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Statement of Kris Polly, Deputy Commissioner
Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
U.S. Senate
on
H.R. 1725
Rancho California Water District Recycled Water Reclamation Facility Act of 2007

April 08, 2008

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Kris Polly, Deputy Commissioner at the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to be here today to give the Department of the Interior's views on HR 1725, the Rancho California Water District Recycled Water Treatment and Reclamation Facility Act. Although the project has been deemed technically feasible, the Department does not support HR 1725.

HR 1725 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (43 U.S.C. 390h et seq.), to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the design, planning, and construction of the Rancho California Water District's facilities for water recycling, demineralization, desalination, and distribution of non-potable water supplies in Riverside County, California.

The Rancho California Water District is located in southwestern Riverside County, which has been experiencing explosive growth. The District is heavily dependent on imported water provided by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. In order to lessen this dependence the District has developed a Regional Integrated Resources Plan that includes three components. Together, the component projects will expand local water resources by increasing conjunctive use by about 13,000 acre-feet per year, expanding the use of recycled water by about 16,000 acre-feet per year, and substituting untreated water for the treated water that is currently being used for agricultural irrigation. Implementation of the Regional Integrated Resources Plan would require the construction of pipelines, pumping plants, an advanced water treatment facility, and brine disposal facilities. The total estimated cost is about $350 million.

Reclamation, in collaboration with the District, recently completed work on a feasibility study and, on November 15, 2007, deemed this project feasible. In Fiscal Year 2008, Congress appropriated $123,000 for this project. Using these funds, Reclamation is working with the Rancho California Water District to complete compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for this project.

H.R. 1725 authorizes the appropriation of up to $20 million or a maximum of 25 percent of total project costs, whichever is less. The Department supports efforts to increase local water supplies and increase recycled water use in southern California. However, this project would have to compete with other needs within the Reclamation program for funding priority in the President's Budget. While we are committed to working with the District to address its water supply needs, the Department continues to believe it is not prudent to authorize new Title XVI projects in light of the Federal cost share already authorized for Title XVI projects now being actively pursued.

Of the 35 Title XVI projects specifically authorized and 2 demonstration projects undertaken through the general authority, 21 projects are actively being pursued and 4 are complete. The Federal cost share for the active projects, after FY 2008, is nearly $400 million. The Federal cost share for the 12 projects currently not being pursued is estimated at $220 million.

While Reclamation is not supporting new project authorizations at this time, we understand that the projects established by Title XVI are important to many water users in the West. To that end, Reclamation has revised and improved its Directives and Standards that govern reviews of Title XVI projects. By doing so, we believe that Reclamation can play a more constructive role with local sponsors in weighing the merits and ultimate feasibility of proposed water recycling projects.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HR 1725. I would be happy to answer any questions at this time.