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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
HR 2563
To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct feasibility studies to address certain water shortages within the Snake, Boise, and Payette River systems in Idaho, and for other purposes.

September 21, 2006

I am William Rinne, Acting Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to be here today to provide the Administration's views on H.R. 2563, legislation to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct feasibility studies to address water shortages within the Snake, Boise, and Payette River systems in Idaho.

I previously provided testimony before the House Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Water and Power on November 3, 2005, regarding the Administration's views on H.R. 2563. At that time, I testified that the Administration could not support H.R. 2563 as introduced because it did not contain any time or funding limitations and it had no requirement for a 50 percent non-federal cost share, as is required by Reclamation policy. Since that time, Reclamation has worked with congressional staff to modify the legislation. I am pleased to testify that the Administration now supports H.R. 2563 as passed by the House and referred to this committee on July 11, 2006.

The State of Idaho continues to experience the effects of a prolonged drought as well as tremendous growth and urbanization in the Boise and Payette River basins. Projected population growth will eventually over-extend existing ground water supplies for these rapidly growing areas. In light of this and other water resource issues elsewhere in the state, the Idaho House of Representatives issued Joint Memorial No. 24 in 2004, which "recognizes the need for additional water to meet Idaho's emerging needs and encourages Federal and State agencies to cooperate with Idaho in identifying and developing such water supply projects."

Under existing authorities, Reclamation initiated an assessment level water supply study specifically in the Boise and Payette basins. Stakeholders with wide representation from the State, Federal, agricultural, environmental and municipal sectors participated in that study. The Final Boise/Payette Water Storage Assessment Report was completed in July 2006 and was distributed to local State, Federal, agricultural, environmental and municipal parties.

H.R. 2563 would go the next step by authorizing Reclamation to conduct feasibility studies within the Boise and Payette River basins. Reclamation supports focused, basin-by-basin water resource studies with input and local involvement from the State and the stakeholder communities. We recognize the need to address projected water supply shortages in the Boise and Payette River systems. We would welcome the opportunity to be an active partner in addressing these water supply issues with the State of Idaho and its water users. However, even though the technical difficulties with the legislation have been addressed, any studies conducted under this new authority would still need to compete with other needs within the Reclamation program for priority for funding in the President's Budget.

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