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tv   Environmental Experts Testify on Western Drought  CSPAN  October 9, 2021 6:28am-8:01am EDT

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hearing is to examine the status and management in the western united states approximately 90% of the western u.s. is currently experiencing some degree of moderate to severe drought. water has always been a limited resource in the west we have a saying that whiskey is for drinking and water is for siding. by the turn of the 19th century as westward expansion to cold, a complex framework of water compacts allocated water supplies. today, however, abnormally dry conditions are reducing the availability of water for farms, industry and for the cities and
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towns. native fish and wildlife have ever been so imperiled and drought is making the forests more susceptible to wildfire. behind me we have a graphic produced by the u.s. drought monitor program updated weekly it shows the general reach of the drought that has persisted for the last 20 years and you can see how bad it is some climate scientists call this a mega drought. the data indicates that we are experiencing the worst drought in 1200 years. having surpassed the longest which occurred in the late 1500s, scientific assessments see that these are made worse by the effects of climate change, rising temperatures and reduced
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snowmelt. this is a priority for me because arizona is on the front lines of this drought. in august of the department of the interior announced its first ever drought restrictions on the colorado river. it affects 40 million americans in seven states. arizona, california, nevada, colorado, utah and new mexico and wyoming we stand to lose 18% of the water allocation. fortunately arizona is prepared for these cutbacks. we are implementing measures that keep more water in the colorado river system and improve water efficiency in our farming.
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we plan to save enough water so that most will not be impacted but we are not out of the woods. last month the interior department produced a new forecast showing water levels in lake mead could soon decline lower the world's largest public infrastructure project when it was built in the great depression currently the capacity is 35%. it's the lowest level since the lake was first filled. it's sister reservoir is the second largest man-made lake in the united states and its 35%
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capacity but at 30% capacity. lake mead and lake powell are the poster children for the western drought it's where one submerged. we have that here as you can see. about 1299 at full capacity and it's about 1,067 or so above sea level today. at lake powell only two of the boat ramps can still safely unload motorized boats and if the rockies see another year or two of record low snowmelt.
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arizona, california and nevada will be facing tougher drought restrictions possibly beginning in 2023. and then there's hydropower. a source of carbon free energy reliable to the energy and resiliency in the west. reclamation predicts there is a chance next year water levels might dip low enough that power generation at glen canyon could be affected and in some cases significantly. many other watersheds are facing similar water scarcity and susceptibility sustainability challenges. these may sound serious because they are serious. but here's the thing. there is no country in the world
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that is better at solving problems when we put our mind to it. we can solve it and that's why we are here with a panel of experts and government and environmental advocacy and agriculture that are working on water management solutions and i look forward to listening to their testimony. and with that i will turn this over to the ranking member hi to smith for her opening remarks. i'd like to thank the chair for calling this hearing today to bring attention to this issue that is plaguing the west. thanks to the witnesses that are here for your willingness to serve and offer your suggestions and i hope that your testimony will leave us with a more unified understanding of how serious drought and drought related issues are and more
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importantly potential solutions to water supply challenges in drought prone areas my state doesn't have as many drought related issues as western states in fact we tend to run into trouble on the opposite end with rainfall and catastrophic flooding however a commonality i find between the severe drought and flooding is a devastating impact that it has on the farmers, ranchers and rural communities. the lifeblood of the nation and reclamation is integral to farmers as it provides one out of five for 10 million acres of farmland that provides 60% of the vegetables and 25% of its fruits. it's vital we discovered the solutions to address the infrastructure needs for the farmers, ranchers and the rural communities. i look forward to discussing how the te is the impacts of drought
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in a matter that allows for the development projects that will benefit the farmers and communities, protect and support those communities that need access to water storage the most. thank you for being here and a part of this american process and i sure hope to learn something from you. >> thank you. now it's time to introduce the witnesses first we have tonya the assistant secretary for water and science at the department of the interior who is testifying in person and next the director of the arizona department of water resources who's also testifying in person. participating virtually, we have ms. julie ellingson the executive vice president of the north dakota stockman's association and finally the
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colorado river program director for the national audubon society who was also participating virtually i want to thank the witnesses for testifying today especially our arizona witness. all of you will be included in the hearing record and please keep your oral testimony to five minutes each. we will begin with you. >> thank you. good afternoon. i appreciate your leadership on these issues and your service here today. senator heights smith equally thank you for sharing the subcommittee and being part of our western water world today.
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i'm the assistant secretary at the department of the interior. thank you for the opportunity to testify regarding the status and management of drought in the western u.s. along with my fellow panelists we will present a thorough picture of how climate change and the drought are affecting the communities and the environment. to testify in support of the infrastructure bill that contains many provisions that will help assist us with these efforts. the entire west has experienced drought conditions this year and in some cases we are seeing events we've never seen before. so we are having to adapt in real time and work closely with our partners to respond to the situation as they are evolving.
