Monday, August 23, 2010

GMDA Enters Lawsuit

The Groundwater Management Districts Association (GMDA) has filed an Amicus brief to enter the on-going lawsuit between the Central Platte NRD and FSA.  The case began in 2007 when the YMD Joint Water Management District in Mississippi requested certain information from FSA via FOIA.  They wanted land ownership records for re-permitting issues and recognized that the FSA records, if provided, would save them considerable time, manpower and money because FSA already had all the data in electronic form.  YMD otherwise would have to do extensive courthouse visits (17 Counties) to amass the data.  YMD informed FSA that they too were a government entity, and agreed to maintain FSA privacy standards.  FSA denied their request.  YMD appealed the decision and sought a formal appeal hearing.  Following this hearing, FSA vacated the original FOIA denial and asked Mississippi FSA to consider the request again - presumably favorably.  However, in the meantime, FSA inserted language in the developing 2008 Farm Bill which strengthened the privacy criteria and closed the door again on YMD's request.

Then the Central Platte NRD requested the same information to undertake a very involved irrigation well and irrigated land registration process.  Unlike YMD, the CPNRD had just spent 2 years and $250,000 canvassing the courthouses and amassing the database they needed, which FSA already had. They also claimed to be a goverment entity and to protect the privacy of the data.  They too, were denied.

In 2009, GMDA passed a Resoultion which was submitted to FSA, which was never even acknowledged. (click here to view) The resolution was adopted unanimously by the association.

Seems a shame that state and local goverment entities cannot access and use federal data that is so easily available.  None of the data requested was sensitive - in terms of payments provided or other financial or operational items - it was all data that is publicly available from various, individual county sources, but not pulled together and organized like the FSA dataset.  So much for a more transparent federal government.

For more information on the suit, contact the Central Platte NRD or the YMD District.  

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