Water 2025 Challenge Grant Recognition Event

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

Water 2025 Challenge Grant Recognition Event
Farmer's Irrigation District

October 20, 2004

It's great to be here today to talk about Water 2025 and to recognize the Farmers Irrigation District. The District's 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 District is providing all the local cost-share funds. However, they are working collaboratively with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, the Hood River Soil and Conservation District, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Natural Step, and the Hood River Watershed Group.

The partners working together on this project have anticipated important needs. I commend all of you for coming together to solve common problems. Thank you for all your hard work. 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 Hood River, have proposed innovative ways to head off problems by conserving and distributing this resource more efficiently and more effectively.

Farmers Irrigation District Project
I'm happy to say that Reclamation and the Farmers Irrigation District have an agreement in place for their Challenge Grant project.

The project will help the District to increase irrigation efficiency, optimize agricultural production, and increase hydroelectric production. The project will also provide conservation benefits during the critical summer months by returning water instream.

With the help of its Challenge Grant, the District will improve its water delivery system through upgrades that will conserve an average of 40 percent of current water usage over the course of an irrigation season. The Challenge Grant will fund the replacement of 2.5 miles of piping and help the District to move toward its goal of having 8.6 miles of open canals equipped with high-quality piping.

The project will help conservation by returning about 1,500-3,500 acre-feet of water instream during the critical summer months when demands are highest. One acre-foot is about 325,850 gallons. Several fish species will benefit--the Bull trout, Steelhead trout, Chinook salmon, and coastal cutthroat.

The Farmers Irrigation District thinks big. The price tag for their total project is $6.38 million, and the Water 2025 contribution is $300,000. The Water 2025 funding enables the District to accelerate its overall water conservation program. Plans include the installation of pipeline throughout the entire distribution system, which supplies 6,000 acres of orchard lands.

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 their 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.