EPA Seeks Input on Existing Programs that Protect Water Quality from Forest Road Discharges

On Tuesday, November 10, EPA published a Federal Register Notice to solicit public input and information on existing public and private sector programs that address stormwater discharges from forest roads. This information will assist EPA in responding to the Environmental Defense Center, Inc. remand that requires EPA to consider whether the Clean Water Act requires the Agency to regulate forest roads. This notice does not imply that EPA has made any decision to do so. EPA is considering the implementation, effectiveness, and scope of a variety of existing programs in addressing water quality impacts attributable to stormwater discharges from forest roads prior to making any decision. EPA is also coordinating with other Federal agencies to assess the need for additional stormwater controls, consistent with Federal law, including the recent 2014 amendments to the Clean Water Act.

State drinking water programs should consider providing any available information that might exist on source water/water quality protection programs that address forest roads in your state, or sharing this request with any of your water systems that are undertaking these types of projects.  Comments must be received on or before January 11, 2016.  You may submit comments using Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2015-0668 through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: http://www.regulations.gov.

2016 USDA Water Conservation Funding and Two New Focus Areas for Ogallala Aquifer Initiative

USDA’s  Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced $8 million in funding and two new focus areas for the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI) in Fiscal Year 2016.  The OAI supports targeted, local efforts to help farmers and ranchers conserve the quality and quantity of water.  This funding is now available for two new focus areas in Oklahoma and the Middle Republican Natural Resource District in Nebraska, in addition to the seven current and ongoing focus areas in five states (Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas).

The Ogallala Aquifer has suffered in recent years from increased periods of drought and declining water resources.  It is the largest aquifer in the US and the primary water source for the High Plains region.  Covering nearly 174,000 square miles, it supports the production of nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the US and supplies 30 percent of all water used for irrigation in the US.  NRCS analysis of Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) conservation projects in the region, including those implemented through OAI, estimated reduced water withdrawals of at least 1.5 million acre-feet, or 489 billion gallons of water, from 2009 through 2013 and an energy savings equivalent of almost 33 million gallons of diesel fuel due to reduced irrigation.  For more information on the 2016 OAI, view the press release.

Registration Now Open for Nov 13th CWA-SDWA Toolkit Webinar on NPS and 319 Programs

GWPC, ACWA, and ASDWA are pleased to announce that registration is now open for the Fourth CWA-SDWA Toolkit Webinar on NPS and 319 Programs.  We hope you will join us and invite your fellow Clean Water Act colleagues to participate with you.  This is a great way to get together with them to start or enhance your working relationship.  Registration is free and open to anyone who is interested in participating.

REGISTER HERE:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5149810469171201282

DATE:  Friday, November 13, 2015

TIME:  3:00pm to 4:30pm (eastern time)

TITLE:  Fourth CWA-SDWA Toolkit Webinar: Using Nonpoint Source and Clean Water Act 319 Programs to Protect and Preserve Drinking Water Quality

DESCRIPTION: This is the final in a series of four webinars conducted through a joint effort of the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), and the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA). This fourth CWA-SDWA Toolkit webinar will provide state, interstate, tribal, and federal water program managers with more detailed information about Section 5 of the Toolkit, on using Nonpoint Source and Clean Water Act 319 Programs to protect drinking water sources and work across programs to achieve mutual goals.  The webinar will feature presenters from Wisconsin and Delaware, who will share their experiences in coordinating efforts with these programs.

The CWA-SDWA Toolkit entitled, “Opportunities to Protect Drinking Water Sources and Advance Watershed Goals through the Clean Water Act: A Toolkit for State, Interstate, Tribal, and Federal Water Program Managers,” was developed by a workgroup that included many state, EPA Headquarters, and EPA Regional representatives from clean water, drinking water, and ground water programs. Next steps beyond these webinars may include collecting and sharing success stories from the states on CWA/SDWA collaborations.

To view information about the previous webinars, visit ASDWA’s source water protection web page at www.asdwa.org/sourcewaterprotection.

Michigan DEQ Develops Draft Plan to Reduce Phosphorus to Lake Erie

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has published a draft plan to reduce phosphorus inputs to Lake Erie by 40 percent.  This is part of the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement that was signed in June 2015 by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to achieve a 40 percent total load reduction in the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 2025, using phosphorus loading data from 2008 as its baseline.  Michigan’s plan focuses on reducing phosphorus to the Detroit River, the River Raisin and the state’s portion of the Maumee River basin by:  maintaining and modifying several wastewater discharge permit reductions; working with Indiana and Ohio to target reductions in the Maumee River watershed; monitoring and assessing harmful algal blooms and the role of invasive mussels; and continuing to reduce nutrient loads that can contribute to site-specific or seasonal water quality fluctuations.

Comments on the draft plan are being accepted until December 7, 2015.  The full draft plan is available at www.michigan.gov/wrd, under “What’s New.”  For more information, please contact Bill Creal of Michigan at crealw@michigan.gov or 517-284-5470.

EPA Publishes Draft 2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment Report

On November 5, EPA published a Federal Register Notice announcing the availability of its draft 2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) report for a 30-day public comment period. The NWCA 2011 draft report is the first national assessment of the ecological condition of the nation’s wetlands and describes the results of a nationwide probabilistic survey of wetlands conducted by EPA and its state and tribal partners.  Results are based on ecological data collected at over 1,000 sites using standardized protocols and include estimates of wetland area condition, nationally and by ecoregion, for biological indicators based on plants and key wetland stressors that can impact water quality and drinking water supplies.  The report also provides information on the design and implementation of the scientific assessment, possible implications, and future actions, including the next 2016 Assessment.  This report marks the completion of the first full-cycle of assessments by EPA and its partners under EPA’s National Aquatic Resource Surveys program.  Visit EPA’s website to read the draft report.  Comments can be made vis the regulations.gov website.  Comments must be received on or before December 7, 2015.