Today in WaterWise News:
Senate fails to repeal WOTUS and moves to Plan B ♦ President to deny TransCanda request to delay Keystone XL review ♦ With budget deal approved, Congress now has to actually pass spending bills, starting with defense ♦ House's 2016 legislative calendar has only 111 days of work ♦ Grass-planting successful in restoring coastal wetlands ♦ Provision to streamline NEPA process angers environmentalists ♦ Enviro groups sue over Alabama coal mine permit ♦ How states lost battle for LWCF ♦ Mississippi's sediment is coastal gold dust ♦ Look at activated carbon to treat dredged sediment ♦ Repairs to breakwaters in CT close to finished ♦ Alaska governor accepts FEMA funds for North Slope Borough ♦ Lawsuit in San Diego challenges nuclear waste burial
Wall Street Journal - The Senate on Tuesday fell short of advancing legislation to repeal environmental regulations that bring more waterways and wetlands under federal protection, a victory for the Obama administration on rules that have faced a series of legal and political setbacks over the past few months. With 57 senators - all the Republicans and four Democrats - supporting the measure and 41 senators voting now the measure failed to meet a 60-vote requirement to begin debate on the bill. The regulations, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, were set to go into effect earlier this year, but a federal court blocked them temporarily in early October while a group of states mount legal challenges. Read more.
E&E Daily - The Senate stands poised to approve a resolution to kill the Obama administration's water rule today after opponents' preferred measure to deal with the issue failed yesterday. The resolution, a disapproval of the Waters of the U.S. rule, overcame a key procedural vote late yesterday afternoon thanks to the expedited procedures under the Congressional Review Act that allow such a measure to be taken up with the support of only a simple majority. Senators voted 55-43 to take up the measure, with three Democrats - Sens. Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia - supporting and one Republican - Susan Collins of Maine - opposing. The resolution is all but certain to pass later today but is headed only for a swift veto from President Obama, whose advisers issued another statement of administration policy yesterday afternoon. Read more.
New York Times - The White House on Tuesday said President Obama had no intention of bowing to a request from the company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline to delay a decision on the project, saying he wanted to take action before his tenure ends. The State Department is reviewing a request made on Monday by the company, TransCanada, to pause its yearslong evaluation of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, which has become part of a broader debate over Mr. Obama's environmental agenda. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that "there's reason to suspect that there may be politics at play" in TransCanada's request. He strongly suggested that the review, which had been widely expected to result in a rejection of the pipeline as soon as this month, remained on track. Read more.
Wall Street Journal - Just one day after President Barack Obama signed into law a two-year bipartisan budget deal, congressional leaders prepared on Tuesday for a fight next month over the spending legislation that divvies up the pie. The budget measure, approved by Congress last week, sets overall spending levels for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. But lawmakers still need to pass detailed spending bills that will divide up the total funding for specific parts of the government. The spending bills for various government programs are expected to be combined together in one large measure called an omnibus that must be passed by Dec. 11, when the government's current funding expires. Fiscal 2016 began Oct. 1. Read more.
New York Times - Rank-and-file House Republicans have been demanding a greater role in legislating - and more amendments - which means longer debates and workdays at the Capitol. And Speaker Paul D. Ryan seems prepared to oblige. But election years also present their own special scheduling imperatives, given the need for lawmakers to defend their seats. This was clear on Tuesday as the House majority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, published the legislative schedule for 2016, which, largely because of time off for political conventions and campaigning, will contain just 25 full four-day or five-day work weeks. Read more.
National Science Foundation - When restoring coastal wetlands, common practice calls for leaving space between new plants to prevent overcrowding and reduce competition for nutrients and sunlight. That's likely all wrong. A new study, conducted to restore degraded salt marshes in Florida and the Netherlands, has found that clumping newly planted marsh grasses next to each other, with little or no space in between, can spur positive interactions between the plants. In some test plots, plant density and vegetative cover increased by as much as 300 percent by season's end. "This is really small design change that can yield greatly improved results, without adding to restoration costs or time," said Brian Silliman, a marine ecologist at Duke University. Read more.
