U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works questioned witnesses today in an EPW hearing entitled “America’s Water Infrastructure Needs and Challenges: Federal Panel.” Witnesses included Ryan Fisher, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army, United States Department of the Army and Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Inhofe: “We have some specific problems in Oklahoma that we’ve been working with the Corps and we’ve sent letters to the Corps and the OMB on the importance of prioritizing new start programs for some of our levee systems that we have. Senator Bozeman and I are very much concerned also about some of the problems we have with our best kept secret and that is that my state of Oklahoma house the most inland port in America and we do have ships—barges coming up and down. But, Senator Bozeman and I are very much concerned about the condition of the locks and the dams … I would hope that we would be able to address this as we look at the FY19 budget as well as the FY18 work plan.
“... The City of Bartlesville, Okla., currently has three water storage contracts at a particular lake and the most recent contract was secured at a rate of $67.38 per acre-foot … They just tried to get another quote from the Tulsa District Corps of Engineers anf that quote was $1,997 per acre-foot … My office has initiated a dialogue between the district and the city to find a compromise. It is my understanding that the district will be reaching out to the division and headquarters in order to do so. The Water Supply Act of 1958 directs the Corps to cooperate with states and local interests in developing water supplies in connection with federal water projects. … Are you familiar with this problem in that particular city?
Semonite stated: “…Sir, I am not familiar, other than the last 24 hours. There was a GAO report that talked about Corps pricing. I hate to say it, but the way that the rules were established several years ago, that pricing is different when it comes to state-to-state and city-to-city. It depends on how much did the project cost, when was it built, what were the authorizing …”
Inhofe added: “That’s the GAO ...”
Semonite agreed: “That’s the GAO Report. So, the Tulsa District has provided a proposal to our southwestern division as of the last couple of days. I’ll take a look at it. I’ll get back with you. I agree with you. You can’t have that level of an increase …”