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Legislation & Policy Committee Meeting Summary June 17, 2021 Webinar–USGS Water Mission Area FY2022 Budget Request–Bob Joseph

  1. Call to Order—Kirsten Wallace, UMRBA; Chair—called to order at 10:03 a.m.
  • Introductions of Participants on the call—Kirsten Wallace, Chair; Sue Lowry; Stacey Mulholland; Peter Evans; Kelly Pennington; Julie Cunningham; Geoff Bowman; John Anderson; Bob Joseph; Janelle Gaun; Christopher Estes. 
  • Updates from Van Scoyoc to committee members—Geoff touched on several current legislative items, including the FY2022 President’s Budget; the current schedule for the Senate and House Appropriations committees and status of pollical agency nominations.  Rahdika Fox has been confirmed as head of Office of Water for EPA.  Tanya Trujillo’s hearing has been held, but no vote yet.  Mike Connor has been named at USACE-CW, but no hearing and same with Camille Touton-BOR.  Geoff provided the dollar amounts being discussed for total infrastructure, water projects and for western focus drought funding the various infrastructure packages being discussed in Washington.  He mentioned HR 1915 which includes funding for EPA Wastewater Infrastructure and $8B for SRF.  There has been no activity on either the FLOODS bill or the PRECIP legislation.   Geoff and John described the general budget process and although it’s unlikely that all budget bills will be in place prior to tend of the federal fiscal year, their approach is to work the ideal schedule and then adapt when deadlines are missed.  For the earmarks that are now again being allowed, the amount will apply to requests above the President’s Budget. The Biden Administration is turning over the WOTUS changes made by Pres. Trump. 

Bob began by summarizing the increases the Water Mission Area (WMA) received in the FY21 budget.   The WMA fared well, receiving increases of $32M, while the total increase Survey-wide was $40M.  He described the recent action by Congress to earmark where CMF increases can be used.  While appreciative of the expanded budgets, it can be difficult then for the WSC without those specified needs.  For example, only 19 Urban waters across the state.  HIF had received $32M and another $3M in FY21.  NGWOS about to finish out the investment in the Delaware with increases and starting to instrument the Upper Colo. USGS will be picking fourth basin by end of this year (Pacific Northwest and focus on eco-flows). Eco-flows would also include how all the federal agencies respond and work together. 

If FY2022 increases are realized, here are plans for how they would be directed:

  • $6.0M – Integrated Water Availability Assessments
    • Continue National Assessments and develop information products
    • Begin new regional assessments 
  • $4.0M – Integrated Water Prediction 
    • Modeling, Tools, and Decision Support Systems
    • Software and modeling enhancements, training on new tool development
  • $6.4M – NGWOS: Observing System
    • Complete buildout in Illinois River Basin
    • Begin data collections efforts in Upper Colorado River Basin
    • Planning and initial investments in Basin #4
  • $3.6M – FPS: Priority Gages
    • Stabilize network, current endangered gages
    • Critical upgrades at selected sites  

House could release their mark on FY2022 Interior budget as early as next week.  Due to difficulties with hiring new federal employees, USGS using universities and other contractors to expand capabilities with funding increases.  Bob mentioned that the NAS has sent a list of possible USGS Director candidates to the White House, but no other information on who’s on the list or timeframe for naming a USGS Director.  

Discussion that perhaps next year’s stakeholder funding letter should make a stronger case that if the FPS program were more fully funded, the CMF dollars that could be freed from supporting ages could go to many other worthwhile projects supported by cooperators. 

Due to time constraints, the remaining agenda items will be deferred until next meeting:

  • Report out of other ICWP committee activities
  • Legislation to track: 
    • America Jobs Act—water related opportunities
    • USGS/DOI FY21 Appropriations –Sue plans to submit ICWP Outside Witness Testimony using the Stakeholder letter requests by the Senate Interior Sub-committee deadline of June 25.  She also plans to contact Rep. Stansbury’s office now that she has been sworn in to provide a copy of the Stakeholder letter. 
    • FY22 Stakeholder Letter for USGS Streamgaging-Delivered April 9
    • Support for NOAA-NWS Atlas 14 Precipitation Frequency Estimates (Atlas 14) or other Extreme precipitation estimating tools—PRECIP and FLOODS legislation 
    • Sen. Markey’s interest in telecom infrastructure/tie to water infrastructure needs/flood mapping
    • WRDA 2022-start to develop topics for member’s requests
    • WRDA 2020 implementation- Principles and Guidelines from 2013-14
    • Infrastructure Discussions 
  • Internship projects for 2021—all 3 posted to website
  • Other items for the Committee’s consideration—What other agency budget updates would be of interest? USGS Ecosystems; USDA Nutrient Reduction, NOAA Climate prediction Tools, USACE-Planning Assistance to States are all possible budget summaries to schedule.  

 Set next call or webinar –USGS Ecosystems representative will be invited to give a budget overview similar to the information Bob presented today for the Water Mission Area.  Bob will provide contact names to Sue.  If an Ecosystems rep is available, the next call will be held Thursday, July 22, but may be moved depending on their availability.