Committee Passes Watershed Rehabilitation Bill

Oct 27, 1999

Washington, D.C. — Today, the House Committee on Agriculture, led by Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) passed by voice vote legislation (H.R. 728) responding to the maintenance and improvement issues involving a large number of water projects originally authorized by the federal government.

 More than 10,000 small flood prevention dams, mainly located in Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas, have provided conservation and other economic benefits to much of rural America since 1948.  The infrastructures of many of these projects, however, are at or near their designated life spans and need to be rehabilitated.

"Water resources play a vital role in the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers and in rural economies," Combest said.  "Many of these dams need rehabilitation desperately, but the surrounding communities just don't have the financial resources to repair them.  It only makes sense that the federal government should play a role in protecting its own investments."

Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the Small Watershed Rehabilitation Amendments of 1999 (H.R. 728) as a federal response to this situation.  Under this legislation the federal government would provide financial assistance of at least sixty-five percent of total costs to local communities for making improvements in their projects.

"I was extremely pleased to receive the support of fellow House Ag Committee Members today on my effort to begin a rehabilitation process of our nation's aging small upstream flood control structures," Lucas said.  "If not addressed soon, we put citizens' lives and property at risk and allow our $8.5 billion federal investment in this successful national infrastructure to 'wash away'."

The Committee also attached to H.R. 728 a provision sponsored by Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) amending the Food Security Act of 1985 to ensure privacy regarding financial information producers supply to the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency.