Hearings and Business Meetings
February 28, 2006
SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM
Mr. Thomas Donnelly
Executive Vice President, National Water Resources Association
United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
Thomas F. Donnelly
Executive Vice President
National Water Resources Association
Title XVI of Public Law 102-575
The National Water Resources Association (NWRA) is a nonprofit federation of associations and individuals dedicated to the conservation, enhancement, and efficient management of our Nation's most precious natural resource, - WATER. The NWRA is the oldest and most active national association concerned with water resources policy and development. Its strength is a reflection of the tremendous "grassroots" participation it has generated on virtually every national issue affecting western water conservation, management, and development.
In the West, water infrastructure is every bit as important as transportation infrastructure. It is essential to the continued economic growth and development of the nation. Water infrastructure needs continue to exist, particularly considering the West’s rapid population growth [9 out of 10 of the fastest growing states are Reclamation States]. However, on the whole, today’s infrastructure needs are different from those of the past. No one envisions a future infrastructure development program and financing arrangements like the Reclamation program, which facilitated the development and economic growth of the West during much of the last century. It is time to recognize and address a new generation of infrastructure development needs and financing realities. Future projects are more likely to include non-structural features, environmental enhancement, proven best management practices, innovative approaches to water quality/quantity concerns and greater levels of non-federal financing.
Projects and programs that maximize the use and reuse of existing supplies are greatly needed in the West. Title XVI of Public Law 102-575 was intended to be such a program. Conceptually, Title XVI is a sound and much-needed federal program; however, it is currently dysfunctional and out of favor with the Administration. NWRA strongly supports a reconstituted Title XVI program which provides cost shared funding for research, demonstration programs and construction of projects that represent new or improved technologies for water recycling, reuse, desalination and conservation in the arid and semi-arid West.
Recommendations for Improving Title XVI of Public Law 102-575
APPLICATION AND AWARD PROCESS
The single biggest flaw in the current program is the manner in which projects are selected for authorization and funding. In point of fact, the process has devolved into one that rewards those project sponsors employing the most connected and influential lobbyists rather than on the merits of the project or its technology and the needs of the communities applying for assistance.
We would recommend that the law be amended to establish a formal application process that requires the Bureau of Reclamation to present to Congress a written report recommending or rejecting the project application based upon factors such as, but not limited to, benefit/cost, ability to cost share at an increased level, promising new technology, and the prospect of impending water shortages in the project area.
If such a process was incorporated into the law it would then be incumbent upon the authorizing and appropriating committee in Congress to reject projects for which a Commissioner’s report had not been forwarded to the authorizing Committees.
USE AND USE RESTRICTIONS
It has been suggested that the program should be made a national program. I suspect that water supply districts or agencies throughout the country could make use of such a program, but we would strongly recommend that the program be made available only in those States whose communities are coping with long-range water supply problems. There are a few non-Reclamation states that are facing water supply challenges akin to the problems faced by water supply districts in the arid and semi-arid West, most notably, Florida. Congress could choose to extend Reclamation’s Title XVI authority individually to States facing long-term water supply problems as was done by Public Law 106-566 for the State of Hawaii.
The question of whether or not the Title XVI program should remain the responsibility of the Bureau of Reclamation depends largely upon Congress’ vision of the future scope and direction of the program. First, we would oppose transferring the Title XVI program to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps’ primary civil works mission is navigation and flood control. The only justification expressed to date for such a transfer of authority is the hope that under the Corps of Engineers the program would be funded at a much higher level. If the objectives of Title XVI continue to be those stated in the authorizing legislation and it remains a program addressing the critical water supply needs in arid and semi-arid states or additional states facing similar problems, we believe that the program should remain under the purview of the Bureau of Reclamation. Should Congress choose to expand the scope of the program and make it national in scope, we could see distinct advantages in transferring it to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, as stated previously, we strongly believe that the Title XVI program should benefit only those States whose communities continue to struggle with meeting the water supply demands of a rapidly growing population – the Reclamation West.
Each year the federal budget provides millions of dollars to States and communities to provide water for environmental purposes, Native American trust responsibilities and other purposes. The restoration of the Everglades and California’s Bay-Delta, water for anadromous fish and Indian water rights settlements have and will continue to cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars. Finding and/or providing additional water is the principle element in all of these mitigation or settlement programs.
The Title XVI program can be used effectively to explore and develop technologies that provide additional water to meet the future needs and competing demands of growing communities and environmental mitigation and enhancement.
The program currently calls for a minimum non-federal cost share of 75 percent on all projects and provides a maximum of $20 million per project. In comparison to most other federal/non-federal cost shared programs, Title XVI is a bargain for the federal government.
In amending the program, Congress should consider increasing the federal cost share and the maximum provided per project for those projects that satisfy national goals and objectives such as the aforementioned projects and programs.
1. NWRA strongly supports a reconstituted Title XVI program under the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
2. NWRA recommends that the Title XVI of PL 102-575 be amended to establish a formal application process that requires the Bureau of Reclamation to present to Congress a written report recommending or rejecting the project application before Congressional authorization or funding.
3. NWRA recommends that Title XVI remain principally a program benefiting the arid and semi-arid States which could be extended on an individual bases to States demonstrating a critical need.
4. NWRA recommends that the federal/non-federal cost sharing be made more flexible for projects creating new supplies of water that satisfy national goals and objectives.
In conclusion, the National Water Resources Association greatly appreciates the opportunity to present our views to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and we stand committed to assist the committee in its efforts to improve upon this important program.