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113th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session                                                    113-114
_______________________________________________________________________

                                     

                                                       Calendar No. 222

 
                    DROUGHT INFORMATION ACT OF 2013

                               __________

                              R E P O R T

                                 OF THE

           COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION

                                   on

                                 S. 376




                                     


                October 28, 2013.--Ordered to be printed
       SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
                    one hundred thirteenth congress
                             first session

            JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, West Virginia, Chairman
BARBARA BOXER, California            JOHN THUNE, South Dakota
BILL NELSON, Florida                 ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington           ROY BLUNT, Missouri
MARK PRYOR, Arkansas                 MARCO RUBIO, Florida
CLAIRE McCASKILL, Missouri           KELLY AYOTTE, New Hampshire
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota             DEAN HELLER, Nevada
MARK WARNER, Virginia                DAN COATS, Indiana
MARK BEGICH, Alaska                  TIM SCOTT, South Carolina
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, Connecticut      TED CRUZ, Texas
BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii                 DEB FISCHER, Nebraska
MARTIN HEINRICH, New Mexico          RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin
ED MARKEY, Massachusetts             JEFF CHIESA, New Jersey

                     Ellen Doneski, Staff Director
                  James Reid,\1\ Deputy Staff Director
                     John Williams, General Counsel
              David Schwietert, Republican Staff Director
              Nick Rossi, Republican Deputy Staff Director
               Rebecca Seidel, Republican General Counsel
\1\James Reid served as Deputy Staff Director through October 2013.


                                                       Calendar No. 222
113th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session                                                    113-114

======================================================================




                    DROUGHT INFORMATION ACT OF 2013

                                _______
                                

                October 28, 2013.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

     Mr. Rockefeller, from the Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
                Transportation, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 376]

    The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to 
which was referred the bill (S. 376) to reauthorize the 
National Integrated Drought Information System, and for other 
purposes, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon 
with an amendment (in the nature of a substitute) and 
recommends that the bill (as amended) do pass.

                          Purpose of the Bill

  The purpose of S. 376 is to reauthorize the National 
Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and make a number 
of improvements, clarifications, and refinements to the 
program's statutory requirements and authorities.

                          Background and Needs

  Drought is a natural phenomenon characterized by below 
average precipitation and water supply deficiency. Periods of 
persistent drought can have significant environmental, 
economic, and social consequences. Unlike other natural 
disasters, however, droughts can be much more difficult to 
identify, as they are a creeping phenomenon, developing slowly 
over large areas and an extended period of time. This slow 
nature of drought can hinder the recognition of the true 
impacts, potentially diminishing the urgency that would 
otherwise trigger a timely and comprehensive response.
  Extremely dry conditions can lead to numerous forest and 
rangeland fires, burning hundreds of thousands of acres of 
land, destroying homes and communities, and eliminating 
critical habitats for wildlife and grazing lands for livestock. 
The subsequent ash and sediment loading threatens stream 
health. In addition, fires cost hundreds of millions of dollars 
to fight and put thousands of lives at risk. Droughts have 
caused shortages of grain and other agricultural products, 
resulting in soaring prices for consumers, deteriorating soil 
conditions, and devastated farming and ranching communities. 
Further, droughts have threatened municipal water supplies and 
have caused many communities to develop new water management 
plans, which institute water restrictions and other water 
conservation measures. According to the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), droughts incur annual losses 
of nearly $9 billion in the United States. Damages from the 
2012 drought were estimated at $30 billion to $35 billion, 
mostly attributed to crop losses.
  Over the last decade, the United States has experienced 
several severe and long-term droughts. Recent severe drought 
conditions across the Nation and, in particular, in western and 
central States have created life-threatening situations, as 
well as financial burdens for both the Government and 
individuals. In particular, the Great North American Drought, 
as it is known, which began in late 2011 and is arguably 
ongoing, has had catastrophic economic ramifications for much 
of the continental United States. At its peak in July 2012, 
approximately 81 percent of the contiguous United States faced 
at least abnormally dry conditions. Estimates indicate that 
crop devastation and other impacts from this drought have 
reduced total U.S. gross domestic product by at least a half 
percent to 1 percent, equating to a loss of between $75 billion 
and $150 billion. It has exceeded, by most metrics, the impacts 
of the most recent comparable drought during 1988 and 1989, and 
is likely to be the most costly natural disaster in U.S. 
history.
  The United States can reduce its vulnerability and, 
therefore, lessen the risks associated with drought episodes 
through mitigation and preparedness. According to a recent 
study, every dollar spent on disaster mitigation by the Federal 
Emergency Management Agency ultimately results in four dollars 
in future benefits to the Nation. Planning ahead to mitigate 
drought therefore provides an opportunity to make cost-
effective decisions to address the highest priority problems. 
Drought preparedness plans contain three critical components:
          (1) a comprehensive early warning system;
          (2) risk and impact assessment procedures; and
          (3) mitigation and response strategies.
  These components complement one another and represent an 
integrated institutional approach that addresses both short- 
and long-term management and mitigation issues.
  To better address drought mitigation planning 
comprehensively, Congress enacted the National Drought Policy 
Act of 1998 (112 Stat. 641), which established the National 
Drought Policy Commission (Commission). The Commission's May 
2000 report to Congress recommends moving the country toward a 
more proactive approach to drought preparedness and response. 
The Commission recognized the need for a dynamic and accessible 
drought information system that provides users with the ability 
to determine the potential impacts of drought and the 
associated risks they bring, as well as the decision support 
tools needed to better prepare for and mitigate the effects of 
drought.
  In June 2004, the Western Governors' Association (WGA) issued 
a report recommending the establishment of such a drought 
information system, led by NOAA, to be implemented regionally, 
and which would build upon existing tools such as the U.S. 
Drought Monitor and the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook. The 
National Integrated Drought Information System, or NIDIS, would 
result in fuller integration of relevant and available data. 
This would provide a drought ``early warning system'' capable 
of providing accurate, timely, and integrated information on 
drought conditions at the relevant spatial scale. Specifically, 
the WGA recommended that NIDIS should pursue activities to 
facilitate proactive decisions that can minimize the economic, 
social, and ecosystem losses associated with drought, such as:
          (1) developing integration tools to bring together 
        real-time data from a variety of existing networks, 
        including NOAA's National Mesonet;
          (2) identifying historical data and indices, and 
        developing tools to fill data and forecasting needs 
        with the National Drought Mitigation Center as the 
        principal clearinghouse;
          (3) establishing a methodology to accurately and 
        comprehensively quantify drought impacts;
          (4) establishing an integrated Federal drought 
        research program;
          (5) facilitating drought planning and preparedness; 
        and
          (6) providing a framework for interaction and 
        education with water users, resource managers, and the 
        public.
  In 2006, Congress enacted the National Integrated Drought 
Information System Act (15 U.S.C. 313d), which established 
NIDIS largely along the lines articulated by the Commission and 
the WGA. Following enactment, NOAA stood up an implementation 
team for NIDIS that conducted workshops and meetings with 
Federal, State, and local agencies, academic researchers, and 
other stakeholders for the creation of a NIDIS program 
implementation plan. Submitted to Congress in July 2007, the 
plan outlined how best to implement an integrated drought 
monitoring and forecasting system at Federal, State, and local 
levels; foster and support a research environment focusing on 
risk assessment, forecasting, and management; create an early 
warning system for drought to provide accurate, timely, and 
integrated information; develop interactive systems, such as 
the online U.S. Drought Portal, as part of the early warning 
system; and provide a framework for public awareness and 
education about droughts.
  Since the program became operational, NIDIS has provided data 
that helps decision makers assess the risk of having too little 
water and prepare for and mitigate the effects of drought. 
NIDIS is continually developing more robust services and 
regional decision support resources and integrating basic and 
applied research performed by NOAA and other agencies into an 
adaptive decision-support environment for resource managers, 
farmers, and other water users. Utilizing infrastructure and 
data available through Federal, State, and tribal partners, 
NIDIS provides public access to the experience and expertise of 
NOAA's Regional Climate Centers and Regional Integrated 
Sciences and Assessments teams, the Department of Interior, the 
Department of Agriculture, the National Drought Mitigation 
Center, and other research groups. NIDIS has also been 
developing monitoring and forecasting systems as well as 
education efforts to tailor drought early warning systems for 
specific watersheds, coastal zones, and geographic regions. 
Though the program's work is ongoing and continues to support 
decision makers, authorization for appropriations for NIDIS 
expired at the end of 2012.

                         Summary of Provisions

  S. 376 would amend the National Integrated Drought 
Information System Act of 2006 to specify that:
          (1) the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and 
        Atmosphere would continue to support the NIDIS program, 
        and
          (2) the program's purpose shall be to better inform 
        and provide for more timely decision-making to reduce 
        drought related impacts and costs.
  The bill would also revise NIDIS functions to require that 
the program:
          (1) provide certain information, forecasts, and 
        assessments described in the Act on both national and 
        regional levels;
          (2) build upon existing forecasting and assessment 
        programs and partnerships of Federal, State, regional, 
        private, public, and academic entities; and
          (3) continue ongoing research activities related to 
        drought and the role of extreme weather events and 
        climate variability in drought.
  Additionally, the bill would require the Under Secretary to 
provide a report to Congress concerning the NIDIS program that 
includes a list of partners with whom the Under Secretary 
collaborates on NIDIS implementation and a description of NIDIS 
outreach activities. Finally, S. 376 would authorize 
appropriations for fiscal years 2014 through 2018.

