Congress is considering having the Interior Department contract with local law enforcement officials to tighten security around its 58 hydroelectric dams and 348 reservoirs that together represent the nation's largest wholesale supplier of water.

As part of the government's plan to protect potential terrorism targets, the House Resources Committee recently approved legislation to address the lack of security at the facilities in 17 western states.

Only the Hoover Dam, overseen by the department's Bureau of Reclamation, is now protected by its own force of armed guards.

A separate measure also approved by the resources committee would give the Western, Southwestern and Southeastern power administrations authority to pay rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to arrests of people causing damage to federal property under their jurisdiction.

"All the dams are on the highest security alert, and they are secure," Interior spokeswoman Joan Moody recently said. "Neighboring jurisdictions have pitched in, as have park rangers at nearby parks," she said. "But what this legislation does is give the bureau authority to officially hire these people instead of using a patchwork of athorities.