The Land Commissioner is charged with jurisdiction over state trust lands to generate support for public schools and other state institutions. In the Complaint, filed in the First Judicial District Court, the Commissioner asserts that he has “an interest in the appropriation of water on and off of state trust lands because the use of water in connection with activities on state trust lands often is essential to the lands’ highest and best use.” The State Engineer is vested with authority to manage the state’s water resources, including issuing permits for groundwater wells. The Commissioner is concerned with the State Engineer’s issuance of groundwater pumping permits. Specifically, the concern revolves around permits issued pursuant to NMSA Section 72-12-1.3. Section 72-12-1.3 provides that if a person seeks to use groundwater in an amount of less than three acre-feet for a period of time less than one year for prospecting, mining, or construction of public works, highways, and roads or drilling operations designed to discover or develop the natural mineral resources in the state, a temporary permit may be issued by the State Engineer. A separate application must be filed for each proposed use. If the request will not permanently impair any existing water rights of others, the permit must be granted. If it will permanently impair such rights, a hearing must be held.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that $30 million is available to support conservation easement projects on dairy farms across New York. Plummeting milk prices have "increased the threat" of more farmland being converted into other developments, Cuomo said in a statement. Land trusts, municipalities and other entities can apply for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million.
Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration cut dental and vision coverage for as many as 460,000 Kentuckians after his Medicaid overhaul plan was rejected in court. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services called the cuts an “unfortunate consequence” of Friday’s ruling by a federal judge. Democrats and advocates for the poor condemned the Republican governor’s move as rash and possibly illegal. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg’s rejection of Bevin’s plan to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program was also a setback for President Donald Trump’s administration, which has been encouraging states to impose work requirements and other changes on the joint state and federal health insurance program for poor and disabled people. Boasberg’s ruling blocks those requirements for now in Kentucky.
Florida and Georgia have been arguing about the water that flows into the Apalachicola Bay for three decades, about as long as Tommy Ward and his family have been selling oysters from the bay. Florida says Georgia draws more than its fair share of water from the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers before they fuse to create the Apalachicola River. Georgia uses the water to supply thirsty Atlanta and the vast farmland south of the metropolis. But its disruption of the freshwater flow has increased the salinity of the bay and the number of oyster-eating predators, which are able to thrive in saltier water. The result: The virtual collapse of the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. During a week filled with U.S. Supreme Court-related news, many overlooked the significance of the ruling the court issued last week in the Florida-Georgia dispute: Taking a rare — if not unprecedented — stance, the court seemed to suggest that in water disputes between states, the health of an aquatic ecosystem can be considered alongside drinking-water and farming concerns. Florida’s odds did not look good as its case was headed to the Supreme Court. Ralph Lancaster, the special master appointed by the court to oversee most hearings in the case, said that though the bay had been affected by overuse of water upstream, it wasn’t clear that capping Georgia’s water use would solve the problem.But the justices disagreed, saying Lancaster used too strong a standard in evaluating whether adjustments upstream could solve problems in the Apalachicola Bay. The court remanded the case back to Lancaster who must reconsider Florida’s proposal and evidence.
Oxford County MPP Ernie Hardeman has been tapped to lead the agriculture portfolio under Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s new cabinet. The naming of Hardeman as ag minister comes somewhat as a surprise, as Lisa Thompson and Toby Barrett were widely speculated as top picks for the post. Thompson has been named Minister of Education. Barrett did not receive a cabinet post, but was named Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
State Rep. John Patterson applauded the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 299, the companion bill to Patterson’s House Bill 643, the Ohio Clean lake 2020 Plan. Joint-sponsored with state Rep. Steve Arndt, the bipartisan legislation invests $36 million in efforts to tackle the issue of harmful algal blooms and create innovative programs to clean up Lake Erie. “Our Great Lake remains a vital resource to us here in Northeast Ohio, impacting everything from growing our crops to growing our economy. We must do everything we can to ensure its long-term health,” said Patterson. “The Clean Lake 2020 Plan confronts the challenges we face by investing in new, innovative programs to reduce the devastating effects of algal blooms and clean up our lake so that the next generation of Ohioans can enjoy this precious resource.” The Clean Lake 2020 Plan would invest the following, $2.65 million to monitor phosphorous loading, harmful algal growth and toxicity levels at The Ohio State University’s Sea Grant and Stone Lab;$10 million to research alternative uses for dredged sediment;$20 million in grants and loans for farmers to reduce phosphorous runoff;$3.5 million for soil and water conservation districts in the lake’s western basin.
Gov. Ralph Northam arrived to announce a new broadband initiative to improve internet services in rural areas. Northam said Virginia used to be ranked No. 1 as the state in which to do business nationwide, but has fallen down the list in recent years. “One reason for that is lack of broadband,” Northam said, particularly in rural areas. “If you go to the eastern shore, here, or west, we’re nowhere near where we need to be.” The state raised the amount of money committed to improving rural broadband from $2 million to $8 million, and the Tobacco Commission has committed $11 million to the project, the governor said.
With one glance at the most recent U.S. rankings on solar energy, it becomes clear the Midwest has a long way to go if it wants to catch up to other regions on the use of this renewable source. Only Minnesota and Indiana placed in the top half of states as of 2017. But in a third Midwestern state, Illinois, big changes appear on the horizon, with landowners and county governments alike showing interest in making solar a new “cash crop” — whether it be on farmland, brownfields or even publicly owned property.The Solar Energy Industries Association is projecting that Illinois’ solar capacity will increase by 1,501 megawatts over the next five years, one of the bigger jumps in the nation. If that happens, and the state begins to climb in the U.S. rankings, legislative passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016 will be cited as a major catalyst.“[It] was a bipartisan effort to promote renewable energy across the state,” says Rep. Norine Hammond, who represents a part of rural western Illinois. “It resulted from years of negotiations between utilities, businesses, consumer and environmental groups.”
Worried by growing demands and shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, Wyoming lawmakers are seeking legislation to authorize water banking in Wyoming and declare it a “beneficial use.” The proposed changes to water law could allow Wyoming to “bank” Green River water for the purpose of meeting obligations to downstream states, and in doing so keep the state’s water users from running dry in the event of a shortage.Lawmakers on two legislative committees were briefed recently of looming disruption in the Colorado River Basin due to drought and growing demand. The 1922 Colorado River Compact that determines how the basin’s water is divided among seven western states and Mexico is based on overly rosy assumptions of flows. With Lake Powell at 43 percent of capacity and falling, water managers are nervous.They fear cascading events that could limit water use, curtail power generation, reduce critical electricity revenue and jeopardize endangered species in the region where 40 million people depend on Colorado River Basin water. Flows into Lake Powell in 2018 are expected to be 51 percent of normal and a “structural deficit” is causing Lake Mead to fall at a rate of about 12 feet a year.
Agricultural research will benefit from the expansiveness in Pennsylvania’s new budget. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a spending package June 22 that provides a 3 percent raise for Penn State research and Extension, and for the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school. Their research helps Pennsylvania farmers remain competitive, reduce pollution and stay ahead of livestock diseases, said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, minority chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.