U.S. Water News Online
DENVER -- A drought task force recently formed by the Western Governor's Association has sent a legislative priority list to Congress, urging action on a minimum of six items before the end of this legislative session in early August.
The WGA Task Force was created through a resolution sponsored by Governor Johnson of New Mexico at the annual meeting of the Western Governor's Association this June. The resolution directs the task force to make recommendations for "suggested actions and legislative initiatives to alleviate the immediate crisis and to prepare for the impending worsening of the drought."
The following issues were outlined for prompt consideration:
According to Bruce Flinn, Natural Resource Consultant for the WGA Task Force, immediate action on these issues is an important first step in the western states collective management of drought, but it is only a first step.
"We are in the first phase of what many here think will be a five year drought cycle," said Flinn. "And drought in the West is a recurrent pattern. We have to go beyond emergency measures to fashion a drought policy that will work in the long-term."
Finding ways to improve both state and federal response to drought conditions is the focus of this effort, said Flinn. "When it comes to drought aid, there is no one-stop shopping," he said, speaking of the diffuse network of agencies -- both state and federal -- that handle drought relief programs. "Half of the problem is coordinating everyone's efforts effectively."
Developing a drought policy is high on the agenda, said Flinn, something that has, so far, eluded both state and federal government officials. The western states, collectively, may propose a "drought czar" in charge of one agency -- perhaps a regional rather than federal one, he said -- which will oversee and coordinate drought relief.
Such an agency would help eliminate confusion and delay for those in critical need of aid. It would also prevent duplication of services, and facilitate an accurate exchange of information, including scientific data needed for an accurate assessment of drought conditions. This, he said, would provide more stability and continuity to the drought management process.
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