Statement of William E. Rinne, Acting Commissioner
U.S. Department of the Interior
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
Arthur V. Watkins Dam Enlargement Act of 2005
September 21, 2006
Madam Chairwoman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 1811, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility of enlarging the Arthur V. Watkins Dam. I am William Rinne, Acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. The Department regrets that it is not possible to support S. 1811 in its current form because it contains neither non-federal cost sharing for the study nor an overall Federal cost ceiling.
Arthur V. Watkins Dam, built in 1964, is located 12 miles northwest of Ogden, Utah, on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. It is an off-stream structure which extends into the Great Salt Lake and is constructed on lake deposits. The embankment is 14.5 miles long, has a structural height of 36 feet, and contains about 17 million cubic yards of material. It encloses a reservoir of 215,000 acre-feet, with a surface area of more than 9,900 acres.
Arthur V. Watkins Dam forms Willard Bay Reservoir. The dam is a Reclamation feature of the Weber Basin Project and was authorized by Congress in the Weber Basin Project Act of August 29, 1949 (PL 81-273). The Weber Basin Project was constructed in the 1950's.
The original design anticipated settling of the foundation of the embankment during the life of the dam. In the early 1990's, the embankment was raised, re-establishing the original elevation of the embankment. The project was completed by the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District (WBWCD) under a Rehabilitation and Betterment loan.
The proposed feasibility study would analyze viable alternatives for water storage and consider environmental issues, foundation stability, and public safety. In addition, the feasibility study would evaluate potential future foundation settling. Due to the limited focus of the 1 to 2 foot dam raise, the estimated cost of this study is $2 million.
Growth in the project area has been significant during the last decade. The State population projections for the future show continued growth. With the extensive growth, water development projects and supplies are being investigated for the northern part of the Wasatch Front. The WBWCD has asked Reclamation to provide additional storage in Willard Bay for approximately 10,000 acre-feet of annual yield available under existing Weber Basin Project water rights.
The additional storage of water would be used for municipal and industrial, flood control, fish and wildlife enhancement, and recreation purposes along the Wasatch Front in northern Utah. The added capacity could postpone the need for the State of Utah to begin development of the water resources of the Bear River in northern Utah. The additional storage of water would be consistent with the purposes identified in the original authorizing legislation (PL 81-273) and current contracts. If the legislation were amended to include a reasonable Federal cost ceiling and a minimum of fifty percent non-federal cost-sharing in the financing of the feasibility study, in line with Reclamation policy and practice applied in virtually every similar situation, we would not oppose enactment of S. 1811. Of course, we will be happy to work with the bill's sponsors, Senator Hatch and Senator Bennett, and this Committee to make this improvement. However, any potential authorization to raise the dam would have to compete with the many other Reclamation projects vying for funding.
This concludes my testimony. I am happy to answer any questions.