Text: S.Hrg. 114-495 — PENDING LEGISLATION
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[Senate Hearing 114-495]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 114-495
SUBCOMMITTEE ON WATER AND POWER
ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS
MAY 17, 2016
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
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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
Subcommittee on Water and Power
MIKE LEE, Chairman
JEFF FLAKE MAZIE K. HIRONO
JOHN BARRASSO RON WYDEN
JAMES E. RISCH BERNARD SANDERS
STEVE DAINES AL FRANKEN
CORY GARDNER JOE MANCHIN III
ROB PORTMAN ANGUS S. KING, JR.
Colin Hayes, 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
Lee, Hon. Mike, Subcommittee Chairman and a U.S. Senator from
Wyden, Hon. Ron, a U.S. Senator from Oregon...................... 2
Feinstein, Hon. Dianne, a U.S. Senator from California........... 3
McCain, Hon. John, a U.S. Senator from Arizona................... 140
Lopez, Hon. Estevan, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S.
Department of the Interior..................................... 142
Weldon, Leslie, Deputy Chief, National Forest System, U.S.
Department of Agriculture...................................... 159
Quinn, Dr. Timothy, Executive Director, Association of California
Water Agencies................................................. 167
Keppen, Dan, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance............ 175
Long, Bill, President, Board of Directors, Southeastern Colorado
Water Conservancy District..................................... 188
Buschatzke, Thomas, Director, Arizona Department of Water
Ziemer, Laura, Senior Counsel and Water Policy Advisor, Trout
ALPHABETICAL LISTING AND APPENDIX MATERIAL SUBMITTED
Alameda County Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 105
Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District,
Letter for the Record........................................ 107
Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 265
American Bird Conservancy, et al.:
Letter for the Record........................................ 267
Letter for the Record........................................ 271
American Rivers, et al.:
Letter for the Record........................................ 274
American Sportfishing Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 276
Association of California Water Agencies:
Letter for the Record........................................ 104
Bennet, Hon. Michael:
Statement for the Record..................................... 278
Opening Statement............................................ 199
Written Testimony............................................ 201
Article entitled ``CalChamber Backs Renewed Effort on Federal
Water Bill'' dated February 26, 2016....................... 118
California Citrus Mutual:
Press Release dated February 10, 2016........................ 116
California Farm Bureau Federation:
Press Release dated February 10, 2016........................ 115
California Fresh Fruit Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 102
California Natural Resources Agency:
Press Release dated February 10, 2016........................ 114
California Water Service:
Letter for the Record........................................ 98
Central Contra Costa Sanitary District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 96
City of Benicia (California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 94
City of Indio (California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 92
City of Palo Alto (California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 90
City of Pismo Beach (California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 89
City of Pleasanton (California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 88
City of San Buenaventura (Ventura) Water Department:
Letter for the Record........................................ 82
City of San Diego (California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 86
City of South Gate (California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 85
City of Turlock (California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 83
Coachella Valley Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 80
Coastal Trollers Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 281
Colorado River Board of California:
Letter for the Record........................................ 283
Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Department of Natural
Statement for the Record..................................... 190
Costa, Hon. Jim:
Press Release dated February 10, 2016........................ 112
Cucamonga Valley Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 79
Letter for the Record........................................ 78
Desert Water Agency:
Letter for the Record........................................ 77
Dublin San Ramon Services District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 75
Ducks Unlimited, et al.:
Letter for the Record dated February 5, 2016................. 71
Letter for the Record dated May 12, 2016..................... 73
East Bay Municipal Utility District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 70
Eastern Municipal Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 69
Feinstein, Hon. Dianne:
Opening Statement............................................ 3
Chart entitled ``5 years of California drought''............. 4
California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-
Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act (S. 2533):
Support for S. 2533--List of Letters, Press Releases and
Water Supply Increase and Improvement Provisions......... 124
Written Statement............................................ 129
Garamendi, Hon. John, et al.:
Letter for the Record........................................ 9
Garamendi, Hon. John:
Letter for the Record........................................ 11
Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 67
GoldenGate Salmon Association:
Initial Analysis of S. 2533.................................. 286
Goleta Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 65
Indio Water Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 64
International Union of Operating Engineers:
Letter for the Record........................................ 63
Irvine Ranch Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 62
Opening Statement............................................ 175
Written Testimony............................................ 177
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 253
Las Virgenes Municipal Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 61
Las Virgenes--Triunfo Joint Powers Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 60
League of California Cities:
Letter for the Record........................................ 59
Lee, Hon. Mike:
Opening Statement............................................ 1
Opening Statement............................................ 188
Written Testimony............................................ 194
Lopez, Hon. Estevan:
Opening Statement............................................ 142
Written Testimony............................................ 144
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 242
Mape's Ranch and Lyons' Investments:
Letter for the Record........................................ 121
McCain, Hon. John:
Opening Statement............................................ 140
Merced County Association of Governments:
Letter for the Record........................................ 56
(The) Metropolitan Water District of Southern California:
Letter for the Record........................................ 12
Monterey County Board of Supervisors:
Letter for the Record........................................ 54
Monterey County Water Resources Agency:
Letter for the Record........................................ 52
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 51
Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency:
Letter for the Record........................................ 49
North Bay Water Reuse Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 47
Northern California Water Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 45
Orange County Sanitation District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 44
Orange County Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 43
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations:
Letter for the Record........................................ 288
Pacific Fishery Management Council:
Letter for the Record........................................ 291
Quinn, Dr. Timothy:
Opening Statement............................................ 167
Written Testimony............................................ 169
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 250
Reclamation District 108 (Grimes, California):
Letter for the Record........................................ 41
Redwood City, California:
Letter for the Record........................................ 40
Letter for the Record........................................ 38
San Diego County Water Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 36
San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 34
San Jose Water Company:
Letter for the Record........................................ 32
Santa Clara Valley Water District:
Letter for the Record dated January 22, 2016................. 27
Letter for the Record dated April 8, 2016.................... 29
Sonoma County Water Agency:
Letter for the Record........................................ 295
Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority:
Letter for the Record........................................ 25
Valley Industry and Commerce Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 24
Valley Sanitary District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 22
Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority:
Letter for the Record dated February 8, 2016................. 20
Letter for the Record dated February 24, 2016................ 21
Walnut Valley Water District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 19
Press Release dated February 10, 2016........................ 110
Water Replenishment District of Southern California:
Letter for the Record........................................ 18
Opening Statement............................................ 159
Written Testimony............................................ 161
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 247
West Bay Sanitary District:
Letter for the Record........................................ 16
West Coast Salmon Fishing Industry and Related Businesses:
Letter for the Record........................................ 297
Western Governors' Association:
Letter for the Record........................................ 219
Press Release for the Record................................. 108
Western Municipal Water District's Board of Directors:
Letter for the Record........................................ 15
Western Recycled Water Coalition, et al.:
Letter for the Record........................................ 100
(The) Wilderness Society:
Letter for the Record........................................ 303
Wyden, Hon. Ron:
Opening Statement............................................ 2
Yuba County Water Agency:
Letter for the Record........................................ 13
Opening Statement............................................ 209
Written Testimony............................................ 211
Supplemental Testimony and Responses to Questions for the
The text for each of the bills which were addressed in this
subcommittee hearing can be found on the committee's website at:
TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2016
Subcommittee on Water and Power,
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:13 p.m. in
Room SD-366, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Mike Lee,
Chairman of the Subcommittee, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MIKE LEE,
U.S. SENATOR FROM UTAH
Senator Lee. Welcome. It is a pleasure to have you here--
form the basis of a drought legislation package aimed at
California and at various other Western States.
Although the final details of the legislative package
remain in flux, I would like to highlight two concerns that are
most important to my home State of Utah. First, any drought
bill must be fully paid for. Two, it must contain the
protections provided in the Water Rights Protection Act. I will
discuss each of these in turn briefly.
A little over a year ago, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture designated Sanpete County in central Utah as a
primary natural disaster area due to damages and losses caused
by the recent drought. Farmers and ranchers in Carbon, Emery,
Juab, Millard, Sevier, and Utah Counties also qualify for
natural disaster assistance.
I know Utah is not alone in fighting drought. California,
New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona, and Colorado are also dealing
with similar problems, but simply because the drought crisis
exists and is painful does not mean that it should be used to
expand federal obligations, or at least to do so irresponsibly.
Any new or expanded government spending authorization should be
offset with Bureau of Reclamation prepayment revenue or
We have a saying of the West: Water is for fighting. A
hundred years ago, water disputes sometimes ended in bloodshed,
now they end in years of litigation.
It is precisely because of these tensions that federal
regulators should be prohibited from blackmailing state and
private water users into relinquishing their water rights.
In 2014, the Forest Service proposed a new regulation that
would require water rights to be transferred to the Federal
Government as a condition for obtaining permits needed to
operate 121 ski resorts across federal lands. Later, the Forest
Service wisely withdrew this regulation.
Included in S. 2902 is language that would protect state-
issued water rights by prohibiting the Departments of Interior
and Agriculture from requiring a transfer or limitation of
water rights as a condition precedent for obtaining a permit to
use federal land.
STATEMENT OF HON. RON WYDEN,
U.S. SENATOR FROM OREGON
Senator Wyden. Thank you very much, Senator Lee.
We are glad to have our witnesses here today.
Suffice it to say, what this is about is we are facing a
water emergency in the West. Last year, the American West
experienced an unprecedented drought with record-breaking
temperatures and low snow pack and rainfall. This drought
impacted communities. It impacted agriculture, industry,
wildlife, and the environment.
Conditions may be a bit better now with El Nino, but we are
still stuck in the proverbial woods because conditions are
expected to continue throughout much of the West in coming
years. As a result, communities across the country face
significant water security shortages and are trying to respond
to these dwindling supplies.