                          Legislative History

  The Drought Information Act of 2013 was introduced by Senator 
Pryor on February 25, 2013, and is cosponsored by Senators 
Moran, Thune, Udall of New Mexico, and Udall of Colorado. 
Senator Pryor sponsored similar legislation, S. 3594, the 
Drought Information Act of 2012, during the 112th Congress, 
which was also referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science 
and Transportation.
  On July 30, 2013, the Committee met in open Executive Session 
and, by voice vote, ordered S. 376 reported favorably with an 
amendment in the nature of a substitute.

                            Estimated Costs

  In accordance with paragraph 11(a) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate and section 403 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee provides the 
following cost estimate, prepared by the Congressional Budget 
Office:

S. 376--Drought Information Act of 2013

    Summary: S. 376 would amend the National Integrated Drought 
Information System Act of 2006. The bill would authorize the 
appropriation of $14.5 million annually over the 2014-2018 
period for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
(NOAA) to maintain a system to provide early warnings of 
droughts by collecting and disseminating information and 
coordinating research on drought conditions. In 2013, the 
agency received $12 million to carry out similar activities.
    Assuming appropriation of the authorized amounts, CBO 
estimates that implementing the legislation would cost $65 
million over the 2014-2018 period and $8 million after 2018. 
Enacting S. 376 would not affect direct spending or revenues; 
therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
    S. 376 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA).
    Estimated cost to the federal government: The estimated 
budgetary impact of S. 376 is shown in the following table. The 
costs of this legislation fall within budget function 300 
(natural resources and environment).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                    By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                              --------------------------------------------------
                                                                2014    2015    2016    2017    2018   2014-2018
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION

Authoziation Level...........................................      15      15      15      15      15        73
Estimated Outlays............................................       9      12      14      15      15        65
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Amounts may not sum to totals because of rounding.

    Basis of estimate: For this estimate, CBO assumes that the 
legislation will be enacted near the end of fiscal year 2013 
and that the authorized amounts will be appropriated for each 
fiscal year. Estimated outlays are based on historical spending 
patterns for this program.
    Pay-As-You-Go considerations: None.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: S. 376 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Jeff LaFave, Impact on 
State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Melissa Merrell, Impact 
on the Private Sector: Amy Petz.
    Estimate approved by: Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                      Regulatory Impact Statement

  In accordance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides the 
following evaluation of the regulatory impact of the 
legislation, as reported:

                       NUMBER OF PERSONS COVERED

  S. 376 would modify certain statutory requirements and 
authorities of the NIDIS program. The bill encourages NIDIS to 
build upon existing forecasting and assessment partnerships 
within the Federal, State, regional, private, public, and 
academic sectors, and requires the listing of such partners in 
a report to Congress. To the extent NIDIS staff members are 
currently affected by existing law, the bill does not impose 
any burdens on any additional persons.

                            ECONOMIC IMPACT

  S. 376 is not expected to have an adverse impact on the 
Nation's economy. The bill would reauthorize the NIDIS program, 
the purpose of which is to better inform and provide for 
timelier decision-making to reduce drought-related impacts and 
costs. Because droughts have costly impacts to both public and 
private entities, this bill may have a positive net economic 
impact, especially on those sectors of the U.S. economy most 
vulnerable to drought impacts. S. 376 would authorize $14.5 
million to be appropriated for the NIDIS program for fiscal 
years 2014 through 2018. These funding levels are not expected 
to have an inflationary impact on the Nation's economy.

                                PRIVACY

  The reported bill would not have any adverse impact on the 
personal privacy of individuals.

                               PAPERWORK

  The Committee does not anticipate a major increase in 
paperwork resulting from the passage of this legislation. The 
bill would require the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans 
and Atmosphere to submit a report to Congress on the NIDIS 
program within a year and a half of enactment of this Act.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

  In compliance with paragraph 4(b) of rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides that no 
provisions contained in the bill, as reported, meet the 
definition of congressionally directed spending items under the 
rule.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis


Section 1. Short Title.

  This section would provide that the Act be cited as the 
Drought Information Act of 2013.

Section 2. Reauthorization of National Integrated Drought Information 
        System.

Sec. 2(a). System Amendments.

  This subsection would amend the National Integrated Drought 
Information System Act of 2006 (15 U.S.C. 313d) to update the 
purposes and functions of NIDIS. This subsection would require 
NIDIS to build upon existing Federal, State, regional, private, 
public, and academic forecasting and assessment programs and 
partnerships to support ongoing monitoring and dissemination of 
weather and climate information.

Sec. 2(b). Authorization of Appropriations.

  This subsection would authorize $14.5 million to be 
appropriated for each of the fiscal years 2014 through 2018 for 
NIDIS.

Sec. 2(c). Report.

