Statement of Alan Mikkelsen, Acting Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans
U.S. House of Representatives
H.R. 3916
Federally Integrated Species Health (FISH) Act

October 12, 2017

The Administration is committed to improving the transparency, predictability, and timeliness of federal environmental review to ease the burden on the regulated community. We appreciate Representative Calvert’s introduction of H.R. 3916, the “Federally Integrated Species Health (FISH) Act.” The Administration will explore this and many other paths as it embarks on a reorganization of the federal government in a way that will make the executive branch more lean, accountable, and efficient while still allowing the government to deliver core services, as directed by the President’s March 13, 2017 Executive Order, “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch.” The Administration is committed to making Endangered Species Act related programs more efficient. The Department looks forward to working with Congress to achieve that objective.

The ESA of 1973 established joint implementation of the Act by the Departments of the Interior and Commerce, per President Nixon’s Reorganization Plan Number 4 of 1970. That plan created the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce by transferring existing authorities of other agencies to the new agency. The reorganization Congress endorsed included transfer of the authorities of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and marine sport fish program of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and elimination of those bureaus. By adopting the reorganization plan, the ESA gives authority to the Department of Commerce to manage all federally-listed fish species that live or spend the majority of their lives in the ocean, including most anadromous fish. The FWS manages the remaining federally listed fish species, which are almost entirely catadromous and fresh water fish.

H.R. 3916, the “Endangered Species Consolidation Act of 2017” would transfer all functions related to management of federally-listed anadromous and catadromous species from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior. Anadromous fish are those that spend most of their lives in the ocean but spawn upstream in fresh or estuarine waters. These include salmon, smelt, sturgeon, shad, and striped bass. Currently, an estimated 47 anadromous fish species or populations are federally listed under NMFS jurisdiction. Catadromous fish are those that spend most of their lives in freshwater but spawn in the ocean. These primarily include eels. Catadromous fish are currently under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, so this legislation would not affect management responsibility for those species. Currently there are no federally listed catadromous fish species.

The Department of the Interior looks forward to working within the Administration and with the Committee to ensure that federally-listed anadromous and catadromous species are managed as efficiently and responsibly as possible under the Endangered Species Act.