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Water Bills: HR 2522, Michael L. Connor




Statement of Michael L. Connor, Commissioner

Bureau of Reclamation

U.S. Department of the Interior

before the

Subcommittee on Water and Power

Committee on Natural Resources

U.S. House of Representatives

July 21, 2009

H.R. 2522

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Michael L. Connor, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.  I am pleased to provide the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 2522, a proposal to raise the ceiling on the Federal share of the cost of the Calleguas Municipal Water District (District) Recycling Project. For reasons discussed below, the Department cannot support H.R. 2522.

H.R. 2522 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (43 U.S.C. 390h et seq.) commonly called Title XVI, to increase the ceiling on the federal share of the costs of the Calleguas project to $60 million.  Current Federal law limits the Federal share of individual project costs to 25 percent of the total, or a maximum contribution of $20 million.  Raising the cost share further would further strain Federal budgetary resources.

The District submitted a feasibility study as required by the Title XVI statute, and it was approved in April of 2000.  The feasibility study included nine distinct components:five wastewater reclamation and reuse projects, three brackish groundwater recovery projects, and a regional brine disposal project.A cooperative agreement was executed in September 2000, to provide Federal funding for one of the wastewater reclamation and reuse projects known as the Conejo Creek Diversion Project.This project was completed in September, 2003, and is currently producing about 9,000 acre-feet of recycled water annually.The total Federal share for this component was almost $1.7 million.

In January, 2003, a cooperative agreement was executed to provide federal funding for the Regional Brine Line component.To date, Reclamation has provided about $10 million to the District as the federal share of costs for this facility, which will provide a means to dispose of brine wastes from facilities such as brackish groundwater recovery projects throughout Ventura County.The FY 2010 Budget requested $1.4 million for the Calleguas Municipal Water District Recycling project.

The Regional Brine Line is being constructed in three phases, starting with Phase 1 near the coast, and progressing inland.The current estimated cost of Phase 1, which includes an ocean outfall, is about $76 million.The 25 percent federal share of Phase 1 would be $19 million, which would obviously be reduced slightly because Reclamation has already provided $1.7 million for the Conejo Creek Diversion Project.There would be no additional Federal funds available for Phases 2 and 3, which together are estimated to cost about $145 million; nor for any of the remaining seven projects that were identified in the feasibility study due to the current ceiling.This legislation would authorize $40 million in additional federal funds. 

As a threshold matter, I'd like to express the Department's general support for the Title XVI Reclamation and Reuse program.The 2010 budget proposal includes funding for Secretary Salazar's Water Conservation Initiative and Title XVI is an important element of that program.Also, on July 1, the Department announced the award of approximately $135 million in grants for specific authorized Title XVI projects.Reclamation also recently selected 27 Title XVI projects – 26 of which are in California – that will receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding. We recognize that water reuse is an essential tool in stretching the limited water supplies in the West.

However, given that there are 53 already authorized Title XVI projects and numerous competing mission priorities and demands on Reclamation's budget, the Department cannot support the authorization of new Title XVI projects at this time.As a practical matter, Reclamation is concerned that a proliferation of authorized projects would be detrimental to effective overall program management because there would be a dilution of available funding and a diminished ability of the Bureau to carry out and complete individual projects.

Reclamation will, however, continue to work with project proponents to evaluate the feasibility of their projects.To that end, Reclamation recently revised and improved its directives and standards that govern the review of Title XVI projects.By doing so, we believe that Reclamation can play a constructive role with local sponsors, as well as Congress, in evaluating the merits of proposed water recycling projects.Information regarding a project's feasibility should be fundamental to Congress' evaluation of new authorizations.

Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my testimony.Thank you for the opportunity to comment on H.R. 2522.  I would be pleased to answer any questions at this time.