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Statement on Signing the Bill Implementing Certain Water Projects in California

October 27, 1986

I am signing H.R. 3113, a bill that would implement certain water project agreements for (1) the coordinated operation of the Central Valley Project and the State of California Water Project and (2) the preservation of the Suisun Marsh. The enrolled bill would also increase the authorization of appropriations for the Small Reclamation Project Act of 1956. My administration has made a concerted effort to develop cooperative water agreements that would assure the maintenance of water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and in the Suisun Marsh, located northeast of San Francisco. Last year my administration successfully reached agreements with the State of California that will do an excellent job in protecting the water quality in these two important areas. The Federal project will meet the agreed-upon standards, and the project costs will be reimbursed by the water users. H.R. 3113 embodies the legislative authority that is necessary to implement these water quality agreements.

The bill contains one feature that could prove troublesome. Specifically, H.R. 3113 would require the Federal Government to achieve at full Federal cost any future water quality standards set unilaterally by the State of California that are stricter than those stipulated in the agreement for coordinated operation of the Central Valley Project. Contrary to longstanding administration policy, the cost of meeting any such prospective water quality standards would have to be met solely by the Federal taxpayer, rather than by the water project beneficiaries. This nonreimbursement feature represents a potential open-ended commitment against the U.S. Treasury that is essentially outside of the Federal Government's control.

I am signing this bill into law because it will allow us to implement important water quality agreements with the State of California. I must emphasize, however, that my administration cannot accept a situation in which the Federal taxpayer pays the cost of meeting prospective California water quality standards. If California acts to raise the water quality standards at Federal expense, the administration will seek remedial legislation that would make the Federal costs of meeting these higher standards reimbursable. Such action is in keeping with laudable advances that the Congress and the administration have recently achieved regarding water project cost-sharing.

Note: H.R. 3113, approved October 27, was assigned Public Law No. 99-546.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing the Bill Implementing Certain Water Projects in California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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