@POTUS proposes $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2020 budget for @USBR

Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in April 2017. The dam is 15 miles upstream from Lees Ferry, Arizona. Photo by Alexander Stephens/courtesy Bureau of Reclamation.

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation(Theresa Eisenman):

Budget continues Reclamation’s efforts to deliver water and generate hydropower in cost-efficient and environmentally responsible manner

[The President] today proposed a $1.1 billion Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The budget supports the Administration’s and Interior’s goals of ensuring reliable and environmentally responsible delivery of water and power for farms, communities and industry, while providing Reclamation with tools to confront the widening imbalances between supply and demand throughout the West.

“This budget reaffirms the Administration’s commitment to water and power reliability,” said Commissioner Brenda Burman. “A significant portion of this request is dedicated to improving existing infrastructure, including dams and reservoirs, and alleviating the impact of current and future droughts, so the West can continue to be the engine that drives our nation’s economy for years to come.”

Reclamation’s FY 2020 budget of $1.110 billion consists of $962.0 million for Water and Related Resources, $60.0 million for Policy and Administration, $33.0 million for the California Bay Delta account and $54.8 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund.

The proposed budget includes $114.1 million in appropriations for various projects for Extraordinary Maintenance (XM) activities across Reclamation. Reclamation’s XM budget is part of its overall asset management strategy to improve the management of its assets and deal with aging infrastructure challenges. Significant additional XM items are directly funded by revenues, water and power customers, or other federal agencies (e.g., Bonneville Power Administration).

Reclamation provides services through many of its projects and programs to fulfill its trust responsibilities to Tribes. The FY 2020 budget request includes a total of $132.9 million for Indian water rights settlements. This includes funding of $69.2 million for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, $12.8 million for the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement, $8.3 million for the Aamodt Litigation Settlement, and $10.0 million for the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement. Other settlements include the Nez Perce Settlement within Columbia and Snake Rivers Salmon Recovery Project ($5.6 million), the San Carlos Apache Tribe Water Settlement Act ($1.6 million), the Ak-Chin Indian Water Rights Settlement Act ($15.3 million), and the Colorado Ute Settlement Act within the Animas La Plata Project ($10.2 million).

The FY 2020 budget will continue to support water delivery and quality concerns along the Colorado River. The long-term impacts from droughts, such as those in the Colorado River Basin, can’t be solved by a single wet year. Even in states such as California, where hydrologic patterns have recently been beneficial, the hydrologic system is ill equipped to address long term needs. The FY 2020 budget, through programs such as the Lower Colorado River Operations Program ($31.3 million) and the Central Valley Project ($144.3 million), will continue efforts in both areas to find a long-term, comprehensive solution to water supply and quality issues in Colorado and California.

Other highlights of Reclamation’s FY 2020 budget proposal include:

  • $92.8 million for the Dam Safety Program, to effectively manage risks to the downstream public, property, project and natural resources and provides for risk management activities at Reclamation’s high and significant hazard dams.
  • $54.8 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund, to protect, restore, and enhance fish, wildlife, and associated habitats and address impacts of the Central Valley Project (CVP). Offset by discretionary receipts to be collected from project beneficiaries.
  • $2.6 million for the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program, to support new and continued projects in three funding areas — laboratory scale research studies, pilot-scale testing projects and full-scale testing projects.
  • $11.0 million for the Science and Technology Program to support continued science and technology projects, water and power technology prize competitions, technology transfer and dissemination/outreach activities that address critical water and power management issues.
  • $36.4 million for the Site Security Program, which includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.
  • $19.9 for the WaterSMART Program to support Reclamation’s collaboration with non-federal partners in efforts to address emerging water demands and water shortage issues in the West as well as promote water conservation and improved water management.
  • To view details of Reclamation’s budget request, see http://www.usbr.gov/budget.

