Share

Newhouse Introduces Bill to Maintain & Repair Water Supply Infrastructure Across the West

October 10, 2019
Press Release

PROSSER, WA – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) announced the introduction of the Water Supply Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Utilization Act. This legislation would help local water operators and managers maintain and repair critical Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) water supply infrastructure. 

“As a farmer, former state Director of Agriculture, and now a Congressman representing one of the most flourishing agricultural regions in America, I fully understand how important it is that we reinvest in the water infrastructure our farms and communities were built upon – much of which is over a century old at this point,” said Rep. Newhouse. “I have made it a priority to address these important issues for Central Washington, and rural communities across the West, that have Bureau of Reclamation projects in their regions.”

He continued, “That is why I am introducing this legislation: to help local water managers access the funds they need to repair and rebuild aging facilities and ensure our existing surface storage facilities are operating as efficiently as possible.”

Click here for bill text and click here for a one-pager.

Rep. Newhouse was joined by local water managers and elected officials to discuss how the bill would benefit local irrigation districts, Central Washington counties, federal infrastructure projects like the Bureau of Reclamation’s Yakima and Columbia Basin Projects, and implementation of the 30-year Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

Jim Willard, Vice President of Roza Irrigation District’s Board of Directors: “The main message here is that we are working on structures the Bureau built 50, 60, 70, 80 years ago, and we’re having to do significant repairs on them… [Congressman Newhouse] understands water, he understands the value of it, and the need to maintain our system. I’m really glad that he’s in office in DC helping us with these decisions.”

Ron Anderson, Yakima County Commissioner: “Congressman Newhouse championed the successful authorization for the next phase of [the Yakima Project], which will help ensure our region’s future is defined not by drought, but by a flourishing economy where current and future water needs are met. Now that this crucial authorization has been signed into law, the next step is to secure the financing and needed resources to implement the plan.”

Scott Revell, Manager of the Roza Irrigation District: “Addressing things like critical infrastructure needs, water supply, and drought resiliency, and ensuring the safety and structural integrity of our dam system, our canals, and our irrigation conveyances is absolutely critical to our growers, and we thank you for your help.”

Click here to watch a live stream of the press conference.

The bill has garnered support from regional, state, and national organizations:

“There is a great need to reinvest in the decades-old infrastructure on the Columbia Basin Project. This bill establishes a much-needed revolving fund to continuously address extraordinary maintenance needs at Bureau of Reclamation Transferred Works. This new fund, known as the ‘Aging Infrastructure Account,’ would allow water managers to access funds for outstanding maintenance needs on projects in the West, including the Columbia Basin Project. These investments would help support the $4 billion economic activity in the Columbia Basin region,” said Vicki Scharlau, Executive Director of the Columbia Basin Development League.

"Water is the lifeblood of Washington state's and our nation's economy. Maintaining a healthy network of water infrastructure is crucial to efficient water delivery to farms and cities. Congressman Newhouse's legislation will provide needed financial resources to invest in water infrastructure helping to supply a safe, reliable and affordable supply of water for this and future generations,” said Tom Myrum, Executive Director of Washington State Water Resources Association.

“The increasing demand on water supplies underscores the need to maintain critical infrastructure. While NWRA members manage many of these facilities, the federal government owns them. As the owner, the Bureau of Reclamation must play an active role in supporting the increased maintenance and replacement costs of these valuable assets,” said Ian Lyle, Executive Vice President of the National Water Resources Association. The Water Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Utilization Act will help increase water supply, improve efficiency, and address drought concerns. We appreciate Congressman Newhouse’s leadership on this important issue, and we look forward to working with him to pass this legislation.”

Background:

The Water Supply Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Utilization Act aims to maintain and update critical water infrastructure that communities across Central Washington and the West rely upon. The bill will address BOR’s maintenance backlog by streamlining the process for local water operators, strengthen the “Safety of Dams” program to improve the structural integrity of BOR dams across the United States, and provide flexibility in reservoir storage for flood control during low risk times of the year.

Rep. Newhouse’s bill is a companion to legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate. Senator Martha McSally introduced S. 2044 on June 27, 2019. The bill was passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on September 25, 2019.