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october 1st, marked the new water year across the west and we are starting out with water supply conditions in those that are significantly below average for example in the colorado river basin, lake powell and lake mead are at historical lows and in california where we have just seen the driest two years back-to-back on record, some of them are also at their historical low levels. it will be essential to maintain the close coordination with our partners on the ground as we move forward if we do continue to see continued dry and warm conditions that are predicted. the department is working closely with our sister agencies and the states, tribes and local entities to respond to the drought. since january, we've provided funding to over 220 different projects around the west and we
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were able to reprogram $100 million to be able to be responsive to the conditions that are evolving in various programs. those contributions will include making infrastructure improvements and otherwise improving and continuing to maintain our planning efforts. we also received additional funding through the disaster relief bill that was passed last week and we are looking to get that funding out to the local and tribal communities as soon as possible. we have worked to develop coordinated operational plans in many areas and those will help us respond to the conditions as well for example in the colorado river basin we are currently implementing the provisions of prior agreements and in
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particular the 2007 interim guidelines for coordinated operation of the reservoirs and the more recent contingency plans. we were on the fortunately in the position of announcing the first level of shortage and first tier of shortage in the colorado river basin in august and it will take efforts to continue to develop the next agreements that are going to be necessary but we have a proven track record the colorado river basin can be a model for the type of collaboration that we need in other areas as well and it will be essential to maintain that collaboration for our collective successes. it's great to be here with colleagues from arizona and colorado and north dakota as we work together among the federal family and nonfederal partners and members of congress to
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address these issues. across the west interior has continued to utilize to improve the water supply projections and those can help us inform our decision-making process and work again collaboratively with our partners. we support the continued investments and improvements to help maintain our important infrastructure projects. and such as water recycling efforts and of course continued collaboration on how to ensure the communities can utilize the federal resources that we have available. we appreciate congresses attention to the severity of the drought conditions we are seeing in the west and welcome your input to the new tools and approaches that we can use to help our communities.
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i look forward to the continued work together and again with our partners we will be able to address the ongoing challenges. i would be happy to answer any follow-up questions and thank you for your attention on this issue. thank you i am the director of the arizona department of resources. thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of the state of arizona highlighting elements of that testimony a 20 year drought and climate change has had devastating impacts on the flow of the colorado river and the content. it declared shortage in 2022 and resulted in losing 512,000 or
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18% of its total entitlement. impacts to agriculture, tribes and municipal will result in an intent eight-month efforts resulting in coming together to provide financial resources and wet water to mitigate those impacts. projections of the elevations are barely above for an additional 80,000. those cuts would primarily impact tribes and users in my state however it's unlikely they will be available to address those additional cuts while the guidelines and the contingency plan have slowed the decline, those are clearly not enough. the likelihood of cuts in the future is high. the amount of water is also
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decreasing and critical elevation is increasing. there is the reduction of hydropower and cost to irrigation districts and others in arizona. in august, projections were 2023 had consultations pursuant to the plan in the lower basin. arizona, nevada and california have been meeting pursuant for protecting lake mead from falling below the elevation and that will be a daunting challenge. additional action to protect first mandatory cuts were second additional conservation but that will be a heavy lift. success is dependent and
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compiling the resources to make it happen. the guidelines and the job contingency plan have taught us how to be successful in managing the river long term. those lessons learned include be vigilant in managing the protected elevations. to do so we must have data and modeling products produced by the bureau that possess the best available science to achieve outcomes that result in the equitable sharing of the benefits and risks of the colorado system. three, adhere to the collaboration among the states, mexico, the united states tribes and other stakeholders number four, recognize we are connected from wyoming to the sea of cortez in mexico. five, incentivize actions that conserve water. six, resources for the united
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states and agencies must be tools in the toolbox and seven, continue the state participation and discussions regarding the implementation of the 1944 mexico water treaty while we focus on enhancing the sustainability of the colorado river system we shouldn't lose sight of other mechanisms to minimize or mitigate the impacts of climate change and drought maximizing the use of the reclaimed or the recycled water improving and expanding existing infrastructure to increase the yield and remove water and augmenting the water supplies for the enhanced recharge and improved watershed health through more effective management are all tools that need to be deployed. in conclusion it represents challenges that are likely to increase over time. proper planning, management,
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robust conservation and collaboration across political jurisdictions and among stakeholders create the greatest likelihood of today and in the future. thank you and i'm willing to answer questions as well. >> we will now move to the opening testimony. >> members of the subcommittee, thank you for holding this hearing. it is an honor to testify before you today. i'm the colorado river program director for the audubon society. others have said it but i need to say it again, climate change has come through the front doors of the colorado river basin.
