(Washington, D.C.) Members of three Eastern Washington irrigation districts personally visited congressional offices in Washington, D.C. today to support homeland security cost legislation introduced by Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). Both legislators are the top ranking party members of the influential House Water and Power Subcommittee.
The legislation, H.R. 1662, aims to protect Grand Coulee Dam and other federal reservoirs from terrorist attacks. It also limits the homeland security costs that could be imposed on the area’s water and power consumers. The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency which manages Grand Coulee and other federal dams, has come under fire for cost uncertainty related to homeland security expenses.
“No one disagrees with the need to protect Grand Coulee Dam from terrorists, but those costs cannot be solely balanced on the backs of our water and power consumers, especially when these facilities are National treasures that benefit the entire American public,” said McMorris Rodgers. “Our electricity rates have increased substantially over the last decade. The last thing our consumers need is yet another excuse for rate increases.”
Dick Erickson, the Secretary-Manager of the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District in Othello, Washington, praised McMorris Rodgers and her colleagues for introducing the measure, saying that the bill recognizes “homeland security costs should be borne by all Americans and not just be the responsibility of irrigation and power ratepayers.” Representatives from the Quincy and South Columbia Basin Irrigation Districts also voiced their support for the bipartisan measure in meetings with congressional offices.
The legislation requires that 15 percent of all Bureau of Reclamation homeland security costs be paid by the agency’s water and power customers and mandates an annual report and five year federal spending plan to bring about more transparency and cost certainty. Over the last five years, federal homeland security costs to water and power consumers have increased substantially. In a recent congressional hearing, the Bush Administration recently was unable to provide a long-term commitment against further increases when questioned by McMorris Rodgers.
“The time for this legislation is now,” continued McMorris Rodgers. “Our ratepayers want to pay their fair share to protect our critical infrastructure, but the current program isn’t fair and could lead to dramatic rate increases. I thank eastern Washington’s irrigation leaders and Water and Power Subcommittee Chair Grace Napolitano for their help in supporting this common sense legislation.”