Managing our water resources for the future means
developing smart and collaborative solutions that help people
and the environment. Creative approaches that can end water
wars and empower communities on the ground are like those in
the Klamath Basin in my home state and the Yakima Basin in
In Oregon, we have experienced drought disasters for
several years now, and we are gearing up for another dry year.
Extreme drought conditions impact farming, ranching, fish,
wildlife, and wildfire.
Chair Murkowski and the Ranking Member, Senator Cantwell,
are working together to look for ways--and I think Senator
McCain and Senator Feinstein know about this--to also better
fund prevention of fire and make existing dollars stretch
further than we have in the past.
With the traditional big recreation season about to begin,
I would also like to note that drought significantly limits
opportunities for people to get outside, recreate, and enjoy
the West and boost our recreation economy. You cannot paddle
down a river when there is barely enough water to float a
kayak, and you cannot hike through a forest when the dry
conditions have sparked a wildfire.
The recreation economy has the potential to be a major
economic engine throughout the West. I recently introduced
legislation, the RNR bill, which stands for Recreation, Not
Red-Tape. Because we have witnesses here today, I will be
talking more about that later this week.
The problems in the Klamath Basin are especially on my mind
today because they have been made worse by years of dry
conditions that decrease supply and increase the tensions, but
we were able to get a diverse group of community leaders
together to find a sustainable solution and we are in a
position now where we can turn a corner and start making real
The work that groups like Trout Unlimited and the Family
Farm Alliance have done in the Klamath Basin is commendable. I
bring this up simply by way of saying that these collaborative
coalitions, and you see them around the country, they are doing
the heavy lifting, but they can and do work. The Klamath Basin,
in fact, proves that that is the case.
I have had a number of conversations with my colleague and
friend, Senator Feinstein, because she has been doing yeoman's
work trying to make sure that the water challenges in
California are dealt with. Her bill to address the drought is
of special interest to our state for a variety of reasons, but
one that I have not really learned about until recently is the
potential impact on the health and sustainability of Oregon and
Northwest salmon fisheries. I am looking forward to getting
more information on those issues in the days ahead so that I
can work closely with Senator Feinstein and our colleagues to
make sure that Oregon fisheries will be able to benefit from
drought management decisions that are made in California,
number one, and that we avoid negative impacts on our
Let me close with one last point. Having worked with
Senator Feinstein and Senator McCain on a lot of these natural
resource issues in the past, I think we understand that nobody
gets everything they want when you are dealing with tough
resources issues. Nobody gets everything they believe they
ought to have. The question is, can you get enough in order to
strike a balance between the various interests that we all care
I look forward very much to working with Senator Feinstein
and Senator McCain, because we have traveled those roads
before, and we have been able to navigate tough resources
issues because we built around those kinds of principles. I
look forward to our witnesses and working with both of them.
Senator Lee. Thank you, Senator Wyden.
We have two panels of witnesses today. Our first panel
consists of Senator Feinstein from California and Senator
McCain from Arizona. We will hear from each of them now.
Senator Feinstein, we will start with you.
STATEMENT OF HON. DIANNE FEINSTEIN,
U.S. SENATOR FROM CALIFORNIA
Senator Feinstein. Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman, Senator
Wyden, and Senator Manchin. Thank you very much for this
I would like to mention that there is a gentleman sitting
behind me who is going to testify on the next panel. He is Tim
Quinn. He is the Executive Director of the Association of
California Water Agencies. They represent 430 public agencies.
They are responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered
throughout California. I think he brings an important
Despite this most recent El Nino, California still faces
severe drought conditions now going on five consecutive years.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
[The information referred to follows:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
If you look at this chart, and maybe if you tilt it just a
little bit this way, you will see how dry California has been
every week since the drought began in 2010. It shows the
drought's progression from abnormally dry conditions in yellow,
to severe drought in orange, and to extreme drought in red, and
finally exceptional drought in the dark red color. I think it
says it all.
The sustained presence of exceptional drought, the most
severe category since 2014, is alarming and illustrates
California's emergency situation. This is also highlighted by
our inadequate infrastructure.
I think most people do not realize that the two big water
conveyance projects, the Central Valley Project and the State
Water Project--the State Water Project was built for the cities
and the other project was built essentially by farmers for
farmers. It was designed when California was 16 million people.
Well, we are now 40-plus million people, and the infrastructure
has not been significantly expanded.
So this bill is the product of two years of work, 28
drafts, 43 amendments to the last draft. It has been circulated
to Republicans, Democrats, environmental groups, water
districts, cities, rural communities, fishermen, and farmers.
I would like to add to the record, if I may, Mr. Chairman,
letters of 104 agencies and individuals throughout the state
supporting the bill you have before you.
[The information referred to follows:]
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The House has passed a bill that I do not believe,
candidly, can pass the Senate, so our goal has been to craft
legislation that could pass the Senate and then, hopefully,
will be able to conference with the House.
The short-term provisions for emergency drought relief
apply only to California. The long-term provisions apply to all
17 Reclamation States West-wide, and some provisions, such as
WaterSMART Reclamation grant programs and RIFIA, to Alaska and
Hawaii as well.
I am skipping, to shorten this.
Data from Reclamation so far suggests that we have not seen
flows this low in the Colorado River Basin for almost 1,000
years. While the basin states are doing a tremendous job to
work together in confronting the drought, we have to reach
consensus prior to congressional action, and there appears to
be no immediate end in sight.
The state has estimated that 150 percent of average
snowpack in March is necessary to end the drought. We ended up
with about 80 percent the end of March, so this means the
drought is going to continue through next year.
The bill before you does not violate the Endangered Species
Act (ESA) or the biological opinions or include any operational
mandates for the agencies. The bill, we think, accomplishes the
dual roles of maximizing water supplies and protecting the
To accomplish these goals, the bill's short-term provisions
include increased operational flexibility to deal with the
drought right now, and the long-term provisions invest in
infrastructure and environmental restoration throughout the
West. For example, for long-term, the provisions reshape how
the Federal Government assists states in coping with drought.
We provide and identify 110 recycling projects and 25 desal
projects that could produce enough water in California to
supply over 1 million acre-feet of water for 2.7 million homes.
We increase WaterSMART funding by $150 million for projects to
improve a range of water storage and water supply management.
We fund the Reclamation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation
Act, or RIFIA, at $200 million. We update Army Corps dam
operations to increase water supply while reducing flood risk.
We have $600 million in it for water storage projects to hold
water in wet years for use in dry years, and the 17 states plus
Alaska and Hawaii are all eligible; $560 million for recycling
and water efficiency to better use the water that we do have;
and $100 million for the desalinization plants.
The bill's short-term provisions do not contain mandates.
Rather, they provide that agencies base water operations on
science, not intuition or guesswork.
It is also important to note the short-term provisions last
two years or the duration of the Governor's drought
declaration, whichever is longer. For that brief time, the bill
provides for more operational flexibility in the two big
conveyance systems I spoke of, and a more precisely managed
system for which we also include funding.
For example, the short-term provisions allow for increased
pumping during winter storms to capture peak flows, and it
eliminates the automatic so-called payback of water supply so
that agencies can keep the water they gain from the winter
Other examples of the short-term are maintaining a one-for-
one ratio for water transfers through the spring and early
summer to ensure that 100 percent of the water identified for
transfer goes to communities that need it most, and the bill
extends the time period for transfers by five months stretching
supplies during the critical growing season.
With the chair's permission, I would like to enter into the
record eight ways in which the water bill provides supplies in
the short-term, without going into them precisely.
Senator Lee. Without objection.
[The information referred to follows:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Senator Feinstein. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We have worked with relevant federal and state agencies for
two years now to make sure this bill can produce real water in
a manner consistent with the Endangered Species Act and
To remove any doubt, we included a simple, clear savings
clause to make it crystal clear that the bill is consistent
with environmental laws and biological opinions. The bill
provides $1.3 billion in authorizations, all of which are
offset in two ways.
First, the Bureau of Reclamation would identify, with
public input, projects appropriate for deauthorization. This
would reduce existing authorizations between $1 billion and
$1.7 billion. These are all authorizations that have existed
for a substantial period of time and have not been utilized.
The second offset increases federal revenues by $632
million over 10 years by inducing Western water contractors to
accelerate their debt payments.
So this is just a very brief summary of this bill, Mr.
Chairman and Ranking Member Wyden.
And thank you, Chairman Flake. I am sorry you missed this,
but I know you are a quick study, so thank you very much.
I look forward to today's discussion and to working with
all of you to get a bill signed into law. Thank you very much.
Senator Lee. Thank you, Senator Feinstein. Your documents
will be admitted into the record, without objection.
[The prepared statement of Senator Feinstein follows:]
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Senator Lee. Senator McCain.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN McCAIN,
U.S. SENATOR FROM ARIZONA
Senator McCain. Senator Lee, Senator Flake, Senator Wyden,
Senator Manchin, thank you.
You mentioned, Senator Lee, that, in the West, water is for
fighting. You left out Mark Twain said, ``In the West, water is
for fighting; whiskey is for drinking.'' That was his complete
statement, for the record.
Senator Lee. My apologies. That was the Mormon in me just
editing that for television.
Senator McCain. My predecessor, Barry Goldwater, once said
that in Arizona, we have so little water that the trees chase
the dogs. I would not want to enter that into the record.
But anyway, I am proud to cosponsor the legislation, the
Western Water Supply and Planning Enhancement Act. I thank
Senator Flake for his leadership on this piece of legislation.
I want to thank our colleagues, Senator Heller, Senator
Barrasso, Senator Daines, and Senator Risch.
I am grateful that the Subcommittee will receive testimony
from Mr. Tom Buschatzke, the Director of the Arizona Department
of Water Resources. Tom is one of Arizona's foremost experts on
water policy, and I applaud his leadership and that of our
Governor, Doug Ducey.
I believe water and fire are the defining environmental
issues of the 21st century. Both issues are connected.
Decreased levels of rain runoff and snowmelt have stressed our
water supplies and degraded the ecosystems of our fire-prone
My home State of Arizona, like much of the West, is coping
with its 16th consecutive year of drought, and the drought is
taking its toll. According to the U.S. Geological Service,
treasured rivers in my home state, like the Verde River and the
free-flowing San Pedro River, could run dry within the next 80
Mr. Chairman, 80 percent of our drought-stressed forests in
Arizona have been consumed by wildfire in the last 20 years.
You can do the math and figure out what is going to happen to
the national forests in the State of Arizona.
This is a critical, crucial, compelling issue, and it is
time we sat down together, I would say to Senator Feinstein,
and I thank Senator Wyden for his continued efforts at
cooperation, to address this issue.
If water levels in Lake Mead drop below the 1,075-foot
mark, the Interior Department will trigger cutbacks in Colorado
River water for the basin states. Due to Arizona's junior water
rights, a shortage would impact water supplies for more than
five million people across Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma.
Today, there is 50 percent likelihood that the first round
of cutbacks will occur in 2018. Arizona planned for this
eventuality and will withstand these initial shortages because
of investments in conservation, reservoir construction, and
groundwater banking. But with Lake Mead levels at their lowest
since it was filled, there is no question that deeper shortages
The United States will pay a profound environmental and
economic price if greater attention and resources are not
devoted to this issue.
The bill we propose is a combination of our top strategies
for curtailing the drought at the federal level. Among other
things, the legislation proposes more equitable water storage
arrangements for states whose proactive conservation keeps
water in Lake Mead. We also propose to give the Forest Service
expedited authorities for fire-prevention thinning near
reservoirs. We need to thin our forests, Mr. Chairman. We need
to thin our forests. Anyone who has ever flown over a forest
fire, as I have, and watched trees explode because of the fuel
that has built up around those forests over many, many years
knows that we have to thin our forests.
We have to propose to give the Forest Service expedited
authorities for that thinning near reservoirs to guard against
toxic ash runoff.
The bill would develop a regional plan to eradicate the
non-native salt cedar tree. Each salt cedar tree is estimated
to consume about 200 gallons of water a day. I repeat, one salt
cedar tree consumes about 200 gallons of water a day. It is all
up and down our rivers and the Colorado River, as the Chairman
well knows. The Central Arizona Project (CAP) estimates that
removing salt cedar, replanting with native vegetation, and
that second part of the equation is critical, like cottonwood
and willows, could save up to 860,000 acre-feet of water across
the lower basin. I repeat, 860,000 acre-feet. I have seen salt
cedar removal projects work in places like the Yuma Crossing
National Heritage Area, where only 400 acres of salt cedar
stretching two stories high were restored as wetlands habitat.
Our bill would augment the work of the Kazakhstan salt
cedar beetle. Not many Americans are familiar with the
Kazakhstan salt cedar beetle. This wonderful little beetle, the
best thing I have ever heard of that might have come from
Kazakhstan, is now eating its way down the Colorado River and
killing the salt cedar. That is the good news. The bad news is,
Mr. Chairman, we are not replacing the dead salt cedar. But God
bless the Kazakhstan salt cedar beetle.
Some biologists predict that the beetle will populate most
of the Colorado River corridor by 2020. I believe it is prudent
to begin planning for the beetles' presence and to move
aggressively on these and other innovative water strategies
covered under our bill.
Mr. Chairman, I do not want to take up much more time of
the Committee. I believe that the United States of America and
those of us who are seeing a threat to the lives and lifestyle
of our children and our grandchildren should get together and
fix this problem. We have not faced a problem that we cannot
fix. But right now, this threat in the 14th or 15th year of a
drought is a direct threat to our lives and that of our
children and our grandchildren. I think we owe it to them to
act in a most constructive fashion.
I would like to again ask California to return the water
they have stolen from us.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Lee. I am sure Senator Feinstein will arrange that
Thank you very much, both of you, for being here and for
your testimony today.
I would like to now ask those participating in our second
panel to come forward. Specifically, Commissioner Lopez, Deputy
Chief Weldon, Mr. Quinn, Mr. Keppen, Mr. Long, Mr. Buschatzke,
and Ms. Ziemer, if you can come forward to the witness table.
As they are coming forward, I will be introducing them.
We are going to begin this panel by hearing from the
Honorable Estevan Lopez, the 22nd Commissioner of the Bureau of
Reclamation. After Commissioner Lopez, we will have Leslie
Weldon of the USDA Forest Service, who has served as the Deputy
Chief for the National Forest System since 2011. We welcome you
back to the Committee, Deputy Chief Weldon. Then we will have
Tim Quinn, the Executive Director of the Association of
California Water Agencies. Following Mr. Quinn, we will have
Dan Keppen before the Committee once again. Mr. Keppen is the
Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance and testified at
the Committee's last legislative hearing on drought. Then we
will have Bill Long, the President of Southeastern Colorado
Water Conservancy District. After him, we will have Tom
Buschatzke, who was before the Committee last summer to discuss
drought. Tom is the Director of the Arizona Department of Water
Resources and has been a powerful voice for Arizona's water
interests. Thank you for being here, Tom, and for your
leadership on water issues in Arizona. Finally, we will have
Laura Ziemer, the Senior Counsel and Water Policy Advisor for
Mr. Lopez, we will start with you.
STATEMENT OF HON. ESTEVAN LOPEZ, COMMISSIONER,
BUREAU OF RECLAMATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE
Mr. Lopez. Chairman Lee, Ranking Member Wyden, and members
of the Subcommittee, I am Estevan Lopez, Commissioner of the
Bureau of Reclamation. Thank you for the opportunity to appear
before the Subcommittee to provide the Department's view on
four of the five bills before the Subcommittee today.
I am accompanied by John Bezdek, who many of you know, and
who serves as our Counselor to the Deputy Secretary.
My written statements have been submitted for the record,
so I will summarize those very briefly in the interest of time.
To begin, S. 2533 by Senator Feinstein is a multi-part bill
aimed at mitigating the extreme drought experienced for the
past four years in California. As you know, the Department has
testified on prior versions of the bill before this Committee,
and we are happy that the Senator and her staff have worked
very closely with us, particularly with Mr. Bezdek, to address
technical issues and refine the bill.
This collaborative process has produced a good result, and
we believe that the bill before the Subcommittee today would
improve the water supply situation in California while being
protective of the environment, endangered species, and the very
important salmon fishery that migrates through the Sacramento-
San Joaquin Delta.
I know that there are some elements of the bill that have
created concern for some parties, and we understand those
perspectives. We are glad to continue working with Senator
Feinstein in the process she has employed to date on any of
these issues. But on balance, we are confident and comfortable
with the measured approach contained in S. 2533.
Next, S. 2616 by Senator Gardner would modify certain cost-
sharing and revenue provisions relating to the Arkansas Valley
Conduit in Colorado. This is a project with a long history. The
Bureau of Reclamation has been able to maintain a certain level
of funding to complete preconstruction work that needs to be
done. Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water
Conservancy District began discussions last year to develop an
approach for funding construction, which is an important step
toward meeting the drinking water needs of six Colorado
counties where water contains high levels of naturally
occurring radium and uranium.
S. 2616 aims to help advance long-awaited construction of
the conduit by authorizing miscellaneous revenues to the
district to enable repayment of loans from the Colorado Water
Conservation Board (CWCB). While the Administration supports
the goals of assisting non-federal sponsors with access to non-
federal capital for the construction of projects, we want to
continue to work with the sponsors and local communities on how
we will move forward with construction. Our budget is under
great pressure, and we are encouraged by the efforts of Bill
Long and the Conservancy District to reach out to the state to
make possible a loan to begin funding.
S. 2902 by Senator Flake is another multi-part bill with
several provisions, some of which are drought-related and
others which are more indirect relationship to drought. As
stated in my written testimony, many of the provisions of S.
2902 have been testified on separately by the Department at
prior hearings. On balance, the bill contains some elements we
support and others we do not, and we are glad to explore that
further with the Subcommittee.
Lastly, S. 2907 by Senator Reid would enable continuation
of System Conservation Pilot Program underway on the Colorado
River that aims to address the prolonged drought on the basis
of facilitating greater storage in Lakes Mead and Powell. We
support this program in our budget request and appreciate
Senator Reid's support as well as that of the stakeholders here
today who have committed their own resources to the program as
This concludes my statement. I am pleased to answer
questions at the appropriate time, and I appreciate the
Subcommittee's consideration for my travel commitment later
[The prepared statement of Mr. Lopez follows:]
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Senator Lee. Thank you, Commissioner.
Deputy Chief Weldon.
STATEMENT OF LESLIE WELDON, DEPUTY CHIEF, NATIONAL FOREST
SYSTEM, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Ms. Weldon. Thank you, Chairman Lee, and members of the
Subcommittee, for the opportunity to provide the views of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding S. 2902, the Western
Water Supply and Planning Enhancement Act, and S. 2524, the
Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act.
Accept my apology for some of the generalness of my
remarks. We would like to have additional time to fully analyze
the effects of the bill. That said, we appreciate and share the
strong interest in ensuring resilient, sustainable flows of
water and restoring health to forested watersheds.
As we have asserted at previous hearings on similar
matters, I emphasize that all the efforts of the Forest Service
regarding the stewardship of water resources are conducted to
help ensure that abundant clean water is available for the
public's use and enjoyment. Whether it is to make snow for
downhill skiing, provide for world-class fishing experiences,
sustain wildlife or domestic animals, or to maintain community
and agricultural water supplies, everything is done for the
Watersheds have long been used and recognized as basic
building blocks of sound resource management. Beginning in 1897
through the Organic Administration Act, Congress directed the
Forest Service to manage the National Forest System lands to
secure favorable flows of water conditions for multiple public
uses and benefits that sustain economies and maintain
communities across the nation today.
