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Over the last six years, nearly $2 billion has flowed from Washington, D.C., in support of more than 2,000 Great Lakes-related projects. Much progress has been made under the historic Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, says Todd Ambs of the Healing Our Waters Coalition, but it’s far from a job done.

“It’s really just a down payment,” Ambs says about federal spending to date. “When you’re talking about what needs to be done to restore the Great Lakes, this initiative needs to go on for years.”

President Obama created the program early in his presidency, building on work that had been done by his predecessor, George W. Bush, through the Great Lakes Regional Collaborative. In each of his proposed annual budgets since fiscal year 2010, Obama has included a line item to fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. But will the initiative continue once he leaves office?

In Kansas v. Nebraska and Colorado the Supreme Court agreed with a Special Master in a dispute about water rights involving an interstate compact, that Kansas would receive partial disgorgement (a fine) but not an injunction against Nebraska and accounting procedures would be changed so that Nebraska’s use of imported water would not be count against its compact allocation. Through an interstate compact ratified in 1943, Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas share the virgin water supply originating in the Republican River Basin. The Court adopted the Master’s recommendation of $1.8 million in disgorgement because Nebraska knowingly failed to comply with the compact by knowingly exposing Kansas to a substantial risk that it would breach the contract and because water is more valuable to farmland in Nebraska than Kansas.

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In Iowa’s largest city, Des Moines, the local water utility operates the largest nitrate-removal facility in the world. It runs any time nitrates reach levels above the federally mandated limit of 10 milligrams per liter. The cost of operating the facility, Des Moines Water Works says, can be upwards of $7,000 a day. Now, the utility wants some local drainage districts in surrounding rural counties held accountable for the costs associated with treating what it calls “extremely high concentrations of nitrate” in local rivers. (The costs were approximately $900,000 in 2013 due to severe rain events, but less than half that figure in 2014.)

Last week the President unveiled his $4 trillion budget for Fiscal Year 2016.  The budget highlights the President’s continued support on several energy and environmental topics with emphasis on clean energy.  He reiterated his support for the Climate Action Plan he released in 2013 and called for an increase in funding support for the plan. 

Several agencies made the request for larger...

Rebekah Fitzgerald, Program Manager for Energy and Environmental Policy, outlines the top five issues in energy and environmental policy for 2015, including new proposed federal air and water regulations, grid reliability, the Endangered Species Act, and the use of science-based decision making. 

The act authorizes the utilization of “graywater”, which is wastewater from a building’s showers or hand washing sinks or washing machines, by cities and counties for nondrinking water purposes like irrigation or to flush toilets. The Colorado Water Control Commission is directed to create statewide standards for gray water systems that protect public health and water quality. The Commission will not allow the use of graywater systems unless a local city, county, or municipality has approved an ordinance or resolution.

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In September, more than 60 people from across the Great Lakes basin came to western Lake Erie for three days of fishing. But it was far from a pleasure trip. Instead, these employees from 10 different government agencies (state, federal and provincial) were testing the region’s capabilities to respond to future crises involving invasive species.

Ever since Asian carp were found to be dangerously close to entering the lakes, the region’s states and provinces have been on high alert. And part of their response has been to work more closely together — for example, sharing personnel, expertise and supplies such as Rotenone, the chemical used to stop the carp’s advance.

Earlier this year, at a meeting of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the region’s governors and premiers signed a mutual-aid agreement that formalizes the process for how jurisdictions assist each other when an invasive-species threat arises.
 
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Nebraska will be making a $32 million investment over the next two years in a new fund designed to improve water management and sustainability. At least initially, dollars for the Water Sustainability Fund will come from the state’s cash reserves.

Last Tuesday, Alaska voters approved a ballot measure requiring the Alaska legislature to approve future large-scale metallic sulfide mines within the watershed of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.  Ballot Measure 4 passed with 65% of the vote.

Prior to the election supporters of the measure had spent just over $1.2 million according to campaign finance disclosure...

In CSG South’s Southern Legislative Conference member states, the coal and chemical industries are essential to state economies. Given the importance of these industries to the region for both economic development and employment opportunities, legislators often are faced with balancing business interests with the need for environmental protection and conservation. Hazardous spills in two SLC states—West Virginia and North Carolina—have focused attention on this careful balance. This webinar examines the spills in those states and subsequent legislative action to offer lessons learned for other states.

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