Water Policy

Droughts are nature’s fault; water shortages are our fault.  We have not built a major reservoir of more than a million acre feet since 1979.  Meanwhile, the state’s population has nearly doubled.  We will not solve our water shortages until we start building more dams, and we won’t build new dams until we overhaul the environmental regulations that are making their construction cost-prohibitive.

Water Shortages are a Choice

Auburn Dam Council Regional Water Storage Forum – June 13, 2014

We are gathered here to talk about water storage amidst one of the worst droughts in California’s recorded history.  If we can’t make progress now on this issue, when will we?

The fact of the matter is that droughts are nature’s fault, and have plagued us since the beginning of time.  But water shortages are OUR fault.  We live in one of the most water-rich regions of the country – yet we have not built a major reservoir in this state since 1979.  Meanwhile, the population has nearly doubled.  The sad, simple fact is that we will NEVER solve our water problems until we start building new dams once again.  And we will NEVER build new dams until we completely overhaul the radical environmental laws that have prevented construction for more than 30 years.

In fact, until the drought captured the attention of the people, both the Brown Administration in Sacramento and the Obama administration in Washington were pushing to destroy perfectly good existing dams, including four hydroelectric facilities on the Klamath River.

As recently as 2010, politicians were seriously proposing tearing down the Hetch Hetchy Dam that is the principal water source for San Francisco.  (Now, I admit there is a certain poetic justice in that – but let us not lose sight of the fact that it is completely crazy!)

Opposition from the green left has even stalled our efforts to raise the spillway at the Exchequer dam in the Central Sierra by ten lousy feet in order to add 70,000 acre feet of water storage at Lake McClure.

Everyone thinks that the Colorado River is the mother lode of all water in the Western United States, but the Colorado is a junior sister to the mighty Sacramento River system.  The difference is that we store 70 million acre feet of water on the Colorado and only 10 million acre feet on the Sacramento.  Most of the rest is lost to the Pacific Ocean.

While President Obama proposes fighting the drought by spending another billion dollars on climate change, Governor Brown proposes $14 billion for cross-delta tunnels that will produce exactly zero additional water storage and exactly zero additional hydro-electricity.

Yet for roughly $7 billion we could complete the Shasta Dam to its design elevation of 800 feet, adding nine million acre feet of additional water storage to the Sacramento River system, nearly doubling its capacity.  Not to mention adding 1,300 megawatts of clean, cheap hydroelectricity – enough for roughly 1 ½ million homes.

The fact is there is no shortage of water in wet years to assure abundance in dry ones and there is no shortage of suitable dam sites.  Nor do we suffer from a shortage of resources to build new dams.  The great water projects of the past didn’t put taxpayers on the hook: they were built with bonds repaid not by taxpayers but by the beneficiaries of the water and power.

The fundamental problem is that we face a chronic shortage of political will to site these needed dams and we face a  superabundance of unreasonable and unrealistic laws and regulations that have prevented us from adding desperately needed storage over the span of an entire generation.

For example,    the little town of Foresthill receives its water from the Sugar Pine reservoir that was built with an 18 foot spillway, but no spillway gate.  They didn’t need the extra capacity at the time; they do now.  So they went shopping, and found that installing a spillway gate would cost $2 million.  But that’s not the cost of the project.  To it, they have to add at least a million dollars for environmental studies and at least $2 million for environmental mitigation – so a $2 million project that was within reach of this little town became a $5 million cost-prohibitive boondoggle.

We can raise Shasta by 200 feet the moment we summon the political will to do so and thus add nine million acre feet of additional storage and 1300 megawatts of new clean hydroelectricity.  And yet, for more than 20 years and God knows how many millions of dollars, we are still studying whether to raise it not the 200 feet it was designed for — but all of 18 ½ feet.

Meanwhile, dams at Temperance Flat, Sites and Auburn continue to be studied to death or simply ignored.

