Water 2025 Challenge Grant Awards


Remarks Delivered By:
John W Keys, III, Commissioner

Bend, Oregon

October 12, 2005

It's great to be here in the second season of our Water 2025 Challenge Grant program to recognize the five Oregon projects receiving awards.

The Challenge Grant program is the heart of Water 2025. It is a 50-50 cost-share program that enables Reclamation to partner with water and irrigation districts on projects that implement water conservation, efficiency, and water marketing.

Water plays a critical role in the West, and your interest in saving and conserving water is shared by Interior Secretary Gale Norton and the rest of our water management team.

This is an important investment that Reclamation is making. These are local projects with a national reach.

The aim of Water 2025 is to head off problems, and these districts have done a great job of doing that through their planned projects.

Here is what the specific projects will do.

East Fork Irrigation District
The district will complete the middle phase of its new Central Canal Pipeline by replacing a century-old, unlined irrigation ditch and creek conveyance system with a one-mile pipe. The project will provide pressurized water to 14 irrigators. Water savings are estimated at 1,750 acre-feet of water per year (an acre-foot is the amount that sustains a family of 4-6 for a year). Conserved water will also assist in the recovery of a threatened steelhead run. The total project will cost is $1.3 million, and the Water 2025 contribution is $300,000.

Grants Pass Irrigation District
The district will replace and extend a half-mile section of open lateral canal, bypassing a section of Jones Creek with culvert and pipe. The work will eliminate seepage and restore the creek, improving fish passage and habitat. The project will save about 2,000 acre-feet of water a year. The total project cost is $34,202, and the Water 2025 contribution is $16,538.

Three Sisters Irrigation District
The district is partnering with the Oregon Water Enhancement Board and the Deschutes Resource Conservancy to replace 2.5 miles of open irrigation delivery canals and ditches with pipe. The project will make additional water available to meet Endangered Species Act requirements. The project is estimated to save up to 800 acre-feet of water a year. The total project cost is just over $1 million, and the Water 2025 contribution is $300,000.

Vale Oregon Irrigation District
The district will convert over nearly eight miles of open irrigation canals to pipe to save water currently being lost to evaporation and seepage. They will also install flow meters. The project is estimated to save 5,000 acre-feet of water per year. The total project cost is $871,050including a Water 2025 contribution of $300,000. The District is already ahead of schedule. It installed the first 2.3 miles of pipe last winter. This was accomplished with joint funding from the District and the Oregon Water Resources Enhancement Board. The Water 2025 funding will enable them to complete the additional 6 miles of pipeline. Water savings for the 8.3 mile total project should save 5,760 acre feet a year, of which 1,440 acre feet is attributed to the first 2.3-mile portion.

Swalley Irrigation District
The district will partner with 16 other irrigation districts and two companies, using geographic information systems and remote sensing to determine system losses. Project partners are located in Oregon, Idaho, and northern California. When completed, the project is estimated to save up to 165,000 acre-feet of water per year. The total project cost is $365,218, and the Water 2025 contribution is $182,609.

The Challenge Grant Program
Last year, the first year of the Challenge Grant program, was a resounding success. We had $4 million in federal grants available. We awarded 19 grants to projects in 10 states. These projects will return almost $30 million in on-the-ground water delivery system improvements. That is a return greater than 7 times the investment.

This year, we had $10 million available for Challenge Grants, and $19.5 million for the Water 2025 program. In his 2006 budget request, President Bush proposed $20 million for Water 2025.

We received 117 Challenge Grant proposals this year, and we selected 43 projects. Ten of the selected projects are here in the Pacific Northwest region.

The competition was tough, because these were all good proposals. So, what made these projects winners?

They were selected because they offer the kind of innovations that Water 2025 aims at. These grants support local, collaborative projects that will create more efficient use of existing water supplies. And the projects can be completed within 24 months, so we will all see the benefits quickly.

These projects will show benefits quickly, and they will also continue to produce over the long haul. We've been in the grip of a record drought in the west for six years now, and addressing these conditions has been an important focus for us.

A Comprehensive Approach to Water Management
Believe me, the drought is significant, but droughts come and go in the West; regardless of drought, competition for water is going to increase. So we have to take the broad view.

One of our biggest fears is that, when droughts break, existing supplies will still not be enough to meet demand. This situation is already a reality in many Western river basins.

We believe that the most immediate, the most effective approach that we can take is to stretch the supplies that we already have. This goes for drought years and normal years alike. And we expect these projects to make an impact stretching water supplies.

The federal-local partnerships are a great way to leverage scarce dollars. Collaboration is here to staynone of us can go it alone. When we identify areas where scarce fiscal resources can make the greatest impact, we get the results that we need.

Water 2025 is an exciting program. It's a Secretarial initiative, and we all owe a lot to Secretary Norton's leadership - Water 2025 and other great accomplishments such as the Multi-Species Conservation Program in the lower Colorado River basin.

We continue to develop Water 2025 and have made a few changes this year.

We have added the Water 2025 Challenge Grant Program for Western States.

This new program builds on the existing Water 2025 Challenge Grant program by inviting states to partner with us on projects that will result in more efficient use of existing water supplies.

The program is focused on achieving the same outcomes identified in Water 2025stretching scarce water supplies through conservation, efficiency and water markets. A total of $1 million in Federal funding has been awarded this year.

We selected six states for grants: Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, and Texas.

Another part of Water 2025 is Interagency Drought Action teams, which Interior and the USDA have activated in response to drought conditions in Washington and Idaho. The Teams are working with the state governments. We recently issued a news release on the joint announcement by Secretaries Norton and Johanns, and Governors Kempthorne and Gregoire.

The Drought Action Team initiative stems from a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2003 as part of Water 2025 to make federal resources available quickly and easily to areas in need of assistance.

Taking these actions now will help us to target our drought-relief assistance to farmers and ranchers in the critical months ahead.

The West is the fastest-growing area of our nation. What were once primarily agricultural areas now are some of the largest metropolitan centers in the country, driving a robust, multi-faceted economyand growing competition for water.

Water 2025 gives us the tools to prevent neighbor being pitted against neighbor.

We made good progress toward this goal with last year's Challenge Grant program. This year, the program is bigger and better. I'm very proud of the foresight and initiative of the districts we recognize today, and all of us at Reclamation look forward with you to seeing the results of these projects.


For More Information:

Water 2025 Website

Event News Release