Polly emphasizes importance of national water policy during state meetings
Sheridan – Kris Polly, president of Water Strategies, LLC, emphasized the importance of water policy during the 2013 Wyoming Water Association meeting in late October.
“I want people to be aware of the issues and how they impact agricultural water,” Polly noted.
Polly highlighted water resources development, Clean Water Act (CWA) and an FDA rule affecting ag water.
“On May 15, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) passed the Senate,” he said. “We haven’t had a WRDA bill since 2007.”
Polly added that prior to that time, there was a WRDA bill passed yearly, and Congress valued water projects across the country.
“These projects were generally crop projects, so every Congress, members would gather to figure out what projects they wanted, swapped horses, funded and authorized the legislation,” he explained. “In recent years, that has been very difficult.”
The 2013 WRDA bill authorizes 18 new projects at an amount of $12 million.
However, Polly noted, “There is authorizing language and appropriating language. The appropriation is necessary to pay for things.”
Additional key language in the bill prevents the Army Corp of Engineers from charging water in reservoirs, and $11 million is authorized for Upper Missouri River flood and drought monitoring programs.
“Those provisions are not in the House bill,” Polly added. “In the House, we have legislation that has gone through committee that would authorize $10 billion and would de-authorize $12 billion in projects that have been on the books for many years.”
Clean Water Act
The Environmental Protection Agency has also proposed CWA jurisdiction.
“For a number of years, the House and Senate talked about expanding the ‘waters of the U.S.,’” Polly said. “Those legislative efforts are past because their chief proponents are no longer elected.”
More recently, EPA began working on a rule. EPA’s CWA rule will soon be released for public comment.
At the same time, the budget on the national scene, said Polly, continues to move in the wrong direction.
“It is incumbent on us to lobby our delegations and tell them we need money for things that need to be done,” Polly said. “It used to be that irrigation districts in the backyard was great. Now, people want birds and fish and wonder if we should change the desert.”
“People think very differently because we are proud of our successes,” Polly mentioned. “We have water in the tap and food in the grocery store. It isn’t like how our grandfathers and great-grandfathers lived.”
Polly also cautioned water users to be aware of new rules from the FDA.
Although it won’t impact ag producers in Wyoming, he explained that new sections in the Food Safety Act passed this year aim to regulate the quality of irrigation water used on produce for public safety.
“They want to make sure that irrigation water applied to produce does not contain bad levels of E. coli,” Polly explained.
He further added that the problem has been that rule makers do not understand the processes that occur following the harvest of produce and treating irrigation water isn’t feasible.
“Though this doesn’t necessarily impact Wyoming,” Polly said, “it is something that people should be aware of.”