    Earthquake reported at the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility — @USBR

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

    The U.S. Geological Survey reported that an earthquake occurred at 10:22 a.m. MST, on Monday, March 4, 2019, near Reclamation’s Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility near Bedrock, Colorado. Reclamation maintains a comprehensive network of seismic monitoring instruments in the area, which indicated a preliminary magnitude 4.1 for this earthquake. The quake was felt by employees at the Reclamation facility and residents in surrounding areas.

    The Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility injects highly pressurized, concentrated salt water (brine) into a 16,000-foot-deep well, preventing the brine from entering the Dolores River. The well was not operating at the time of the earthquake due to routine maintenance. Operations will not resume until Reclamation completes a thorough assessment of the situation.

    High-pressure brine injection has been known to trigger small earthquakes in the past, and today’s event was within the range of previously induced earthquakes. Reclamation’s seismic network in the area monitors the location, magnitude and frequency around the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility. Reclamation will continue using that network to monitor earthquakes in the area.

    The Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility substantially benefits downstream water quality in the Colorado River Basin, and helps the United States meet treaty obligations with Mexico for allowable salinity levels in the river. Historically, the Dolores River picked up an estimated 205,000 tons of salt annually as it passed through the Paradox Valley. Since the mid-1990s much of this salt has been collected by the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Unit in shallow wells along the Dolores River and then injected into deep subsurface geologic formations. The deep well injection program removes about 95,000 tons of salt annually from the Dolores and Colorado rivers.

    #ColoradoRiver: #Drought Contingency planning effort creaks along #COriver #aridification #DCP

    Las Vegas Lake Mead intake schematic, courtesy SNWA.

    From The Nevada Independent (Daniel Rothberg):

    The federal government initiated a comment period today for the seven states in the Colorado River Basin, after Arizona and California were unable to agree on a Southwest drought plan by a second “deadline” of March 4.

    The Department of Interior is now giving the governors of the seven states, including Nevada, 15 days to offer recommendations on how federal water managers should proceed if the states can’t agree to a drought plan that they have been negotiating for years.

    The expected Interior action sets a new target to complete the drought plan by March 19, a goal that many believe is achievable as Arizona and California come closer to resolving issues within their respective states that had prevented officials from signing onto the plan. The new deadline comes after water users missed a first deadline to finish the plan by Jan. 31.

    “The states that share the Colorado River continue to work hard on finalizing negotiations of the Drought Contingency Plan, and Nevada’s representatives are confident that a final plan will be delivered to the United States Secretary of the Interior by the March 19 deadline,” Bronson Mack, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority said in an emailed statement.

    The water authority has said it is prepared for the drought plan, which would require the states to make voluntary cuts to its allocation, because of conservation and reusing indoor water.

    John Entsminger, who leads the water authority, serves as the governor’s negotiator on Colorado River issues.

    Like those before it, this newest deadline is seen as a soft target. Even if March 19 passes, the federal government would not take an immediate action until later in the year when decisions have to be made about how to operate Colorado River reservoirs going into 2020. The Bureau of Reclamation, an Interior Department agency, operates those dams and reservoirs.

    #ColoradoRiver: A look at the @USBR deadlines for the #Drought Contingency Plans #DCP #COriver #aridification

    All American Canal Construction circa. 1938 via the Imperial Irrigation District

    From KJZZ (Brett Jaspers) via KUNC:

    As Arizona and other Colorado River states move ever closer to finishing the Drought Contingency Plan to boost Lake Mead, the federal government is moving forward on a parallel track. That path would create a federal plan in case the states don’t finish by the deadline.

    But what is the deadline?

    On Feb. 1, Burman gave everyone another month to wrap up. But that second deadline – March 4th – has passed too. Reclamation is now accepting input from governors in the Colorado River basin on what kind of alternate plan the Department of Interior should install if needed. That input is due March 19th. Another deadline.

    All the while, Arizona is continuing to work on its various agreements.