E&E Daily - Environmental groups are redoubling objections to provisions in highway funding legislation that they say would erode protections in the National Environmental Policy Act. The language contained in H.R. 3763, a six-year House road and transit authorization bill, would undermined NEPA's "guarantee that potential environmental impacts are thoughtfully considered, disclosed and informed by public input," almost 40 organizations said in a letter to members of Congress sent earlier this week. They also voiced opposition to what the letter terms "extremely controversial and problematic language" from H.R. 22, a Senate-passed counterpart, partly on the grounds that the legislation would make it more difficult for citizens to challenge questionable projects in court and allow potentially weaker state reviews to take the place of scrutiny under NEPA. The bill would apply to broad range of non-transportation projects costing more than $200 million, according to the letter. Read more.
Washington Post - Congressional negotiators have struck a deal to strip $5 billion from the annual defense policy bill, bringing it in line with the newly-passed budget and potentially ending a veto showdown with President Obama. The House on Thursday will vote on the new proposal and Republican leaders have put it on the suspension calendar, meaning it will require a two-thirds majority vote to pass. House GOP are taking this procedural step to show there are votes to override a potential veto of the plan. Obama vetoed an earlier version of the bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), due to a broader dispute over how much domestic and military funding should be increased. But that fight was settled last week paving the way for this new version of the defense authorization bill to be moved through Congress. Read more.
Courthouse News Service - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unlawfully approved an Alabama coal mining permit that could negatively impact the habitat of nine threatened or endangered species, environmental groups claim in court. Black Warrior Riverkeeper Inc., an Alabama nonprofit, and Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation organization, sued the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service int he Birmingham Federal Court. The Oct. 27 lawsuit claims the agencies violated the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act by approving a permit application without the appropriate environmental analysis. The Clean Water Act Section 404 permit authorizes its applicant, Global Met Coal Corporation to "fill 9,760 linear feet (~2 miles) of streams and nearly an acre of important wetlands in the Black Warrior River watershed in connection with surface coal mining operations." Read more.
E&E Daily - In 1976, the Land and Water Conservation Fund had just wrapped up what lawmakers from both parties agreed was a successful first decade. Congress had approved nearly $2 billion, much of it from offshore oil and gas revenue, to purchase new federal parklands and help states build ballparks, boat ramps, trails and other recreation facilities. Then-Rep. Roy Taylor, a Democrat from North Carolina, called it "one of the most successful federal programs initiated by Congress." In a show of bipartisanship, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to triple the fund's authorized level from $300 million to $900 million a year and to expand the types of projects it could fund. But in a curious move, they also voted to nix an existing provision that, unless appropriators decided otherwise, ensured 60 percent of LWCF money went to states and 40 percent to federal land acquisition. Read more.
Al Jazeera America - A hulking old engineering boat moves slowly up the mile-wide Mississippi River. The Dredge Jadwin operates like a gigantic vacuum cleaner, sucking up sediment from the riverbed and spewing it out to the side through a long pipe. "For us, sediment it's basically a problem," says Randy Stockton, master of the Jadwin, built in 1933. "It clogs up the shipping channel. It silts in the river ports. The more of it there is, the harder we work to move it. But down the coast this stuff is like gold dust." These tiny particles of sand and silt, some of which have washed all the way down the river from North Dakota and Minnesota, are at the center of a heated debate in south Louisiana. According to move scientists and environmentalists, sediment from the Mississippi is the best hope of saving Louisiana's disappearing coast. They support projects, now in the planning stages, that will divert river water into the eroding coastal marshes, in the hope that sediment will settle, accumulate and form land. Read more.
