Interstate Council on Water Policy 2020 Annual Meeting Summary

October 6, 8, 13, & 15, 2020 | Held in 4 Virtual Sessions

Downloadable Presentations:

Joseph Redican; Deputy Planning Chief, USACE

Jennifer Filbert, WI Dept. of Natural Resources

Jodee Pring, WY Water Development Office

Linwood Peele, NC Dept. of Environmental Quality

Katie Dahlberg, TX Water Development Board

Todd Stonely, UT Division of Water Resources

Dr. Don Cline, USGS Associate Director for Water

Chad Wagner, USGS, GWSIP Coordinator

Mindi Dalton, USGS, WAUSP Coordinator

Veva Deheza, NIDIS Executive Director

Dr. Tom Graziano, Director, Office of Water Predication, NWS/NOAA

Brownie Wilson, Kansas Geological Survey

Scott Kaden, Missouri Geological Survey

Taylor Christian, TX Water Development Board

Michael Voich, USACE Infrastructure Team

Feenstra_ ASCE
Emily Feenstra, ASCE

Anna Mauss, Colorado Water Conservation Board

Julia Anastasio, Association of Clean Water Agencies

Drew Dehoff, ICWP Interstate Committee Chair

Breegan Anderson, Arkansas Natural Resources Division, Dept. Ag

Tuesday, October 6, 2020-Session 1–Water Planning Focus

Welcome—Amy Shallcross, ICWP Chair and Jennifer Hoggatt, Water Planning Committee chair and Session moderator welcomed everyone to this virtual 2020 Annual Meeting.  Amy provided history and background information on ICWP and noted that many new folks have registered for this virtual meeting. Almost 160 registered 97 have logged in to this session.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Planning Programs Update

Joseph Redican, HQ Deputy Planning Chief:  Joe noted the increase in number of WRDA Chief’s reports since 2018 and the utilization of the Chief’s reports for projects to be authorized in WRDA.  He also gave some examples of use of Planning assistance to States funding.  Ada Benavides gave more detail on the Chief’s reports and agreed to see if the list could be shared.  She described the WRDA legislation versions that have passed the Senate and House.  It’s possible that a conferenced bill would pass during lame duck .Joe said that USACE is reviewing the recent NEPA changes and determining internally which may require rulemaking to implement.

State Planning Programs Panel—Theme of Data Delivery/Presentation.  Five states presented their perspectives on their water planning approaches and how data are delivered to the public.  Jennifer Filbert, IT Project Coordinator-Bureau of Drinking water &     Groundwater; Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources described that the Great Lakes Compact is driver behind water use program in Wisconsin.  The Compact provided for a. ban of diversions out of the Great Lakes basin which led to the required registration and reporting of any large gw withdrawals.   Wisconsin has one site for reporting and then a public site for accessing the water use data.  They have found Story Board on Wisconsin water use is valuable way to see the data visually.  Jodee Pring, River Basin Planning Supervisor, Wyoming Water Development Office focuses on their new Water Bulletin and use of Tableau  Old way of planning developed huge paper reports, felt there was a better way into the future, utilizing new technology such as Tableau, Google Earth Engine and others.  These products allow for telling the story with more graphics than words. Wyoming successfully used Tableau to show the results of a survey on aging conveyance structure across the entire state to emphasize to the legislature the risks in the state of structures in poor condition. Linwood Peele, Water Supply Planning Branch Supervisor, North Carolina DEQ. No statewide water use permitting process in NC, but annual reporting of use is required.  The State is divided into 17 water basins for planning purposes.  Reporting of water use for the prior calendar year is due April 1.   Data are entered by the water users and needed a QA/QC process as the data from these reports are used for a variety of purposes.  PowerBI for presenting the data and are useful for projecting water use by type as populations are expected to increase in the various river basins. In North Carolina they see  large changes in water use from drought years to normal precip years.   Katie Dahlberg, Texas Water Development Board; Visualizing Water Use Data in Texas through Dashboards –Regional Water Planning and Data Visualization.  TWDB mission is to ensure a secure water future for the state.  Conduct a water use survey of over 7000 water users:  municipal, industrial and stream electric power, and estimate  use for other entities not surveyed (includes O &G , livestock and Irrigation).  16 regional water plans and are updated every 5 years. 2 databases are maintained; one for historical and one for projections. TWDB wanted a way to link the 2 databases and used dashboards as method. Katie uses both Tableau and MS Power BI to accomplish and is able to customize in house.  She showed a live demo of the power of the dashboards created. Todd Stonely, Assistant Director, Planning Branch, Utah Division of Water Resources . Todd described that  water planning is done with the Water Resources agency.  They complete a  State Water Plan, River Basin Plans and Special studies. Such as   M&I demand models, river basin modeling, cloud seeding, water budgeting and water conservation.  Utah State Water Plan is published on a 5year cycle.  Utah divided into 11 river basins.  Recent Special Studies have included:  Water Reuse; Conjunctive Management; Drought; Sediment Management; System Water Losses.