Dr. Johnson once wrote that “When a man is to be hanged in the morning, it concentrates his attention remarkably.”

Perhaps the drought is having that effect on public opinion.

Earlier this year, the House passed legislation to authorize new dam construction, and replace rigid environmental requirements with common-sense alternatives like adding fish hatcheries and controlling non-native predators that are the principle cause of decline of protected species in the Delta.   It languishes in the Senate.

We will soon act on legislation that I have authored to streamline the permitting process for new dam construction and legislation by Chairman Doc Hastings to set up a revolving fund to jump-start dam financing.

Although the Senate has refused to pass the comprehensive House bill, it has sent us a stop-gap measure that at least gives us the material to begin serious discussions on reconciling the differences between the two houses – discussions that I expect to begin in earnest next week.

The nub of the problem comes down to this.  A few months ago, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on this subject in Fresno –ground zero in the fight to produce more water for our state.  Every expert who testified told us that we cannot solve our water problems until we reform the Endangered Species Act.

That doesn’t mean repealing it, but certainly we should be able to agree on commonsense reforms, like allowing hatchery fish to meet species counts, promoting non-native predator control, and allowing warm water fisheries to replace cold ones in hot regions like the San Joaquin Valley.

What about desalinization, I’m often asked.  Desalinization makes sense in arid regions like the Middle East or on desert islands like Aruba.  But it is extremely energy intensive and expensive – upwards of $3,000 per acre foot of water.  It makes sense in California only if you don’t mind seeing your water bills triple.

Fortunately, we don’t live in an arid wasteland – we live in one of the most water-rich regions of America – and before we embark on breathtakingly expensive projects like de-salinization, we should first take advantage of our existing resources that cost a fraction of that expense.

So I say again, we will not solve our long-term water shortage without additional dams and we will not build additional dams until we reform our environmental laws.

Droughts are inevitable – water shortages are a choice.  They are a choice we have made by adopting these laws, and they are a choice we can unmake by changing these laws.

Meanwhile it ought to be self-evident that in this extreme drought – for which we have failed to prepare by adding more storage – at least we need to be very careful about how we manage the dwindling water that is remaining behind our dams.

This drought has devastated more than a half-million acres of the most fertile farmland in America.  In communities like Sacramento, “water police” go from door to door to enforce conservation measures.  There’s even a mobile “app” to report neighbors to city authorities so they can be fined for wasting water.

With the Sierra snowpack now gone, there is no more water coming until the next rains.  We are going to desperately need what little water remains behind our dams this summer.  Authorities have warned some towns like Folsom – home of Folsom Lake – to expect daily rationing of 50 gallons per person, a 60 percent cut from their normal household usage.

Yet last month, the Bureau of Reclamation drained Folsom Lake, New Melones, and other reservoirs on the American and Stanislaus rivers of more than 70,000 acre feet of water – enough to meet the annual needs of a city of half a million people – all for the comfort and convenience of the fish.

Government officials who are entrusted with the careful management of our water squandered it in less than three weeks in order to nudge steelhead trout toward the Pacific Ocean (where they have tended to swim for millions of years without our helpful advice); and to keep the river at just the right temperature for the fish by flushing out the colder water stored in our reservoirs.

These water releases are so enormous they are called “pulse flows.”  They generate such swift currents that local officials issue safety advisories warning the public to exercise extreme caution when on or near the rivers.

In January, pictures of a near-empty Folsom Lake on the American River made national news.  Yet on April 21st, the Bureau of Reclamation more than tripled water releases from the dams on the American River from 500 cubic feet per second to more than 1,500 cubic feet per second for three days – sending more than 7,000 acre feet of water toward the ocean.  Elevated releases of as much as 2,000 cubic feet per second have continued since then for “temperature control.”

On April 14th, a 16-day pulse flow drained nearly 63,000 acre feet of water from dams on the Stanislaus River.

