Statement of Kira L Finkler, Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs
U.S. Department of the Interior
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
South Orange County Recycled Water Enhancement Act
April 27, 2010
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Kira Finkler, Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). I am pleased to provide the views of the Department of the Interior (Department) on H.R. 637, the South Orange County Recycled Water Enhancement Act. For reasons I will discuss below, the Administration cannot support the bill.
H.R. 637 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (Public Law 102-575, 43 U.S.C. 390h et seq.), commonly called Title XVI, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the design, planning, and construction of permanent facilities needed to reclaim, reuse, and treat wastewater in the southern part of Orange County, California. The project is being implemented by the cities of San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente.
Reclamation has very little information regarding these two water recycling projects. Neither city has been in contact with Reclamation recently regarding these projects, and Reclamation does not have any information regarding the current project descriptions.
In 2006, during the CalFed/Title XVI review that was completed pursuant to P.L. 108-361, the City of San Juan Capistrano submitted project study materials for review. Reclamation's review determined that the report did not meet 6 of the 9 criteria that were required for a complete feasibility report. The City has not provided any additional information since that time. The City of San Clemente has not submitted any study materials or other information for review.
H.R. 637 would authorize the projects under Title XVI for Federal funding not to exceed 25 percent or $18.5 million for the San Juan Capistrano project or $5 million for the San Clemente project, whichever is less.
While the Department supports efforts to increase local water supplies and increase recycled water use, this project would compete for funds with other needs within the Reclamation program, including other Title XVI projects currently under construction. In general, the Department supports the Title XVI Reclamation and Reuse program. The 2011 budget proposal includes funding for the Department's WaterSMART Program, and Title XVI is an important element of that program. Specifically, the 2011 budget proposal includes $29 million for the Title XVI program, a 113% increase over the 2010 enacted level.
As part of this total, the Department is requesting $20 million for Title XVI projects to be selected using criteria to identify activities most closely aligned with Title XVI statutory and program goals. On March 15, 2010, Reclamation posted an announcement inviting comment on draft funding criteria for Title XVI projects. After these criteria are finalized with comments received up through April 16, Reclamation will review and rank Title XVI project proposals received based on those criteria subject to appropriations in fiscal year 2011.
Water conservation is a laudable goal and is becoming increasingly important in the arid West. As such, it is critical that the competitive Title XVI grants be directed at those projects that will do the most to reduce present or anticipated water conflicts. Also, when looking at proposed Title XVI projects, the full range of benefits and costs should be assessed. The Administration supports those conservation projects that achieve water savings while not being overly energy intensive or creating adverse environmental or health effects.
Separately, in July of 2009, the Department announced the allocation of approximately $135 million in grants for specific authorized Title XVI projects using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA. We recognize that water reuse is an essential tool in stretching the limited water supplies in the West, and I believe the FY 2011 Budget request on top of the ARRA funding has demonstrated the emphasis placed by this Administration on this Program. However, given that there are 53 already authorized Title XVI projects and numerous competing mission priorities and demands on Reclamation's budget, the Department cannot support the authorization of new Title XVI projects or extensions of existing authorized cost ceilings at this time.
Reclamation will, however, continue to work with project proponents to evaluate the completeness of feasibility studies of their projects.
Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my testimony. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on H.R. 637. I would be pleased to answer any questions at this time.