Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) is leading an effort to end environmentalists’ ability to delay the building of dams and reservoirs on federal land by fast-tracking control of the permitting process, placing power in the hands of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
McClintock is the lead sponsor of H.R. 1654 — “The Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act” — that would establish the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as the lead agency for the purposes of coordinating all reviews, analyses, opinions, statements, permits, licenses, or other approvals or decisions required under federal law for new construction or expansions of dams, and above-ground water storage on federal land.
The Act would require the Bureau, “as early as practicable upon receipt of an application for a qualifying project,” to notify any federal agency that might claim some type of regulatory jurisdiction over approval or construction of a water project that the agency “has been designated as a cooperating agency in regards to the qualifying project.”
The contacted agency then must provide “timeframes” to complete review of the project or state in writing that it has no jurisdiction or authority regarding the qualifying project; has no expertise or information relevant to the regarding the project; or does not intend to submit comments, conduct any review, or make any decision other than in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation.
McClintock represents rural and mountain communities on the eastern edge of the Central Valley that have been frustrated by the inability to complete congressionally approved federal water projects due to sophisticated administrative delaying tactics that have been perfected by California’s well funded environmentalist lobby.
Water districts across the western states, especially California, have faced what McClintock calls a “Byzantine maze of regulations and a phalanx of competing, overlapping, duplicative and often contradictory federal agencies.”
In a speech in April, McClintock noted that environmentalists have frustrated water districts projects by requiring years to satisfy the regulatory requirements of one federal agency, only to have “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.”
But the near-failure of the Oroville Dam spillway has created bipartisan backing for H.R. 1654 in the powerful House Natural Resources Committee from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Costa, (D-CA).