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Statement of Larry Todd, 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
HR 177
Santa Ana River Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2005

July 27, 2006

Madam Chairwoman and members of the Subcommittee, I am Larry Todd, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to be here today to give the Department's views on H.R. 177, the Santa Ana River Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2005. The Department does not support this bill.

In 1992, Congress adopted, and the President signed, the Reclamation Projects Authorization and Adjustment Act (Public Law 102-575). Title XVI of this Act, the Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act, authorized the Secretary to participate in the planning, design and 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 states, and to conduct appraisal level and feasibility level studies to determine if those opportunities are worthy of implementation. The Bureau of Reclamation has been administering a grant program to fund these Title XVI projects since 1994.

In 1996, Public Law 104-266, the Reclamation Recycling and Water Conservation Act, was enacted. This law 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. Since 1996, Title XVI has been amended several times, and now there are 32 projects authorized for construction in nine states.

The Department recently testified to this Committee regarding the need for reforms to the Title XVI program. As noted in our testimony, the Department continues to believe that fundamental reform is needed to ensure that the program produces results for the current needs of the West.

With respect to HR 177, this bill would amend Title XVI, the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the Prado Basin Natural Treatment System Project, to authorize the Secretary to carry out a program to assist agencies in projects to construct regional brine lines in California, to authorize the Secretary to participate in the Lower Chino Dairy Area desalination demonstration and reclamation project, and for other purposes.

Section 2 of the bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the Orange County Water District, to participate in the planning, design, and construction of the natural treatment systems and wetlands for the flows of the Santa Ana River, California, and its tributaries into the Prado Basin. Section 2 of the bill authorizes an appropriation of $20,000 to carry out this function.

Section 3 of the bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, under Federal reclamation law and in cooperation with units of local government, to assist agencies in projects to construct regional brine lines to export the salinity imported from the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean.

Section 4 of the bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the Chino Basin Watermaster, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, acting under Federal Reclamation laws, to participate in the design, planning, and construction of the Lower Chino Dairy Area desalination demonstration and reclamation project.

With regards to sections 2, 3 and 4, as the Department has consistently stated in previous testimony, it does not believe it is prudent to authorize new Title XVI projects while there is a major backlog of projects that already exist. We note that of the 32 specific projects authorized under Title XVI to date, 21 have received funding. Three of the projects have been funded to the full extent of their authorization. Two more should be fully funded in 2006. The Department also believes enactment of this legislation authorizing new construction projects is likely to place an additional burden on Reclamation's already tight budget. In addition to the proposed three projects, the Department is also concerned that under section 4, the legislation proposes a cost sharing of 25 per cent not to exceed $50.0 million. The Department does not believe there is justification to support assigning a cap higher than the current $20.0 million for this project, and strongly opposes this provision.

Section 5 of the bill amends Section 1631(d) of Title XVI by adding a new paragraph (3) that would amend section 1624 by increasing the Federal share of the costs of the project authorized by Section 1624, Phase 1 of the Orange County Regional Water Reclamation Project.

Section 5 proposes deviation from the existing Title XVI Section 1631(d)(1) statute capping the federal cost share at $20.0 million. If enacted, the new section would increase the federal cost share to approximately $52.0 million. The Department does not believe there is justification to support raising the cap for this project. Increasing the funding for this project would reduce the ability of the Federal government to provide funds for other Title XVI projects.

Section 6 of the bill authorizes a Center for Technological Advancement of Membrane Technology and Education to be established at the Orange County Water District located in Orange County, California. Section 6 of the bill authorizes an appropriation of $2 million for each of fiscal years 2006 through 2011 for this purpose.

Reclamation currently supports several research efforts that are assisting in the development and advancement of membrane technologies. These efforts include; the Water Quality Improvement Center, located in Yuma, Arizona, the Tularosa National Center for Groundwater Desalination located in Tularosa, New Mexico, and as directed by Congress, funding assistance is provided to the Water Reuse Foundation to award research grants to support advanced water treatment research and technology transfer. Reclamation also provides research funding for the development and advancement of membrane technologies through our Desalination Water Purification Research and Development Program.

The Bureau of Reclamation and other Federal agencies are currently working to determine the appropriate role, involvement and level of federal funding for additional advanced water treatment systems research. Madam Chairwoman, the Department is not familiar with the specific research that would be supported by this Center and the specific activities to which the funding would be applied. The Department is therefore not able to determine at this time if the Center as proposed will add value to those activities already being supported through Federal funds.

Madam Chairwoman, this concludes my testimony. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HR 177. I would be happy to answer any questions at this time.