    Last month, Ted Cooke, General Manager of the Central Arizona Project, told reporters Arizona wouldn’t be done by March 4th.

    “That’s an artificial deadline and these are very complex agreements and very complex negotiations,” he said. “We will take the time we need to do them properly. That being said, I don’t expect it to drag on for months and months and months.”

    At the time, Cooke was confident all of Arizona’s internal deals would be done before the end of April. He also said it wasn’t clear to him what the federal government considered “done.

    “We do not have a clear list of things that need to be completed by that day.” he said, referring to March 4.

    Reclamation would not specify to KJZZ which of Arizona’s separate agreements absolutely must be signed, sealed and delivered for the state to join Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada in the “done” column. On the February 1st press call, Commissioner Burman did say “all” agreements need to be complete.

    Estevan López, who was Reclamation Commissioner from late 2014 until the end of the Obama Administration, said he would want all of the sub-agreements to be signed. “So that nobody can get cold feet and say, ‘oh wait a minute. I want to change this aspect of it.’ Because then, one little thread starts unraveling the whole thing.”

    López said a contingency plan – regardless of who writes it – absolutely needs to be in place by the time an important document gets released in early August. It’s called the August 24-month Study. This tells water users in the basin the projected level of Lake Mead and what amount of cutbacks the states must take. So that makes August the ultimate deadline.

    Commissioner Burman has made it clear she wants the Drought Contingency Plan to come from the states. And they very well may get there. But just in case, the parallel federal process is moving forward.

    “She’s doing it. She’s doing it incrementally,” López said, referring to Burman. “But if things don’t come together by July or August, I think Reclamation will do something.”

    If it came to that, the states could very well contest the broad authority the feds say they have over the Colorado River. We know no one wants it to come to that – especially not for a river system that supplies water to about 40 million people.

    But until we get there, we’re likely to keep hearing about deadlines.

    The @USBR March 4th deadline is upon all of us in the #ColoradoRiver Basin but the spotlight is shining on #Arizona and #California #DCP #COriver #aridification

    All eyes are on Arizona and California with Brenda Burman’s extended deadline coming up on Monday. They are dealing with the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, which really should be a plan to address the declining supply and increasing demand that causes an annual deficit. (H/T Eric Kuhn over at Inkstain.

    From Arizona Central (Ian James):

    Water poured into an artificial wetland next to the Gila River near Sacaton as Arizona’s leading proponents of a Colorado River drought plan celebrated the state’s progress in moving toward a deal.

    Leaders of the Gila River Indian Community touted the restoration project as an example of putting water back into a river that has was sucked dry over the years, and a symbolic step in promoting sustainable water management in the state. The inauguration ceremony on the reservation featured traditional singing by men and boys who shook gourd rattles in unison.

    Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said the community, which has agreed to contribute water under the proposed Colorado River deal, is playing a vital role in helping to finish the three-state Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP.

    “This is very important and very historic,” Lewis told the audience of community members, politicians and water managers. “It goes beyond politics. It goes to the benefit and the future sustainability and existence of all of us here.”

    […]

    Caption: Imperial Valley, Salton Sea, CA / ModelRelease: N/A / PropertyRelease: N/A (Newscom TagID: ndxphotos113984) [Photo via Newscom]

    Unresolved issues remain

    Yet even as Arizona’s top water officials expressed optimism about finishing the drought agreement after months of difficult negotiations, they also voiced concerns that unresolved issues in California still could upend the entire deal.

    More than 250 miles to the west in California’s Imperial Valley, leaders of the irrigation district that controls the largest share of Colorado River water were still discussing a key condition of their participation. Imperial Irrigation District officials announced at a meeting on Friday afternoon that the federal Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to their condition that the drought package include linkage to funding for the Salton Sea.

    They said federal officials will write a strong letter of support backing IID’s requests for $200 million in Farm Bill funding for wetlands projects around the shrinking sea. The projects are aimed at keeping down dust along the shorelines and salvaging deteriorating habitat for fish and birds.

    Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, the U.S. solicitor and staff are finalizing a letter stating that “they consider the restoration of the Salton Sea is a critical ingredient of the drought contingency plans and cannot be ignored, and they stand prepared to help the IID with the Department of Agriculture to try to get funding in whatever way possible,” said IID attorney Charles Dumars.

    He cautioned that it was “a building block, nothing more,” but said it was a big one that could be used to persuade Agriculture Department officials to allocate funds for the receding lake…

    The board also voted unanimously to oppose a supposed “white knight” offer by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s general manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger, to provide IID’s portion of water to be kept in Lake Mead if the agency doesn’t sign on to the drought plan.

    Several board members and people in the audience chided the Los Angeles-based agency for trying to interfere in their process, saying it was ignoring the public-health issues at the Salton Sea created by the withdrawal of Colorado River water…

    IID officials also discussed a timeline that Burman and her staff presented at a recent meeting in Las Vegas. The aim, Martinez said, is to have agreements adopted by all parties…in Phoenix on March 14 or 15 to sign a joint letter to Congress endorsing the plan…

    Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

    Arizona working to wrap up its part

    The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because the community is entitled to about a fourth of the water that passes through the Central Arizona Project, and it has offered to kick in some water to make the drought agreement work.

    Arizona’s plan for divvying up the water cutbacks involves deliveries of “mitigation” water to help lessen the blow for some farmers and other entities, as well as compensation payments for those that contribute water. Those payments are to be covered with more than $100 million from the state and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which manages the CAP Canal. Much of the money would go toward paying for water from the Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Gila River Indian Community…

    Gov. Ducey signed a package of legislation on Jan. 31 endorsing the Drought Contingency Plan. Arizona still needs to finish a list of internal water agreements to make the state’s piece of the deal work.

    State officials have presented a list of a dozen remaining agreements, two of which would require the approval of the Gila River Indian Community. But Cooke said not all the agreements need to be signed for the three-state deal to move forward.

    Cooke said he’s focused most of all on finishing a framework agreement for Arizona focusing on “intentionally created surplus,” a term for unused water that is stored in Lake Mead.

    “I understand IID has issues that are important to the community, but we need to have Met move forward without IID” — Jeffrey Kightlinger #DCP #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    The first Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors’ meeting in Pasadena, December 1928. Photo via the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

    From The Palm Springs Desert Sun (Janet Wilson):

    With a Monday deadline looming, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has offered to break an impasse on a seven-state Colorado River drought contingency package by contributing necessary water from its own reserves on behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District. It’s not help that IID is seeking, but Metropolitan general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said he had no choice.

    He informed IID and federal, Arizona and Nevada officials at meetings in Las Vegas on Monday of the offer.

    “I told them Metropolitan would be willing to go ahead and sign off for California, in the absence of the Imperial Irrigation District being willing to do that. We would make both IID’s and Metropolitan’s water contributions,” Kightlinger said.

    He said U.S Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman and the state officials were appreciative of the offer, while IID officials preferred his agency not move forward until their conditions are met.

    IID, the lone holdout on the multi-pronged deal to conserve water for 40 million people and thousands of acres of farmland across the West, voted in December to only approve the plan if $200 million in federal funds was awarded to restore the fast-drying Salton Sea. The sea, California’s largest inland water body, lost imports from the river 13 months ago, sending ever greater clouds of hazardous dust across neighboring communities, farms and wildlife refuges. An avenue to provide funding was created in this year’s Farm Bill, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

    Kightlinger said he took a good look at this winter’s significant snow pack and rainfall figures and decided his district could replace the 250,000 acre feet of water that IID might need to leave in the shrinking Lake Mead reservoir as part of the drought plan.

    “It’s always possible mandatory cuts will be made, and we feel making our own plans instead … all that certainty helps,” said Kightlinger. “To have no certainty is very difficult for an urban agency. I understand IID has issues that are important to the community, but we need to have Met move forward without IID.”