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the colorado river has lost 20% of its flows in the past 20 years and scientists are forecasting another 9% loss. we need to act quickly to avoid a catastrophic water supply crisis and we also need long-term solutions because of temperatures that continue to increase, the colorado river supply will keep shrinking. there's so much at stake the colorado river provides drinking water for 40 million people and it's the lifeblood. it's the silent utility if you eat a salad in january pretty much anywhere in the country [inaudible] supporting recreation businesses it's the
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regions lifeblood. people value the colorado river in so many ways not least what it means to us culturally and spiritually stand on the rivers edge and you are reminded what it means to be grateful. for the tens of millions of americans the investments in usgs including the data that allows us to understand these changes. the reformations by the programs
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for additional funding and operating this program is conserving water and approving investments can help mitigate the environmental public health crises caused by other lakes across the west and finally also to support the colorado basin particularly households lacking indoor water service who suffered greatly from covid-19. also water settlements to allow tribes benefits from their water rights and to reduce the uncertainty it imposes on all colorado river users. finally i want to address colorado river management. recreation plays an important role as the guardian of a process that needs to be
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transparent and inclusive carrying out the federal trust responsibility. leadership must continue emphasizing collaboration. this is a sobering and scary time for everyone and everything as congress considers priorities and funding opportunities there are several investments for the river basin and across the west to ensure federal agencies receive critically needed resources to build a more resilient system and mitigate the effect of climate change. congress has several pending bills with bipartisan support that respond to the needs of tribal communities and western state water supply needs.
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it is imperative they have the resources they need to prepare for and respond to the drought and the climate crises. thank you so much for the opportunity to testify today and i would be happy to answer questions. >> thank you. i will now recognize senator hoping to introduce. a. >> thank you. appreciate it very much and you holding this hearing today and i want to thank you for joining us virtually. the executive vice president of the north dakota stockman's association and in addition to doing an incredible job in administering the association, she and her husband have a cattle ranch south of bismarck as well. so she comes to the job as
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somebody who grew up farming and ranching so she understands from the ground up. she doesn't just advocate. she's lived at her whole life. i've worked with her on the farm bills and disaster assistance for producers most recently $10 billion for farmers and ranchers specifically 750 million of that for the ranchers and that is nationwide but now we have to put that out there and on the ranchers side the parameters i look forward to working with her on that issue because we've had incredible drought in our state one of the toughest i can remember so this hearing is extremely important for the farmers and ranchers that are out there.
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it's making sure we have water available throughout the west for the farmers and ranchers and that is for the lowest-cost food supply that every single american benefits from every single day so with that i would sure like to again thank the chair and ranking member and appreciate this opportunity to introduce and welcome the testimony today good afternoon members of the subcommittee. as the senator said i am a fourth-generation beef producer and my husband and i and our
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five children were in southern county. our family has a long history in agriculture and i'm blessed to be able to pass on the tradition. it's coupled with the use of the latest science and technologies so we can match our management with the needs of our cattle for mutual benefits and optimal resiliency. as was mentioned i'm the executive vice president of the stockman's association, a 92-year-old organization representing 3100 ranchers. for the membership activities we also administer our programs as well as the section 319 grand as well as the local economy. this year as it has been described has been filled with challenges and certainly historic drums on top of the list for north dakotans and our
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neighbors in the west. yellow, orange, red and brown on the drought monitor map told the story well. nearly the entire west devastated and some disaster and north dakota is no exception. currently 99.8% of the states have a drought designation and we have set records we never wanted. among those the earliest onset and highest drought severity and coverage index in our history. water of course is central to the management and everything changes without it. some are rendered entirely unusable because there's no water for the livestock to water development at ellington ranch this summer as we worked to combat the drought, we
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installed 5 miles of pipeline and implemented 13 water tanks and renovated and abandoned well to respond to the water demand. changes to grazing extent the public lands as well. in north dakota livestock producers worked for the forest service and bureau of land management and i know it doesn't seem like a lot too many of you, as you have larger federal land experience in your state but is significant not only to the state's cattle industry but the state's ecology. whether on private land or public land ranchers have had to make hard decisions in order to reduce numbers, to prevent overgrazing and encourage regrowth of needed grasses. because the brand expection program, had a chance to see these decisions play out in real time.
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many reduced their heard sizes because the forage simply isn't there. we've seen a 24% increase in sales this year with north dakota ranchers selling 148,000 cows as of july, the average for an entire year is 200,000. it is a painstaking decision for families because it is not only the foundation of the heard the generations of selection and improvement that cannot be replicated overnight. there are other threats too, fire is the most widespread and distractive. fires have burned 6 million acres and 125,000 across north dakota. nearly double that of last year. fire and drought impact livestock and our ability to steward the land.
