CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, October 3, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 489 under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. H.R. 489 was introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) on January 26, 2011, and was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which reported the bill on June 15, 2011, by unanimous consent.
H.R. 489 would specify that the Secretary of Interior has exclusive jurisdiction to manage the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir, an area consisting of approximately 512 acres of land within the Coconino and Tonto National Forests in northern Arizona. The bill would effectively eliminate the U.S. Forest Service’s requirement that the Bureau of Reclamation obtain a special use permit to operate, maintain, and repair the water facilities.
The bill would direct the Bureau of Reclamation and the Salt River Project, the Arizona utility agency that operates the Cragin Dam and Reservoir Project, to ensure that each activity carried out at the Cragin Project complies with applicable federal environmental law and to coordinate with appropriate federal agencies in ensuring compliance. Under the bill, the Forest Service would maintain administrative jurisdiction over land management activities and other appropriate management activities, pursuant to an interagency agreement, that do not conflict with the operation, maintenance or replacement of the Cragin Project, as determined by the Interior Department. Land management activities under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service would be defined as recreation, grazing, wildland fire, public conduct, and commercial activities that are not part of the Cragin Project.
According to House Report 112-160, the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir Project consists of a number of facilities, including a 147-foot high dam, a 15,000 acre-foot reservoir, diversion tunnel and pump shaft, pumping plant, priming reservoir, a 10-mile long pipeline, electrical transmission line, and small generating plant which supplies power to the Project's pumping plant. The project is operated by that Salt River Project (SRP) and helps supply water to the Phoenix metropolitan area and to the town of Payson. In 2005, the title of the project was transferred to the Bureau of Reclamation at the request of SRP. Even though the federal government owns the Project, SRP still operates and maintains it pursuant to a 1917 contract between SRP and the U.S.
Since the transfer of the project to the Bureau of Reclamation in 2005, there have been a number of misunderstandings between the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and SRP concerning environmental compliance and permitting requirements because the entirety of the project is located on U.S. Forest Service lands. Currently, the U.S. Forest Service requires Reclamation to obtain a special use permit to operate, maintain and repair the water facilities. According to the report, “This added permit requirement led to untimely delays and cost increases when it came to a recent repair of the pipeline. In light of these delays and out of concern for future activities, SRP and Reclamation attempted to reach an administrative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to resolve the jurisdictional dispute. However, these efforts were not successful. This bill resolves this dispute and follows the permitting and approval precedents by which other Salt River federal Reclamation Project facilities are managed on U.S. Forest Service lands consistent with the 1987 Interagency Agreement between Reclamation and U.S. Forest Service concerning all water resource related Reclamation projects within or adjacent to U.S. Forest Service lands.”
CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 489 “would have no significant impact on the federal budget.”