions would be better, with government acting only as referee to private contracts. But it also depends on what sort of government one has. If it’s a reasonable local government, then even #2 might be tolerable. But if it’s a distant, unreasonable government — what America now has — then expect the worst.

Stimulus dollars bring recycled water to Rosemead, San Gabriel Valley

ROSEMEAD – Last year’s $800 billion federal economic stimulus package is bringing something increasingly valuable to Rosemead parks, schools and businesses: recycled sewage water.

The recycled water, treated to high levels that make it safe for human contact but not considered drinkable, will soon flow through a new pipeline to nourish and irrigate lawns and greenways in the area.

The $3.2 million pipeline was constructed by the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District with the help of a $600,000 federal stimulus grant. And upon its recent completion, it became the first recycled water project completed with stimulus funds in Southern California.

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Comment: 

The “stimulus” was paid for with money borrowed from China. Now the money has run out and the economy is crashing again. Plus we owe hundreds of billions more to China.

As to water, California can take care of itself, and doesn’t need the foolish Feds “helping” us.

Elite Science Panel Wades Into Calif. Water War

TRACY, Calif. — Scientists tasked with unraveling one of the nation’s most vexing environmental puzzles started their first field trip to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta at a fish processing facility here near one of the estuary’s major water-pumping stations.

Assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists — 15 experts in estuarine ecology, hydrology, fisheries science and water resources engineering — were gathering information for a series of reports that could influence management of the West Coast’s largest estuary for decades to come.

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Pacific Legal Foundation files Ninth Circuit delta smelt brief

Author: Brandon Middleton of the Pacific Legal Foundation

Yesterday we filed our opening brief in the Ninth Circuit delta smelt Commerce Clause appeal, arguing that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to restrict water deliveries on behalf of the delta smelt is unconstitutional.  For a copy of the brief, go here.

California water bill likely to be hotly debated

By Michael Doyle

McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A San Joaquin Valley Republican is writing an ambitious California water bill that may have a better chance of sparking debate than of becoming law.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, acknowledges the high hurdles facing his bill, whose provisions include authorizing a controversial Peripheral Canal and repealing a San Joaquin River restoration deal. Strategically, though, Nunes insists his bill has promise.

“I know the Democratic majority will never do this,” Nunes said, “but we have every intention of moving this next year if we get control (of Congress.)”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/15/1732443/california-water-bill-likely-to.html#ixzz0trXvB3MM

California Receives $6M For Water Enhancement Projects

July 12, 2010

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) California State Office received approximately $6 million for Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) projects to improve water quality and quantity on hundreds of farms throughout the state. For the second year in a row, California received the largest amount of funding in the United States for nine different AWEP projects.

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California Receives $6M For Water Enhancement Projects

Davis, CA /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) California State Office received approximately $6 million for Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) projects to improve water quality and quantity on hundreds of farms throughout the state. For the second year in a row, California received the largest amount of funding in the United States for nine different AWEP projects.

“AWEP is a voluntary conservation initiative that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve water conditions and conserve valuable water resources on their agricultural land,” said Ed Burton, NRCS State Conservationist for California. Nationwide, nearly $20 million will be used to fund 28 AWEP projects in 10 states.

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Federal Water Transfers Challenged in Court

AquAlliance, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), and the California Water Impact Network (CWIN) have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) to protect the economy and the environment of the northern Sacramento Valley. Repeated water transfer projects in the last decade have all occurred without the benefit of thorough federal or state environmental analysis, which would require the establishment of baseline conditions, comprehensive monitoring, and the disclosure of impacts.

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No dam water for Lake Tahoe rafters on the Fourth

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Truckee River flow rules mean no water for rafters between Tahoe City and the River Ranch for the Fourth of July.

The late spring runoff has been good for the lower stretches of the Truckee River and other streams, creating generally high flows. But a long-standing federal rule means that as long as the flow is high through Floriston in the Truckee River, the U.S. District Court Water Masters Office can’t release extra water from Lake Tahoe, leaving rafting companies on the upper stretch high and dry.

“It’s pretty devastating,” said Aaron Rudnick, owner and operator of the Truckee River Raft Company. “It’s not even the loss of revenue …. it’s 85 kids we’d like to start on their summer jobs before summer is over.”

He said the Fourth of July weekend is generally the biggest weekend of the summer for business. Instead, Rudnick said he’ll be renting out the company’s parking lot for extra paid parking.

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Effort to bring waves back to Long Beach gets a boost

The effort to bring waves back to Long Beach by dismantling the massive breakwater sheltering its shores is getting a boost from the federal government.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is lending its support to a four-year, $8.3-million study on reconfiguring the breakwater and redirecting the mouth of the Los Angeles River.

The Corps’ decision, part of a 31-page report released Monday, is a victory for surfers and conservationists who have for years blamed the World War II-era, 2.2-mile rock barricade for trapping water pollution, weakening waves and making Long Beach one of the least popular and most polluted beaches in the region.

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Congressional Subcommittee Hears Testimony on Water Resources Research Amendments Act

On Thursday, June 17, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on H.R. 5487, the Water Resources Research Amendments Act of 2010.

The bill, submitted by Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Santa Fe Springs), would amend the Water Resources Research Act of 1984.  The original act authorizes and helps to fund research related to water resources by a designated research institute in each state and territory in a program managed by the U.S. Geological Survey.  The research institutes are primarily universities.

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Federal gov boosts Calif. water deliveries

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Late-season storms that provided a robust snowpack and improved pumping conditions have prompted the federal government to increase water supplies to farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Monday that the Bureau of Reclamation would boost water deliveries to its agricultural water contractors south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Contractors will receive 45 percent of their requested allotment, up from the 40 percent they were scheduled to receive last month.

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Tulare Co. towns can’t tap funds for clean water

Federal officials used more than $20 billion in stimulus money to jump-start all kinds of projects in California over the last year — everything from filling potholes to monitoring volcanoes.

But the spending spree never reached some of the state’s poorest residents, who often get contaminated water when they turn on the taps in at least 10 small Tulare County communities.

Federal officials funded such projects as a $16.6 million update of the spillway on Folsom Dam and a $4.4 million solar-electric system at Yosemite National Park. Why didn’t federal money — which was gone by February — clean up drinking water in Tulare County’s poverty pockets?

Read more: http://www.fresnobee.com/2010/05/31/1953231/tulare-co-towns-cant-tap-fed-funds.html#ixzz0pcXpl1xJ

House agriculture panel plans hearing in Fresno

Interior Dept. aims to unify smelt, salmon protection in California

Federal task force named to study California water woes

The Obama Administration has set up a task force that it says will coordinate federal and state efforts to better manage water supplies in California.

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