Statement of William Rinne, Deputy Commissioner
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
U.S. Senate
S. 166
Deschutes River Conservancy Reauthorization

April 19, 2005

Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am William Rinne, Deputy Commissioner of Reclamation. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on S 166.

This legislation would amend the Oregon Resource Conservation Act of 1996 to reauthorize the participation of the Bureau of Reclamation in the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC). The Bureau does not oppose S. 166. However, in these lean budget times the Bureau must focus its scarce resources on its core mission of delivering water and generating power, and on aging infrastructure and O&M for existing Reclamation projects, therefore is not likely that the Conservancy will be a high priority for funding. Regardless of the level of federal financial support, we believe the Conservancy’s goals of improving stream flow and water quality will certainly benefit the basin.

The DRC was originally authorized by Congress in 1996 to implement water conservation measures in the Deschutes River basin. The DRC is a locally created private, nonprofit organization established to restore stream flow and water quality in the Deschutes Basin of Central Oregon. The DRC was founded by local irrigation districts, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, environmental conservation groups, and other local stakeholders, in an effort to focus on practical, incentive-based solutions to the basin’s water management challenges. The DRC leased over 73 cubic feet per second of water in the basin’s streams and rivers during the 2004 irrigation season and has restored nearly 100 miles of stream corridor using livestock management techniques, restored channel floodplain connectivity, and planted over 100,000 native plants in the riparian zone.

The DRC has permanently acquired about 7,259 acre-feet of senior water rights in the Deschutes basin that will remain instream during critical low flow periods, benefiting fish species such as ESA listed bull trout and summer steelhead.

The Administration does not understand the rationale for the provision that would define a quorum as only 8 people, less than half of the 19 people appointed to the Conservancy.

This concludes my statement. I will be glad to answer any questions.