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Water and Power Bills: H.R. 1503




Statement of Kris Polly

Deputy Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation

U.S. Department of the Interior

before the

Subcommittee on Water and Power

Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

United States Senate

April 8, 2008

H.R. 1503

 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Kris Polly, Deputy Commissioner at the Bureau of Reclamation.  I am pleased to be here today to give the Department of the Interior's views on HR 1503, the Avra/Black Wash Reclamation and Riparian Restoration Project Act.  The Department does not support HR 1503.

 H.R. 1503 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (43 U.S.C. 390h et seq.), to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the design, planning, and construction of water recycling facilities to enhance and restore riparian habitat in the Black Wash Sonoran Desert ecosystem in Avra Valley, west of the metropolitan Pima County area in Arizona.  It provides for Federal funding of 25 percent of the total project cost or $14 million, whichever is less. 

 Pima County intends to expand the 1.5 million gallon per day wastewater treatment facility to a capacity of 5 mgd.  Currently, treated effluent is not reused.  The proposed project would provide tertiary treatment and establish procedures to recharge the reclaimed water in ponds and the Black Wash.  The treated effluent that was previously evaporated would instead recharge the aquifer, and state law would allow this recharge to be measured and stored as credits to be pumped at a later date.   By recharging the water in the channel of Black Wash, riparian and wildlife habitat will be created, preserved and protected.  The project includes plans to provide baseline ecological reconnaissance for monitoring of diversity and ecological health of the site.

 The Department supports efforts to increase reclaimed water use in southern Arizona.  Reclamation has been working with Pima County to review the technical, regulatory and contractual issues involved in the project but discussions have been preliminary.  To date, the steps necessary to prepare a feasibility report that meet the requirements for feasibility of Title XVI projects have not been discussed.  Because the technical studies are not complete, the feasibility and cost effectiveness of this project cannot be determined. 

 In addition, while the Department supports efforts to increase local water supplies and increase recycled water use, we do not support H.R. 1503.  The Department continues to believe it is not prudent to authorize new Title XVI projects in light of the Federal cost share already authorized for Title XVI projects now being actively pursued.  This project would have to compete with other needs within the Reclamation program for funding priority in the President's Budget.

 Of the 35 Title XVI projects specifically authorized and 2 demonstration projects undertaken through the general authority, 21 projects are actively being pursued and 4 are complete.  The Federal cost share for the active projects, after FY 2008, is nearly $400 million. The Federal cost share for the 12 projects currently not being pursued is estimated at $220 million. 

 While Reclamation is not supporting new project authorizations at this time, we understand that the projects established by Title XVI are important to many water users in the West.  To that end, Reclamation revised and improved its Directives and Standards that govern reviews of Title XVI projects.  By doing so, we believe that Reclamation can play a more constructive role with local sponsors in weighing the merits and ultimate feasibility of proposed water recycling projects.

 Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.  Thank you for the opportunity to comment on H.R. 1503.  I would be happy to answer any questions at this time.