Letter sent to all ACWI members on January 3, 2002
In Reply Refer To:
Mail Stop 409
Mr. Yujuin Yang
Texas Water Development Board
1700 N. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78701
Dear Mr. Yang:
I am pleased to forward to you a copy of the response from the Secretary of the Interior to the recommendations of the External Task Force to Review the Federal-State Cooperative Water Program. As you know, the Task Force, comprised of 22 members representing a variety of external stakeholder organizations, was established under the aegis of the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI). The Task Force completed its review of the Cooperative Water Program and submitted its final report to ACWI over a year ago. The report contained 32 findings and 57 recommendations for Program improvement.
For various reasons, principally the change in Administration, the process of developing and approving the Secretary's response to the Task Force report took longer than anticipated. However, this delay in processing did not impede the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in beginning to address many of the recommendations. Some of the major actions already taken by the USGS in response to the recommendations include the following:
Adopting the Program mission statement suggested by the Task Force. The new mission statement can be found on the Program's web page at: http://water.usgs.gov/coop/. (Recommendation 1.1)
Changing the name of the Program to the "Cooperative Water Program". The official name of the Program has been changed from the Federal-State Cooperative Water Program to the Cooperative Water Program to reflect the increasing diversity among cooperating agencies. (Recommendation 1.2)
Selecting a National Coordinator for the Program to help ensure that Task Force recommendations continue to be addressed. Jim Peters is now the National Coordinator and can be reached on 703-648-6843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. (Recommendations 7.2, 8.1, 16.4)
Enhancing USGS core funding for streamgages. USGS received increases of $8.1 million in fiscal year (FY) 2001; this enhanced funding level has carried forward to FY 2002. (Recommendations 9.1, 10.1, and 22.2)
Supporting ACWI in developing guidelines for the national streamgage network. Through a contract with the Interstate Council on Water Policy, the USGS sponsored four regional workshops to gather comments on the network from stakeholders across the country. ACWI will use results of these workshops as a basis for its guidance to USGS. For information on ACWI's streamgaging Task Force go to http://acwi.gov/streams/. (Recommendation 9.2)
Including a section in project descriptions that clearly identifies a Federal interest. This section is now included in all water project descriptions. (Recommendation 14.1)
Posting policy memorandums related to competition with the private sector on the web. The WRD Policy Memorandum on this subject can be found at: http://water.usgs.gov/admin/memo/policy/policy.html. (Recommendation 17.2)
Providing a list of national Program priorities annually. Priorities for 2002 can be found at; http://water.usgs.gov/coop/. They were developed with extensive input from cooperators through the annual district program review process that covers each State. Additionally, the priorities reflect comments made during a priorities review session at ACWI's annual meeting in May 2001. (Recommendation 18.3)
Improving the timeliness of reports. The USGS has tightened its policy on report completion to delivering reports on the date agreed upon by the cooperator. Additionally, the backlog of formal series reports, such as Professional Papers, has been reduced by 62 percent over the past 4 years. (Recommendation 25.1)
Greatly enhancing access to hydrologic data. Hydrologic data collected at 1.5 million locations with easy-to-use retrieval software is now available through NWIS-web at: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/. An NWIS-web news release that describes the contents and functionality of this system can be viewed at: http://www.usgs.gov/public/press/public_affairs/press_releases/pr1478m.html. (Recommendation 27.1)
We feel we have made an ambitious start in addressing the recommendations, but obviously, there is much more to be done. As a method of tracking our progress in addressing the recommendations, we plan to provide an update to ACWI at each of its annual meetings beginning in April 2002. Additionally, the USGS program review policy mandates an external review of major programs at least once every 5 years. We will be planning another comprehensive review of the Cooperative Water Program in the future and will undoubtedly seek ACWI assistance when this time comes.
I wish to join Secretary Gale Norton and Director Chip Groat in extending a sincere thank you to the members of the Task Force for their valuable contribution to the improvement of the Cooperative Water Program and to the members of ACWI for seeing the review through to its completion. I trust that our responses to the recommendations will greatly enhance the effectiveness of this valuable program for the USGS, the numerous cooperators, and the public.
More complete information about the Review can be found at http://acwi.gov/coop/ and information about the Cooperative Water Program can be found at http://water.usgs.gov/coop/. Please direct any questions or comments concerning the Secretary's response to Jim Peters, the Program's National Coordinator, at 703-648-6843 or email@example.com.
Robert M. Hirsch
Associate Director for Water