Policy Update Apr 19, 2016

Position on Fiscal Year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations (Senate Version)

NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the Senate in support of funding for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) ecosystem restoration priorities and in opposition to provisions and potential amendments that block protections of our national park waters.

Everglades restoration

NPCA applauds the subcommittee for its long-time support for Everglades restoration, which is reflected in the Energy and Water appropriations bill with $106 million for construction for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration for USACE, as recommended in the President’s budget. This funding will advance key Everglades restoration projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), such as Picayune Strand Restoration, Indian River Lagoon-South, Caloosahatchee C-43 Reservoir, and other projects for the benefit of national parks in South Florida. In addition to CERP projects, there are important non-CERP projects that are very close to completion that this funding will advance, such as Kissimmee River Restoration and C-111 South Dade projects.

Asian carp control

NPCA also appreciates the funding provided to USACE to stop Asian carp from entering into the Great Lakes. The bill matches the President’s budget request in supporting $2.6 million for the feasibility study at Brandon Road Lock and Dam and $12 million for operations and maintenance of the electronic dispersal barrier system in the Chicago Waterway System. These are two key components of a more comprehensive monitoring and control plan that is keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. More must be done, however, including the development of a system of additional control points that stop Asian carp from swimming into Lake Michigan.

Clean water protections

NPCA is concerned about provisions in and potential amendments to the Energy and Water appropriations bill that block clean water protections. First, we oppose the provision (Sec. 103) that would restrict USACE from using funds to develop, adopt, implement, administer, or enforce any change to regulations pertaining to the definitions of the terms “fill material” or “discharge of fill material” under the Clean Water Act. A 2002 rulemaking by EPA and USACE altered the definition of “fill material” under the Clean Water Act and these changes cleared the way for industrial mining operations to obtain permits to dump destructive mining waste in streams and rivers. This provision would continue these industry loopholes, leaving many of our nation’s waterways vulnerable to harmful pollution, which threatens human health.

Also, NPCA asks the Senate to reject any amendments that attempt to block efforts to protect our national park waters through implementing the Clean Water Rule finalized last year. The EPA and USACE finalized a rule providing much needed clarity to which waters of the United States will be covered by federal law. For years the Clean Water Act protected all wetlands and tributaries in and around national parks. However, 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings and subsequent agency guidance have created a confusing, time-consuming, and frustrating process for determining what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act and state laws.

Read more from NPCA