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Hastings’ Water Storage Legislation Needed to Combat Western Water Supply Issues by Facilitating More Surface Water Storage
Witnesses Agree that this Legislation is Needed

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 10, 2014 - Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a legislative hearing on H.R. 5412, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act.  The legislation, introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA 04), streamlines the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental planning and study process for new surface water storage projects in order to help facilitate the construction of new or expanded dams and reservoirs. The bill mirrors the process that was applied to the Corps of Engineers in the recently enacted Water Resources Development Act by setting the same standards and expectations for the Bureau of Reclamation to become more transparent and accountable in how it operates.  

Multi-purpose dams and reservoirs can generate affordable emission-free electricity; store water suppliers for farmers, ranchers and municipalities; tame ravaging floods; provide recreational opportunities; and provide year-round cold water flows for fisheries.  The Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act will facilitate the construction of new dams and reservoirs throughout the Western United States and will add much needed water storage, reform the cumbersome and lengthy permitting process, and create renewable energy.

It is painfully clear, given the Bureau of Reclamation’s inaction on storage in California, that the agency’s feasibility study process needs to be modernized in a productive way,” said Chairman Doc Hastings. “For this reason, I’ve introduced the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act.   It’s a common sense bill based on the precedent of the newly enacted Water Resources Reform and Development Act, or WRDA, that only four Members of this House opposed.”

Water conservation is critically important in managing a temporary shortage – but it does nothing to add supply.  What we are now discovering is that by exhausting conservation measures in wet years, we have no latitude to manage a drought when it comes.  If this current crisis teaches us anything, it must be that there is no substitute for adding supply, and this bill – and others recently heard by the subcommittee --  begin to restore this process for a new generation that is now paying dearly for the mistakes of their predecessors.,” said Subcommittee on Water and Power Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-04).

Witnesses at the hearing testified on the need for a legislative solution and impacts of the proposed Obama Administration regulations, including higher food, water, and electricity costs, undermining of states’ rights; and current and future water supply infrastructure.

Mr. Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance, Klamath Falls Oregon, testified that new or expanded water storage is necessary and conservation alone cannot solve the water supply problems currently crippling the west.  “As you are all aware, actually developing new storage projects is much easier said than done. For many reasons – political, economic, and social – the construction of traditional surface storage projects is undertaken on a much more limited basis than in decades past. Even if authorization and funding is secured for a new storage project, the existing procedures for developing additional water supplies can make project approval incredibly burdensome…  Clearly, the existing procedures for developing additional water supplies need to be revised to make project approval less burdensome.”

Mr. Bennett Raley, Attorney for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and representing the National Water Resources Association, Denver, Colorado, testified on the need for storage projects in Colorado and the benefits of legislation to encourage and promote new and existing water storage.  "Northern Water is not alone in working to develop water supply opportunities that are sensitive to environmental needs without triggering the complex, costly and time-consuming process for federal water supply projects. Water providers throughout the West are seeking similar non-federal solutions. However, given the importance and prominence of Reclamation facilities in many regions, a non-federal project approach is not always available, and meeting the needs of the future will likely require that existing federal reclamation projects throughout the West be optimized to allow additional storage or that unused capacity in existing Reclamation projects be made available to provide to better manage available non-federal water resources.”

Mr. Jeffrey Sutton, General Manager, Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, Willows, California, testified on California’s need for increased water storage projects. “The “Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act” consists of a number of common sense proposals directed at removing unnecessary bureaucratic impediments to new storage in a manner that would provide additional water supply certainty to the businesses, individuals and wildlife whose wellbeing and, in many cases, survival is inextricably linked to the importance of congressional action to mitigate the adverse impacts of future droughts.”

 

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