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ranchers prioritize retention for our livestock but also critical in feeding wildlife, providing habitat and storing carbon at a vast scale, increasing potential to store carbon in complex systems making these ecosystems more resilient to all threats including drought. at this committee, this congress and this administration looks to ways to make landscapes more resilient and increase conservation using grazing to manage grasslands and optimize their potential will be key. cattle producers are grateful for the assistance we perceived to respond to emergency conditions and special thanks to senator holden for your work to provide additional allowances in the emergency livestock assistance program to offset the cost of transportation of feed. as we move forward, hold free, i encourage this committee and the administration to think about how to prevent the need
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to responded to a drought. how do we make landscapes more resilient to drought? as a rancher i know landscapes carefully managed through livestock grazing are more resilient. health ecosystems must be created, nurtured, it takes coordination with all parties. healthy landscapes take investment from each of us and ranchers are already doing their part. thank you for the opportunity to testify. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you to all our witnesses for their testimony. we are not going to open up to questions from members. members will be recognized for 5 minutes each. i will start with a few questions and then be followed by ranking member hyde smith.
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starting with this first question, i want to focus on infrastructure because congress needs to think bigger than programs that fund short-term drought relief. we need to upgrade assets and deploy technology to adapt to climate change over the long-term and more can be done to improve the water efficiency of our dams and irrigation canals in the west, these systems are often over 50 years old and weak a lot of water. the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the senate in august provides $8.3 billion to repair our aging western water infrastructure, deploy water recycling and desalinization technology, investing watershed health and enhance surface and
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groundwater storage. i'm proud to be part of the core group of senators, democrats and republicans who secured this funding so how will the interior use this infrastructure funding to improve the situation at lake mead and lake powell? >> thank you. again, your leadership is much appreciated on these issues and i was happy to testify in support of that legislation in the committee. we will utilize the authorities and funding that will be received to build upon the good collaborative success we had in the colorado river basin. i want to reiterate what my colleagues said. do we have a crisis. it is a very serious situation and we are working together to innovate and utilize the authority we get from congress and the funding we get to help build upon those programs, we
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have additional conservation programs in the lower basin that are going to be available with respect to those reservoir levels and in the upper basin we work closely with the partners there as well. so appreciate the opportunity to build upon the success and look forward to working with you as it moves forward. >> give a specific example of the infrastructure project that could improve the situation in lake mead and lake powell. >> one of them is connected with our bipartisan process, in development of additional capabilities, the 242 well in arizona and help make the system more efficient and allow us to retain more of the surface water storage that is available. that's a good example of that capability. >> by capturing water in other
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places we can keep more in lake mead and lake powell. >> absolute, the expanded authorities we have in the water recycling category as well will do the same thing. >> same question for you, can you think of some examples how this is going to help arizona and the west? >> yes. in yuma, arizona, jennifer bit referred to in her remarks about lettuce in the wintertime there's infrastructure improvements that can make sure deliveries in the lower part of the river do not occur, it will not go to waste, if those infrastructure improvements are made, we also are looking again at paying for conservation with willing partners and some of the funding could be available for that, not necessarily infrastructure but it will
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result in more water in lake mead and leveraging money the state is made available to me for that purpose within our stay. we are working in southern california and the settlers of the project on potential recycling project in southern california that would allow the recycled water to be used in southern california instead of being discharged into the ocean in a way that the other partners could share. those are just a couple of examples. infrastructure funding and the funding available in that bill are critical, looking at in the state groundwater desalination, looking at doing ocean desalination in the sea of cortez with mexico under 323 so there's no end to the list of potential projects that could benefit arizona, the lower basin and make -- lake mead. >> thank you. now recognize senator open for
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5 minutes. >> i've been wanting to get ahead of the ranking member. >> sorry, no, no. i would refer to the ranking member. >> let's do that. >> my first question is going to be for miss ellington. what sort of impact are you currently thing from the drought on farmers and ranchers in rural communities and how it is impacting them compared to years passed? >> thinking that is thank you, significant impact as i described has been a historic drought, livestock producers are facing tough decisions to respond to that, decisions like calling their heard in some extreme cases, sending animals a far distance away to be
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third, sourcing expensive feed which is hard to come by and expensive to all. significant decisions and the agricultural foundations of our state's economy, not only does it have impact of the livestock industry but also to main street in our overall state economy, serious issues as we work through the conditions that and. >> in terms of mitigating drought related stress on farms and ranches which programs and contracts offered through natural resources conservation to you and people in your position in the cattle producing industry, which of those programs to your lie on the most? >> a whole array of programs livestock producers benefit from, the first that comes to mind would be the equal program for financial resource conservation program, opportunities for cost shares
