Water Bills: S 637
Statement of Michael L. Connor, Commissioner
Bureau of Reclamation
Subcommittee on Water and Power
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
July 23, 2009
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Mike Connor, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).I am pleased to provide the views of the Department of the Interior (Department) on S. 637, legislation authorizing construction of the Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority System in the State of
S. 637 would authorize the planning, design, and construction of the Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority System (System) in eastern
The Department concurs in the need for a safe and reliable water supply for the citizens of eastern
Of Reclamation's eight authorized rural water projects, six are in Reclamation's Great Plains (GP) region and are currently being constructed in the Dakotas and
In view of these existing authorizations, the Department is concerned about the non-Federal cost share for the System. S. 637 contemplates that the United States would fund 75 percent of the cost of constructing the system for the benefit of Montana citizens of Dawson, Garfield, McCone, Prairie, and Richland Counties, and North Dakota citizens of McKenzie County.While this has been the cost share level proposed in other rural water projects enacted into law, it represents the very maximum Federal cost share allowed under the Rural Water Supply Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-451), which includes a requirement for a Feasibility Report that includes an analysis of the sponsor's capability-to-pay and identifies an appropriate contribution by the local sponsors.
Reclamation has not reviewed and is not in a position to verify the accuracy of the cost estimates upon which appropriations are authorized in S. 637. Before being asked to consider a request for authorization or funding of a feasibility study, Reclamation typically has had an opportunity to conduct at least appraisal-level analysis of a project. This practice is confirmed in Section 106(a) of the recently enacted Rural Water Supply Act of 2006.
Section 5 of S. 637 authorizes the delivery of Pick Sloan Missouri Basin Program "project use" pumping power to be used and delivered for the benefit of this project at the firm power rate.The bill requires that the project be operated on a "not for profit basis" in order to be eligible to receive power under those terms.The bill is silent as to whether this authorization provides for seasonal power vs. year-round power.The legislation should specify in order for Reclamation and the Western Area Power Administration to know how much preference pumping power from PSMBP will be available to the system during the non-irrigation season in order to meet existing contractual obligations.
In addition to those concerns mentioned above, we have yet to verify whether or not water rights issues associated with the project have been adequately addressed.Without an opportunity to thoroughly review the proposed project at an appraisal or feasibility study level, we are not in a position to verify that other technical issues do not also exist.We would like to suggest that the project sponsors work with Reclamation's Great Plains Regional Office and the Montana Area Office to complete appraisal and feasibility-level studies consistent with the Rural Water Supply Act of 2006 prior to an authorization for construction.
That concludes my statement.I would be pleased to answer any questions.