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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 27, 2000


Today I have signed into law S. 986, the "Griffith Project Prepayment and Conveyance Act," a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to convey the Griffith Project to the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA).

This legislation is consistent with Administration policy of transferring certain facilities to private water districts where it is more efficient for the nonfederal entity to manage the project. I am pleased that the Congress addressed many Administration concerns with earlier versions of this legislation. For example, the bill clarifies questions regarding the lands to be transferred and eligibility for future benefits for Bureau of Reclamation programs.

I am disappointed that the bill directs rather than authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to convey the facilities of the Project. My Administration believes that prior to transferring title, the Secretary should conduct a meaningful National Environmental Policy Act analysis so that the Department, the Congress, and the public can fully understand the impacts of the proposed transfer, its alternatives, and potential mitigation measures. My Administration continues to oppose such mandatory provisions in transfer bills. However, because of the cooperative efforts with the SNWA and the progress made to date in the environmental review, the Department of the Interior indicates that it believes that the process can be satisfactorily completed with regard to this Project.

In signing S. 986, I state my interpretation that section 5(c) of the bill, which provides that nothing in the Act shall transfer or affect Federal ownership, rights, or interest in Lake Mead National Recreation Area associated lands, nor affect the authorities of the National Park Service to manage the Area, read together with section 3(b)(2), makes clear that no interests in real property would transfer to the SNWA other than the right-of-way that is reasonably necessary for the Authority to operate, maintain, replace, and repair the Griffith Project, as constituted on the date of enactment of this Act. Further, notwithstanding language in the bill that provides that the right-of-way shall be "at no cost," the Federal Government is not prevented from seeking reimbursement for expenditures associated with implementing this Act and protecting the resources of Lake Mead National Recreation Area when rights-of-way are established.


                                   THE WHITE HOUSE,
                                   July 26, 2000.

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