Senator Cassidy (R-LA) has included a NFIP extension provision into the minibus appropriations act HR 5895 (Note: the bill text has not been updated since June 25th). This is the second effort to grant an extension to the NFIP since the topic appeared in the Farm Bill HR 2. The extension will provide 6-months coverage until January 31st , though this enters dangerous territory with the 115th Congress set for dismissal on January 3rd. At that time Congress will be racing to grant another extension, in the midst of appointing committee members, unless sometime in between they pull together their efforts to pass reformed legislation, or simply another extension. HR 5895 has passed the Senate and is in conference with the House.
The Great Lakes experience coastal erosion and lake level rise similar to the conditions existing along our ocean’s coasts. Increased precipitation and runoff have resulted in higher lake levels in years past, however, to exacerbate the problem, water from Lake Superior is being released to Lake Michigan, raising its overall level to nearly 2 feet above historic average and a half inch higher than recorded a year ago. Water levels and flows are subject to an international treaty between the US and Canada governed by the International Lake Superior Board of Control. Some residents have reported that upstream beaches on Lake Superior have ‘lost sand’ and they want to drain their water, at the expense of downstream beaches on Lake Michigan, to re-expose their beaches. U.S. officials claim the elevated discharges are necessary not only to balance lake levels, but to accommodate hydropower plants, downstream fisheries and commercial shipping. The Chief of Great Lakes hydraulics and hydrology for the Corps states that increased flow from Lake Superior can translate into a few inches of change, but those changes are insignificant. Data shown below illustrates the swing in lake levels since 1980.
The Soo Locks have received $57.6 million in the FY18 Work Plan’s Construction Account. The appropriations are for a new start, to initiate and ‘physically and fiscally complete construction of the major rehabilitation at Sault Ste. Marie Lock and Dam.’ The breakdown for the Soo Locks is as follows:
- $42 Million for Poe and Davis Pump Well System
- $4.2 Million for Poe Lock Ship Arrestors
- $5.2 for Macarthur Lock Tainter Valve
- $6.2 Million for Poe Lock Bulkheads
As climate changes and water levels rise, we’ll be following how the Soo Locks and other watershed structures affect water levels, erosion, and the development of coastal resiliency among the Great Lakes and the 9 surrounding states.
Algal blooms are devasting regions in the Lake Okeechobee watershed due to high levels of nutrients and low levels of dissolved oxygen, caused by insufficient nutrient regulation enforcement. Repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike are expected to be expedited through a provision in WRDA18. Funding for expedited completion will come out of the FCCE (Flood control and coastal emergencies) account, totaling $80 billion. The repair of the dike will provide a reservoir to send water during times of excessive inflow of water into Lake Okeechobee. The current schedule aims for 2025 for completion, though Senator Nelson concludes that an additional $727 million is needed to complete the project sooner. In 2016, the State of Florida pledged to spend $200 million on the project. On July 5th Senator Nelson announced a Federal pledge of a measly $500,000, nickels and dimes relative to the total cost. If you follow @HDMarlowe on twitter, this has been an issue we’ve been following. The inclusion of this project in WRDA18 is a step in the right direction for resolving the explosive algal blooms that exist this year, and in years past, though officials need to step up nutrient enforcement. Residents in the State of Florida have been advised to avoid contact with bodies of water that are receiving flows from Lake Okeechobee, affecting summer plans and tourism. Senator Nelson made a public comment that as he flew over the lake, it did not appear to be covered in 80% algae, as was reported by many news outlets.
We’re still waiting on WRDA.