Since then, Congress has provided additional legislative
direction to the Forest Service regarding our role to sustain
water, watersheds, and the management of those resources,
direction that is even more critical today as we face ongoing
drought, a longer fire season, and other consequences of a
We recognize the fundamental role of states in education,
adjudication of water rights according to state laws, and
assert no intention to exceed statutory authorities granted to
us in this or any other aspect of our mission. USDA believes
that the existing framework of state and federal statutes
adequately provide for the protection of privately-held water
rights in balance with public service and natural resources
conservation work of the Forest Service and that no additional
legislation to ensure this balance is needed.
As an example of our success in working within this
framework, we point to our response to concerns from the ski
industry, states, and others regarding our initial draft of a
watershed clause for ski area special use permits. By working
closely and collaboratively with those most concerned, we were
able to craft a final water clause for ski area permits that
recognizes and protects the value of privately held water
rights as assets and also ensures the availability of
sufficient water for current and future ski area operations.
Another example is our response to concerns regarding
groundwater. After listening to those concerns following the
publication of a proposed directive in 2014, the Forest Service
acknowledged the concerns in our approach, stopped all work on
that directive, and will not move forward with that original
proposal. Rather, we have committed to engaging with states,
tribes, and citizens, to understand and collaboratively address
Should we choose to move forward with a new directive in
the future, it would only be after fully engaging with those
interested and affected in an open and transparent manner to
ensure that we get it correct.
We also agree with the need to protect critical water
supply watersheds. This type of work is fundamental to our
conservation and resource stewardship mission, and will become
even more important into the future.
Again, while we cannot comment on specifics of S. 2902 as
of yet, as a general matter, we appreciate efforts to provide
planning tools that incentivize collaboration and improve
efficiency as long as they have strong protections to ensure
adherence to important and fundamental environmental laws. We
ask to continue to work with the Committee on these aspects.
Finally, on S. 2524, we understand this bill seeks to
resolve issues associated with the use and maintenance of the
Bolts Ditch near the town of Minturn, Colorado. We acknowledge
that this bill has the support of Eagle County, the Colorado
River District, and local and national wilderness advocacy
organizations, and USDA does not oppose 2524.
I appreciate the opportunity to be here today and look
forward to answering any questions you may have. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Weldon follows:]
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Senator Flake [presiding]. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF DR. TIMOTHY QUINN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASSOCIATION
OF CALIFORNIA WATER AGENCIES
Dr. Quinn. Thank you, Senator Flake, members of the
My name is Tim Quinn. I am the Executive Director of the
Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA). I am going to
forgo my credentials or those of my association and get right
to the main point.
Like Senator Feinstein, ACWA, by its very nature,
represents a statewide constituency. I represent 440 member
agencies that cover the entire State of California--ag, urban,
North, South, et cetera.
I can tell you in one sentence why that diverse coalition
so strongly supports S. 2533: because we believe that
legislation moves the Federal Government into closer alignment
with key California policies both in the near-term as we are
dealing with the current drought and in the long-term as we
strive to be drought-resilient for future droughts.
I have been actively involved in California water
management for 35 years. Over that period, we have evolved a
couple simple themes that we believe work. One of those themes
we call co-equal goals. What that means in simple terms is both
water supply reliability and the environment matter in
California water policy, and we try to operate in ways that
benefit both of those.
The second major theme is to use comprehensive solutions.
If you limit the number of tools that are available to you, you
will have to play off the environment against the water supply
or vice versa. So we operate under something called the
California Water Action Plan, which calls for a very
comprehensive set of tools.
To accomplish either of those objectives, coequal goals or
comprehensive solutions, we need a partnership with the Federal
Government that, quite frankly, we do not think we enjoy today.
Too often, federal agencies are approaching us from the
Endangered Species Act, looking at single species, single
tools. We wind up with major negative impacts on our water
supply that we do not think is doing any good for the
Things need to change. We think the Senator's S. 2533 moves
in the right direction.
In the near-term, S. 2533 requires the federal agencies to
put a higher weight on water supply, as they are going through
applying their discretion. They do have a lot of discretion.
Currently, we do not think water supply gets nearly enough
weight in their considerations. So that provision alone is
important to us in California, moving the Federal Government in
a direction where they are thinking more in terms of coequal
goals than just the most vulnerable species under the
Endangered Species Act.
To accomplish those near-term objectives, the Senator's
bill uses various tools to get more efficiency out of the
system. She mentioned opportunistic pumping. When the winter
storms hit, be ready and have a place to put that water.
Similarly, the bill calls for real-time operation of the
I would be glad to answer any questions. It is much more
efficient than the static rules we have now where pumping is
determined regardless of actual conditions in the system. Real-
time operation is an order of magnitude better way to operate
Lastly, and I will use this as an example of water supply
benefits in the near-term, S. 2533 tries to open up the water
market in California between sellers in Northern California and
buyers in Southern California. Water marketing is an important
tool in our state, but most of the suppliers are above our
Delta and most of our buyers are below the Delta.
This year, because of what we regard to be artificial
restrictions on the ability to move water from willing sellers
to willing buyers, I can tell you exactly how much water will
be moved from above the Delta to below the Delta in California
this year. The answer is zero, not a single drop, because the
Endangered Species Act and the need to meet contract demands
have closed all the windows that used to be open for moving
water in the California market.
I am an economist by training. I understand the power of
market forces, and I believe when you combine that with real-
time operations and opportunistic pumping of water flows, there
are hundreds of thousands acre-feet of water available under
the short-term provisions of Senator Feinstein's bill, which
tells you why we are so anxious to see it move forward.
In the long-term, the bill makes the Federal Government our
partner in California's comprehensive Water Action Plan. In
particular, we support provisions that would promote
desalinization projects; funding WaterSMART to promote
conservation; funding and improvements in Title XVI, a dollar
allocation that will significantly promote water use;
authorizations for new storage projects; new financing
approaches like RIFIA, which is a low-cost buying approach that
some of our project proponents think would be enormously
valuable. We are also very supportive of some of the
streamlining provisions in the Senator's bill and for
provisions that would provide assistance to disadvantaged
If you add all of this up, just the desalinization and the
recycling provisions of S. 2533 could result in 1.4 million
acre-feet of new water in California in combination with, we
believe, hundreds of thousands acre-feet for more flexibility
in the near-term provisions.
This is a good down payment on California's drought
resiliency in the future, so ACWA would urge the Subcommittee
to move this bill forward so we can go and deal with the
authors of 2898 and come up with a combined approach that we
can send to the White House and get signed.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Quinn follows:]
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Senator Flake. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF DAN KEPPEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
FAMILY FARM ALLIANCE
Mr. Keppen. Good afternoon, Chairman Flake, Senator
My name is Dan Keppen. On behalf of the Family Farm
Alliance, I thank you for this opportunity to present this
S. 2533, Senator Feinstein's California and West-wide drought
The negative impacts of today's droughts and water
shortages have reached staggering levels for our farmers and
ranchers, their families, and the irrigated agriculture
community. Unfortunately, these impacts are driven in part by
current regulations triggered by fixed calendar dates or
singular operational thresholds, as Mr. Quinn talked about.
Important species distribution or other relevant
environmental factors are often not considered. Such approaches
are inflexible, inefficient, and ineffective. They stem in part
from the fact that Congress has not explicitly directed
agencies to be flexible and innovative, so the agencies default
to the actions that are least likely to get them sued. Thus,
the status quo persists. California Bay Delta (CBD) operations
in 2016 provide an excellent example of this, and I have
included some figures with my written testimony that
Because of El Nino storms this winter, inflow in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was almost three times greater
than it was this time this last year, yet the water pumped to
supply millions of acres of world-class farmland and more than
20 million Californians living south of the Delta has barely
increased as compared to last year because of regulatory
restrictions. Again, one of my figures in the written testimony
clearly shows that.
S. 2533 provides for more flexible, efficient, multipurpose
management of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) and the
Delta. This is also true of the House-passed H.R. 2898, the
Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, which the
full Committee considered during a drought hearing held last
October that I participated in.
That hearing also examined Senator Feinstein's earlier
drought legislation, S. 1894. I testified at the hearing
expressing our support for both bills which, while similar in
intent, differed on some important aspects regarding the Delta.
Certain provisions in H.R. 2898, if enacted, would better
assist producers in the CBD in dealing with ESA restrictions on
water deliveries. The House bill does this through improved
management of species, water flows, and habitat in the Delta.
H.R. 2898 also would facilitate future water development
projects through its water supply permitting and Reclamation
projects streamlining provisions.
S. 2533 also includes California-specific provisions. These
are intended to provide additional flexibility and tools to
address water conveyance and flows in relation to fish
populations on a real-time basis. We back the bill's provisions
that seek to address other stressors in the Delta environment,
especially non-native fish that prey on ESA-listed species like
Delta smelt and Chinook salmon. S. 2533 also includes specific
federal authorities and actions that would aid fish passage in
the Delta, increase hatchery production, and improve spawning
and rearing habitat of listed species.
S. 2533 generally directs the Federal Government to maximize
water supplies to federal and state water users by approving
projects and operations that provide additional water supplies.
The bill includes temporary operational flexibility
provisions that would allow for the diversion and capture of
peak winter storm flows in the Delta. It streamlines National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting on water
infrastructure projects and directs agencies to complete
certain ongoing feasibility studies for California surface
water storage projects. Some of these were originally
authorized nearly 20 years ago. Tim and I were involved with
this 20 years ago, and they have languished ever since.
