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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 3897
Madera Water Supply Enhancement Act

September 21, 2006

My name is William Rinne, and I am Acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. I am pleased to provide the Department of Interior's views on HR 3897, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Bureau of Reclamation, to prepare a feasibility study for the Madera Water Supply Enhancement Project, Madera County, California. The bill would also authorize construction of the Project and would allow the Secretary to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Madera Irrigation District for planning, design, and construction. The Department does not support this bill as currently written.

In Fiscal Year 2006, Congress appropriated $200,000 to conduct an appraisal investigation. The purpose of the appraisal investigation is to determine if the project is potentially feasible and if there is a potential Federal interest. The Appraisal Report is in draft form at this time. It is our hope to have it completed by the end of Calendar Year 2006. Since the appraisal level report is not yet completed sufficient information about this proposed project is not yet known. HR 3897 would authorize the Secretary to (1) study the feasibility of the Madera Water Supply Enhancement Project, that would provide additional water supply, reduce the overdraft of the groundwater aquifer, and improve water management reliability through the development of new groundwater storage, extraction, and conveyance facilities; (2) enter into a cooperative agreement with the Madera Irrigation District for planning, design, and construction; and (3) construct the project. Clearly there are many water supply issues in the San Joaquin Valley and in Madera County in particular. Many of these issues, related to the Central Valley Project, have a clear federal nexus. The federal nexus with this project is unclear and speculative.

HR 3897 directs the Secretary, not later than December 30, 2006, to complete and transmit to the Committee on Resources of the House of Representatives and to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate, a feasibility study. Although the bill does not establish a ceiling for the Federal share of the cost to complete the study, under current Reclamation policy the Federal share would not exceed 50 percent of the total study cost. Feasibility studies, which integrate National Environmental Policy Act compliance documentation, and are completed in conformance with the Principles and Guidelines for such studies, typically require a minimum of 3 years to complete, contingent upon appropriation of funds by Congress. Legislation authorizing a feasibility study should allow a minimum of 3 years for completing the feasibility study after the appraisal investigation is concluded, and should be separate from legislation to authorize project construction. Moreover, project authorizing legislation should not be considered until the results of the feasibility study are known.

It is premature to authorize a feasibility study before the appraisal study has been completed and reviewed. Moreover, this study would compete for funding with other currently authorized projects, including several authorized storage feasibility studies authorized under CALFED. I should also note that Reclamation did not seek funding for this project in the President's Fiscal Year 2007 budget.

HR 3897 would also authorize the construction of the Madera Water Supply Enhancement Project. However, the bill does not set a construction cost ceiling, but only limits the Federal share of the construction cost to not exceed 25 percent. We appreciate that the total cost of the project may not be known at this time. This underscores our belief that it is premature to authorize construction of the project and establish the Federal share of the cost prior to completion of the feasibility level cost estimates and the determination of the Federal interest.

The Administration appreciates local efforts to address future water issues. However, in light of the concerns expressed above, the Department cannot support this bill authorizing Reclamation participation in a feasibility study for, and construction of, the Madera Water Supply Enhancement Project. We would be happy to work with local sponsors when the time is right to make improvements to the bill, at which time the Administration will also consider whether pursuing further studies for this project is in the best federal interest. That concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions.