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October 18, 2000

S. 2508 - To Amend the Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 1988
(Sen. Campbell (R) Colorado and 2 cosponsors)

The Administration supports S. 2508 as proposed to be modified by the manager's amendment. The bill, as amended, would accomplish the important goal of providing for a final settlement of the water rights claims of the Colorado Ute Indian Tribes that complies with our environmental laws by authorizing a scaled-down Animas-La Plata project in conjunction with a water acquisition fund.

The Administration had noted concerns with S. 2508, as introduced, because it: (1) contained objectionable language relating to compliance with the nation's environmental laws, (2) did not adequately eliminate the extensive number of Animas project features previously authorized but not currently contemplated, and (3) shifted the risk of unforeseen construction cost increases to federal taxpayers. The latest version of the bill as modified by the manager's amendment satisfactorily addresses these concerns.

In addition, the Administration understands that Senator Feingold is proposing to offer a floor amendment to S. 2508. The amendment would provide additional safeguards concerning existing environmental laws, a more explicit deauthorization of unplanned project features, additional safeguarding of the proposed taxpayer investment in this project, and would update the project's cost-sharing to reflect current Administration policy for fish and wildlife mitigation and recreation costs.

The Administration would support the Feingold amendment, which is consistent with the Administration's Animas proposal as outlined in the Interior Department's July 2000 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and subsequent Record of Decision. However, if the Feingold amendment does not pass, the Administration supports S. 2508 as modified by the manager's amendment.