Unrealistic laws like the Endangered Species Act administered by ideologically driven officials have now crossed from good intentions to dangerous policy, and the folly cries out for fundamental reforms.

One of the ironies is that before we built the dams, in a drought like this the rivers dried up AND THERE WERE NO FISH.  There is nothing more damaging to a riparian habitat than a flood or a drought, and before we tamed this cycle by building dams, species often went extinct under the harsh rules set by Mother Nature.

An administration that has never been shy about asserting executive powers has the authority to stop these releases through provisions in the Endangered Species Act that allow a committee of officials to suspend them.  It has failed to do so.

The result is that while homeowners desiccate their lawns and gardens and clog their showerheads with flow restrictors to save a few extra gallons of water, their government thought nothing of wasting 23 billion gallons to lower river water temperatures by a few degrees in late April.

The frivolous and extravagant water releases from our dams last month mock the sacrifices that our citizens make every day to stretch supplies in this crisis.  In turn, they undermine the government’s credibility and moral authority to call for stringent conservation and hardship by the people.

So I repeat this simple truth: California’s chronic water shortages won’t be solved without additional storage.  Despite an abundance of suitable and affordable sites, opposition from environmentalists and the laws they have wrought have delayed these projects indefinitely and made them prohibitively costly.

Perhaps, at least, the public can draw from this tragic waste a lesson in how unreasonable our environmental laws and regulations have become, and just how out of touch are the policy makers responsible for them.

California is at a cross-roads and it is time to choose between two very different visions of water policy.

One is the nihilistic vision of the environmental left: increasingly severe government-induced shortages, higher and higher electricity and water prices, massive taxpayer subsidies to politically well-connected and favored industries, and a permanently declining quality of life for our children, who will be required to stretch and ration every drop of water and every watt of electricity in their bleak and dimly lit homes.

The other is a vision of abundance, a new era of clean, cheap and plentiful hydro-electricity; great new reservoirs to store water in wet years to assure abundance in dry ones; a future in which families can enjoy the prosperity that abundant water and electricity provide, and the quality of life that comes from that prosperity.  It is a society whose children can look forward to a green lawn, a backyard garden, a family swimming pool, affordable air-conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter, brightly lit homes and cities and abundant and affordable groceries from America’s agricultural cornucopia.

That is the vision that the Auburn Dam Council has kept alive all these years – and a future I am certain that most of us here today will live to see because of all you have done, are doing and will do to see that future is secured.


Self-Evident Water Truths

Association of California Water Agencies – Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. – February 27, 2013

Water – particularly in California – has become such a complicated tangle of competing interests and ideological agendas that I think we have lost sight of some self-evident truths.

Self-Evident Truth #1: More water is better than less water.  Can we agree on this first point?   I know I’m stating the obvious – but I keep hearing, that, “no, conservation is the key to the future because conservation lessens demand.”    That may be true, but ultimately conservation is the management of shortage and abundance is better.

Some say that in many cases conservation is the least expensive way of adding supply.  But that’s the point: it doesn’t ADD supply.  And IF conservation is the least expensive way of managing shortage, it doesn’t need to be mandated, does it?

The point at which conservation becomes economically preferable is the point when a water user decides he can save money doing it.  The more expensive the water, the more expensive is the alternative he’s willing to employ.

Self-Evident Truth #2: Cheaper water is better than more expensive water.  If we agree on this, then it naturally follows that before we employ more expensive sources of water like desalination and recycling, we should first be sure we’ve exhausted the less expensive alternatives, like surface water storage.

Self-Evident Truth #3: Water is unevenly distributed over both time and distance.  So if we want to have plenty of water in dry periods we have to store it in wet ones, and if we want to have plenty of water in dry regions we have to move it from wet ones.    That is why we build dams and aqueducts and canals.