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for best management practices, whether it is wise poland and in such, that is an important one. similarly have programs that support efforts to put some of those think tanks practices on the ground and helping long-term mitigation of drought and other challenges. >> confidential consequences which are industry face if any of those were delayed or backlogged or slow down greatly? >> it would be significant challenges. those are our opportunities to deal with long-term sustainability of our operations, the sustainability of livestock grazing has implications for wildlife and storage of carbon in other areas, those programs are very meaningful and we encourage continued support of them. >> thank you, mister chairman. >> now that we have the order
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figure out. >> you talked about the impact of the drought this year. talk about the impacts if this becomes a multi-year drought. >> we hope and pray this isn't the case. we are prepared for the seriousness of that. this year our producers haven't had the significant drought last year unlike many within the committee here but there were buckets last year within our state as well but this year producers are relying on the reserves, having a head start because of that storage but as they go through those resources and the resources are incredibly scarce as neighbors across the west are buying for the same ones they are becoming more serious, to replenish and
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get back to normal, top of mind and that indicates the decisions producers are faced with right now, downsizing their heard and sourcing livestock feed for their heard. >> that's particularly true as we work to get our younger ranchers in the business and have gotten some in business, this is a particular challenge in keeping them going. >> absolutely. nothing they want more than to pass their operation on to the next generation, daily decision whether it is natural resources and attention, natural resources in our care or assuring in the next generation to carry on that tradition is so vitally important so concerned about the skin producers, picking up the baton and doing good things on the land so top of mind for us as well. >> you also mention the grazing on public lands in north dakota
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and other places in the west and the important role those allotments play. are there steps the administration should take to provide more flexibility to ranchers looking for additional sources of forage? >> that certainly would be helpful and as i indicated those public landss a significant to the livestock industry so continued communication and coordination with producers grazing on those allotments is critical. and the importance of caring for those landed if it is their own private land insignificance to their operation whether it is having an open dialogue feeling livestock grazing is a critical component to sustaining both landscapes as well as addressing issues like overstocking, dealing with fire
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mitigation, all important to the long-term sustainability of those allotments and in dealing with the drought at hand. >> the ranking member asked about other programs that could be helpful and one of them is the livestock assistance program which we now have to help with the transportation cost of water as well as the transportation cost of feed but pairing up with livestock is something we have to have on a long-term basis, not just on our one year deal for drought. >> absolutely. the enhancements that were added to emergency livestock assistance program to offset the cost of transportation is significant, meaningful to every livestock producers dakota this year so appreciative of additional support along with other support programs like the livestock forage program under usd emergency umbrella are significant to our producers in keeping them maintained in a permanent status is important because it helps livestock
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producers to make the best decisions under serious conditions. >> in north dakota as far as moving water east from the missouri river with god a red valley river supply project and the alternate supply, eastern north dakota alternate water supply project and in january we've got the bureau completed its final environmental impact statement, a decision was signed, given the extreme drought in our state will use support the reclamation work to bring the when river valley water supply and alternate water supply online? >> absolutely, that is an
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important project and we're supporting it moving forward as quickly as possible, great example of the connection between surface water and groundwater and the need to have backup supplies and to be innovative as others have said that we need to do. >> thank you for that and please come out and we will give you the tour and would love to host you. >> thank you. >> thank you, mister chairman. >> i want to back up and talk a little of the about the infrastructure bill, the $8.3 billion to repair aging western water infrastructure. what does this funding do to help ecosystem help? >> thank you for the question. there are all kinds of infrastructure agricultural producers rely on particularly
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in higher elevations we have seen examples of infrastructure investment, allowing a rancher to put small structures in a creek on their property and that in turn is holding water on the property longer, extending their water supply, according to groundwater recharge and generally improving ecosystem health. there are other examples in wyoming where funding was used to convert a ranch to
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sprinklers and that is into salt loading in the river creating additional resilience for a rancher in that they can extend their water supply longer because they are not using so much. there are a lot of win/wins with ranchers taking care of the land with additional federal support for infrastructure can also improve the ecosystem that we need to scale up in order to improve the health of these watersheds that are the first water supply all the way down through. >> thank you. senator barrasso, i will turn it over to you. >> thank you to all of our
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witnesses today. drought is a serious issue in my home state of wyoming. i have been particularly hard hit, ranchers and farmers in the background rural communities in wyoming in the rural economy so in discussing the drought's impact on ranchers and farmers there was an article in the sheraton press were linda benzel of the usda farm service agency and johnson county in wyoming was quoted saying this two weeks ago, this year has been extremely dry, producers have lack of feed, lack of stock water due to the drought. icing reservoirs drying up, shortage of hand had to buy extra. he goes on to say people have had to haul in extra me from out of the county at out-of-state and some had to sell down their cattle, some
