Text: S.Hrg. 114-381 — WESTERN AND ALASKA WATER LEGISLATION
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[Senate Hearing 114-381]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 114-381
WESTERN AND ALASKA WATER LEGISLATION
ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS
H.R. 2898 S. 1936
S. 1583 S. 2046
S. 1894 S. 2083
OCTOBER 8, 2015
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COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska, Chairman
JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming MARIA CANTWELL, Washington
JAMES E. RISCH, Idaho RON WYDEN, Oregon
MIKE LEE, Utah BERNARD SANDERS, Vermont
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan
STEVE DAINES, Montana AL FRANKEN, Minnesota
BILL CASSIDY, Louisiana JOE MANCHIN III, West Virginia
CORY GARDNER, Colorado MARTIN HEINRICH, New Mexico
ROB PORTMAN, Ohio MAZIE K. HIRONO, Hawaii
JOHN HOEVEN, North Dakota ANGUS S. KING, Jr., Maine
LAMAR ALEXANDER, Tennessee ELIZABETH WARREN, Massachusetts
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia
Karen K. Billups, Staff Director
Patrick J. McCormick III, Chief Counsel
Christopher Kearney, Budget Analyst and Senior Professional Staff
Angela Becker-Dippmann, Democratic Staff Director
Sam E. Fowler, Democratic Chief Counsel
Melanie Stansbury, Democratic Professional Staff Member
C O N T E N T S
Murkowski, Hon. Lisa, Chairman and a U.S. Senator from Alaska.... 1
Cantwell, Hon. Maria, Ranking Member and a U.S. Senator from
Feinstein, Hon. Dianne, a U.S. Senator from California........... 5
Boxer, Hon. Barbara, a U.S. Senator from California.............. 108
Valadao, Hon. David, a U.S. Representative from California....... 110
Connor, Hon. Michael, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the
Kightlinger, Jeffrey, General Manager, Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California................................ 134
Woolf, Sarah, President, Water Wise, and Partner, Clark Brothers
Keppen, Dan, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance............ 173
Frank, Richard, Professor of Environmental Practice & Director,
California Environmental Law & Policy Center, University of
California, Davis School of Law................................ 209
Oglesby, Adrian, Director, University of New Mexico Utton
Transboundary Resources Center, and Vice-Chair, Middle Rio
Grande Conservancy District.................................... 219
ALPHABETICAL LISTING AND APPENDIX MATERIAL SUBMITTED
American Council of Engineering Companies:
Email for the Record......................................... 289
American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric
Letter for the Record........................................ 290
Letter for the Record........................................ 292
American Rivers, et al.:
Letter for the Record dated 7/22/15.......................... 295
Letter for the Record dated 10/5/15.......................... 297
Letter for the Record regarding H.R. 2898.................... 300
American Sportfishing Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 302
Arquero, Hon. J. Leroy:
Statement for the Record..................................... 304
Association of California Water Agencies:
Press Release for the Record................................. 78
Association of Northwest Steelheaders:
Letter for the Record........................................ 309
Letter for the Record........................................ 310
Bay, Hon. Norman:
Letter for the Record........................................ 312
Bay Area Council:
Letter for the Record........................................ 18
Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and
Contra Costa Counties:
Letter for the Record........................................ 315
Boxer, Hon. Barbara:
Opening Statement............................................ 108
California Allied Grower Group:
Letter for the Record........................................ 317
California Coastkeeper Alliance, et al.:
Letter for the Record........................................ 321
California Farm Bureau Federation:
Letter for the Record........................................ 15
Letter for the Record........................................ 323
California Natural Resources Agency:
Letter for the Record dated 2/15/12.......................... 325
Letter for the Record dated 2/28/12.......................... 327
Press Release for the Record................................. 80
California Waterfowl Association:
Letter for the Record dated 7/8/15........................... 328
Letter for the Record dated 8/12/15.......................... 84
Letter for the Record dated 10/16/15......................... 331
Cantwell, Hon. Maria:
Opening Statement............................................ 3
Carlsbad Municipal Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 27
CBS San Francisco Editorial Staff:
Editorial for the Record..................................... 92
City Council of the City of Morro Bay:
Resolution No. 60-15 for the Record.......................... 45
City of Camarillo:
Letter for the Record........................................ 74
City of Oceanside Water Utilities Department:
Letter for the Record........................................ 35
City of Pismo Beach:
Letter for the Record from Benjamin Fine..................... 52
Letter for the Record from the Hon. James Lewis.............. 53
Letter for the Record from the Hon. Shelly Higginbotham...... 54
City of Sacramento:
Letter for the Record........................................ 333
City of San Diego:
Letter for the Record........................................ 71
Congress of the United States:
Letter for the Record........................................ 335
Connor, Hon. Michael:
Opening Statement............................................ 112
Written Testimony............................................ 115
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 241
Defenders of Wildlife, et al.:
Letter for the Record........................................ 340
Letter for the Record........................................ 20
Press Release for the Record................................. 81
East Bay Municipal Utility District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 58
El Dorado Irrigation District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 59
Fallbrook Public Utility District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 44
Feinstein, Hon. Dianne:
Opening Statement............................................ 5
Written Testimony............................................ 102
Opening Statement............................................ 209
Written Testimony............................................ 212
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 279
(The) Fresno Bee Editorial Board:
Editorial for the Record..................................... 86
Fresno Council of Governments:
Letter for the Record........................................ 55
Friant Water Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 47
Friends of the River, et al.:
Letter for the Record........................................ 343
Garamendi, Hon. John:
Letter for the Record dated 8/6/15........................... 11
Letter for the Record dated 10/2/15.......................... 12
Gibson, Hon. Bruce:
Letter for the Record........................................ 51
Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District:
Statement for the Record..................................... 351
Golden Gate Salmon Association and Pacific Coast Federation of
Letter for the Record........................................ 355
Grassland Water District:
Letter for the Record dated 8/6/15........................... 34
Letter for the Record dated 10/7/15.......................... 359
Harris, Hon. Kamala:
Letter for the Record........................................ 361
Hoopa Valley Tribe:
Letter for the Record........................................ 364
Opening Statement............................................ 173
Written Testimony............................................ 175
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 266
Opening Statement............................................ 134
Written Testimony............................................ 136
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 255
Kodiak Electric Association, Inc.:
Statement for the Record..................................... 419
Map of Terror Lake Hydroelectric Project Proposed Upper
Hidden Basin Diversion dated 5/18/15....................... 421
Lopez, Hon. Victor:
Letter for the Record........................................ 39
Los Angeles Times Editorial Board:
Editorial for the Record..................................... 94
Mahoney Lake Partnership:
Statement for the Record..................................... 422
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California:
Letter for the Record to Chairman Murkowski.................. 9
Letter for the Record to Ranking Member Cantwell............. 10
9/22/15 Board Meeting........................................ 61
(The) Modesto Bee Editorial Board:
Editorial for the Record..................................... 89
Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency:
Letter for the Record........................................ 25
Municipal Water District of Orange County:
Letter for the Record........................................ 57
Murkowski, Hon. Lisa:
Opening Statement............................................ 1
(The) National Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy:
Letter for the Record........................................ 424
(The) Nature Conservancy:
Letter for the Record........................................ 13
(The) Northern California Water Association:
Statement for the Record..................................... 426
Opening Statement............................................ 219
Written Testimony............................................ 222
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 285
Olivenhain Municipal Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 41
Orange County Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 30
Oregon Salmon Commission:
Letter for the Record........................................ 429
Pacific Fishery Management Council:
Letter for the Record........................................ 430
Placer County Water Agency:
Letter for the Record........................................ 432
Rainbow Municipal Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 28
Reclamation District 108:
Statement for the Record..................................... 436
Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 32
(The) Sacramento Bee Editorial Board:
Editorial for the Record..................................... 98
San Diego County Water Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 68
San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce:
Letter for the Record........................................ 22
San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board:
Editorial for the Record..................................... 91
San Francisco Chronicle:
Editorial for the Record..................................... 95
San Jose Mercury News:
Editorial for the Record..................................... 96
Santa Clara Valley Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 66
Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District:
Letter for the Record dated 8/11/15.......................... 40
Letter for the Record dated 10/5/15.......................... 439
Santa Fe Irrigation District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 23
Sites Project Joint Powers Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 441
Sonoma County Water Agency:
Letter for the Record........................................ 443
South Coast Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 43
Thompson, Hon. Mike:
Letter for the Record........................................ 444
Letter for the Record........................................ 445
United Fresh Produce Association:
Press Release for the Record................................. 77
Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 451
Valadao, Hon. David:
Opening Statement............................................ 110
Vallecitos Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 36
Valley Center Municipal Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 38
Water Infrastructure Network:
Letter for the Record........................................ 49
Water Quality Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 70
Letter for the Record........................................ 452
West Basin Municipal Water District, et al.:
Statement for the Record..................................... 457
Western Growers Association:
Press Release for the Record................................. 79
Western Recycled Water Coalition:
Statement for the Record..................................... 468
Western States Water Council:
Letter for the Record........................................ 475
Westlands Water District:
Press Release for the Record................................. 76
Westlands Water District, et al.:
Joint Press Release for the Record........................... 82
Wilkesboro Hydropower, LLC:
Letter for the Record........................................ 477
Opening Statement............................................ 167
Written Testimony............................................ 169
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 263
Wyden, Hon. Ron:
Statement for the Record..................................... 479
The text for each of the bills which were addressed in this hearing can
be found on the committee's website at: https://www.energy.senate.gov/
WESTERN AND ALASKA WATER LEGISLATION
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2015
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:39 a.m. in Room
SD-366, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Lisa Murkowski,
Chairman of the Committee, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. LISA MURKOWSKI, U.S. SENATOR FROM
The Chairman. Good morning. The committee will come to
We have a full house speaking about an issue this morning
that I think is fair to say if you are from the West, you get
up every morning thinking about what is happening with water,
with our drought situation, and what can be done to address
some of the issues that have been long-standing in California
and the concern that it continues to grow and be an evolving
Our focus this morning is on legislation, which is good to
have this discussion before the Energy Committee. There has
been much thought, there has been much oversight and many, many
I myself have been out to California a couple of times
meeting with farmers, meeting with interests that are very,
very concerned about how we move forward. But until you have
some legislation in front of you that defines what some of the
proposals are, it makes it more difficult for us as a
Today we are focusing on legislation. We have a Senate bill
that my colleague and friend, Senator Feinstein, has been
working on for some time now, the California Emergency Drought
Relief Act. We have the House bill that Congressman Valadao has
been working on, the Western Water and American Food Security
Act. Their sponsors are here, along with Senator Boxer who has
been equally engaged on this issue on behalf of her
constituents. So we will hear brief comments from them this
morning before we go to our panel of witnesses.
Everyone, I think, in this room is aware that we have a
serious, long-lasting, and consequential drought. California
has imposed mandatory reductions on water use by its residents
and its businesses. Many California farmers continue to face
unprecedented reductions in water delivery, and some
communities no longer have running water. Some of the stories
we have heard just really make you heartsick. This is something
that must be addressed.
But this is not just about what we are seeing in
California. It is a Westwide drought. It is being felt across
the Colorado River Basin, up in the Pacific Northwest. Interior
Alaska even was abnormally dry this summer. Dry conditions also
contributed to a terrible wildfire season this year. So when we
think about the impacts of drought, it is more than just the
water itself. It is also the impacts.
The question we are here to discuss is what do we do about
it? What do we do about the drought? Our choices largely boil
down to the measures before us today.