Self-Evident Truth #4: we don’t need to build dams, aqueducts and reservoirs if our goal is to let our water run into the ocean.  Water tends to run downhill very well on its own and doesn’t need our help to do so.  The reason that we build dams, aqueducts, and reservoirs is so that the water DOESN’T run into the ocean, but rather is retained and distributed where it will do the most good.  We can tell where it does the most good by its relative value, which brings us to –

 Self-Evident Truth #5:  Water is valuable, which allows the market to assign a price to it that can account for its scarcity, availability, storage, transportation, demand and substitution costs, including conservation.

Do I have everybody so far?

If so, then an important question arises: if these truths are valid and self-evident, then why aren’t we proceeding with a water policy that is in concert with them?

During my time chairing the Water and Power Sub-committee, I have heard only two reasons to ignore these truths.

The first is environmental.  It is argued that dams and reservoirs, pumps and aqueducts are detrimental to the environment – that they destroy sensitive habitats and drive the species that depend on them to extinction.

These are, of course, valid concerns.  But the question they raise is one of rational balance.  I submit to you that it does not constitute rational balance not only to oppose all new dams, but to insist on tearing down existing ones.  That movement long ago crossed the boundary between self-evident truth and self-delusional ideological extremism.

The fact is that a properly maintained system of dams tames the environmentally devastating cycle of floods and droughts that plagued riparian habitats since time began.  Species went extinct quite regularly long before mankind intervened in these water systems, precisely because of the brutal, unforgiving and catastrophic vicissitudes of Mother Nature.

Indeed, our water projects have protected habitats from the extremes of being washed away in flood years or being baked dry in droughts.  They assured dependable year-round water flows in wet AND dry years, while their clean hydro-electric generation supplanted countless billions of tons of fossil fuel emissions.

Of course, there is no denying that these projects disrupt fish migrations, make upstream spawning grounds inaccessible, and kill a small percentage of the populations that are drawn into pumps.

For this reason, the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws were passed to assure that water projects do not adversely affect native fish populations.  Fair enough.  Our objective SHOULD be large and thriving populations of every native species.

But if that is our objective, why can’t it be achieved through captive breeding programs like fish hatcheries?

One of the most extreme movements I have observed lately is an effort to destroy four perfectly good hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River at the cost of a half-billion dollars of public funds and countless millions of dollars of higher rate-payer bills, all in the name of saving the salmon.

When I first visited the region, I was told the Salmon population on the Klamath was down to just a few hundred.  When I asked, “Well, why doesn’t somebody build a fish hatchery,” I was informed that somebody DID build a hatchery at the Iron Gate Dam.  It produces 5 million salmon smolts each year, 17,000 of which return annually as fully grown adults to spawn.  But they are not included in the population count.

And to add insult to insanity, when they destroy the Iron Gate Dam, the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery goes with it – and then there is a catastrophic decline in the Salmon population on the Klamath.

We’re told that hatchery fish aren’t the same as fish born in the wild.

Really?  The only difference between a fish born in a hatchery and a fish born in the wild is the difference between a baby born in a hospital and a baby born at home.  The same genetic variables are at work in the breeding and the same laws of natural selection are at work when they are released to the wild.  And except for the markings on the hatchery fish, there is no way to tell them apart genetically or any other way.

I have come to believe that the single greatest impediment to economically, efficiently and rapidly meeting the water needs of our generation is the irrational exclusion of captive breeding programs for meeting the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

Fish hatcheries are often a fraction of the cost of the immensely expensive water diversions and engineering costs imposed under the ESA and would bring back within financial reach the projects essential to meeting the water needs of this generation and the next.

This year, I expect that we will develop and move such a bill, allowing water projects to incorporate fish hatcheries as mitigation measures to meet ESA compliance.

The second reason I hear for ignoring these self-evident truths is financing.  In an era of limited governmental resources and a stagnant economy, financing major water projects just isn’t feasible, or so I’m told.

Yet IF a project is financially viable, why would financing be an issue?  If, for example, a reservoir can pay for itself over time from the water and electricity purchased by consumers, from the increased property values produced by flood control features, and from the fees paid by concessionaires and tourists who benefit from the recreational resources the facility produces – why would financing be a problem?  As you well know, this is the principle method of financing the great dams and water projects of the 20th Century – including the California State Water Project.

Indeed, the State Water Project was financed largely with self-liquidating bonds redeemed by water users in proportion to their water use.  Projects like the Hoover Dam, financed under the “beneficiary pays” principle, not only redeem their capital costs, but continue to pay dividends to ratepayers and taxpayers into the future.

It is only when a project is NOT financially viable that financing becomes an issue.  Such projects rely on massive taxpayer subsidies to hide from consumers the true cost of the water they are using – and that’s a recipe for waste.  Without accurate price signals of how much the water actually costs, consumers have no rational way of measuring how much they actually need.

For example, instead of consumers making rational decisions as to what extent to substitute conservation measures for water, conservation measures are instead imposed by edict – a most burdensome, meddlesome, uneconomical and inefficient alternative.

For these reasons, I believe the two most important contributions the Subcommittee on Water and Power can make to federal water policy this session will be to restore rational policies that allow hatcheries to assure abundance of all species to meet the objective of the Endangered Species Act, and to restore the “beneficiary pays” principle of finance that produced our greatest water projects.

No two single reforms can move us closer or faster toward realigning our water policy with the five self-evident truths that can be summed up in a single word: abundance.


Our Policy: Abundance

Orange County Water Summit – Anaheim, California – May 20, 2011

A generation ago, the principal objective of our federal water and power policy could be summed up in a word: Abundance.

It was an era when vast reservoirs produced a cornucopia of clean and plentiful water and power on a scale so vast that many communities didn’t even bother metering the stuff.

That generation of builders clearly understood the benefits that water and power development brought not only to the economy but to the environment as well.  Nothing is more environmentally devastating than a flood or a drought.

When Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the Hoover Dam, he noted, “As an unregulated river, the Colorado added little of value to the region this dam serves.  When in flood, the river was a threatening torrent.  In the dry months of the years, it shrank to a trickling stream.”

But the last generation seems to have abandoned this objective of abundance, and to replace it with a very different philosophy that now dominates public policy: that the principal purpose of government water policy is not to produce abundant water, but rather to ration shortages that government has caused by abandoning abundance as its objective.

The result is increasingly scarce and expensive water that is now affecting our prosperity as a nation.  One of my greatest frustrations in taking the chair of the House Water and Power Subcommittee was to discover that we were no longer looking at cost-benefit analyses of which projects make economic sense and which do not.

Instead, practicality was replaced by an entirely new ideological filter: those projects that ration or manage shortage are considered worthy regardless of feasibility or cost – and projects that produce abundance are to be discouraged regardless of their economic benefits or simple common sense.

This year, the new majority on the Water and Power Committee will seek to establish a rational framework for future federal water policy, beginning with two fundamental reforms.

The first is to establish a uniform cost-benefit analysis for all water projects coming before the sub-committee.  This framework will include an assessment of the economic value of all water sales, power sales, recreational leases and flood control protection to be produced by the project, weighed against the economic cost of construction amortized over the life of the project, and operations and maintenance.

This will for the first time in many years give the committee clear guidance to direct federal attention to those projects of greatest economic benefit to each region, replacing the current process, which I can only describe as throwing money at any water project that is ideologically pleasing to the committee, regardless of cost considerations.  That era ended on Election Day.

The other principle for the framework is to restore the doctrine of “beneficiary pays” for the projects initiated with federal funds.  There is no excuse for taxpayers to bear the cost of any water project – every project must be cost-effective and it must be financed by the beneficiaries of the project in proportion to their use of its benefits.  Once capital costs have been repaid, such projects can then provide a revenue stream for the participating governments for the life of the project.

