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Congressman Scott Tipton

Representing the 3rd District of Colorado

Tipton: Vital Water Storage Projects Impeded by Federal Red Tape

February 5, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Today, in a House Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee hearing, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) stressed that federal red tape is blocking needed water storage projects, impeding prudent supply management, and jeopardizing agriculture production, environmental protection and flood control.

“The importance of prudent water supply management in Colorado for economic and environmental benefits cannot be overstated,” said Tipton. “The ability to store water—the most precious resource in the Western U.S.—enables communities to meet environmental protection needs,  support jobs that depend on the availability of water, ensure our food supply, control flooding, afford continued recreational opportunities, and provide water for the development of clean, renewable hydropower. The onerous and duplicative federal permitting process is blocking the construction of needed storage projects and creating unnecessary threats to our water supplies. The Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act would clear up some of these duplicative regulatory hurdles by establishing a coordinated permitting process, significantly reducing the time and cost of building these needed projects.”

In an October 2013 hearing on water storage, Tipton underscored that with the exception of the Animas-La Plata project in Southwestern Colorado, the Bureau of Reclamation has not built any large multi-purpose dams or reservoirs over the last generation. Without new water storage and continued conservation as many as 700,000 acres of agriculture land could dry up in Colorado by 2050 due to urbanization and urban water transfers. 

During today’s hearing, Patrick O’Toole, president of Family Farm Alliance, with farming operations in the 3rd District, testified on the extreme length of the federal permitting process for water storage projects.

“As you are all aware, actually developing new storage projects is much easier said than done. I testified before this Subcommittee two years ago about the permitting challenges I encountered in building the Little Snake Supplemental Irrigation Supply Project (High Savery Project) in Wyoming. That project was built in less than two years, but took more than 14 years to permit,” said O’Toole. “My experience with the High Savery Project showed me that cooperative efforts are important for moving projects through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other permitting processes. On the High Savery Project, the lead federal agency wasted a great deal of time making decisions on the project and at times seemed unable to make decisions. These delays not only postponed the project, they resulted in wasted time and money.”

Read O’Toole’s full testimony here.

H.R. 3980, The Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act, would establish a “one-stop-shop” permitting process through the Bureau of Reclamation, rather than requiring projects to undergo numerous duplicative and lengthy environmental reviews separately. The idea of a coordinated permitting process has received bipartisan support. By coordinating the permitting process, H.R. 3980 would expedite needed water storage projects without sacrificing responsible environmental review of those projects.

“The administration has already acknowledged the benefit of coordinated agency review in several contexts including large scale transmission projects,” said Tipton. “It’s time we move forward in a bipartisan way to implement coordinated review for the development of increased water supplies for American farms, communities and families.”