Summary of Hearings on High Plains Aquifer Legislation (3-10-03)
- March 6, 2003: Senate Water and Power
Subcommittee Hearing on a hydrogeologic characterization, mapping,
modeling, and monitoring for the High Plains Aquifer (S. 212).
Subcommittee on Water and Power
Hearing on S. 212
March 6, 2003
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)
William Alley, Chief of the Office of Ground Water, U.S. Geological
On March 6, 2003, the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power held
a hearing to receive testimony on S.
212 that would authorize the United States Geological Survey
(USGS) to work with the High Plains States -- Colorado, Kansas,
Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming
-- to conduct hydrogeologic characterization, mapping, modeling,
and monitoring for the High Plains Aquifer. Senator Sam Brownback
that the bill will provide necessary federal assistance to study
the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer in order to assist states
in solving associated problems. He emphasized that the bill would
not federalize water issues, which are normally handled at the state
level, but would provide important resource information to the High
Plain States. William Alley, Chief of the Office of Ground Water
for the USGS, provided surprising testimony
on behalf of the administration for the non-controversial bill.
While agreeing with the need for groundwater monitoring, Alley said
the administration was concerned about the bill's cost, and that
better local and state coordination could achieve the goals of the
bill without federal legislation. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM),
a co-sponsor of the bill, responded that because the aquifer covers
multiple states, federal means should be provided to study its depletion
and extent, and to provide assistance to state geologists in dealing
with related issues. Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) voiced the concern
of the American Farm Bureau that (despite previous testimony to
the contrary) the bill would begin the federalization of groundwater.
Thomas also stated that the legislation is unnecessary because the
USGS already studies the Ogallala aquifer. Bingaman reemphasized
that the bill provides for improved monitoring and mapping, which
hasn't been done in over 20 years, of the aquifer. Also, it would
make funding available for states to study the Ogallala aquifer
-- the USGS cannot provide funds directly to states for studies.
Sources: Hearing testimony.
Contributed by Charna Meth, 2003 Spring Semester Intern.
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Last updated on March 10, 2003