Flake, McCain, Gardner, Barrasso Introduce Bill to Combat Western Drought

16 March 2018   Lynne LaMaster
Bill would address water rights, infrastructure, and conservation in drought-stricken states

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R- Colo.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) yesterday introduced a bill to combat drought throughout Arizona and Western states. This legislation contains a number of forward-thinking measures that would improve flexibility for surface water storage and aquifer recharge, protect state water rights, and increase transparency at the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR).

“It’s time for Congress to address this drought and ensure reliable access to water throughout the West,”said Flake. “This bill protects state water rights and increases transparency at the federal level. It ought to be brought to the floor and passed without delay before the opportunity dries up.”

“I am proud to cosponsor legislation introduced by my colleague, Sen. Jeff Flake, to enhance water supplies in Arizona and throughout the West,” said McCain. “Among other features, the ‘Water Supply Infrastructure and Drought Resilience Act of 2018’ proposes to streamline the federal government’s management of reservoirs and water infrastructure while also enhancing conservation programs and protecting private, state, and tribal water rights. With drought conditions worsening in the southwest, it’s critical the Senate takes swift action in support of this legislation.”

“This package of bills is important for western states, as can be seen right now by the drought conditions much of the West and specifically the Colorado River Basin is likely to experience this year,” said Gardner. “Streamlining storage project permitting and improving water management can help us combat drier years. I am also pleased to see my bill reauthorizing the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program included in this package, because it is a great example of a partnership between federal, state, and local agencies to promote conservation. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation.”

“In the West, our communities are always in need of an abundant, consistent, and clean supply of water,” said Barrasso. “Right now, important water storage projects are being held hostage by lengthy permitting delays. Our bill will speed up this process by streamlining regulations and creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ permitting process through the Bureau of Reclamation. This will enable communities to quickly and safely move forward with necessary water storage projects to serve current and future water needs across the West.”

Specific provisions in the bill would:

· Establish a pilot program to update flood-control curves at Bureau of Reclamation facilities.

· Increase access to USBR’s WaterSMART program.

· Set up a “one-stop-shop” streamlined permitting process for surface water storage projects.

· Provide USBR with increased flexibility to recharge aquifers.

· Protect state water rights from over-regulation by the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture.

To view a PDF of the bill, click here.

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