U.S. President Donald J. Trump has proposed a $1.1 billion Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation says the budget builds on recent accomplishments and supports the administration’s goals of ensuring reliable and environmentally responsible delivery of water and power for farms, families, communities and industry, while providing tools to confront widening imbalances between supply and demand throughout the West.
“President Trump’s 2021 budget request for the Department is about investing in our people and public lands and waters,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “He is committed to the mission of conservation and creating more public access for Americans to fully enjoy our national treasures and landscapes.”
The proposed FY 2021 budget includes $979 million for Reclamation’s principal operating account (Water and Related Resources), which will fund operation, maintenance and rehabilitation activities — including dam safety — at Reclamation facilities. This account will also fund planning, construction, water conservation, management of Reclamation lands and efforts to address fish and wildlife habitat needs. It builds on the 2019 Biological Opinion and upcoming record of decision for the Central Valley Project by providing $33 million to implement the California Bay-Delta Program to help address California’s current water supply and ecological challenges and $55.9 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to protect, restore, and enhance fish, wildlife and associated habitats in the Central Valley and Trinity River Basins. It also provides $60 million to develop, evaluate and implement Reclamation-wide policy, rules and regulation, as well as other administrative functions.
“This budget reaffirms the administration’s commitment to water and power reliability in the West,” said Commissioner Brenda Burman. “A significant portion of this request is dedicated to improving existing infrastructure — including dams and reservoirs; creating better water and power certainty for farmers, families and communities; and meeting our environmental stewardship responsibilities.”
Specific funding within the Water and Related Resources account will build on 2020 spending to continue work on the Arkansas Valley Conduit project, which will provide an alternate clean drinking water supply to rural communities grappling with groundwater contamination issues.
The proposed budget includes $103.2 million in appropriations for extraordinary maintenance (XM) activities — part of a strategy to improve asset management and deal with aging infrastructure to ensure continued reliable delivery of water and power. Examples of XM expenditures include spillway repairs, modifying fish screens, hydroelectric generator maintenance and rewinds, and pumping plant gate maintenance and replacements. Additional XM items are directly funded by revenues, water and power customers, or other federal agencies (e.g., Bonneville Power Administration).
Reclamation provides services to fulfill its trust responsibilities to tribes. The FY 2021 budget request includes $112.1 million for Indian water rights settlements. This includes $43.6 million for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project to continue important construction work; $12.8 million for the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement; $4 million for the Aamodt Litigation Settlement; and $25.9 million for the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement.
The FY 2021 budget, through programs such as the Lower Colorado River Operations Program ($37.6 million) and Central Valley Project ($141.5 million), will continue efforts to find long-term, comprehensive water supply solutions for farmers, families and communities in the Colorado River Basin and California. It builds on the work of Colorado River partners and stakeholders to implement drought contingency plans in 2019 and funds federal government obligations.
Other highlights of Reclamation’s FY 2021 budget proposal include:
- $107.1 million for the Dam Safety Program to manage risks to the downstream public, property, project and natural resources and provide for risk management activities at Reclamation’s high- and significant-hazard dams.
- $30.3 million for ongoing authorized rural water projects to deliver water supplies to defined rural communities. This includes projects that benefit tribal nations such as the Mni Wiconi Project in South Dakota, Pick Sloan-Missouri Basin Program – Garrison Diversion Unit in North Dakota and Fort Peck Reservation/Dry Prairie Rural Water System in Montana.
- $2.9 million for the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program to support new and continued projects in three funding areas — laboratory scale research studies, pilot-scale testing projects and full-scale testing projects.
- $11 million for the Science and Technology Program to support continued science and technology projects; water and power technology prize competitions; technology transfer; and outreach activities that address critical water and power management issues.
- $27.3 million for the Site Security Program, which includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.
- $18.2 million for the WaterSMART Program to support Reclamation’s collaboration with non-federal partners to address emerging water demands and water shortage issues in the West, as well as promote water conservation and improved water management.
Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the U.S. and the nation’s second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits.