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Public Papers - 1992 - March

Statement on Signing the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991

1992-03-05

Today I am signing into law H.R. 355, the ``Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991.'' This bill provides, for a period of 10 years, general authority for the Secretary of the Interior to take action in the Western States to protect and preserve fish and wildlife habitat and assist farmers and urban dwellers in overcoming drought conditions. In addition, the bill provides permanent authority for the Secretary to prepare drought contingency plans in consultation with States, Indian tribes, and other entities for the prevention or mitigation of the adverse effects of drought conditions.

As I sign this bill, some areas in our Western States, notably in California, are facing their 6th consecutive year of drought conditions. The authorities granted by this bill will allow the Federal Government greater flexibility in utilizing the facilities of the Federal reclamation program and the resources of the Department of the Interior to assist the States and other non-Federal entities fighting the ravages of drought. This bill allows us to be the good neighbors that we should be in time of common need. It is in the American tradition that neighbor helps neighbor in times of burden. We will not stand by and see either our local economies and jobs literally ``dried up'' by drought or our valuable refuges and wetlands parched by lack of water.

We are fortunate that, in the last few weeks, the water supply situation in California has improved. So I am pleased to announce that today Secretary Lujan will make available additional allocations of more than 1 million acre feet of water. This will enable us to deliver project water to agriculture in the Central Valley -- without sacrificing any allocations provided for other uses. This is only a first step -- but a very positive one for California agriculture. I have asked Secretary Lujan to continue to assess the water supply situation and to keep me informed of any opportunity to provide additional Federal water where it is needed.

I note, however, that section 204(a) purports to require that the Secretary of the Interior submit certain drought contingency plans to the Congress, together with the Secretary's recommendations for legislation. The Constitution grants to the President the power to recommend to the Congress such measures as he judges necessary and expedient. Thus, provisions such as the one contained in this bill have been treated as advisory and not mandatory. I will therefore interpret section 204(a) accordingly.

Section 204(b), which purports to allow the Secretary of the Interior to approve certain drought contingency plans only at the request of the Governor of the affected State, could be construed to permit the exercise of Executive power by Governors, who are not appointed pursuant to the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. In order to avoid constitutional questions that might otherwise arise, I will interpret the role of Governors under this provision to be an advisory one.

I also note that the Department of Agriculture conducts drought contingency planning and administers drought assistance programs in agricultural areas. New planning and technical assistance activities initiated by the Department of the Interior will of course be coordinated with the Department of Agriculture and other affected departments and agencies.

George Bush

The White House,

March 5, 1992.

Note: H.R. 355, approved March 5, was assigned Public Law No. 102 - 250.

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