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Released On: November 18, 2005

Reclamation Commissioner Keys Commends Passage of Rural Water Legislation
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys today praised the United States Senate's bi-partisan passage of legislation to establish a new program that would help rural Western communities meet their critical water supply challenges.

The Senate unanimously passed S.895, the Rural Water Supply Act of 2005, on the evening of Nov. 16. The bill, which now is ready for consideration in the House, addresses a serious water crisis in America, particularly among rural areas that by themselves don't have the resources to establish and maintain drinking water supplies.

Keys commended the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, especially Chairman Pete Domenici (R- N.M.) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) for their leadership in drafting and shepherding the bill through the Senate.

"This legislation establishes a much-needed program in Reclamation for projects that have been managed on an ad hoc basis in the past," Keys said. "With this program, Reclamation will now be able to work with other government agencies to better coordinate rural water efforts."

The legislation authorizes $20 million a year for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide guidance and technical assistance in the planning, design, and construction of rural water supply projects. The program would ensure that these projects are evaluated to ensure cost effectiveness and to promote long-term protection of water supplies.

The bill also would establish a loan guarantee program in Reclamation to help communities finance new water projects and pay for maintenance on existing water systems. The program would allow rural communities to obtain loans at interest rates far lower than loans not guaranteed by the federal government. The legislation also expedites the appraisal and feasibility study process to allow communities to find the best approach to meet their needs.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at www.usbr.gov.