Title Transfer of Projects and Facilities of the Bureau of Reclamation

UPDATE: Proposed new categorical exclusion -  Environmental Review Streamlining: Reclamation Proposes Categorical Exclusion for Title Transfer

Reclamation is proposing to establish a new categorical exclusion to facilitate the transfer of title for a limited set of simple, noncontroversial or uncomplicated projects and/or project facilities. The Department of the Interior has published a Federal Register notice seeking public comment on a proposed categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for certain transfers of title of projects and facilities from the Bureau of Reclamation to qualifying non-federal entities. Please see additional information on our proposal below.


The Bureau Reclamation is collaboratively pursuing title transfer with its customers and water contractors to convey ownership -- or title -- to water projects, canals, lateral and other water and power related infrastructure and facilities to the beneficiaries of those facilities.

This is a voluntary effort that is most often initiated by Reclamation’s water and power contractors.

Title transfer is a tool for improving the efficiency of water management and dealing with an aging infrastructure.  The transfer of title will divest Reclamation of responsibility for the operation, maintenance, management, regulation of, and liability for the project (or the lands and facilities) to be transferred. It will also provide the non-Federal entity with greater autonomy and flexibility to manage the facilities to meet their current needs in compliance with Federal, state and local laws and in conformance with contractual obligation. The transfer of title to a project or set of facilities will, in effect, sever Reclamation's ties with that project or those conveyed facilities.

Under the Reclamation Act of 1902, while responsibility for operations, maintenance and replacement (OM&R) of facilities can, and often is, transferred to the water users, title, or ownership of the facilities and projects themselves, must remain with the United States until Congress specifically authorizes their transfer.

Since 1995, the Bureau of Reclamation, working closely with the beneficiaries of the specific projects,  has conveyed title to a significant number of projects and project related facilities including dams, reservoirs, canals, lateral, and headquarter and other buildings, project lands, and easements.  List of projects/facilities conveyed (Powerpoint - 311 KB) .

POLICIES AND TITLE TRANSFER PROCESS: In 1995, after analyzing a number of successful and unsuccessful efforts to transfer title that had been attempted over the previous decade or so, Reclamation established a flexible process. This included a general set of policies and criteria to govern the process of developing a title transfer agreement which would then become the basis of legislation to authorize title transfer for each specific project.  The Framework for the Transfer of Title Bureau of Reclamation Projects (PDF - 35KB) articulates the process and those broad general criteria that governs this effort. 

In subsequent years, after evaluating the lessons learned along the way, Reclamation has continued to work with its customers and stakeholders to streamline and improve the process.  In 2004, the Framework was updated and in 2006, as part of the Managing for Excellence Initiative, Reclamation streamlined the title transfer process to make it more transparent, clear and consistent.

The most important lesson learned during this review is that having a clear and consistent process is very important and those that followed the title transfer process (Powerpoint - 717 KB), were able to address concerns and complete the transfer, including the legislation required to authorize the transfer, in a more timely, less costly and less controversial manner.

In order to ensure that all the parties fully understand the process, the issues and what facilities are being considered, Reclamation, in conjunction with the National Water Resources Association and the Family Farm Alliance, developed a title transfer checklist (MS Word - 27 KB) that Reclamation, together with the entity interested in title transfer, go through to identify the assets to be considered for conveyance, the interests (why they want title), the stakeholders who need to be involved and the steps that need to be followed.

Because title transfer is considered a “major Federal Action” under both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Reclamation’s title transfer process requires compliance with the requirements of both of these statutes.  Further, the public scoping and public involvement processes of NEPA provide a good mechanism for ensuring that the process for title transfers is transparent, open and seeks the input of interested stakeholders.

CONTACTS:  For information and details about the title transfer of a specific project or set of facilities, please contact Reclamation’s area office which manages those facilities.

For information about general policies and title transfer activities, please contact James Hess, who serves as Reclamation’s Title Transfer Coordinator (jhess@usbr.gov).


Environmental Review Streamlining: Reclamation Proposes Categorical Exclusion for Title Transfer

Title transfer is a voluntary conveyance of ownership (title) for water projects, portions of projects, or project facilities such as dams, canals, laterals, and other water-related infrastructure and facilities to beneficiaries of those facilities. Title transfer divests Reclamation of responsibility for the operation, maintenance, management, regulation of, and liability for the project, lands, and facilities to be transferred. It also provides the non-Federal entity with greater autonomy and flexibility to manage the facilities to meet their needs, in compliance with Federal, state, and local laws and in conformance with contractual obligations. The transfer of title of a project or set of facilities will, in effect, sever Reclamation’s ties with that project or those conveyed facilities.

Transfer of title is a Federal action under NEPA. NEPA requires that when a major Federal action would have significant impacts on the quality of the human environment, a statement be prepared to describe the impacts and effects on the human environment associated with the Federal action. When a Federal agency determines that a certain category of actions will not normally have an individually or cumulatively significant effect on the human environment and for which neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required, that category of actions may be excluded from further NEPA review (40 CFR 1508.4). Reclamation proposes to establish a new CE to facilitate the transfer of title to a limited set of simple, noncontroversial or uncomplicated projects and/or project facilities.

The Bureau of Reclamation published a Federal Register Notice on October 17, 2018 to propose a new categorical exclusion (CE). We invite you to submit your comments to ttce@usbr.gov or to Title Transfer CE Coordinator, Bureau of Reclamation, Mail Stop 84-53000, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225. To ensure consideration, comments must be received by November 16, 2018.

Related Documents:

Reclamation has prepared environmental assessments (EA) and made findings of no significant impact (FONSI) on each of the eight projects shown below, indicating location and EA/FONSI date. These EAs and FONSIs substantiate Reclamation’s record to demonstrate that no individually or cumulatively significant effects are typically attributable to the eligible types of activities that would be included in the proposed CE.

1998 Clear Creek Title Transfer CVP CA 1998.pdf
2000 Carpinteria Valley Water District Title Transfer EA 2000.pdf
2001 Montecito WD Final EA.pdf
2001 Montecito WD FONSI.pdf
2001 Robert B. Griffith Water Project Final EA and FONSI.pdf
2006 McGee_FinalEA-FONSI.pdf
2007 FONSI Newlands Project Headquarters.pdf
2007 Goleta Title Transfer EA and FONSI 2007.pdf
2014 Arbuckle Title Transfer Signed Final EA with FONSI.pdf

Last Updated: 10/18/18