Title Transfer of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Projects: Fact or Fiction

by Frank Dimick,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: WRPMD'99: Preparing for the 21st Century


(No paper) The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) has constructed hundreds of water storage and delivery projects throughout the 17 western United States. These projects vary in size and complexity from a simple water distribution system to a complex combination of dams, pumps, electrical generators and distribution system such as the Central Valley Project in California. Construction of these projects was funded by Reclamation. Water user organizations signed contracts to repay the reimbursable cost of constructing these facilities over an extended period of time. Because the construction was funded by Reclamation, title to the facilities remained in their hands even though the water users repaid all reimbursable costs. Reclamation has turned the operation and maintenance responsibility over to the water user entities in most cases. Faced with a decline in manpower and budgets, and in response to the second phase of the National Performance Review (REGO II), Reclamation developed a Framework for the Transfer of Title - Bureau of Reclamation Projects. This framework was released to the public on August 7, 1995. The framework was to define and guide the transfer of title to facilities that could be efficiently and effectively managed by non-Federal entities and that are not identified as having national importance. It has now been three years since this program was introduced and as of February 1999, not one facility has been transferred pursuant to the framework. Although a few projects have been transferred by the U.S. Congress, attempts at title transfer using the framework established by Reclamation seem to be stymied. The reasons for not effecting a transfer are as varied as the projects themselves. Reviewing the case histories of three separate title transfer efforts provide examples of the problems encountered in following Reclamation's Framework to achieve title transfer. Reclamation's efforts to transfer the title of some facilities to non-government entities seems to come from good intentions but is not being accomplished because of resistance from other interests, leaving prospective beneficiaries of the program wondering if title transfer is to be a fact or fiction.

Subject Headings: Water reclamation | Project management | Bureau of Reclamation | Water supply systems | Water storage | Construction management | Water treatment plants | United States | California

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