In the more than 100 years since President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Reclamation Act (U.S. Congress, 1902), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) has compiled an enviable record, and it can take justifiable pride in having brought water and electrical power to the arid regions of the 17 western states. The dams, reservoirs, hydroelectric plants, and massive irrigation systems developed by Reclamation have been crucial for the development of agriculture and, more recently, for industrial, commercial, and residential development that would not otherwise have been possible. Reclamation is the largest water wholesaler in the country, providing 10 trillion gallons of water to more than 31 million people and irrigating 10 million acres that produce 60 percent of the nation’s vegetables and 25 percent of its nuts and fruits (USBR, 2005). It is the nation’s second largest producer of hydroelectric power: 42 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. It also partners in the management of more than 300 recreation sites.
This impressive record of accomplishment has been achieved as a result of (or, sometimes, in spite of) complex and overlapping authorizing legislation, regulations, and political pressures; competing local and regional interests; budgetary constraints; and changing national priorities.
SUMMARY OF AUTHORIZING LEGISLATION
The Reclamation program was established by the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902. The Reclamation Act provided for contracts, generally 10
years in duration, between the United States and individual landowners. Irrigation was the only authorized purpose for a project, and there was a limit of 160 acres per individual. The Reclamation Act required the secretary of the interior to proceed in conformance with state laws as they related to the control, appropriation, use, or distribution of water; however, title to Reclamation projects was to remain with the United States until otherwise provided by the Congress (USBR, 1972).
In 1911 the Congress passed the Warren Act, which authorized Reclamation to contract for conveyance and storage of nonproject irrigation water in project facilities. In 1992 it expanded this authorization to include the conveyance and storage of nonproject water for domestic, municipal, fish and wildlife, industrial, and other beneficial purposes for facilities associated with several non-Reclamation projects in California and Nevada (the Central Valley Project, the Cachuma Project, the Truckee Storage Project, and the Washoe Project) (USBR, 2001).
The Reclamation Extension Act, passed in 1914, provided for the extension of individual repayment contracts for up to 20 years. It also required the payment of operating and maintenance costs and recognized legally organized water users’ associations and irrigation districts. Furthermore, it authorized the transfer of project facilities operations and maintenance (O&M) to water districts (USBR, 1972).
In 1920 Congress passed legislation entitled Sale of Water for Miscellaneous Purposes. For the first time, Reclamation was provided authority to contract for the purchase of water for uses other than irrigation. However, such contracts required (1) that no other practicable source of water be available, (2) a finding that such contracts would not be detrimental to the quantity and quality of irrigation water from the project, and (3) the approval of the relevant water users’ association.
The Irrigation Districts and Farm Loans Act of May 15, 1922, required that a court of competent jurisdiction confirm contracts between the secretary of the interior and irrigation districts to ensure that the districts had the necessary authority before the contracts became binding. This requirement was reiterated in the Omnibus Adjustment Act of 1926, which also provided that no water could be delivered until a contract was executed, extended the maximum repayment period to 40 years, and established the requirement that O&M costs be paid in advance (USBR, 1972).
On August 4, 1939, Congress passed the Reclamation Project Act of 1939. This act made several significant changes and additions to Reclamation’s contracting authority. It provided authority for project costs to be allocated between reimbursable and nonreimbursable purposes, authorized a ceiling on charges to irrigators based on an ability-to-pay
concept, and provided authority for the secretary to defer repayment obligations under certain circumstances. It also provided for reimbursable project costs associated with irrigation or municipal and industrial purposes to be recovered through either repayment or water service contracts (USBR, 1972).
The 1956 Act (Administration of Contracts under Section 9, Reclamation Project Act of 1939) assured that contracts would be renewed upon expiration, assured water users they would be relieved of payment for construction charges after the United States had recovered its entire irrigation investment, and assured water users of a first right to contract for the use of water under water-service-type contracts (USBR, 1989).
Reclamation started with a focus on irrigation in 16 western states in 1902 (Texas was added in 1906) and quickly (by 1906) evolved into an organization with a core mission to develop and deliver water and hydroelectric power in the West. The current mission statement for the Bureau of Reclamation is as follows: “The mission of the Bureau of Reclamation is to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public” (USBR, 2005).
Carrying out the core mission in the early years of the twenty-first century is much different than it was during most of the twentieth century. Before the 1970s, developing and delivering water and power was dominated by the construction of large dams—for example, Hoover, Grand Coulee, and Glen Canyon (see Figure 1-1)—power plants, and irrigation systems. Reclamation has been responsible for numerous pioneering and world-class engineering and construction accomplishments. Now the focus has shifted. Most large reservoir and hydroelectric sites have been developed. The predominant workload has changed from new construction to the O&M, repair, and modernization of aging infrastructure, evaluation of dam safety and mitigation of dam failure risk, and environmental restoration and enhancement. Water rights issues, pressure from water and power user groups, cost recovery considerations, facility title transfer agreements, and environmental regulations (such as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires detailed environmental impact studies and statements, and the Endangered Species Act)—all have had major impacts on what Reclamation does and how it does it, and there is no reason to believe that these factors will not be even more important in the years ahead.
