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 for the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to be here today to provide the Department of the Interior's views on S. 542, legislation to authorize the Secretary to conduct feasibility studies to address water shortages within the Snake, Boise, and Payette River systems in Idaho.
Reclamation previously provided testimony on September 21, 2006, regarding the Administration's views on H.R. 2563 as referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, a bill equivalent to S. 542 introduced this Congress. Consistent with our testimony in the last Congress, we support S. 542.
The State of Idaho continues to experience the effects of a prolonged drought as well as tremendous growth and urbanization in the Boise and Payette River basins. Projected population growth will eventually over-extend existing ground water supplies for these rapidly growing areas. In light of this and other water resource issues elsewhere in the state, the Idaho State House of Representatives issued Joint Memorial No. 24 in 2004, which “recognizes the need for additional water to meet Idaho's emerging needs and encourages Federal and State agencies to cooperate with Idaho in identifying and developing such water supply projects.”
Under existing authorities, Reclamation initiated an assessment level water supply study specifically in the Boise and Payette basins. Stakeholders with wide representation from the State, Federal, agricultural, environmental and municipal sectors participated in that study. The Final Boise/Payette Water Storage Assessment Report was completed in July 2006 and was distributed to local State, Federal, agricultural, environmental and municipal parties.
S. 542 would go the next step by authorizing Reclamation to conduct feasibility studies within the Snake, Boise, and Payette River systems. However, while the legislation provides authority for feasibility studies in the Snake River system, Reclamation's assessment report referenced in the legislation solely evaluated and identified projects for further consideration in the Boise and Payette river systems, thus limiting the scope of the bill's authorization.
Reclamation supports focused, basin-by-basin water resource studies with input and local involvement from the State and the stakeholder communities. We recognize the need to address projected water supply shortages in the Boise and Payette River systems, and look forward to doing so in partnership with future beneficiaries. We would welcome the opportunity to be an active partner in addressing these water supply issues with the State of Idaho and its water users. However, any studies conducted under this new authority would still need to compete with other needs within the Reclamation program for funding priority in the President's Budget.
This concludes my testimony. I am pleased to answer any questions.