Senate Committee Attaches Anti-Environmental Rider to Flood Control Bill

"Here We Go Again"

(04/30/1997) - Washington, D.C.-- Despite claims by leaders of the 105th Congress that they are greener, today the Senate Appropriations Committee repeated the practice of the 104th Congress of passing anti-environmental legislation by slipping a rider onto legislation on the move.

The committee passed an extremely broad amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that would exempt from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) almost any flood control or dam-related activity authorized by federal, State, or local law in effect during 1996 or 1997.

Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen said, "Here we go again. The Congress claims it is greener, but attaches a backdoor rider to an appropriations bill that would devastate the Endangered Species Act. This is just one example of how the 105th Congress is increasingly showing its `true colors' and it isn't anywhere near green."

The rider legislation is similar in scope to H.R. 478 introduced in the House by Representatives Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Wally Herger (R-CA). The Craig ESA Rider is extremely broad and would apply to operating, maintaining, repairing, or reconstructing federal or non-federal flood control projects, facilities, or structures - including hydropower dams.

This language would be disastrous for threatened and endangered species that depend on aquatic ecosystems for survival. For example, all of the major dams on the Columbia and Lower Colorado Rivers have flood control as a primary purpose and would be exempted from the ESA under this provision. This could destroy current efforts to restore wild populations of chinook, coho and sockeye salmon, Colorado squawfish and other species that inhabit their waters. Other species including the Louisiana black bear, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and green sea turtle would also be adversely affected by this legislation.

To garner support for a flood control ESA waiver, opponents of a strong endangered species program have recklessly blamed the recent flooding in California on the ESA and efforts to conserve the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle, a threatened species that sometimes inhabits levees. Flood control experts, however, have soundly dismissed these claims, and have repeatedly stated that the recent flooding in California was the result of too much water and a degraded and outdated levee system - having nothing to do with the ESA or any species under its provisions. In fact, an emergency provision already exists that allows landowners to repair flood control structures in declared disaster areas without prior review under the ESA. This legislation is unnecessary and will do absolutely nothing to prevent similar flood disasters from occurring in the future.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270