  This subsection would require that within a year and a half 
of the enactment of this Act the Under Secretary of Commerce 
for Oceans and Atmosphere submit a report to the Committee on 
Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the 
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of 
Representatives regarding NIDIS. The report would be required 
to include an assessment of the implementation of NIDIS, 
including how the information, forecasts, and assessments 
produced are utilized in drought policy planning and response 
activities; specific plans for continued development of the 
system, including future milestones; identification of 
research, monitoring, and forecasting needs to enhance the 
predictive capability of drought early warnings, the length and 
severity of droughts, and the contribution of weather events to 
reducing the severity or ending drought conditions; a list of 
partners with whom the Under Secretary collaborates to 
implement NIDIS; and a description of the outreach activities 
conducted by the Under Secretary regarding NIDIS. This 
subsection would require the Under Secretary to consult with 
relevant Federal, regional, State, tribal, and local government 
agencies, research institutions, and the private sector in the 
development of this report.

                        Changes in Existing Law

  In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the Standing 
Rules of the Senate, changes in existing law made by the bill, 
as reported, are shown as follows (existing law proposed to be 
omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new material is printed 
in italic, existing law in which no change is proposed is shown 
in roman):

       NATIONAL INTEGRATED DROUGHT INFORMATION SYSTEM ACT OF 2006


                            [15 U.S.C. 313d]

SEC. 3. NIDIS PROGRAM.

  (a) In General.--The Under Secretary, through the National 
Weather Service and other appropriate weather and climate 
programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration, shall establish and continue to support a 
National Integrated Drought Information System to better inform 
and provide for more timely decisionmaking to reduce drought 
related impacts and costs.
  [(b) System Functions.--The National Integrated Drought 
Information System shall--
          [(1) provide an effective drought early warning 
        system that--
                  [(A) is a comprehensive system that collects 
                and integrates information on the key 
                indicators of drought in order to make usable, 
                reliable, and timely drought forecasts and 
                assessments of drought, including assessments 
                of the severity of drought conditions and 
                impacts;
                  [(B) communicates drought forecasts, drought 
                conditions, and drought impacts on an ongoing 
                basis to--
                          [(i) decisionmakers at the Federal, 
                        regional, State, tribal, and local 
                        levels of government;
                          [(ii) the private sector; and
                          [(iii) the public, in order to 
                        engender better informed and more 
                        timely decisions thereby leading to 
                        reduced impacts and costs; and
                  [(C) includes timely (where possible real-
                time) data, information, and products that 
                reflect local, regional, and State differences 
                in drought conditions;
          [(2) coordinate, and integrate as practicable, 
        Federal research in support of a drought early warning 
        system; and
          [(3) build upon existing forecasting and assessment 
        programs and partnerships.]
  (b) System Functions.--The National Integrated Drought 
Information System shall--
          (1) provide an effective drought early warning system 
        that--
                  (A) collects and integrates information on 
                the key indicators of drought and drought 
                impacts, including water supplies and soil 
                moisture, in order to make usable, reliable, 
                and timely forecasts of drought, including 
                assessments of the severity of drought 
                conditions and impacts; and
                  (B) provides such information, forecasts, and 
                assessments on both national and regional 
                levels;
          (2) communicate drought forecasts, drought 
        conditions, and drought impacts on an ongoing basis to 
        stakeholders and entities engaged in drought planning, 
        preparedness, and management, including--
                  (A) decisionmakers at the Federal, regional, 
                State, tribal, and local levels of government;
                  (B) the private sector; and
                  (C) the public;
          (3) provide timely data, information, and products 
        that reflect local, regional, and State differences in 
        drought conditions;
          (4) coordinate, and integrate as practicable, Federal 
        research and monitoring in support of a drought early 
        warning system;
          (5) build upon existing Federal, State, regional, 
        private, public, and academic forecasting and 
        assessment programs and partnerships; and
          (6) continue ongoing research and monitoring 
        activities related to drought, including research 
        activities relating to length, severity, and impacts of 
        drought and the role of extreme weather events and 
        climate variability in drought.
  (c) Consultation.--The Under Secretary shall consult with 
relevant Federal, regional, State, tribal, and local government 
agencies, research institutions, and the private sector in the 
development of the National Integrated Drought Information 
System.
  (d) Cooperation From Other Federal Agencies.--Each Federal 
agency shall cooperate as appropriate with the Under Secretary 
in carrying out this Act.

SEC. 4. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

                         [15 U.S.C. 313d note]

  There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this 
Act--
          (1) $11,000,000 for fiscal year 2007;
          (2) $12,000,000 for fiscal year 2008;
          (3) $13,000,000 for fiscal year 2009;
          (4) $14,000,000 for fiscal year 2010;
          (5) $15,000,000 for fiscal year 2011; [and]
          (6) $16,000,000 for fiscal year 2012[.]; and
          (7) $14,500,000 for each of fiscal years 2014 through 
        2018.