Statement of Michael L. Connor, Commissioner
Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Subcommittee on Water and Power
Committee on Natural Resources
U.S. House of Representatives
July 21, 2009
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Michael L. Connor, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.I am pleased to provide the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 2442, legislation to expand the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program (BARWRP).Although Reclamation commends BARWRP's goals, for reasons discussed below the Department cannot support H.R. 2442.
H.R. 2442 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (43 U.S.C. 390h et seq.), commonly called Title XVI, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the design, planning, and construction of six new projects for water recycling and distribution of non-potable water supplies in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. The legislation would also increase the Federal cost share for two previously-authorized Title XVI projects in the same area to $16.3 million from $10.5 million.H.R. 2442 would increase the number of BARWRP projects from eight to 14.
As a threshold matter, I'd like to express the Department's general support for the Title XVI Reclamation and Reuse program.The 2010 budget proposal includes funding for Secretary Salazar's Water Conservation Initiative and Title XVI is an important element of that program.Also, on July 1, the Department announced the award of approximately $135 million in grants for specific authorized Title XVI projects.Reclamation also recently selected 27 Title XVI projects – 26 of which are in California – that will receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding.We recognize that water reuse is an essential tool in stretching the limited water supplies in the West.
However, given that there are 53 already authorized Title XVI projects and numerous competing mission priorities and demands on Reclamation's budget, the Department cannot support the authorization of new Title XVI projects at this time.As a practical matter, Reclamation is concerned that a proliferation of authorized projects would be detrimental to effective overall program management because there would be a dilution of available funding and a diminished ability of the Bureau to carry out and complete individual projects.
Reclamation will, however, continue to work with project proponents to evaluate the feasibility of their projects.To that end, Reclamation recently revised and improved its directives and standards that govern the review of Title XVI projects.By doing so, we believe that Reclamation can play a constructive role with local sponsors, as well as Congress, in evaluating the merits of proposed water recycling projects. Information regarding a project's feasibility should be fundamental to Congress' evaluation of new authorizations.
Many Federal Title XVI projects are located in the greater San Francisco Bay area, a region that encompasses the United States' largest west coast estuary and the source of drinking water for two-thirds of California.Many of the local project sponsors work together through entities such as the Bay Area Recycled Water Coalition.Over the past decade, such agencies have invested nearly $300 million of local funds in water recycling projects.
Reclamation commends these agencies for working together to coordinate their efforts to address the regional issues of water supply and water quality.Reclamation, in collaboration with each project sponsor, is assisting in the preparation of project-specific feasibility reports and will review all submitted documents for compliance with applicable Federal environmental and cultural regulations.
H.R. 2442 authorizes the appropriation of over $38 million of new or increased Federal cost shares.The Department supports efforts to increase local water supplies and increase recycled water use in northern California.However, the Department does not support the authorization of new Title XVI projects which have not yet received a determination that they are feasible for construction.Also, as discussed above these projects would compete with other needs within the Reclamation program, including other Title XVI projects currently under construction, for funding priority in Reclamation's Budget.
Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my testimony.Thank you for the opportunity to comment on H.R. 2442.I would be happy to answer any questions at this time.