The House and Senate bills both seek to maximize water
delivery to where it is most needed in California. Both reflect
some common approaches. For example, requiring agencies to use
real-time monitoring to address environmental concerns
associated with increased water flows through the Bay Delta.
But I think it is important to note that the bills diverge in
some important ways.
The Senate bill seeks to provide guidance to Federal
agencies to increase flows through the delta, while also giving
agencies flexibility to make decisions on flow levels. Its
sponsors have proposed substantial increases in funding for a
variety of activities, including greater storage. As we review
that approach, we need to consider the criticisms of that
Senate bill: that its guidance to the agencies is perhaps
insufficient, that current flexibility is not being utilized,
and that it lacks necessary funding offsets.
We also need to consider the approach that has been taken
by our House colleagues. Their bill gives more direction, less
flexibility to the agencies. It includes funding for storage
and other activities but is fully paid for. These decisions
have led some to claim that the House bill is overly
prescriptive, is too rigid, and does not provide sufficient
funding for some key programs.
We could talk about Goldilocks here and which one is too
big, too small, and which one is just right, but I think it is
important to acknowledge that these are very complicated, some
very complex issues, and we need to reach a unified legislative
Also before us today is a bill from Senators Heinrich and
Udall that includes some interesting provisions on water
transfers and exchanges.
Finally, we are receiving written testimony on three
hydropower bills, including my measure to authorize the
expansion of an existing hydro project at Terror Lake in
Alaska. Right now, the area around Terror Lake is powered
solely, solely by clean, renewable hydropower and a small wind
turbine. We are in kind of an interesting situation. If we
cannot allow for the expansion, what we do then is we turn back
to expensive diesel fuel instead.
The news across the country, and it was highlighted when
President Obama was up in the state, was that we are making
some remarkable headway with our microgrid systems. Kodiak is
always pointed out as the second-largest island in the United
States of America getting to the point where they can be 100
percent on renewables, but we are going to have to go back to
diesel if we cannot get an expansion around Terror Lake.
It is a beautiful place out there surrounded by a lot of
bears, and if anybody is not thinking kindly about it, maybe
they should go take a trip out there and take a look. I will
invite you to visit our bears.
But what I think we want to focus specifically on here this
morning is the extent of the drought that we are facing in the
West, and I appreciate a great, great deal the work the
sponsors of these various bills have put into where we are
I have asked for indulgence of my colleagues that are here
to testify. We are trying to get through, again, a pretty
aggressive panel with hopefully lots of questions, but I am
pleased that you have joined us this morning. We will look
forward to your comments after Senator Cantwell has provided
hers, and then we will move to this very important issue.
STATEMENT OF HON. MARIA CANTWELL, U.S. SENATOR FROM WASHINGTON
Senator Cantwell. Well, thank you, Madam Chair, and thank
you for holding this important hearing. And welcome to the
Californians. That is something that my Washington doesn't
always say. [Laughter.]
But I certainly appreciate Mr. Valadao. We just met this
morning, but I just want everyone to know there are no more
tenacious Members in the U.S. Senate than the two women sitting
next to you. I know that they have worked very hard on this
legislation over a long period of time, and they are certainly
trying to have the best interests of everybody at hand. I look
forward to hearing all of your comments this morning as we try
to deal with this very tough issue.
As the Chair said, communities across the West are seeing
the impacts of this, not just Californians. Towns and wells
have run dry, farmers have seen billions of dollars of losses,
and the ecosystem has suffered.
So we know this, there are no easy solutions. However, one
thing is clear: we cannot address the long-term impacts of this
issue by fostering short-term solutions that don't help us
manage the ecosystem. The worst thing to do, obviously, is to
pass legislation that ends up in the courts and allows us not
to move forward on anything.
Drought will likely continue for the coming years, and
short-term solutions that divide communities, threaten the
environment, and create greater uncertainty only make the
challenge harder because we know that this situation is not
going away. There is no question that we are seeing some of the
most severe droughts in history, and California is experiencing
the worst drought in 500 years.
In the State of Washington, we have had record-breaking
temperatures, low snowpack, catastrophic wildfires that I also
know my colleagues here before us today care greatly about,
farmers are facing $1.2 billion in crop losses this year alone,
and nearly a quarter million sockeye salmon died in the
Columbia River this summer trying to reach their spawning
Over the last several months, the committee has heard a lot
of ideas about how to deal with drought, so today we are
hearing about these pieces of legislation before us that you
The Yakima Basin hearing we had earlier this year, Madam
Chairman, on drought was kind of eye-opening, I think, for a
lot of people here because it included the innovation where
projects are balanced, integrated with a holistic response and
where tribe, fishermen, farmers, and foresters all sat before
us in an agreement about how to move forward. I like this
approach. I like this approach because it allows you to solve
problems, stay out of the courts, and keep moving forward.
I want to make sure that we are developing long-term,
resilient plans and we are doing that as we continue to focus
on water-sustainable communities. I also want to make sure that
we are not pitting one community against another.
I should just say that I chaired the San Joaquin hearing
several years ago and so sat through the 18 years of litigation
on that case and, finally, solutions of people coming together.
So I know well some of the challenges that California has tried
to push through in the past. My point is just this: that
lengthy court battles resolve nothing.
Instead, what we need are solutions that take an
integrated, basin-scale approach, take into account all the
needs in the watershed, and make sure that there are locally-
driven solutions that are collaborative, yes, and consensus-
We need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to
make sure we are protecting our environment--clean water,
healthy ecosystems--and that we are not managing the water or
the ecosystem to the brink of collapse. I say this because we
are reminded every day about the iconic salmon population in
our state and how trading one for the other does not work for
us. It does not work for fishermen.
I want to make sure that we are not overriding
considerations of the National Environmental Protection Act.
Drought and management solutions should work with nature to
seek and increase the best benefits for both humans and the
Lastly, I want to make sure that we are responding to
drought and how we manage water, not how we make it more
complicated. So I do believe in modernizing our Federal
approaches. I want to make sure that we are not creating
uncertainty, but we are--utilizing locally-based solutions that
incentivize people to work together and get the best science
available, leveraging the power of innovation to help us solve
I know there are a lot of things that we are going to talk
about today, Madam Chair, on this issue, but I hope that as we
talk to the witnesses, we will keep these priorities in mind to
make sure that we are improving our existing infrastructure and
making sure that we have nature-based solutions and addressing
all of those issues so that fish, farmers, forests--are all
working together on these solutions.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Cantwell.
I am pleased to be able to welcome our colleagues to the
committee. Congressman, we appreciate you taking time from your
morning to join us with this very important issue, but further
to the point, for all that you have been doing really for years
in this arena. We look forward to working with you as we
advance these measures.
With that, Senator Feinstein, if you would like to lead off
this morning with your comments, welcome.
STATEMENT OF HON. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, U.S. SENATOR FROM
Senator Feinstein. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman and
Ranking Member Cantwell and members of both parties. I am very
pleased to have this opportunity.
I make this statement on behalf of my colleague on the
left, Senator Boxer. We are joined at the hip on this, and I
hope after you hear our testimony you will join us in that.
I would also like to thank Jeff Kightlinger for testifying
today. Jeff is the General Manager and CEO for the Metropolitan
Water District in Southern California. This is the largest
municipal water provider in the nation. It is a water district
that supplies drinking water to 26 cities and water districts,
and it serves nearly 19 million people. Jeff is a professional.
He has been at this for a long time, and hopefully, his words
will mean something to this committee.
Let me begin with a general statement. This drought is
worse than anything I have seen in my lifetime, and I am very
worried about what it means for the State of California.
Reports say that the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is our major
source of water, hasn't been this low in 500 years. And there
is a strong belief that droughts will become chronic and,
therefore, real problems.
Rural and disadvantaged communities are especially hard
hit. We have subsidence of huge areas, some as the ground is
empty for as much as 60 feet, and this can become catastrophic
in the event of an earthquake.
As of this month, 2,400 wells are dry or soon will be, and
this puts 12,000 people in jeopardy of being without water.
Just this month, in the Washington Post, I read about a family
from Porterville reduced to bathing with donated supplies and
living off bottled water. And this isn't the only one.
UC Davis reported that the California economy will lose an
estimated $2.7 billion in 2015 along with 18,600 jobs. That is
on top of the $2.2 billion last year and another 17,000 jobs we
Over the past two years, Senator Boxer's staff and my staff
have spent countless hours working out a drought bill in
consultation with farmers and fishermen, cities and rural
areas, and environmentalists and businesses up and down the
state. There is a truism, ``Whiskey is for drinking, and water
is for fighting.'' I appreciate Senator Cantwell's comments,
but there is a long history. It is very difficult in California
to get a consensus on anything that is going to be meaningful.
We have a bill that we believe has widespread support. The
Nature Conservancy and the California Farm Bureau support the
bill, as do 29 water districts and cities. I put together a
packet of those letters of support that I would like to provide
this committee, if I may, Madam Chairman.
[The information referred to follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Senator Feinstein. Senator Boxer's and my bill has two
goals, short-term emergency relief and long-term investments.
In the short-term, this means being able to move water
consistent with environmental laws to help California for the
duration of the Governor's drought declaration of emergency. It
does this in a number of ways.
It maximizes water supplies, consistent with environmental
law. The bill requires daily monitoring when fish are near
pumps so more water can be pumped when fish are not nearby. It
promotes water transfers between willing sellers and buyers so
we can move water to drought-stricken communities that have
been the hardest hit. It allows the Delta Cross Channel gates
to open to the maximum extent feasible, and it manages delta
turbidity to maximize water supplies while protecting fish.
We also have long-term solutions. We believe droughts in
the West are likely to be chronic and more severe with
population growth and climate change. California voters already
provided a roadmap for how to fund these projects when they
overwhelmingly approved a $7.5 billion water bond last year.
That bond includes $2.7 billion for storage and another $725
million for recycling and advanced treatment.
Recognizing the limits of the Federal budget, this bill
reduces the Federal role in water supply projects to one for
support for state and local projects. The bill provides
authorizations for the following: $600 million for storage
projects to capture water during the wet years to put to good
use during the dry years and another $50 million in support of
research to lower the cost of desalination and reduce its
environmental impacts. The bill also identifies 105 local water
recycling projects capable of producing 850,000 acre-feet of
water and another 26 desalination projects capable of producing
almost 330,000 acre-feet.
To get these projects off the ground, the bill authorizes
$500 million in grants, loans, and loan guarantees, and the
bill creates a program to shift rural and disadvantaged
families from wells to more resilient systems like recycling.
This bill is not going to please everybody. There is no way
to do it. But not to do anything is to run the risk of really
losing the entire economic engine of California. We cannot
function without water. People cannot live without water. So we
are now in a different climate, in a different set of
circumstances, and we need to take action.
I want to thank you, Madam Chairman, for working with us on
our emergency bill before, and I hope you will see the projects
of desalination and recycling as worthy of some Federal
I want you to know that we are searching for offsets. We
understand the financial situation, and we very much hope to
come up with some.
So thank you very much, everybody, for your attention and
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Feinstein. Know that we
certainly will be working with you and the members of the----
Senator Feinstein. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Senator Feinstein follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
The Chairman.--California delegation.
Senator Boxer, welcome to the Committee.
STATEMENT OF HON. BARBARA BOXER, U.S. SENATOR FROM CALIFORNIA
Senator Boxer. Madam Chairman, Ranking Member Cantwell, I
am so glad you two are sitting up there because I honestly--I
really do trust your judgment on a lot of these issues, and I
hope you will work with us very closely because when you talk
about water, you are talking about the third rail of politics
in our state. It is really true.
