EnvironAtlas Training-Sustainable Future

As follow-up to the January EPA Tools & Resources Webinar on EnviroAtlas, EPA’s Office of Research and Development will provide a more in-depth training webinar on EnviroAtlas.

Register and join the webinar.

How do environmental managers and public health officials identify the benefits that local forests, parks, wetlands and other natural areas provide to their local communities? One way is through EnviroAtlas. EPA’s EnviroAtlas provides users with a host of interactive tools, geospatial data and resources for exploring the benefits people derive from nature and potential stressors that might impede their provision.

EnviroAtlas is a rich, web-based and accessible resource that includes: a GIS-based mapping application built on a robust platform of more than 400 layers of environmental and public health data; an easy-to-use Eco-Health Relationship Browser illuminating the links between ecosystems, the services they provide, and their impact on human health and well-being; teaching resources and educational modules; and built-in analysis tools. EnviroAtlas includes 400+ data layers for the U.S., with additional fine-scale data for more than 1400 cities and towns centered on 30 U.S. urbanized community areas.

EnviroAtlas is designed to inform decision-making, education and research. It provides a one-stop-shop for exploring ecosystem services and the benefits they provide in the context of planning and management. The goal is to help EPA partners in states and local communities enhance public health, environmental resiliency, and economic prosperity.

As follow up to the January EPA Tools and Resources Webinar highlighting EnviroAtlas, this webinar will provide in-depth training on using the Interactive Map and Eco-Health Browser, accessing and downloading data, and using built-in-analysis tools. The webinar will also provide a brief overview of EnviroAtlas resources in general, including educational modules and real-world examples of data use.

EPA Tools and Resources Webinar Series

U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development

https://www.epa.gov/research/epa-tools-and-resources-webinar-series

Climate Resilience Bond Must Include Funds to Protect and Restore California’s Redwood Forests

Robin Carr, Landis Communications, Save the Redwoods League

Redwoods play a key role in the state’s fight against climate change
by storing more carbon per acre than any other forest type in the world

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. (February 26, 2020) — As California lawmakers negotiate the details of a climate resilience bond to bring before state voters in November, Save the Redwoods League today expressed its support for a measure that will bolster the state’s preparedness for a changing climate. League leaders also emphasized the critical role that redwoods have in carbon storage as both coast redwood and giant sequoia forests store more carbon per acre than any other forest type in the world. Thus, the League recommended state legislators include more funding to protect and restore coast redwood and giant sequoia forests in its climate resilience bond.

In recent polling, more than 70 percent of California voters, across all party affiliations, support a climate resilience bond because it would help protect and restore redwood forests. In fact, the more the bond speaks specifically to redwood forest conservation, the more the people of California would support it.

“Voters understand that our redwood forests are not only vital to our identity as Californians but are also important allies in our fight against climate change because of their incredible ability to store carbon and their resilience to fire,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League. “Making smart investments now to build back that resilience through land conservation and forest restoration in the redwoods is a critical part of our state’s climate strategy. In so doing, we will enhance the forests and parks that inspire visitors from around the globe and demonstrate California’s leadership in building a more climate-resilient world.”

While each bond proposal is written differently, each addresses the state’s growing challenges associated with the loss of snowpack, extreme heat, sea-level rise, drought, flooding and more frequent and severe wildfire. What all of the proposals need is a clearer commitment to the role of forests, especially the state’s redwood forests, in both mitigating and adapting to these climate change impacts.

“Save the Redwoods League calls upon our state legislators to embrace the redwoods as one of our best investments in nature-based solutions to climate change and to include specific funding in the bond measure for their protection and restoration,” said Hodder. “In saving our iconic redwoods, California can lead on building climate resilience.”

Save the Redwoods League is one of the nation’s oldest conservation organizations, Save the Redwoods League has been protecting and restoring redwood forests since 1918, connecting generations of visitors with the beauty and serenity of the redwoods. Our 24,000 supporters have enabled the League to protect more than 216,000 acres of irreplaceable forests in 66 state, national and local parks and reserves.

Salmon Website with Current Status

The Nature Conservancy is relaunching the California Salmon Snapshots website as the State of Salmon in California website. The website still provides the most complete, updated numbers of salmon and steelhead returning to our California rivers – but the information is now presented in a more modern and easy-to-navigate interface. With data compiled from the CA Department and Fish and Wildlife and other salmon conservation partners, the website is the most comprehensive one-stop-shop for information on California’s iconic anadromous fishes.

