Water 2025 Challenge Grant Recognition Event

Medford, Oregon

Remarks Delivered By:
John W. Keys, III, Commissioner

Water 2025 Challenge Grant Recognition Event
Medford Irrigation District

October 19, 2004

It's great to be here today to talk about Water 2025 and to recognize the Medford Irrigation District. The District's Water 2025 Challenge Grant project will accelerate on-the-ground water conservation here in Oregon. We are here to celebrate the important investment we are making in Oregon and across the West--in fact, across the nation.

The overall Larson Creek Project is a collaboration among the Medford Irrigation District, the Talent Irrigation District, the City of Medford, Pacific Trend Building Company Inc., the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and the Bear Creek Watershed Council.

The partners working together on this project have anticipated important needs. I commend all of you for coming together to solve common problems. Reclamation is proud to be a part of this effort.

I would like to recognize some of the people involved with the Larson Creek Project: Medford Irrigation District Manager Carol Bradford; Talent Irrigation District Manager Jim Pendleton; and Rogue River Valley Irrigation District Manager Jeff Eicher.

Water is our most precious resource in the West, truly our lifeblood: No water, no livelihood, no life. Water can also be our most contentious resource. Water 2025 has identified areas where potential crises and conflicts over water may occur, and the Challenge Grant projects, such as this one in Medford, have proposed innovative ways to head off problems by conserving and distributing this resource more efficiently and more effectively.

Medford Irrigation District Project
I'm happy to say that the agreements are in place, and work on this project is ready to begin. The District is undertaking an innovative approach to address water shortages for irrigation and instream uses.

With the help of its Challenge Grant, the District will replace 2,200 feet of an antiquated, open canal with 66-inch pipeline. The canal is being siphoned under Larson Creek--this will eliminate any direct connection between the irrigation infrastructure and Larson Creek.

This project will improve delivery efficiency, reduce maintenance costs, and save 94 acre-feet of water per year. One acre-foot is about 325,850 gallons, approximately the amount needed to supply a family of four with enough water for one year.

The project will also remove three fish passage barriers. It will open up three miles of historic steelhead trout habitat and will enhance habitat for the ESA-listed coho salmon. The District is contributing $602,032, and the Water 2025 contribution is $300,000.

Water 2025 is a Comprehensive Solution for Water Management
The Challenge Grant program is the heart of our Water 2025 initiative. The project we are recognizing today is a great example of the spirit of the Water 2025 Challenge Grant program, which supports partnerships that offer innovative, locally managed solutions to our most pressing water challenges. The Bush Administration has emphasized such efforts and vastly increased the funding available for conservation partnerships.

I would like to say how proud I am to be working for President Bush and Interior Secretary Gale Norton--leaders who really understand our water issues here in the West and create the setting to help us all succeed.

In June, Secretary Norton announced the 19 recipients of the fiscal year 2004 Water 2025 Challenge Grants. This year's 19 Challenge Grant projects represent 10 western states--from California to Colorado, from Montana to Texas.

The Challenge Grant program shows how leveraging the federal investment can provide tremendous benefits. Federal grants of $4 million are helping to fund the projects, which are returning almost $30 million in on-the-ground water delivery system improvements. That is a thirteen percent investment from the federal side.

Now we're gearing up for next year's program. For next year, fiscal year 2005, President Bush has requested $21 million for Water 2025, and we expect the Challenge Grant program to thrive. We will publish the Request for Proposals soon.

Water 2025 is our vision for the next quarter century; "vision" is a good description. Water 2025 provides the framework to change the way we view a precious resource. The drought that the West has been experiencing over the past five years has captured the attention of most. However, drought is not the only cause of water shortages. Even in normal or wet years, demands are exceeding available supplies.

Water scarcity is becoming commonplace in the West, and the Bush Administration's Water 2025 initiative provides a comprehensive way to address the challenges we will face over the coming decades. Water 2025 has identified areas of potential conflict and crisis, and Reclamation initiated the Challenge Grant program to address these situations and avert problems.

We certainly know that crisis management is ineffective in dealing with water problems. Water 2025, and the Challenge Grant program in particular, is a perfect example of partnering to get ahead of problems before they occur. Water 2025 provides a way to recognize today's realities and take action in advance of crises.

Water 2025 is part of the larger picture of the New Environmentalism--a cornerstone policy of the Bush Administration. This is an environmentalism of cooperative conservation that focuses on partnerships and results. Our goal is to create healthy lands and waters, thriving communities with dynamic economies, and we believe that our Challenge Grant recipients will be able to do just that.

The Challenge Grant projects exemplify the principle of cooperative conservation that President Bush and Secretary Norton have brought to our work. Water 2025 is not about imposing solutions from Washington. The underlying principle is that states, tribes, irrigators, local governments, and local communities should have the leading role in meeting our future water needs.

Secretary Norton brought to the Interior Department the basic management principle we call the 4Cs: Conservation through cooperation, communication, and consultation.

The 4Cs means working together to get things done. It means partnerships. It means local decisions about local issues.

It is heartening to see tribes, states, local water organizations, and other stakeholder and citizen groups take the lead in resolving differences, looking to innovative solutions, and mapping out the future of water management.

The Water 2025 Challenge Grant projects demonstrate that we can achieve results without a large federal investment and that the best solutions to chronic water shortages come not from the federal government, but from the people whose lives are most affected.

All of us benefit from the innovation and 'can-do' spirit exemplified by these projects. We expect that the success of these partnerships will encourage and inspire others to become better stewards.

Collaboration is the key, and the Challenge Grant program fosters this climate of cooperation. Working together as partners through Water 2025, we can make a difference in preventing crisis and conflict over water for many years to come.

Thank you.