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had to liquidate some of their heard, last year was dry but compounded this year the drought never let up for 2 years in a row, caused hardship to producers. is this what you are seeing and hearing on the ground in north dakota as well? >> in a word, yes, absolutely. the impact you describe are what our producers are faced with from border to border, north to south and east to west. a statement that was bread from that excerpt could have been about our state and many others across the country, as indicated we didn't have a serious drought statewide like you did last year we are making up for a lot of lost time in challenges related to sourcing feed, reducing herds that you are experiencing in wyoming. one example, we have a member of the northeast quadrant of our state to talk about it had
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an opportunity for crp ground in the southeast part of the state because it makes 58 trips in order to bring that hey home, the equivalent of 30,000 miles. put another way that is traveling around the world 25,000 miles, the circumference of the earth. >> it is clear ranchers and farmers are struggling not just in one limited location. what do you believe the department can do to prioritize providing water for ranching and farming community southwest in the short-term and long-term? >> we are working very closely with our partner federal agencies like usda on these issues. we have within the reclamation program lots of opportunities to expand water supplies and
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working collaboratively with farmers in western states. with respect to the department of agriculture programs we understand they have additional capabilities available and will be working to supply those and use them innovatively to be able to meet constituents needs. >> the family farm alliance submitted written testimony for the record and i ask unanimous consent that it be part of the record. >> without objection. >> in the written testimony the family farm alliance states with regard to water storage projects properly designed and constructed surface storage projects provide additional water management flexibility to better meet downstream urban industrial and agricultural water needs, improve flood control, generate clean hydropower, provide recreational opportunities and create additional flows that can benefit downstream fish and wildlife species. yes or no? do you agree with that? >> i do and i was able to see
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that testimony earlier today and i appreciate their partnership. working with storage underground and above ground in ways that can help maximize our flexibility helps us a lot in different contextss. >> cattle ranching is vital to my state's role economy. how does the administration tend to ensure drought doesn't cause interruptions in food production? >> that's something we're working closely with partners as well as recognize the hardship many farmers and ranchers have endured this year in particular and in past years and try to make sure that we have to's to meet the emergency needs but bills resilience and those are the programs we are looking forward to it and infrastructure context and other programs as well.
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>> either things we could have done 10 years ago to put us in a better place today to manage the drought and building more storage to capture storm water during the wetlands? >> it probably depends on a place by place basis to answer the question. in some places we have available storage we have been able to utilize it in some places we see continued challenges in our infrastructure we know we need to continue to improve upon. the aging infrastructure issue is an important priority for us, building additional capabilities is something we want to work on. >> i think it was last year that snow pack in the rockies was about 90% of normal but the runoff into the river was in the 25 or 30% or so which is rather concerning and if we see this continue, basin states
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will face a second round, we originally planned for this to happen in 2026 but new data suggests that we need to prepare for this much sooner than we anticipated. what are the twee 7 states doing now to prepare for this if you could outline that for us. >> the outcome you described in terms of relatively average snowpack but small runoff is huge concern to us moving forward. the basin states have been meeting since june and have a series of meetings scheduled between now and the end of the year. one of the things we are talking about is what do we expect the future flow of the river to be? we have seen reduction the flow in the last 20 or 30 years and we need to come to some level of understanding and planning about what we can count on in the future and ratchet down our action items and water use to match what the river is going
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to be. in the lower basin i mentioned the consultation provision, we have been meeting, for additional conservation efforts and additional cuts if it comes to that to help protect declining levels of lake mead. we will continue to work on that between now and the end of the year and for the program in place hopefully by the end of the year or get as far as we can. the longer we wait to take those actions for lake powell, lake mead the more you have to conserve, the more you have to cut to achieve the same desired result in the future. >> for folks watching this if you don't understand the science behind this how do we wind up with 90% of snowpack, and only 20 or 30% of the
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normal amount of water into the river? >> we believe that is a prime example of what climate change is doing, it is hotter, it is drier, the snow either sublimate or does not runoff the river but soaks into the ground. in the prior year summer precipitation in which at least in arizona we hold the monsoon, we had very little precipitation so the watershed was very dry. the soil is very dry and a lot of water soaked into the ground. we've also seen the snow melting earlier in time and vegetation growing sooner which then is more of the water as well. those are the elements that connect to the outcome you described. we've not just seen it last year but in prior years as well. >> are you confident in
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interstate agreement will be reached and reclamation participating in this? >> we have a proven track record of developing interstate agreements in the colorado river basin and i'm confident we will continue to track record and reclamation is absolutely in the middle of all the ongoing discussions. i will complement the work of my colleague and others that have been rolling up their sleeves and trying to be in part of the future conditions we may be seeing. >> how confident are you that another drought contingency agreement is going to be reached? >> failure is not an option. millions of acres of farmland, millions of people rely on this. we faced this in 2018-19.
