Trump administration officials are preparing to change federal policy on the management of federal lands in the United State, including water, in a new policy document that the White House said is “not a substitute for effective management” of the country’s waterways.
The policy document, obtained by The Hill, calls for the creation of a new Department of the Interior (DOI) to coordinate water management efforts across the federal government.
It will be formally unveiled Thursday by Secretary of the Department of Interior Ryan Zinke at a meeting of the DOI’s Science Advisory Board, the agency’s internal advisory council.
“We are very excited to work with the Department and the federal agencies to create a new federal water management program that is effective, sustainable, and accessible to all Americans,” Zinke said in a statement.
The new policy comes after Zinke’s Interior Department was hit with several lawsuits from groups that claim the agency has overstepped its authority to manage water.
The Trump administration says the lawsuit was filed by Interior and Interior contractors seeking to prevent the agency from being able to take advantage of its authority over water resources under the Clean Water Act.
Zinke said the lawsuit “misleads the public about the Department’s water management capabilities” and is part of a “long-standing and well-documented history of federal overreach.”
The DOI, he said, “is now going to be able to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of all Americans.”
The new DOI will be tasked with coordinating water management in a range of federal departments and agencies, including the Interior Department, the Department the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
“The federal government is working to improve the health and safety of all American waters and we look forward to sharing our experience and ideas with other nations in this effort,” Zinki said.
The DOI will not be allowed to take unilateral action, Zinke wrote.
The Interior Department is currently working on a water management plan for the nation’s waters, including a new management plan that will be issued on Jan. 3.
Zinke is also expected to unveil a draft environmental review of the new plan in the coming weeks.