03-24-20 Bureau of Reclamation Streamlines Process for Transferring Facilities to Local Water Users

Bureau of Reclamation Streamlines Process for Transferring Facilities to Local Water Users

Photo shows the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, CO

WASHINGTON – Today, the Bureau of Reclamation released its final guidelines to streamline the transfer of eligible Reclamation facilities to local ownership. Title transfer is a voluntary conveyance of federal ownership of water projects or facilities, such as small dams, canals and associated lands, to local water users. Local ownership can leverage more capital funding and reduce federal paperwork requirements and costs while reducing federal liability.

“This Administration’s title transfer process embodies the President’s goals of streamlining bureaucratic processes and making our government more efficient and accountable,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “Title transfers are a win for local communities and a win for the American taxpayer. The Department looks forward to continuing our work with local water users to reduce title transfer costs, stimulate infrastructure investment through local ownership with the bottom-line goal of making this streamlined approach a major success.”

The title transfer streamlining guidelines will complement this Administration’s Categorical Exclusion (CE) process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The title transfer CE lists criteria that will determine if simple or uncomplicated facility transfer can be expedited under NEPA. Reclamation, water users and other stakeholders are already working together on pending title transfers across the western states.

“This streamlined process for title transfers provides more transparency and certainty to water districts who are pursuing ownership of Reclamation project facilities,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “We look forward to working with local water districts on this simplified process as they seek local ownership and investment for these facilities.”

The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act (P.L. 116-9) gives Reclamation the programmatic authority to transfer title of certain Reclamation facilities without additional authorizing legislation. Each title transfer is voluntary and done on a case-by-case basis.

“We are strongly supportive of the Interior Department and the Bureau of Reclamation’s recent and encouraging administrative efforts to help facilitate certain Reclamation project and facilities transfers of title to non-Federal ownership,” said Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance Dan Keppen. “We value our partnership with Reclamation, and Reclamation’s collaborative response to address our concerns on this matter further demonstrates the importance of that relationship.”

“The National Water Resources Association (NWRA) appreciates the efforts and strong leadership of the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation to develop a streamlined process to implement title transfers,” said Ian Lyle, Vice-President of the National Water Resources Association. “The federal government, taxpayers, and water users can all benefit from the transfer of Reclamation facilities where federal investments have been repaid. Title transfers reduce federal liability and provide water managers with enhanced management and financing tools that are necessary to build and maintain critical infrastructure for this and future generations.”

“The implementation of the title transfer authorities from the Reclamation Title Transfer Act, which I introduced in the Senate and was ultimately passed as part of the Dingell Act, is an important step to remove red tape and improve the state of our nation’s aging water infrastructure,” said U.S. Senator James Risch (R-ID). “Transferring titles of repaid Reclamation facilities puts local communities and water users in the driver’s seat, allowing them to determine how to best meet local needs.”

“The Bureau of Reclamation Title Transfer provision signed into law as part of the Dingell Act was crafted to streamline the process for the transfer of certain Reclamation projects to local beneficiaries,” stated House Natural Resources Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (R-UT). “Transferring these simple projects will allow water districts and other local beneficiaries to leverage non-federal financing through ownership equity while simultaneously decreasing federal liability. This will allow local infrastructure to be controlled by those who directly operate and benefit from it, not federal bureaucrats.”

“We appreciate Reclamation’s work to prioritize the needs of rural America,” said U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND). “The implementation of the new authorities provided by the Dingell Act are helping to provide flexibility and better utilization of our water infrastructure facilities, just like the agreement we’re working on to transfer the title for the Oakes Test Area from Reclamation to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District, which we hope to see completed later this year.”

“I’m grateful that the Bureau of Reclamation is streamlining the title transfer process. Local control is key to improving water infrastructure and operational efficiency,” said U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). “I know that local water districts in Utah are eager to have additional flexibility to better serve their communities. Assuming sole ownership of their water infrastructure facilities will give them that flexibility. The faster we can make this happen the better.”

“I introduced the House title transfer legislation that served as the framework for the provisions in the Dingell Act and will now be the foundation for these Reclamation guidelines,” said Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO). “I commend the Interior Department and Reclamation in this effort to bring more title transfers to reality throughout the West.

“Aging water infrastructure is a challenge throughout the west, and in many places federal ownership of these facilities limits the flexibility and financing tools available to local water managers to tackle the problem,” said Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT). “In the past, the cost and length of the process prevented many water districts from pursuing title transfer. With the new authorities provided in the Dingell Act and this new policy from Reclamation, operators that have run these facilities for decades and have repaid all outstanding debt have a real path to gain ownership of their project if they choose. I applaud the Bureau of Reclamation for making implementation of this a priority.”

“I thank Commissioner Burman and the Department of the Interior for embracing the new Title Transfer authorities provided under the Dingell Act,” said U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND). “These actions will provide greater certainty and flexibility for local communities who will no longer be reliant on the federal government. I look forward to continuing our collaboration on transferring the Oakes Test Area in a manner that works for our constituents and irrigators.”

“In Central Washington and across the West, we have aging infrastructure that is in desperate need of maintenance. The ability to transfer these titles to local entities will empower active and efficient upkeep, rather than relying on the federal government,” said Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA). “I applaud the Interior Department and Commissioner Burman for prioritizing local management and control of these critical infrastructure projects we rely on.”

These guidelines, called directives and standards, can be found on the Reclamation Manual site at www.usbr.gov/recman. To learn more about the title transfer process, contact your regional title transfer coordinator by visiting www.usbr.gov/title.

Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation’s second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at https://www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.

Relevant Link:

CMP 11-01 – Title Transfer for Reclamation Project Facilities

CMP 11-01, Appendix A – Title Transfer Information Sheet

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