Thursday, October 8, 2020-Session 2–Water Data and Science Focus

Welcome—Amy Shallcross, ICWP Chair and Water Data & Science Committee chair and Session moderator made some opening remarks on the goals of ICWP and member benefits.  101 participants logged in to this second session.

US Geological Survey Panel

Dr. Don Cline, USGS Associate Director for Water began the panel with a high-level overview of the Water Mission Area whose activities focus on: Observing, Understanding, Predicting and Delivering Water Science to the Nation.  A 2018 NAS Study “Future Water Priorities for the Nation” provided 10 recommendations for the USGS Mission Area.  Chad Wagner, USGS, Program Coordinator, Groundwater & Streamflow Information Program Update, continued with the overview provided by Don on how USGS Integrated Water Science is moving forward around the 4 goals.

Observe—NGWOS–Integrated Water Observation Basins
Assess—Integrated Water Availability Assessments  (IWAA)
Predict—Integrated Water Prediction
Deliver—National Water Information System Modernization (NWIS)

Chad discussed that the Delaware was the first NGWOS basin, the Upper Colorado has been chosen for 2nd and the upper mid-west will be the location of the 3rd basin for highlighting HAB and nutrient delivery.  A new Webtool “Gages through the Ages” has been released:

and shows how gaging resources have fluctuate over time.  Chad noted that with the level funding in FPS, costs have increased, and the flat budget will result in the need to cut gages.  The list of gages threatened are on the USGS webpage and the WSCs are actively looking for other partners.  Mindi Dalton, USGS, Program Coordinator, Water Use and Availability Science Program Update Mindi discussed the predication and assessment goal areas. IWAA’s resulted from SECURE water Act requirements. Integrated Water Prediction is a national effort.  A visualization too showing natural storage nationwide is one product from IWAAs:

Mindi concluded with an update on the states who have received WUDR grants and how the data from those grants have improved the Water Use predications by USGS.   Becci Anderson, USGS, Management & Planning Lead, National Geospatial Program—National Hydrography Datasets Update  described that High Resolution of NHDPlus is built using 1:24K scale and data gained through the 3DEP program.  At high resolution, the number of stream reaches nationwide jump from 3 m to 27 m.  Through the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) it is anticipated that complete acquisition of lidar nationwide by 2023.  The Next Generation 3D National Terrain Model is focus for the future and 6 strategies have been identified to get a 3D NTM built.  USGS is developing a 3DNTM Call for Action in 2 Parts and more information will be shared as the action plan is fleshed out.

Next, Veva Deheza, NIDIS Executive Director; National Integrated Drought Information System  provided  program update.   The Drought Early Warning Systems are expanding the drought products specialized for regions of the country. The DEWS covering the Southeast part of the US has expanded. NIDIS has now received clearance for releasing the summary from the National Drought Forum July 30-31, 2019 and it will be posted next week.  NIDIS is excited to reveal a greatly expanded website in December 2020, which will contain a variety of new content such as Drought/Ecosystems interactions.

