House passes bill to sim­plify dam per­mits

GOP-led mea­sure to ex­pe­dite process for wa­ter stor­age projects is largely approved along party lines.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Sarah D. Wire sarah.wire@la­times.com Twit­ter: @sarahd­wire Read more about the 55 mem­bers of Cal­i­for­nia’s del­e­ga­tion at la­times.com/politics

WASH­ING­TON — Dam per­mits would be fun­neled through a sin­gle fed­eral agency in an ef­fort to speed up new wa­ter stor­age projects un­der a bill that passed the House on Thursday.

Spon­sored by Rep. Tom McClin­tock (R-Elk Grove), the 233-180 vote was largely along par­ti­san lines. Reps. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), Lou Cor­rea (D-Santa Ana) and six other Democrats joined with Repub­li­cans to pass the bill.

McClin­tock said the lo­cal, state and fed­eral agencies that must sign off on new projects don’t have to com­mu­ni­cate or set dead­lines, and of­ten re­quire re­dun­dant in­for­ma­tion from per­mit ap­pli­cants, which can make the ap­pli­ca­tion process drag on for years and drive up costs.

“Dam ap­pli­ca­tions can go on end­lessly,” McClin­tock said af­ter the vote. “A lot of these projects be­come cost pro­hib­i­tive.”

He pointed to a dam project pro­posed by the town of Foresthill in his dis­trict as an ex­am­ple. Con­flict­ing de­mands from sev­eral fed­eral agencies about a plan to in­stall a spill­way gate on the dam at the Su­gar Pine Reser­voir have driven up the cost, he said. The project ap­pli­ca­tion is still un­der re­view.

“So a $2-mil­lion project that was a heavy lift for a lit­tle com­mu­nity, but within reach, be­comes an $11-mil­lion cost-pro­hib­i­tive boon­dog­gle,” McClin­tock said.

Un­der the bill, the Bureau of Recla­ma­tion would co­or­di­nate with other fed­eral agencies on all as­pects of a dam ap­pli­ca­tion and set dead­lines for de­cid­ing whether to ap­prove a project.

Democrats who voted against the bill said the bureau would be able to set ar­bi­trary dead­lines for the at­times lengthy en­vi­ron­men­tal re­views re­quired for wa­ter projects, which could un­der­mine re­views re­quired by laws such as the En­dan­gered Species Act and the Clean Wa­ter Act.

“Fix­ing the process isn’t just about sav­ing some headaches or a few hours of time. This is about mak­ing sure mil­lions of peo­ple in Cal­i­for­nia and across Amer­ica have the wa­ter they need and de­serve,” said Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bak­ers­field).

Sen. John Bar­rasso (RWyo.) has filed sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in the Se­nate, and McClin­tock said he is cau­tiously op­ti­mistic it will pass.

Rich Pe­dron­celli AP

REP. Tom McClin­tock spon­sored the bill to keep projects from be­com­ing a costly “boon­dog­gle.”

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