U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today joined in introducing legislation aimed at help rural and tribal communities meet their future water needs.
The legislation provides that the Bureau of Reclamation may direct without further congressional action $80 million annually into high-priority rural water projects that Congress has already approved. These are funds that would otherwise be paid into the Reclamation Fund in the U.S. Treasury, which was established in 1902 for water project development in the West.
Currently, Congress appropriates only a portion of the Reclamation Fund annually, leaving hundreds of millions of dollars of unspent funds in the account. Yet, at the same time, rural water projects that Congress has already approved lack funds for construction.
Enacting this legislation would allow previously-approved projects to move ahead without an unnecessary second round of Congressional approval.
"Rural and tribal communities around the West know how to meet their future water needs, but in many cases they need help paying for infrastructure," Bingaman said. "This bill would prevent long-approved water projects -- like the Eastern New Mexico Water Supply Project and the Jicarilla Apache Reservation Rural Water System-- from having to wait for years on end for the funding they need," Bingaman said.
"Having adequate water resources and infrastructure are essential to New Mexico -- especially for rural communities. Our state faces many challenges related to extreme weather, and this bill provides dedicated funding to projects in New Mexico that have sat idle for too long," Udall said.
The bill has been sent to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Bingaman chairs.