|Our best wishes for good health and well-being go out to all of you, your friends, families, and colleagues in these challenging times. As we are all working to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances, we have been heartened to see the outpouring of support and compassion from Water Protection Network members and the larger community.
In addition to providing updates on key water resources issues, this email also provides links to resources designed to help your organizations and families during this pandemic. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have similar resources that you would like to share with the network, or suggestions for actions the network can take to help support your work during this national emergency.
Federal Policy Update
As people around the country and the world are adapting because of the ongoing pandemic, so too are Members of Congress and staff. On March 27th, Congress passed and the president signed into law a $2 trillion stimulus package - the third legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic. House leaders are now planning for a fourth package, that will likely focus on additional direct payments to individuals and expanded loans to businesses. Later bills may feature a heavier focus on infrastructure, including water infrastructure. Congress is currently on recess without a definitive end date, although a previously scheduled break would have them return to Capitol Hill on April 20.
Despite the recess, Congressional staff continue to work on the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the bill that authorizes projects and policy changes for the Corps of Engineers. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held a hearing for member requests on February 27th. You can find a video of the hearing, as well as links to members' written requests on this page. The next hearing on the 2020 WRDA is tentatively planned for April 22nd. Click here to read about the Water Protection Network priorities for WRDA 2020.
Administration Continues Its Attacks on Environmental and Public Health Protections
Despite the current public health crisis, the Trump administration continues to push forward drastic rollbacks to critical protections for both the environment and public health:
EPA issues proposed rule undermining science-based decision-making
At a time when the importance of sound science-based decision-making is painfully clear, the Trump administration has proposed a rule that would impose sweeping restrictions on the types of scientific studies that can inform the regulatory decision-making process. Instead of "strengthening transparency" as the proposal claims to do, it is instead designed to "keep highly respected and peer-reviewed scientific studies from informing government decisions on public health and environmental protection" (Bruce Stein, NWF).
EPA waives enforcement of public health and environmental protections
On March 26th, the EPA announced that it will not enforce many critical environmental and public health regulations, even when communities are already suffering a public health crisis on top of ongoing environmental harms. The sweeping directive came after the oil and gas industry and other industries requested that the EPA suspend enforcement of health and environmental regulations. There is no set end date for the EPA's directive. Meanwhile, "the EPA has said it will go on with 'business as usual' for its regulations."
Recent relief package waives NEPA requirements
The $2 trillion COVID-19 response package that became law on March 27th included a provision that waives National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements for federal acquisition or improvements to lands and buildings “in response to coronavirus” with no set end date for the waiver. This waiver is both dangerous and unnecessary as NEPA does not stand in the way of emergency response activities. When agencies are required to take immediate action to secure the lives and safety of people in our communities, NEPA provides for alternative arrangements for compliance. Most agencies have regulations that explicitly outline the NEPA procedures to be used when responding to emergencies. The Stafford Act also explicitly allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide immediate relief without conducting NEPA analysis.
Corps of Engineers continues public comment periods despite public participation limits
The Corps of Engineers is continuing public comment periods without extending the vast majority of them, while also issuing new public notices, despite the ongoing public health crisis that makes it difficult and unsafe for the public to provide input as usual. As of March 27th, the Corps had more than 200 open comment periods. 79 organizations - about half of which are WPN members - joined this group letter
, coordinated by WPN member Friends of the Earth, to demand that the Corps holds open current commenting opportunities, refrains from opening new ones, and postpones public hearings until it is safe for the public to gather. Read the press release here
about the letter that was sent on April 2nd.
331 Groups Oppose Attacks on Public Input & Environmental Reviews
Thank you for fighting to protect NEPA!
On March 10th, the public comment period closed on the Trump administration's proposal to undermine critical protections provided by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Thank you to all of the Water Protection Network members and partners that joined us in fighting this attack on public input and informed decision-making for major federal actions that impact natural resources and public health.
While the fight to protect NEPA and the public's health and voice is far from over, there is a lot of work from recent months to be proud of, including:
- This group letter led by the WPN and signed by 331 conservation, health, and justice organizations and businesses urging the Council on Environmental Quality to withdraw the proposed rollbacks. Click here for a list of the signatories. Many WPN members also signed on to additional group letters.
- About half a million individual comments submitted against the rollbacks, thanks to the efforts of many organizations including WPN members.
- Comment letters submitted against the rollbacks by hundreds of organizations. The letters submitted by WPN members include extensive detailed technical comments by the National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, and Southern Environmental Law Center, and many more individual organization letters and group letters. Click here to access a library, put together by the Partnership Project, of more than 400 technical comments submitted by organizations ranging from the fossil fuel industry to environmental organizations.
- A diverse group of people testified, rallied, and found creative ways to make their voices heard at the two public hearings that were held in Denver and Washington, DC, despite CEQ's disturbing attempts to limit public participation in the hearings.
- Robust media engagement through social media, blogs, op-eds, letters to the editor, local public news stories as well as national news articles, and more. Click here for new messaging guidance from STG about NEPA and public health in the time of the pandemic.
