Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Susquehanna River Basin Commission Adopts New Consumptive Water Use Policy To Expand Options, Reduce Costs

On May 26, the  Susquehanna  River  Basin  Commission  announced  it  has adopted Resolution No. 2020‐02, enhancing its consumptive water use mitigation practices and providing flexibility for facilities paying its water usage fee.  
The new policy also offers implementing guidance for water users in the basin seeking to provide water storage. The policy became effective on April 1, 2020. 
“After  careful  review  and  consideration  of  the  data  and  our  objectives,  we  determined  that  exempting  pond evaporation losses from mitigation requirements would promote the use of storage and expand options for achieving on‐site mitigation,” said Executive Director of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission Andrew Dehoff. “In particular, facilities such as golf courses and ski resorts are likely to find the policy changes beneficial.” 
Sen.  Gene  Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of  the  Senate  Environmental  Resources  &  Energy Committee, wrote, “I am very happy  to see SRBC’s new water use policy. It will be a huge help  to some businesses which are struggling through the COVID 19 crisis.” 
Management  of  low  flows  is  one  of  the  Commission’s  primary  and  unique  roles.   
The  traditional  approach  to  this objective  has  been  to  provide  for  water  releases  from  large  federal  reservoirs  to  offset  downstream  water consumption during low flow periods. 
Through  the policy update,  the Commission seeks  to add new options to  the successes  of  the  traditional  approach  and  to  enable  water  users  to  take  credit  for  mitigation  measures that are available to them.   
The overarching goals are  to improve low flow management, provide reliable water supply during droughts, expand affordable mitigation options to water users, and promote innovative partnerships for water use mitigation projects.  
Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) said, “As [Majority] Chairman of  the Local Government Committee and Member of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee,  I am very pleased to learn of the new Consumptive Water Use Policy recently adopted by the Susquehanna River Basin Commissioners at their March 13th, 2020  meeting.
“I  want  to  personally   compliment  Mr.  Andrew  Dehoff,  SRBC Executive Director and Mr. Gene Veno, SRBC Governmental Affairs Director and thank  them  for  taking  the  time  to meet with me to discuss this policy and work on the data in order to bring about this needed policy change.  
“This new policy will help many  water use businesses in my district and throughout the entire river basin. I am delighted to see  the  adoption  of  the  New  Consumptive  Water  Use  Policy and  I  look  forward  to  continuing  to  work  with  the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.”  
Following  adoption,  new  options  now  being  offered  to  water  users  for  meeting  existing  mitigation  requirements include:  
--Lowering the former 90‐day storage standard to 45 days;  
-- Changing the definition of discontinuance from no water usage to allowing usage up to 20,000 gallons per day; and 
-- Receiving a fee credit for water‐saving practices.  
Resolution No. 2020‐02 provides the executive director the authority necessary to carry out the implementation of the updated policy. 
This includes immediately exempting pond evaporation losses  from  the mitigation  requirement and reducing fees in exchange for certain water conservation practices. The Commission estimates that implementation of these changes will result in an initial cost savings of more than $500,000 annually to qualifying projects in the Basin. 
Activation of these money saving steps will require no action or cost on the part of water users and has already been begun by Commission staff.    
Gene Barr, President and CEO of  the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, wrote, “Today's news is  the product of collaboration  towards  mutual  goals  of  economic  development  and  the  stewardship  of  our  natural  resources.  We appreciate  and  applaud  the  efforts  of  the  Susquehanna  River  Basin  Commission's  leadership  and  staff  in  working productively  with  stakeholders,  including  the  regulated  community,  to  implement  policies  that  will  protect  the region's water resources, and we thank the Commission and staff for responding effectively to the concerns and issues raised on behalf of the broader business community.” 
Prior  to  the  adoption  of  the  updated  policy,  Commission  staff  held  informational  sessions  with  key  water  use stakeholders  and  other  interested  parties  to  preview  the  changes  being  considered  and  to solicit  feedback.  
David Spigelmyer, President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, commented, “The Marcellus Shale Coalition and its members appreciate  the  continued  collaboration  that  the  Susquehanna  River  Basin  Commission  has  demonstrated  with  all water users, including oil and gas operators,  to ensure  that  the Susquehanna River’s water  resources are protected and managed properly. Through this resolution the Commission has provided additional flexibility that will enable all water users to better manage their responsibilities during low‐flow periods while incentivizing  the mitigation efforts that many users already embrace and encouraging new possibilities  for  the protection and utilization of one of  this nation’s great water basins.” 
The  informational  sessions  and  subsequent  notification  to  water  users  of  the  policy  and  cost  changes  were  well received. 
“A broad array of operators participated in the sessions and we have received very positive feedback from water users throughout the basin for the adoption and implementation of this new policy,” added Mr. Dehoff. 
Elk Mountains Vice President/General Manager Gregg Confer stated,  "This new policy on Consumptive Use Mitigation is a great benefit  for  the ski areas in  the basin. During  these crazy  times  this is a step in  the  right direction  that we greatly appreciate and thank the basin for the relief.” 
In  addition  to  the  above  comments  in  support  of  this  New  SRBC  Policy,  we  also  received  comments  from  Rep.  Sue  Helm (R-Dauphin) who  stated:  “As  [Majority] Chairman  of  Pa. House  Urban  Affairs  and  a  Member  of  the House Tourism & Recreational Development  Committee  I am  pleased  to learn  of  the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s newly adopted Consumptive Water Use Policy recently adopted that immediately expands  mitigation options and promotes cost savings of more than $500,000 annually to qualifying businesses in the Basin” Chairman Helm went on to say, “I have seen the many positive developments at the SRBC and I am pleased to see this  new  policy  that  will  greatly  help  not  only  District  104  business  owners,  but  many  businesses  throughout  the  river  basin” 
For  questions  or  additional  information,  please  call  Gene  Veno,  Director  of  Government  Affairs &  Public  Advocacy,  717‐238‐0423, Ext. 1311, or send email to: gveno@srbc.net.
For more information on programs, training opportunities and upcoming events, visit the Susquehanna River Basin Commission website.  Click Here to sign up for SRBC’s newsletter.   Follow SRBC on Twitter, visit them on YouTube.
[Posted: May 26, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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