President Carter's efforts to reform federal water policy suffered two more sharp body blows in Congress yesterday, this time from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Following the trend of attacks on Carter's proposals, the committee made major cuts in two administration-supported bills aimed at carrying out policy changes.
Nut in another water-related dispute, the committee rejected an effort by Sen. Howard H. Barker Jr. (R-Tenn." to exempt the controversial Tellico Dam project from coverage under the Endangered Species Act.
The committee went on to vote to extend the act, after siding with Sen. John C. Culver (D-Iowa) who argued agressively against Bakerhs attempt to exempt the Tennessee Valley Authority's Tellico project from the act.
Also approved and sent to the floor was a four-year extension of the Appalachian Regional Commission as part of legislation creating a nationwide network of regional development commissions.
The committee's attack on Carter water overhauls, led by Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) took shape this way:
Carter's plan to make the Water Resources Council an independent review board for controversial projects was upset when a ban on use of federal money for such activities was ordered.
The administration's request a $50 million authorization for grants to states to manage and conserve water resources was cut by half, with no money for conservation activities.
Both proposals figure prominently in the administration's attempts to require greater economic justification for water projects, reduce environmental damage and increase state participation in project financing.
Congressional reaction to the administration's moves has been hostile, typified by Gravel's remark that "this administration doesn't want any water projects."
He argued that the Water Resources Council review scheme was "asham . . . to give dignity to their decisions" and "a rank duplication" of review now done by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Gravel said he did not care if the council reviewed projects so long as federal money is not involved. 'If you want to do it at home, on your won time at night, with no federal pay, no federal lights, no federal telephones, go ahead and do it," he said.
Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) argued that some additional type of review on Long-term public works projects is required, but he was handily outvoted. By voice vote, the committee bought the Gravel spending ban.
Baker's proposal to allow TVA to complete its Tellico project as planned, even though it would imperil the tiny snail darter fish, drew a standing-room-only turnout of environmentalists and development advocates.
The Supreme Court held last year that TVA had not followed theEndangered Species Act, which protects the snail darter, when it moved ahead and nearly finished its Tellico Lake project on the Little Tennessee River.
As a result of the ensuing controversy, Baker and Culver persuaded Congress to set up a special review committee to look at such projects and determine if they should be exempted from the act.
In its first decision in January, the panel ruled against completion fo Tellico Lake, saying that better, more economical development alternatives were available.
Baker was furious. He said yesterday that the committee had gone beyond its assignment and that Congress should stop it from any further "preversions" of the law.
Culver warned that to excempt Tellico would invite an unending string of political moves to excempt other projects and "make a mockery of the whole process." The committee voted against Baker, 10 to 3, but he said he will try again on the Senate floor.