A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Robert W. Johnson, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to be here today to give the Department's views on H.R. 29, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to construct facilities to provide water for irrigation, municipal, domestic, military, and other uses from the Santa Margarita River, California.
Engineering and economic feasibility investigations, and environmental analysis that is currently underway for this project, are not yet complete. In addition, general stream adjudication for the Santa Margarita River is ongoing, and the claims of the Pechanga, Cahuilla and Ramona Indian Bands have yet to be determined, leaving uncertainty as to ownership of water rights in this river system. Also, this project would have to compete for funds with ongoing projects. In view of these factors, the Department cannot support H.R. 29.
H.R. 29 authorizes $60 million of Federal funding for construction of this project, as may be adjusted for engineering cost indices, conditioned upon the following:
1.The Fallbrook Public Utility District (District) and the Department of the Navy (Navy) entering into a repayment contract with the United States for its allocation of the construction costs, with interest, as applicable;
2.The State of California granting permits to Reclamation for the benefit of the Navy and the District to use the water developed by the project;
3.The District agreeing not to assert any prior appropriative right it may have to water in excess of the quantity deliverable to it under this Act; and
4.The Secretary of the Interior determining that the project has economic, environmental, and engineering feasibility.
The project would be located on the lower Santa Margarita River on Camp Joseph H. Pendleton Marine Corps Base (Marine Corps), the Fallbrook Annex of the Naval Weapons Station (Weapons Station), and surrounding lands within the service area of the District. The project, as proposed by the Act, would consist of features for the conjunctive use of ground and surface water, the yield of which would be allocated 60 percent to the Navy and 40 percent to the District.
In 1974, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) assigned four water rights permits to Reclamation held in trust for the Marines and the District. The permits were originally granted to construct two dams on the Santa Margarita River as part of a proposed settlement of United States v. Fallbrook. Since 2003, Reclamation has been working with the Marine Corps and the District to analyze alternatives capable of implementing the conjunctive use project under a feasibility investigation authority. It is anticipated that implementation could assist in settling the long-standing water rights claims of the Marine Corps and the District.
Mr. Chairman, the Department understands the importance of reducing the use of imported supplies from the Colorado River and the Bay-Delta in the Santa Margarita River basin. However, for the reasons stated above we cannot support H.R. 29.
This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions.