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Public Statements

Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chair, I support this bill and urge my colleagues to support my amendment to retain Congress's traditional role in authorizing project purposes at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams and reservoirs.

Corps dams and reservoirs throughout the Nation provide multiple benefits. Water supplies, hydropower, recreation and flood control are just some of the benefits that were approved by Congress and paid for by beneficiaries such as ratepayers. Some Corps dams also provide year-round cold-water flows for fisheries as part of their operations. In the Pacific Northwest, multi-purpose dams provide the economic backbone for our region. They power communities, small businesses and residential homes and provide water necessary for irrigation, recreation and navigation. These duties have been approved by Congress in some fashion after careful deliberation over the costs, needs and justification for these uses.

I'm proud to have worked with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the American Public Power Association, which collectively represent almost 90 million electric ratepayers in 49 states, on this amendment. These ratepayers receive emissions-free and renewable hydropower from federal reservoirs throughout our country. These organizations, whose ratepayers pay--with interest--for hydropower and other functions at the Corps of Engineers dams--have been concerned with proposals that would give undue discretion to the agency to change the projects without ratepayer or Congressional oversight and authorization.

I will quote an October 8, 2013 letter from the organizations to illustrate their predicament:

``The ability to change project operations at Corps projects that provide hydropower presents a risk that hydropower generation from these projects could be diminished at the agency's discretion. For many members of NRECA and APPA who rely on the power generated at Corps projects to keep electric rates as low as possible, the loss of hydropower generated at these projects would require our members to seek more expensive replacement power.''

Policies and authorizations that govern the uses of Corps facilities, as authorized by Congress, should not be re-written by un-elected bureaucrats. There are some proposals to allow the Corps to administratively change project purposes and manuals that govern the Corps dams and reservoirs that could undermine congressional intent, erode government accountability, limit public input and create a litigious atmosphere. And, any such changes would have a cascading effect on dams owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and non-federal entities like public utility districts.

Instead of giving courts and bureaucrats more power, Congress needs to reinforce the congressionally-authorized policies that govern these projects. And, if changes need to be made at these facilities, they should be made by Congress in the open, not by the un-elected.

This amendment simply continues our historical role in determining how multiple-use Corps projects are operated. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and the underlying bill.


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