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.
I am Robert Johnson, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I appreciate the opportunity to provide the Department's views on S. 1037, legislation to authorize the Secretary to participate in the planning, design, and construction of the Tumalo Irrigation District Water Conservation Project in Deschutes County, Oregon. The Department cannot support S. 1037.
The Tumalo Irrigation District (District) and the facilities in question are not part of a Reclamation project. During the 1990's the District did have a repayment contract for rehabilitation of Crescent Lake Dam. The District satisfied its repayment obligation to the United States in 1998, and holds title to all project facilities.
The Tumalo Irrigation District Water Conservation Project (Project) would convert approximately 6 miles of open canal in the District into a pipeline. It is Reclamation's understanding that the Project, known locally as the Tumalo Feed Canal pipeline, would conserve up to 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water for instream use. The Administration supports the objective of the District to conserve water and to improve instream flows while not diminishing the amount of water available for agricultural uses. Furthermore, we recognize the improvements made in S. 1037 over legislation introduced in the previous Congress.
S. 1037 authorizes the Secretary to participate in the planning, design, and construction of the Project and provides authorization for $4.0 million to be appropriated for the Federal share of the Project. Project sponsors anticipate the Federal share of the Project would be made in the form of a grant, however, the language in Section 3(a)(1) does not clearly give the Secretary such authority.
Most importantly, the Department is concerned that use of Reclamation funds on non-Reclamation projects would adversely impact water projects which Congress has charged Reclamation with operating and maintaining. Reclamation activities are targeted to perform essential functions at Federal projects, such as security, operations and maintenance (O&M), resource management, dam safety, and construction.
As conceived, the District's water conservation project may be ideally suited to compete for funds within the Department of Interior's existing water conservation programs like the Water 2025 Program. Through such conservation programs, local entities develop innovative on-the-ground solutions to water supply problems with financial assistance from Reclamation. However, because of the reasons stated above, the Department cannot support the legislation as written.
This concludes my testimony. I would be pleased to answer any questions.