"We have an expression in the West that 'Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over,'" said Chairman Paul Gosar.
For centuries, Western states have fought over scarce water supplies. This scarcity led our visionary forefathers to build important federal water storage projects in order to provide water, hydropower, recreation, flood control and environmental benefits while adhering to state water rights. These were non-partisan endeavors – as evidenced by President John F. Kennedy dedicating the San Luis Dam in California. While the Central Arizona Project came after President Kennedy, it continues to bring prosperity to Arizona’s cities, tribal communities and ranches almost fifty years from its inception. The Glen Canyon Dam and other projects affiliated with the Colorado River Storage Project provided the backbone of a regional economy that produced year-round water and emissions-free hydropower. Lake Powell, the reservoir behind Glen Canyon allows for millions of dollars worth of recreational boating annually and even provided the scenery for the astronaut crash landing in the 1968 science fiction classic, the Planet of the Apes. For generations, these projects provided benefits to a growing society, but what the federal government helped give, it has been taking away.
The current regulatory process for constructing new surface water storage is a bureaucratic maze that requires numerous permits and approvals from a multitude of different federal, state and local agencies. Conflicting requirements continue to cause unnecessary delays, kill jobs and result in us failing to capture precious water supplies. Ranchers, agricultural and municipal water providers, and other stakeholders need a clear process without the bureaucracy.
Further, attempted water grabs by federal agencies during the previous Administration were atrocious. From the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, to the Ground Water Service Directive, or even the ski area water rights permitting conditions, the previous Administration attempted an all-out assault to take control of precious water resources that have traditionally been managed by states or private ownership. Members of the Western Caucus put forth a number of efforts to reject these overreaches as well as protect our vital water supplies.
The Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act
Increasing Water Storage and Supporting Western Drought Solutions
The Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule would have caused significant harm to rural America, including farmers, ranchers, small businesses, water users and other property owners. This overreaching regulation was a dream killer for future generations that caused significant job losses and considerable harm to our economy. WOTUS expanded agency control over 60% of our country’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands that were previously non-jurisdictional. This flawed mandate directly contradicted prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which imposed limits on the extent of federal Clean Water Act. For years, Members of the Western Caucus introduced legislation, inserted funding riders into appropriations bills and passed at least five different measures through the House to block WOTUS. WOTUS was already stayed by the courts for its impressive unconstitutionality. Fortunately, the Trump Administration repealed this overreaching land and water grab in September of 2019. Click HERE to read more.
H.R. 1654 creates a one-stop permitting process for new water storage projects.This legislation will reduce conflicting permit mandates and allow critical water infrastructure projects to move forward in a timely manner. The bill also allows nonfederal public entities to contribute funds in order to help expedite permit applications for new projects. This important bill builds on the good work of previous generations, gets bureaucracy out of the way, and provides a clear process for pursuing important water infrastructure projects. The House of Representatives voted to pass the Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act, sponsored by Western Caucus Member Tom McClintock, by a bipartisan vote of 233-180. To read more click HERE
The Water Rights Protection Act
Western Caucus Member Scott Tipton's Water Rights Protection Act prevents the federal government from taking privately held water rights without just compensation. This would protect a variety of water users including rural communities, businesses, recreation opportunities, farmers and ranchers as well as other individuals that rely on privately held water rights for their livelihood. It does so by prohibiting federal agencies from extorting water rights through the use of permits, leases, and other land management arrangements, for which it would otherwise have to pay just compensation under the 5th
Amendment of the Constitution. This legislation is necessary as the Forest Service and BLM have been aggressively pursuing such takings for several years now. The Water Rights Protection Act passed out of the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in both the 113th, 114th and 115th Congresses. Click HERE
to read more.
Blocking the Forest Service's Flawed Groundwater Directive
During the Obama Administration, the Forest Service (USFS) proposed a sweeping Groundwater Directive under the guise of eliminating future litigation. However, that Directive only caused further confusion and potential litigation. It has been universally recognized since a 1935 Supreme Court Case that the sole authority over groundwater resources belongs to individual states. Alarmingly, the attempted water grab by the USFS and its misguided groundwater directive was proposed without input from state or local leaders and without any meaningful outreach to water users themselves. Members of the Western Caucus fought the proposed groundwater directive from the beginning and 42 lawmakers sent a letter calling for withdrawal and warning that the Directive would restrict access to public lands and interfere with state and private water rights. As a result of this Congressional pressure, the Forest Service withdrew its overreaching proposed rule. Click HERE to read more.
The Hydropower Policy Modernization Act
The Hydropower Policy Modernization Act establishes FERC as the centralized body issuing deadlines and defining parameters for other agencies involved in the hydropower application review process in order to address delay and other issues. The bill represents a vision for the future of American hydropower and job creation wherein the necessary demands of regulatory compliance and environmental sustainability work together with emerging technologies to ensure maximal development of our nation’s energy production capacity. Hydropower has been a significant contributor to our country’s energy infrastructure, having played a major role in the creation and pathing of the modern energy grid. Hydropower infrastructure generates massive amounts of power, especially in Western States. In the 13 western-most states, hydropower contributes more than 22% of all electricity generation. The House passed Western Caucus Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers' Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017, by a vote of 257-166. To read more click HERE.
Gosar-Newhouse Dam Amendment
The House previously passed the Gosar-Newhouse amendment that prevented any appropriations from being used to remove any federally-owned and operated dams. Extremist environmental groups have been pushing for their removal in recent years. These dams are critically important to provide water storage and irrigation for agriculture. To read more click HERE.
The GROW Act
American families, small businesses and farmers are hurting in the West underwent significant harm as a result of crippling drought conditions that plagued the West for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration exacerbated that pain by putting the demands of extremist special interest groups ahead of hard-working American families. This has had a dramatic impact: killing thousands of jobs, harming our food supply and leading to unemployment levels as high as 40% in some communities. To provide much needed relief, House Republicans passed the Gaining Responsibility on Water (GROW) Act with a bipartisan vote of 230-190. Click HERE to read more.