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    Padilla, Feinstein, Levin to Reclamation: Lift Cap on Federal Funding for Desalination Projects

    U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, Dianne Feinstein, and Congressman Mike Levin (all D-Calif.) called on the Bureau of Reclamation to incentivize regional desalination projects by lifting the $30 million per-project cap.

    Lifting the cap would allow the bureau to better utilize the $250 million in the bipartisan infrastructure bill for desalination projects, providing up to 25 percent of the cost for these projects.

    “Congress and the Biden Administration have made historic federal investments in critical infrastructure projects and desalination projects during the past two years,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, federal funding for projects like the broadly supported Doheny Desalination Project have been administratively capped at $30 million. This project funding cap disincentivizes regional cooperation projects that cost more than $120 million by providing a lower federal cost share than the statutory 25 percent rate. We urge you to waive the $30 million per-project cap, which would affirmatively incentivize regional projects, delivering more affordable water at a lower unit cost and providing regional solutions to drought challenges.”

    “Despite our best efforts over many decades to invest in water recycling and conservation efforts, our community in south Orange County, with no robust groundwater basin, is 90 percent dependent on imported water from the Colorado River and the state water project. Because of persistent drought conditions, South Coast Water District is developing innovative and environmentally friendly solutions to address our water supply needs,” said South Coast General Manager Rick Shintaku. “We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Feinstein, Padilla, and Representative Levin in supporting critical federal investment for ocean water desalination projects. They have already helped steer significant federal funding to the Doheny Ocean Desalination Project, which would create a new, reliable, local, and drought-proof water supply that would also provide emergency water supplies should the delivery of imported water be disrupted due to earthquakes or other natural disasters.”

    Full text of the letter is available here and below:

    We write to urge the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to make the greatest possible use of the $250 million that Congress appropriated for desalination projects in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) by waiving BOR’s $30 million per-project cap and allowing projects to receive federal funding up to the full statutory federal cost share of 25 percent of the total project cost. Addressing the devastating effects of climate change, including chronic drought as we have in California, requires innovative technologies and solutions; lifting the $30 million per-project cap would incentivize regional desalination projects.

    Regional cooperation ocean water desalination projects like the Doheny Desalination Project in Dana Point, California are of particular importance to our coastal communities’ ability to reduce drought. This project, which has already received significant federal funding through the BOR’s desalination grant program, will provide a drought-proof and environmentally sustainable source of water for south Orange County, California, which is heavily reliant on imported water. Further, the Doheny Desalination Project is carbon neutral and has other significant environmental advantages such as incorporating subsurface slant well intake technology and salt brine blending. In addition, regionalizing the project will achieve efficiencies of scale, reducing the cost per acre-foot of water generated by 15 percent.

    As you know, Congress and the Biden Administration have made historic federal investments in critical infrastructure projects and desalination projects during the past two years. However, federal funding for projects like the broadly supported Doheny Desalination Project have been administratively capped at $30 million. This project funding cap disincentivizes regional cooperation projects that cost more than $120 million by providing a lower federal cost share than the statutory 25 percent rate. We urge you to waive the $30 million per-project cap, which would affirmatively incentivize regional projects, delivering more affordable water at a lower unit cost and providing regional solutions to drought challenges.

    We appreciate everything you are doing to help with California and the West’s drought, and thank you for your consideration of this request.

    Sincerely,

    Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA)
    Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA)https://www.padilla.senate.gov/
    The proud son of immigrants from Mexico, Senator Alex Padilla, believes in giving everyone a fair shot at the American dream. A progressive problem solver, Alex has dedicated his career to finding solutions to the toughest challenges and fighting for communities that are too often left out and left behind.
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