Joint Interstate Council on Water Policy (ICWP) and Western States Water Council Roundtable Meetings Summary

Washington DC March 14-16, 2018 Crystal City Gateway Marriott

The following is an excerpt from the WSWC summary of the meetings.  Scroll down for Sue Lowry’s (ICWP’s Executive Director) additional views on the highlights of the presentations:

On March 14, in conjunction with the Interstate Council on Water Policy (ICWP), the WSWC hosted a Water Planners Conference, followed by a Roundtable on March 15, that brought together nearly 100 state and federal agency representatives (and private sector participants) with stewardship over water to address current challenges related to data and information management, groundwater management, water supply and emergency management, including floods and drought, landscape conservation on a watershed level, reservoir operations and infrastructure needs, as well as farm policy and agricultural water uses. 

        Federal agency participants came from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and Interior, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA).  Respectively, myriad agencies were represented, including the Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and its National Water and Climate Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Climate Prediction Center, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, National Weather Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations and Environment), Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey.

         Among the notable officials were: Tim Petty, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science; Brenda Burman, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation; William Werkheiser, Acting Director, U.S. Geological Survey; Ryan Fisher, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works); Edward Belk, Chief of Civil Works Programs Integration, Army Corps of Engineers; Craig McLean, Assistant Administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research; Mary Erickson, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Weather Services; Michael Freilich, Director of the Earth Science Division, NASA; and David Ross, EPA Assistant Administrator, Office of Water.

         A panel discussion on water-related legislation was also held on Capitol Hill in the House Rayburn Building with majority and minority representation from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  A reception followed for Congressional staff with state water managers.

 

Sue’s Reflection on the Presentation Highlights:

A couple of items have stuck in my mind in this next week after the Roundtable.  Chris Carlson from the US Forest Service observed that by 2020, two-thirds of the USFS budget will be spent on fighting wildfires.  Just a few years ago, 2/3 of the budget was dedicated to resource management.  This shift has meant the reduction of many professional scientists, such as hydrologists, within the Forest Service.  Without securing another method of fighting fires on our public lands, the ability of the Forest Service to focus on water management issues will likely diminish.  And this in a time when the predictions are for longer and more severe fire seasons.

During the Corps of Engineers (CoE) presentation, they reflected upon the ASCE Infrastructure grades given to:  Levees—D; Ports—C+; Dams—D; and Inland Water Ways—D.  We simply must find other mechanisms for funding the maintenance and rehabilitation of this important infrastructure.  Many presenters mentioned Public-Private Partnerships as the future to these huge funding deficits, but there appeared to be a dearth of concrete examples of successful PPP projects.

One of the many great aspects of these Roundtable meetings is the opportunity to hear from both representatives of the science/research side, as well as the political appointees who must make the difficult prioritization and funding decisions.  We heard from researchers within NOAA and NASA and many of the climate and weather forecasting and modeling efforts are reaching the stage of dependability where they can be integrated into water resource management decisions.  Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations is one of these exciting areas. We plan to present more on this topic at the ICWP Annual meeting this fall in Oklahoma City.

During the re-cap, Julie Cunningham and Jerry Rigby reflected on the good working relationship between WSWC and ICWP and by combining our Washington DC meeting we are able to attract top officials from a wide variety of federal and congressional entities.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to email Sue at avocetconsult@gmail.com