Congress is considering having the Interior Department contract with local law enforcement officials to tighten security around its 58 hydroelectric dams and 348 reservoirs that together represent the nation's largest wholesale supplier of water, reports John Heilprin of the Associated Press.
As part of the government's efforts to protect potential terror targets, the House Resources Committee approved legislation Wednesday to address the limited law enforcement authority at facilities in 17 Western states. Only the Hoover Dam, overseen by the department's Bureau of Reclamation, is now protected by its own force of armed guards.
The Bureau of Reclamation brings water to more than 31 million people in the country, is the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the West, and oversees 300 recreation sites with 90 million visits a year.
The House panel also sought to broaden the anti-terrorism effort to include ecoterrorists by voting to subpoena the self-described spokesman for a group that has claimed responsibility for numerous acts of destruction in the West.
A separate measure also approved by the committee would give the Western Area, Southwestern and Southeastern power administrations authority to pay rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to arrests of people causing damage to federal property under their jurisdiction.