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Statement of William E. Rinne, Acting 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 2129
American Falls Reservoir District Number 2 Conveyance Act

June 28, 2006

Madam Chairwoman and members of the Subcommittee, I am Bill Rinne, Acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to provide the Department of the Interior's views on S. 2129, legislation to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to convey certain facilities, buildings and lands of the Gooding Division of the Minidoka Project in Idaho to the American Falls Reservoir District #2. We support this legislation and thank the committee for considering it today.

The transfer proposed in S. 2129 is the culmination of a collaborative and cooperative process and should be a model for other districts and groups interested in title transfer. What we experienced in this case, and what has made other title transfers successful, is that Reclamation and the non-Federal entities interested in title transfer followed a simple plan  identifying obstacles and dealing with them at the local or regional level before drafting legislation.

S. 2129 would authorize the title transfer of federally owned facilities, buildings, and lands to the American Falls Reservoir District #2. The primary feature of the proposed title transfer is the Milner-Gooding Canal. Reclamation and the American Falls Reservoir District #2 have worked collaboratively and efficiently to successfully address all the elements of Reclamation's title transfer policy framework.

One of the Administration's goals in title transfer is to protect the financial interest of the United States, that is, to make sure that the United States is in the same or better financial position following title transfer. In this case, the full costs of all facilities, buildings, and acquired lands to be transferred, including the Milner-Gooding Canal, have already been repaid pursuant to the District's amendatory repayment contract. The District has also identified some withdrawn lands for which they would like to gain title and have agreed to pay the fair market appraised value for these lands. There are no ongoing revenue streams associated with the facilities, buildings, and lands. Because the District has fulfilled its repayment obligation under its contract, payment is required only for the additional withdrawn lands that the District has proposed for title transfer.

On October 3, 2005, Reclamation and the District entered into a title transfer agreement for the federally owned facilities (Contract No. 5-07-10-L1688) that spells out the terms and conditions for this title transfer and that is the basis for the transfer of the facilities in the legislation. Subsequently, Reclamation worked with the District and the bill sponsors regarding how to structure the legislation to authorize the implementation of the title transfer agreement.

We believe that this title transfer will give the District more local control of facilities that were constructed for its use. The bill will also eliminate the need for duplicative and unnecessary administrative obligations that exist for the District because title to the facilities, buildings, and lands is held by the United States. For example, the District currently has to seek approval from Reclamation for certain canal maintenance, utility work, and building improvement.

For Reclamation, the title transfer will eliminate the periodic facility reviews and processing of paperwork that currently consumes significant staff time. In addition, with the proposed transfer of the Milner-Gooding Canal and other Gooding Division facilities to the District, Reclamation can improve public management of remaining dispersed properties by transferring specific parcels to other governmental agencies. Accordingly, the legislation directs Reclamation to transfer title for specific smaller parcels to the National Park Service, the State of Idaho, and the City of Gooding, since those entities currently manage the relevant lands. Regarding the transfer of 39.72 acres of land to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, we note that existing law codified at 16 U.S.C. 667b authorizes the General Services Administration to transfer land to States for conservation purposes. This authority has been used to transfer other Federal lands to State ownership.

The title transfer also involves Reclamation relinquishing title for withdrawn lands to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These associated transfers will place those properties more directly under the administrative control of the appropriate governmental entities and will allow Reclamation to better focus on its core mission of delivering water and power. Further, Reclamation has worked closely with the National Park Service, the State of Idaho, the City of Gooding, and the BLM to craft the language that appears in the transfer agreement. We look forward to continuing those close and cooperative relationships once this legislation has been adopted to implement the agreement in a timely manner.

In summary, we support passage of S. 2129. It is a good bill, a good title transfer, and reflects a cooperative and cost effective process that will provide a benefit to the District and to Reclamation.

That concludes my testimony; I would be pleased to answer any questions.