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Western Caucus Protests Washington’s Attempt to Take Control of State Waters

Members call on Administration to withdraw its controversial Secretarial Order 3321, which establishes the “National Blueways” program.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and Congressional Western Caucus co-chairs Stevan Pearce (R-NM) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) joined 22 other Caucus Members in sending a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging the Administration to withdraw Secretarial Order 3321, which establishes the “National Blueways” program.
 
According to the Order, it appears that any watershed in the United States could be designated a national “Blueway” without any vote in Congress and without proper public notice.
 “Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and it should be managed for the benefit of the community in a transparent fashion. While water law varies by region, non-navigable water is managed by the states, not the federal government.  Any designation by a federal agency that directly or indirectly attempts to manage the non-navigable headwaters of many of our nation’s rivers, would be a usurpation of state authority. We urge you to immediately withdraw Secretarial Order 3321,”  Caucus Members wrote.  

In addition to Barrasso, Pearce and Lummis, the letter was signed by Senators Orrin Hatch, Mike Enzi, Dean Heller, Jim Inhofe,  Mike Lee, David Vitter and Representatives Rob Bishop, Doc Hastings, Paul Gosar, Scott Tipton, Walter Jones, Jeff Duncan, Paul Broun, Michael Conaway, Adrian Smith, Jason Chaffetz, Tom McClintock, Devin Nunes, Kevin Cramer, Matt Salmon, Tim Huelskamp and Steve Daines.
 
The full text of the letter follows:
 
 
February 14, 2013
 
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
Department of Interior
1849 C St NW  
Washington, DC 20240
 
Dear Secretary Salazar:
We are contacting you regarding our serious concerns surrounding the disturbing trend by which the Department of the Interior (DOI) continues to bypass Congress, and the public, in establishing new federal designations and policies.


As you know, Congress expressed its serious reservations of the Wildlands designation through a Secretarial Order.  The creation of that new federal designation was highly controversial, lacked transparency, and was legally questionable.  Congress subsequently blocked funding for the Order.  However, you have never rescinded the controversial Order.


On August 2, 2012 members of the Senate and House Western Caucuses sent you a letter expressing concerns regarding Bureau of Land Management Manuals 6310 and 6320, which mirrored the same rejected policies of Wildlands Secretarial Order 3310.  These manuals were crafted without public input or notice.  These members asked you to withdraw these manuals, and set up a briefing for them.  The manuals were not withdrawn, nor was the briefing request even acknowledged by your department.  We would like to request once again, a briefing by DOI for our offices on the status of these BLM manuals.


Now it has come to our attention that on May 24 of last year, you signed Secretarial Order 3321 establishing the “National Blueways System.”  This system, according to the Secretarial Order would:

“provide a new national emphasis on the unique value and significance of a ‘headwaters to mouth’ approach to river management and create a mechanism to encourage stakeholders to integrate their land and water stewardship efforts by adopting a watershed approach.”

The Order goes on further to state that it authorizes the establishment of an “intraagency National Blueways Committee to provide leadership, direction, and coordination to the National Blueways System.”

Despite the Order stating that “Nothing in this Order is intended to be the basis for the exercise of any new regulatory authority,” given the lack of transparency by Interior to date, this disclaimer is of little comfort to communities that will be negatively impacted by a Blueways designation.  In fact, the Order specifically injects federal agency policies and programs into the management of the designated watersheds when the Order states that:

“Bureaus within Interior, to the extent permitted by law and consistent with their missions, policies, and resources, shall endeavor to align the execution of agency plans and implementation of agency programs to protect, restore, and enhance the natural, cultural, and/or recreational resources associated with designated National Blueways.”
 
According to the Order, it appears that any watershed in the United States could be designated without any vote in Congress and without proper public notice. The Order states that:
 
“Following consideration of recommendations made by the Committee, the Secretary may designate the river and its associated watershed as a National Blueway that will become part of the National Blueways System.”


Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and it should be managed for the benefit of the community in a transparent fashion. While water law varies by region, non-navigable water is managed by the states, not the federal government.  Any designation by a federal agency that directly or indirectly attempts to manage the non-navigable headwaters of many of our nation’s rivers, would be a usurpation of state authority.

We urge you to immediately withdraw Secretarial Order 3321.  We also encourage you to bring proposals to Congress that are creating new land and water designations so that we may consider them through the normal committee process and with public transparency.

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