Now I served in the House for ten years and I absolutely
love the House, ten years, a great experience. But in the
House, I fought for my district, 500,000. Now it is probably
about 600,000 or so, and I understand that.
I want to point out to you that Senator Feinstein and I
represent almost 40 million people, and we hear from all of
them. They are all the stakeholders that care about every word
that we say about this subject. So it is the farmers, yes. It
is the fishing industry, yes. It is the tourist industry, yes.
It is the urban users, the suburban users, the rural users.
They all want to have a seat at the table.
What we have tried to do in our bill is just that. We do
not want to reignite the water wars because, Senator Cantwell,
you are right. They lead to the courthouse door. They have led
to the courthouse door, and what that means is nothing gets
done and people suffer on all sides.
So we have to do something courageous here. We have to say
to all the stakeholders let us hear you out and let us have a
bill that is fair to everyone.
And my guiding light on all these water bills has been
that. I will not reignite the water wars. I will not turn one
stakeholder against the other, environmentalists against the
farmers. That is not what I want to do. Farmers against
fishermen, that is what has happened. We have to get past it.
That is why I am so proud of our bill, because I think we
really did make huge progress.
We are in a fifth year of a devastating drought. My
colleague has laid it out. I won't go over it again because we
know how horrible it is out there. It is hurting everyone. All
the stakeholders are bleeding. They are hurting--the farmers,
the fishermen, the urban, suburban users. And yes, some people
are actually cutoff from water supplies.
The wildfires, it is extraordinary. It is frightening. Our
first responders just put their life on the line because the
conditions on the ground are such.
Now we can't get into an argument here about climate
change. It is a loser. But all we want to say is we are dealing
with climate change now, and if people choose not to address
it, it is your option. But today, we are trying to look at
water. So I hope we can do this in the face of this
I want to give a shout-out to our Governor. He has really
led the way by building bipartisan support. He passed a
landmark water bond. Everyone came together. It promotes
recycling, conservation, storage, desal.
Communities are leading the way, and I am proud to tell you
Californians have risen to this occasion. They have reduced
their water use by nearly 27 percent in August, exceeding the
state's mandate for the third straight month.
So now it is time for Congress to act, and that is why I am
so proud that you are having this hearing today. And I am very
encouraged by your opening statements because we need to move
I want to echo what my colleague said. I have never really
seen such a broad array of support for a bill. And I think,
Madam Chairman and Ranking Member Cantwell, you ought to look
at that. I mean, to have support from the California Farm
Bureau Federation and local water districts and the Bay Area
Council and the Nature Conservancy, and in that book you will
see the very strong support that we have.
That doesn't mean it is a perfect bill. There is no such
thing. It is an imperfect bill, but it is a good bill. What we
have done is taken the best of bills that passed the House and
Senate, of some of Senator Feinstein's former bills, my bills,
as other House Members have the best of their bills in this
bill, and it does complement the water bond that we passed. So,
yes, we will need to have some funding, but there is funding
back home as well.
This bill benefits all the stakeholders. It helps farmers
without undermining fundamental environmental protections. It
helps hard-hit communities. It takes an all-of-the-above
approach, which we always say we love. We always say we love an
all-of-the-above approach. That is what we do here. We invest
in conservation, water storage, recycling, desal, all the
things that we know we can do. The bill is a compromise.
Madam Chair, if I could just let you know this. I have
compromised on this bill. You know, if I could write it all on
my own and not talk to anyone else, it would look different. We
did compromise on this.
It has the elements, as I said, of a number of proposals
that I have put forward in the past, Senator Feinstein, and
Members of the House. It is critical that we pass legislation
that doesn't undermine Federal and State environmental
protections because, as Senator Cantwell noted, that would only
threaten fragile ecosystems. It would also put thousands of
jobs at risk in our home state in recreation, in tourism, in
We need a bipartisan, comprehensive drought bill. We have a
chance to do this right. We can pass a bill that has broad
support, that unites all of our water users, that has the
support of the Administration and the State of California that
will move our water policy into the 21st Century. That is what
I am urging you to do from the bottom of my heart because this
Bring us all together. This bill does it. This is a unique
moment in history where we have found a bill that has this kind
of broad support.
So we will work with you. We want to alleviate the pain not
only in our state, but across much of the West. The solutions
in here are for the whole country, and I thank you so much for
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Boxer. I appreciate your
leadership in these issues, long-standing.
Senator Feinstein. Madam Chairman, may we be excused?
The Chairman. Yes. Thank you for being here this morning
and again for your good work.
We will now turn to Congressman Valadao. Welcome to the
STATEMENT OF HON. DAVID VALADAO, U.S. REPRESENATIVE FROM
Mr. Valadao. Thank you.
The Chairman. Good morning, and thank you for your
leadership on this issue.
Mr. Valadao. Good morning, Chairwoman Murkowski, Ranking
Member Cantwell, and members of the committee.
I appreciate the invitation to testify before you today on
my legislation, H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food
Security Act of 2015, which passed the House of Representatives
this past June.
Before we get into the details of the bill, I wanted to
share a little bit about the area I represent. California's
21st congressional District is unique. Located in the southern
half of the Central Valley, my district spans about 160 miles
from the Fresno County line to just south of Bakersfield, an
agriculture powerhouse. The Central Valley produces the
majority of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts for the entire
Minority populations make up over 80 percent of my
constituency, and our communities face many unique challenges
due to our rural setting, such as a lack of healthcare and
education. With another manmade drought evolving, the San
Joaquin Valley is in danger of becoming a dustbowl unless
immediate action is taken to change the policies that puts the
needs of fish above the livelihood of people.
As a lifelong resident of the Central Valley and as a dairy
farmer in Hanford, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges
faced by many residents when the water resources become scarce.
Today, parts of my district are suffering from unemployment
rates as high as 50 percent.
As farmers are forced to fallow thousands of acres, the
ripple effects are felt throughout the community. Workers are
laid off, families are unable to provide for their children,
and while food lines continue to grow, we must import food from
other countries just to meet the demand. I have seen families
out of options, living in shacks along the road.
It is difficult to watch my friends and neighbors, people I
grew up with, suffer because of the laws passed by Congress and
the method in which the Federal agencies have chosen to
implement these laws. The San Joaquin Valley is facing a dire
situation, and the simple fact of the matter is that we, as
Members of Congress, need to add a little bit of common sense
into the law.
In an effort to throw a lifeline to California and all of
the Western States enduring years of drought, I worked with my
colleagues to act decisively. My legislation, H.R. 2898, the
Western Water and American Food Security Act, would streamline
the regulatory process, provide flexibility, and improve
scientific efforts to restore some water supplies, in turn
providing more economic certainty to farmers and communities in
the Central Valley.
Although a lack of precipitation contributes to the
valley's water supply situation, problems are exacerbated by
Federal regulations and decisions of the Federal and State
water managers. The dedication of vast quantities of water for
the protection of endangered fish is done at a great cost to
the communities in central and southern California.
Despite this, there is no scientific indication that the
condition of the very fish they are trying to protect has
actually improved. Furthermore, there may be alternative
methods to protect fish from predatory species that could allow
for additional water supplies to be made available to those
areas most in need.
My legislation would ensure that the Federal Government's
decisions to protect listed species are effective and based on
up-to-date science. H.R. 2898 also requires agencies to use the
most accurate survey methods and to determine how water
projects can operate to maximize water utilization and
We all know that the Government cannot make it rain;
however, Congress does have the ability to expand water storage
in wet times so that we can get through the inevitable dry
years. With more reservoirs, we can expand our water
infrastructure and storage to ensure reliable water supply for
Dam feasibility studies that began over a decade ago are
still incomplete today costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
H.R. 2898 improves the process to build storage on a West-wide
basis through provisions modeled after the Water Resources
Reform and Development Act. It makes common sense changes to
the Safety and Dams Act, reducing such red tape that could
prevent additional years of inaction.
This legislation is extremely measured, given the carnage
caused by the Federal Government. The language regarding
California that passed the House of Representatives is very
similar to the language negotiated with the Senate just last
year. I believe it is reasonable to continue our dialog from
where our conversation ended rather than where it began.
I have experienced the challenges the West faces because of
this epic drought. I have seen the harm it has done to the
people and jobs and its ever-growing impact on the environment.
I remain hopeful that Congress can find a solution to provide
relief to all those suffering not just in California, but for
the entire West, as well as those Americans who rely on us to
put food on their table.
On behalf of the House of Representatives, we stand ready
to work with the committee to achieve this goal.
Thank you again for your time, Senator.
The Chairman. Thank you, Congressman. I appreciate you
being here and really on the House side continuing to work
these issues that have been so key.
I have visited with many Members over there. I think it is
testimony to where we are here today discussing this particular
bill that has moved through. We need to be working with our
counterparts on the other side, so thank you for your
leadership with this.
Mr. Valadao. Well, and thank you. I appreciate you taking
so much time to especially come out to the valley. And I would
like to actually invite any one of the members of the committee
and even the two Senators that spoke here alongside of me to
come visit the valley.
Come see some of these areas that you hear about in the
news when you hear about people having water bottles delivered
to their house so they can take care of their families or bathe
their children or the shacks that they have been putting up
along some of these roads. This is having a real human impact
here, and it is something that I think people need to see for
themselves to truly understand.
So I appreciate the time that you have taken out personally
for this and look forward to continuing to work with you.
The Chairman. Thank you.
With that, we will now turn to our panel of witnesses. We
have a full slate this morning. So I would ask that Mr. Connor,
Mr. Kightlinger, Ms. Woolf, Mr. Keppen, Mr. Frank, and Mr.
Oglesby, please come forward, and we will do introductions and
move to your testimony.
Good morning, and welcome to all of you. Thank you for
agreeing to join us here this morning to speak to the pending
legislation before us and to receive further testimony on the
Western-wide drought issues and the legislation that we have.
We will begin this morning's panel with the Honorable
Michael Connor, who is the Deputy Secretary for the U.S.
Department of Interior.
After his comments, he will be followed by Mr. Jeff
Kightlinger. Jeff is the General Manager for the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California. Welcome to the committee
We have Ms. Sarah Woolf, who is the president of Water Wise
and a partner in Clark Brothers Farming.
Mr. Dan Keppen is the Executive Director of the Family Farm
Alliance. Thank you for joining us.
We have Mr. Richard Frank, who is the Director of the
California Environmental Law and Policy Center at the
University of California, Davis. Thank you.
Wrapping up the panel is Mr. Adrian Oglesby, who is the
Executive Director of the Utton Transboundary Resources Center
at the University of New Mexico. He is also Vice-Chair of the
Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.
Again, thank you all for the testimony that you will
provide for us. We would ask that you limit your comments this
morning to about five minutes. Your full testimony will be
included as part of the record. Once each of you have concluded
your remarks, we will have opportunities for members of the
committee to ask questions to you.
With that, Mr. Connor, if you would begin the panel this
STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL CONNOR, DEPUTY SECRETARY, U.S.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Mr. Connor. Thank you, Chairman Murkowski, Ranking Member
Cantwell, Senator Franken. I appreciate the opportunity to
appear again before the committee to continue our discussion on
drought response measures.
As I expressed in June, the Administration is acutely aware
of the drought-related challenges confronting families,
farmers, tribes, businesses, cities, rural communities, and the
environment throughout the West. And we are committed to doing
all we can to meet those challenges.
As detailed in my written testimony, we are taking a
multifaceted approach in marshaling every resource at our
disposal to assist Western communities impacted by the drought.
These actions include maximizing water supplies for health and
safety purposes, as well as farming and other economic
activities, maintaining critical environmental protections for
fish and wildlife, and conserving stored water in the event of
continued drought. It is with this backdrop that I have
submitted testimony on the three drought bills before the
committee that, by and large, take vastly different approaches
to this problem.
Two of these bills in particular, H.R. 2898 and S. 1894,
stand in vivid contrast to each other. They are not just
illustrative of diverse and competing concerns that have
historically driven water conflicts throughout the West, they
are representative of the challenges we face today and our
common goal to maximize water supplies, build long-term
resiliency, and promote collaborative efforts that avoid
pitting water users against each other.
To quickly summarize, as set forth in a July statement of
Administration policy in my written testimony, the
Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2898. There are many
specific provisions which are objectionable, but in general,
the bill would impede drought response efforts through measures
that slow decision-making, increase the likelihood of divisive
litigation, mandate infeasible outcomes, and limit the real-
time operational flexibility that is critical to maximizing
With respect to S. 1894, there are numerous provisions in
the bill that we do support, while others cause concern or need
additional clarification or technical edits. We are grateful
for the many months of dedicated work on the part of Senator
Feinstein and her staff to craft and refine S. 1894. In
general, we do remain concerned about provisions that could be
the basis for new litigation regarding operational decisions
intended to maximize water supply.
At the same time, we appreciate the comprehensive approach
in S. 1894 that is intended to address the need for
conservation, habitat improvements, new water supplies, and
create financing mechanisms to support all those approaches. S.
1894 most closely tracks with the Administration's ongoing
efforts to address the short-term crisis of drought, as well as
developing the broad array of tools needed to build resiliency
in the face of climate change.
With respect to the third water bill, I would note that
until this year, drought has been affecting New Mexico almost
to the extent similar to California. This year has provided
some relief, but water supplies, particularly in the Rio Grande
basin, are still well below normal. The Department supports the
goals in many provisions of the New Mexico Drought Preparedness
Act. We do, however, have some concerns about some of the
introduced language in the bill that are detailed in my written
In closing, I want to stress that the ongoing drought,
particularly in California, has greatly limited water supply.
By some metrics like snowpack, soil moisture, groundwater depth
in some areas, this may be the worst drought in at least 500
years. No legislation is going to greatly increase water supply
in the short term, and to the extent it could provide some
modest increase, the additional supply to one user is likely to
come at the expense of some other water user or an already
Nonetheless, the Administration's extensive administrative
and operational actions are proving that significant progress
on drought can be made within the law. This is true if those
actions are carried out in close collaboration with the state,
affected water users, and other interested parties. We have
been impressed with the level of cooperation and agreements
that have been reached this year, even in the stress of the
worst drought in recent times.
Looking ahead, it is imperative that the Federal
Government, State, tribes, and local communities think beyond
the scope and scale of the current drought and plan for the
needs of the future in a changing climate.
Several of the provisions of the bill before the committee
today will help us do just that. We are ready to work with the
committee to find common ground on legislation that can
complement the Administration's efforts to assist communities
affected by drought both now and in the future.
I stand ready to answer questions at the appropriate time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Connor follows:]
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The Chairman. Thank you, Secretary Connor.
Mr. Kightlinger, welcome.
STATEMENT OF JEFFREY KIGHTLINGER, GENERAL MANAGER, METROPOLITAN
WATER DISTRICT OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Mr. Kightlinger. Thank you much, Chair Murkowski, Ranking
Member Cantwell, members.
As noted, Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan Water District
of Southern California. We are the largest municipal water
agency in the U.S. We supply water to one in every two
Californians, 19 million people across southern California.
That works out to about two million acre-feet of water a year,
two billion gallons of water every single day on average. That
results in about 50 percent of all of southern California's
water. We get that water from two main sources, the Colorado
River and Northern California, through long aqueducts that
supply that water to Southern California.
As noted by many of the speakers, it is not just California
that is in drought. We are in the midst of a cataclysmic
drought in California. The last four years, driest period in
500 or 1,200 years, depending on which tree rings you are
looking at. But the seven of the last eight years have been
drought in California; four of the last six years have been
declared by our Governors to be emergency droughts over the
last six years.
So an incredible drought in California, but it is a West-
wide drought. Colorado River basin has been in drought since
2000. So we are very concerned about the future of this area,
and we are--and we do greatly appreciate this committee taking
the time to look at the issue, and we certainly appreciate the
efforts of Senators Feinstein and Boxer to introduce
What we particularly like about both bills, both the
Senator's bill and the Congressman's bill, is that it focuses
on two things: both short-term flexibility as well as some
long-term improvements. Short-term flexibility is critical.
Metropolitan keyed a whole group of--a whole suite of
scientific efforts to focus on real-time monitoring, the use of
turbidity as a measure in which to substitute for smelt-
We believed in this process. We had a number of scientists
work on it. We engaged with the fishery agencies and the
regulatory agencies to do that. We did not do a good job in
2013 and 2014, and we probably lost 800,000 acre-feet by storms
that we didn't--weren't able to move that water. That resulted
in taking a bleak year into a cataclysmic drought year.
To their credit, the regulatory agencies didn't want to
repeat what we experienced in '13-'14. They have worked hard to
come up with how to use this real-time monitoring and adaptive
science, and we used it as well as we possibly could 2014-2015.
I believe we wrung as much water that could be possibly wrung
out of the system this past year and kept a bleak year to being
a bleak year. So that was as good as we could do, and the
agencies worked hand-in-hand with us, the water providers, to
make sure we did that.
That is what a lot of the provisions in both the
Congressman Valadao's and the Senator Feinstein-Boxer bill
really are looking at how do we even go further, better, faster
with that real-time monitoring, the adaptive science, and we
think there is a real pathway there to do what we can to--in
the short-term to increase our chances of providing more water
We also appreciate that the bills talk about fast-tracking
and moving on storage. Metropolitan built a $2 billion
reservoir in 2000. We have our own storage in southern
California. But for that, we would have been in dramatic
rationing these past four years. But because we have had
storage, we have been able to manage through that and work
through this drought. The state needs more storage. We need
more storage throughout California, and we appreciate how both
of those bills are looking at that.
Finally, Senator Feinstein's bill really takes a focus on
recycling, reclamation, other projects. We would applaud that
effort. Obviously, we know money is tight, but we think those
are real critical measures that we can do.
So our board has supported the Feinstein-Boxer bill. Our
board has not taken a position on the Valadao bill, but we want
to work with both offices and try and come up with a compromise
solution that works for all of California.
So thank you for your time. Thank you for your attention to
this incredible issue, and I stand prepared to answer any
questions that you have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Kightlinger follows:]
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The Chairman. Mr. Kightlinger, thank you very much. we
STATEMENT OF SARAH WOOLF, PRESIDENT, WATER WISE, AND PARTNER,
CLARK BROTHERS FARMING
Ms. Woolf. Good morning, Chairwoman Murkowski, Ranking
Member Cantwell, and Senators of the committee. I was honored
to be invited to testify today before the committee, and I am
hopeful that my remarks can help facilitate progress on
critical legislation you have before you because entire
communities are depending upon you to find a resolution.
I am a second-generation farmer. My two brothers and I grow
tomatoes, garlic, and onions in Fresno County. My husband, who
is here with me today, is also a farmer in his family business,
and we both farm in the Westlands Water District.
While our farms rely on some seasonal employees, many of
our employees are long-term and have been with us for many,
I know that in June you received testimony from another
fellow farmer, Cannon Michael, who explained the impacts of the
water crisis facing California agriculture. At that time, he
discussed many of the key facts associated with the water
challenges facing California farmers, and he explained that 44
percent of California's 9.6 million acres of irrigated farmland
are receiving zero surface water. I am one of those farmers.
Almost 75 percent of the state's irrigated farmland, nearly
seven million acres, will receive 20 percent or less of this
normal water supply and 692,000 acres of farmland were fallowed
There are very significant facts for you to consider.
However, I also want to bring to your attention the impacts
felt by individuals who live and work in the cities and
communities without water, people without jobs and business
owners recognizing they potentially have no future. The fear
and despair in people's eyes today is real, and it is heart-
wrenching. And Senator Murkowski, you referenced it. I know
this because I spend a lot of time working in these
These people are Californians, and they are working hard to
produce the basic necessities for our country and our world
and, of course, for themselves. They work the land while trying
to improve our schools and our communities. Many of them have
come to our country recently and others from many generations
before, but all with the hope of improving the lives of their
families. They want the opportunities that all Americans want:
an education and an opportunity for a better life.
If our elected representatives are responsible for
anything, it should be to provide the most basic of needs:
water, access to schools, and most importantly, the ability to
work. Without these basic needs, residents of our communities
are forced to live in tents made of pallets behind minimarts
and on the sides of railroad tracks and stand in food lines on
a weekly basis to fulfill those basic needs. We cannot be the
land of opportunity while communities lack water and residents
are actually showering in church parking lots.
What makes our water situation so disturbing is that many
of these negative effects have been imposed on our community
not by Mother Nature but as a direct result of conscious policy
Before you today, you are hearing H.R. 2898, the Western
Water and American Food Security Act, and Senate bill 1894. I
believe that both of these bills address our issues very well,
but we have to go further. We have to have some legislation
because we are running out of time. So to that end, I want to
provide some constructive suggestions.
Last year, a broad cross-section of local community
leaders, such as the Mayor of Fresno and growers from all over
the Central Valley, came together to provide a unified set of
concepts that we believe would be helpful for bridging the
differences between last year's bills and this year's bills.
And to that extent, the same group of growers has put together
a letter that I believe you received yesterday, but I brought
copies again for you today, asking for five critical points.
Provide congressional discretion concerning the operation
of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project to
ensure sufficient operational flexibility to restore water
supply and water supply--excuse me--water supply reliability.
The operations of these projects must be able to capture water
from the delta during periods of higher flows and move water
from north to south in a rational way.
Extend the provision of any legislation for a period of
time that will allow communities to establish sound long-term
water supplies for their future.
Establish a process that could lead to increased storage in
a reasonable timeframe.
Ensure the additional burdens are not placed on the State
Water Project as a result of congressional action.
And finally, recognize the reasonableness and efficacy of
the San Joaquin River Restoration Program must be reevaluated
in light of changing conditions.
Both bills address most of these issues, but I believe the
House proposal gives better direction to the agency on how they
should operate the projects and is a bill that, unlike the
Senate bill, offers permanent solutions. Nevertheless, we think
the differences are surmountable and will--and are interested
in finding a resolution.
Again, thank you all for your invitation today to testify,
and I am prepared to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Woolf follows:]
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The Chairman. Thank you, Ms. Woolf. I appreciate your
attention to the human aspect in very clear terms. Thank you.
Mr. Keppen, welcome.
STATEMENT OF DAN KEPPEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FAMILY FARM
Mr. Keppen. Good morning, Madam Chair, Ranking Member
Cantwell, and members of the committee.
My name is Dan Keppen, and on behalf of the Family Farm
Alliance, I thank you for this opportunity to present this
Our organization has a long history of collaboration with
constructive partners in all levels of government, with
conservation and energy organizations, and with Native American
interests who seek real solutions to water resources challenges
in the 17 Western states.
Policymakers and problem-solvers work with our members
because they deal with realities of the arid West at the ground
level every day. They are the men and women who run farms,
ranches, and irrigation districts. They are people for whom
scarcity is a fact of life and cooperation and innovation are
tools of survival.
