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Pat O’Toole testifies before U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) welcomed Family Farm Alliance president and Baggs, Wyoming, native Pat O’Toole before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Barrasso invited O’Toole to testify on water storage legislation, including legislation introduced by Barrasso that would cut down on permitting delays by streamlining regulations and creating a “one-stop-shop” permitting process through the Bureau of Reclamation.

O’Toole testified alongside Department of the Interior (DOI) Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Timothy Petty and four others. Barrasso praised O’Toole’s extensive background in agriculture and western water policy.

“I’m so pleased to have with us here today Pat O’Toole with the Family Farm Alliance. He is a sheep and cattle rancher with his family in southern Wyoming along the Little Snake River,” said Barrasso. “I have known him for many years – many years – as a member of the Wyoming legislature. He has been a great voice for the agriculture community in Wyoming and a leader in advancing water storage policy.”

During the hearing, Barrasso highlighted how important water supply and water storage is to Wyoming’s economy and our communities.

“As I’ve said before, water is the life blood of everything that we do in Wyoming. From cattle ranching, energy exploration, recreation – whether it’s boating on Bighorn Lake or kayaking on Flaming Gorge reservoir. Water is the cornerstone of our economy and livelihood,” said Barrasso.

“It was mentioned today that the water outlook across the West and along the Colorado River is not looking good. In Wyoming, we have a different story. With above average snowpack this winter, we are anticipating healthy run-off this spring. So it allows us to focus on water management and water storage,” continued Barrasso.

O’Toole testified about the need for Barrasso’s legislation to speed up the permitting process for water storage projects.

“This bill that is being discussed today, to some extent comes from our experience of trying to build a reservoir in the 90’s. It took 14 years to permit,” said O’Toole. “We downsized the reservoir to get the permit, turned out to be half as big as it needed to be the day it was built. We’re now looking at other permitting processes and hopefully this process that we’re talking about today can facilitate that.”

“We have been dismantling the great agricultural bounty of this country. This bill is one of those things that’s going to change that. Because what I hear is that people want to do [water] storage, but it’s too hard to permit. I think with the effort here today, Senator Barrasso and all of you have the opportunity to turn that around,” said O’Toole.

You can listen to O’Toole’s entire committee statement here, and Senator Barrasso’s opening statement and questions here.