WSWC-CWAG Briefing on the Corps Western Water Cooperative Committee
As part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2022, Congress created a new Western Water Cooperative Committee (§8158). The purpose of this Committee is to ensure that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) “flood control projects in Western States are operated consistent with congressional directives by identifying opportunities to avoid or minimize conflicts between the operation of the [Corps] projects and water rights and water laws in such States.” The membership of the Cooperative Committee includes the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Chief of Engineers, two representatives from each Western State appointed by the governor and the attorney general, and one employee from each of the impacted regional offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) and Western States Water Council (WSWC), together with the Western Governors Association (WGA) supported the bipartisan effort of North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley to create the Western Water Cooperative Committee to provide a forum for discussions between the Corps and Western States regarding their respective roles under the 1944 Flood Control Act and the 1958 Water Supply Act, with express Congressional recognition of the primacy of state law over the allocation and use of waters within a state’s territorial boundaries.
The Corps owns and operates significant infrastructure in the west and has numerous federal priorities it considers. The Corps’ interpretations and implementation of its priorities often conflict with the States’ water management laws and policies. We are hopeful that the Committee will strengthen a spirit of cooperative federalism and practical problem-solving as water management continues to be critical to western states. Ideally, the Committee would provide an opportunity to: (1) facilitate ongoing state-federal communication; and (2) ensure that Corps policies and management of flood control projects are consistent with Congressional intent to defer to Western States on matters of water allocation.
This briefing will provide additional information regarding our perspectives of the intent of the Committee and to facilitate discussions regarding state participation on the Committee.