Dam permits would be funneled through a single federal agency in an effort to speed up new water storage projects under a bill that passed the House June 21st.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock (R), the 233-180 vote was largely along partisan lines. Eight Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the bill.

McClintock has said that various local, state and federal agencies that must sign off on new projects don’t have to communicate with each other or set deadlines. And they often require redundant information from permit applicants, which can make the process drag on for years and drive up costs.

He pointed to Foresthill in his district as an example. Conflicting demands from several federal agencies about a plan to install a spillway gate on the dam at the Sugar Pine Reservoir have driven up the cost. The project application is still under review.

“So a $2-million project that was a heavy lift for a little community, but within reach, becomes an $11-million cost-prohibitive boondoggle,” McClintock said.

Under the bill, the Bureau of Reclamation would coordinate with other federal agencies on all aspects of applications and set deadlines for deciding whether to approve a project.

Some Democrats voting against the bill say that the bureau would be able to set arbitrary deadlines for the at-times lengthy environmental reviews required for water projects, which could undermine reviews required by laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has filed similar legislation in the Senate, and McClintock said he is cautiously optimistic it will pass.

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