STATEMENT OF TASK
In response to a request from the Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for water and science, the NRC was asked to form a committee under the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment to advise the department and the Bureau of Reclamation on the appropriate organizational, managerial, and resource configurations to meet Reclamation’s construction, maintenance, and infrastructure requirements for its missions of the twenty-first century. A committee familiar with ongoing changes in the federal civil service system and with alternative means of ensuring organizational core competencies was drawn from industry, academia, and government. Committee members have experience and expertise in water resources facilities engineering, infrastructure management, project delivery methods, federal contracting practices, business process reengineering, and human resources. See Appendix A for biographies of the committee members.
The committee was assigned the following specific tasks:
Examine the requirements of the Bureau of Reclamation regarding construction, heavy maintenance, and infrastructure operations.
Survey federal agencies and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations with similar mission responsibilities to determine their organizational and operating models and to identify good practice tools and techniques for Reclamation’s efforts in infrastructure management.
Review and assess trends in budget, human resources, and project execution methods at Reclamation.
Construct alternative scenarios for future infrastructure management responsibilities and develop corresponding organizational options.
To accomplish these tasks, the committee met as a whole four times from February to August 2005, and small groups visited offices and projects in each of the five Reclamation regions: Great Plains, Upper Colorado, Lower Colorado, Mid-Pacific, and Pacific Northwest. The committee received briefings from and discussed all major activities related to facilities and infrastructure with Reclamation representatives in Washington, D.C., and at Policy, Management, and Technical Services in Denver, Colorado. The committee also met with some of Reclamation’s water and hydroelectric customers, organizations representing customer interests, environmental advocates, other federal and state agencies with similar missions, and congressional staff concerned with water issues.
In addition to the knowledge it gained from the references listed in the report, the committee learned from the five regional offices’ written responses to 33 questions, meant to provide background information on the organization and activities in their respective regions. Discussion questions were used to guide informal dialogue between Reclamation personnel and committee members during their site visits. Similar questions were also used to guide discussions with Reclamation customers and contractors. To promote open and candid discussion, participants were assured that comments would not be attributed to specific individuals. After completing all of the site visits, the groups reported and discussed their findings with the full committee. The committee’s meeting and site visits are listed in Appendix B of this report, along with the questions used to elicit background information.
ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT
This report is organized first into chapters that present the committee’s observations and responses to the four parts of the statement
of task. These chapters are followed by a chapter containing the committee’s conclusions, findings, and recommendations. Biographies of committee members, a list of meetings and briefings, and a detailed summary of a roundtable discussion with other organizations having similar or related water resources missions are contained in Appendixes A, B, and C.
Chapter 2, “Requirements for the 21st Century,” describes the facilities and infrastructure requirements of Reclamation and the factors that will influence future changes in these requirements. Requirements are addressed in terms of the bureau’s mission, its management of assets, and other factors that define the work Reclamation needs to accomplish. The policies, procedures, decision-making processes, and organizational structure needed to optimize Reclamation’s capabilities are discussed using the 1993 Blueprint for Reform as the baseline (USBR, 1993).
Chapter 3, “Good Practice Tools and Techniques,” draws on the committee’s experience and expertise, discussions with organizations having missions similar to that of Reclamation, and observations gained from discussions with Reclamation personnel and its customers and stakeholders. Tools and techniques for developing policies and procedures, acquisition and contracting, project management, asset management, and planning and budgeting are described. The chapter also reports on general observations from a roundtable discussion with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the California Department of Water Resources.
Chapter 4, “Workforce and Human Resources,” discusses strategies for workforce planning to meet the uncertainties and ambiguities that will challenge Reclamation personnel in the future. Following the outline of Reclamation’s Workforce Plan FY 2004-2008, the chapter assesses strategic direction, supply of and demand for human resources, deficiencies and strategies for mitigating them, and approaches to measuring the bureau’s performance in workforce management.
Chapter 5, “Alternative Scenarios for Future Infrastructure Management,” presents three scenarios that are considered by the committee to describe possible futures for Reclamation: (1) a centrally located project management organization, (2) outsourced operations and maintenance, and (3) federal funding and local execution. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how Reclamation can use this information to begin planning for the future.
Chapter 6, “Conclusions, Findings, and Recommendations,” is based on the discussion in Chapters 2 through 5. It describes the factors affecting the management of construction and infrastructure and the capabilities that will be needed to successfully respond to their impacts. Findings and recommendations are presented for policy development and organi-
zation, the Technical Service Center, the research program, outsourcing, asset sustainment, project management, acquisition and contracting, relationships customers and stakeholders, workforce and human resources, and future scenarios.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). 1972. Federal Reclamation and Related Laws Annotated, Volumes I-III. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
USBR. 1989. Federal Reclamation and Related Laws Annotated, Volume IV, Supplement I. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
USBR. 1993. Blueprint for Reform. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior.
USBR. 2001. Federal Reclamation and Related Laws Annotated, Volume V, Supplement II. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
USBR. 2005. “Bureau of Reclamation—about us.” Available at http://www.usbr.gov/main/about/. Accessed July 29, 2005.
U.S. Congress. 1902. Reclamation Act/Newlands Act of 1902, P.L. 161, 57th Cong. 1st Sess., CH. 1093, June 17, 1902.