Speeches Archive

Speaking at Completion Ceremony for the Delta-Mendota Canal/California Aqueduct Intertie

Remarks Delivered By:
Michael L. Connor, Commissioner

Tracy, Calif.

May 02, 2012

I have gotten to know California water issues quite a bit more than I ever thought I would, and that's been great because there's great people working on a lot of terrific solutions for California water issues. The only drawback to that is I did get concerned when the people in certain Sacramento hotels start saying "Hello, again, Mr. Connor." That draws me to have a little bit of concern about how much time I'm spending here. It's important to do that.

I think along the lines of what Dan was saying, I was just laughing to myself as he was going through his comments, because they're exactly along the same lines of my comments about where we need to be with respect to how we got here, with respect to the partnerships that we have in place here, all the way through the need to look farther for more solutions to California's water issues. That's what I want to talk a little bit about.

First and foremost, it's the partnership ideas. There was circulated a couple of weeks ago, I think Jim sent it to me, this video clip of President Kennedy dedicating San Luis Reservoir where he came up to blow up the valley. I liked the way he characterized that. It just amazed me how he talked about the partnerships that were involved and necessary to make progress.

Things don't just happen, they're made to happen. I just thought that was very telling, and gave an indication of his mindset about how to move the country forward.

I think that's what we're trying to do here, more than anything else. That's why I wanted to come back for the ribbon cutting after having been here back in the fall of 2010 for the groundbreaking is because the most important thing to do is the follow up work and the accomplishments aspect, and to get this particular part of an overall solution in place and producing for the needs of California's water issues, particularly those...

We don't do it alone. Bureau of Reclamation, we do it in great partnership, which starts with San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, with California Department of Water Resources, and I want to congratulate Mark Allen on his confirmation of a couple of weeks ago. It probably seems like a remote time, but it's well deserved, because Mark is very much in the solutions business and demonstrates that on a daily basis.

Of course, Tom Waco here is from Western Area, and they were a terrific partner in this effort. I also want to thank the tremendous work then from the Reclamation employees in helping to get the resources that we had from the Recovery Act, get them in place to work on all of the technical issues that we needed to. I think it was Congressman Cardoza at the groundbreaking a year and a half ago who basically said, "Well, this is a no-brainer." He was exactly right. It's a no-brainer.

In the works for quite a while, and even in a no-brainer, it amazed me. I think I even made the comment at the time, how many issues that came up even after we committed the resources to get it done, just the things that came up. Those issues were methodically worked through so that we could get this facility online.

Finally, I just want to mention we federal agencies, state agencies, local entities, partner up on these efforts, and then we take what we think is a good vision. We try and work with our members in our legislative bodies in Congress at my level, at the legislature at the state level to try and get the resources to get the buy in. You in California are blessed with some terrific members of your delegation, some of whom I deal with quite a bit.

Senator Feinstein, who is constantly looking for solutions, and is either bringing me into the office or on the phone. I just want to also reserve that time to praise the efforts of Jim Costa, who is doggedly pursuing issues on a number of fronts. Jim is a terrific representative. He makes no bones about it when he thinks that we should be doing more at the federal level, but he also is very generous when he does think we do the right thing. His leadership on water issues is just incredibly important and valuable to California.

Once again, like my hotel comment, I do have to say the only thing that bothers me about how much we interact is early on in my tenure, my wife asked me, "Who is Don, and why are you always on the phone with Don?" It was Don Glazer.

I think she's getting to the point where she's going to be saying "Who is Jim, and why are you always on the phone with this Jim person when you walk in the door?" This project is incredibly important for a number of reasons, basically three reasons. It starts off with water supply reliability. We've estimated, we put in all of our documents that we anticipate we'll average another 35,000 acre/feet on average additional supply south of Delta, the Central Valley Project water services contractors because of the efficiencies involved in this project.

That in and of itself is more than enough reason to do this. This is a 29 million dollar project that produces on average 35,000 acre/feet in under $30 per acre/foot from here on out. That's a pretty good investment. That in and of itself is enough to do this.

Also, there is the efficiency in operating and maintaining both facilities as this provides, as well as the backup if we have to engage in emergency operations. There are three great reasons to bring this project online.

From my perspective, from Bureau of Reclamation, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds that were made available, I'm very proud of all of the work we did in investing those funds for projects like this that have meaningful benefits on the ground. We did the same thing with Red Bluff, with the pumping plant there to help address some of the species issues, the contra cost of fish screen.

We've made great progress in the work we had to do in Folsom. In California itself, we made remarkable progress on some longstanding issues through those Recovery Act funds.

Overall, as I mentioned, this gets into also I think a message that Dan pointed out is we've got a lot more work to do overall with respect to California water issues. We've got a lot more work to do in additional infrastructure project. We've got a lot more to do with respect to using water more efficiently. Some places we do it wonderful. South of Delta, within this service area, Westlands, the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

Folks, we've got to do that, apply some of those lessons to other areas. We've got to do more with respect to the science and the understanding of what the different resources need, and we're committed to doing that. I also wanted to just note today we are announcing our WaterSMART grants for 2012 that goes to the efficiency side of things, WaterSMART includes those water and energy efficiency grants as well as Title XVI Water Reuse Projects.

We've got 11 million dollars in resources under the Water and Energy Efficiency Grant program, and five and a half million of that is going to come to California in projects up and down the state. As well as we've got 21 million, I think, that we're announcing in the Water Reuse Grant program this year, and 19 plus million dollars is going to go for projects in California.

We're trying to continue to build on this project, and the benefits do more in the state of California to help address water solutions overall. Then with that, the ultimate goal of what we're working on constantly, and it's strange for Mark and I to see each other in a place that we're not specifically meeting about BDCP, but our goal is to keep moving these interim solutions forward, improving the situation from a water supply perspective and an environmental perspective.

Ultimately though, I think to have a long term sustainable solution for California water needs, it's going to take something like the BDCP where we address things. California can look to a very, very bright future for the next century.

It's a pleasure to be here to celebrate this particular event. The value of it, I want to express my appreciation to our great partners again. We can move on with the program, because I think I took more than my five minutes.