The completely redesigned website is organized around three questions:

How many salmon and steelhead do we have in California? Historically, an estimated 5.5 million Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead returned to California rivers every year. However, since the 1950s, less than 500,000 fish return annually. Chinook salmon are the majority species, making up more than 90% of current numbers. Since 2000, 25% of ocean returning fish have been hatchery fish. We are currently in the down curve of the cycle and hope to swing upwards. Check out the webpage Statewide Status to see interactive maps and population graphs of all salmon and steelhead species.
Which California rivers with salmon and steelhead? 55 California rivers consistently monitor salmon and steelhead populations. The webpage Snapshots of these Salmon Rivers provides current and historical counts for all 55 of these rivers, information on local restoration organizations and their projects, and more.
What are the important restoration solutions that will enable salmon and steelhead to survive into the future? The Restoration Solutions page highlights eight key types of restoration projects that can improve habitat for salmon and steelhead. The page showcases work that restoration organizations are implementing in targeted river reaches that improve the survival of salmon at each life stage.

Thanks for being part of the State of Salmon in California collaboration.

Maui Democratic Party Resolution on Lahaina Wastewater Pollution

WHEREAS, the County of Maui’s Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility has for decades used injection wells to dispose of its treated wastewater, sending millions of gallons a day of polluted water into the ocean just offshore of Kahekili Beach; and

WHEREAS, peer-reviewed government and university scientific studies, as well as decades of direct kama‘āina experience, have confirmed that water pollution from the Lahaina facility has degraded the ocean and reef environment at Kahekili Beach, creating dead zones where the pollution enters the ocean; and

WHEREAS, in a legal case brought under the federal Clean Water Act, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund etal. v. County of Maui, both the U.S. District Court, District of Hawai‘i and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit have ruled that the Clean Water Act prohibits the pollution discharges from the Lahaina facility without a permit; and

WHEREAS, the Clean Water Act is the bedrock legal protection of clean water for the entire nation, which was passed by overwhelming majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Nixon in 1972; and

WHEREAS, under previous leadership, the County has resisted any regulation of the pollution from the Lahaina facility under the Clean Water Act, arguing that any pollution of the ocean from the injection wells is exempt from the law; and

WHEREAS, the County has so far spent over $4 million paying mainland lawyers to fight its legal battle against the Clean Water Act, rather than using the money to pay for solutions such as investing in water reuse to meet community water needs for agriculture and landscaping; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court, which includes two new conservative justices appointed by the Trump Administration, has granted the County’s request to hear its appeal; and

WHEREAS, the supporters of the County’s appeal to the Supreme Court include polluting industries, Republican-dominated states and counties, right-wing property rights organizations,and other opponents of environmental protections; and

WHEREAS, the Trump Administration urged the Supreme Court to take up the County’s appeal and has taken the position that the Clean Water Act excludes any and all pollution that reaches our nation’s surface waters through groundwater, contradicting decades of practice by prior Democratic and Republican administrations.

WHEREAS, if the County’s appeal proceeds to briefing, a hearing, and a ruling, the Supreme Court could issue an opinion that restricts and undermines the Clean Water Act’s protections across the nation, which would be a stain on the County’s reputation and an undesirable outcome overall; and WHEREAS, with the election of a new mayor and council, the County has a golden opportunity to turn a new page, stop its attack on the Clean Water Act, focus on proactive solutions instead of counterproductive litigation, and lead the way on protecting, rather than polluting, the waters of Maui and the nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Democratic Party of Maui that the County of Maui is urged to withdraw its appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court and instead focus on proactive, collaborative, and constructive solutions to reduce and control pollution from the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility and promote beneficial and necessary water reuse.

Sierra Club Maui Group Informational Handout
• Timeline of the Lahaina Wastewater Case, 2011-today
• Earthjustice Blog Series: Suing to stop illegal sewage discharges in Maui
• CrossRoads Community TV Show: Lahaina Wastewater
• Maui Democratic Party Resolution on Lahaina Injection wells
Earthjustice: Video of Green Tracer Dye test showing path of sewage onto coral reef at Kahekili
Observations of nearshore groundwater discharge: Kahekili Beach Park submarine springs, Maui, Hawaii (2017)
Wastewater effluent plume in nearshore and offshore surface waters and three-dimensionally model the plume across a coral reef on Maui
Vulnerability of coral reefs to bioerosion from land-based sources of pollution (” sustained, nutrient rich, lower pH submarine groundwater
discharging onto nearshore coral reefs off west Maui lowers the pH of seawater and exposes corals to nitrate concentrations 50 times higher than ambient. Rates of coral calcification are substantially decreased, and rates of bioerosion are orders of magnitude higher than those observed in coral cores collected in the Pacific”)
USGS 2018 study showing effects on reef off of Kahekili Beach Park from Lahaina injection wells
Radio interview with Isaac Moriwake and Hannah Bernard August 28, 2019

Toxic Rule Sign-on Letter to Protect Air/Climate Impacts

California River Watch joined dozens of other statewide environmental organizations providing comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to not gut or reduce the standards of protection for pollutants that are released into the atmosphere from coal and other steam generating sources. These releases create unhealthy levels of air pollutants and, in addition, increase global climate impacts. The time is ticking for acting to limit greenhouse emissions. Below is the letter that CRW signed.

January 21, 2020

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler, Administrator U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Submitted via www.regulations.gov

RE: Proposed Revised Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power
Source Category (Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0819)

Dear Administrator Wheeler:

The undersigned NUMBER OF organizations, on behalf of our millions of members and supporters across the country, appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed revisions for the Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category. Steam electric power plants, mostly coal plants, are responsible for the majority of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and other toxic metals discharged into our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams every year. These plants also discharge high levels of nutrients, bromide, and other harmful pollutants. Power plant wastewater discharges have made it unsafe to eat fish from many rivers, contaminated the lakes and rivers where people swim, damaged aquatic ecosystems, and created treatment challenges for drinking water systems.
If finalized as proposed, EPA’s revisions would gut long overdue protections established in 2015 that prohibited the dumping of coal ash wastewater into our nation’s waters and imposed stringent limits on toxic metals and other pollutants in scrubber sludge discharges. Weakening these standards is unjustified and will result in more pollution in our nation’s precious water resources. We therefore urge EPA to abandon its misguided proposal to weaken the 2015 standards. Instead, the agency should reaffirm the zero discharge requirements for coal ash wastewater and strengthen limits for scrubber sludge discharges to control bromide and other pollutants.
Weakening of bottom ash limits is unjustified: EPA is proposing to allow power plants to discharge millions of gallons of contaminated bottom ash wastewater daily, up to 10 percent of a facility’s total volume. The 2015 standards required coal plants to eliminate bottom ash wastewater discharges, which the agency determined plants could achieve by installing dry handling systems or by using closed-loop wet handling systems. This requirement meant that any water used to flush bottom ash had to be treated and reused, instead of pulling additional fresh water from a nearby river or lake and then discharging contaminated wastewater back into that body of water. Some power companies claim this 10 percent purge allowance is needed because it is too difficult and expensive to achieve zero discharge of bottom ash wastewater. But this claim is not grounded in reality. In 2015 EPA documented that more than 80 percent of all coal plants built in the last 20 years did not discharge bottom ash wastewater and that more than half of all older plants had already installed closed-loop or dry handling systems for bottom ash. The record clearly shows zero discharge technologies for bottom ash wastewater are available and achievable and therefore EPA must reaffirm the 2015 prohibition on these discharges.
Weakening of scrubber sludge/Flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater limits is unjustified and EPA record shows they must be strengthened: EPA is also proposing to allow power plants to discharge higher levels of arsenic and selenium in FGD wastewater, based on the use of less robust

