Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 03:00 PM

Mr. William Rinne

Acting Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation

Statement of William E. Rinne
Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Subcommittee on Water and Power,
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
United States Senate
On S. 1529
City of Yuma Improvement Act
October 6, 2005


Madam Chairman, I am William E. Rinne, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.  I am pleased to provide the Administration’s views of S.1529, which provides for the transfer of certain Federal lands managed by the Bureau of Reclamation to the City of Yuma, Arizona, and the receipt by the Bureau of Reclamation of clear title to certain parcels of land, known as the “railroad parcels,” which are used by Reclamation for its Yuma Desalting Plant.  The Department supports the intent of this legislation, but we believe that this can be accomplished through existing land transfer processes provided by the General Service Administration’s authorities.

There would be benefits to both Reclamation and the City of Yuma from this land transfer.  Reclamation will obtain clear title to portions of a railroad right-of-way required for the delivery of chemicals to the Yuma Desalting Plant managed by Reclamation’s Yuma Area Office.  The title to the rail property has been clouded for many years due to its sale by Southern Pacific Transportation Company to both the City of Yuma and Reclamation.    

In exchange for giving up its claim to the railroad parcels, this legislation provides that the City of Yuma would obtain title to seven parcels currently owned by Reclamation located within the City.  These parcels total approximately 7 acres but are scattered throughout the City.  The parcels slated for transfer are difficult for Reclamation to manage and are not usable for project purposes.  Previously, three of the Federal parcels were used by the Yuma County Water Users Association for ditch rider residences.  These residences have been moved to more convenient locations, and Reclamation has no further need for these properties or any of the other parcels listed in this exchange.  The City of Yuma will use these properties in order to further the City’s development plans.

As a matter of policy, we support working with states and local governments to resolve land tenure and land transfer issues that advance worthwhile public policy objectives, and we have no objection to the transfer of these specific lands from Reclamation ownership.  While none of the parcels to be exchanged has been appraised, Reclamation’s rough estimate is that the parcels being conveyed to the City are not worth more than $500,000.   We view this as a directed exchange by Congress, not an equal value exchange. 

We think that the end goal of transferring the lands in question to the City is laudable, but we note that this legislation provides for a directed exchange that avoids the normal procedures followed for Federal land disposal.  The value to the United States of clear title to the railroad parcels is uncertain.  The lack of established value from the railroad parcels does not compel opposition to the proposed transfer, however, because in the absence of legislation, an administrative process exists through which the General Services Administration (GSA) can accomplish the intended purpose of this legislation.  The Administrator of GSA can make government-owned land available at no cost to cities such as Yuma for a variety of public use purposes, such as public health, public education, for historic monuments, airports, parks and recreation, emergency rescue, fire fighting, law enforcement, and many other public uses.   We could support this legislation if it included a role for GSA in ensuring that the lands to be transferred meet GSA’s criteria for transfer to the City without compensation to the Federal government.   

This concludes my statement.  I am pleased to answer any questions.

Statement of William E. Rinne
Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Subcommittee on Water and Power,
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
United States Senate
On S. 1025
Wichita Project, Equus Beds Division Authorization Act of 2005
October 6, 2005

