Skip to content

Heinrich, Cramer Team Up on Bipartisan Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, and U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, teamed up to introduce the Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act.
This bipartisan bill would improve outdoor recreation facilities in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)-managed areas, provide new opportunities for public-private investments, and give local districts more flexibility to reinvest their resources.

This week, Senators Heinrich and Cramer announced growing bipartisan support for the LAKES Act as Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) joined the bill as co-sponsors.

“This bipartisan legislation will make it possible for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enter joint management partnerships with Tribes and nonprofits, and it ensures that recreation fees collected at Army Corps lakes stay in the community and actually go toward improving those facilities. These reforms will make a difference to New Mexican families enjoying a cookout at Santa Rosa Lake. They are critical to Abiquiu Lake’s role in managing our Rio Chama water. And they are essential to building partnerships with Tribes and nonprofits as we care for our federal outdoor spaces together,” said Senator Heinrich.

“Because of discrepancies in federal law, managers of some of North Dakotans’ favorite outdoor recreation sites have to get approval from Washington to initiate operations and maintenance projects. And, unlike every other federal land management agency, the Army Corps cannot retain recreation fees at the sites where they’re collected,” said Senator Cramer. “This makes no sense. Our bipartisan bill would keep resources and decision-making closer to home, while providing new opportunities for private investment in our recreation facilities.”

The LAKES Act has also garnered local support from the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

"The LAKES Act will go a long way to help keep conservation dollars in our communities. Recreation fees collected at Army Corps lakes should stay in the community and actually go toward improving those facilities so places like Abiquiu and Conchas can continue to serve New Mexicans and visitors from across the country. We thank Senator Martin Heinrich and Senator Kevin Cramer for championing this effort," said Jesse Deubel, Executive Director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

The USACE is one of the nation's largest federal outdoor recreation providers, managing nearly 257,000 facilities across 43 states. Under existing law, local USACE managers cannot retain recreation fee revenues collected onsite, an authority afforded to the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Parks Service.

The Challenge Cost Sharing Cooperative Management Program was created for participating agencies to split operation and management (O&M) expenses and responsibilities with eligible outside groups. However, the USACE is limited to partnering with non-federal public entities, despite most interest coming from private and nonprofit organizations.

To correct these issues, the LAKES Act would allow the USACE to:
  • Retain 80% of recreation fees collected onsite for O&M at that location.
  • Enter into cooperative agreements with local nonprofits.
  • Handle partner-collected fees and return them to the partner jointly managing the recreation facility to reinvest onsite.

Additional information available online: bill text and one-pager.