The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) announced that it will reduce releases from Lake Powell into Lake Mead to its lowest level since filling Lake Powell in the 1960s. 

Stateline Midwest ~ July/August 2013 and Pie charts on Great Lakes water use, by jurisdiction »

For Great Lakes advocates, the past decade has been marked by one important policy milestone after the next.

First, a more protective interstate compact (and companion agreement with Ontario and Quebec) was enacted to prevent long-distance, large-scale diversions of water outside the basin and to improve conservation and management policies within it.

Second, the long fight for more federal funding was won with creation of the historic Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Over the past four years, funding for the initiative has topped $1.3 billion — for projects in the region’s eight Great Lakes to clean up toxic “hot spots,” prevent the introduction of invasive species, and protect wetlands and other habitat.
Third, prodded in part by the legislative and legal actions taken by states in this region, the federal government last yearstrengthened its standards for how vessels must manage their ballast water — the most common cause of aquatic invasions in the Great Lakes over the past 50 years.
Lastly, for the first time in a quarter century, U.S. and Canadian officials revised the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Much broader in scope than previous versions, the new agreement for the first time sets a framework for the two countries to address the impacts of invasive species, habitat degradation and climate change.
“It could be an incredible force for good,” Andy Buchsbaum, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Office, said of the agreement soon after it was amended in late 2012.
Yet amid all of these policy advances and victories, new concerns are being raised about the future of the Great Lakes — and some of the policies in place to protect them.

Stateline Midwest ~ 2013 Annual Meeting Edition

If you are a boater on any of the Midwest’s abundant water resources, you may have seen the signs or been told the rules: Inspect your boat, trailer and equipment; drain the water; and remove plants, animals or mud before getting out of a body of water.
The goal is to remove any invasive species that might be hitchhiking on boats or trailers.
Aquatic invasive species have long been recognized as a serious threat, costing the U.S. economy at least $148 billion a year, according to a Cornell University study. They include plants such as salt cedar and Eurasian watermilfoil, invertebrates such as the zebra mussel, and fish such as Asian carp species.
State laws to control invasive species in the Midwest date back decades.

A unanimous ruling in June by the U.S. Supreme Court is being hailed as a significant victory for interstate compacts. In Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, the court rejected the claims of the Tarrant Regional Water District to access water in Oklahoma based on the terms of the Red River Compact. The court ruled that under on the terms of the agreement Tarrant had no right to the water in question.

By Rick Masters, Special Counsel to CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts

On Thursday, June 13, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court again upheld the bedrock principle that compacts are contracts and reiterated the immutable rule that “Because interstate compacts are construed under contract law principles, see Texas v. New Mexico, 482 U. S. 124, 128, the Court begins by examining the Compact’s express terms as the best indication of the parties’ intent.”  See Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, et al.at p.11.  In the Tarrant case the Court was called upon to interpret the provisions of the Red River Compact which is a congressionally sanctioned agreement that allocates water rights within the Red River basin among the States of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. 

An innovative approach to managing nutrient runoff and water quality is being implemented in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio by using the basic structure of the successful Acid Rain Program first implemented in the mid-1990s by the EPA. In essence, the program creates a water quality cap-and-trade program that allows an industrial facility or utility to substantially reduce its compliance costs under the Clean Water Act by providing financial incentives to agriculture operations to implement best practices to reduce nutrient discharges into water. This flexible approach to environmental stewardship is thought to be the largest project of its kind in the world.

Numerous Great Lakes-related measures have been introduced, advanced or signed into law in the region’s state capitols over the past few months. Here are a few of the bills and resolutions being followed through the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus' state legislative tracker.

Stateline Midwest ~ June 2013

As the year began in Michigan, a new legislative caucus was emerging inside the Capitol with at least one clear priority for 2013 — improve the condition of the state’s recreational and commercial harbors.

The United States uses 410 billion gallons of water everyday. Domestic usage in Western states is much higher than in non-Western states at 128.9 gallons per person per day compared to the national average of 98 gallons per person per day.

Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced a new rule from the Department of Interior to regulate the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands. The relaunch of the rule was made after Interior pulled back its original proposal in 2012 after receiving 177,000 public comments. According to an Interior press release, the updated draft proposal will be subject to a new 30-day public comment period on the notice of proposed rulemaking.