The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 478 because it would exempt all flood
control projects from "consultation" and "takings" requirements of the
Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Administration clearly supports minimizing
flood damages and protecting the residents living in flood prone areas, but
does not believe that H.R. 478 will achieve these goals. Because of the severe
economic and environmental impacts that would be caused by H.R. 478, the
Secretary of the Interior would recommend that the President veto the bill in
its current form.
H.R. 478 would waive ESA requirements in a broad range of non-emergency
situations, including routine operation and maintenance of flood control
projects. For example, the broad ESA exemption under H.R. 478 could apply to
prominent dams such as Hoover and Grand Coulee or any hydropower facility with
associated flood control benefits. H.R. 478 could have potentially disastrous
environmental consequences with little project benefits.
The administration of ESA by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the
National Marine Fisheries Service has not resulted in significant delays in
construction or proper maintenance of flood control facilities. Effective
emergency procedures are already utilized to deal with the ESA and other
environmental requirements during flood emergencies. For example, during the
recent California flooding, FWS implemented ESA provisions which allowed
emergency actions in disaster areas to be taken quickly without the Act's
normal "prior consultation" requirements.
Under H.R. 478, virtually all Federal and non-Federal projects in the Columbia
River basin would arguably be exempt from ESA requirements. Since these
projects would no longer be required to protect endangered fish stocks, such as
Pacific salmon, other public agencies and the private sector would have to
significantly increase their conservation efforts to compensate for the
expected loss of important fishery resources. This could have severe,
long-term economic impacts for the logging, mining, irrigation, navigation,
water supply, recreation, and commercial fishing industries in the region.
These developments could be repeated in other regions of the country.