Rep. Cory Gardner is drafting a bill to expedite the federal permitting process for new water projects, as long as the projects are endorsed by the governor of that state. Many regional water projects have been in the federal permitting stages for years, with participants having spent millions of dollars along the way and no guarantee the projects will be built.
Northern Water has been trying to get federal permission to build the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) since 2004, with the 15 participating cities and water districts having already spent about $12 million. Observers say it may take another year for the project to get the required permits. Rep. Gardner says that is “way too long.”
The details of his bill aren’t finalized. Gardner said it could call for federal agencies to make a decision on a proposed water project within six to nine months after a governor puts his support behind it.
In the meantime, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced its intent to accept funds contributed by Northern Water to expedite the processing of NISP’s EIS and permit application. According to Eric Wilkerson, Northern Water’s General Manager, “the use of Section 214 of the Water Resources Development Act” will enable Northern Water to provide funding to allow to the Corps of Engineers to employ a staff member “that would be dedicated to the its efforts associated with required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance and permitting of NISP.”