Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

 FFA Report by Dan Keppen Regarding the Bureau of
Reclamation's capability to fulfill its core mission

Posted to KBC July 11, 2005

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Capability to Fulfill Its Core Mission: The Customer’s Perspective

Letter from Family Farm Alliance to the National Research Council regarding the Bureau of Reclamation

The Family Farm Alliance on June 23rd in Washington, D.C. presented a report entitled “The Bureau of Reclamation’s Capability to Fulfill Its Core Mission: The Customer’s Perspective” to the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment. The Alliance report compiles nine individual case studies for irrigation districts served by six Reclamation projects in five Western states. A copy of that report and the transmittal letter to the committee is attached. Please feel free to distribute.

The NRC Board has been asked by the U.S. Interior Department to provide an independent assessment of Reclamation’s design / build functions. The committee is comprised of academics, agency officials, and engineers from the private and public sector, and is chaired by Dr. James K. Mitchell, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The Alliance report and our presentation to the committee culminate a five-month effort to engage in this process. The final NRC report may form a basis for future federal policy development.

On June 23rd in Washington, I had lunch with the committee that has been assigned this task. After lunch, Tom Donnelly (NWRA) and I met with the entire committee, where I presented an overview of the final case study report that we submitted to the committee on June 20th. I focused on the following key findings of our study:  

  • Reclamation frequently demands that they design work on water projects.
  • Cost estimates prepared by Reclamation for proposed work are often significantly higher than reasonably anticipated costs. 
  • Irrigation districts complain of unsatisfactory contract management by Reclamation staff, and generally question the technical abilities of Reclamation staff, particularly new hires. 
  • Reclamation has demonstrated an unwillingness to document the basis for accounting of construction, NEPA work, and other cost estimates.
  • Districts do not have recourse to fully understand and engage with Reclamation in decision-making and related cost estimates.
  • Water users have in some cases noted significant Reclamation over-staffing of meetings or work on projects.
  • Reclamation needs to improve "turn-around" times for design work or decisions.

Despite these negative findings, Western water users also point to evidence that Reclamation staff members from regional and area offices can play a key role in helping to find the right path to make multi-agency processes and projects work. When strong relationships are developed between Reclamation employees (especially in area or regional offices) and local water users, cooperative and innovative solutions can be reached.

I would like to thank the dozens of irrigators, district managers, consultants, agency staff and attorneys who contributed to the development of this report. If you have any questions about the report or the related process, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanks –

Dan Keppen, P.E.

Executive Director

Family Farm Alliance




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2005, All Rights Reserved