US Forest Service withdraws proposed groundwater directive

The US Forest Service withdrew a proposed directive on groundwater resource management on June 19, and announced it would hold public discussions on ways it might improve groundwater management on lands it oversees instead.

Conservation organizations and Indian tribes generally favored the May 7 proposal, but states and a number of other groups expressed concern that the proposed directive would exceed the US Department of Agriculture agency’s authorities and infringe on state authorities to allocate water, USFS Chief Thomas L. Tidwell said in the Federal Register notice.

“The proposed directives did not, and any future actions will not, infringe on state authority, impose requirements on private landowners, or change the long-standing relationship between the forest service, states, and tribes on water,” Tidwell said.

Any new proposed groundwater directive or other steps would be intended to establish an approach that is more clear and consistent to evaluate and monitor the effects of actions on USFS groundwater resources, Tidwell said. The agency clearly must have discussions with key stakeholders on the matter, he said.

Responding to the announcement, Kathleen Sgamma, vice-president of government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance in Denver, said the regional organization of independent oil and gas producers was glad the USFS withdrew the proposal.

“[It] was federal overreach infringing on state water rights and even conflicted with other federal agency jurisdiction,” she told OGJ in an e-mail. “We’ve seen other federal regulatory actions that exceed the agency’s authority and ability to implement, but in this case Chief Tidwell wisely recognized the problems with the directive and withdrew it.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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