Hastings talks water, gets award
WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., spoke about California’s water issues and the need for Endangered Species Act reform in receiving an award from the National Water Resources Association on April 2.
The association praised Hastings as a defender and champion of Western water issues in bestowing him with its “Water Statesman Award.”
Hastings, who is retiring at the end of this term after 20 years in Congress, also talked about EPA’s new attempted power grab under the Clean Water Act.
Hastings noted the West was transformed years ago by federal hydroelectric dams that provide huge amounts of “emissions-free” power and irrigation water used to grow vast amounts of food. But the “legendary” system is under constant assault from environmental litigation and judicial action because of the ESA, he said.
“As California is now painfully witnessing, we are at a point in the West where species are becoming more important than people,” Hastings said in a press release.
California’s drought from lack of rainfall is exacerbated by federal release of more than 800,000 acre-feet of water to aid endangered Delta Smelt resulting in no water for San Joaquin Valley irrigators and an increase in unemployment, he said.
“It’s a travesty that was completely avoidable,” he said, adding the House has passed legislation twice to address the problem while the Senate has not acted.
A long-term solution is more water storage but “federal regulations and lack of vision” have undercut that, he said.
The federal hydropower relicensing process has become a means for agencies to “extort dam owners to make costly improvements that have little or nothing to do with the environment,” Hastings said.
The ESA has been abused while recovering only 2 percent of targeted species, he said. The Natural Resources Committee is hearing his bill to reform the ESA, beginning with data and litigation transparency, he said.
Meanwhile, the EPA is “making matters worse” by renewing an effort to take the word “navigable” out of the Clean Water Act, extending federal power to almost every body of water, including irrigation canals, he said.
“There will be congressional action to stop this proposal, but we need your help,” he said.
— Dan Wheat