    @USBR extends #DCP deadline one month #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Lake Mead bathtub ring Mark Henle Arizona Republic

    From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta) via The Sky-Hi News:

    Amid the worst drought in the recorded history of the Colorado River Basin, the federal government is giving Colorado and six other states just one more month to finalize drought contingency plans to rein in water use. If all seven basin states do not comply by March 4, the feds will intervene and create its own scheme to adjust water usage across the West.

    Jan. 31 was the original deadline for the Upper and Lower Basin states to submit their completed drought contingency plans before the Department of the Interior uses its authority to draw up plans at the federal level.

    The Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico have already submitted their plans, as well as the country of Mexico. The Lower Basin states — Arizona, California and Nevada — have yet to finalize their plans.

    There is good reason for the urgency. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which collectively distribute the Colorado River’s water to 40 million people across the West, are at the lowest levels they’ve been since Lake Powell was first filled in the ’60s. The drought has been continuous since 2000, with warming temperatures and shorter winters leaving less and less snow melting at the river’s source. The feds wanted the drought contingency plans to be in place by this summer to slow down water loss and avoid reaching critically low reservoir levels next summer…

    Coming up with drought contingency plans is time consuming and requires a lot of negotiating among thousands of water rights holders. A particular hangup exists with Arizona, which is the only state that needs state legislature approval before the plans can be officially submitted.

    Arizona has been struggling to get the many ranchers, farmers, American Indian tribes and other stakeholders who rely on water in one of the driest parts of the country to agree to cutbacks in the case of a water emergency. After a lot of log rolling, and just six hours before the Jan. 31 deadline, Arizona’s Gov. Doug Ducey signed a drought contingency plan that the state believed to be sufficient.

    However, the Bureau of Reclamation was not satisfied. The next day, the bureau proclaimed that Arizona, California and Nevada had not submitted complete plans, as agreements had not been reached with all the key water rights holders. In other words, the feds were not convinced that the drought contingency plans were sufficient to ensure water levels staying above critical.

    The bureau gave the states until March 4 to finalize their plans. If they’re not finalized by then, the feds would request comment from the governor of each state on how they wish to manage their water, with a public comment period.

    The feds saw Arizona’s late effort to pass a plan as promising, and is still optimistic that the plans can be finalized by the deadline, avoiding federal intervention. However, the situation is grave enough that March 4 may very well be the last day the basin states can control their own destiny when it comes to water management.

    “This departmental action was not our preferred approach,” the Bureau of Reclamation said in a statement. “However, any further delay elevates existing risks in the basin to unacceptable levels. It is our hope that the basin states will promptly complete the (plans), and if they are successful, we anticipate terminating (plans for federal intervention.)”

    From The Los Angeles Times (Michael Hiltzik):

    On the surface, things have seemed to be looking up in recent weeks for the future of Lake Mead.

    The Western storms of the last month have fostered the impression of a respite, at least temporarily, from the region’s long drought. Earlier this month, Arizona legislators passed a sheaf of crucial measures signaling their willingness to cooperate in an interstate drought contingency plan, staving off federal intervention.

    Yet these are stopgaps. The giant reservoir on the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam, which provides water chiefly to residents in California and farmers there and in Arizona, is suffering from a long-term and possibly irreversible decline in capacity.

    Lake Mead’s enemies are both natural and man-made. Climate change has placed the Colorado River basin in a long-term drought. Meanwhile, human demands for water from the Colorado have far outstripped what it can provide.

    “We’re in the 19th year of a drought,” observes Robert Glennon, an expert on water policy at the University of Arizona, “and it’s pretty obvious that climate change is having a devastating impact.” That places a premium on interstate cooperation to address the drought’s consequences — chiefly how to apportion what is certain to be a diminishing supply of Colorado water.