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.
Enter the C.C. Cragin Dam & Reservoir, where two agencies were disputing jurisdiction and preventing the operator from properly managing the project. That is why the first bill I introduced was H.R. 489, to remedy this problem. This week, the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on H.R. 489. This legislation will have a major impact on my constituents if signed into law. It resolves long-standing issues with the management and maintenance of the C.C. Cragin Dam and sets a model that can mitigate future disputes.
The C.C. Cragin project spans across federally owned land in the Coconino and Tonto National Forests and is a vital part of the Salt River Project (SRP) Federal Reclamation Project. The C.C. Cragin Dam plays an essential role in providing water for the City of Phoenix and Gila County. Towns like Payson and other
neighboring communities rely on this pipeline to supply municipal drinking water to the community.
In 2004, C.C. Cragin Dam was transferred from SRP to the Bureau of Reclamation. This was done so that the federal government would own the project, and then give SRP the ability to operate and maintain it. After the transfer was completed there were complications between the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation as to who bore the responsibility for approving the necessary operations, maintenance and repairs of this reservoir complex. Not surprisingly, the red tape for SRP grew and the bureaucratic backlog continued to pile up. If passed, my bill would grant the Department of Interior exclusive jurisdiction to manage the C.C. Cragin Project and grants the Department of Agriculture administrative jurisdiction over land management activities that do not conflict or adversely affect the operation, maintenance or repair of the project.
The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service haven’t been able to reach an agreement as to which organization would approve the requests of SRP. This is unacceptable and negatively impacts the individuals and families that rely on C.C. Cragin Dam for their water supply. This situation has led to untimely delays, cost increases, and a waste of precious water resources. Clarity is needed in the long- and short-term so that the routine maintenance can be done in a timely manner. This inter-agency fight has been extremely costly to Payson’s economic development projects who have been impacted by these delays.
With all these considerations in mind, I introduced H.R. 489 in January so that this jurisdiction issue between the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service could be cleared up once and for all. This bill is a compromise between all relevant parties and has support from the Obama administration, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service. And let me make very clear, this bill ensures that all parties involved with C.C. Cragin Dam must uphold environmental laws and it does not cost the taxpayer anything.
This is just one example; when we work together, we can take action and implement a common sense solution. I was very pleased that both agencies involved in this dispute, testified before the Water and Power Subcommittee in support of my legislation and affirmed that the enactment of my legislation “provides a sound approach for future management of the C.C. Cragin project.” In addition, I was honored to have Payson Mayor Kenny Evans testify before the committee on the long-term economic certainty my legislation would provide for his town and the surrounding communities.
The support of SRP, the administration, and the affected communities, and Senator John McCain makes me optimistic this common-sense legislation will move quickly in the House of Representatives and the Senate and will be signed into law. I am proud to have introduced this bill and begin the dialogue here in Washington on addressing the needs of our region.
As always, I’m here to listen to your ideas and welcome your opinions.