Water and Power Bills: H.R. 813

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

H.R. 813

April 8, 2008

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's views on HR 813, the Santa Ana River Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2007. The Department does not support this bill.

HR 813 would amend Title XVI, the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in several projects.

Section 2 of the bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the Orange County Water District, to participate in the planning, design, and construction of the natural treatment systems and wetlands for the flows of the Santa Ana River, California, and its tributaries into the Prado Basin. Section 2 of the bill authorizes an appropriation of $20 million to carry out this function. With regard to this project, on March 18, 2007, Reclamation approved the feasibility study and deemed two of the four component treatment systems feasible. The remaining two systems will be addressed upon completion of ongoing studies.

Section 3 of the bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, under Federal reclamation law and in cooperation with units of local government, to assist agencies in projects to construct regional brine lines to export the salinity imported from the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean.

Section 4 of the bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the Chino Basin Watermaster, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, acting under Federal Reclamation laws, to participate in the design, planning, and construction of the Lower Chino Dairy Area desalination demonstration and reclamation project. With regard to this project, Reclamation approved the feasibility study on November 28, 2006 and deemed this project feasible.

These three projects would have to compete with other needs within the Reclamation program for funding priority in the President's Budget.

In addition to the proposed three projects, the Department is also concerned that under section 4, the legislation proposes a cost sharing of 25 percent, not to exceed $50.0 million. The Department does not believe there is justification to support assigning a cap higher than $20.0 million, the cap for Title XVI projects enacted after 1996, and strongly opposes this provision.

While the Department supports efforts to increase local water supplies and increase recycled water use in California, the Department does not support HR 813. 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.

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 remaining authorized Federal cost share for the active projects, after FY 2008, is nearly $400 million. The authorized 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 has 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 HR 813. I would be happy to answer any questions at this time.

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