Subcommittee Passes Watershed Rehabilitation Bill

Jul 20, 1999

Washington, D.C. — Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Resource Conservation, and Credit led by Chairman Bill Barrett (R-NE) moved  legislation (H.R. 728) responding to the maintenance and improvement issues involving a large number of water projects originally funded 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.

"Over the years, these dams have played a vital role in the economies of rural areas and the livelihoods of countless farmers and ranchers," Barrett said.  "Now, many of them are in desperate need of repair, but these communities simply don't have the resources to rehabilitate them.  If they are going to survive, the federal government needs to play a significant 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.

"If we take no action to rehabilitate, we will be left with the cost of removing these structures or faced with witnessing endangerment to life and property as these dams continue to age,"  Lucas said.   "And we would definitely watch our $8.5 billion investment in this successful partnership wash away."

H.R. 728 was passed by voice vote and with no amendments.  It will now move on to the full Agriculture Committee.

Barrett represents Nebraska's Third Congressional District — the largest corn-producing district in the country — in the U.S. House of Representatives.