biological treatment systems. The 2015 standards were based on the use of chemical precipitation plus advanced biological treatment to drastically reduce the amount of metals, selenium, and nutrients in these discharges. Instead of weakening FGD wastewater limits, EPA should require plants to install membrane or equivalent available technology that cost-effectively eliminate metals, selenium, and nutrients, as well as bromide and other total dissolved solids. Bromide present in source water creates treatment challenges for drinking water systems because it reacts with the disinfectant chemicals used to kill harmful pathogens to form carcinogenic disinfectant byproducts. EPA’s own record clearly documents the tremendous public health benefits of reducing bromide discharges from power plants, but its proposal lacks any requirement for plants to actually limit bromide discharges. EPA’s record also shows that membrane technology to treat FGD wastewater is available and achievable and therefore EPA must require power plants to use it.
Proposed sub-categories to allow weaker limits for some plants are unjustified: EPA is also proposing new loopholes that will allow certain power plants to discharge even more pollution into our nation’s waters. For example, if a plant operator claims a plant will retire by 2028, that plant would be completely exempt from these newer pollution limits. This would allow plants to unjustifiably continue to contaminate rivers, lakes, and streams across the country for five more years. EPA’s proposal would also exempt plants that claim to only operate for a limited number of hours per year. EPA must abandon these loopholes that put utility profits above public health and the environment.
EPA’s claim the Voluntary Incentive Program (VIP) will result in significant pollution reductions lacks merit: Instead of requiring power plants to use the best available membrane technology to control FGD discharges, EPA is proposing to provide plants that voluntarily install this technology an additional five years (until 2028) to comply with these standards. EPA included a similar voluntary incentive program in its 2015 final steam electric ELG rule but it does not appear any power plants opted into that program. EPA’s claim that its latest VIP “would achieve greater pollution reductions than the 2015 rule would have achieved” is baseless.
In conclusion, the record before EPA plainly demonstrates that technologies to eliminate bottom ash wastewater discharges and technologies to limit heavy metals, selenium, nutrients, and bromide in FGD wastewater discharges are available, achievable, and affordable. Requiring power plants to use these proven technologies would prevent more than a billion pounds of pollutants from entering U.S. waters every year, and provide hundreds of millions of dollars per year in public health and environmental benefits. Our organizations urge EPA to abandon its plan to gut the strong 2015 standards and instead act swiftly to strengthen them.

Sincerely,
Undersigned organizations

Toxic Water Rule sign-on letter

Our organization, California River Watch, signed on to a letter distributed by Clean Water Action (Jennifer Clary) to the EPA to not gut protections prohibiting dumping coal ash wastewater into US waters and instead strengthening limits for scrubber sludge discharges to control bromide and other pollutants. You can review the letter below.

Larry

January 21, 2020

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler, Administrator U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Submitted via www.regulations.gov
RE: Proposed Revised Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power

Source Category (Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0819)

Dear Administrator Wheeler:

The undersigned NUMBER OF organizations, on behalf of our millions of members and supporters across the country, appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed revisions for the Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category. Steam electric power plants, mostly coal plants, are responsible for the majority of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and other toxic metals discharged into our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams every year. These plants also discharge high levels of nutrients, bromide, and other harmful pollutants. Power plant wastewater discharges have made it unsafe to eat fish from many rivers, contaminated the lakes and rivers where people swim, damaged aquatic ecosystems, and created treatment challenges for drinking water systems.

If finalized as proposed, EPA’s revisions would gut long overdue protections established in 2015 that prohibited the dumping of coal ash wastewater into our nation’s waters and imposed stringent limits on toxic metals and other pollutants in scrubber sludge discharges. Weakening these standards is unjustified and will result in more pollution in our nation’s precious water resources. We therefore urge EPA to abandon its misguided proposal to weaken the 2015 standards. Instead, the agency should reaffirm the zero discharge requirements for coal ash wastewater and strengthen limits for scrubber sludge discharges to control bromide and other pollutants.

Weakening of bottom ash limits is unjustified: EPA is proposing to allow power plants to discharge millions of gallons of contaminated bottom ash wastewater daily, up to 10 percent of a facility’s total volume. The 2015 standards required coal plants to eliminate bottom ash wastewater discharges, which the agency determined plants could achieve by installing dry handling systems or by using closed-loop wet handling systems. This requirement meant that any water used to flush bottom ash had to be treated and reused, instead of pulling additional fresh water from a nearby river or lake and then discharging contaminated wastewater back into that body of water. Some power companies claim this 10 percent purge allowance is needed because it is too difficult and expensive to achieve zero discharge of bottom ash wastewater. But this claim is not grounded in reality. In 2015 EPA documented that more than 80 percent of all coal plants built in the last 20 years did not discharge bottom ash wastewater and that more than half of all older plants had already installed closed-loop or dry handling systems for bottom ash. The record clearly shows zero discharge technologies for bottom ash wastewater are available and achievable and therefore EPA must reaffirm the 2015 prohibition on these discharges.

