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KUNR Today: Water Resources Development Act passes Senate, secures funding for Nevada water projects

A landscape photo of Lake Tahoe.
Shelby Herbert
KUNR Public Radio
The Lake Tahoe watershed is recognized nationally and globally as a natural resource of special significance and is designated an "Outstanding National Resource" under the Clean Water Act.

Read or listen to news headlines for Friday, July 29, 2022.

USDA expanding high-speed internet for rural and tribal areas
By Kaleb Roedel, Mountain West News Bureau

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced a major investment Thursday, July 28, to expand high-speed broadband in rural areas nationwide. Secretary Tom Vilsack said the department is investing more than $400 million to provide high-speed internet access to rural residents, businesses and tribal communities in 11 states.

Vilsack spoke in Reno, Nev., at the headquarters of internet provider Uprise. The company is getting $27 million in grants to launch a network that connects the people, farms and schools in Pershing County, Nev.

“There [is] a significant number – millions of Americans – who are living, working and raising their families in rural and remote areas that do not have access to the telemedicine, distance learning, economic development opportunities, and the public safety opportunities that other folks in this country have,” Vilsack said.

The funding will also launch high-speed internet across remote areas of Idaho, New Mexico and Colorado. The department plans more spending on rural broadband projects later this summer.

Water Resources Development Act passes in the Senate, secures funding for Nevada water projects
By Shelby Herbert

Every two years, the Water Resources Development Act gives the Army Corps of Engineers funding to fortify our nation’s water resources. Thursday, July 28, the bill passed in the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen secured $105 million for the Western Rural Water program, which will upgrade water infrastructure in Nevada’s rural communities. The legislative package also includes an increase in funding for the Lake Tahoe 108 program by $25 million, bringing the program’s total budget to $50 million.

Lake Tahoe 108 was created to support environmental infrastructure projects within the Lake Tahoe Basin. The additional funding will be allocated to help combat invasive species, support Truckee River restoration projects, and improve public infrastructure around the lake.

The Lake Tahoe watershed is recognized nationally and globally as a natural resource of special significance and is designated as an Outstanding National Resource under the Clean Water Act. 

Regulators say Nevada casino winnings set fiscal-year record
By The Associated Press

State gambling regulators say Nevada casinos set a fiscal-year winnings record from July 2021 to June 2022. The $14.6 billion total shattered a record that had stood since 2008. The Nevada Gaming Control Board also reported Thursday that casinos statewide won $1.3 billion last month - the 16th straight month topping the $1 billion mark. The state collected $71.2 million in taxes based on the casino winnings. Among other economic indicators, Harry Reid International Airport reported this week it handled a record 4.7 million passengers last month. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported visitor volume of 3.3 million people, which was still down compared with pre-coronavirus pandemic 2019.

California chief justice won't seek a second 12-year term
By The Associated Press

The California Supreme Court's chief justice won't seek a second 12-year term in November. Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye is the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the state's chief justice. Unlike U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges, California judges do not hold lifetime positions. She would have had to run for retention by voters in November's election. She made her announcement Wednesday as the filing deadline is approaching. She is one of five justices on the seven-seven member court who would stand for retention in November. The others plan to seek retention.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg talks EVs with Western governors
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talked at the Western Governors Association meeting in Idaho Thursday, July 28. Buttigieg is a big fan of electric vehicles, especially as a way to reduce carbon emissions. But he also stresses that with inflation and gas prices, people out West may have the most to gain from owning them.

“You know, the longer your distances that you drive every day, the more this is going to matter to you, to get the fuel and maintenance savings of EV ownership – if we can make sure it’s affordable and make it easy to charge up,” Buttigieg said.

A new program called Chargewest aims to create EV charging corridors across the Mountain West. Proposed legislation could also extend a $7,500 tax credit to buy new EVs, and create a $4,000 credit for used ones. Still, EV costs have risen alongside gas prices. Many remain above Westerners’ budgets.

The transportation secretary did face concerns from Western governors over timelines and costs of expanding passenger rail service infrastructure. Buttigieg said there are efforts in Congress to change regulations and reduce costs.

Wounded Knee artifacts highlight slow pace of repatriations
By The Associated Press

Tribes in South Dakota are working with a rural Massachusetts museum to return hundreds of items believed to have been taken from ancestors massacred at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890. It's a recent example of efforts to repatriate human remains and other items to tribes nationwide. A federal database shows some 870,000 items that should be returned to tribes by law are still in the possession of colleges, museums and other institutions across the country. The holdings include nearly 110,000 human remains. The University of California, Berkeley tops the list, followed closely by the Ohio History Connection.

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