Climate Adaptation

States and communities across the country are faced with serious challenges of an aging and inadequate water infrastructure. The number of water main breaks across the country is staggering: at 240,000 per year, and wasting over two trillion gallons of treated drinking water. The direct cost of these leaks is estimated to be approximately $2.6 billion per...

In National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense the Supreme Court held unanimously that a legal challenge to the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) must begin in a federal district court not a federal court of appeals. What this ruling means for the 2015 WOTUS definitional rule is unclear.  

As Justice Sotomayor stated at the beginning of the Court’s opinion, defining “[WOTUS]—a central component of the Clean Water Act—is a contentious and difficult task.” In 2015 the Obama administration issued a new WOTUS definitional rule which it intended to provide  “simpler, clearer, and more consistent approaches for identifying” the scope of the Act.

Issue: In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in their every-four-years Infrastructure Report Card. Key infrastructure categories, including aviation, dams, drinking water, inland waterways, levees, roads and transit, all received individual grades of D or lower. ASCE said the nation’s infrastructure can be improved and restored but only with “strategic, sustained investment, bold leadership, thoughtful planning, and careful preparation for the needs of the future.” The devastating hurricanes of 2017 brought into stark relief the importance of planning and preparation to ensuring a more resilient infrastructure for the future.

CSG Midwest
Concerns about twin, 64-year-old pipelines located under the Straits of Mackinac (which connect lakes Michigan and Huron) led to a new agreement in late November between the state of Michigan and Enbridge. In announcing the deal, Gov. Rick Snyder said “business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable.” According to the Detroit Free Press, the state has been frustrated about a “lack of forthrightness” regarding the safety of these pipelines, which are known as “Line 5” and carry up to 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids every day.

On November 30, 2017, Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) introduced H.R. 4492, the “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Reauthorization Act of 2017.” The bill reauthorizes and doubles the funding levels for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, a credit assistance program designed to accelerate investment in our nation’s water infrastructure....

CSG Midwest
In May and late June, heavy rains fell on the Maumee River, which begins in Fort Wayne in Indiana, runs through agricultural areas in northeast Ohio, and eventually flows into Lake Erie in Toledo. The river, scientists say, has high concentrations of phosphorus, and with all of the spring and summer precipitation, those nutrients discharged into the smallest of the five Great Lakes.
The end result: One of the worst observable algal blooms in Lake Erie. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only the years 2011, 2013 and 2015 had more severe blooms. The federal agency’s findings were the latest reminder of the “poor” and “deteriorating” health of Lake Erie (see table), and of the importance of states and the province of Ontario reaching their agreed-upon goal: reduce nutrient runoff into the lake by 40 percent by 2025. 
CSG Midwest
Less than two months after a silver carp (one of four species of Asian carp) was found nine miles from Lake Michigan and beyond the three electric barriers designed to prevent their movement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled a plan that would add a new layer of protection for the Great Lakes.
For a cost of $275 million, the Corps says, a mix of structural barriers and other control measures could be installed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam. The federal agency released its “tentatively selected plan” in August and is taking public comments through Oct. 2.
CSG Midwest
South Dakota legislators agreed this year to provide new tax incentives for private landowners who help protect the state’s water resources from agricultural runoff. The goal of SB 66 is to encourage the use of buffer strips that filter out nutrients and keep these pollutants from reaching a water body. 
CSG Midwest
Only a few months after celebrating key congressional victories at the end of 2016, Great Lakes advocates are now fighting to prevent a complete elimination of funding for a federal program that has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that protect habitat, stop the spread of invasive species and clean up “Areas of Concern.”
President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for an end to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It says “specific regional efforts,” such as those related to the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, should instead be the responsibility of state and local entities.

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to hold “in abeyance” litigation over whether a federal district court or a federal court of appeals has jurisdiction to rule whether the current 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definitional rule violates the Clean Water Act. On April 2 the Supreme Court denied the motion meaning the litigation will proceed.

President Trump’s February 28 executive order Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the "Waters of the United States" Rule calls for the “rescinding or revising” of the WOTUS rule. Many state and local governments objected to the broad nature of this rule, in particular to the expansive definition of ditches and the ambiguous definition of tributaries.