Last summer, California farmer Cannon Michael represented
the Alliance at this hearing and testified before this
committee--actually, before this committee on the Western
drought. He emphasized the drought challenges faced by him and
his neighbors like Sarah in California's Central Valley. Since
Mr. Michael testified in June, things have continued to worsen;
however, the recommendations he provided are still relevant
In order to respond to current and future water shortages,
we believe Congress should provide Federal agencies with more
flexibility under existing environmental laws and regulations
to encourage a cooperative approach toward achieving multiple
goals. And where such flexibility currently exists in law,
Congress should demand that agencies use it promptly and with a
minimum of bureaucratic nonsense. Time is of the essence when
making water management decisions during a drought.
Western drought legislation should shift the regulation of
water resources away from the current adversarial structure and
toward an approach that produces better results through
cooperation and innovation. This includes promoting the use of
new technology and water management. Real-time monitoring and
data collection can be used to align water supply operations to
actual fishery and environmental needs.
Agencies need to address non-flow stressors in the Bay
Delta environment, especially non-native fish that prey on fish
species protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Finally, we must invest and reinvest in the Western water
infrastructure necessary to meet current and future demands.
Our existing water infrastructure is aging and in need of
rehabilitation. We need new water storage in order to adapt to
changing hydrology and develop usable and sustainable supplies
to meet growing demands for water.
Streamlining regulations and permitting processes can help.
The Federal Government can continue to be a partner in solving
these water problems in the West by using financial mechanisms
that have very low Federal cost and make water resources
investment more attractive and affordable for non-Federal
Taken together, the bills before the committee today
incorporate nearly all of these elements, and the Alliance
commends the authors for their hard work and foresight. H.R.
2898 provides for more flexible, multipurpose drought water
management in California's Central Valley. It offers a path for
water users in California and other Western states toward
streamlining regulatory hurdles and encouraging the development
of crucial new water storage projects, and it upholds and
protects state-based water rights.
In addition to its California Delta-focused sections, H.R.
2898 contains a number of provisions that would apply
throughout the West. The bill would streamline permit decisions
and authorize expedited procedures to make final decisions on
operations in water projects that can maximize water supplies.
H.R. 2898 provides new authority for agencies to approve
projects that normally would require congressional
authorization. It also directs the development of a Drought
The Family Farm Alliance has always taken the position that
the Western system of prior appropriation still fundamentally
works. We are pleased that the drought legislation before the
committee today includes specific provisions intended to
protect water rights holders.
H.R. 2898 is a large, detailed bill that aggressively and
constructively attempts to tackle the drought challenges of
California's Central Valley and also provides solutions that
will assist other Western states. We support the intent and
vast majority of the bill's provisions.
The Congress and the Federal Government certainly cannot
change the hydrology of the West, but there is a role it can
play to support family farmers and ranchers. As the committee
continues its efforts to address the current drought and
develop policies to improve water management in the long-term,
we ask that you consider the observations and principles that
are outlined and further detailed in our written testimony.
The House has passed H.R. 2898 to address this crisis, and
California Senators have introduced S. 1894; however, two
separate bills are of absolutely no value to a parched West.
What is needed is a single bill that can be enacted by Congress
and signed into law by the President, and unfortunately, time
is not on our side. We must all work together to ensure that
Western water users have every tool available to survive and
recover from the current drought and the hard, dry years that
the future may hold.
Thank you, and I would stand for any questions you may
[The prepared statement of Mr. Keppen follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Keppen.
Mr. Frank, welcome.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD FRANK, PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL PRACTICE
& DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER,
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS SCHOOL OF LAW
Mr. Frank. Thank you, Chairman Murkowski, Senator Cantwell,
members of the committee.
With the beginning of a new water year on October 1st,
California has now officially entered into its fifth year of
drought, which is, as has been mentioned by other speakers, the
most pronounced and protracted and severe in the state's
The good news is that the State of California, its
political leaders, water managers from the Federal, State,
regional, and local levels, and 39 million Californians have
done a pretty darn good job in responding to the challenges of
The--perhaps counterintuitively, the economy of the State
of California has surged and has a remarkable recovery over the
same period when we have been experiencing this five-year
drought. Urban water districts are managing and handling the
drought especially well, due to the visionary leadership and
foresight of folks like my friend and colleague, Jeff
California agriculture overall has done pretty well in the
face of these drought challenges as well. Senator Feinstein
mentioned a study that had just been released by my faculty and
research colleagues at the University of California at Davis,
which concludes that California's $46 billion per year
agricultural industry remains robust. That is really due to
three factors: an increase in the number of water transfers
among the agricultural community; a transition to higher-value
crops in the Central Valley, primarily almonds, walnuts, and
grapes; and third, and perhaps most important, an increased
reliance on groundwater pumping and groundwater, which has
replaced and offset approximately 70 percent of the reductions
in surface water supplies from the Center Valley Project and
the State Water Project.
That is not to say that there are no losers in this
drought. As has been mentioned, some small rural communities in
the Central Valley have been hit especially hard, some
tragedies there. The biggest loser, in my view, has been the
environment--the water birds that depend on the Pacific supply
way and the water refuges of the Great Central Valley that are
currently parched; our native fish species in California, which
are in devastating crisis right now; and an unprecedented
number of tinder-dry forests that are erupting into wildfires,
a problem which, of course, is not limited to California but is
being experienced this year throughout the American West.
I want to spend--turn my attention and spend the rest of my
time talking about some common virtues of the two bills,
several concerns I have with House bill 2898 and why I believe
the Senate bill is a preferable option. In terms of the common
virtues, both bills require the preparation and completion in
the very near term of feasibility studies of surface water
projects and other efforts. Those projects have been discussed
in the abstract for a long time, but getting down to basics and
seeing if they pencil out economically and make environmental
sense is welcome.
Both bills address the particular problems of invasive and
predatory species, which has had a devastating economic and
ecosystem effect, particularly in California's delta. Some, but
not all, of the proposed steps in the bill is to expedite
environmental review of proposed drought--emergency drought
response efforts similarly make sense.
Let me turn to some concerns I have identified with respect
to House bill 2898. At the end of the day, the bill is a
straightforward reallocation of finite surface water supplies
from environmental programs to agricultural purposes. And I
would submit there are three thematic deficiencies with that
A better approach, it seems to me, is to expand the pie to
work to create additional water supplies through recycling,
reuse, desalination, and conservation projects.
Second, what all water users want and need--agricultural
users, urban, conservationists--is greater certainty. And I am
concerned that several of the proposals in the House bill would
undermine that certainty and create additional litigation and
Third and finally, and as you have heard from both Federal
and State water managers, in the face of this drought, day-to-
day, real-time coordination and operation by Federal and State
water managers is critical. I am concerned that some of the
provisions of the House bill will undermine those collaborative
and successful efforts by Federal and State water managers.
Some specific concerns about the bill: legislative
amendments to the biological opinions for delta smelt and
salmon seem quite troublesome and set a disturbing and
unfortunate precedent, as do a number of the bill's proposed
amendments to the Endangered Species Act specific to
California; some significant undercutting of the Central Valley
Project Improvement Act of 1992, one of the most significant
environmental pieces of legislation, at least to Californians,
in the last quarter-century; and finally, the repeal of Federal
participation in implementing the San Joaquin River settlement.
I share Senator Cantwell's concerns that if that is passed, the
parties will return to their litigation foxholes, and we will
have more costly, expensive, perhaps unending litigation.
By contrast, the Senate bill doesn't contain any of the
specific infirmities I have identified. It does expand the
water supply pie, including not just new surface storage
projects but also raising the height of the existing dams and
reservoirs, critically important looking at groundwater storage
as an additional alterative, which in many cases is going to be
more cost-effective and can be undertaken more quickly than new
surface storage projects, stormwater recapture, desalination,
and the like; the Federal support for integrated regional water
management strategies; and additional welcomed support for
Federal and State water managers in California.
And last and finally, and again addressing what the Senator
has mentioned before, the--some of the--Senator Feinstein, that
is--addressing the drought-stricken rural communities that have
paid a particular burden and are deprived of regular water
sources in the drought. Those folks need immediate help, and
the Senate bill does that.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify. I would
be glad to answer any questions the committee may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Frank follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Frank.
Mr. Oglesby, your comments, please. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF ADRIAN OGLESBY, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO
UTTON TRANSBOUNDARY RESOURCES CENTER, AND VICE-CHAIR, MIDDLE
RIO GRANDE CONSERVANCY DISTRICT
Mr. Oglesby. Good morning, Madam Chair, Senator Cantwell,
members of the committee and staff.
I would like to actually start by introducing the Chairman
of my Board at the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District,
Derrick Lente, and our new Chief Engineer and Chief Executive
Officer, Mike Hamman.
The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, we irrigate
approximately 65,000 acres in the Middle Valley around the
Albuquerque area. I will start with a little bit of good news.
New Mexico has emerged this year from the worst drought in
history. Half of the state is considered to be out of
abnormally dry conditions, although half of the state still is
in abnormally dry conditions.
I am very pleased to be here talking about the New Mexico
Drought Preparedness Act, and I am very grateful to Senator
Heinrich and Senator Udall for sponsoring this bill. It has a
lot of good ideas in it that we have been talking about for a
The first that I will touch upon is the Water Leasing
Program. This is a voluntary program that we contemplate
establishing in our district. And we have been talking about
this for about 15 years in our valley, and to be quite frank,
our Conservancy District has opposed a voluntary leasing
program because we saw it as a capitulation to the
environmental community. We now realize that we need to give
our farmers every tool in the toolbox so that they can survive
times of drought and, frankly, just times of hardship.
If a farmer needs to take a year off to take care of his
sick wife, a leasing program will give him an opportunity to
make something come off of his water and return to farming
rather than just sell out. And that is important to us, to keep
these farms and production in the future after times of
It is also a matter of recognizing that these are private
property rights, and it is not our business to tell our farmers
what to do with their water. We think that they are smart
enough and we certainly respect them enough to open the door to
And we appreciate the help that this bill gives us in terms
of technical assistance and in terms of financial assistance,
although we have committed to taking the lead on this program.
So we are not looking for a handout, we are just looking for a
little guidance. Some examples from around the West could help
us move this forward.
The bill also touches upon water conservation, primarily
focusing on metering. You cannot manage what you do not meter,
and we could be doing a lot more metering in the Middle Rio
Grande and all across New Mexico. And this bill does affect all
of New Mexico. Forgive me if my testimony is a little Middle
There are some other interesting aspects of it. We actually
plan on realigning the Rio Grande itself, moving it out of its
existing channel where it is awfully high and we are losing a
lot of water to seepage. There are sections that we need to
move to lower parts of the valley. This is dramatic, but it has
been done before, and we need to do it again. And we also need
to do this because we have an odd situation where we have a
National Wildlife Refuge that often is irrigating when the
river right next to the refuge is dry. By doing some
infrastructure changes and moving the river, we think we can
help to alleviate that strange situation.
And again, the District is partnering closely with our
Federal agencies on this, and in fact, we have committed
$500,000 a year of our own money to doing metering and
efficiency improvements. So we are walking hand-in-hand with
the Federal Government on this one.
An interesting portion of this bill is the peak flow
restoration. We have heavily modified the Middle Rio Grande. At
the top of our valley, we have Cochiti Dam, and Cochiti has
stopped the spring flows from coming down. The Rio Grande is a
snowmelt-driven river, and those high-pulse flows used to
trigger the spawning of our endangered silvery minnow, and the
overbank flows would reinvigorate our Bosque. That is what we
call the riparian forest in New Mexico that several endangered
birds rely upon. Without those peak flows, I believe we will
not be able to recover the silvery minnow, and we will lose our
riparian forest, or at least the wonderful riparian forest we
We need to operate pulse flows out of Cochiti. We have done
this for the last few years. We have seen success from this,
but we need the Corps of Engineers to have a reauthorization of
Cochiti Reservoir. We have been doing this under deviations,
and so we are asking for five years of deviations in the future
and then a reauthorization of Cochiti. We do want to work very
closely with Cochiti Pueblo and Santa Ana Pueblo, who are
directly impacted by this, and so we are walking hand-in-hand
with them as well.
Again, our District is not just looking for a handout here.
We have committed $150,000 a year of our own money to look at
the science behind these aspects.
The other very important--and if you will allow me just
another moment, Madam Chair--a very important concept in this
bill is the reservoir study. We have seven reservoirs in our
Rio Grande system, each with independent authorizations and
each with specific functions. So our hands are tied in how we
can coordinate the management of those reservoirs.
We would like to analyze how we can use all these
reservoirs in a conjunctive way, how we can maximize and
optimize the operations of these reservoirs. We think that
there are opportunities that we are missing because of the
Federal legal restrictions on how we operate these reservoirs.
So I will just jump to the end and give you what I consider
to be just a little bit more good news. We are working together
in New Mexico, and that has not always been the case. And I
will be honest. It is not always pretty, and it is not always
fun, but we are working together.
I think we are moving away from what has been 15 years of
fish-versus-farmer and are realizing that now is the time when
it is the fish and the farmer versus changes in precipitation,
urbanization. And so we are very pleased to see that our
Senators are seizing this opportunity, that we are taking
advantage of the crisis of the drought so that we can survive
this drought and that we can thrive through the next drought.
So thank you very much, and I look forward to our
[The prepared statement of Mr. Oglesby follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Oglesby. It is always nice to
end the panel on a little bit of good news, so I appreciate you
sharing that with us.
As I listen to the six of you and the comments on the
various pieces of legislation that we have in front of us, I
think it is very clear we do have a different approach that is
reflected through the Senate bill and then the House bill.
There are some areas of clear agreement, and I think it is
always good to recognize that if we are going to build the
legislation that is going to be necessary to address the
challenges--and I believe very firmly that we must define this
legislation and work to advance it--that we have got some
things that we can be building on.
Clearly there is a role for technology to play here. We
have heard that from just about everyone. I have had an
opportunity to see at least from the agriculture perspective
and visiting with some of the farmers out there, to see what
they have done to cut back on their water use. It is really
quite dramatic and very, very impressive.
When we think about the technologies, desalination I think
we all recognize is going to allow for a game-changing approach
to how we deal with water and water supply. Recycling, again,
another area where our technologies will allow us to do more
with, unfortunately, what we continue to see is much less
coming from Mother Nature herself. So this is an area where I
would hope that we can be working to enhance.
The storage issue I think is, again, an area where we
recognize that when we have the ability to provide for that
storage, it allows us to make it through some of the highs and
the lows and kind of softens some of the impact at a time of
shortage. So how we can work to build out that is also key.
I want to ask you, Mr. Connor, because clearly we have some
real differences, and I appreciate that. I am pretty sure that
I heard from each and every one of you that the way we are
going to figure this out in terms of legislation is by working
together, that it will require collaboration, and what you
spoke to, Mr. Oglesby, about what you have seen in New Mexico
can be something for us to look to.
So I have cited a couple of areas where I think we have
some room to work here. You have indicated that you are happy
to be working with the bills' sponsors, with the committee on
some of the concerns that have been raised with key aspects of
Can you cite to some additional areas, Mr. Connor, where we
can be working together on some of the common areas and how we
can start from a good position of agreement rather than
starting this off with arguing about what we do not like in it?
Where else can we be building together?
Mr. Connor. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
You mentioned a couple on the expanding water supply front,
which I do think are very key areas, important tools that we
can apply. So I just want to double-down on your indication
that you thought you heard that those are areas you can work
on. Desalination, a new approach to storage I think is
appropriate to look at at this point in time, and so we do
endorse those with respect to our testimony.
Other areas: expanded reuse and conservation activities we
are strongly supportive of within those bills. The provisions
that would also reflect a need to restore habitat in
conjunction with those programs, I think, are very supportable.
I think where we have the most stark differences are
legislatively how do you deal with water operations and how do
you reconcile the environmental laws and our operational plans
and deal with that in the context of drought?
The Chairman. Do you think that that is reconcilable? I
mean, you point out that it is hard. I agree it is hard.
Mr. Connor. It is----
The Chairman. Can we work through this?
Mr. Connor. It is a tough area to deal with because we
think--and I think you heard from Mr. Kightlinger here, and I
very much agree--we have gone kind of through an evolution here
over the last few years in our operations in the Bay Delta. In
'09-'10 when we were in a drought situation, we were litigating
about the biological opinions. We were not talking on a daily
basis, a weekly basis about operations. We were operating, and
we were preparing for depositions. It was not a good dynamic.
In late '12-'13 when we started getting hit with this new
drought situation, we had kind of been on the waning side of
that litigation, and we had the situation that Jeff referenced,
which was loss of pumping because of locations of smelt, and
we, under biological opinions, ratcheted down.
I think we did lose more water in that situation than we
should have if we had been communicating and working and
looking at the data closely. I think we have come a long way in
'14 and '15 in increasing the science, the data that we make
our decisions on, communicating better, and, as Jeff pointed
out, wringing every drop out of the system while maintaining
our compliance with the environmental laws.
So my point is we don't want to go back to a situation
where we are creating opportunities to litigate. We think the
House bill does that. We have some concerns with the Senate
bill, which I think can be worked through on that front.
And we have got to try and memorialize this process because
the biggest change has been the Federal Government and the
State Government working hand-in-hand on a daily basis and then
extending that with the water user community and other folks
interested in the environmental issues. How can we make sure
that process continues? I think that is what we need to look at
from an operational standpoint.
The Chairman. I am going to have more questions, but I will
turn to colleagues.
Senator Cantwell. Well, thank you, Madam Chair.
I think continuing on that same point because it is so
good, Mr. Connor, to hear you talk about the things that we do
agree on. And I want to thank all the witnesses because I know
what a challenging situation this is for California and for the
whole West in dealing with this.
I think that expanding the pie and modernizating storage is
one of the biggest opportunities. We are kind of stuck in a
1960s concept of storage, and I think the innovation that can
come in new methods of storage is very, very helpful.
Definitely reuse and conservation, habitat, all of those things
But following up on this question because I do, like many
of the aspects of 1894, have concerns that Mr. Frank mentioned
and you mentioned about the House bill. It is my understanding
that delivery has been curtailed due to the delta smelt
biological opinion since 2013 and that water diversion for
salmon only accounted for less than two percent of the water
So what I am trying to get at here is that I think some
people would like to come here and promulgate this notion that
this is all about the ESA when, in reality, it is about the
fact that we are in a drought and what we are going to do about
it, and the fact that we want to stay out of the litigation
process because it might make everybody feel good to pass a
bill like that, but the end result of litigation will just put
us into the do-nothing category, which will put us further and
further and further behind.
So if you could comment on that, either Mr. Connor or Mr.
Mr. Connor. Absolutely. I think the litigation is a path
that is never-ending. I think even if--when it results in a
decision, it results in a single decision on a single point
that leaves the rest of the issues to be continually litigated.
And so from that standpoint, I do agree 100 percent that we
want to avoid that path in whatever situation, whether it is
California, whether it is New Mexico. And we are seeing
progress when we do that.
With respect to the Endangered Species Act, I think the two
percent figure you referenced was from me in past statements,
and I think it represents a little bit of bad math, but it is
four percent with respect to 2014. What we looked at was--and
the Bureau of Reclamation is accounting for this now. The
operational adjustments that we make during the course of a
water year, what are due to general permits that we have to
operate under, what are due under the biological opinions?
In 2014, we reduced pumping in a manner that was about--
amounted to about 62,000 acre-feet of water under the salmon
biological opinion. Those were specific reductions that we made
according to Bureau of Reclamation's calculations. That was the
loss of pumping and supply to the Central Valley Project.
We estimate that--the Central Valley Project I think in
2014 pumped about half of what it normally does pump, and I
think it was somewhere around--or less than half. It was a
million acre-feet, where it pumps typically about 2.5 million
acre-feet. Of that reduction in pumping that was lost because
of hydrology because of the drought, it is about 1.5 million
acre-feet. That 60,000 acre-feet represents about four percent.
Senator Cantwell. And the smelt----
Mr. Connor. So it is a very small----
Senator Cantwell. And the smelt was----
Mr. Connor. The smelt was not a factor for reduction of
pumping in 2014. In 2013, the numbers were larger. It was a
little over 300,000 acre-feet, and about half was due to the
smelt biological opinion, about half was due to the salmon
Senator Cantwell. Do you think that S. 1894 has the
programs that, you know, we have implemented a lot at the state
level in Washington with farmers and fishermen working
together? Do you think there is a lot of flexibility in S. 1894
for that kind of creativity?
Mr. Connor. I do think it certainly leads us to more in the
cooperative efforts that we have been doing over the last few
years. It is trying to convene the parties through these
processes to try to adaptively manage, trying to encourage us
to make sure that our decisions are transparent and they are
based on the best-available science, yes.
Senator Cantwell. Well, I definitely, when it comes to
Federal dollars, would rather put things on the table to get
people to work together than spend money defending lawsuits. I
think it is a better use of everybody's money.
The Chairman. Senator Flake.
Senator Flake. Thank you, Madam Chair.
While a lot of the media attention has been focused on
specific worst-case scenarios related to the drought, I am
pleased that the Chair is committed to move forward on a West-
wide drought bill that addresses the water needs throughout the
In preparation for this and with an eye toward the present
problems and the coming realities of water in the West, I have
sought over the last 18 months to put together a consensus of
Federal water policy provisions that would be beneficial to
Arizona. In Arizona, we have benefited over the past several
decades from many forward-looking leaders who have planned well
and have prepared the state well for the droughts that are here
and certainly to come.
Senator McCain and I have worked with the Governor's office
and former Senator Kyl and other stakeholders in developing a
series of ideas that I hope will be incorporated into bills
that we are discussing today. Several of these ideas were built
on portions of the drought bill that was passed in the Senate
last year by unanimous consent, and others will expand concepts
that are included in the California-focused bills that are
currently before us.
We will seek to address water-intensive invasive species
that plague a number of rivers in Arizona and throughout the
Southwest. In addition, there are several items that will allow
for targeted forest restoration in critical watersheds. There
is also a provision for a pilot project to allow more efficient
use of current water storage in reservoirs.
Now, fortunately, a wet May has made the shortage
declaration in this year unlikely. I think we can all agree,
however, that we could well see such a declaration in the near
future. Arizona, along with the other basin states, is looking
forward and looking for ways to avoid that shortage
Thus far, the most promising efforts have included states
voluntarily leaving some of their water--some of their state's
water entitlement storage in the Colorado River. The number-one
priority in Arizona is to make sure that when Arizona or any
other state voluntarily contributes their water to the health
of the Colorado system, the contributed water actually stays in
the system and does not disappear along somebody else's canals.
Now, without these assurances, obviously such preventive
measures do not make sense. It would be like having a savings
account and seeing your neighbor just being able to reach in
and grab money from it.
While not all the lower-basin states are affected by the
shortage declaration in the same way, I am hopeful that we can
agree on a way to ensure that these voluntary contributions
actually do what they are intended to do.
I appreciate the attention on this issue, the entire issue,
of drought in the West, and I look forward to the process and
looking for meaningful solutions.
Just as a question to Deputy Secretary Connor, as I
mentioned, the number-one priority I have heard from Arizona is
to protect the legal status of water left in Lake Mead through
these voluntary arrangements that I referenced and with the MOU
that you referenced during your testimony here on June 2nd.
There is, however, some concern that the Secretary has
discretion to choose to reprioritize the so-called system water
created under these arrangements or agreements. What assurances
do the lower-basin states have that the Secretary would never
agree to reprioritize system water for delivery in the same
year instead of that water remaining in Lake Mead?
Mr. Connor. Thank you, Senator Flake, for the question.
I think the assurances are based on the practice that has
come to be the custom in the Colorado River, and we have at the
Department deferred in a number of situations going past--going
back across Administrations in 2007 with the seven-state
agreement that led to the Record of Decision on coordinated
operations and shortage-sharing. We operate pursuant to that
and have incorporated that into our decision-making guidelines.
So the state's agreement has been the model for us to
operate, and we have not since 2007--the Secretary has not
exercised any discretion to unilaterally allocate any unused
allocation since that time.
So as we move forward and we very much appreciate the
efforts of all the states, including Arizona, of looking at
ways to create new water in Lake Mead for the benefit of the
system, not any particular state, of how we lock in that by
agreement amongst the states and the Federal Government and
operating pursuant thereof, I think those discussions are going
on right now.
It is the standard mode of practice that we would adhere
to, and we would try and ensure that, you know, it is always
going to be--I can give you my word, but as of January 2017, it
is not going to mean much in the basin. So it is how we lock it
in through agreements that can sustain itself across
Senator Flake. Right. You are right. That always has been
the custom that has been followed to look at the agreements
that are there, but is there a severe enough level of drought
somewhere in the basin that would justify, in your view, the
Secretary using that discretion to remove water that has been
put there for storage?
Mr. Connor. In any situation, absent an agreement, the
Secretary is going to consult very closely with the seven basin
states, particularly the lower-basin states in the use of any
unused allocation. I think that is the practice even before
2007. So I wouldn't speculate right now that there is a
situation where I say--where I would say we would override that
consultation process and move unilaterally.
Senator Flake. All right. Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chairman. Thank you.
Senator Heinrich. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Oglesby, I want to touch on a couple of things. In New
Mexico, as you know, we have often found that voluntary
agreements and collaborative efforts are more effective at
resolving these water conflicts than mandated management
requirements. A great example is not in your basin but in the
San Juan Basin. We have a very successful collaborative effort
of Federal and State, tribal governments, utilities, water
users, landowners, farmers, conservation groups, and others,
and that collaborative group implements a recovery plan for
four endangered fish in the Upper Colorado Basins.
Can you just talk from your perspective in the Middle Rio
Grande Valley a little bit about the value of voluntary
collaborative efforts as a solution to some of these direct
Mr. Oglesby. Certainly. Thank you, Senator Heinrich.
I appreciate you using the San Juan recovery program as an
example. I was pleased to serve on the executive committee
there for a while.
And we actually are trying to convert our endangered
species program in the Middle Rio Grande Valley into a recovery
implementation program based on the success they have up there.
We are making progress on that. I suspect in the next few
years, we will be able to get there.
There are other great examples of collaboration, and as you
know, we in New Mexico don't like being told what to do. We are
a very independent people. And so I might raise the
Collaborative Forest Restoration Program as an example. We are
protecting our watersheds in cooperation with our traditional
communities, with our land grants and our acequias and having
good success at it.
Parallel to that at the state level, we have a piece of
legislation that came out of our legislature with unanimous
support last year to greatly expand the amount of forest
restoration that we are doing in New Mexico. Our Governor did
veto it based on some administrative concerns, but I think we
can overcome that easily with some modifications to that
But, yes, you know, folks in New Mexico, we like to work
together, we like to help our neighbors, but we like to do it
on our own terms.
Senator Heinrich. Thank you.
I want to turn to Deputy Secretary Connor real quickly, and
obviously, we look forward to working with you on some of the
technical concerns with the New Mexico bill, and very much
appreciate your feedback on that.
I want to switch real quickly to an issue of just how we
best spend what are obviously very limited taxpayer dollars in
resolving some of these shortage issues. Recently the Bureau of
Reclamation conducted a value-planning study of the proposed
diversion project on the Gila River in New Mexico. How much
should we expect that the proposed diversion project would cost
according to that study? What is the range that it found?
Mr. Connor. Reclamation has looked at that at the appraisal
level, which is a very, you know, preliminary level of
analysis. But the range is somewhere in the neighborhood of, I
believe, $600 million to over $1 billion for a new diversion
project on the Gila River system.
Senator Heinrich. At least in the initial report, it was, I
believe, $685 million up to a billion and change. Now, of that,
the available Federal funds under the settlement would be about
$128 million. Is that correct?
Mr. Connor. Yes. Under the Arizona Water Settlement Act
passed in 2004, there would be the opportunity for up to $128
million. That was dependent--that last $28 million was
dependent upon return on investment in the Lower Basin
Development Fund being at a certain level, which it has not
Senator Heinrich. Right.
Mr. Connor. So I think we are looking more at the
eligibility being $100 million----
Senator Heinrich. Okay.
Mr. Connor.--as opposed to the 128 figure.
Senator Heinrich. So if you take those figures, you take
$685,000 up to a billion, you subtract out $100 million, and we
are still talking about $500 million to almost $900 million in
costs that are not covered. Where would the balance of that
funding have to come from? Would it be from State and local
contributions, or how would that----
Mr. Connor. Yes----
Senator Heinrich.--enormous delta be covered?
Mr. Connor. I think given the Federal funds available
already, that there is not a good expectation that there would
be additional Federal funds available for this project. So,
yes, it would be State and local funds that would be needed to
finance that particular project. The balance, as you
Senator Heinrich. And----
Mr. Connor.--over $500,000.
Senator Heinrich. If I remember right, last year
Reclamation also looked at the cost-benefit analysis of that.
Did that report find that the benefits outweighed the costs for
any of the proposed diversion configurations?
Mr. Connor. I believe that is correct. The preliminary work
on feasibility did yield a questionable cost-benefit where the
costs were--greatly exceeded the benefits. That work would be
shored up in more detail in an EIS process that is being
contemplated, but that was the preliminary analysis.
Senator Heinrich. Thank you.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Heinrich.
I believe it was Senator Gardner that was next. I just want
to make sure. Yes, Senator Gardner?
Senator Gardner. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair. I am
The Chairman. Oh, wait----
Senator Gardner. I was going to say, I am happy to yield to
The Chairman. Senator Daines.
Senator Daines. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Our witnesses today testified about the challenges
associated with inadequate water management in the West, and
being a Montanan, we, too, have seen the effects of drought
this year. If you look at the maps, certainly what has gone on
in California and the Central Valley, you know, is very, very
severe. But that drought pattern continues up certainly the
North in Oregon, Washington, and then it really takes about the
third of our northwest part of our state included in this
In June, this committee heard testimony on two bills, which
I have cosponsored. One is Senate bill 1552, the Clean Water
for Rural Communities Act; and Senate bill 15--or, excuse me,
1365, the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act.
Combined, these bills would facilitate water delivery to over
23 million acres in Montana and millions more acres across the
West for rural communities that do not have good access to
quality water supply today.
Now I do not have a question today but would just like to
say that if we are going to address our droughts and water
supply crisis West-wide, I believe these bills should be part
of the solution. It solves the water challenges. It may also be
part of forging a bipartisan coalition and package here to get
I understand some concerns from the Senators as well as the
need for an offset. They do need to be addressed. But I would
like to work with the committee and other colleagues on a path
forward to these bills to ensure they remain part of the
solution to our Western water challenges.
I yield back my time, Madam Chair.
The Chairman. Senator Gardner.
Senator Gardner. Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to
the witnesses for being here today.
I just wanted to talk again about Colorado's situation. By
2050, we are going to go to about 8.6 to 10 million people. Our
population will double in the state by 2050.
At the same time as our population is doubling, at least
according to the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, construction of new
storage capacity is the lowest it has been since the 1930's. So
we know in Colorado population is going to double by 2050, yet
water storage construction at the lowest it has been in several
Colorado is a state where all water flows out of Colorado,
no water flows into Colorado, and I have a glass that is half
full here. I would blame Kansas, but I do not want to impugn
any of my fellow colleagues. But I think we have to do better
when it comes to water storage to meet the need. We are looking
at $12 billion to $15 billion worth of infrastructure costs in
Colorado to meet the median needs of this 2050 demand.
To give you a couple of examples, one project in Colorado
that was started in 2003 for additional water storage completed
their NEPA process 11 years later in 2014, and they still have
Federal regulatory hurdles to clear.
Northern Colorado Water District began the regulatory
process for building two new reservoirs as part of the Northern
Integrated Supply Project. This is a project that, if it is
completed, will save tens of thousands of acres of farmland
from buy-up and dry-up in Colorado. They started this process
in 2004, and they are several years away from a final decision.
Denver Water began the regulatory process for enlarging the
existing Gross Reservoir in 2003, and they still do not have a
We had a hearing earlier this year with the Western
Governors' Association. I asked about what we could be doing to
help lessen these times. They confirmed we still need
regulatory streamlining and flexibility at the Federal level to
So to Mr. Connor, how can we improve and what can we be
doing to stop talking about the need to streamline and actually
start streamlining the regulatory process?
Mr. Connor. Thank you, Senator Gardner.
Two points that I would make: first of all, what we found
even on the operations side--I was talking earlier about our
operations in California--but it has transcended to the
permitting side of things.
The--you know, we have been siloed as a Federal Government
for far too long where Reclamation would move forward with
projects in our particular circumstances, then engage the Fish
and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service
or EPA in a--serial processes instead of a parallel process or
a collaborative process. That definitely is a killer with
respect to permitting times because issues crop up. They are
not dealt with early, designs get made, and they have to be
undone. It is a very inefficient process.
What we have found where we have instituted new processes
usually because of the magnitude of the issue where we have
collaborated is that we can cut down on those issues, and we
can cut down on permitting times.
On September 22nd, the White House and OMB issued guidance
on permitting large infrastructure projects, and it is really
intended to institutionalize a collaborative process and have
somebody running point on those large projects.
Typically, we have a lot of examples, and I would even say
that the Arkansas Valley Conduit is one where we fairly----
Senator Gardner. I was going to let you off the hook on
Mr. Connor. I thought I would beat you to the punch.
The permitting process was fairly efficient in that one
with respect to the NEPA and Record of Decision. We got hung up
on feasibility for a while, and we went back and redid that.
So my point is, on the positive side, we have more work to
do in our way that we collaborate within the Federal Government
and all our different regulatory roles to permit projects.
The second point I would just quickly make is we have got
to understand sometimes what causes a delay. On the Windy Gap
Firming Project, Reclamation was responsible for the Record of
Decision and the NEPA work, working with Northern Colorado. We
moved that process forward. The issues that took the longest to
resolve at the end of that process were Reclamation using that
process to resolve issues with Grand County with respect to
water quality issues and with the Colorado River District with
respect to water rights issues.