Tom Graziano, Director, Office of Water Prediction, National Weather Service/NOAA covered the NWS Strategic Vision and Plan,–A Weather Ready Nation- 2019-2022.  The US public asking for expanded forecast sites and more frequent for flood/extreme precip/storm surge.  National Water Center—Full operating capacity planned for Sept. 30, 2022.  Increased staffing during events, such as Delta making landfall tomorrow.  The 4th upgrade of the National Water Model is almost ready for release and will expand  coverage to Puerto Rico and expand Great  Lakes basin coverage. Precip estimates in Hawaii have greatly improved correlation in this version as well.   Lastly, Tom described the Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast System Products, whose goal is to seamlessly space forecast lead times from one hour to one year.

States Panel on Extreme Event Preparedness and the need for Solid Data in Decision making—Three states provided innovative work in groundworker management, water use calculation and flood impacts decision support. Brownie Wilson, GIS/Support Services Manager, Kansas Geological Survey Building groundwater models in Kansas. He showed examples of the 3D modeling from well logs gathered by other agencies and the WIZARD-Water Information Storage and Retrieval Database product as well as the WIMAS-Water Information Management and Analysis System, done in cooperation with the Water Rights division of the Dept. Agriculture.    Scott Kaden, Groundwater Section Chief; Missouri Geological Survey described gw work being done in MO through grants from the WUDR program of USGS.  Networks include observation wells and soil moisture.  Water Use data collection; only collected from users with ability to withdraw 70 gpm or greater and data are collected in Jan-March for the previous calendar year.  Water users can report on-line or hard copy form.  Uses include electrical withdrawal, Irrigation, Other (mine, wildlife, livestock, recreation).  In 2019 4,678 withdrawals reported; 1879 reports with no usage.  During wet years, not unusual for irrigation wells to not be used. WUDR grants in MO used for improved compliance in reporting and improved the on-line reporting capability. No penalty for failure to report.  Taylor Christian, Water Data Scientist & Coordinator, Texas Water Development Board—Flood Decision Support .  Taylor described how the TWRB incorporates data from a variety of sources, such as the TexMesonet to create the products for the Flood Decisions Support dashboard.  A Statewide Flood Assessment happened to be started same week as Harvey hitting the state. The Flood Risk Mapping being done is greatly expanding, having gone from a dozen flood employees to 70 and  are currently hiring. LiDAR now flown for full state and Base Level Engineering-full coverage of state is expected by 2024. Data are  being added to FEMA Flood Viewer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020-Session 3–Legislation and Policy Focus

Welcome—Amy Shallcross, ICWP Chair and Kirsten Wallace, Legislation and Policy Committee chair and Session moderator

Congressional Views on Infrastructure

WRDA—Congressional update—Camille Touton, House T & I, explained that the T&I committee handles all transportation needs, including roads and waterways.  In the House, WRDA passed on suspension earlier this session.  It’s unusual for a bill of this magnitude to pass on suspension and that shows the broad, non-partisan support for passing a WRDA.  3 doz. Chief’s reports that are being authorizing and a number of studies.  Each project has a member’s priority.  Other priorities of Chairman DeFazio include the Harbor Trust Fund and Safe Drinking Water reauthorization. Brian Clifford, Senate EPW. Goal on Senate side is to get projects built faster and more economically; Streamlining with a goal of two years and use of Categorical Exclusions to decrease the pre-construction time.  Disadvantaged communities are also a focus of the Senate version.  Reaching out to House and feels there is a good chance to get passed in lame duck session.  It will be difficult to get floor time on the Senate, so if a House version that has been conferenced is ready that makes the procedural process easier for the Senate.  May still be limited ability to add language that is not in current version.

