S. 2034

February 24, 2014


  • February 24, 2014.--Introduced.
  • February 27, 2014.-- Subcommittee on Water and Power hearing held.


Reclamation Title Transfer Act of 2014 (Introduced in Senate - IS)

S 2034 IS

2d Session
S. 2034

To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish a program to facilitate the transfer to non-Federal ownership of appropriate reclamation projects or facilities, and for other purposes.

February 24, 2014

Mr. SCHATZ introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources


To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish a program to facilitate the transfer to non-Federal ownership of appropriate reclamation projects or facilities, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Reclamation Title Transfer Act of 2014'.


    In this Act:
      (1) CONVEYED PROPERTY- The term `conveyed property' means an eligible facility that has been conveyed to a qualifying entity under section 3(b)(1).
        (A) IN GENERAL- The term `eligible facility' means a reclamation project or facility, or a portion of a reclamation project or facility, for which the United States holds title and that meets the criteria for potential transfer established under section 5(a).
        (B) INCLUSIONS- The term `eligible facility' includes dams and appurtenant works, infrastructure, recreational facilities, buildings, distribution and drainage works, and associated land or interests in land or water.
      (3) QUALIFYING ENTITY- The term `qualifying entity' means a State, unit of local government, Indian tribe, municipal corporation, quasi-municipal corporation, or other entity (such as a water district) that, as determined by the Secretary, has the capacity to continue to manage the conveyed property for the same purposes that the conveyed property has been managed for under the reclamation laws.
      (4) SECRETARY- The term `Secretary' means the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.


    (a) Establishment of Title Transfer Program- The Secretary may establish a program that--
      (1) identifies and analyzes the potential for public benefits from the transfer out of Federal ownership of eligible facilities, including analyses of the financial, operational, and environmental characteristics of the eligible facilities proposed for transfer; and
      (2) facilitates the transfer to qualifying entities of the title to eligible facilities to promote more efficient management of water and water-related facilities.
    (b) Authorization To Transfer Title to Eligible Facilities-
      (1) IN GENERAL- The Secretary, without further authorization from Congress, may convey to a qualifying entity all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to any eligible facility, subject to paragraphs (2) through (6).
      (2) RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL- If the entity that operates an eligible facility at the time that the Secretary attempts to facilitate the transfer of title under subsection (a)(2) is a qualifying entity, that entity shall have the right of first refusal to receive the conveyance under paragraph (1).
      (3) RESERVATION OF EASEMENT- The Secretary may reserve an easement over a conveyed property if the Secretary determines that the easement is necessary for the management of any interests retained by the Federal Government under this Act.
        (A) RETENTION- The Secretary shall retain any mineral interests associated with a conveyed property.
        (B) MANAGEMENT- The mineral interests retained under subparagraph (A) shall be managed--
          (i) consistent with Federal law; and
          (ii) in a manner that would not interfere with the purposes for which the reclamation project was authorized.
      (5) INTERESTS IN WATER- No interests in water shall be conveyed under this Act unless the conveyance is provided for in writing in an agreement between the Secretary and the qualifying entity.
      (6) ADDITIONAL CRITERIA- Title transfers under this section shall be carried out consistent with--
        (A) this Act; and
        (B) any additional criteria or procedures that the Secretary determines to be in the public interest.
    (c) Restrictions on Use- As a condition of obtaining title to an eligible facility, the qualifying entity shall agree to use the eligible facility for substantially the same purposes the eligible facility is being used for during the period in which the eligible facility was under reclamation ownership.


    Before conveying eligible facilities under this Act, the Secretary shall complete all actions required under all applicable laws, including--
      (1) the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.);
      (2) the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); and
      (3) the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.).


    (a) Establishment- The Secretary shall establish criteria for determining whether facilities are eligible for conveyance under this Act.
    (b) Minimum Requirements-
      (1) AGREEMENT OF QUALIFYING ENTITY- The criteria established under subsection (a) shall include a requirement that a qualifying entity agree--
        (A) to accept title to the eligible facility;
        (B) to accept all liability for the eligible facility, except as otherwise provided in section 6;
        (C) to use the eligible facility for substantially the same purposes the eligible facility is being used for at the time the Secretary evaluates the potential transfer; and
        (D) to provide, as consideration for the assets to be conveyed, compensation to the United States in an amount that is the equivalent of the net present value of any repayment obligation to the United States or other income stream the United States derives from the eligible facility to be transferred as of the date of the transfer.
        (A) IN GENERAL- The criteria established under subsection (a) shall include a requirement that the Secretary, in consultation with the Governor of any State in which the project is located, determine that the proposed transfer--
          (i) would not have an unmitigated significant effect on the environment;
          (ii) is uncomplicated, based on, as determined by the Secretary--
            (I) there being no significant opposition to the proposed transfer;
            (II) the eligible facility not being hydrologically integrated with other Federal or non-Federal water projects;
            (III) the eligible facility not generating significant quantities of electric power sold to, or eligible to be sold to, power customers (other than the project itself); and
            (IV) the parties to the transfer being able to reach agreement on legal, institutional, and financial arrangements relating to the conveyance;
          (iii) is consistent with the responsibility of the Secretary--
            (I) to protect land and water resources held in trust for federally recognized Indian tribes; and
            (II) to ensure compliance with any applicable international treaties and interstate compacts; and
          (iv) is in the financial interest of the United States.
        (B) PUBLICATION- The Secretary shall make publically available information on how the Secretary made the determinations under subparagraph (A).
      (3) STATUS OF RECLAMATION LAND- The criteria established under subsection (a) shall require that any land to be conveyed out of Federal ownership under this Act is--
        (A) land acquired by the Secretary; or
        (B) land withdrawn by the Secretary, only if--
          (i) the Secretary determines in writing that the withdrawn land is encumbered by reclamation project facilities to the extent that the withdrawn land is unsuitable for return to the public domain; and
          (ii) the qualifying entity agrees to pay fair market value for the withdrawn land to be conveyed.


    (a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (b), effective beginning on the date of conveyance of any eligible facility under this Act, the United States shall not be liable under any law for damages of any kind arising out of any act, omission, or occurrence based on the prior ownership or operation of the conveyed property.
    (b) Limitation- Notwithstanding subsection (a), the United States shall retain the responsibilities and authorities of the United States for a conveyed property based on the prior ownership or operation of the conveyed property by the United States under Federal environmental laws, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.).


    After a conveyance of an eligible facility under this Act--
      (1) the conveyed property shall no longer be considered to be a part of a reclamation project; and
      (2) the entity to which the conveyed property is conveyed shall not be eligible to receive any benefits with respect to the conveyed property (including project power), except for benefits that would be available to a similarly situated entity with respect to property that is not part of a reclamation project.


    (a) In General- After a conveyance of title under this Act, the qualifying entity to which the property is conveyed shall comply with all applicable Federal, State, and local laws (including regulations) in the operation of the conveyed property.
    (b) Effect-
      (1) IN GENERAL- Nothing in this Act shall affect or interfere with--
        (A) the laws of any State relating to the control, appropriation, use, or distribution of water used in irrigation or for any other purpose;
        (B) any vested right acquired under State law; or
        (C) any interstate compact, decree, or negotiated water rights agreement.
      (2) CONFORMITY WITH STATE LAW- In carrying out this Act, the Secretary shall proceed in conformity with the State laws and rights acquired under State law described in paragraph (1).


    (a) In General- There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act such sums as are necessary.
    (b) Use of Amounts- Amounts made available under subsection (a) may be used--
      (1) to carry out the investigations to carry out this Act; and
      (2) to pay any other costs associated with conveyances under this Act, including an appropriate Federal share of the costs of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and other applicable law.
    (c) Not Treated as Project Costs- Expenditures made by the Secretary under this Act--
      (1) shall not be a project cost assignable to a reclamation project; and
      (2) shall be nonreimbursable.


    The authority of the Secretary to carry out conveyances under this Act shall terminate 15 years after the date of enactment of this Act.