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                                                       Calendar No. 548
109th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 2d Session                                                     109-305

======================================================================



 
                     VERMONT WATER RESOURCES STUDY

                                _______
                                

                 July 31, 2006.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Domenici, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 2054]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 2054) to direct the Secretary of the 
Interior to conduct a study of water resources in the State of 
Vermont, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon 
with an amendment and recommends that the bill, as amended, do 
pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
    On page 1, line 7, insert after ``shall'' the following: 
``, in accordance with this Act and any other applicable 
law,''.

                         PURPOSE OF THE MEASURE

    S. 2054 would authorize the United States Geological Survey 
to undertake a water resources study in the State of Vermont.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    It is estimated that approximately sixty-six percent of 
Vermont's population rely on groundwater for their drinking 
water. Groundwater also provides a significant source of water 
for industrial, environmental, and agricultural purposes. 
Naturally-occurring groundwater contaminants including arsenic, 
radioactivity, and radon have been found in the groundwater 
and, according to the state government, pose a health risk to 
Vermonters.
    Concerns have been raised regarding Vermont's groundwater 
resources. Knowing more about the groundwater resources will 
allow Vermonters to best mitigate the threat posed by 
contaminants and to enhance planning efforts, including how 
best to manage existing water resources. Beginning in the 
1960s, the State of Vermont undertook steps to better 
understand its groundwater resources. Since that time, 
knowledge of Vermont's groundwater resources has become more 
comprehensive and detailed.
    While the data acquired by the State since the 1960s allows 
for rudimentary aquifer mapping for parts of the State, lack of 
adequate State funding has not allowed the State to obtain 
information necessary to address potential problems. The study 
authorized by S. 2054 will allow the State of Vermont to better 
understand the nature of its groundwater resources and plan 
accordingly.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 2054 was introduced on November 18, 2005, by Senator 
Jeffords and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural 
Resources. The Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing 
on S. 2054 on March 30, 2006. At the business meeting on May 
24, 2006, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ordered 
S. 2054 favorably reported with an amendment.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open 
business session on May 24, 2006, by a unanimous voice vote of 
a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 2054, if 
amended as described herein.

                          COMMITTEE AMENDMENT

    During consideration of S. 2054, the Committee adopted an 
amendment which provides that the survey authorized by S. 2054 
shall be conducted pursuant to applicable law.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    Section 1, subsection (a) authorizes the Secretary of the 
Interior, acting through the Director of the United States 
Geological Survey and in coordination with the State of Vermont 
to conduct a survey of water resources in the State.
    Subsection (b) directs the Secretary to submit to the 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the 
Committee on Resources of the House of Representatives a report 
describing the result of the study not later than two years 
after the date of enactment of the act.
    Subsection (c) authorizes such sums as necessary to carry 
out this section.

                   COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS

    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:

S. 2054--A bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a 
        study of water resources in the state of Vermont

    S. 2054 would direct the Secretary of the Interior to 
conduct a study of water resources in Vermont. The study, to be 
completed within two years of the bill's enactment, would 
include a survey of groundwater supplies available to 
municipalities. Based on the cost of similar studies, CBO 
estimates that carrying out the proposed study would cost the 
U.S. Geological Survey about $6 million over the next few 
years, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. 
Enacting S. 2054 would not affect direct spending or revenues.
    The bill contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Deborah Reis. 
This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 2054. The bill is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant responsibilities on private individuals and 
businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 2054.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    The testimony provided by the United States Geological 
Survey at the Subcommittee hearing on S. 2054 in the 109th 
Congress follows:

Statement of Catherine L. Hill, Northeast Regional Hydrologist, United 
          States Geological Survey, Department of the Interior

    Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am 
Catherine L. Hill, Northeast Regional Hydrologist for Water for 
the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). I thank you for the 
opportunity to provide the views of the Department of the 
Interior (Department) on S. 2054, a bill to conduct a Vermont 
water resources study.
    The Department agrees that the goals of the bill are 
commendable but has concerns with the bill. We note that 
studies similar to this have been done by USGS in other States, 
generally carried out within the USGS Cooperative Water 
Program, which is a long- standing cost-sharing program using 
Federal and State funds. Given the existing authorities for our 
Cooperative Water Program, congressional authorization of this 
study is not necessary.


