Water Legislation Bills: H.R. 155

Statement of Robert Quint, Director of Operations

Bureau of Reclamation

U.S. Department of the Interior

Before the

Committee on Natural Resources

Subcommittee on Water and Power

United States House of Representatives


H.R. 155

May 8, 2008

Good morning Madam Chairwoman and members of the Subcommittee. I am pleased to be here today to present the views of the Administration on H.R. 155, the "Lower Brule and Crow Creek Tribal Compensation Act." For the reasons I will discuss today, the Administration does not support this bill.

H.R. 155, if enacted, would increase the compensation for the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Tribes for their loss of lands and cultural resources as a result of the Pick-Sloan Project. The intent of the legislation is to put the compensation provided to the Lower Brule and Crow Creek tribes (Tribes) on par with the compensation provided to similarly situated tribes in the region that received compensation for losses resulting from the Pick-Sloan water project along the Missouri River. The Lower Brule and Crow Creek Tribes received compensation for these losses under legislation enacted in 1996 and 1997 discussed later in this testimony. Without further analysis, it is not clear why the compensation already provided should not be considered adequate. However, we will be happy to work with the sponsor of the bill and the Tribes to determine if in fact there was an inequitable calculation regarding the original size of the trust funds that have been established.

The original statutes providing compensation for these two Tribes were the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Infrastructure Development Trust Fund Act (Public Law 105-132), and the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Infrastructure Development Trust Fund Act (Public Law 104-223). Pursuant to these bills, two funds, the Crow Creek Fund and the Lower Brule Fund, were created in the U.S. Treasury. The interest from these funds is used to compensate the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux tribes for damages to their reservations and economies as a result of water infrastructure development. The original authorized sizes for the Lower Brule Fund and the Crow Creek Fund were $39,300,000 and $27,500,000, respectively. Enactment of H.R. 155 would increase the maximum size of each fund, with additional deposits to be derived from the sale of electric power from the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin program. If this bill is enacted, the size of the Lower Brule Fund and the Crow Creek Fund would be increased to $129,822,085 and $69,222,084, respectively.

When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored a similar bill, S. 374, in 2006, it estimated that there would be an increase in direct spending of $169 million over a ten year period if the bill had been enacted. This direct spending would result from the increase in the size of the funds provided for under this legislation and also the likely reclassification of the funds from budgetary to non-budgetary because the bill would extinguish any future claims by the Tribes against the federal government related to the Pick-Sloan Missouri River Basin Program upon full funding of the trust funds.

This concludes my testimony. I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

Thank you.

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