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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. 1737
City of Oxnard Water Recycling and Desalination 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's views on HR 1737, the City of Oxnard Water Recycling and Desalination Act of 2007. Due to the reasons outlined below, the Department cannot support this legislation.

HR 1737 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (43 U.S.C. 390h et seq.) to authorize the Secretary to participate in the design, planning, and construction of permanent facilities for the Groundwater Recovery Enhancement and Treatment (GREAT) project, which would reclaim impaired water in the area of Oxnard, located in Ventura County, California. It provides for Federal funding of 25 percent of the total project cost or $20 million, whichever is less.

The City of Oxnard, Port Hueneme Water Agency, United Water Conservation District, and Calleguas Municipal Water District have jointly developed the GREAT project, which consists of three parts: (1) a regional groundwater desalination facility; (2) a recycled water system to serve agricultural water users and to protect groundwater sources from seawater intrusion; and (3) a brine line that will convey desalination concentrates to an enhanced saltwater wetland. Project benefits include local drought protection and reduced dependence on imported water.

Mr. Chairman, the Department supports efforts to increase local water supplies, including brackish groundwater desalination and reclaimed water use, in southern California. However, HR 1737 would authorize the design and construction of the project before the feasibility study is completed. Reclamation prefers that feasibility studies be completed first to determine whether a particular project warrants Federal construction authorization.

With regard to this specific project, Reclamation currently is reviewing the feasibility study submitted by the City of Oxnard for this project. Therefore, the Department believes the legislation to be premature and cannot support HR 1737 at this time. This project would have to compete with other needs within the Reclamation program for funding priority in the President's budget. 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 1737. I would be happy to answer any questions at this time.