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and the secretary might dictate winners and losers that we do not want to be in a courtroom in which a judge dictates enters and losers. those are several motivations but we will get there eventually though it will not be easy. i want to complement secretary to heal -trujillo for the information and the data. .. modeling project, the modeling outcomes are critical to those discussions so we will get there because we have to. we don't have a choice. >> i now will recognize senator lee for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. the impact of the drought on my home state of utah has been quite severe in fact. the u.s. a drought monitor shows 100% of my state is in severe extreme or exceptional drought
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and it has been for some time. we all know that the drought has different impacts on different areas and different people within different areas. along the highly developed front region of my state, it may mean that you take steps to conserve water perhaps with your lawn or otherwise. we appreciate those efforts and we are thankful to people for doing their part wherever they live. but for other people like farmers and ranchers, the impacts of drought can be much more direct and severe. many allotments in utah have been cut by 20% in capacity and it just isn't there for the cattle and the sheep. we are seeing this in fact in some counties the production is down to just 20%. some producers are ordering feed
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from far away places as far away as nebraska. ordinarily that isn't something they have to do in this part of the country. rivers that normally provide water is down to a trickle forcing us to ration. throughout the summer months, they were forced anywhere from a thousand to 1500 a week. again that is a thousand to 1500 animals a week that were killed and thereby wasted just as a result of the drought. states need a change so that they can more readily address the drought issues that they face like those that utah faces in particular. everywhere i go in my state i hear of the need for increased water shortage infrastructure. bureaucratic federal processes often stand in the way of the safe effective mitigation efforts.
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can you tell me how many water storage infrastructure projects are currently undergoing the evaluation by your department? >> in their construction efforts and the storage elements that that project provides are beneficial to utah during these drought issues. >> i assume you do have access to that information about the number undergoing the analysis. >> i can work with her and triey to get that back as soon as possible. >> if you could get us back to that, that would be helpful. >> the average amount of time that is required to complete for the water infrastructure projects. >> i don't know that off the top of my head but we can look into
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that. i know there are several storage projects in california that we are working on in other areas that are important to maintain that. >> i introduced an amendment on an existing program one that's facilitated by the department of transportation this is an element to assign and for the state voluntarily to assume the secretary's responsibilities for one or more highway projects as the states feel that they can handle.
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utah and arizona participate in that program and transportation context. constituents in my state have told me that this program is greatly expedited the rates that they can start work on critical transportation infrastructure projects the states chooses to prioritize to be able to take these up on a case by case basis do you think such could be helpful in curbing the effects of the devastating drought the department is using that program and often when there's categorical exclusion, it works really well and i do know that in my experience in these projects, they are looking for a reduction at the time and to
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stand the test for litigation there is a balance in terms of how the program could work. i have a list of a number of categorical exclusions during
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your hearing the views and impacts responded by saying you're committed to try to work with congress and stakeholders you responded
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infrastructure and innovation and recycling programs that are maintenance and operation issues are a priority that does tie carefully to the safety programs and that may be what you are referring to. reclamation has selected 227
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projects to be funded with $73.2 million in funding across the western states. given this large investment to combat widespread drought what are you doing to prioritize this program to ensure that these communities have vital access to more? >> thank you, senator. congress authorized some of the elements over ten years ago and it's been something we've continued to build upon in the budgeting process and how to best evaluate the requests that we come in for expanded capabilities there. it's something that we will continue to do so in that
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regard. we appreciate congressional support for it. >> to follow up on the question, can you provide some examples of how these grants could be used for climate resilience in the colorado river basin? >> thank you. farmers and ranchers make improvements on their properties in particular it is as well as the health of the properties.
