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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).

Senate 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 Survery

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 (R-KS) testified 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.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on March 10, 2003

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