Resources for People and Nonprofits in the Pandemic
- Resources for families and individuals, provided free of charge from WPN member National Wildlife Federation:
- Pandemic Resources for Nonprofits, a robust list from WPN member River Network that includes general advice and resource libraries as well as resources for managing stress, fundraising, equity and justice, water shut-offs, and more.
- Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak: Resources to Help Nonprofits, from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, including information on emergency funding; how to manage, lead, and communicate; technology solutions; and self-care.
- Messaging and advocacy guidance for organizations:
- A crowd-sourced collection of information on nonprofit resources, philanthropic response, and health advice: COVID-19 Resource List
If you would like to share or request news, resources, or something else in future WPN Updates, please email email@example.com
Recent Public Notices
The list below is non-comprehensive list of Corps of Engineers public notices from the Federal Register and Corps district websites, and select notices from other federal agencies. Please visit FederalRegister.gov, Corps division and district websites, and other federal agencies' websites for additional public notices. Click here for examples of comments and letters submitted to the Corps by WPN members.
Corps of Engineers Notices
- Published 4/03: Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and proposed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for sand sources for Dade County Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Project, FL (Comment deadline 5/4)
- Published 4/01: Notice of Intent To Prepare a Draft Supplemental Joint Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for the 2007 Folsom Dam Safety and Flood Damage Reduction Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report, CA (Comment deadline 5/8)
- Published 4/01: Notice of Intent To Prepare a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for the Sacramento Weir Component (Yolo County, California) of the American River Watershed Common Features Project, as Authorized Under the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (Comment deadline 4/20)
- Published 3/31: Draft programmatic environmental assessment on snow and soil moisture monitoring network in the Upper Missouri River Basin (Comment deadline 5/1)
- Published 3/31: Proposal to replace and revise the statewide Maine General Permit, pursuant to 33 CFR 325.S(c)(l) (Comment deadline 4/30)
- Published 3/31: Popo Agie River Flood Risk Management Study, WY (Virtual public meeting at 6:00pm MT on 4/9)
- Published 3/27: Minnesota River Basin Interagency Study finalized
- Viewed online on 3/27: Chehalis Environmental Impact Statement comment period extension (Comment deadline extended to 5/27; online event on 4/21)
- Published 3/26: Guidance To Establish Policies for the Agency Levee Safety Program Entitled Engineer Circular 1165-2-218 (In-person meetings postponed; comment deadline extended to 7/27)
- Published 3/25: Re-Issuance of Regional General Permit for City of Escondido Channel Maintenance Work Activities, CA (Comment deadline 4/25)
- Published 3/25: Cottonwood Cove Flood Mitigation Structure project, Clark County, NV (Comment deadline 4/23)
- Published 3/23: Use of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoir Projects for Domestic, Municipal & Industrial Water Supply; Withdrawal (Withdrawal effective 3/23)
- Published 3/23: Lake Huron National Shoreline Management Study (Comment deadline 4/20)
- Published 3/23: Master Lake Superior National Shoreline Management Study (Comment deadline 4/20)
- Published 3/18: Application from Peabody Midwest Mining for a Clean Water Act Section 404 and Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 Section 10 permit for coal mining, Sullivan County, IN (Comment deadline 4/22)
- Published 3/18: Section 404 permit application from Mile High Flood District for stream stabilization and recreation facilities, Adams County, CO (Comment deadline 4/18)
- Published 3/17: Lake Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project, Kern County California (Public scoping meetings postponed; public scoping comment period unclear)
- Published 3/17: Brazos River Fort Bend Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study recommendation of no federal action
- Published 3/17: Construction of a Phosphorus Optimized Wetland: Defiance County, Ohio (Comment deadline 4/16)
- Published 3/16: Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI): The Dalles and John Day Mitigation Program, Mid-Columbia River Basin (Comment deadline 4/24)
- Published 3/13: Baltimore District Maintenance Dredging, Queen Anne County, MD (Comment deadline 4/13)
- Published 3/13: Houston Ship Channel Expansion Channel Improvement Project Final Integrated Fesibility Report - Environmental Impact Statement, TX (Comment deadline extended to 4/13)
- Published 3/12: Draft Environmental Assessment for Power -Teton County Water System Improvements, Teton County, Montana (Comment deadline 4/13)
- Published 3/12: Re-Issuance of the County of San Diego Drainage Facility Maintenance Regional General Permit 53, San Diego, CA (Comment deadline 4/12)
- Published 3/06: Draft Environmental Assessment and Unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact for Middlesboro Channel Clearing Project; Bell County, Kentucky (Comment deadline 4/10)
- Published 3/05: Request by Montana Aquatic Resources Services (MARS) to add an In-Lieu Fee (ILF) compensatory mitigation site under Section 404, Toole County, MT (Comment deadline 4/6)
- Published 2/27: Draft Environmental Assessment for the proposed dredged material management plan in Pool 6 near Winona, Minnesota (Comment deadline extended to 4/10)
Other Agency Notices