Water Bills: S 1573

Statement of Kira L. Finkler, Deputy Commissioner

forExternal and Intergovernmental Affairs

Bureau of Reclamation

U.S. Department of the Interior


Subcommittee on Water and Power

Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

United States Senate

April 27, 2010

S. 1573

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Kira Finkler, Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). I am pleased to provide the views of the Department of the Interior (Department) on S. 1573, the City of Hermiston, Oregon, Water Recycling and Reuse Project. For reasons I will discuss below, the Administration cannot support the bill.

S. 1573 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 and reuse wastewater in the City of Hermiston, Oregon. The project is being implemented by the City of Hermiston.

The City of Hermiston, located in north central Oregon, is one of the largest communities within Reclamation's Umatilla Project area. The project proposed by the City includes upgrades and construction at their existing wastewater treatment facility and construction of a delivery system that would deliver recycled water to the West Extension Irrigation District. The recycled water would be used by the District to irrigate agricultural lands. By 2031, it is estimated this proposed project would provide the District with an approximate 2,034 acre-feet of drought resistant water supply during the irrigation season. The current total estimated cost for this project is approximately $25.8 million.

In January 2010, the City of Hermiston submitted their feasibility report to Reclamation for review under the Title XVI program. In April 2010, Reclamation's review team completed the review and made the certification that the proposed project "Meets Requirements" as defined under section 1604 of Public Law 102-575, as amended.

The City and Reclamation's Pacific Northwest Region are continuing to coordinate on actions that are necessary to be complete prior to implementation of the proposed project. This includes activities such as the determination of the project sponsor's financial capability, completion of Federal environmental compliance actions, water contracts, water rights, and entering into a land use agreement since the delivery pipe is to cross Reclamation land.

S. 1573 would authorize the City of Hermiston's project under Title XVI for Federal funding not to exceed 25 percent of the total cost of the project.

While the Department supports efforts to increase local water supplies and increase recycled water use, this project would compete for funds with other needs within the Reclamation program, including other Title XVI projects currently under construction. In general, the Department supports the Title XVI Reclamation and Reuse program. The 2011 budget proposal includes funding for the Department's WaterSMART Program, and Title XVI is an important element of that program. Specifically, the 2011 budget proposal includes $29 million for the Title XVI program, a 113% increase over the 2010 enacted level.

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 through a public funding opportunity announcement 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 specifically 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 S. 1573. I would be pleased to answer any questions at this time.

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