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Clean Water Network’s 2009 Top Ten List

February 07 2010 | Water Quality, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

On June 18, 2009 several important pieces of clean water legislation passed in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

All of these bills await action on the Senate Floor.

• The Clean Water Restoration Act - would reaffirm the Clean Water Act's original intentions of protecting all waters of the United States. A compromise version of the bill offered by Senators Boxer, Baucus and Klobuchar passed the committee. While a compromise, the bill contained the key language that would protect all waters of the United States.

• Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act - would require rigorous beach water quality testing and public notification standards so that beachgoers are timely informed about the safety of their beaches. It reauthorizes grants awarded to states through the BEACH Act through 2013.

• Sewage Overflow Right-to-Know Act - would fill a critical gap by providing people information they need to stay safe when they swim, paddle and play in local streams, rivers, and lakes, while also drawing attention to the great need to reduce sewage pollution; and the

• Great Lakes Legacy Act - would reauthorize programs to address remediation of contaminated sediment in the Great Lakes region and increase funding by threefold.

President Obama signed the 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill on Oct. 30, 2009. After nearly a decade of funding cuts under the Bush Administration, this bill appropriates a much needed 15% increase in funding over the previous fiscal year for the Department of Interior, the EPA, the Forest Service and other related agencies. This bill provides $10.3 billion in funding for the EPA alone, $2.7 billion more than in 2009. Some water related funding highlights include: $3.6 billion to help communities improve their drinking water and wastewater systems and a total of $641 million to clean up and protect "Great Waters" (Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, etc). Funding also includes $157 million for direct grants to communities for water infrastructure.

Green Reserve in Stimulus Funding: President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) on February 17, 2009. EPA awarded $4 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). All States are required to allocate 20 percent of their SRF funds for projects that use green infrastructure. According to EPA, 14 states have already awarded 20 percent or more of their Recovery Act funds for green infrastructure. The remaining 36 states must fulfill this requirement by February 17, 2010, which, according to EPA, they will do.

The New York Times ran the "Toxic Waters" series detailing water quality problems across the country. The Toxic Waters series of articles, authored by Charles Duhigg, details the worsening pollution in American waters and the response from regulators. The articles raised the profile of our nation's growing water crisis and highlighted a wide range of problems including factory farm pollution, drinking water safety concerns, sewage and waste poisoning our waters and water pollution from the weed killer atrazine.

Clean Water Network and its members signed onto and circulated a number of important letters directed to Members of Congress and high ranking Administration officials on critical clean water issues. In fact, in 2009, CWN signed on to the most number of letters in its 17-year history. These letters concerned a wide range of issues including the Beach Act, NAWQA and EPA Water funding, the Clean Water Restoration Act, Community letter on jobs and water, ocean acidification issues, discussion of water impacts from climate change at the Copenhagen UN climate change talks, stormwater runoff pollution provisions in the federal highway bill, and wastewater infrastructure funding in the stimulus bill. Most of these letters can be found our new website.

A notable increase of CWN members testified before Congress on critical clean water issues. People who testified, that we know of, included CWN Treasurer Dereth Glance from Citizens Campaign for the Environment on the Clean Water Trust Fund, CWN Board President Renee Hoyos, from the Tennessee Clean Water Network, regarding coal ash spills and CWN Board Member Nancy Stoner from the Natural Resources Defense Council, on urban stormwater issues. Judy Treml, a volunteer with CWN Member group Midwest Environmental Advocates, testified in October on Clean Water Act Enforcement issues, specifically about pollution issues on her family farm from a nearby CAFO. CWN was also able to provide some travel assistance to members testifyng from out of town. If we left anyone off of this list please let us know and we will mention them in a January bulletin.

A number of other important federal clean water bills were introduced and saw action in 2009. These bills included the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act of 2009 introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenaeur (OR). The bill would establish a water protection and reinvestment fund to support investment in clean water and drinking water infrastructure. This year also brought renewed discussion about how to reduce stormwater runoff pollution from the nation's 985,139 federal highway miles. The clean water community lead by American Rivers and others urged support for stormwater reduction language in the reauthorization bill for the Federal Surface Transportation Act. The proposed language would require all new and rehabilitated federal aid highways and roads to meet performance-based standards to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and flooding. On the research front, the U.S. House passed H.R. 1145, the National Water Research and Development Initiative Act by a vote of 411 to 10 on April 23, 2009. The purpose of this bill is to coordinate national research and development efforts on water and provide a "clear path forward" to ensure adequate water supplies for generations to come. H.R. 1145 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Clean Water Network produced a booklet (pdf) outlining major legislative and administrative clean water priorities. CWN distributed this booklet to Members of Congress and the Administration in February of 2009. The Network also took official positions in 2009 on the Clean Water Trust Fund and on the critical issue of climate change and water impacts. For a copy of the statements check out our website .

CWN held numerous successful meetings in 2009 and expanded its Board representation across the country. CWN held our showcase event, Clean Water Week 2009 (CWW), in February. We had a great turnout of members from across the country at CWW which featured noted author Maude Barlow as a keynote speaker. The Network also sponsored two Mississippi River Basin caucuses, funded by the McKnight Foundation with additional travel support provided by the Environmental Support Center. The caucuses were held in Minneapolis, MN and in New Orleans, LA. CWN also held a stormwater and green infrastructure caucus in Buffalo, NY with funding support provided by the Mott and Park Foundations. In June, CWN also sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing on Factory Farms. In addition to hosting important events, CWN has also diversified its board to include more geographic regions of the country. New Board members this year include Derek Grigsby from the People's Water Board in Detroit. MI, Jeff Crane from the Colorado Watershed Assembly, Gershon Cohen from Earth Island Institute in AK, Arthur Feinstein from the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge in San Francisco, Brian Moore from National Audubon, and Scott Edwards from Waterkeeper Alliance in New York. For a complete listing of CWN Board members please check out the website.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson stated early in her tenure that protecting our nation's water resources is one of of the top priorities for her and the Administration. We look forward to working with EPA Administrator Jackson, other Administration officials and Members of Congress towards that end.
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