In addition to its California Bay Delta focus, S. 2533
contains a number of additional provisions that would apply
throughout the West and which we have previously supported. The
bill would provide up to $600 million in budget authority for
the Secretary of Interior to request funding for the federal
share of new water storage projects in the Western United
States. S. 2533 also includes innovative financing provisions
for expanded water infrastructure, which we support.
We back provisions in S. 2533 directing the Corps of
Engineers to identify and study flood control rule curves at
corps-regulated reservoirs where additional water supplies
could be stored and used in dry years. However, this provision
has been superseded by an improved version included in the
Senate-passed S. 2012 energy bill recently, and it should be
updated accordingly, in our view.
We support Senator Feinstein's proposed expansion of Water-
SMART grants and availability of Reclamation Title XVI water
recycling and reuse grants.
To conclude, we are encouraged by this Committee's
consideration of both the House-passed H.R. 2898 and S. 2533.
We urge you to keep at it. That is because two separate bills
are of absolutely no value to a parched West. This has been
twice emphasized in letters to this Committee and signed off by
over 100 Western agriculture and water organizations in the
past eight months.
What is needed is a single bill that can be enacted by
Congress and signed into law by the President. We must all work
together to ensure that Western water users have every tool
available to survive and recover from the current drought in
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:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Senator Gardner [presiding]. Thank you, Mr. Keppen.
I apologize, again, to the witnesses who are here, as we
have three votes that everybody is dashing in and out for.
Thank you very much for your time and testimony today.
It is my privilege and honor to hear the next witness, Mr.
Bill Long, who I will speak a little bit more about in the
Mr. Long from Colorado, welcome.
STATEMENT OF BILL LONG, PRESIDENT, BOARD OF DIRECTORS,
SOUTHEASTERN COLORADO WATER CONSERVANCY DISTRICT
Mr. Long. Thank you, Mr. Chair, Senator Gardner.
My name is Bill Long. I am President of the Board of
Directors of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy
District. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you
today in support of
S. 2616, which was introduced by you, Senator Gardner, and is
cosponsored by Senator Bennett. Your favorable and expeditious
consideration of the bill will be greatly appreciated by the
people of the Lower Arkansas Valley.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit, an authorized feature of the
Bureau of Reclamation's Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will convey
treated drinking water from the project's Pueblo reservoir east
to 40 communities in the Lower Valley. These small, rural towns
currently use groundwater wells to supply some or all of their
Twenty-one towns have water supplies containing naturally
occurring, cancer-causing radioactive elements at levels which
exceed or nearly exceed federally-mandated standards. The
Colorado Department of Health and Environment has notified
these providers that they must treat the water supplies to
remove the contaminants or find a better water quality source.
In addition, the median salt concentration in the current
supply is nearly seven times greater than the secondary
drinking water standard.
Our communities have a critical need for safe drinking
water supplies. In its 2014 Record of Decision, Reclamation
concluded that individual community water systems diverting and
treating water from the Arkansas River would not provide a
reliable, long-term, safe water supply.
Instead, an efficient regional solution, the Arkansas
Valley Conduit, was selected. It takes advantage of the City of
Pueblo's existing water treatment facilities and will benefit
from the economies of scale. This regional project will be less
costly than any of the alternatives examined by Reclamation
Because this regional project is without question the most
efficient and effective way to deliver quality drinking water
to the affected communities, the district has been discussing
with Reclamation and the Department of the Interior ways to
provide non-federal financing for construction of the conduit.
The concept is that approximately $100 million would be
provided by the district from non-federal sources, thus
reducing significantly the appropriated dollars needed for the
The Fry-Ark Project generates revenue from local water
providers who pay Reclamation for the storage and conveyance of
their nonproject water. S. 2616 would expand the ability to use
these revenues not only to repay the 35 percent plus interest
required in legislation passed in 2009. The bill would allow
use of the miscellaneous revenue sooner and to greater savings
to the Federal Government during project construction.
S. 2616 would further allow the use of miscellaneous
revenues to repay the $100 million non-federal contribution
mentioned earlier. The district anticipates obtaining the non-
federal financing through a loan from the Colorado Water
Conservation Board, our state water policy agency and a strong
supporter of the project. In fact, $60 million has already been
approved by the State of Colorado.
I ask that the Colorado Water Conservation Board written
statement in support of S. 2616 be included in the official
record, along with the written statement, which I have
submitted, and have the CWCB statement with me.
Senator Gardner. Without objection.
[The information referred to follows:]
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Mr. Long. At this time, there is no statutory requirement
for non-federal financing of the project; however, the district
is mindful of the budgetary constraints Congress faces. S. 2616
is offered by our Senators with the intent of substantially
reducing appropriations needed for the conduit. By maximizing
in three ways the use of project-generated revenues, the
federal outlay needed for construction will be reduced by more
than $150 million. As miscellaneous revenues continue to be
generated by the Fry-Ark Project, after repayment of this CWCB
loan and the district's 35 percent share of the federal
investment, those revenues can continue to repay the remaining
65 percent of the conduit's cost. S. 2616 will clearly achieve
the goal of reducing federal outlays through appropriation.
Of greater importance to the people of the Lower Arkansas
Valley is having a reliable, safe drinking water supply, not a
tainted supply which brings a significant threat to public
health, and enforcement costs from regulators.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to
testify. I would be happy to respond to any questions you may
[The prepared statement of Mr. Long follows:]
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Senator Gardner. Thank you, Mr. Long.
For the sake of Senators Roberts and Moran, I will clarify
something that you said. It is the ``Arkansas River,'' not the
So thank you very much, Mr. Long, for your testimony today.
Mr. Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water
Resources, thank you. Please proceed.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS BUSCHATZKE, DIRECTOR, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF
Mr. Buschatzke. Thank you, Chairman Gardner.
I am Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of
Water Resources. Thank you for providing me an opportunity to
present testimony on behalf of the State of Arizona regarding
S. 2902, the Western Water Supply and Planning Enhancement Act.
The ongoing drought in the Western United States
demonstrates the need for congressional action that empowers
states to better plan for and manage their existing water
resources, to re-operate existing reservoirs to generate more
water, to reestablish healthy forests to increase their water
yield and protect the quality of water they produce. If
enacted, S. 2902 will provide new tools to help achieve those
My statement today will focus on four sections of the bill
that reflect a consensus position of a broad group of Arizona
Section 101 directs the reevaluation of flood control
operations at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation dams to enhance water storage. In Arizona, an
opportunity exists to create temporary storage in flood control
space at modified Roosevelt Dam, but past efforts have been
stymied by a cumbersome Corps of Engineers process. With a
successful process, an average of about 70,000 acre-feet per
year, an increase of 10 percent to the water supplies of the
Salt River Project in the Phoenix metropolitan area, can be
achieved. Section 101 provides clarity and potentially
streamlines the process for creating temporary storage at
modified Roosevelt Dam.
Section 103 seeks to have the National Academy of Sciences
complete a study on the effectiveness of controlling tamarisk
to increase water supplies and improve riparian habitats, and
for the Bureau of Reclamation to create a feasible plan that
builds upon the 2012 Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand
Study recommendations to implement tamarisk control. Arizona
supports cost-effective methods to control tamarisk to create
additional flow in the Colorado River System and to improve
Section 104 provides authority for the Secretary of the
Interior to fund or participate in projects to conserve water
for the benefit of the Colorado River System. Provisions of
this section build upon collaborative efforts of the Colorado
River Basin states and the Department of the Interior to
proactively manage the Colorado River to improve its health.
The creation of system conservation water is a critical
component of efforts to protect Lake Mead flows. From 2014 to
the end of 2016, Arizona will have created a total of about
165,000 acre-feet of system conservation water. This is a
significant contribution to Lake Mead elevations that benefit
all the Basin states. Absolute certainty that the system water
will stay in Lake Mead is a necessity for Arizona to continue
its efforts to create these protection volumes because we have
the ability to use water solely for the benefit of Arizona
through its water banking program, which stores water in
aquifers within Arizona for its own future use. Some water
users in Arizona prefer the water banking option over the
system conservation option. Arizona appreciates that the
Secretary of the Interior has chosen not to release any of the
system water created to date but supports the provisions in the
bill that achieve the outcome of creating absolute certainty
that system water will remain as system water. Furthermore,
Section 104 provides an incentive for all water users in the
Lower Basin to continue to incrementally add to the system
conservation measures with the knowledge that the conserved
water will provide the benefit that was intended.
Lastly, Sections 111 through 114 of the legislation create
a streamlined permitting process for forests and wildland
restoration activities in critical water supply watersheds. The
woeful health of our forests is well-known and the number of
acres burned has grown dramatically over the last three-plus
decades. Fire impacts reduce reservoir capacity and yield
because of the increased sedimentation and also degrade water
quality. There is an immediate need to take action to reduce
the risk of catastrophic fire in our watersheds. Expediting
permitting is necessary to restore forests to a healthy
condition in a timely manner, and this legislation can help
achieve that outcome.
In summary, the State of Arizona supports Sections 101,
103, and 111 through 114 of S. 2902. Collectively, these
provisions further the efforts of the state to develop, manage,
and protect the quantity and quality of its water supplies and
improve the health of its forests.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Buschatzke follows:]
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Senator Flake [presiding]. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF LAURA ZIEMER, SENIOR COUNSEL AND WATER POLICY
ADVISOR, TROUT UNLIMITED
Ms. Ziemer. Good afternoon, Chairman Flake. Thank you for
the invitation to testify today on behalf of Trout Unlimited.
I live and work in Montana and have experienced firsthand
the devastation of prolonged drought. That is why I have spent
most of the last 20 years finding collaborative solutions to
water scarcity. I have pioneered new ways to make water go
further with Montana ranches. I created a voluntary drought
response plan in the Blackfoot River Basin, built on the idea
that if everyone gives a little, no one loses out.
