This Week at Interior May 24, 2024


I'm Chris Hammond and we're at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia, with the Step-Up program, and you're watching This Week at Interior!

This Week at Interior  

Secretary Haaland wrapped up a multi-day visit to Southern California, where she met with federal, state, Tribal and local officials and community members to learn about their vision for the proposed establishment of Chuckwalla National Monument and expansion of Joshua Tree National Park. The proposed monument encompasses more than 600,000 acres of existing Bureau of Land Management public lands within Imperial and Riverside counties in Southern California. It would also add as much as 17,000 acres to the existing Joshua Tree National Park.  

This week provided several opportunities to highlight how resources from President Biden's Investing in America agenda are being used to reclaim and restore orphaned oil and gas wells, which pose serious health and safety threats by contaminating surface and groundwater, releasing toxic air pollutants, and leaking methane. During a stop in Los Angeles, Secretary Haaland announced an additional $35.2 million investment for California. The state expects to plug and remediate 206 high-risk wells that threaten communities and decommission 47 attendant production facilities with approximately 70,000 feet of associated pipelines.    

And in New Mexico this week, Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis announced $25 million from the President’s Investing in America agenda for the state to clean up legacy pollution. New Mexico expects to plug approximately 117 orphaned oil and gas wells, remediate four sites and complete surface restoration of 33 locations with the grant funding. The investments will help create good-paying union jobs, bolster economic growth and revitalization, and reduce environmental and public health impacts from harmful methane leaks.

While in New Mexico, the Acting Deputy Secretary also announced more than $520 million from the Investing in America Agenda to revitalize aging water delivery systems across the West. The funding will support 57 projects across all six regions served by the Bureau of Reclamation to improve water conveyance and storage, increase safety, improve hydropower generation and provide water treatment.

Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz traveled to Massachusetts and Rhode Island this week, where she highlighted how investments from the Investing in America agenda and America the Beautiful initiative are helping restore ecosystems for the benefit of both people and wildlife. In Bridgewater, Massachusetts, she joined local and state leaders to celebrate the completion of the High Street dam removal project to restore the river and support aquatic connectivity. In Narragansett, Rhode Island, the Assistant Secretary toured a new project funded by a $1 million investment from the America the Beautiful Challenge that will recover natural salt marsh hydrology degraded by legacy impacts and invasive species.

Interior this week announced $81 million from the Investing in America agenda for water conservation and drought resilience in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Sarah Krakoff, and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton joined federal and state leaders and Central Valley Project water agencies at Interior to announce the funding, and sign a Memorandum of Understanding outlining a new long-term drought plan for the region.  

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement this week announced more than $14 million from the Investing in America agenda to address dangerous and polluting abandoned mine lands in Tennessee and Utah. The funding addresses legacy pollution in those states, while advancing economic opportunity in coal communities.  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its student and community partners recently celebrated a milestone in Colorado. Every year for the last four years, students from Palisade High School's Endangered Fish Hatchery have released hundreds of razorback suckers into the fish’s native habitat – the Colorado River. Earlier this month they released the program's 1000th fish. Wildlife conservationist and Emmy Award-winning TV host Jeff Corwin was on hand to help celebrate the occasion and salute the students who helped make it happen.

The National Park Service has officially reopened Bridge 23 to cyclists and pedestrians along Virginia's Mount Vernon Trail, after a year of reconstruction partially funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The 18-mile trail stretches from George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island and is enjoyed by millions of visitors every year.

And our social media Picture of the Week, the hidden jewel of the Great Plains, Oklahoma's Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Best known for its roaming herds of bison and Rocky Mountain elk, Wichita Mountains provides grassland and granite mountain homes for an abundance of wildlife, and quality opportunities for fishing, bird watching, wildlife photography, hiking and kayaking.  

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That's This Week at Interior!  

This Week: Secretary Haaland meets with community members about California's proposed Chuckwalla National Monument; there's new funding on the way to take on the cleanup of orphaned wells in California and New Mexico; Interior announces more than half a billion dollars to revitalize aging water delivery systems across the West; we'll show you how the Investing in America agenda and America the Beautiful initiative are helping restore ecosystems in Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Interior leaders sign a new agreement for better water conservation and drought resilience in California’s San Joaquin Valley; the USFWS and student conservationists celebrate a milestone in Colorado; bicycle and foot traffic are moving again along a newly-reopened stretch of Virginia's Mount Vernon Trail; and the hidden jewel of the Great's also our social media Picture of the Week!