Congressman Paul A. Gosar – Floor Speech Regarding H.R. 489 a bill “to clarify the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior with respect to the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir, and for other purposes.” Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Congressman Paul A. Gosar – Floor Speech

H.R. 489 a bill “to clarify the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior with respect to the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir, and for other purposes.”

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker,

I rise today in support of my legislation, H.R. 489, a bill that will permanently end the bureaucratic wrangling that has occurred between the Departments of Interior and Agriculture—a jurisdictional dispute that compromises the routine maintenance of critical water infrastructure in the State of Arizona, the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir. 

The federal government employs over 2.1 million civilian employees.  There are hundreds of agencies, and within each agency, there are divisions, departments and sub-groups.  Sometimes, especially with respect to land management, more than one agency has jurisdiction and when that occurs, bureaucratic disputes arise and government no longer serves the people.

This is the exact circumstances that has necessitated my legislation.  The C.C. Cragin project consists of a number of facilities, including a dam and reservoir, diversion tunnel and pump shaft, pumping plant, priming reservoir, pipeline, electrical transmission line, and a generating plant.  The majority of the project is located on federal lands in the Coconino and Tonto National Forests. 

This critical water infrastructure project is an important aspect of Salt River Project Federal Reclamation Project.  It is integral to providing a water supply for Phoenix and is instrumental in making 3,500 acre-feet of water a year available to Gila County.  The Town of Payson and the neighboring communities rely on the pipeline to supply municipal drinking water to my constituents. 

In 2004, at the request of the Salt River Project, or SRP as it is commonly referred to, and with the support of the Bureau of Reclamation and the former owner of the project, the Arizona Water Settlements Act authorized the title transfer of the C.C. Cragin Project from SRP to the Bureau of Reclamation.  Under this language, the federal government would own the project, but SRP would still operate and maintain it. 

Once the transfer was implemented, it became clear that there was a disagreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation over who had the responsibility for approving requested operation, maintenance and repairs.    Specifically, the Bureau of Reclamation argued that it should approve SRP’s work plans, environmental compliance, and other regulatory permitting requirements.  The U.S. Forest Service asserted that Reclamation was required to obtain a special use permit to operate, maintain, and repair the water project. 

While the Salt River Project was able to overcome the issues with the Forest Service to complete repairs, it was with the Bureau of Reclamation’s approval and occasionally over Forest Service objections.  Concurrently, the added permit requirement delayed much needed repairs – wasting precious Arizona water resources, increased repair costs, and placed the economic development of the Town of Payson at-risk.

Looking forward, this is a long-lived asset that will be relied upon to provide reliable municipal water supply to Gila County and the Valley.   Just a few weeks ago, a $34-million, 15-mile pipeline expansion project, which will double Payson’s long-term, sustainable water supply was finally approved by the Forest Service after a year-long delay.  If Congress allows the jurisdictional dispute to continue, future operations and maintenance activities related to the C.C. Cragin project could face costly delays and could possibly interrupt water delivery to these Arizona communities.  This simply is not a tenable situation.  I am pleased the House is taking up legislation that will permanently resolve this ridiculous jurisdictional battle. 

My legislation reflects a compromise reached by the relevant parties.  It grants the Department of Interior exclusive jurisdiction to manage the Cragin Dam Project and grants the Department of Agriculture administrative jurisdiction over land management activities that do not conflict or adversely affect the operation, maintenance, replacement or repair of the project.  It is important to note, H.R. 489 will still require compliance with all requirements under federal law including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  In addition, the implementation of this legislation has no cost to the taxpayer.

Having a single agency overseeing the project remains important, if not more important, now that the project is operational.  The United States Bureau of Reclamation has the expertise to conduct oversight on water supply projects, and does so on many other projects that are within National Forests.  This common-sense legislation meets the needs of SRP and Reclamation to ensure the infrastructure can be maintained, while accommodating the Forest Service, ensuring they continue to manage the lands underlying the utility corridor with respect to recreation, wildfire, law enforcement, and other activities consistent with its authorities, responsibilities, and expertise. 

It is important to note that when the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on my bill on May 12th, all parties, including the Bureau of Reclamation and the Forest Service, agreed that H.R. 489 is vital to the long-term management of the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir Project, and would bring about the necessary economic certainty for the Town of Payson and other impacted communities. 

It is not often Congress gets the opportunity to take up noncontroversial legislation like H.R. 489. I encourage my colleagues to vote in favor of this legislation.