Statement of Michael L. Connor, Commissioner
U.S. Department of the Interior
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
Land Withdrawal and Reservation for C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir
July 23, 2009
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Mike Connor, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the Department of the Interior (Department) to discuss S. 1080, the Land Withdrawal and Reservation for C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir. The legislation seeks to clarify Federal jurisdiction with respect to the C.C. Cragin project, which includes a dam, reservoir, and 11.5-mile utility corridor containing a transmission line and high-pressure pipeline. The project is located nearly entirely within the Coconino National Forest in north-central Arizona.
The Administration appreciates the interest of the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District (SRP) to reach prompt resolution of the management responsibilities of the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, and understands SRP's interest in promoting this legislation. However, the Administration would like to pursue an administrative resolution among the parties. The two federal agencies (Reclamation and the Forest Service) have recently reengaged on this issue and would like an opportunity to explore further discussions with SRP to that end. As this effort proceeds, we would commit to keep the Committee updated on the progress of those discussions.
Reclamation and the Forest Service hope to be able to negotiate and enter into an agreement with SRP for operation and maintenance of the Cragin project in a manner that will fulfill the roles, obligations, and responsibilities of all three parties. This approach would accommodate Reclamation and SRP by ceding full control of the lands underlying the dam and reservoir to Reclamation and by expressly acknowledging SRP's right to operate and maintain the dam, reservoir, and utility corridor pursuant to the Arizona Water Settlement Act (AWSA, Public Law 108-451) and the 1917 agreement between the Department of the Interior and SRP. In addition, this approach would accommodate the Forest Service by allowing the agency to manage the lands underlying the utility corridor for recreation, wildfire, law enforcement, and other activities consistent with the Forest Service's authorities and responsibilities, the AWSA, the 1917 agreement, and the existing right-of-way over the corridor held by another party. In particular, this approach would allow for integrated management of tens of thousands of acres of ecosystems across National Forest System lands underlying and adjacent to the Cragin project, including watershed, wildlife habitat, range, and vegetation management.
The Administration recognizes that S. 1080 is intended to hasten the development of a workable management agreement. The Administration believes, however, that a sound approach for future management of the project could be arrived upon through further negotiations. Both Departments are committed to working expeditiously with SRP to ensure needed work for the project, including both emergency and non-emergency repairs and replacement of improvements.
Reclamation's long-standing experience working with SRP over nearly a century has been very productive. SRP has proven to be a responsible and reliable operator and caretaker of U.S. interests and resources. Reclamation and SRP have nearly a century of responsible stewardship in regard to both the technical operation of project works and protection of the ancillary natural resources. It is our hope that combining that history with the Forest Service's land management authorities and expertise would result in even more effective stewardship.
That concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions.