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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) today introduced legislation to make it less burdensome for non-federal entities, like irrigation districts, to obtain the title for Reclamation projects they operate and have repaid. The Reclamation Title Transfer Act of 2018 would simplify the title transfer process by authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to facilitate uncomplicated transfers for qualifying entities. 

“In Idaho, farmers rely heavily on water to sustain their livelihood,” said Senator Risch. “By updating the current cumbersome title transfer process, this bill allows water users to obtain full rights to the assets they already manage and have paid for to make better use of these resources for farmers and other users.” 

Currently, title transfers that entail no operational changes require an act of Congress and full National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. This bill would allow the Secretary of Interior to convey qualifying entities with a 90-day window for Congressional disapproval. 

Idaho serves as a success story for title transfers. In 1998, the Burley Irrigation District in Southern Idaho became one of the first transferred Reclamation projects. Paul Arrington, the Executive Director of the Idaho Water Users Association recently testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which Risch is a member, stating that: “Title Transfer allows for local control of Idaho’s water resources. It reduces federal costs and liability associated with owning aging infrastructure. It allows operational decisions to be made in a timelier and more cost-effective manner. Financing for maintenance and rehabilitation is more accessible. Title Transfer will allow water users to quickly and efficiently address issues as they arise – something that is rarely possible under Federal ownership.”

The Idaho Water Users Association, which represents approximately 300 canal companies, irrigation districts, water districts, ground water districts, municipal and public water suppliers, hydroelectric companies, aquaculture interests, agri-businesses, professional firms, and individuals, supports this bill.