Welcome to the River Restoration Conference

Remarks Delivered By:
Michael L. Connor, Commissioner

River Restoration: Exploring Institutional Challenges and Opportunities at the University of New Mexico
Albuqueque, New Mexico

September 14, 2011

Video Welcome by Commissioner Connor

Hi, my name is Mike Connor. I'm the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I want to welcome everybody to our River Restoration Conference. I want to express my appreciation to the University of New Mexico, School of Law, and the Utton Center, our partners in this effort.

I also want to take just a quick minute to publicly thank those members of the planning committee who have worked on putting together this conference for well over a year now and before I forget anybody's name I will read off those folks, Becky Fulkerson, Kate Goggin, Curt Brown, Mark McKinstry, Rod Wittler and Michael Newsom from the Bureau of Reclamation. Thank you to our folks for helping put this together. We also have John Bezdek from the Solicitors Office and of course Susan Kelly and Denise Fort with UNM who've done so much work in helping us pull this together, so thank you all for your efforts.

Fundamentally, this conference is very important to the Bureau of Reclamation. As a threshold matter, river restoration is essential to our core mission. If we are going to continue to deliver water and generate power in the way we have done historically, we simply need to address the environmental effects of our projects, the aquatic ecosystems and riparian ecosystems that are affected by our projects and that in it of itself will provide long term certainty for our customers if we can effectively deal with those environmental issues. It will help reduce environmental conflicts, litigation, and basically the unproductive use of resources if we can really focus on our river restoration mission.

As a second benefit to the Bureau of Reclamation, we also have a lot of tribal concerns associated with the operation of our project and serving tribal needs is an important part of what we do at the Bureau of Reclamation in restoring some of the fisheries that have been affected by other projects or independent of our projects just using our expertise to help build back those fisheries is important to many tribal communities.

A third benefit is simply the economic benefits associated with river restoration. Interior put out a 2009 economic report highlighting that for every million dollars we invest in ecosystem restoration we yield about 30 jobs, most of those in the private sector so I think that is another valuable part of our river restoration programs.

And finally, I would just note that the President back in April 2010, President Obama, announced our Americas Great Outdoors Initiative. Secretary Salazar has been a leader in that effort. River restoration is one of those primary areas of focus in the Americas Great Outdoors area and Bureau of Reclamation's role in the river restoration piece is fairly significant and one that we talked a lot about at Interior and so, those are all the benefits that I see coming from this river restoration program that we have at Reclamation and I think this conference and what we can get out of it is going to be very important to that effort.

Overall, I think this conference can help us have, to facilitate the peer-to-peer educational aspect of what we do in river restoration. I heard a lot about that during our Americas Great Outdoor's listening sessions, how we were doing river restoration in a lot of areas.

We need to pull together the expertise and the best practices that folks are doing in different parts of the country. We can all learn from that and enhance our ability to successfully implement river restoration-type projects.

And finally, it highlights the partnerships that we have.

I think we're going to be talking about something like 16 river restorations programs during the course of this conference. We've got over 200 partnerships involved in those river restoration activities, so this conference helps bring people together and once again, to help educate each other, highlight the benefits of what we are doing, and be more successful as we move forward in the future and hopefully get more partners in this initiative.

And so lastly, I guess I'd like to conclude on the point that given the importance of river restoration overall to the Bureau of Reclamation and some of the programs we have on-going, it is certainly my goal that over the next decade, the Bureau of Reclamation becomes as well known for its expertise in river restoration as it is for building dams, maintaining dams, and building and taking care of other water supply infrastructure.

We have the talent. We're going to gain the experience, have been over the last few years and will continue to do that given the number of programs we have. And certainly working with all of you who are involved in that river restoration set of programs and initiatives is an important part of building our expertise and we can learn from each other. So once again, thank you for participating in the conference and I look forward to hearing the results. And enjoy beautiful New Mexico while you're there. I wish I was there, too.

Thank you