S. 251

Little Butte / Bear Creek Subbasins Water Feasibility Act

Statement of William Rinne

Deputy Commissioner of Reclamation

U.S. Department of the Interior

On S. 251

Before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Subcommittee on Water and Power

United States Senate

April 19, 2005


Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am William Rinne, Deputy Commissioner of Reclamation.  Thank you for the opportunity to testify on S. 251.

This legislation would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to conduct a water resource feasibility study in the Bear Creek/Little Butte Creek sub-basins of the Rogue River in southwestern Oregon, and to prepare an environmental impact statement provided for in the Act.  The study would investigate opportunities to implement water conservation measures within the three irrigation districts (Talent, Rogue River and Medford IDs) served by Reclamation’s Rogue River Project, and to  increase water supplies, including use of reclaimed water from the City of Medford and modifications to existing storage facilities.  Because alternatives being studied would impact the facilities and operations of the Rogue River Project, Reclamation must be involved in the effort. 

It is Reclamation’s understanding that a broad range of stakeholders has come together to achieve consensus on project goals and gain community support.  The primary goals are to: 1) solve the sewage and storm water discharge problems of the City of Medford; 2) increase instream flows in Little Butte Creek and Bear Creek for threatened coho salmon; and 3) improve irrigation efficiency within the three irrigation districtsThe project would improve the long-term viability of the three irrigation districts.  The Bureau of Reclamation has cooperated with this local collaborative effort to proactively address water resource issues that could become contentious in the future.

Partial funding for this study has been obtained by the City of Medford via a grant administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The grant is being used to fund a contractor to initiate technical studies.  The local study partners believe they will be able to obtain additional funding to complete the technical studies required to meet Reclamation’s standards for water resources planning.  Appropriated funds would be needed to cover Reclamation staff costs to review and revise as necessary the contractor’s technical work, undertake Endangered Species Act consultations with other Federal agencies, and publish the notices and documents required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The administration cannot support S. 251 at this time.  The legislation does not require at least 50% non-federal cost share for the feasibility study, as is required by Reclamation policy.  Federal funds obtained by Medford through other agencies would not qualify for the cost-share requirement. 

This concludes my statement.  I will be glad to answer any questions.

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