Both Camille and Brian reiterated that although face to face congressional staff meetings are not occurring because of COVID, staff is very open to virtual constituent interactions and work is getting done via conference calls/Zoom meeting. All staff are becoming proficient at remote work and entire WRDA bill was developed after COVID quarantines.  They are both open to requests for virtual meetings on topics of interest to ICPW members.  Following in this vein of outreach between Washington DC and constituent offices, Dan Hillenbrand, Policy Advisor, Sen. James Inhofe’s staff provided an example of Congressional Office interaction with home state water agency—Oklahoma example.   Congressional staff doesn’t have time or expertise to be subject matter experts so rely heavily on experts back in the home state and want any legislation to be best for implementation in the member’s state.  Helping the staff understand the importance of topics is paramount and developing a relationship important so the staff knows who to call when related legislation is introduced.  Julie Cunningham related the meetings held with key staff in OK right after Dan came on board so that he would know the right subject matter experts to tap depending on the topic.

Infrastructure PanelMike Voich, Team Lead, Revolutionize U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—Civil Works update  Mike previously worked for the South Florida WMD so has experience being a non-federal sponsor with the USACE so gives him appreciation for working with the USACE.  Revolutionize has main Objectives of:  Accelerate Project Delivery; Transforming Project Financing and Budgeting; Improve Permitting & Regulation Reform.  Within the USACE, for civils works they are learning from systems approach from disaster response.  Current P3 projects are  Fargo Morehead; LA River and Brazos River Harbor (TX). USACE is actively looking for other P3 project proposals.  Recent changes to NEPA rules are under review to see how they will be applied to USACE construction projects.   Emily Feenstra, Managing Director of Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives, American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card and any administration transition issues.  In the latest Report Card issued by ASCE, America’s cumulate Infrastructure Grade was D+.  The scores card is ASCE’s main advocacy tool. Investment Gap is another important aspect of the report card.  $2.0 trillion from all funding sources (not only federal).  ASCE releases the report card every 4 years since 1998 and the next is scheduled for release in March, 2021.  In response, ASCE got “so-what” question from congress and others.  Completed an analysis of the cost of failure to act to show impact to average Americans’ of lack of infrastructure investment.  Good that candidates in presidential election are discussing infrastructure needs, but slow economic recovery related to COVID impacts could result in less funding directed to infrastructure needs. Anna Mauss, Chief Operating Officer, Colorado Water Conservation Board—Water Project Loan Program—Anna provided an overview of the Water Conservation Board, which is Colorado’s State water Policy agency, non-regulatory. . 3 funding sources include Federal Mineral Lease; Severance Tax to investment and Severance Tax for operations.  The Loan Program can lend to both Agricultural and Municipal borrowers.  80% to Ag in numbers but 80% of dollars to muni needs.   Dr. Tim Petty, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, provided an update on current water activities within the administration. Much work continues on the DOI Presidential Memo Oct. 2018 Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water—component of all federal agencies with water portfolios to work more closely. The Water Sub-cabinet meets at least monthly to discuss areas where the federal agencies can work more effectively.  An example is the recent Joint record of decision in the Columbia with 3 different entities all in one document.  The Sub-cabinet is also addressing Great Lakes topics with representatives from Energy, Ag, EPA, DOI all in Cleveland last week for showing how federal family can work with local communities. Sub-Cabinet will be in Everglades next week for announcements on water supply and water quality of joint federal activities. Water forecasting/modeling.  Rounding out the panel, Julia Anastasio, Executive Director, Association of Clean Water Administrators provided an overview of current water quality topics of interest to states. She started with the recent CWA Section 401 Rule Implementation. She said states are currently figuring out the impact of the Navigable Water Protection Rule and if there are gaps in administration on certain stream reaches.  Section 401 Water Quality Certification changes may ability a state’s ability  to assure that projects won’t impact water resources of each state. Many of these are large, complicated projects and the rule change won’t allow for “stopping the clock” capability that was previously allowed to gather more information or if the project changes. Major changes on determining what is “water quality related”; many questions for the states to determine what will be allowed in a certification and how broadly to interpret water quality related. ACWA has held sessions with EPA after collecting implementation questions from their member states.  Minimum flows is another area that is not clear what the ability of the states will be to mandate. Nationwide Permits-USACE re-issuing 52 existing and proposing 5 new ones.   Julia briefly touched on the County of Maui v Hawaii Wildlife Fund case which reached the US Supreme Court.  Was a NPDES permit needed even though the discharge was from groundwater source. Laid out a new test “functional equivalent” test; permit needed if discharge is the functional equivalent from a surface water source.

