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Sen. Cramer Highlights States' Water Rights, Recreational Opportunities at EPW Hearing - Energy And Water Development Corp

Sen. Cramer Highlights States’ Water Rights, Recreational Opportunities at EPW Hearing

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) questioned Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commanding General and Chief of Engineers Lieutenant General Todd Spellmon during a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing on oversight of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Traditionally enacted every two years, WRDA addresses water infrastructure projects related to ports, inland waterways, levees, dams, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal restoration under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) Civil Works program. 

Senator Cramer highlighted states’ water rights  and emphasized his desire to remove unnecessary layers of the bureaucracy.

The Water Supply Act never authorized the one-size-fits-all rule to federalize the water appropriation authority that is specifically reserved for states. With that in mind, as we pursue now a new WRDA, I think we should consider setting up some sort of a venue or a commission that would allow states to have a platform to discuss and sort these issues out with the [Army] Corps. It would provide North Dakota and other Western states the forum to bring localized problems they may be experiencing directly to you,” said Senator Cramer. “In our previous conversations General, you and I discussed the potential creation of such a venue. Through your feedback, you indicated you want to make sure we do not recreate another national policy, and believe me I agree.”

“Absolutely always welcome feedback and engagement with states and with our partners and municipalities on our waterways,” replied Lt. Gen. Spellmon.“From a purely technical perspective, I would like to keep this at the local regional level. I can get to solutions at the local level. We’re going to follow the direction of Congress. We’re going to obviously honor state water rights.”  

“We need to look at every tool we that have with respect to water supply to address some of the challenges particularly out West where there’s water scarcity across many basins,” said Assistant Secretary Connor. “There’s an urgent need, I think that you’re trying to get at, and I think we can figure out how to meld the two, to have this dialogue with the appropriate folks in the room.”

“Western issues are unique and oftentimes are the consequence of some other region’s policies,” added Senator Cramer.

The senator then pivoted to discussing recreational facilities managed by the Army Corps, which includes more than 12 million acres of public lands. North Dakotan’s access to Army Corps recreation sites has been inhibited by delayed infrastructure maintenance, especially during the current drought and low water levels. Senator Cramer hosted a press conference last September with the Army Corps regarding low water levels and the impact they would have on North Dakota.

“It is quite remarkable how many recreational facilities you’re responsible for at the Army Corps. In the water scarcity of the West, we’re experiencing a drought right now. If you’ve been out to Sakakawea before the freeze, you know there’s a lot of exposed infrastructure from previous droughts that needs to be rehabbed. I’m looking for creative ways we can be helpful, you can be helpful, and multiple agencies can be helpful to make sure, regardless who the landlord is, that we grow the opportunity for enjoying the lake,” said Senator Cramer.

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