Weakening of scrubber sludge/Flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater limits is unjustified and EPA record shows they must be strengthened: EPA is also proposing to allow power plants to discharge higher levels of arsenic and selenium in FGD wastewater, based on the use of less robust

biological treatment systems. The 2015 standards were based on the use of chemical precipitation plus advanced biological treatment to drastically reduce the amount of metals, selenium, and nutrients in these discharges. Instead of weakening FGD wastewater limits, EPA should require plants to install membrane or equivalent available technology that cost-effectively eliminate metals, selenium, and nutrients, as well as bromide and other total dissolved solids. Bromide present in source water creates treatment challenges for drinking water systems because it reacts with the disinfectant chemicals used to kill harmful pathogens to form carcinogenic disinfectant byproducts. EPA’s own record clearly documents the tremendous public health benefits of reducing bromide discharges from power plants, but its proposal lacks any requirement for plants to actually limit bromide discharges. EPA’s record also shows that membrane technology to treat FGD wastewater is available and achievable and therefore EPA must require power plants to use it.

Proposed sub-categories to allow weaker limits for some plants are unjustified: EPA is also proposing new loopholes that will allow certain power plants to discharge even more pollution into our nation’s waters. For example, if a plant operator claims a plant will retire by 2028, that plant would be completely exempt from these newer pollution limits. This would allow plants to unjustifiably continue to contaminate rivers, lakes, and streams across the country for five more years. EPA’s proposal would also exempt plants that claim to only operate for a limited number of hours per year. EPA must abandon these loopholes that put utility profits above public health and the environment.

EPA’s claim the Voluntary Incentive Program (VIP) will result in significant pollution reductions lacks merit: Instead of requiring power plants to use the best available membrane technology to control FGD discharges, EPA is proposing to provide plants that voluntarily install this technology an additional five years (until 2028) to comply with these standards. EPA included a similar voluntary incentive program in its 2015 final steam electric ELG rule but it does not appear any power plants opted into that program. EPA’s claim that its latest VIP “would achieve greater pollution reductions than the 2015 rule would have achieved” is baseless.

In conclusion, the record before EPA plainly demonstrates that technologies to eliminate bottom ash wastewater discharges and technologies to limit heavy metals, selenium, nutrients, and bromide in FGD wastewater discharges are available, achievable, and affordable. Requiring power plants to use these proven technologies would prevent more than a billion pounds of pollutants from entering U.S. waters every year, and provide hundreds of millions of dollars per year in public health and environmental benefits. Our organizations urge EPA to abandon its plan to gut the strong 2015 standards and instead act swiftly to strengthen them.

Sincerely,

Undersigned organizations

Map showing Fully Appropriated Streams

The State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights (Division) has released an interactive GIS web map for representing Fully Appropriated Stream Systems (FASS) in California. The web map provides access to FASS and related information, including seasonal limitations, court references, and Board decisions all in one place and within a geospatial context. The web map can be found at the following web address:

Fully Appropriated Stream Systems (FASS)

Web Map Showing California’s Fully Appropriated Streams

The State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights (Division) has released an interactive GIS web map for representing Fully Appropriated Stream Systems (FASS) in California.  The web map provides access to FASS and related information, including seasonal limitations, court references, and Board decisions all in one place and within a geospatial context.  The web map can be found at the following web address:

https://gispublic.waterboards.ca.gov/
portal/apps/MapJournal/index.html?
appid=b2188e89dfea4e44b156600370f1edf7

Critical Species Lookbook Groundwater Resource Hub

The Nature Conservancy is pleased to announce the release of the Critical Species LookBook (the LookBook) which may be found on the Groundwater Resource Hub.  The LookBook is a compendium of 84 state and federally listed species likely to be affected by groundwater management and merit consideration by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Consistent with SGMA’s emphasis on local control, the LookBook is designed to inform local planning and decision-making.

The goal of the LookBook is to synthesize the best available groundwater-relevant information for each species to ensure that their water needs are adequately considered when developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs).  The LookBook was developed with expert opinion and review from more than 90 professionals at federal and state agencies, academia, technical consultancy firms, NGOs, and local water agencies with either an expertise in a particular species or in water management.

Please download the PDF version of the LookBook.  Should you have any questions regarding information in the LookBook, please contact Ruthie Redmond (ruthie.redmond@tnc.org).

New Fully Appropriated Stream Systems (FASS) Web Map Tool

The State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights (Division) has released an interactive GIS web map for representing Fully Appropriated Stream Systems (FASS) in California. The web map provides access to FASS and related information, including seasonal limitations, court references, and Board decisions all in one place and within a geospatial context. The web map can be found at the following web address: https://gispublic.waterboards.ca.gov/portal/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=b2188e89dfea4e44b156600370f1edf7

The Division is planning to host a webinar on the new tool in mid-December, and will follow up with additional information on the time and date of that webinar in the near future. More information can be found on the Division’s Fully Appropriated Stream Systems webpage.