Thursday, October 15, 2020-Session 2–Interstate Water Management Focus

Welcome—Amy Shallcross, ICWP Chair and Drew Dehoff, Interstate Water Management Committee Chair and Session moderator

Interstate Report: A look Toward 2050—Drew Dehoff, IWM committee Chair

Report; Executive Summary—Recommendations; Primer  Drew described the goals of the initial 2006 study and why and update was needed.  New “era” in water management was added to describe contemporary factors affecting interstate arrangements or organizations.  These include climate change, federal responsibilities under interstate arrangements, appropriate amount of federal regulation on infrastructure.  The changes in technology and ability and  to share and analyze data have also vastly changed since 2006, and ecosystem services are now recognized in more planning efforts.  The full report can be found here:

Interstate Topics Panel.   Stephen Bartell, Assistant Chief, Environment & Natural Resources Division; Dept. of Justice  This Division of DoJ is involved in various aspects of water litigation in which the federal government is a party (non-Tribal).  Steve described why the federal government  is involved in these types of litigation for water rights and original actions between states in front of the US Supreme Court.   Steve gave examples of needs of National Parks in Utah. On-going original jurisdiction cases which have an active Special Master, include the Rio Grande, Pecos, and FL v GA (ACF equitable apportionment case).  DoJ’s role is to figure out what the various agencies’ rights are based on the type of federal land in question.  To understand the role of his office, you can consider DoJ as the nation’s law firm.  When a case gets elevated, then the DoJ lawyers work closely with that agency’s  in-house counsel.  Next, Noah Hall, Professor of Law, Wayne State University, provided an update on the Mississippi v Tennessee groundwater litigation. The litigation is focused on the Memphis Sands or Sparta aquifer.  The aquifer lies under Memphis and parts of Arkansas and Mississippi.  Memphis relies almost exclusively on gw from this aquifer.  Legal conversion is the legal argument being put forth, which is similar to civil theft.   Mississippi brought this claim against TN  first in 2005.  The US Supreme Ct declined to take the case on two occasions, but five years ago agreed to take the case for review. Special Master (Eugene Siler) was named  who is a retired judge rather than a water expert.  Does the water belong to Mississippi as property?  If viewed as equitable apportionment would have to determine the volume of water to divide to the various parties.  Determining the interstate harm would be approach “easier” than equitable apportionment. Interstate nuisance would not need to involve other states like Arkansas as only a claim against a neighbor, not full equitable apportionment.  Lastly —Breegan Anderson, Arkansas Dept. of Ag, Natural Resources Division described Arkansas’ work under the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force, including their State Nutrient Reduction Strategies.  Each state in the Mississippi basin can develop their own nutrient reduction strategy based on guidelines set by EPA in a 2008 Action Plan.  Arkansas’ plan is all voluntary and they assess water quality trends at HUC 8 level.  Received Walton Family grant to implement a tool to track NPS and estimate nutrient reductions.  Arkansas is also piloting a septic tank remediation.

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Please plan to join ICWP at their 2021 Annual Meeting set for October 12-14, 2021 in Philadelphia, PA.  The Board will determine the format for the Spring, 2021 Washington DC Roundtable soon.