H.R. 5786

South Orange County Recycled Water Enhancement Act 

Statement of
William Rinne, Acting Commissioner
Bureau of  Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
U.S. House of Representatives
HR 5786
South Orange County Recycled Water Enhancement Act

September 26, 2006

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I am William Rinne, Acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am here today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on HR 5786, a bill to authorize water recycling projects in Southern California. HR 5786 would amend Title XVI, the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (P.L. 102-575) to include design, planning, and construction authority for two local projects. For reasons described below, the Department does not support HR 5786.

HR 5786 as written would amend Title XVI to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the design, planning, and construction of two water recycling projects in south Orange County in the State of California.

Section 2 of the bill would authorize the San Juan Capistrano Recycled Water System, with a Federal cost share not to exceed 25 percent, and a funding authorization of $13.5 million. Reclamation reviewed this project as part of the CALFED/TitleXVI review and found the project lacked 6 of the 9 requirements needed to determine feasibility. Absent these items, Reclamation could not determine the feasibility of the project. This does not mean the project is not feasible, but rather that until the six remaining items are completed, Reclamation cannot provide a feasibility determination. Until a feasibility study is completed, the Department cannot support authorization of this project.

Section 2 of the bill would also authorize the San Clemente Reclaimed Water Project. The local district has not been in consultation with Reclamation nor has Reclamation received any copies of a feasibility study to support the authorization of this project. Without a proper analysis to ensure this project meets appropriate federal guidelines for consideration of construction authorization, we cannot support Reclamation's participation in the planning, design and construction activities.

With regard to both of the Title XVI projects proposed in HR 5786, as the Department has consistently stated in prior testimony, it does not believe it is prudent to authorize new Title XVI projects while a major backlog of projects already exists. The Department also believes enactment of this legislation authorizing new Title XVI construction projects is likely to place an additional burden on Reclamation's already tight budget, and could potentially delay the completion of other currently authorized projects. With the tremendous backlog of existing Title XVI projects, we cannot support the addition of new projects at this time.

As stated in previous testimony, the Department remains interested in continuing its discussions with the authorizing committees in Congress on proposed reforms to the Title XVI program that will facilitate the prioritization of projects, and maximize returns on the federal investment in Title XVI. We believe that this is necessary in order for Reclamation and local project sponsors to make meaningful progress on the existing $327.9 million backlog of authorized recycling projects.

To date, of the 32 specific projects authorized under Title XVI, 21 have received funding. Three of the projects have been funded to the full extent of their authorization. Two more should be fully funded in 2006. The economic and efficient use of water is a priority for the Department of Interior. The Department continues to strongly encourage local water supply, recycling and desalination efforts.

Thank you for the opportunity to convey our concerns on this legislation, and I am happy to take any questions.

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