With respect to future federal funding of water projects, that means that if the federal government fronts the money for a project, that money is to be repaid by the beneficiaries – and not by general taxpayers.

Once these principles have been restored, we will have set the stage for the next great expansion of our water and power infrastructure and can begin to target federal resources to those projects that have the potential of producing the most water for the least cost.

I applaud Gov. Brown’s stated objective of restoring California’s water infrastructure and certainly look forward to doing everything I can from my position to assist this objective.  But there is a difference between rhetoric and action.

If the governor is serious about restoring our water infrastructure, he should start by instructing his appointees on the State Water Resources Control Board to restore development rights to the federal government for the completion of the Auburn Dam.  Assuming that project can pass the cost-benefit test I have outlined earlier, it is the most obvious place to begin California’s next great era of water development, along with bringing the Shasta Dam to full capacity.

Indeed, the completion of the Auburn and Shasta dams is a necessary pre-requisite to construction of a peripheral canal.  If additional water transfer facilities are to be constructed, there must be additional water to transfer – or all we will have done is to trade catastrophic water shortages in Southern California for catastrophic water shortages in Northern California.

Meanwhile, the cost of water projects is enormously inflated by the federal and state Davis-Bacon acts.  It is estimated that the federal Davis-Bacon act needlessly increases the price of federal projects by billions of dollars a year and California’s prevailing wage regulations by millions of dollars more.

Most of all, we have got to take a realistic approach to environmental restrictions, particularly those imposed by the Endangered Species Act – that has been at the center of increasingly expensive mitigation mandates.

Like all movements, the impetus for stronger environmental protection of our air and water was firmly rooted in legitimate concerns to protect these vital resources.  But like many movements, as it succeeded in its legitimate ends, it also attracted a self-interested constituency that has driven far past the borders of commonsense and into the realms of political extremism and outright plunder and I am hopeful that we are now entering an era when common sense can be restored to our water policy.

California’s Central Valley was devastated in 2009 and 2010 by the deliberate diversion of hundreds of  billions of gallons of water away from Central Valley agriculture to satisfy environmental edicts for salmon and delta smelt.  The practical effect of this action was to fallow a quarter million acres of the most productive farmland in America and throw tens of thousands of families into unemployment.

This occurred:

Despite the findings of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center that determined the Pacific Decadal Oscillation was the principal factor in salmon migration;

Despite the California Department of Water Resources analysis of pumping flows that determined the pumps’ influence on salmon and smelt migration is negligible compared to natural tidal flows; and

Despite the findings of the Federal District Court that the U.S. Interior Department’s biological opinion on Delta smelt was “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.”

Protecting endangered species is a worthy goal and worthy goals need to be pursued with common sense and sound science, not left-wing ideology and junk science.  We need to ask whether the enormous wealth consumed by these policies has made any significant contribution to enhancing endangered populations compared to far more effective and less expensive alternatives, including predator control, increasing overall water supplies and hatchery production.  As far as I can tell, the principal beneficiaries of current policies have been the law-firms and environmental fundraising organizations — and the principal victims have been families and workers who face a dismal future of chronic shortages, prohibitively expensive water and power and a faltering economy.

Finally, we need to look at our overall water policies and financing structures used since the mid-1970’s and compare them to the structures that produced our state’s golden era of water development.

At the end of the Pat Brown administration, after California had constructed not only the State water project but the state highway system and a massive expansion of the University of California, the state’s debt service ratio stood at 2.2 percent.  Today it is 7.7 percent.  With a debt service ratio three and a half times higher than at the end of the Pat Brown administration the fact is we have no significant additional infrastructure to show for it.

In the last ten years, voters have approved six bond measures totaling almost $17 billion that all promised to enhance California’s water supply.

Compare that to the Burns-Porter Act that financed construction of the entire state water project.  It was a total of $1.75 billion approved in 1960.  That’s the equivalent of $12.3 billion in today’s money.  $12.3 billion.  That’s substantially less than the water bonds we’ve approved during the last ten years and about the size of the bond pending voter approval.

