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For Immediate Release, House Resource Committee
March 23, 2004
 

Title Transfers: Lessons Learned and Future Opportunities

WASHINGTON, DC - The Subcommittee on Water and Power will hold an oversight hearing tomorrow on the Bureau of Reclamation's implementation of facility title transfers and how these transfers can continue in the future.

The benefits of transferring ownership of the Bureau of Reclamation's water supply and delivery facilities to local water users has become increasingly clear, as this transfer allows for local control and cost-savings to the federal government and the American taxpayer.

Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) said, "For the local water users, title transfer means cost control, less paperwork and a new ability to leverage additional financing opportunities not available through a federally owned facility. For the Federal government, it generally means reduced liability and costs and a better utilization of resources. And the title transfer concept is a bipartisan idea brought forth by the Clinton Administration."

The Clinton Administration originally proposed the idea for transferring ownership of these water projects from the federal government to local control. Much of the actual practice of title transfers has occurred since 1998, however, and therefore, this effort has great bipartisan support.

"The Clinton Administration rightly recognized that the federal government couldn't do it all and that some things could be more efficiently operated and owned by those closest to the ground," said Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA). "As a result of these efforts, Congress has passed title to local entities 17 times. This effort supersedes political boundaries - even in this Congress the Committee has passed Republican and Democrat title transfer bills. I hope to pass more of these bills out of the Committee this year."

The Resources Committee has already passed two title transfers in this Congress, HR 1106 by Rep. Michael K. Simpson (R-ID) and HR 1648 by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA). Three other title transfer bills are pending, including HR 2257 by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), HR 3391 by Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) and HR 2831 by Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV).

Resources Committee Vice-Chair, Jim Gibbons (R-NV) said, "Title transfers are a common-sense approach to allow local districts to manage water projects to best suit the users' needs. Currently, we have water projects in Nevada which have been paid for in full by the local water users, yet, the federal government continues to demand excessive and unnecessary requirements, preventing the districts from obtaining funding to make necessary improvements. If the federal government has been paid in full for the original investment, then it's time for the local communities to have full rights to oversee the projects."

The Hearing will be held Wednesday, March 24, 2004 at 2:00 p.m. in 1324 Longworth House Office Building. Witnesses include Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys, III, who will testify on the agency's implementation of the title transfer program. Other witnesses will assess the program based on firsthand experience, some of the accounting and cost hurdles associated with Bureau of Reclamation facilities and the role of the environment in transfers.

Immediately following the oversight hearing, the Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing to examine H.R. 3747, a bill by Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) to rehabilitate Wallowa Lake Dam in Oregon. The Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation and Water Management Act of 2004 would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to make improvements to the dam, as well as implement other water-related improvements in the Wallowa Valley.

Witness List:

Panel I: (Title Transfer and H.R. 3747)

Mr. John Keys, III, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), Department of the Interior

PANEL II: (Title Transfer)

Mr. Wade Noble, Counsel, Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District

Mr. Thomas Knutson, General Manager, Loup Basin Reclamation District

Mr. Norm Semanko, Executive Director, Idaho Water Users Association

Accompanied by: Mr. John Sullivan, Associate General Manager, Water Group

Salt River Project

Mr. Steve Malloch, Counsel, Western Water Project, Trout Unlimited

Mr. Ron Jacobsma, Interim General Manager, Friant Water Users Authority

PANEL III: (H.R. 3747)

Mr. Dave Hockett, Project Manager, Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation

Ms. Aileen Roder, Program Director, Taxpayers for Common Sense

Mr. Gordon Wolfe, President, Wallowa Valley Agricultural Water Users Association

 

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