H.R.1654 - Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act
McClintock Statement on H.R. 1654
Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act
House Natural Resources Committee
April 26, 2017
I want to thank you for considering HR 1654, the Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act.
Droughts are nature’s fault. Water shortages are OUR fault. Water shortages are a choice we made a generation ago when we stopped building new reservoirs to meet the needs of a growing population.
We will not solve our water shortages until we build new reservoirs. And we cannot build new reservoirs until we overhaul the radical environmental laws that have made their construction endlessly time consuming and ultimately cost prohibitive.
For years, this committee’s subcommittee on water issues has taken volumes of testimony from frustrated water districts unable to navigate the Byzantine maze of regulations and a phalanx of competing, overlapping, duplicative and often contradictory federal agencies.
After years spent trying to satisfy one agency, another suddenly pops up to claim jurisdiction with an entirely new set of demands in an often endless permitting process despite the fact they are studying the same project, in the same location with the same data.
The burden this places on our ability to deliver water for the next generation is crushing.
For example, the High Savery Dam in Wyoming took fourteen years to permit – but only two years to actually build.
The federal government has literally studied four storage projects in California almost to death. One project, the Sites Reservoir, had over 50 alternative locations studied and there’s no end in sight for the feasibility process on that potential reservoir. Similar delays have prevented the expansion of Shasta reservoir for 39 years.
HR 1654 will bring order from this bureaucratic chaos.
It establishes a framework in which federal agencies with permitting responsibilities for the construction of new surface water storage projects must work together, coordinate their schedules, share data and technical materials, and make their findings publicly available. The end result would be fewer delays, more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, and ultimately, more abundant water supplies.
This was the Obama administration’s approach to constructing new electric transmission lines to accommodate its reliance on wind and solar generation. In October of 2009, the Administration formed the “Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission” a consortium of nine federal agencies to coordinate a single unified environmental review document for each project analysis.
This bill simply says the if there’s a potential project on Interior or Agriculture Department lands, then the Bureau of Reclamation shall be the coordinating agency for the permits…or a “one-stop shop” permitting agency. It will coordinate all reviews, analyses, opinions, statements, permits, license or other federal approvals required under federal law.
It also requires transparency, assuring that all data is available to the public on-line so the science guiding these decisions can be rigorously scrutinized by all interested parties.
It also allows water agencies to fund the review process if federal funding isn’t provided, removing one of the excuses that federal agencies have made in slow-walking or stalling review of these projects. This provision also has plenty of precedent – it is modeled on provisions sponsored by House Democrats that expedited improvements on the Hetch Hetchy dam, serving the San Francisco region.
This does not bypass ANY environmental laws – it simply says that the process needs to be more efficient and that government agencies should talk with each other and not past each other.
Nor does the bill affect the rigorous engineering process required to assure dam safety.
Five years of drought in California concluded with the wettest year on record, nature’s way of reminding us that if we don’t store water in wet years, we won’t have it during dry ones – and the economic and social devastation this causes can be immense. We’ve lost that water to the ocean, and will regret that desperately in the next drought. Hopefully we’ve learned from the follies of the past, and will begin streamlining the bureaucratic obstacle course that has prevented us from meeting the needs of the next generation.
H.R. 1654 (McClintock) passed the Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 24-16 on April 27, 2017.