Updates & Reviews

Apr 20, 2016 — by: Family Farm Alliance

April 20, 2016


Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate earlier today passed S. 2012, the “Energy Policy Modernization Act” on an 85-12 roll call vote, after an important natural resources title was agreed to yesterday on a 97-0 floor vote. That amendment, authored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-ALASKA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WASHINGTON), Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, includes a subtitle – “Water Infrastructure and Related Matters” - that will benefit irrigators across the Western U.S.

“We were pleased to see bipartisan support for this important natural resources title,” said Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen. “Chairman Murkowski and Senator Cantwell are to be commended for working with other Members to develop solutions to address some key Western water challenges.”

The Family Farm Alliance worked closely with Western Members and their staff on the development of several of the water provisions, including the “Bureau of Reclamation Transparency” and “Reservoir Operation Improvement” sections of the natural resources title. The former provisions would require Reclamation to publicly report on its water infrastructure repair needs every other year, and the latter would authorize studies and pilot projects to re-evaluate and update federal reservoir operation manuals, some of which were developed decades ago, to help increase usable water supplies during dry years.

The Alliance also worked in support of its Washington State members on the “Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act of 2016”, which was featured in an Alliance case study report presented to the White House Water Summit on World Water Day. That effort was recognized in a March 25 Yakima Herald-Republic editorial.

The new energy bill also includes a “Klamath Project Water and Power” section intended to assist Klamath irrigators in meeting requirements under the federal Endangered Species Act and other challenges. Provisions intended to help repair the Klamath Project’s aging C-Flume facility are based in part on P.L. 111-11, signed into law in March 2009.

The Family Farm Alliance worked closely with Members of Congress to provide this tool in the aftermath of devastating flooding that occurred when a canal breached in Fernley, Nevada in January 2008, underscoring the importance of providing financing tools to tackle aging water infrastructure challenges in rural areas.

Other important provisions of the energy bill would make the entire active capacity of Wyoming’s Fontenelle Reservoir available for use, authorize new hydroelectric projects in Alaska, and initiate proceedings to identify market, procurement and cost recovery mechanisms that would encourage development of pumped storage hydropower assets.

The House has already passed their version of an energy bill – H.R. 8

“We will now work with the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction to address any questions in conferencing these bills into one,” said Mark Limbaugh, the Alliance’s representative in Washington, D.C.