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Statement of William E. Rinne, Deputy 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. 1025
Tto Authorize the Equus Beds Division of the Wichita Project

October 06, 2005

Madam Chairman, I am William E. Rinne, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to present the Administration's views on S. 1025, Senator Roberts's bill to authorize the Equus Beds Division of the Wichita Project. Although the project has merit, budgetary constraints prevent the Administration from supporting the bill at this time.

For water management purposes, S. 1025 would authorize this project as a division of the existing Wichita Project. The Equus Beds Division would recharge the groundwater in the Equus Beds Aquifer and would provide significant new underground water storage capacity for municipal and industrial water customers in the city of Wichita, Kansas without inundating large surface areas. This project would enhance the storage and supply capability of the Wichita Project, an above-ground reservoir built and owned by the Bureau of Reclamation.

As a supplement to the existing Reclamation project, the Equus Beds Division is consistent with Reclamation's current mission. The fact that S. 1025 caps the ultimate Federal cost at 25 percent, or $30 million whichever is less, limits uncertainty as to the ultimate federal share of the costs.

Having partnered with the City of Wichita on an earlier groundwater recharge demonstration, Reclamation is familiar with the current proposal to recharge the groundwater in the Equus Beds Aquifer. Recharging the Equus Beds Aquifer has the potential to efficiently expand the effective amount of stored water that is ultimately available, because it significantly reduces losses due to surface evaporation.

S. 1025 would require the city to pay 75 percent of the cost of development and 100 percent of operations and maintenance costs. The Federal government would not hold title to the facilities.

Water rights for this project have been resolved. In 1998, the State issued the City of Wichita a conjunctive use water rights permit that replaced and combined two previous city permits, one for the Wichita Project, the other for the Equus Beds Groundwater Aquifer. By combining the permits for these two resources into a single, integrated operation, the city can more effectively and economically deliver water to municipal and industrial customers.

Madam Chairman, throughout the city's planning process, including extensive public involvement with input from State and Federal agencies, no significant opposition to Equus Beds surfaced. However, given Reclamation's already tight budget, we are not in a position to support the addition of this project to the list of unfunded projects already authorized and awaiting Federal funding.

Madam Chairman, this concludes my testimony and I am pleased to answer any questions the Committee may have.