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it's examples. at scale it can help us. [inaudible] >> i want to pick it here i want to talk about these latest predictions. in august the bureau issued a two-year projection that would remain below a thousand and the
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water cutbacks for arizona and nevada and would also lose water but remain above the minimum and that is the elevation level where the glen canyon dam would have to pause its hydropower operations. in september reclamation issued a new five year projection that painted a picture lake powell could approach by 2022 and the probability of cutbacks by 2023 why did these projections change from what we saw before to what we saw with the five year
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projection? it involves the continued desire for us to evolve the reclamation folks produce on a monthly basis the 24 month study analysis and then the five-year projections in the most recent changes have clarification of feeding into them so instead of using the record we focused on a 30 year record because that accurately projects what we anticipate we
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will be seeing in the future. we have done that previously but we've been focusing on it in this most recent. an additional change involves an assumption that relates to additional releases into and we are not continuing that assumption because we are not sure what the projected drought response options are going to be so we want to be safe and conservative about what we are doing. those are two examples of how we have changed that but we are working very collaboratively with folks on how to do that. >> and the switch was it because historically as you are trying to do these projections it was just turning out to be more
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accurate in making future predictions? >> we have projections that included some of the years that we were not anticipating going forward. that's more accurate going forward. >> i want to recognize senator highsmith for five minutes. >> let me just transition to your views on the reclamation data and how does it affect
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estate planning for at least six years that i'm aware of we looked at the historical record and that matches very closely with a 30 year record now of the reclamation in the contingency plan in terms of bending the probability curve so it's not something that's brand-new but i welcome this approach and i will
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do my happy dance but we will plan for that within our state and using those projections gives more leeway to deal with this future. >> let's hope at some point we get to see that dance. but i want to commend you and all arizona stakeholders for developing a state specific drought mitigation plan that will see us through these curtailment's in the state. and even though we are about to lose 18% of our colorado river water allocations, remarkably most are not going to notice this. it's going to be transparent to them but one very important community that is going to feel the pain of this that is the
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farmers in central arizona and many of these grow cotton and others grow cattle field for the dairy farms that are top agricultural products in the states. what can be done right now and into next year to help our central arizona farmers? they maintained right that they received in the groundwater code for the conservation requirements. they made it available to the farmers to help them like cities, tribes and industrial
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users in return for eventually getting a credit back for the use of the water by the farmers. so we put together a very robust mitigation plan honoring the system in the state yet despite that factor, projections in 2018 and 2019 there's 30 to 40% we haven't been able to get an updated number since then. however, the other option they are pursuing in the department of agricultural conservation partnership programs are in those districts in the federal government and also for some financial help again for infrastructure and efficiency improvement so we are doing the best we can to help somewhat mitigate but we cannot fully mitigate the loss because the priority system we are honoring within the state.
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>> you mentioned some, but is there any sort of guarantee that they are going to be compensated for doing that? >> it's about them being able to more effectively and efficiently move their water and use their water. so it's not really available to them but we hope that they can stay in business through this program and moving into the future which is going to be different moving forward. they are not going to be able to farm in a way that they have in its paradigm shift to the community with the project. >> let's continue to work together for the best possible
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outcome. the department did more to support the central arizona farmers the programs that we have available are designed to help farmers and ranchers in those types of situations and again, look forward to working on trying to make sure we can meet the most needs as possible. >> thank you. i understand that you've also spent years in arizona working on these colorado river issues so thank you again for being here today. it's part of a coalition of organizations that lead to efforts to maintain endangered species along the colorado river
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and partnerships with farmers, state and local governments and other users are key to making this work. i would add tribal governments hold substantial water rights in the west. are there tribes in the lower basin that are eager to do more to help and what can congress do to empower them? >> thank you for the question, senator kelly. indeed on a number of occasions they transfer to other users. however, there are some including the colorado indian tribe and others for limited restrictions. they are not allowed to transfer
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that off so congress could have said that the benefits and allow them to engage in transfers as well as that could supply water for the environment and as a matter of equity and ensure that they are able seems only fair. >> as they transfer water off of their tribal land and they are compensated what does that compel them to do? they have to start by conserving
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and then with that if congress could pass observation transfers but it's present for the colorado indian tribes. notwithstanding the fact. >> so there's significant motivation. >> absolutely. >> thank you. >> i want to take some opportunity to thinking ahead and thinking outside of the box i'd like to hear from either of
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you what that might look like. how much water do you think that would create and any other details. but on a large scale possible solution we are the most creative country in the world and we are good at solving hard problems especially i come from a background in engineering and i know we can solve this. arizona and the lower basin states. arizona has the largest or fastest growing county in the country. maricopa county businesses come to arizona. they should continue because we are going to fix this issue. but i'd like to hear from you a little bit about as you think about this and you start to think outside the box it comes to mind.
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>> i think both of us are looking forward to answering the question and i will kick off a few responses. the themes have involved the need to be innovative and flexible and that's what we are absolutely going to have to do in the colorado river basin but we've also emphasized the need to be collaborative and work together on these issues. i think you raised the topic of trying to use technology and be creative and have that underlining basis in science and that is what we are committed to do in the interior department. it's going to be no doubt about it we are going to be part of those conversations and look to have those available to the communities. our partners in arizona.
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>> i will focus because i am a united states cochair for the delegation as a new commissioner on the mexico side i think we can move forward again on that process. they are using a mechanism to transfer water and deliver that down the yuma area. we have several issues to work
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with mexico and then if we decide collectively to move forward we are probably ten years out in the course of business for nevada and california participating and of course for mexico. we will achieve that over time. it is critical to the success moving forward with mexico. >> i want to thank my colleagues and today's witnesses.
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thank you very much for being here. before we conclude i want to request unanimous consent to add statements to the record from the agriculture water coalition, the colorado river energy distributors association, the arizona farm bureau and family farm alliance. so so ordered. the subcommittee has a deadline for members to submit written questions so you may see some more questions. the hearing record will remain open for two weeks and thank you again especially to the witnesses and the subcommittee stands adjourned.
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