                 S. 2054, VERMONT WATER RESOURCES STUDY


    S. 2054 directs the Secretary of the Interior, acting 
through the Director of the USGS and in coordination with the 
State of Vermont, to conduct a study on water resources in the 
State of Vermont. The role identified for the Department in 
this bill is consistent with USGS's leadership role in 
surveying and characterizing ground-water resources.
    The bill requires a survey of ground-water supplies and 
aquifers available for water supply by municipalities 
throughout the State, as part of a study to determine whether 
these supplies provide water of potable (drinkable) quality.
    The USGS has a long history of conducting ground-water 
assessments on both local and regional scales. In the 1950s and 
1960s, studies were conducted across the Nation to provide a 
basic understanding of geohydrologic conditions at a county-
level scale. In the 1980s, 25 regional aquifer systems were 
studied in detail, including the aquifer systems in Vermont. 
However, these studies provide a regional and national context 
of ground water that are often not detailed enough for State 
and municipal needs.
    As stated, the goals of the S. 2054 can be met through 
existing authorities, and many related activities are being 
implemented on the ground in Vermont. USGS has been actively 
working with the Vermont Geological Survey in the creation of a 
new bedrock geologic map that is scheduled to be completed in 
the next few years. This new geologic map will provide a 
variety of information that can be used to help define ground-
water availability and quality. Map information will include 
bedrock types that may be correlated with high yield wells or 
bedrock types that may be associated with natural contaminants 
(for example arsenic or radon). In 2003, USGS provided 
information on possible approaches for ground-water assessment 
and aquifer mapping to the State of Vermont for a report to the 
State Legislature on the status of ground-water and aquifer 
mapping. In this report, a plan for future statewide ground-
water and aquifer assessments was presented. This document 
provides a foundation for how work proposed by this legislation 
could be performed.
    The USGS has extensive databases that would provide useful 
information in evaluating potential ground-water resources in 
Vermont. These databases include the location and 
characteristics of most mineral occurrences throughout the 
United States; geochemical characteristics of rocks, soils, 
stream sediments, and water; long-term ground-water level and 
stream flows; and water-use and well inventories.
    The USGS also has a number of on-going studies that relate 
to ground water in Vermont. USGS, through the Mineral Resources 
Program and in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency, is determining the water quality effects of 
three abandoned mines on local streams and ground water. 
Another USGS study, in cooperation with the Vermont Geological 
Survey, is looking at the radionuclide content of wells in the 
Barre West and Montpelier quadrangles. USGS is also analyzing 
the presence of arsenic in bedrock wells throughout New England 
as part of a project with the National Institutes of Health. 
This work will identify the probability of bedrock wells having 
detectable levels of arsenic. In addition, through the USGS 
National Water-Quality Assessment Program, we are evaluating 
how radon and uranium vary from aquifer to aquifer in the 
northern portions of the United States, including Vermont.
    In New Hampshire, USGS has already performed statewide 
surficial and bedrock aquifer mapping and characterization. 
This work, conducted through the USGS Cooperative Water 
Program, occurred in the 1980s and 90s and now serves as the 
benchmark for ground-water characterization in the State and is 
the basis for State and local planning and resource protection 
programs. We envision that a statewide aquifer mapping and 
ground-water characterization effort in Vermont would be 
similar in many respects to the New Hampshire effort.
    Ground water is the source of water for two-thirds of 
Vermont's residents. From 1950 to 2000, the amount of ground 
water used in the State is estimated to have increased by at 
least 60 percent. While Vermont is blessed with a major 
surface-water supply source in Lake Champlain to serve its 
largest cities, most communities, businesses, and homes away 
from the Lake rely on ground water for their water supply.
    The proposed legislation also requires an assessment of how 
ground water recharges and interacts with surface water. This 
is critical because ground water can be a major source of water 
for streams, especially in headwater areas. Vermont's rivers 
and streams are an important natural resource--providing 
habitat for its trout and other fisheries and supplying flows 
to its many lakes and ponds. As stated previously, USGS is 
currently working with the States to provide a better 
understanding of ground-water aquifers, the areas that 
contribute to both ground- and surface-water systems, and how 
current and future water demands could influence these systems, 
will help decision makers ensure that sufficient supplies are 
present for the multiple uses of Vermont's water resources.


                               CONCLUSION


    In conclusion, the USGS concurs with the goals of the bill 
to meet Vermont's need for a detailed ground-water assessment 
and aquifer mapping program, but notes that there are already 
ongoing efforts to address these goals. Such an effort would 
help ensure long-term water supplies for its citizens, 
businesses, industry, and natural features. However, we feel 
that such a proposed study would take 5 or more years to 
complete and that the 2-year time frame for completing the 
study would not yield comprehensive results. We recommend that 
studies of this type be conducted under the USGS Cooperative 
Water Program, through a cost-share arrangement. The USGS looks 
forward to working with the State of Vermont, particularly the 
Vermont Geological Survey, in future ground-water resource and 
aquifer studies.
    Thank you, Madam Chairman, for the opportunity to present 
this testimony. I will be pleased to respond to questions you 
and other Members of the Subcommittee may have.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by the bill S. 2054, as 
ordered reported.