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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
S 3638
The Water Recycling and Riverside-Corona Feeder Act of 2006

July 27, 2006

Madam Chairwoman and members of the Subcommittee, I am Larry Todd, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am here today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S 3638, a bill to authorize water supply, reclamation reuse and recycling and desalination projects in Southern California. S 3638 would amend Title XVI, the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act (P.L. 102-575) to include design, planning, and construction authority for several regional projects. For reasons described below, the Department does not support S 3638.

S 3638 as written would "encourage" the Secretary of the Interior to participate in projects to plan, design, and construct water supply projects, and amend Title XVI to authorize the design, planning, and construction of projects to treat impaired surface water, reclaim and reuse impaired groundwater, and provide brine disposal in the State of California.

Title I of the bill would authorize the Inland Empire recycling project with a Federal cost share not to exceed 25 percent, and a funding authorization of $20 million. Title I of the bill would also authorize the Cucamonga County Water District Pilot Satellite Recycling Plant with a Federal cost share not to exceed 25 percent, and a funding authorization of $10 million. With regard to the Inland Empire Regional Water Recycling Initiative, Reclamation reviewed the project as part of the CALFED/TitleXVI review and found the project while close to meeting the requirements still lacked 3 of the 9 requirements needed to determine feasibility. Absent these items, Reclamation could not determine the feasibility of the project. This does not mean the project is not feasible, but rather that until the three remaining items are completed, Reclamation cannot provide a feasibility determination. It is expected that upon completion of the work covered by a cooperative agreement between Inland Empire Utilities Agency and Reclamation, funded in the FY 2006 appropriation, the missing items will be addressed and Reclamation can make a final determination on the project's feasibility. Until the feasibility study is completed, the Department cannot support authorization of this project.

With regard to the Cucamonga Valley Water Recycling Project, Reclamation also reviewed this project as part of the CALFED/TitleXVI review and found that the data provided did not meet 5 of the 9 requirements used to determine feasibility. Absent these items, Reclamation could not determine the feasibility of the project. This does not mean the project is not feasible, but rather that until the five remaining items are completed, Reclamation cannot provide a feasibility determination.

Title II, Section 202 of the bill would authorize the City of Corona Water Utility, California Water Recycling and Reuse Project. Reclamation also reviewed this project as part of the CALFED/TitleXVI review and found that the data provided did not meet 8 of the 9 requirements used to determine feasibility. Based on the technical information provided, Reclamation could not determine the feasibility of the project. This does not mean the project is not feasible, but rather that until the remaining items are completed, Reclamation cannot provide a feasibility determination.

Title II, Section 202 of the bill would also authorize the Yucaipa Valley Regional Water Supply Renewal Project. Reclamation has not been in consultation with the local district nor received any copies of a feasibility study to support the authorization of this project. Without a proper analysis to make sure this project meets appropriate federal guidelines for consideration for construction authorization, we cannot support Reclamation's participation in the planning, design and construction activities.

With regards to all of the Title XVI projects proposed in S. 3638, as the Department has consistently stated in prior testimony, it does not believe it is prudent to authorize new Title XVI projects while a major backlog of projects already exists. The Department also believes enactment of this legislation authorizing new Title XVI construction projects is likely to place an additional burden on Reclamation's already tight budget, and could potentially delay the completion of other currently authorized projects. With the tremendous backlog of existing Title XVI projects, we cannot support the addition of new projects at this time. 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.

Title II would also authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate with the Western Municipal Water District in the design and construction of a water supply project known as the Riverside-Corona Feeder. This is not a project that fits within the Title XVI program. This Title provides a new authorization for Federal funding for this project of 35 percent of the total project cost or $50 million, whichever is greater.

This project would withdraw water from San Bernardino Valley groundwater aquifers that are replenished during wet years from local runoff, regulated releases from Seven Oaks Reservoir, and water from the State Water Project. It would consist of a number of wells and connecting pipelines, which would deliver up to 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to communities in western Riverside County. Project benefits include local drought protection, better groundwater management, and reduced dependence on imported water.

The economic and efficient use of water is a priority for the Department of Interior. The Department strongly encourages local water supply, recycling and desalination efforts. Partnering with state and local governments is in accord with the Secretary's Water 2025 framework for anticipating water supply crises and preventing them through communication, consultation and cooperation, in service of conservation.

Madam Chairwoman, the Department supports the type of resourceful utilization of local water supplies this bill calls for and the potential for reducing the use of imported supplies from the Colorado River and Bay-Delta. However, we cannot support S. 3638 concerning the Riverside-Corona Feeder. First, the language establishing the federal share of the project costs needs to be clarified to clearly set a maximum federal cost share. Second, we understand that feasibility level studies have not yet been completed for this project. Without a proper analysis that adheres to the "Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies," and which otherwise meets appropriate federal guidelines for consideration of project authorization, we cannot support Reclamation's participation in design and construction activities.

Reclamation is currently in consultation with the Western Municipal Water District on the project and providing them guidance on their feasibility analysis and the appropriate level of NEPA compliance that will be needed. Nevertheless, we remain concerned that this is neither a Title XVI project nor is it a project with any nexus to an existing Reclamation project.

Thank you for the opportunity to convey our concerns on this legislation, and I am happy to take any questions.