News Feature | June 23, 2014

Capitol Hill Considers Water Storage Legislation

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

CapitalHillreg

Capitol Hill is considering legislation to loosen permitting requirements for water storage projects. 

The Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act, introduced by Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, R-WY, would "give the Bureau of Reclamation, a division of the U.S. Department of Interior, the authority to direct all federal agencies in expediting the permitting of surface water storage projects," the Billings Gazette reported

The bill attempts to streamline the complicated processes that govern water storage regulation. 

"Current law requires permit approval from the [EPA], the Interior Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The proposed legislation, introduced [in June], makes the Bureau of Reclamation a 'one-stop shop' for entities attempting to permit storage projects," the report said. 

In a release, Enzi emphasized that extreme weather events have made water planning a challenging task. 

"Cheyenne city managers have a [difficult] job because they cannot take a long-term planning approach when they are only allowed to enter into storage contracts on a yearly basis. This bill would allow a bit more peace of mind for Cheyenne residents who know their water storage is on a long-term plan," he said. 

Barrasso added: “Streamlining the permitting process will make it easier for communities in Wyoming and throughout the West to gain access to the water they need to keep their operations running strong."

Ranchers are among the groups pushing Congress to streamline permitting rules. Patrick O’Toole, a Wyoming rancher and the president of the Family Farm Alliance, testified at a hearing this year. 

"O’Toole cited his experience with the High Savery Project, a small dam built 20 miles north of Savery, in south-central Wyoming. In working to site the dam, officials waited 14 years for the completion of permitting," the Gazette reported. 

When he testified before Congress, O'Toole said that if nothing changes, "our country’s ability to feed and clothe itself and the world will be jeopardized." 

For more policy news, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.

Image credit: "Capitol Hill," geetarchurchy © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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