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Statement of Reclamation for the Record,
Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
U.S. House of Representatives
on
S. 997 the East Bench Irrigation District Water Contract Extension Act; and H.R. ___, the Accelerated Revenue and Repayment Act

June 06, 2012

The following is a Statement for the Record of the Department of the Interior pertaining to S. 997, the East Bench Irrigation District Water Contract Extension Act and draft legislation, the Accelerated Revenue and Repayment Act, to direct the Secretary of the Interior to allow for prepayment of repayment contracts between the United States and water users and for other purposes. The Department supports S. 997. With regard to the discussion draft of the Accelerated Revenue and Repayment Act, the Department expressed concern to the Subcommittee that in light of the short notice for this hearing on a bill that has yet to be introduced, the Department would be deprived of the opportunity to provide testimony containing a thorough analysis. As such, the Department does not have a position on this legislation at this time and regrets that this hearing could not be held at a later date.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) Clark Canyon Dam and Reservoir are located in southwest Montana and supply irrigation water under contract to the East Bench Irrigation District (EBID). EBID’s water service contract with Reclamation was first executed in October 1958 and expired on December 31, 2005. Pursuant to Section 1 of the Act of May 15, 1922 (42 Stat. 541), Section 46 of the Omnibus Adjustment Act of 1926 (44 Stat. 649), and Section 85-7-1957, Montana Code Annotated, execution of a new contract between the United States and any irrigation district requires a Montana 5th District Court decree.

In 2006, EBID filed a petition with the court seeking court confirmation of the execution of their new proposed renewed contract with Reclamation. A hearing was convened on December 14, 2006, in Dillon, MT. One party appeared and filed an objection to the confirmation proceedings. The parties involved in this court confirmation case have filed various petitions and motions with the court. The court issued an order on April 26, 2007, in response to EBID’s petition to dismiss the objection, dismissing some of the counterclaims filed by the objectors, but continuing with other counterclaims. No trial date has been set for this case and as a result, no court decree confirming the 2006 contract has been issued.

Additionally, prior year appropriations bills have extended the contracts for terms of up to two years. EBID remains concerned about losing their right to renew their 1958 contract if it is allowed to expire prior to securing court confirmation of the renewed 2006 Contract. For this reason they are pursuing extension of the 1958 contract.

Under current law, the 2006 contract is not binding on the United States until court confirmation is secured. A final decree from the court confirming the 2006 contract has not occurred. Therefore, EBID is seeking authority under S. 997 to extend the 1958 contract. S. 997 would extend the contract for four years (to December 31, 2013) or until a new contract is executed and still defer to the court to take up the issue again at a time of its choosing. The Department supports this legislation because it would allow water service to the EBID to continue and protects the right for contract renewal while the court confirmation process is given time to be completed.

Thank you for the opportunity to present this statement for the record in support of S. 997.