Ms. MATSUI. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise today to offer an amendment to this much-needed legislation. My amendment clarifies that river watersheds will be eligible to receive some of the cleanup funding that will be generated by this bill.
Watersheds are crucial for the health of our Nation. They help move our goods, preserve our ecosystems, and protect our communities from flooding. Managing our Nation's watersheds in a holistic and responsible way is essential. If we do not protect and maintain them, we jeopardize critical parts of our environment that support commerce and recreation.
In arid States like California, Nevada, and Utah, river watersheds are even more important to economic and environmental health. Watersheds support a variety of agricultural, economic, and recreational activities. In my home State of California, for example, the Sacramento River Watershed forms the basis for fertile farmland, thriving urban areas, and outdoor recreational opportunities.
However, many watersheds are located near active and abandoned mines. Years ago rivers represented great economic opportunity. Rivers are where many precious metals are located. But the drive for these minerals has left a negative environmental legacy.
In Nevada, more than 7,000 tons of mercury were deposited into the Carson River Watershed during the quest for silver. In the California foothills, tens of thousands of mines were dug for the gold that was discovered in the watershed running through my district. More than 4,000 of these abandoned mines pose environmental hazards.
We must protect these river watersheds that are vital to our way of life. That is why my amendment is needed. It does not change the underlying structure of this very good bill. But it does make it crystal clear that cleaning up watersheds affected by mining is a priority. [Page: H12423]
Mr. Chairman, mining impacts water all across the West. Our river watersheds feel the effects of mining to a great degree. Addressing these impacts requires a comprehensive management approach. My amendment is crafted, and offered today, with this in mind. And it acknowledges that good watershed management is a critical tool of maintaining our natural resource. It recognizes that by protecting watersheds, we are investing in a public good that all Americans use. And it ensures that this public
good will be maintained for future generations.
I urge all Members to support my amendment.
Mr. RAHALL. I thank the gentlewoman from California for yielding and for offering this very important amendment that does improve and enhance our ability to restore abandoned mine lands and waters.
The underlying legislation would establish an abandoned hardrock mining reclamation fund which would be financed by the royalties that were imposed on operations under the mining law of 1872. The gentlewoman's amendment makes it clear that remedial activities could be done on a river watershed basis.
Again, I commend her for offering this amendment, and we are truly ready to accept it.
Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentlewoman's comments.
Again, speaking today, we are wondering if the bill that we are talking about has an effect in all districts. And I would say we have a chart here which shows that rising commodity prices are driving people to stealing copper, stealing our minerals, and it is occurring in many of the districts, including the gentlewoman's district in California, where there has been a prosecution. And we have got 80 of these. We have a chart, but I won't show that.
The concept of cleaning up abandoned mine lands is one that we are deeply encouraged by and associate ourselves with, and especially as it affects watersheds. Nowhere are watersheds more important than in the West, and especially New Mexico, because so little water exists throughout the West. Anything we can do to clean up watersheds in general, but, again, the abandoned mine lands is something that we are very supportive of from this side. It relates back to the comments that we have made in
our opening statement that I don't think that on the core issues that we are very far apart at all, that we could have gotten where we all would agree with the bill. So we would accept the amendment and congratulate the gentlewoman for her work on this in abandoned mine lands and watersheds in general.
I yield back the balance of my time.