MIAMI — A letter by chairs of three key committees in the House of Representatives to members of the House Committee on Armed Services protests the insertion of Section 6021 into the National Defense Authorization Act.
Section 6021 is an amendment to the $750 million defense-spending bill that was introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe to provide an exemption to the Grand River Dam Authority from key provisions of the Federal Power Act.
City of Miami officials received a copy of the letter Thursday, Sept. 12.
Frank Pallone Jr. (D--N.J.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the Committee on Natural Resources, and Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore), chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent the letter to Armed Services Committee chair Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry, ranking member of the committee.
“As Chairmen of the Committees with jurisdiction over the Federal Power Act, Indian and Alaskan Native issues, and the Flood Control Act, we believe this section represents deeply flawed policy that undermines key stakeholder and resource protections included in the Federal Power Act within the hydropower licensing process,” Pallone, Grijalva and DeFazio noted in the letter. “It is essentially a legislative earmark that benefits a single hydropower licensee and a small group of landowners to the detriment of upstream communities and tribes.”
Inhofe owns property on Grand Lake.
“We are thankful that Representatives Pallone, Grijalva and DeFazio recognize this amendment for what it is, a legislative earmark designed to benefit a single hydropower licensee (GRDA) and a small group of marina and landowners, to the detriment of Miami and other upstream communities as well as the Tribes in our area,” Miami Mayor Rudy Schultz said.
“I think that letter does a wonderful job of pointing out the concerns we have,” Miami City Manager Dean Kruithof said. “We are all very grateful that others are seeing it the same way.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues the license for operation of Pensacola Dam.
The current license expires in 2022.
The lake is used for power generation, recreation, water supply and flood control.
FERC is the agency that issues the license for the project operation.
The proposed exemption “would elevate recreational uses of Grand Lake over the other uses of this facility and confer rights on the licensee at the expense of upstream and downstream communities and tribal communities. The concerns of these groups associated with the current operation of this project essentially would be locked out of consideration and could not be addressed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or accommodated in the relicensing,” the letter said.
Miami and tribal governments within Ottawa County have been subjected to backwater flooding and associated damage caused by high water elevations of Grand Lake for decades.
The Representatives point out that there are no other similar provisions included in the House-passed version of the FDAA.
They say it is in direct conflict with Congressional language in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016.
The letter says the WRDA directs the Corps of Engineers to convey real property interests held by the United States to GRDA.
“The Corps has also long held that its flood control responsibility is for downstream flooding and that any backwater flooding due to hydropower operations should be addressed by GRDA,” the letter said.
Pallone, Grijalva and DeFazio recommend that the relicensing process issue be resolved by stakeholders and not by Congress.
In conclusion, the letter said, “we urge you to oppose inclusion of this legislative earmark that benefits a single licensee and a small group of landowners in any form. The NDAA should not be a vehicle for special interest provisions that undermine due process protections in the Federal Power Act, as well as the rights of tribal communities and other citizens to engage in hydropower relicensing procedures that effect their lives, businesses, and properties.”
Kruithof said city officials had a conference call with members of Inhofe’s staff Thursday and “we kept hearing ‘we are not hearing from people.’ People need to contact the senator.”
Residents can do just that by phone at 918-748-5111 or by mail at 1924 S. Utica Avenue, Suite 530, Tulsa, OK 74104-6511.
Inhofe can be reached by email at https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/contact.