On January 21, 2020, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James directed the Corps to withdraw the Water Supply Rule (81 FR 91556), published in 2016. In a Corps press release he said:
“In coordination with the administration and the intent to have a lighter federal touch, the Corps is withdrawing the proposed water supply rule. We have heard feedback from our partners, and the withdrawal of the rule will enable us to determine the best approach to address this complicated issue.”
He acknowledged that issues raised by states, tribes, and other stakeholders included “inconsistent pricing methodologies, reallocation approval levels, agreement approval levels, and difficulty getting real estate instruments….” The Army plans to consider how to address water supply by “simplifying, clarifying and streamlining provisions and processes to achieve better consistency and address long-standing policy issues.”
On January 23, the WSWC sent a letter to R.D. James, welcoming the decision to withdraw the Surplus Water Rule. The letter noted, “The Council has long raised serious concerns with the proposed rule.” The same day, the Attorneys General of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming wrote a letter to President Trump and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney expressing appreciation for the Administration’s withdrawal of the rule. Both letters emphasized the importance of deference to state law in the allocation and distribution of water. The WSWC also expressed interest in further state-federal engagement to ensure protection of state administration of water resources.