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Senate Passes Rural Water Supply Bill, Sends It to President for Signature
Legislation will provide rural water infrastructure aid

December 9th, 2006

WASHINGTON – The Senate this morning passed the Rural Water Supply Act (S. 895) authored by Chairman Pete V. Domenic and cosponsored by Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman. The bill will help rural communities obtain reliable water service.

The Senate first passed the bill in November 2005, the language was slightly altered in the House, making another Senate vote necessary.

The bill directs the U.S. Department of Interior, through the Bureau of Reclamation, to establish a program to plan, design, and construct rural water supply projects. The bill authorizes $15 million a year for planning new water delivery infrastructure and would establish a loan guarantee program within the Bureau of Reclamation to help communities finance new water projects and pay for maintenance on existing water systems.

The Rural Water Supply Act establishes a federal loan guarantee program within the bureau that allows rural communities and bureau project beneficiaries to obtain loans at interest rates far lower than loans not guaranteed by the federal government. The legislation also expedites the appraisal and feasibility study process to allow communities to find the best approach to meet their needs.

“My bill creates a number of opportunities to help rural communities in America improve and maintain their water infrastructure. Many Bureau of Reclamation projects, including several in New Mexico, are nearing 100 years of age. I have found that many who depend on these projects for their water are not able to afford operation, maintenance and rehabilitation associated the projects. It is sometimes very difficult for smaller communities to provide high quality water access to its citizens, so I’m looking forward to this bill becoming law so that they can have another avenue for help,” Domenici said.

“Rural communities in New Mexico and across the West face many challenges in meeting their future water demands and sustaining their economies. This legislation gives the Bureau of Reclamation new authority to take a proactive approach in working with communities to asses and meet their long-term needs,” Bingaman said.

“Today, the Senate moved New Mexico’s rural communities significantly closer to having the reliable supply of clean water upon which their economic health and quality of life depend,” said Pearce, who introduced the companion legislation in the House. “I thank Senator Domenici for his vision and leadership as the author of this bill, as well as Senator Bingaman for his strong support for moving it quickly to the President's desk.”

The Rural Water Supply Act was endorsed by the National Rural Water Association, the Western Governors’ Association, the Western States Water Council, the National Water Resources Association, the Family Farm Alliance, and the Bush administration.

Domenici’s bill was cosponsored by Senators Bingaman, Robert Bennett of Utah, Conrad Burns of Montana, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

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