Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife,
Legislative Approaches to Protecting, Preserving and Restoring Great Water Bodies
February 24, 2010, 9:30 a.m.
Thank you Madam Chairman and Chairman Cardin for holding this hearing on the following Great Water Bodies: the Great Lakes, Lake Tahoe, Puget Sound, Long Island Sound, and the Columbia River.
Americans use these great water bodies for recreation and businesses use them as essential transportation links from ocean ports to inland ports where goods are then distributed throughout the country. Furthermore, water from these water bodies irrigate farms, provide drinking water and generate electricity. Their many important and essential uses to our everyday lives truly make them great.
The Clean Water Act states that "it is the policy of Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, to plan the development and use (including restoration, preservation, and enhancement) of land and water resources." (Clean Water Act Sec. 101 (b)). Regional Commissions have been established to, among other things, help states and local governments balance the many needs for water use with water protection.
When States have conflicts on how to respond to issues affecting these great water bodies, regional commissions should serve as the appropriate referees to resolve these conflicts. If that option fails, then the federal government can provide tools and assistance to reach a resolution.
Additionally, it is appropriate for the federal government to set national standards and provide assistance in meeting those clean water goals. It is not the role of the federal government, however, to decide how water bodies should be used or to plan for the use of land within states. Let me emphasize: Washington, DC should not be issuing mandates determining how a water body should be used.
Several bills have either been introduced or are currently being worked on to help address some of pollution control concerns. I hope that this committee will hold additional legislative hearings on these individual bills to determine how they balance the authority of federal, regional, state, and local governmental bodies in addressing interstate or regional water concerns.