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Statement of John W. Keys, III, 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
S. 648
Extends Title I of the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991 until the year 2010

July 12, 2005

Madam Chairman, I am John W. Keys, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). I am pleased to appear for the Department in support of S. 648 which extends Title I of the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991 until the year 2010.

Title I provides authority for construction, management, and conservation measures to alleviate the adverse impacts of drought, including mitigation of fish and wildlife impacts. However, wells are the only permanent construction authorized under the Act. All other Title I work must be of a temporary nature. No new Reclamation projects are authorized under Title I; Reclamation does not own, operate, or maintain projects funded under it. S.648 would simply extend the expiration date. The $90 million ceiling in the law, initially authorized in 1991, is adequate for the foreseeable future.

Title I also provides Reclamation with the flexibility to meet contractual water deliveries by allowing acquisition of water to meet requirements under the Endangered Species Act, benefiting contractors at a time when they are financially challenged. Additionally, Title I authorizes Reclamation to participate in water banks established under state law; facilitate water acquisitions between willing buyers and willing sellers; acquire conserved water for use under temporary contracts; make facilities available for storage and conveyance of project and nonproject water; make project and nonproject water available for nonproject uses; and, acquire water for fish and wildlife purposes on a nonreimbursable basis.

Title I often helps smaller, financially-strapped entities (towns, counties, tribes) that do not have the financial capability to deal with the impacts of drought. In many cases, Reclamation is the "last resort" for these communities.

The Bureau of Reclamation has a long history of effective and responsive water management in good times and bad. While we consider ideas to make drought relief even more effective through improved interagency cooperation and other changes, we recognize that the reauthorization of Title I is necessary. S. 648 allows Reclamation the flexibility to continue delivering water to meet authorized project purposes, meet environmental requirements, respect state water rights, work with all stakeholders, and to provide leadership, innovation, and assistance. This is why Reclamation supports S. 648.

This concludes my statement. I am pleased to answer any questions.