My experience has been one of diverse partners coming
together to find innovative solutions to water scarcity at a
variety of scales, by rethinking water infrastructure and
repairing natural systems.
I have learned a couple things during a decade of walking
irrigation ditches that I would like to share today. I would
like to tell four stories of collaborative efforts with
partners like the Family Farm Alliance and Reclamation that
each help chart a path forward. Each of these stories anchor
Trout Unlimited support or opposition to the bills before the
In Eastern Washington's Yakima River Basin, Trout Unlimited
sat down with irrigators, other sportsmen, local, state, and
federal agency staff and tribal members to develop a mosaic of
the drought resilience approaches from water infrastructure
improvements to restoring fish passage to temporary water right
transfers. The State of Washington believes strongly enough in
the Yakima plan that it has already provided $161 million
toward its implementation. Collaborators of the Yakima plan
achieve more for their own interests standing together than
they would on their own. Senator Cantwell's white paper on
drought and water security is an expression of the Yakima
success. It calls for federal support of collaborative
watershed-scale solutions based on a portfolio of projects with
innovative financing to get projects over the finish line.
My second story is my own work on Montana's Sun River,
where we found a way to benefit irrigation water supply while
restoring flows to the chronically dewatered Sun River. Two
thousand feet of lined canal, 2,300 feet of PVC pipe, and a new
bypass canal put more water in the Sun River, more than
doubling the wild trout population over the last three years.
In S. 2533, Section 101 reflects my Sun River experience.
Section 101 prioritizes WaterSMART projects that provide
benefits across the three legs of the drought-resilient stool,
creating benefits to fisheries alongside benefits to
agricultural and urban water users. The kind of work we
accomplish in the Sun River Basin would also benefit from
Section 508, which supports an open water data system.
My third story comes out of Wyoming, where a decade of
restoration projects with ranchers meant that partnerships were
in place when, last year, Reclamation and municipalities
announced a system conservation pilot program. This effort to
develop water transfer tools addresses long-term drought in the
Colorado River Basin.
For the upcoming irrigation season, Trout Unlimited and
Wyoming ranchers have worked together to offer more than 10,000
acre-feet of water conservation in the upper Green River,
primarily through split season water leases. The Reid-Heller
amendment to the energy and water appropriations bill continues
this pilot program.
My last story is Trout Unlimited's long-term commitment to
the Klamath. It shows that ground-up, collaborative solutions
can emerge even in a river basin deeply divided over water
conflicts. Years of discussion and listening to real needs
produced these three hard-won agreements among diverse
The lesson from the Klamath River relevant to today's
hearing is that carefully crafted solutions of mutual benefit
produce bipartisan support. The Klamath initiative led by
Senators Wyden and Merkley brought investment in irrigation
infrastructure and water supplies to support one of the most
productive salmon and steelhead fisheries on the Pacific coast.
This experience contrasts with S. 2533 in two important ways.
First, Title III legislates some sets of water users as
higher priorities than others, which seems likely to fuel more
litigation and conflict rather than moving toward lasting
solutions based on mutual benefit.
Second, Section 112 grants West-wide authority to construct
new storage. Our experience is that new storage should be
evaluated and carried out in a multi-stakeholder, basin-wide
process, and Section 112 could undermine such collaborative
Finally, Trout Unlimited opposes S. 2902 because it
undercuts collaborative watershed-based efforts and key
I hope my testimony today has been helpful in charting a
path forward toward water security in the West. I would be
happy to answer any questions. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Ziemer follows:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Senator Flake. Thank you. Thank you all for your testimony.
I am sorry for the confusion here, as one has to go and vote
and another comes back. We have one more vote, which I will
need to go take in a few minutes. But hopefully, Senator
Gardner will come back and we can continue with questions.
I have a letter here from the Western Governors'
Association signed by Governor Mead of Wyoming, Governor
Bullock of Montana, the association's chair and vice chair,
respectively. The Western Governors' Association believes that
a comprehensive West-wide response to drought and water
security is needed and asks the Committee to develop such
So I ask unanimous consent that the letter be included in
the record, without objection, I guess.
[The information referred to follows:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Senator Flake. It is good to be king.
Before I move to some questions, I want to convey my thanks
to Commissioner Lopez for his leadership with the Bureau of
Reclamation, the ongoing work in implementing the system
conservation plan, and for developing the Colorado River
Drought Contingency Plan. I expressed this thanks to Secretary
Jewell when she was in front of this Committee earlier this
year, but I wanted to convey my gratitude to you personally.
It is great to have Tom Buschatzke here. I appreciate you
making the trip. Thank you for your work in putting together
priorities for Arizona and for working so hard on water issues
S. 2902 and S. 2907 both expand on one of the voluntary
programs to conserve water in Lake Mead that you talked about.
It seems clear that the Colorado River Water Conservation
Program has been successful and ought to be extended in
whatever drought legislation emerges from this Committee.
I ask that you please explain the different programs that
already exist, and those that are in the works, to create this
so-called system water in Lake Mead. Who participates in them?
Who funds them? How do they differ?
Mr. Buschatzke. Yes, Senator Flake. There are a couple of
programs that I want to highlight.
The first is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was
entered into between the Metropolitan Water District of
Southern California, the Central Arizona Project, the Southern
Nevada Water Authority, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the
states of Arizona, California, and Nevada. Volumes of water in
the amount of 740,000 acre-feet are the goal of the MOU. It is
a best-efforts program. Each one of the states through their
water users has a piece of that 740,000 acre-feet for them to
try to achieve. That 740,000 acre-feet has been shown through
modeling to severely reduce the risk of having Lake Mead fall
to unhealthy elevations.
Within Arizona, there have been reductions through that
program of 165,000 acre-feet of water dedicated to the system,
water that is system conservation water by the end of 2016 and
another 215,000 acre-feet by the end of 2016 for intentionally
created surplus water that is labeled in the name of the
creator for later recovery out of the lake. The total cost of
those two programs for Arizona through the Central Arizona
Project was about $8 million.
The other program, you mentioned it already, is the Pilot
System Conservation Program. That again was funded by
Metropolitan, CAP, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Denver
Water, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, originally for an
$11 million fund. Recently, the Central Arizona Project put
another $1 million into that fund. That attempts to achieve
system conservation savings in the Lower Basin using about two-
thirds of that money, and in the Upper Basin using about one-
third of that money. In the Lower Basin, we expect to achieve
savings of 60,000 acre-feet, and in the Upper Basin, about
Many of those programs have had contracts entered into, and
those contracts are being implemented, and the savings will
occur over some number of years.
Senator Flake. Thank you. You mentioned in your testimony
that some of the water users would rather water bank rather
than leave it behind the dam. What assurances do they need
before they feel comfortable leaving it behind the dam?
Mr. Buschatzke. Senator Flake, under the MOU and under the
Pilot System Conservation agreements, we do have provisions
that are kind of gentlemen's agreements to leave that water in
the lake. As I mentioned in my statement, the Secretary of
Interior has chosen to do that.
But I think to quell the debate in Arizona about whether to
leave that water in the lake or put it in our aquifers under
our control, we need more certainty that the water will stay
there. We need the provisions of S. 2902 that do that. We need
to make sure that those provisions are enforceable, so that we
have the comfort we need to make sure that we are getting the
benefit of the bargain for that water.
Senator Flake. All right, thank you.
Commissioner Lopez, I was encouraged to hear the Bureau of
Reclamation committed an additional $5 million to the Colorado
River System Conservation Pilot Project in 2016. Based on the
previous year's experience, how much additional Lake Mead
protection volume do you anticipate that this year's funding
will help to create?
Mr. Lopez. Senator, thank you for the question.
You are correct. We have allocated $5 million for system
conservation projects and of that $3.5 million to the Lower
Basin and $1.5 million to the Upper Basin.
Perhaps the best way to answer your question is to consider
what was saved from the last phase, where, as Director
Buschatzke just mentioned, combined funding was something on
the order of $11 million. We were able to acquire about 63,000
acre-feet in the Lower Basin using about $8 million, and in the
Upper Basin, we conserved something on the order of about 3,300
acre-feet using the remainder, about $2.75 million. So that
gives you some sense of what we have been able to accomplish so
With the $5 million that we have put up for this year, we
hope to get additional non-federal contributions to match that.
As Director Buschatzke has mentioned, the CAP has already put
up some money, as I think California has as well. But we are
hopeful that others will match that as well.
Senator Flake. All right, thank you.
Ms. Weldon, the Subcommittee received testimony on S. 982,
the Water Rights Protection Act, last June. The language
included in S. 2902 reflects a number of changes that were made
based on testimony from that hearing.
I understand that your testimony states that, ``USDA has
not had time to fully analyze the effect of this bill,'' and
that the USDA's concern is with the prohibitions that would
regulate uses of National Forest System lands. I believe the
modified language incorporated in S. 2902 addresses these
concerns and only limits a state water right, leaving land
management decisions untouched.
The question is, will you please commit to work with my
office and highlight for us particular areas of concern in the
legislation that might prohibit the regulation of Forest
Service land use, what concerns you about it?
Ms. Weldon. Thank you, Senator Flake.
We would be very happy to work with you and your staff to
look at the changes that have been made. The overall concern
would be if there were any provisions in the bill that would
somehow reduce the ability for the Secretary and for the Forest
Service to ensure that, as land use authorizations are
occurring, they are being done in a way that protects water
rights, but also ensures availability of water for a diversity
of uses. So we would be happy to continue working with you and
your staff on the language and the changes with this bill.
Senator Flake. Thank you.
Mr. Buschatzke, I have heard from a number of communities
up and down the Gila River about the tamarisk problem that you
mentioned. Can you talk a little more from what you did in your
testimony about the challenges that the state faces from this
Mr. Buschatzke. Yes, Senator Flake.
