Statement of Robert Quint, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Operations
U.S. Department of the Interior
Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
U.S. House of Representatives
Tule River Tribe Water Development Act
September 25, 2007
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Robert Quint, Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to be here today to provide the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 2535, the Tule River Tribe Water Development Act. Due to ongoing settlement negotiations with Tule River Tribe as well as the need for a complete appraisal level study to precede a feasibility authorization, the Administration feels that it is premature to authorize this study and cannot support H.R. 2535 at this time.
This legislation would direct the Secretary of the Interior "to conduct a study on the feasibility and suitability of constructing a storage reservoir, outlet works, and a delivery system for the Tule River Indian Tribe of California to provide a water supply for domestic, municipal, industrial, and agricultural purposes, and for other purposes." The Act would authorize $3 million for Reclamation to conduct a feasibility study to be completed within 2 years after funds are appropriated or the signing of a reserved water rights settlement agreement by the Tule River Tribe and other settling water users, whichever is later. Without a completed appraisal level study, it is premature to authorize this study. The authorization of $3 million for this study would further compete with the funding needs of other already authorized projects. Additionally, the legislation does not specify a local cost share for the authorized study.
Settlement agreement negotiations have been taking place for several years between the Tribe, downstream water users, and the Federal negotiation team regarding the Tribe's federally reserved water rights. These negotiations are ongoing and not all issues have been resolved, including issues relating to Federal contribution. Until the Administration has completed its analysis of the proposed settlement under the Criteria and Procedures for the Participation of the Federal Government in Negotiations for the Settlement of Indian Water Rights Claims ("Criteria") (55 Fed. Reg. 9223 (1990)), which are the framework we use to evaluate settlements, it is premature to take a position upon the scope, schedule, and cost of the feasibility study that is proposed in this legislation. An appraisal level study is also a necessary part of the process; Reclamation generally requires completion of an appraisal level study before considering whether the project warrants continuing to a feasibility-level analysis. Reclamation understands that the Tribe has conducted a substantial amount of reconnaissance/appraisal-level technical, planning, and environmental work over the past decade; however, Reclamation has not reviewed these documents nor determined that they would fulfill the requirements for an appraisal study.
Typically, a feasibility study of this size and shape and National Environmental Policy Act compliance takes from 3 to 5 years to complete with significant costs. Actual costs for this study would be determined via a Plan of Study, which would be developed after study authorization and appropriations are provided. The time and cost to complete the feasibility study and environmental documentation for the Tule River Tribe Water Development Project could be shortened if the Tribe's technical and environmental analyses and documentation are sufficient and compatible with Federal requirements. The costs of a feasibility study are significant and may exceed the $3 million authorization in this bill.
Reclamation understands the importance of a reliable water supply and will continue to work with the Tribe toward this goal in addressing the issues described above.
That concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions.