Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 03:00 PM

The Honorable Larry Nelson

OCTOBER 6, 2005
My name is Lawrence K. Nelson, the Mayor of the City of Yuma, Arizona. I appreciate
this opportunity to testify in support of S.1529, the City of Yuma Improvement Act of
2005 and would like to thank Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain for their leadership on
this issue.
Like many American cities in the 20th Century, Yuma had neglected its river heritage.
For the past decade, however, the Yuma community has worked to re-connect with the
original crossings of the Colorado River in three important ways. First, with the support
of the federal and state governments, we have undertaken an ambitious wetlands
restoration and conservation project, called the Yuma East Wetlands. Second, we are
developing riverfront parks, which give the public better river access and recreational
opportunities. Third, the City has worked to redevelop 22 acres along Yuma’s downtown
riverfront with significant private sector commitments for investment.
The City recognized that this commercial redevelopment project was primarily a local
responsibility. The challenge was that the state and federal governments owned small
portions of the 22-acre site. Over the past six years, we have assisted in the relocation of
the National Guard facility and the Border Patrol Sector headquarters. The City has spent
considerable local sums to assemble these properties.
At the same time, the City has been working with a private sector development partner to
implement an $80 million redevelopment project, which includes a riverfront
hotel/conference center, visitor’s center, office buildings, 60-80 residential
condominiums, and retail shops. In November 2004, Yuma City Council approved a
development agreement, which requires construction to begin by July 2006.
As planning for this project got underway in 2000, it became apparent that along the
riverfront there was a patchwork quilt of ownership dating from the inception of the
Yuma project in 1905 undertaken by the U.S. Reclamation Service. For the past five
years, City and Reclamation staff have worked together to try to make sense of this
property situation. As early as 2003, both staffs agreed in principle that there could be a
fair exchange. The Bureau of Reclamation would receive title to City-owned land over
which their railroad tracks run to the Desalinization Plant. The City would receive title to
“orphan” parcels which served no purpose to the Bureau of Reclamation. In addition, the
City agreed, at its own cost, to relocate functions of the Yuma County Water Users—
which would then free up land for important public uses like a visitors center and an
ancillary water treatment facility.
For the past two years, the City has proceeded with all required environmental
compliance and has paid for the relocation of the Yuma County Water Users Association
functions. All that remains is for Congress to provide authorization for this exchange.
Passage of this legislation will facilitate Phase 1 of the riverfront development, including
the hotel and conference center construction. For future phases, we continue to work with
other federal partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to assist in relocating
their Kofa NWR Headquarters.
Our downtown riverfront is the heart of our community. It is the site of the historic
crossing of the Colorado River by 60,000 people during the 1849 Gold Rush. The Yuma
Crossing was established as a National Historic Landmark in 1967. We look forward,
however, to the day when the Yuma Crossing will once again be a bustling commercial
riverfront center. With the assistance of Congress, Yuma will be able to regain control
and ownership of this land and return it to productive use.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak in support of S.1529.