From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):
H.B. 1654, introduced in April by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., would make establish the federal Bureau of Reclamation as the lead agency for permitting water storage projects and coordinate the interests of all federal agencies in the permitting process. It also would coordinate information among federal, state and local governments to reduce redundant requirements in the process.
Joe Frank, manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District headquartered in Sterling, said the permitting process has long needed to be made more sensible.
“Streamlining the permitting process, making one Federal agency … the lead agency, setting timelines and encouraging data sharing between agencies would definitely help shorten the amount of time to get a permit without jeopardizing the permit requirements,” Frank said Thursday. “Also, it would also cut down both the costs for permits and the inflated construction costs caused by the long delay for projects hung up in the permitting process.”
Frank said the bill is especially timely for northeast Colorado because of the South Platte Storage Survey that is to be finished in November. He said that, while the bill won’t change any of the requirements that projects have to meet, it will “give us a yes or no a lot sooner so we’ll know whether to go forward.”
Asked specifically whether the bill would improve the Narrows Project’s chances of being built, Frank said it probably wouldn’t.
“The Narrows has many issues that still have to be addressed,” he said. “This (bill) won’t affect any of that, but it would let us know sooner whether we should try to go forward with trying to address those issues.”
Earlier in the week Colorado Water Congress had sent a letter supporting the bill to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Ohio, who is Speaker of the House, and Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asking for their support for the bill.
In the letter CWC Executive Director Douglas Kemper pointed out that the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project has taken 15 years to get permitted and will cost an estimated $400 million when it’s finally built. One-fourth of that cost, Kemper said in the letter, is cost inflation as the costs of materials and labor have gone up over time…
Although the bill could have a significant positive impact on water storage projects in the South Platte Basin, potentially saving millions of dollars in construction costs for vital water storage projects in the basin, three of Colorado’s seven representatives voted against it.
In what appeared to be purely party-line votes, Representatives Diana DeGette of Denver, Jared Polis of Boulder and Ed Perlmutter of Lakewood, all Democrats, voted against the bill. The state’s Republican contingent – Mike Coffman of Aurora, Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, Ken Buck of Greeley and Scott Tipton of Cortez voted in favor. Of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, only Tipton’s and Lamborn’s districts are completely outside of the South Platte Basin.
As for the House leadership to whom the Colorado Water Congress wrote asking for support of the bill, Ryan voted against it and Pelosi did no cast a vote.