March 1, 2017
Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held its first oversight hearing of the 115th Congress, Modernizing Western Water and Power Infrastructure in the 21st Century. The hearing examined ways to protect existing water and power infrastructure and alleviate cumbersome regulatory barriers to construct new facilities.
During questioning, Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) asked witness Andrew J. Colosimo, Government and Corporate Affairs Manager of Colorado Springs Utilities, to explain what makes the construction process so difficult, based on lessons from an existing water pipeline.
“The process for constructing the southern delivery system was a combination of just the permitting and regulatory challenges. […] The timelines were difficult, holding the federal agencies accountable to those timelines. Seeing sequential reviews rather than concurrent reviews, just an opportunity to do things slightly faster.” Colosimo said. “It’s time and money that start working against each other, and I don’t think anybody was talking about eliminating or substantially modifying things, but I think we can do things better [by] holding increased transparency […] with the federal agencies.”
Andrew Fecko, Director of Resource Development Placer County Water Agency, Auburn, California discussed how the viability of new water storage projects are jeopardized when agencies are unable to receive timely permitting.
“If Congress is serious about expanding surface water storage in California and throughout the West, and that same time create jobs and economic development, it should direct the Bureau of Reclamation to move expeditiously to complete cost share agreements with non-federal partners,” Fecko stated.
"We need to remove some excessive federal barriers so that non-federal utilities and entrepreneurs can step in to fill the void," Rep. Lamborn reiterated. "It’s also disturbing that federal studies for new storage or hydropower relicensing processes last for decades when we put a man on the moon in eight years."
Both Fecko and Colosimo agreed, adding that streamlining the current multi-agency permitting process for new or expanded surface storage could be achieved through the creation of a “one-stop-shop” permitting process to help facilitate the construction of federal and non-federal facilities.
for full witness testimony.