Water and Power Bills: S 1474 / H.R. 1139

Statement of Robert J. Quint

Director of Operations, Bureau of Reclamation

U.S. Department of the Interior

Before the

Subcommittee on Water and Power

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources


S. 1474

The Riverside-Corona Feeder Water Supply Act of 2007

February 28, 2008

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Robert J. Quint, Director of Operations, Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to be here today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1474, a bill to authorize a water supply project in Southern California. For reasons described below, the Department does not support S. 1474.

This bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate with the Western Municipal Water District in the planning, design, and construction of a water supply project known as the Riverside-Corona Feeder. It provides for Federal funding for this project of not more than 25 percent of the total project cost (including funding for planning studies), not to exceed $50 million.

This project would withdraw water from San Bernardino Valley groundwater aquifers that are replenished during wet years from local runoff, regulated releases from Seven Oaks Reservoir, and water from the State Water Project. It would consist of a number of wells and connecting pipelines, which would deliver up to 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to communities in western Riverside County. Project benefits include local drought protection, better groundwater management, and reduced dependence on imported water.

The economic and efficient use of water is a priority for the Department of Interior. The Department strongly encourages local water supply efforts.

Mr. Chairman, while the Department encourages the type of resourceful utilization of local water supplies this bill calls for and the potential for reducing the use of imported supplies from the Colorado River and the California Bay-Delta we do not support S. 1474. We understand that feasibility level studies have not yet been completed for this project. Without a proper analysis that adheres to the "Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies," and which otherwise meets appropriate Federal guidelines for consideration of project authorization, we cannot support Reclamation's participation in design and construction activities.

Reclamation is currently in consultation with the Western Municipal Water District on the project and providing them guidance on their feasibility analysis and the appropriate level of NEPA compliance that will be needed. In FY 2008 Congress appropriated additional planning funds beyond Reclamation's FY2008 request for continued involvement with the Western Municipal Water District as they finalize their feasibility work. Nevertheless, the Department believes that enactment of this legislation authorizing a new construction project places an additional burden on Reclamation, and could delay the completion of other currently authorized projects. Reclamation must prioritize and allocate funds to projects and programs based on objective and performance-based criteria to most effectively implement Reclamation's programs and its management responsibilities for the water and power infrastructure in the West.

Thank you for the opportunity to convey our concerns on this legislation, and I would be pleased to answer any questions.

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