Tank Storage Magazine - The projects includes the development of a new marine dock capable of handling Panamax-sized ships or barges with up to a 40-foot draft as well as new pipeline infrastructure for the movement of refined products and crude oil to the new dock at rates up to 20,000 barrels per hour. Additionally, connectivity between Magellan's Galena Park terminal and its Houston crude oil distribution system is also being expanded. The project is expected to cost around $115 million (€104 million). Connectivity improvements are expected to be complete and operation by the end of 2016 and the new marine dock is due to be fully operational by the end of 2018. Read more.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - The mission of dredging harbors and connecting federal navigation channels along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario is the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District and is vital to the functionality of the Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS) and the overall U.S. economy. While dredging has been taking place for hundreds of years, the management of dredged sediment is among the top Great Lakes priorities and challenges. Adding to the challenge is that portions of dredged sediments contain contamination that can have a negative impact on the aquatic environment if not managed properly. There are a number of potential sources of sediment contamination including: municipal and industrial discharges, urban and agricultural runoff, sewer overflows, and atmospheric deposition. Read more.
New Haven Register - Major repairs on the three breakwaters in New Haven Harbor, damaged in two major storms to hit Connecticut, are close to being done. A barge with a crane used to move granite into place can be seen from Lighthouse Park as employees at Mohawk Construction finish up work on the East Breakwater off Morgan Point. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers combined the work in New Haven Harbor and Bridgeport Harbor for the breakwater repairs into one bid, for a project cost of $7.4 million. Superstorm Sandy left $360 million in damages in Connecticut, with some properties still recovering after it swept ashore in October 2012. One year before that, Hurricane Irene caused $7 billion to $10 billion in damage across the country and $281 million in Connecticut. Read more.
Alaska Native News - Governor Bill Walker announced Monday he has accepted financial support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Program to address damaged caused by an August storm in the North Slope Borough. The Governor's office was notified late last week that the agency had accepted the state's request for disaster assistance and issued a presidential proclamation to activate restoration funds. "The North Slope Borough did an outstanding job protecting their roads and infrastructure as best they could during the August storm. Without their brave efforts, the damages would have been significantly greater," Said Governor Walker. "The State of Alaska has an effective relationship with FEMA, and with their support, we will be able to repair the damage caused by this storm." Read more.
Florida Water Daily - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has awarded one of the three remaining construction contracts for the C-111 South Dade project, an Everglades restoration project in Miami-Dade County, Fla. The $13.9 million construction contract was awarded to the Polote Corporation from Savannah, Ga., Oct. 29. The contract, known as a Contract 8, involves constructing a detention area that will connect the C-111 South Dade project to the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park (Mod Waters) project. Read more.
Pensacola News Journal - Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina and Dennis blew away a significant amount of sand put down for Pensacola Beach renourishment in the early 2000s, and just three years later, dredgers, bulldozers and excavators returned for another round. The beach caught an unfortunate break then, but Mother Nature atoned after the 2005-06 renourishment with nearly 10 years of relatively calm conditions. "We were very fortunate," said Buck Lee, Santa Rosa Island Authority executive director. Lee is crossing his fingers the same will be true 10 years from today. The Island Authority confirmed Tuesday that renourishment and restoration of 8.1 miles of the beach shoreline will begin the week of Nov. 16 and will last an estimated three months. The renourishment project will cost about $17 million. Read more.
NBC San Diego - A San Diego citizens group has filed a lawsuit challenging the California Coastal Commission's decision to allow the burial of atomic waste from the failed San Onofre nuclear generating plant. Besides the Coastal Commission, the lawsuit names the nuclear plant's operator, Southern California Edison, and so-called John Doe defendants to be added to the litigation at a later time. Attorneys for the group, the Citizens Action Coalition, are expected to seek a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction to stop the project until the case goes to trial. "Could you choose any worse place than this?" the coalition's organizer Ray Lutz asked rhetorically at a downtown news conference Tuesday afternoon. Read more.