The Burns-Porter Act paid for the entire State Water Project.  In the last ten years we’ve approved a significantly larger sum of money, promising the public it would solve our water needs.  And once again I must ask, where is our generation’s State Water Project?

We went wrong by making a series of financing mistakes.  Let me list a few lessons we need to re-learn about responsible borrowing and public works.

The first lesson is, “Project first – then financing.”  A generation ago, policymakers would first agree on a project, they would commission the engineering, obtain the bids – and only then borrow what was necessary to finance that project.

You don’t go to a banker and say, “I’d like to buy a nice house or something.  Please lend me lots of money.”  No, you select a house, negotiate a price and then obtain a loan.

Today, we revel in “mega-bonds” that borrow billions of dollars for vague notions like “water” or “parks” or “stem cell research” or “economic recovery,” with no specific projects in mind and at the end of the day all we have accomplished is to create a gigantic grab bag of money for local pork projects.

That’s the first lesson: we have to get back to the classic California constitutional concept of approving bonds only for a “single object or work.”

The second lesson is, “Don’t rob St. Petersburg to pay St. Paul.”  If a project exclusively benefits a local community, it should be exclusively paid for by that local community.

A generation ago, it would have seemed ludicrous to ask the taxpayers of Orange County, California to pay for a water system in Orange County, New York.  Strictly local projects should be strictly financed by local revenues – regional water systems should be financed through state and federal funds.

The third, closely related lesson is, “Beneficiaries should pay.”  Federal funds for future water projects should not be doled out as gifts to the lucky beneficiaries, but rather fronted as loans to be repaid with interest by the project’s beneficiaries – in other words, restoring the beneficiary pays principle I discussed earlier as one of the policy objectives of our sub-committee.

With respect to state or local funds, unless it’s a self-liquidating general obligation bond like those used in the Burns-Porter Act, there’s no excuse for using a G.O. bond for a water project – it should be a revenue bond repaid by the actual users of the actual water and electricity produced by the actual project.

The fourth lesson is, “Don’t rob our children.”  Whatever is purchased with a 30-year bond ought to be there 30 years from now when our children are still paying off that debt.  Yet the bonds adopted in recent years include billions of dollars for cleanup and conservation projects that will be obsolete long before these bonds are repaid.  Our children are going to have their own pollution to clean up and conservation programs to promote without paying for programs from 30 years ago.

It should be painfully obvious that the policies of the last four decades have failed and failed miserably to meet this generation’s water needs – let alone to begin to meet the needs of future generations.

It is time that we restored a little common sense to our water policy:

  • We don’t build water projects so that we can dump the water into the ocean.
  • We can’t create abundance by wantonly destroying our existing infrastructure.
  • We won’t build more dams as long as we won’t complete the dams we’ve already started.
  • We can’t keep plundering one community to pay for local water projects in another.
  • We can’t produce projects of the magnitude of the Burns-Porter Act by squandering billions of dollars on open grab-bags for local projects.

It is true that with enough government force, fines, lawsuits, edicts, regulations and bureaucracies we can restore plant and animal populations to their original prehistoric conditions.  The problem is that this requires restoring the human population to its original pre-historic conditions.

Or we can return prosperity and abundance as the central objectives of our water and power policy – by providing abundant water, clean and cheap hydroelectricity, new recreational centers, desperately needed flood protection, burgeoning fisheries, re-invigorated farms – not to mention lower electricity, water and flood insurance bills for American families.

It is toward that brighter and more prosperous future that this majority seeks to proceed. We need a sharp and dramatic change from the folly of past policies.  I want to pledge to you to do everything I can do in my new capacity as Chairman the House Water and Power Sub-Committee, and ask that you, the stewards of this region’s water, to take a leading and visible role in this fight.

As Ronald Reagan once asked his generation, if not now, when? And if not us, who?