Madam Chairman, I am William E. Rinne, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.  I am pleased to present the Administration's views on S. 1025, Senator Roberts’s bill to authorize the Equus Beds Division of the Wichita Project.  Although the project has merit, budgetary constraints prevent the Administration from supporting the bill at this time.
For water management purposes, S. 1025 would authorize this project as a division of the existing Wichita Project.  The Equus Beds Division would recharge the groundwater in the Equus Beds Aquifer and would provide significant new underground water storage capacity for municipal and industrial water customers in the city of Wichita, Kansas without inundating large surface areas. This project would enhance the storage and supply capability of the Wichita Project, an above-ground reservoir built and owned by the Bureau of Reclamation.
As a supplement to the existing Reclamation project, the Equus Beds Division is consistent with Reclamation's current mission.  The fact that S. 1025 caps the ultimate Federal cost at 25 percent, or $30 million whichever is less, limits uncertainty as to the ultimate federal share of the costs.
Having partnered with the City of Wichita on an earlier groundwater recharge demonstration, Reclamation is familiar with the current proposal to recharge the groundwater in the Equus Beds Aquifer.  Recharging the Equus Beds Aquifer has the potential to efficiently expand the effective amount of stored water that is ultimately available, because it significantly reduces losses due to surface evaporation.
S. 1025 would require the city to pay 75 percent of the cost of development and 100 percent of operations and maintenance costs. The Federal government would not hold title to the facilities.
Water rights for this project have been resolved.  In 1998, the State issued the City of Wichita a conjunctive use water rights permit that replaced and combined two previous city permits, one for the Wichita Project, the other for the Equus Beds Groundwater Aquifer.  By combining the permits for these two resources into a single, integrated operation, the city can more effectively and economically deliver water to municipal and industrial customers.
Madam Chairman, throughout the city's planning process, including extensive public involvement with input from State and Federal agencies, no significant opposition to Equus Beds surfaced.  However, given Reclamation's already tight budget, we are not in a position to support the addition of this project to the list of unfunded projects already authorized and awaiting Federal funding.
Madam Chairman, this concludes my testimony and I am pleased to answer any questions the Committee may have. 
 

Statement of William E. Rinne
Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Subcommittee on Water and Power,
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
United States Senate
On S. 1498
To Convey Certain Water Distribution Facilities to
The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District
October 6, 2005


Good morning, I am William E. Rinne, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.  I am pleased to appear before this Subcommittee to provide Reclamation's views on S. 1498, legislation to transfer title to certain water distribution facilities of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT) located in Colorado, to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.  Mr. Chairman, we are working diligently with the District to accomplish this title transfer because we are convinced it has the potential to provide operations efficiencies and other benefits.   However, we are concerned that the legislation may be premature because we have not yet worked out the details of the title transfer with the District.

To date, our most successful transfers have relied on a simple plan -- identify issues and obstacles at the local level and address them prior to the introduction of legislation authorizing the title transfer. Toward this end, Reclamation has a clear and collaborative process for title transfers.  Not only has the preferred approach helped entities identify and address concerns of other interested parties early on in the process, but it has also enabled Reclamation and the districts to accurately predict and assign costs, and resolve other issues during the more flexible period preceding legislation.  This process has been quite successful and we strongly encourage the District to continue to work through it with us before legislation advances.

The transfer contemplated by S. 1498 has only just begun.  On January 24 of this year, Reclamation wrote to the District, acknowledging its interest in title transfer and urging it to follow the title transfer process described above.  On July 26, 2005, H.R. 3443 was introduced in the House.  On September 7, 2005, the District wrote Reclamation requesting that an MOU be entered into by October 7, 2005.  We have begun working with the District on that MOU, and if no unexpected issues arise, we anticipate executing the MOU by October 7.  Subsequent to the completion of that MOU, Reclamation and the District need to thoroughly discuss the remaining issues associated with the transfer of these facilities.

Mr. Chairman, we look forward to working with you and the District to complete this title transfer is the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.  

That concludes my statement.  I would be pleased to answer any questions.

Statement of William E. Rinne
Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
On S. 1760
Before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Water and Power
United States Senate
October 6, 2005


Madam Chairman, I am William E. Rinne, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.  Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of S. 1760, a bill to authorize early repayment of obligations to the Bureau of Reclamation within the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District or within the Medford Irrigation District.

I am pleased to present the Department's views in support of S. 1760.  There are three districts in our Rogue River Project that are subject to the acreage limitation provisions of Federal reclamation law.  Under section 213 of the Reclamation Reform Act of 1982 (RRA), early repayment of a district’s construction costs is prohibited unless the district’s repayment contract with Reclamation included a provision allowing for early repayment when the RRA was enacted. 

