Jan 17, 2018 | Uncategorized

Senate Subcommittee Hearing Focuses on Title Transfer

The Family Farm Alliance today had written testimony introduced into the record by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Flake (R-ARIZONA) in an important hearing addressing title transfers held on Capitol Hill. Present at the hearing and testifying on the importance of title transfers were Alliance Advisory Committee members Paul Arrington (Executive Director, Idaho Water Users Association) and Jason Phillips (CEO of California’s Friant Water Authority). Other witnesses included Austin Ewell (deputy assistant secretary for water and science, Department of the Interior); Jerry Brown (general manager, Contra Costa Water District); and Mike DeVries (director, Provo River Water Users Association).

“Our members include irrigation districts and water agencies across the West that are responsible for the operation and maintenance of most of the Bureau of Reclamation’s water supply and distribution facilities,” said Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen. “Several of our members have worked with the federal government over the past two decades to transfer all or parts of Reclamation projects to these local operating entities.”

Mr. Arrington’s membership includes Burley Irrigation District, which was involved with one of the first title transfers of a Reclamation district approved by Congress in 1998, a process that was facilitated by the Family Farm Alliance. Mr. Phillips’ organization, Friant Water Authority, is a founding member of the Alliance.

Given the federal ownership and liability for each Reclamation-owned water project, bureaucratic inefficiencies sometimes overlay the process of managing and operating this important water infrastructure, even though operations and maintenance are typically performed by non-federal state-based local entities, such as irrigation or water districts. Such facilities, known as “transferred works”, where project operation, maintenance and replacement responsibilities (other than title) are contracted to the non-federal entity, are still owned by the federal government, superimposing a layer of bureaucratic federal control over a project that has, for all intents and purposes, been transferred (other than in title) to the non-federal entity.

“Many of these projects are ripe for title transfer, yet there remain many barriers to an efficient transfer of title out of federal ownership to these local operating entities,” said Mr. Keppen. “For example, any facility proposed for transfer, be it 10 acres or 10,000 acres, requires the approval of Congress.”

The Family Farm Alliance testified in June 2017 on title transfer legislation before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. The House bill, H.R. 3281, Rep. Lamborn (R-CO), passed through committee in July, and would authorize the Interior Department to transfer ownership of some Reclamation projects to nonfederal organizations, like municipal, irrigation, or tribal governments.  The Alliance testimony developed for today’s Senate hearing continues to demonstrate support for the transfer of Reclamation-owned facilities to willing non-federal project beneficiaries, and recommends congressional authorization for the Secretary of the Interior to better facilitate the timely transfer of appropriate Reclamation projects or facilities into non-federal ownership.

Read the Alliance written testimony here.
Read Paul Arrington’s testimony here.
Read Jason Phillips’ testimony here.

For additional information, or if you have any questions, please contact Dan Keppen at dankeppen@charter.net.