• Family Farm Alliance

Alliance President to Testify Tomorrow Before Senate Committee


Family Farm Alliance President Patrick O'Toole

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Family Farm Alliance President Patrick O’Toole tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. (Eastern) will testify at a legislative hearing before the full Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Committee will receive testimony on three Western water bills:

  • S. 2563 – “Water Supply Infrastructure and Drought Resilience Act of 2018"

  • S. 2560 – “Reclamation Title Transfer Act of 2018”

  • S. 2539 – Reauthorization of Colorado River System Conservation Program

“We encourage the Committee to move these important bills – with some suggested minor modifications – forward to enactment,” said Mr. O’Toole. Click here for Mr. O’Toole’s written testimony.

S. 2563 and S. 2560 address issues of critical importance to the Alliance: streamlined water project permitting, and title transfers.

S. 2563 – Water Supply Infrastructure and Drought Resilience Act

A key subtitle of S. 2563 is intended to streamline the current multi-agency permitting processes that can delay the construction of new or expanded surface water storage projects by creating a "one-stop permitting shop" process through the Bureau of Reclamation.

“We worked closely with Senator John Barrasso on this ‘one-stop permitting shop’ approach, which will fast-track projects through what is now an unmanageable and inefficient permitting process,” said Mr. O’Toole. “We are thankful for Senator Barrasso’s leadership on this matter, and we think this bill will help to reduce the permitting costs to project applicants.”

Another section of S. 2563 requires the Secretary of the Interior to submit to Congress a report on the efforts of Reclamation to manage its infrastructure assets. This section would require Reclamation to publicly report on its repair needs every other year. “The Alliance certainly supports the transparency and reporting requirements intended with this legislation,” said Mr. O’Toole. Other beneficial components of S. 2563 include a pilot project to adjust flood control rule curves for Reclamation dams; new authorities to allow greater flexibility in using Reclamation facilities and project water for aquifer recharge where it complies with state water law; and prohibitions for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Agriculture from conditioning any permit, lease, or other use agreement on the transfer of a water right to the U.S.

“We support this section because our farmers and ranchers rely on their vested water rights to secure operating loans in order to irrigate and produce crops and water livestock,” said Mr. O’Toole. “Federal agencies should not be able to leverage those private water rights against farming and ranching families who have long depended upon federal permits and leases to support actions like grazing.”

The Alliance also supports provisions of the bill that codify the existing Clean Water Act exclusion for the conveyance of waters of the U.S. when the transferred water is not subject to intervening industrial, municipal or commercial use. This protects the economies of Western states like Arizona, California, and Colorado, where millions of acre-feet of water are delivered through inter-basin transfers every year.

Further, S. 2563 would reauthorize the Upper Colorado Fish Recovery Program (Recovery Program) for an additional five years through the year 2023 and require a report on the program’s achievements and expenditures.

“The Recovery Program uses science and partnerships to support fish recovery in a way that minimizes impacts to water users, including many members of the Family Farm Alliance,” said Mr. O’Toole. “We strongly support these provisions.”

S. 2560 – Reclamation Title Transfer Act of 2018

S. 2560 is another important bill that addresses the Reclamation Title Transfer Process and authorizes Reclamation to administratively carry out certain title transfers. The Alliance believes transferring the title to federally owned Reclamation irrigation projects to the non-federal operating entities is one of several positive means of strengthening control of water resources at the local level.

“We appreciate the priority the Committee is placing on this important issue,” said Mr. O’Toole. “Experience throughout the West demonstrates that when control and ownership of projects is assumed by local interests, the projects are run more cost effectively and efficiently, with far fewer items of deferred maintenance and less bureaucratic red-tape.”

Other witnesses appearing before the Committee include Timothy Petty, assistant secretary of the Interior for water and science; Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture; Laura Ziemer, senior counsel and water policy adviser for Trout Unlimited; Kathryn Sorensen, director of the Phoenix Water Services Department; and Cindy Ortega, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer for MGM Resorts International.

The Family Farm Alliance advocates for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in seventeen Western states. The Alliance is focused on one mission – To ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers. Pat O’Toole is a Wyoming rancher who has served on the Alliance’s Board of Directors since 1998 and was named as the organization’s President in 2005. He is also a former member of Wyoming’s House of Representatives. For more information: Pat O’Toole, President. Phone: (970)-376-6311 Dan Keppen, Executive Director. Phone: (541)-892-6244 dankeppen@charter.net

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