One of the three districts in the Rogue River Project has such a provision (specifically, the contract with Talent Irrigation District).  As a result, a landowner who may own land in Talent Irrigation District and one or both of the other two districts in the Rogue River Project and would like to payout early would find that early repayment is allowed in only one of the districts.  We support S. 1760’s approach to allow early repayment in all three districts within this particular project.  This legislation would accomplish such by providing early repayment authority to landowners in the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District and the Medford Irrigation District.  Early payout would accelerate the repayment of these project costs to the United States Treasury.

This concludes my written statement.  I am pleased to answer any questions.


 Statement of William E. Rinne
Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior
Before the
Subcommittee on Water and Power,
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
United States Senate
On S. 1578
San Juan River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery
Implementation Programs for the Upper Colorado
and San Juan River Basins
October 6, 2005

Madam Chairman and members of the Committee.  Thank you for the opportunity to appear today on behalf of the Administration in support of  S. 1578, a bill to reauthorize the Upper Colorado River and San Juan River Basin endangered fish recovery implementation programs.  The Administration commends Senator Wayne Allard for introducing the bill and Senators Bennett, Hatch, and Salazar for cosponsoring this measure.
The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Programs were established in 1988 and 1992, respectively.  The goals of the programs are to recover four endangered fish species in a manner consistent with state and tribal laws, interstate compacts, the Endangered Species Act, other federal laws, and Indian trust responsibilities while water development proceeds.  Participants in these two programs include the States of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming; federal agencies, including the Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Area Power Administration, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Affairs; American Indian tribes including the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Southern Ute Tribe, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; water users; power users; and environmental organizations.
Actions taken by the Programs to recover the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, and bonytail meet Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements for operation of federal multi-purpose projects, water projects benefiting the tribes, and non-federal water projects.  Activities and accomplishments of these programs provide ESA compliance for more than 800 federal and non-federal water projects depleting approximately 2.5 million acre-feet per year in the Upper Colorado River and San Juan River Basins.

Recovery Implementation Program actions include providing water for endangered fish, managing nonnative fish species, restoring habitat, stocking endangered fish, and researching and monitoring fish populations and habitat.  The Recovery Implementation Programs’ construction elements include construction and operation of fish hatcheries and grow-out ponds, fish screens in water diversion canals, fish passage structures around migration barriers, and restoration and maintenance of floodplain habitats.

Congress authorized federal expenditures for these programs in Public Law 106-392, recognizing cost sharing provided by the states, power users, and water users.  A total of $100 million for construction was authorized for the two programs. Congressional appropriations are providing $46 million; Western Area Power Administration is providing $17 million from power sales revenue (this is considered a contribution by local power users); the states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico are providing $17 million; plus an additional $20 million in benefits foregone from power users and water users.
 
With indexing for inflation, the authorized Federal amount for construction of projects in the Upper Colorado River Basin is now $64.5 million.  Current total estimated costs are $77 million, indicating an estimated shortfall in authorization of approximately $12.5 million.

The estimated additional costs and time to complete Upper Colorado River Basin construction elements result from:
• increasing construction costs, energy costs, and the world market demand for steel;
• delayed construction due to property acquisition issues; and
• additional components and design features as identified necessary from previous construction of fish passages and screens.
This bill would amend Public Law 106-392 (as amended by Public Law 107-375) by:
• increasing the Federal authorized ceiling by $15 million for capital construction for the Upper Colorado River Recovery Program, for a total of $61 million;
• recognizing an additional $11 million in non-federal cost sharing from water users and power revenue losses over the original $20 million from these sources, bringing the non-Federal share to $65 million; and
• extending the construction authorization period of both Recovery Implementation Programs from 2008 to September 30, 2010.
Enactment of this bill will allow these Recovery Implementation Programs to complete construction projects critical to the recovery of the four endangered fishes and ensure continued successful water management for multiple uses. S. 1578 provides a unique opportunity to sustain a partnership combining federal and non-federal funding in an ongoing effort to recover endangered species while fully recognizing and meeting the water needs of local communities. We urge passage of S. 1578.
This concludes my testimony.  I am happy to answer any questions.