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.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Kira Finkler, Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Bureau of Reclamation.I am pleased to provide the views of the Department of the Interior (Department) on H.R. 325, the Avra/Black Wash Reclamation and Riparian Restoration Project Act.For reasons I will discuss below, the Administration cannot support the bill.
H.R. 325 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (Public Law 102-575, 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 permanent facilities needed to reclaim, reuse, and treat groundwater and wastewater in the Black Wash Sonoran Desert ecosystem, west of the metropolitan Tucson area in Arizona.The project is being implemented by Pima County.
Pima County is expanding the 1.5 million gallon per day (mgd) wastewater treatment facility to a capacity of 5 mgd.Currently, treated effluent is not reused.The proposed project would provide tertiary treatment and establish procedures to recharge the reclaimed water in ponds and the Black Wash.The treated effluent that was previously evaporated would instead recharge the aquifer, and state law would allow this recharge to be measured and stored as credits to be pumped at a later date.By recharging the water in the channel of Black Wash, riparian and wildlife habitat will be created, preserved and protected.The project includes plans to provide baseline ecological reconnaissance for monitoring of diversity and ecological health of the site.
Reclamation has been working with Pima County to review the technical, regulatory and contractual issues involved in the project but discussions have been preliminary.To date, the steps necessary to prepare a feasibility report that meet the requirements for feasibility of a Title XVI project have only briefly been discussed.Because the technical studies are not complete, the feasibility, environmental impacts and cost effectiveness for this project cannot be determined.
H.R. 325 would authorize the project under Title XVI for Federal funding not to exceed 25 percent of the total project cost or $14 million, whichever is less.
As part of this total, the Department is requesting $20 million for Title XVI projects to be selected using criteria to identify activities most closely aligned with Title XVI statutory and program goals.On March 15, 2010, Reclamation posted an announcement inviting comment on draft funding criteria for Title XVI projects.After these criteria are finalized with comments received up through April 16, Reclamation will review and rank Title XVI project proposals received based on those criteria subject to appropriations in fiscal year 2011.
Separately, in July of 2009, the Department announced the allocation of approximately $135 million in grants for specific authorized Title XVI projects using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA.We recognize that water reuse is an essential tool in stretching the limited water supplies in the West, and I believe the FY 2011 Budget request on top of the ARRA funding has demonstrated the emphasis placed by this Administration on this Program.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 or extensions of existing authorized cost ceilings at this time.
Reclamation will, however, continue to work with project proponents to evaluate the completeness of feasibility studies of their projects.
Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my testimony.Thank you for the opportunity to comment on H.R. 325.I would be pleased to answer any questions at this time.