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September 25, 2008
Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers’ Statement From Today’s Hearing On Transfer Of Water Projects To Local Authorities
Washington, D.C. – The following is U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ (R-WA) opening statement from today’s hearing in the Water and Power Subcommittee.
McMorris Rodgers is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, for holding this hearing today. Since this is our last hearing I wanted to express my appreciation to you and your staff for the work you have done this year. I have enjoyed working with you and look forward to doing so in the future.
As part of this Subcommittee’s last legislative hearing in this Congress, we will examine four bills. Three of these bills address water supply issues in Indian country. As we all know, water is becoming more scarce out West due to a number of factors. Adequate funding for water infrastructure is just as scarce. With these factors in mind, it’s important that all affected parties have communicated and found consensus on these bills and that the costs are realistic.
The fourth bill, which I have introduced, aims to reduce costs for the American taxpayer and for local water users. Our legislation will speed up the process by which small-scale Bureau of Reclamation projects are transferred to local water authorities. This “title transfer” idea has been around since the 1990’s, when the Clinton Administration came up with the idea as part of its Reinventing Government Initiative. This Administration has embraced the idea as well.
Transferring small-scale projects is a “win” for the local water users, who can operate local projects more effectively and can use ownership to leverage capital to fix or upgrade facilities. At a time when the Bureau of Reclamation faces a multi-billion dollar aging infrastructure backlog, taking aged canals or diversion dams out of federal hands will help deliver water more efficiently and provide a “win” for the American taxpayer by decreasing federal liability.
Most observers agree that more title transfers should be pursued, but many water users are reluctant to move forward due to the time-consuming and costly nature of the process. One relatively minor transfer described as “low-hanging fruit” took almost nine years to implement. We put a man on the moon in less time. Yet another example – it took Congress four years to pass a non-controversial bill transferring nine acres and two buildings to an eastern Washington irrigation district.
The title transfer program has improved, but everyone knows we can do better. The Bureau of Reclamation recognized this when it came out with a proposal as part of its “Managing for Excellence” effort earlier this year. Our bill reflects many of the concepts in the agency’s draft.
We have worked extensively with various interests to come up with this bill. I’m proud to have the support of all of my Republican colleagues on the Subcommittee and my good friend, Jim Costa. I also want to thank Grace Napolitano for consenting to a hearing on the bill. I realize that she may have some concerns on the bill and I pledge to work with her on resolving those concerns. Finally, I want to thank the Family Farm Alliance for working with us and supporting the legislation. The Alliance and their members have become a very effective grass-roots voice in the halls of Congress and I’m privileged to have their vote of confidence. I especially want to welcome the Alliance’s Executive Director, Dan Keppen, for being here today to testify on the bill.
This bill is the right thing to do. It’s good for all taxpayers, water and power consumers and good for the environment. This hearing is the first step to enacting this much-needed bill.
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses and working with my colleagues on all of these bills before us today.
For more information, access the Committee on Natural Resources’ Minority website at:
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Director of Communications
U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources
1329 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
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