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By Mr. WYDEN:
S. 659. A bill to reauthorize the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I would like to speak for a few minutes today on the importance of reauthorizing the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act.
This past year was the warmest on record and we are witnessing more climate-driven events, including drought. Over 60 percent of the nation experienced some form of drought during 2012. In my home State of Oregon, serious drought is likely to persist in the southeastern part of the State.
Last summer marked the Nation's most widespread drought in 60 years, stretching across 29 States and threatening crop production and power plant operations. The levels in many lakes and reservoirs have declined putting at risk a crucial part of our Nation's drinking water supplies. The impacts of the drought are profound and the outlook for this summer isn't any better.
The Drought Act was originally reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 1992. Since then it has provided over $74 million in drought assistance activities to States across the West. It not only authorizes the Bureau of Reclamation to undertake construction, management and conservation activities that will minimize and mitigate the losses and damages resulting from drought conditions, but it also gives specific considerations to the needs of fish and wildlife.
My proposed legislation would reauthorize the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act, which expired last year, for an additional 5 years. Given the drought last year and the forecast for prolonged drought in parts of this country, it is reasonable to raise the authorization level by $20 million, which this legislation does. As one indication of the associated costs of drought, in 2012 the drought caused an estimated $50 billion in damages.
In closing, I look forward to working with this administration and my colleagues in the Senate to reauthorize this vital program and to ensure the Bureau of Reclamation has the resources it needs to adequately address the drought conditions.
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