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Legislation & Policy Committee Meeting Summary February 8, 2019 Conference Call

  1. Call to Order—Chair Kirsten Wallace; UMRBA called the meeting to order at 8:03 a.m. Mountain time. 
  2. Participants on the call:  Kirsten Wallace, UMRBA, Chair, Sue Lowry ICWP Executive Director, Brian Atkins and Tom Littlepage, Alabama Office of Water Resources; Jennifer Hoggatt, MO DNR; Richard Friesner, NEIWPCC; Gail Melgren, Tri-State Water Resources. 
  3. Dept. of Interior Reorganization —The letter raising ICWP’s concern over the impact to interstate water management from the new boundaries in the proposed DOI reorganization was sent 1/22/19.  The letter was posted to LinkedIn and we are trying to get these types of actions distributed more widely on social media. Sue will follow-up with Susan Combs’ office to check her availability to speak at the Washington DC Roundtable, which was one of the “asks” of the letter. 
  4. USGS Streamgaging Support multi-signature letter—Current activities to reference in letter:
    1. Presidential Memo on Promoting Reliable Supply—dated October 19, 2018 
    1. NAS recent report on the USGS Water Discipline
    1. Sue has a call scheduled with Don Cline for 2/13 to discuss topics and the goal is to have a letter ready to distribute while in Washington for the Roundtable meetings and Hill visits.  Since the President’s budget won’t be released until March 18, the letter could focus on what is the USGS’s capacity for increasing the networks, including the Next Generation Water Observation System.  
  • Priorities for Washington DC Roundtable visits
    • Dept. of Interior Re-organization
    • USGS Streamgaging support
    • National Water Model—promoting water supply forecasting capabilities
    • Drought Planning/Preparedness-NIDIS Support (& the DEWS)
    • USACE Partnership Agreements liability clause and other issues
    • Issues to raise with Water Sub-cabinet members

An additional issue to work on during visits in April is concern with liability clause language in partnership agreements with the USACE.  Kirsten described the clause that deals with full indemnity of the Corps by the States and many state constitutions don’t allow for this indemnification to be agreed to. Additional concern deals with project life definition in the maintenance agreements.  Project life used to be 50 years and recently the USACE have changed to “in perpetuity”.  Together, these obligations have made it prohibitive for the states and non-profits to enter into agreements.  The National Association of Fish and Wildlife Managers are addressing and raising the issues nationwide.  A report on this topic was undertaken by the National Academy of Public Administration. The T & I Committee didn’t want to address until the report was completed by the National Academy. The Report is still not released—they completed interviews, but did not have staff to do legal analyses.  Their approach was to list the responses in an appendix and recommend to study.  This will not provide T & I guidance on how to remedy the problem. Pressure will need to be put on the Corps to release the report to Congress.  This committee agreed that teeing up issue at the Roundtable would be a good agenda item.  The O & M time frame issue could be changed by the Corps, but the liability clause needs a congressional fix.  Getting a one-page briefing paper on this topic for the Roundtable packet would be good. 

  • ICWP Internship program—could help with developing Congressional spreadsheet showing ICWP membership and corresponding Committee assignments in the House and Senate—other tasks?

Kirsten mentioned a product named Knowlegis offered by Congressional Quarterly that does this for a fee.  Sue will look into how much a subscription would be for ICWP

  • Other legislation to track:
    • HR 4905 from last Congress—info attached—Sue will continue to track and keep in touch with the 3DEP coalition, but no action was taken. 
  • Other items for the Committee’s consideration—It was suggested that an email be sent to all ICWP members ahead of the Roundtable requesting any topics or questions that members would like to have raised by the Water Sub-cabinet members during the April 3rdevent.  
  • Set next call or webinar—Next call will be Thursday, March 14 at 9 Central.