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Issue Alert! 

 Economic Stimulus Funding for Water Infrastructure Projects


If your irrigation or water district has an authorized, shovel-ready project that it wants to be considered for stimulus funding, it should get information on the project to your local and regional Bureau of Reclamation offices now!


(Klamath Falls, OR - March 2, 2009).  

The Family Farm Alliance worked hard in Washington, D.C. last year to draw attention to the critical issue of aging water infrastructure in the West. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will provide $1 billion to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar last week announced that he has established a Recovery Act Task Force that includes the leadership of Interior agencies to determine which proposed projects should be funded. He also announced that he will soon name a "Stimulus Czar" to oversee Interior's responsible implementation of the program. The Department of Interior (DOI) is further developing a web page for public information on the economic recovery plan and by March 3rd will begin providing detailed reporting on these efforts through Recovery.gov, the official Administration website on the initiative.

Reclamation is working to produce, within the next few weeks, a list of specific projects and programs that will be funded by the stimulus package.  The agency is now in the process of compiling a proposed list of projects that meet criteria spelled out by Congress in the stimulus package.  At the same time, Reclamation and DOI are developing policy priorities that will further define the selection of the projects to be included on the final funding list, which will require final approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Reclamation officials say that the bulk of the agency's stimulus funding will be devoted to the list of specific projects and the funding will be obligated to those projects as quickly as possible.  The list will represent the final funding decisions by the Administration, say Reclamation officials.  It will not be something to which irrigation districts can "apply" for funding.
However, Reclamation plans to set aside some stimulus funding for the Water 2025 Challenge Grant program and other existing financial assistance programs.  Irrigation districts and other eligible entities will have to apply for these grant funds through already-established procedures.  
Reclamation officials say that the agency is under a great deal of pressure to get a stimulus program in place soon, but they aren't able to pinpoint a date.   Reclamation has named Deputy Commissioner Darryl Beckman to head its effort and coordinate with DOI.  The DOI stimulus "czar" is expected to be appointed soon, and he/she will be the liaison to a government-wide group of agency "czars" that will report to the White House.


The project list being compiled by Reclamation is based largely on project information provided by agency's regional offices and reflects suggestions and proposals offered by customers over the past several months, say Reclamation staff.  Agency officials emphasize that Reclamation headquarters and DOI are relying on its regional offices to provide the best information on projects.  Reclamation customers who have suggestions for projects for stimulus funding should get that information to their regional office as soon as possible.
Reclamation and DOI are working to devise a set of policy priorities for project selection, say agency staff.  But the first threshold for selection is general and reclamation-specific criteria and priorities laid out by Congress.  
In the stimulus legislation and a report that accompanied the bill, Congress directed Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers to allocate funding to projects, programs or activities:

for which funds can be obligated by the end of FY 2010, will result in high, immediate employment,

have little schedule risk, can be executed by contract or direct hire of temporary labor, and

will complete either a project phase, a project or provide a useful service that will not require additional funding in the future.

 Reclamation say that projects must be "shovel-ready," meaning projects should already have complete or nearly-complete designs, specifications and environmental documentation.  They also must be authorized, meaning that they can be carried out under existing law or programs without additional congressional action.
In addition to the general project criteria, the stimulus legislation spells out some Reclamation-specific funding priorities, including  rural water projects, CALFED, urban canal inspections, Central Utah Project, and Title XVI reclamation and re-use projects.  Reclamation is identifying shovel-ready projects within those categories. 
Beyond those legislated priorities, Reclamation is assessing the Reclamation-wide and regional RAX (replacement, addition and exceptional maintenance) lists for shovel-ready projects and activities to include on the funding list. Reclamation staff report that they are looking at the 50-year repayment language in the stimulus bill in the context of funding RAX items.  The RAX lists review includes transferred works, but Reclamation is still in the process of determining how to deal with transferred works, according to staff.

The bottom line is this:  If an irrigation or water district has an authorized, shovel-ready project that it wants funded, it should get information on the project to its local and regional Reclamation offices now.


The Family Farm Alliance is a grassroots organization of family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts and allied industries in 16 Western states.  The Alliance is focused on one mission:  To ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers. Since 2005, the Family Farm Alliance has been invited to testify 16 times before Congress on water and environmental challenges and legislation. For more information on the Alliance, go to www.familyfarmalliance.org

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              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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