We could have permitted and moved forward. My sense is that
there would have been a significant amount of state litigation
under state law with respect to that process, as opposed to us
using the Federal process to resolve all the issues. Now we
have got a Record of Decision as of December last year.
Northern can move forward with the project.
Senator Gardner. Well, I would just ask for your commitment
to work with me on finding ways to continue to work through the
regulatory process, the permitting process, to make sure that
we can streamline this, what is, I think, taking too long. I
would love your commitment on that.
Mr. Connor. Yes, Senator.
Senator Gardner. Again, the Arkansas Valley Conduit, we
will work on that, but it was authorized back in the 1960s so
we have got to continue to speed it up.
I wanted to talk a little bit more about some drought
issues on districts and utilities in Colorado that have told me
that when they talk about steps they could take to transfer
water through Federal reclamation facilities to store and
deliver emergency water supplies, they have run into a little
bit of a challenge. One of the things I think we need to do in
times of drought is having more flexibility to move and store
water where it is needed most on a timely basis.
But if there is a need for water transfer using excess
capacity in existing Federal facilities, that can take
extensive regulatory review and a time-consuming contracting
process. So by the time, oftentimes, the approval and the
contracting is through, the situation has changed and the
proposed water transfer is out of date.
I just wanted to know what is the Bureau's current
authority to authorize the storage and transmission of non-
project water through existing reclamation facilities?
Mr. Connor. We do have broad authority to facilitate the
water transfers through reclamation facilities under the Warren
Act, the 1939 reclamation projects. But typically, what we--it
is the decisionmaking process under NEPA that we typically have
to pay the most attention to. If the issues are minimal--which
in a lot of cases they are, and we do a lot of water transfers
every year--it is a four to six-week process.
If--such as in California, where there is a need for large-
scale transfers on an ongoing basis, we have looked and done
programmatic environmental impact statements, which really
establish the program itself, and then we can quickly, in the
subsequent years, go through and process transfer requests a
lot more efficiently, given the fact that we have done a
programmatic NEPA. And we ought to be looking at that in places
in Colorado, I assume.
Senator Gardner. Okay, and thank you. I know I am out of
time. I have got more questions. We will follow up through the
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Gardner.
Mr. Connor, you mentioned that you have broad authority in
certain areas. Do you think that the Department is maximizing
the existing authority that you have in certain areas? Do you
believe that additional authorities would be needed to address
some of what we are talking about here this morning?
Mr. Connor. We do have broad authority. I think that is one
that I would like to think on and get back more--in more detail
in the record. The issue Senator Gardner raised was
particularly excess capacity----
The Chairman. Right.
Mr. Connor.--in our facilities and whether we are set up to
really permit the use of that excess capacity in an efficient
way. I think it bears a little bit more looking into.
The Chairman. Well, I think it is something that we should
be exploring because if we are really going to be looking
beyond the current situation in California and, quite honestly,
the current situation around the West, I think we want to be
putting in place a policy that extends a lot longer than where
we are in the here and now. If the existing authorities are not
sufficient, I think we do need to look to that.
But again, I would also challenge you to look to what you
have currently and whether or not you are maximizing the use to
the benefit of the users here. So it is something that I think
as we are assessing legislation, we need to be looking at what
we have on our books as well.
You mentioned the issue of permitting and streamlining,
reduced delays, but one of the things, again, that I have heard
that we really need to be working to address is how can we
provide some level of certainty to the users out there, whether
they are family farms such as Ms. Woolf represents, whether it
is the urban-suburban user. It is how we achieve this
Mr. Kightlinger, let me ask, because when we talk about
some of the ideas that are out there, some of the proposals, I
think we recognize at the end of the day much of this is about
competition for limited resources and we are sitting in a
situation here where Federal Government has a tough budget
One of the prime differences between the House bill and the
Senate bill is the funding in the Senate bill or the
authorization for funding in the Senate bill, which is
currently not paid for. I appreciated Senator Feinstein's
willingness to explore offsets, but that is going to be a real
consideration for us.
So can you give me any suggestions herein in providing
assistance to our drought-stricken areas, creative ways where
we can be looking to partner with the Government within our
local areas, between our states, how we can maximize these
proposals without a big price tag? Because I think this is
going to be one of the issues that we are going to be wrestling
Again, I think something that you could suggest or, in the
alternative, are there things that we have in place that are
barriers to being more effective than we are right now where we
could remove them and it does not cost us money, which is a
good thing, but it allows you to be more effective and more
Mr. Kightlinger. Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
A couple of suggestions, things to look at. Obviously, the
money is tight, and it is always going to be a tremendous
challenge, but there are some creative ideas in some of the
legislative proposals out there building on what has been
successful in the transportation industry, TIFIA. There is
ideas to use that for reuse water, RIFIA, and there is also a
WIFIA proposal out there. So these ideas are ways in which we
can stretch dollars, use matching funds and not--and put burden
on locals to come up with matching funds.
Loan guarantee programs have also been very successful in
the rail industry, and I think there is some look at perhaps a
loan guarantee program for large-scale projects throughout the
West, not a huge hit. It would be paid back. But the idea is
that, you know, there is some interest money and things that
would be used obviously for the local projects.
Those are some creative ideas out there. I think all tools
should be used. So to the extent RIFIA, WIFIA, these loan
guarantee programs make sense and can be accepted, we think
those are all valuable tools that can provide some help.
In terms of what other things that aren't costing, you
know, Deputy Secretary Connor talked a bit about trying to
streamline. In California, we have been looking at a new
conveyance program that is a $15 billion proposal that our
Governor has put on that would be entirely funded by us, the
ratepayers, the water users, and yet we are in year eight of
environmental permitting. We spent $240 million to date in
developing an environmental document, and we are still minimum
six months away from Record of Decision, Notice of
Determination. We have generated about 80,000 pages of analysis
The Chairman. Geez.
Mr. Kightlinger. You know, this--it is a large, complicated
project. We get it. But at some point, we are at paralysis by
analysis, and we need to find more creative ways to speed up
The Chairman. It makes me feel like Alaska. [Laughter.]
Thank you. We will be exploring more creative ways to try
to address some of the financial and funding issues.
Senator Cantwell. Well, that makes me think of Washington.
I really don't have any more questions. On that last point,
I think that is where we need to be. We just need to be on that
level of creativity, and you get that when everybody comes to
the table and is at the table together. That is when you get
the creativity because what holds it up is the disagreement. So
I just hope that we can look at S. 1894 and move it through the
process and figure out ways to enhance whatever shortcomings
I do think, Madam Chair, there is a role for us to think
about how we are going to modernize our programs because I
really do think that some of these smaller storage programs can
get underway immediately, and that helps. And I think when
figuring out what we can do at the Federal level, I really do
think we can help save ourselves dollars by working creatively.
I know Senator Feinstein said she is going to look at what are
those revenue opportunities.
But clearly, this is an economic impact to the Federal
economy, and we need to be smart about what we put in place so
that we are minimizing that impact to us in the future.
California's expenses will be our expenses as well, as will
those of other Western drought situations.
I appreciate all the witnesses today and look forward to
working with you to try to get this resolved hopefully very,
The Chairman. Senator Heinrich.
Senator Heinrich. I appreciate the concern over pay-fors,
and you know, these are real challenges. I would only make the
point that we are going to need real dollars to fix these
One of my concerns about the House bill is that the pay-
fors referenced are really authorization pay-fors. They are not
appropriations pay-fors. In my view, they are not real money,
and we are going to need real money to fix these things.
I am going to end with one last question for Mr. Oglesby. I
wanted to touch on something that I think piqued the interest
of the Chair and is a big part of our challenges on a--you
know, an arid basin with seven different storage structures and
different authorizations by Congress for each of those
structures that are not coordinated in any reasonable way
except through deviations. That is a huge challenge.
So wearing your Conservancy District hat, can you talk a
little bit more about what that means? For example, if you are
dealing with a tight, dry summer and it is July and you release
water as a Conservancy District from El Vado Reservoir, and
then, suddenly, we get monsoon rains that negate the need to
actually irrigate with the water that you have released into
the river, can you capture that in Cochiti Reservoir downstream
and hold it and use it for later irrigation or other uses, or
do you have to just watch that water go by?
Mr. Oglesby. Yeah, thank you, Senator Heinrich.
We watch that water go by. It is a three-day transit time
from the reservoir where we store our agricultural water. And
as you say, if it rains in the interim when that water is
moving down and our farmers don't need it and they don't take
it, that water moves on down to Texas, and we lose the
advantage of that water.
Reauthorizing Cochiti, which is envisioned in Senate bill
1936, is critical. It is going to be complicated. Of course,
any reservoir operation is complicated, but if we could move
that water from El Vado and hold it in Abiquiu, for example, or
if we could hold it in Cochiti just for a little bit.
And one other option that we are looking at within the
conservancy district is can we do small-scale temporary storage
within our own works? Can we capture these erratic, unexpected
rainfalls that come in and perhaps hold them within our
facilities just for a day or two and then wait for the farmers
to need that water? We are looking at all of these options.
So it is not just our seven reservoirs that we would like
to operate in a coordinated fashion, but it is how we can
integrate our existing systems with those coordinated reservoir
Senator Heinrich. Well, I just used that example just to
show that I know all of this is relatively complicated, but we
are managing the entire basin in a way that is uncoordinated.
So when you have dramatically less input in terms of gross
quantity of water and you have no flexibility to coordinate all
of these structures, the seven reservoirs, your own works at
the Conservancy District, we have seen very innovative things
like Albuquerque doing storage underground in the aquifer.
We are going to have to be more nimble in the future, and
we certainly ought to be coordinating the Federal
infrastructure in a way that could potentially be a benefit for
all of the users, irrespective of what perspective they come
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chairman. Senator Heinrich, thank you.
When you think about the situation in California, so much
of the attention when we talk about the impact to the economy,
we think about the agriculture sector and how that has been
I was really struck by this article that somebody
referenced, one of the Senators that was testifying, but it was
an article in the Post back in May. But when you look to the
various sectors that would take the brunt of job losses in
continuing, ongoing drought, if the Colorado River ran dry for
a year--please, let us hope that that does not happen--but the
job losses one would initially think is going to be all about
the agriculture sector. But it is in real estate, it is in
finance, it is retail trade, the professional, the tech sector.
But the sector that is impacted most dramatically is
healthcare. I think it is a reminder to us all of the
significance of available water supply and how it impacts
everything that we do within our economies.
Again, when I was in California meeting with the farmers, I
sat down and had a conversation with the rice growers. I was
thinking, okay, it is really all about rice. With those rice
growers, it was all about water fowl. It was all about the
impact to the habitat for the birds and the geese that were
coming south and that were snacking on the rice leftover in the
So it is a reminder to us that the impact here is so broad,
it is so wide, that our failure to address it can have
extraordinarily significant impact. I think you reminded us,
Ms. Woolf, with your words. I think you said something about
the weight being on all of us to come up with a solution.
Know that I certainly feel that weight, I think our
colleagues do as well, that we have an obligation to try to
work with you all not only in California but across the West,
better understanding our water, our water sources. It is the
West right now, but it will have impact far beyond the West of
the United States and I think we appreciate the responsibility.
So I look forward to working with you all. I had asked Mr.
Kightlinger for good out-of-the-box suggestions and would
invite each of you to join us in that as well and submit what
This is the end of the hearing right now, but it is really
the beginning of very constructive work and a lot of hard work.
So thank you for your willingness to join us in this.
And with this, the committee stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:32 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
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