Statement of John W. Keys, III, Commissioner
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
U.S. Senate
H.R. 1732
To Amend The Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (Title XVI of Public Law 102-575)

May 19, 2004

My name is John Keys III. I am the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 1732, concerning the Williamson County water reclamation project in the State of Texas.

H.R. 1732 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (Title XVI of Public Law 102-575), authorizing the Secretary of the Interior in cooperation with the Lower Colorado River Authority, to participate in the design, planning, and construction of a water reclamation project in Williamson County , Texas . H.R. 1732 limits the Federal share of project costs to 25 percent of the total project costs and restricts the Secretary from providing funding for the operation and maintenance. Additionally, existing law, section 1631 of Public Law 102-575, limits the Federal share of project costs to not exceed $20 million (October 1996 prices).

The Lower Colorado River Authority has developed conceptual plans for the project, and Reclamation has completed a cursory review of this proposal. Reclamation has not yet conducted an appraisal level study. This appraisal study would be needed to determine if the preliminary work initiated by the Lower Colorado River Authority meets Reclamation's requirements and to evaluate the potential for a feasibility study per criteria developed in accordance with Title XVI of P.L. 102-575. In that respect, until we have more information, we cannot comment on the merits of the project itself and therefore cannot support H.R. 1732.

The Department also believes enactment of this legislation authorizing new construction projects is likely to place an additional burden on Reclamation's already constrained budget. With the tremendous backlog of Title XVI projects that already exist (currently estimated at about $2.6 billion), we do not support the addition of new wastewater projects at this time.

For the record, Mr. Chairman, in 1992, the Reclamation Projects Authorization and Adjustment Act (Public Law 102-575) was enacted. Title XVI of this Act, the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act, authorized construction of five water reclamation and reuse projects. The Secretary was also authorized to undertake a program to identify other water recycling opportunities throughout the 17 western United States and to conduct appraisal level and feasibility level studies to determine if those opportunities are worthy of implementation. In addition, the Secretary was authorized to conduct research and to construct, operate, and maintain demonstration projects. Reclamation has been administering a grant program to fund these Title XVI activities since FY 1994.

In 1996, Public Law 104-266, the Reclamation Recycling and Water Conservation Act, was enacted. This Act amended Title XVI and authorized the Secretary to participate in the planning, design, and construction of 18 additional projects, including two desalination research and development projects. To date, Congress has provided funding to plan or construct 19 of 25 specifically authorized projects. Under the general authority of Title XVI, funding has been provided to identify and investigate, at the appraisal or feasibility level, eight potential water recycling projects, and to conduct three research and demonstration projects.

In summary, the Department strongly encourages local water recycling efforts and is engaged in numerous water reuse and recycling projects around the West. However, for the reasons provided above, the Department cannot, at this time, support authorizing this new request for Federally-assisted construction.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on H.R. 1732. This concludes my statement and I would be happy to answer any questions.