I think, as we heard from Senator McCain, there is great
potential for water savings from salvage of removing tamarisk
and replanting with riparian vegetation. I think the basin
study, the Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study, uses a
number of about 0.54 acre-feet per acre doing that salvage. I
think additional study needs to be done to solidify that
Some of the challenges of removing that tamarisk along with
the Gila River are there are at least three species of birds--
the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo,
and the Yuma Clapper Rail--that are in danger that live in the
tamarisk along the Gila River. Some of that tamarisk is also
designated as critical habitat for that and other species, so
removing it creates issues under the Endangered Species Act. We
have Corps of Engineers 404 permitting issues as well. Then
generally, in Arizona, with as much federal land as we have,
the feds have an obligation to protect species, but often do
not have the funding to really do some of the things that would
help those species out. So lastly, we know that the tamarisk
chokes our channels and creates additional flooding. It also
limits the ability to use the channel to move water around
Arizona. Under Arizona law, you can use a riverbed to transport
water and keep your name on that water, so to speak.
So we have lots of challenges, but a study that is in S.
2902 might help create some methods moving forward to deal with
some of these issues. I think there is some great potential
there for Arizona to increase its water supplies through
Senator Flake. All right, thank you. I toured around
Safford and Thatcher a while ago, and it is unbelievable how
thick tamarisk is in the Gila there. It just makes it
completely impassable, so it is a lot of work that needs to be
Mr. Lopez, as Tom Buschatzke said, one of Arizona's
planning successes has been the ability to store water,
millions of acre-feet, underground. Last month, I toured a
facility around Tucson storing Colorado River water. With the
threat of storage declaration looming and the ability to
recover and transport this stored groundwater that is critical,
obviously, to Arizona's water future, I wanted to thank the
Bureau for your ongoing work with CAP and the system use
agreement that allows the kind of wheeling to happen.
Can you give an update on the status of finalizing the
system use agreement, including tribal consultation?
Mr. Lopez. Senator Flake, I am not certain of the exact
status of that. I know that there is a lot of work going on
with it, including the consultation that you are talking about.
Our regional staff is meeting with tribes and with CAP and
working on those things, but I can try to find the exact status
of it and submit it for the record, if you would like.
Senator Flake. That would be helpful.
Mr. Lopez. Senator Flake, I am assuming that you are
referring to the wheeling agreements, correct?
Senator Flake. Yes, I am.
Mr. Lopez. Okay.
Senator Flake. Thank you.
Mr. Keppen, your testimony makes some comparisons between
the various approaches taken in the different Colorado drought
bills and their relative effectiveness in getting additional
water to farmers.
Can you explain the relative effectiveness of S. 1894 and
S. 2533 and H.R. 2898, particularly with regard to the guidance
and flexibility that are provided to the agencies in each of
Mr. Keppen. Sure. Again, I think H.R. 2898, the House bill,
probably would better assist our producers in the Central
Valley Project in dealing with ESA restrictions on water
deliveries. But again, the challenge is getting language that
deals with the ESA through the Senate. So that is the challenge
that I think remains here for us to reach agreement.
Senator Flake. Thank you.
Senator Gardner will take over while I vote. Thanks again.
Senator Gardner [presiding]. I yield to Senator Daines for
five minutes for questions.
Senator Daines. Thank you. Thanks to all of you for
appearing before the Committee, particularly Ms. Ziemer. It is
always good to have Montanans here in Washington, DC. Welcome.
As we all know, water is a basic need of life. Despite this
reality, there are still rural and tribal communities
throughout Montana that face significant barriers to accessing
clean and reliable sources of water. That is why I am proud to
help introduce the Western Water Supply and Planning
Enhancement Act that includes my provisions to authorize two
critical rural water projects in Montana, the Dry-Redwater and
the Musselshell-Judith Basin Projects, which would treat and
deliver water to over 30,000 residents of central and eastern
Montana and parts of North Dakota.
This bill also includes other important provisions,
including the IRRIGATE Act which would help facilitate
irrigation projects throughout Indian country and the Water
Rights Protection Act which would prevent Federal agencies from
requiring businesses or landowners to transfer their water
rights in exchange for renewing a permit or lease to utilize
It is time the Federal Government fulfill its obligations
and promises to Montana's rural communities and provide needed
funding to ensure our rural water projects are completed and
our water rights are protected.
A question for Ms. Weldon. Ms. Weldon, I understand you
spent time in Missoula, Montana, where you served as the
Regional Forester for the Forest Service Northern Region, so I
am sure you know the issues regarding forest management and
water quality in Montana communities.
The Forest Service has classified 134 watersheds in Montana
as impaired, which is the most severe condition. We need to
restore these watersheds. It is why I strongly support the
provision in Senator Flake's legislation that provides new
tools to swiftly implement watershed projects developed through
a collaborative process. In fact, I urge the Administration to
support these new tools.
I am further told by the Forest Service that there are
currently five projects in Montana that are designed primarily
to restore watersheds. Two of these projects have faced
litigation. There are an additional four active lawsuits
against projects that would enhance watersheds as a byproduct
of the projects' integrated management. All of these projects
were developed through a collaborative process.
I would like to highlight one that is literally in my
backyard. It is the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project. I went
to Bozeman from kindergarten all the way through college. This
project was conceived in 2005, more than a decade ago, by the
Forest Service and collaborative stakeholders working together,
but it has been tied up in litigation now for years and was
enjoined since 2013.
Ms. Weldon, when a project is enjoined, that means work on
the ground must stop. Is that right?
Ms. Weldon. That is correct.
Senator Daines. What impacts can a delay in implementing a
project have on the condition of an impaired watershed?
Ms. Weldon. Thank you for your question, Senator Daines.
I was actually able to walk the ground where this project
is, the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project, and understand the
conditions that are faced there, the need for us to reduce the
risk of losing portions of that watershed to wildfire and
subsequent effects downstream for water quality and quantity.
So when a project gets enjoined and must be stopped, what
happens is that the good, collaborative agreement around the
need and value for this restoration work to be done to protect
water is delayed. Each summer, each season, we face the risk of
increasing insect and disease infestation, and the continuing
decline of condition and, of course, the threat of wildfire.
One wildfire in an area where we have made the investment and
have a good public support for doing this work can nullify that
and increase the impacts to citizens to get clean water and the
work that needs to be done to put those landscapes back
together to have clean water again in the future. So the delays
are a significant problem when we know that the work we would
invest in would make a difference.
Senator Daines. We have had some fires recently that had it
not been for maybe a wind change and so forth, we could have
come through that watershed. In fact, we are the fastest
growing county in Montana, Montana State University has 14,000
students in addition to 35,000 residents of Bozeman.
As I have noted these watershed-impacted lawsuits are made
in Montana. They are working against made-in-Montana
collaborative projects. I am a champion of collaboration, but I
think you recognize it has not been a cure-all. The
collaborative process has not been a cure-all to avoiding
litigation in Montana, and we need to strengthen them.
Ms. Weldon. Yes, I would say that collaboration does not
prevent lawsuits but it changes the playing field.
As our witness from Trout Unlimited said, the value of
bringing people together around what is important and around
the value of watersheds and forests is making a difference. And
we are finding that, even as we have challenges, we have been
better able to resolve them, working through collaboratives,
than without having them.
Senator Daines. I am a big supporter of incentivizing col-
laboratives. We are seeing it is absolutely a step in the right
direction. It just has been insufficient at times. It is not
the absolute cure-all. We need to continue to work here on
stopping some of this litigation that stops good, made-in-
Montana collaborative projects.
Thank you very much for your testimony.
Ms. Weldon. Thank you.
Senator Gardner. Thank you, Senator Daines. Again, thank
you to all of you for being here today.
Mr. Long, thank you very much for coming all the way from
Colorado to serve on the panel today and for your testimony.
Bill has worked with the Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy
District for over a decade and serves as the President for the
Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District, a County
Commissioner from Bent County, and a business owner in Bent
County. I appreciate the work you have done with Fort Lyon to
facilitate opportunities for treatment to our veterans and a
number of the other policies and issues that you have taken up
in southeastern Colorado, and particularly the Arkansas Valley
Conduit, which you are going to discuss today and have
For the information of the members of the Committee and
those here, the Arkansas Valley Conduit, as Mr. Long eloquently
stated, is a water project that will allow for the delivery of
clean, abundant, affordable water to southeastern Colorado's
rural communities. It is the final major component of the
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project which was first authorized under
John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.
In fiscal year 2016, $2.5 million was appropriated for the
project. In fiscal year 2017, the Senate Energy and Water
Development Appropriations legislation contained an additional
$3 million for the project.
You have outlined a number of concerns with the drinking
water in Southeast Colorado today. You mentioned water quality
concerns, and you discussed the current status of the Arkansas
Valley Conduit. Could you talk a little bit about the timeline
moving forward, perhaps if this legislation passes and perhaps
if it does not?
Mr. Long. Regardless of this legislation, final feasibility
will be complete September of this calendar year, 2016. Should
this bill be approved and future funding come online as
anticipated, final design and engineering will be complete in
2018 and construction could begin as early as fiscal year 2019.
Senator Gardner. Very good. How would the passage of this
legislation and continued federal investment in the project
impact the timeline?
Mr. Long. Senator Gardner, without this legislation, the
miscellaneous revenues and the ability to partner with the
State of Colorado, it will be very difficult for this very low-
income area of Colorado to construct the project to meet
federally-mandated water quality standards.
Senator Gardner. Thank you, Mr. Long.
The federal interest in the project, if you could address
that and why it is important for Congress and the Bureau of
Reclamation to continue to invest in the conduit? I think you
laid it out very clearly in your testimony.
Mr. Long. We believe Congress has recognized the need for
communities to meet federally-mandated water quality standards
that protect public health, and we agree. The project will
ensure that federal standards are met and safe water is
provided to our residents.
It also will ensure that our wastewater streams that we are
very challenged with right now are met as well, so it really
takes care of a couple issues that are extremely challenging to
virtually every community in the Lower Arkansas Valley.
Senator Gardner. Thank you.
Again, I think this is part of the project authorized in
the early 1960s under John F. Kennedy, and it is time we move
forward on this bill.
I know that we have been working very closely with the
Bureau of Reclamation. Deputy Secretary Mike Connor was here
February 23rd and answered questions where he committed
continued support of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. He also
specifically stated that the concept laid out in the
legislation that we are talking about today was a very good
plan when it comes to the financing of the project.
So my question to Mr. Lopez, when the Bureau of Reclamation
issued the record of decision on this project in 2014, did they
find that this project was sound and should move forward?
Mr. Lopez. Senator, yes. We think this is a worthy project.
Obviously, it is taking care of a water quality problem that is
affecting a large number of communities, so I think it is an
important project that we continue to support.
Senator Gardner. Thank you very much, sir.
If enacted, do you believe legislation under consideration
will assist in getting the Arkansas Valley Conduit constructed
as expeditiously as possible?
Mr. Lopez. I do. Given the constrained budgets that we are
working with, there are not many avenues other than something
like the legislation that you have introduced for us to get
something built timely.
Senator Gardner. Thank you, Mr. Lopez.
Mr. Long, thank you for being here today.
It is just absolutely critically important. We are talking
about water quality for the thousands of families that live
along the Arkansas River. We are talking about economic
opportunity for people who live along the river. When we talk
about the need for this area and the economy and what drives
this economy, clean, abundant water is the building block of
revitalizing all of Colorado, but particularly southeastern
Colorado, so thank you for your passionate testimony today.
Ms. Weldon, when Congress designated the Holy Cross
Wilderness Area in 1980, the Bolts Ditch headgate and
approximately 450 feet of the Bolts Ditch were inadvertently
included within the boundary. The headgate and ditch have been
used by the community of Minturn to fill Bolts Lake, which is
outside the wilderness area.
Passing the Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act is important to
provide clarity to the town of Minturn, to ensure that they can
utilize their existing water rights and can access the ditch
and headgate within the wilderness area for the purpose of
maintenance and repair.
In your testimony, you state that you do not oppose the
legislation, that USDA does not oppose the legislation. Could
you elaborate on why the legislation is necessary in this case
to allow for Minturn to assert their long-held water rights?
Ms. Weldon. Yes, and we appreciate the language here in the
bill that is reaching in to resolve one of the stipulations of
the global settlement decree around resolving this issue. This
bill will help to get a solution that is really clearly
supported by Eagle County, Colorado River District, as well as
the river advocacy groups, to allow us to move forward with
continuing with this operation under a special use permit and
to ensure that we are doing that work in the context of the
requirements of the Wilderness Act.
Senator Gardner. Thank you very much, Ms. Weldon.
Dr. Quinn, I had a question for you, but we are out of
time. As an economist, I was hoping you would explain to this
Committee how water can flow uphill to money, but we are out of
time, so thanks very much for the opportunity.
Senator Barrasso. Well, thank you very much.
I also would like to thank Senator Flake for introducing S.
2902, the Western Water Supply and Planning Enhancement Act of
2016. He has done it with me and my Western colleagues,
Senators Daines, Risch, Heller, and McCain. This bill is a
collaboration of months of work between our offices, most of
whom are members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources
At a time when water issues have made the forefront of the
headlines in places like California and Flint, Michigan, the
water supply needs of the West as a whole can be forgotten by
those who did not live where we live. The bill that we
introduced addresses the need of an abundant, consistent and
clean supply of water for all of our communities. Most of these
communities in the West are rural and they are agricultural-
based communities, as Pat O'Toole who is here from Wyoming
Working families operate ranches and farms and depend on
water for their livestock, to grow crops such as alfalfa and to
feed herds of cattle. The water resources in the West have
always been scarce and demands on the scarce supplies continue
We have more people moving to the West to live, to work,
and to raise their families. We have more regulations coming
from Washington, putting restrictions on where water can go,
sometimes in favor of species as opposed to working families.
Weather events such as drought only make our water needs
The proposals contained in S. 2902, the Western Water
Supply and Planning Enhancement Act, seek to provide more water
for our communities. The legislation includes bills that I have
authored and introduced that will fix aging water
infrastructure, such as: irrigation canals that serve our
ranching communities; create efficiencies in federal permitting
of new water storage through better coordination of federal
agencies; compile the maintenance backlog of Bureau of
Reclamation agency aging facilities, so Congress can actually
begin to address them; and protect existing water rights from
federal overreach for water users. There are many other
provisions authored by my colleagues in the bill that are going
to develop long-term water supplies and enhance the use of
existing water supply infrastructure. I think it is important
to note that the bill has $715 million in new authorization
that is fully offset with $721 million in reduced mandatory
spending. This is a very needed bill for the West and my home
State of Wyoming, and I urge the Committee markup of this
legislation occur soon, as quickly as possible.
So I have a couple questions.
One to Dan, if you could talk about how vital it is in
terms of increasing water storage and maintaining aging federal
irrigation structures for ranchers and farmers in the West and
rural communities? And how does an economically strong,
productive rural West benefit communities outside of the West?
Mr. Keppen. I guess I will answer your last question first.
The irrigated agriculture industry in the Western United
States, which is comprised of growers and producers and
implement dealers and food processors, is a $172 billion boost
to our economy every year--and I mentioned this in testimony
earlier today--because of that, in part, Americans spend less
of their disposable income on food than anywhere on the planet.
It is like 8 percent, compared to other countries that might be
20 percent to 30 percent. As I understand it, I am not an
economist, but I understand that consumer spending is a very
important part of a healthy economy. So irrigated agriculture
and the communities that they support in the West obviously are
a big part of that.
What we have seen in recent years, to get to your first
question, Senator Barrasso, is we have expanding demand going
on in other sectors. We have a growing population. We have
different societal priorities placed on environmental needs.
And when you look at the reality of how many dam projects that
have been built or storage projects that have been built in the
last 30 years, it has been almost nil. Metropolitan has done it
in California. But if there is any kind of a federal nexus
involved, it is very difficult because of the permitting
Unfortunately, what is happening is agricultural water is
turning out to be the default reservoir to meet these other
growing demands. That is a real concern.
We have to feed the world. We have to continue to have a
safe and secure food supply for our own country, and those
things could be threatened at some point if we do not start
creating storage to meet these other demands. Agriculture is
not really the cause for expanding demands right now.
Senator Barrasso. Commissioner Lopez, could you talk about
how important it is that Congress address the maintenance
backlog of Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs and the dams and
other infrastructure in the West, to ensure that water supplies
in the region are there in the decades to come?
Mr. Lopez. Senator, thank you for that question.
Reclamation has something like $100 billion worth of
infrastructure that we operate and maintain. Quite a lot of
that infrastructure is now over 50 years old, some of it is
over 100 years old. So it is imperative that if we want to
continue to maintain the benefits that we have gotten from this
infrastructure, which have been vast, we have to continue to
Beyond that, it is the sort of infrastructure that, if it
is not maintained, ultimately, it could create problems and
safety hazards for our communities, so that is another reason.
I thank you for your legislation and the Transparency Act
that has really helped us focus our efforts on how we
categorize infrastructure maintenance needs, and thank you for
working with us on getting that. I think we are now on track so
we can begin to develop that information.
Senator Barrasso. Dan, one last question for you.
In your written testimony, it says, ``There can be no doubt
that these environmental laws have provided significant
benefits to our society.'' You go on to say, ``But they also
have been used as legal weapons to thwart new investments in
Western water development, to reallocate existing water
supplies away from traditional uses, and to destabilize water
supply systems,'' and you go on to testify, ``often in pursuit
of unattainable goals such as resurrecting past ecological
conditions in a constantly changing environment.'' Can you give
us an example or two of what you mean and what you have seen?
Mr. Keppen. I will give you two.
One briefly is Klamath where I live, Klamath Basin of
Southern Oregon and Northern California.
I guess I will elaborate more on the second example, which
is really kind of the focus of what some of this legislation is
all about, the Central Valley Project in California.
We have seen essentially large amounts of water that were
originally designed for irrigation purposes stored in the
Central Valley Project facilities now being left to basically
go out through the Golden Gate Bridge to benefit a couple of
species protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Delta
smelt and some salmon.
Unfortunately, when you look at how those numbers are
actually reacting, the population reacting to those actions,
the numbers are actually declining. Really, the focus in Bay-
Delta management has been kind of on these export pumps that
divert water out of the Delta to meet Southern California needs
and Central Valley irrigation needs. We are not really seeing
That is probably the frustrating thing that we are seeing
right now. The focus is on these irrigation diversions. The
fish species they are intending to protect are not showing any
signs of recovery whatsoever, so there are other stressors out
there that we have to deal with. I would say, again, that is a
prime example, because a lot of those decisions that are moving
the water from agriculture into the ocean system are driven by
litigation involving the Endangered Species Act.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Flake. Thank you, Senator Barrasso.
Thank you all for your testimony today. Again, I apologize
for the chaotic nature of some of these hearings when we have
votes going on. I appreciate your indulgence.
Obviously, drought and water issues are critical to the
future of our states. I am hopeful that the Committee will
build on the hearing today, as we build a West-wide drought
bill that can pass not only this Committee, but the Senate
floor as well. So thank you for your testimony. It will be very
valuable for us.
For the information of members, questions may be submitted
for the record before the close of business on Thursday. The
record will remain open for two weeks. We ask the witnesses to
respond as promptly as possible to questions that are asked,
and your responses will be made part of the record.
Senator Flake. With the thanks of the Committee, this
hearing stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 3:47 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
APPENDIX MATERIAL SUBMITTED
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