Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s questions from the committee’s oversight hearing.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today participated in a hearing to review the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) proposed 2023 budget. During the hearing, Ranking Member Capito questioned FWS Director Martha Williams about the need to address policies causing delays to key infrastructure projects, secured a commitment from Director Williams to visit West Virginia, and urged the agency to increase efficiency when approving state conservation plans.
ON BURDENSOME, EXPENSIVE FISH AND WILDLIFE DEMANDS HOLDING UP CORRIDOR H, KEY PROJECTS IN WV: “It’s been brought to our attention that we have $640 million worth of projects that had been waiting for review from the service. One of these is a Corridor H project, which is a massive four-lane that comes into the state, really opens up the state for economic development. Some of these projects have been in the queue since 2014 and 2019. So, in response to this…the Fish and Wildlife had submitted to our DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] a one-page proposal that calls for I think, kind of incredible demands. Basically saying that for more than a half a million dollars, the State of West Virginia could provide Fish and Wildlife with four FTEs whose GS pay scales only really cover half of what Fish and Wildlife is asking for because this payment would escalate over five years to $800,000 a year with increase of salaries of 8% and an assumption of 23 to 38% overhead. So I have to ask you, as somebody who's worked at a state agency, how does this…does it make sense…to have a proposal like this? Why would a state spend $800,000 a year on something that the federal government is supposed to be providing? Would it be better to have the state be able to have the oversight with liability protections to be able to be a part of this process? I was really surprised when I saw this proposal from Fish and Wildlife to the state.”
CAPITO SECURES COMMITMENT FOR FWS DIRECTOR TO VISIT WV, ADDRESS DELAYS:
SENATOR CAPITO: “I would love if you would come to West Virginia…being a former state agency head yourself, to address this massive backlog. I think that would be a way for us to help us figure out how to get through these delays. Would you be interested in doing that?”
FWS DIRECTOR WILLIAMS: “Absolutely.”
INFLATION, SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES HIGHLIGHT URGENT NEED TO ADDRESS DELAYS OF INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS: “As we pass the IIJA [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act]…the longer the delay, the less the money. The supply chain is going up, inflation is going up. Everything's going to cost more.”
ON IMPROVING EFFICIENCY OF FWS APPROVING STATE CONSERVATION PLANS: “If we're talking about delays and bureaucracies and shortages of resources that you've cited, seems to me that if you're dealing with the same species and relatively the same type of habitat, that mirroring this just makes total sense. And it certainly would save a lot of the Fish and Wildlife state offices a lot of time and energy so they can devote it to future projects.”
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