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Family Farm Alliance September 29, 2006

FROM: Joe Raeder

The Ferguson Group

Congress adjourns for elections, plans to resume work in November

With polls showing a tight race for control of the House, and possibly the Senate, Congress was set to adjourn on Sept. 29 to give Members as much time as possible to campaign before the November elections.

The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene on Nov. 13 for a post-election Ė lame duck Ė session to finish work on the appropriations bills that are necessary to fund the government in Fiscal Year 2007, which begins Oct. 1. In the meantime, Congress has passed a temporary funding measure, called a continuing resolution, which will keep the government running until Nov 17.

A number of western water bills remain on the agenda for possible action in the lame duck, but other important resources legislation, such as Endangered Species Act reform, appear dead for the year.

Appropriations: Among the appropriations bills that Congress will have to address when it returns in November is the Energy and Water Development bill, which funds the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water project program.

The House passed its version of the Energy and Water measure (H.R. 5427) in May. It provides $761 million for the Bureauís Water and Related Resources Account, which funds all of the Bureauís essential functions. The Houseís proposed FY 07 appropriation for Water and Related Resources is $15.7 million more than requested by the President, but $25.5 million less than Congress appropriated last year, marking a possible sharp decline in the Bureauís budget after several years of increases.

The Senate has not passed a FY 07 appropriations bill for the Bureau, but the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the measure in June. It provides $889 million for Water and Related Resources, an increase of $14 million over FY 06.

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill may end up in an omnibus appropriations measure that will fund most of the federal government. Congressional leaders dislike using that approach, but it may be the quickest way to get federal funding in place during the lame duck session, which is expected to last only about a month.

Until Congress gives final approval to the FY 07 appropriations bills, either separately or in an omnibus, the federal government will be funded by the temporary continuing resolution. Under the resolution, the Bureau will be funded for the next few weeks at the level in the House-passed version of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

Rural Water Supply: Western Water bills that are not passed by the end of this year will have to begin the legislative process over again next year when the 110th Congress convenes with Members elected during the coming November election.

As the end of the 109th Congress approaches, the House Resources and Senate Energy committees are working to line up a number of western water and natural resources measures for final passage. These include West-side policy measures as well as many bills that affect only individual Bureau projects. Often, at the end of a Congress, the committees package water bills together into a single measure. That may well happen this year.

A bill that is likely to move forward on its own or as part of a package is S. 895, the Rural Water Supply Act. Sponsored by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM), the bill passed the Senate last November. It would authorize the Bureau to build rural domestic water supply projects that meet certain engineering and feasibility criteria.

The Administration strongly supports the bill because it believes the measure would help the Bureau keep resources focused on its core missions. Currently, Congress authorizes rural water supply projects on an ad-hoc basis, adding large construction obligations to the Bureauís already strained budget.

S. 895 also would authorize a new federal loan guarantee program to help irrigations districts finance major operation and maintenance costs.

The Alliance gave qualified support to S. 895 during a hearing before the House Resources Committee in July, and it has been actively involved in negotiations with House and Senate committees to expand the billís benefits for irrigation districts.

Site Security: Another measure that may see enactment this year is a bill (H.R.
6029) to codify the federal and non-federal shares of the costs of post 9/11 security upgrades at Bureau facilities.

Western water and power program testified at a House hearing in June that the Bureauís current policies on the reimbursablity of site security costs isnít reliable and that

the agency does not give water and power contractors enough information about site security projects and their costs. Currently, the costs of ďhardeningĒ projects, such as barriers and fences, are non-reimbursable, but the O&M for those projects is reimbursable, as is the costs of guards.

The hearing led to the introduction of H.R. 6029 by Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman George Radanovich (R-CA) and Grace Napolitano (CA), the subcommitteeís senior Democrat. The legislation was drafted with the assistance of a coalition of Western water and power groups including the Alliance and Californiaís Central Valley Project Water Association.

The bill makes the Bureauís site security activities part of the existing Safety of Dam program, and brings site security construction, guards and O&M under the 15- percent non-federal, 85-percent federal cost-sharing formula applied to dam safety projects. The measure also puts the site security program under existing Safety of Dams Act provisions requiring the Bureau to consult with project beneficiaries on the costs and management of projects.

H.R. 6029 may be brought up for the House vote in November. A Senate version of the bill has not been introduced.

Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform: The House passed a comprehensive ESA reform bill (H.R. 3824) last year, and since then the measure by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) has been stalled in the Senate because of opposition from environmentalists.

This spring, there was considerable effort devoted to trying to craft a workable compromise bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but that initiative broke down. At this point, there appears to be little chance that a reform bill will pass the Senate.

Commissioner of Reclamation: The nomination of Robert Johnson to be Commissioner of Reclamation had been slated for approval by the Senate Energy Committee during the last week of September, but the committee postponed action until the lame duck session. Johnson, the Bureauís long-time Lower Colorado River Regional Director, is widely supported and his confirmation by the Senate is expected. The Family Farm Alliance earlier this month formally supported Johnsonís confirmation.

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