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FY 2004 Budget Briefing

Remarks Delivered By:
John W. Keys, III, Commissioner
Washington, D.C.
February 03, 2003

Audio of Speech

The need for water in the arid West has been, and continues to be, one of our nation's greatest challenges.

For more than a hundred years, the Bureau of Reclamation has risen to this challenge, building dams and creating reservoirs of stored water to produce the food needed by a hungry nation and to power a vibrant and growing Western economy. But today, increasing demands for water for farms, growing communities, and threatened and endangered species have created conflict in many areas of the West.

Water projects that once provided more than adequate supplies are now overwhelmed as drought, population growth, and environmental needs challenge the Western states and many traditional users with conflict and uncertainty.

It is clear that Reclamation's water management mission is more important now than ever before in our history.

Reclamation must look not only for solutions to today's problems; we must also focus on the issues of tomorrow.

As Commissioner, I am proud to support the President's 2004 budget proposal. The 2004 budget is based on a forward-looking, 25-year strategy of incentive-based partnerships, core-mission commitments, and innovative investments in the development and use of science and new technology. This year's request maximizes the economic, community, and environmental benefits of Reclamation's projects and programs while ensuring the reliable, efficient, and affordable delivery of water and power.

First and foremost, Reclamation's central mission of managing water resources for the multiple uses made by our contractors and customers is underscored throughout the 2004 budget, with increased emphasis on reliability and affordability.

The safety of the public and our employees will continue to be a major focus as we devote substantial resources to counter-terrorism and dam safety programs.

We are committed to improving maintenance on critical aging infrastructure.

And, we will continue to maintain the schedule of construction on the Animas-La Plata Project.

I am especially excited about the new, innovative approach in our budget: a Western Water Initiative for 2004 that addresses present and future challenges in meeting increased water demands while resolving and preventing water conflicts across the West.

The long term goal of this initiative is the development of a water resource management program that will respond to growing demands for water in the West while continuing to serve traditional users and adhere to state water laws.

The initiative will enable Reclamation to develop alternative ways to serve existing water uses while balancing increasing demands for water by farmers, cities, Tribes, and the environment. This initiative has four components. First, Reclamation will fund pilot projects that can prevent crisis-level water conflicts through the use of new technologies, advanced water management systems, and other water conserving improvements, such as modernizing canals.

Most water delivery systems currently use outdated, sometimes primitive, technology in dealing with 21st Century problems.

This initiative will enable Reclamation to strategically provide funding for infrastructure upgrades and high-tech water management equipment to high-priority areas of the West where potential conflicts over water exist and where funding for incentive-based solutions is limited.

Reclamation also will use and further the concept of state water banks wherever possible to help resolve future water supply conflicts.

Secondly, this initiative focuses Reclamation's scientific research and technology development on critical water issues.

Reclamation's desalination research and development program will be expanded to find a way to reduce the cost of water desalination and subsequent waste disposal.

The initiative also encourages Reclamation to partner with USGS and other science organizations in arriving at cost-effective, scientifically-based solutions to water resource issues.

Funding the peer-review of science-based decision making is an important component of this initiative – using the National Academy of Sciences, USGS, and other federal and state entities with science expertise to review and assess the use of science in managing water for endangered species and other environmental purposes.

The third part of this initiative will enable Reclamation to deal with conflict between existing users of water and environmental needs using Secretary Norton's 4-C's: conservation through collaboration, communication, and cooperation.

The results of our 25-year assessment of unmet future water needs in the West will be used to identify areas where the greatest potential for conflict exists between people and the environment.

Pilot projects will then be selected from these areas based on the potential for development of collaborative programs designed to resolve problems well in advance of a crisis.

The final piece of this initiative centers on strengthening the expertise within Reclamation for administering the Endangered Species Act in operating our projects.

The initiative will enhance understanding of the purpose, process and requirements of the Act as it relates to carrying out Reclamation's core mission.

The initiative will provide funding to expand ESA training throughout the agency - enabling us to better plan and, if necessary, properly refine operations consistent with the law while meeting our contractual obligations for delivering water and power.

The Western Water Initiative is part of an approach where existing water supplies could be stretched to meet unmet demands in the most cost effective and least threatening manner possible. This will result in increasing water delivery efficiencies in the operation of Reclamation's programs and projects, and enhancing Reclamation's performance in carrying out our core mission of delivering affordable and reliable water and power to our contractors and customers across the West.

In closing, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for attending today's budget briefing and for your continued support of the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Thank you.

For More Information:

Reclamation Budget Information