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S.997 - Water and Power Bills




Statement of Grayford F. Payne, Deputy Commissioner for Policy,

Administration and Budget

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

S. 997 - East Bench Irrigation District Water Contract Extension Act

June 23, 2011  

Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Grayford Payne, Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Administration and Budget at the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). I am pleased to provide the views of the Department of the Interior (Department) on S.997, the East Bench Irrigation District Water Contract Extension Act. The Department supports S. 997.

Reclamation's Clark Canyon Dam and Reservoir are located in southwest Montana and supply irrigation water under contract to the East Bench Irrigation District (EBID). EBID's water service contract with Reclamation was first executed in October 1958 and expired on December 31, 2005. Pursuant to Section 1 of the Act of May 15, 1922 (42 Stat. 541), Section 46 of the Omnibus Adjustment Act of 1926 (44 Stat. 649), and Section 85-7-1957, Montana Code Annotated, execution of a new contract between the United States and any irrigation district requires a Montana 5thDistrict Court decree.

In 2006, EBID filed a petition with the court seeking court confirmation of the execution of their new proposed renewed contract with Reclamation. A hearing was convened on December 14, 2006, in Dillon, MT. One party appeared and filed an objection to the confirmation proceedings. The parties involved in this court confirmation case have filed various petitions and motions with the court. The court issued an order on April 26, 2007, in response to EBID's petition to dismiss the objection, dismissing some of the counterclaims filed by the objectors, but continuing with other counterclaims. No trial date has been set for this case and as a result, no court decree confirming the 2006 contract has been issued.

Additionally, prior year appropriations bills have extended the contracts for terms of up to two years. EBID remains concerned about losing their right to renew their 1958 contract if it is allowed to expire prior to securing a court decree of the renewed 2006 Contract. For this reason they are pursuing extension of the 1958 contract versus relying on a temporary water service contract.

Under current law, the 2006 contract is not binding on the United States until court confirmation is secured. A final decree from the court confirming the 2006 contract has not occurred. Therefore, EBID is seeking authority under S. 997 to extend the 1958 contract. S. 997 would extend the contract for four years (to December 31, 2013) or until a new contract is executed, and still defer to the court to take up the issue again at a time of its choosing. The Department supports this legislation because it would allow water service to the EBID to continue and protects the right for contract renewal while the court confirmation process is given time to be completed.

This concludes my statement. I am pleased to answer any questions the Subcommittee may have.