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Garamendi Introduces Bill to Transfer Orland Project to Local Ownership and Control

April 14, 2021
Press Release
Most significant Reclamation Project Transfer in California History

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA03) introduced the “Orland Project Transfer Act” at the request of the Orland Water Users’ Association, which operates and maintains the project in the northern Sacramento Valley. Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA01) is an original cosponsor of the legislation.

Congressman Garamendi’s bipartisan bill would transfer legal ownership of the Orland Project—encompassing the East Park Reservoir (50,900 acre-feet) in Colusa County, the Stony Gorge Reservoir (50,380 acre-feet) in Glenn County, and approximately 17 miles of irrigation canals—from the federal Bureau of Reclamation to a to-be established local public agency. The Orland Water Users’ Association would be required to first re-incorporate as a local public agency under California state law, such as a water or irrigation district, to assume full legal ownership of the Orland Project under the bill, at no expense to taxpayers.

“Built by the federal government over a century ago, the Orland Project has been operated and maintained locally since 1958 by the Water Users’ Association, which repaid its share of the construction costs in 1989. The Orland Water Users’ Association believes it is now ready to assume legal ownership of the Orland Project, and I am thrilled to work to transfer the project to full local control,” said Garamendi. “This bipartisan bill would also provide new investment to bring the Stony Gorge and East Park Dams up to California’s stringent safety standards and make other improvements at the Orland Project at no cost to taxpayers. I expect the Water Users’ Association to work with the Mayor of Orland to address ongoing public safety concerns presented by the uncovered irrigation canals in the City,” concluded Garamendi. 

The “Orland Project Transfer Act” would provide new dedicated funding to make capital improvements at the Orland Project, at no expense to taxpayers. First, the bill would allow the local public agency (successor to the Orland Water Users’ Assortation) to keep proceeds from sales of “excess” water from the Orland Project to bring the Stony Gorge and East Park Dams up to the California Department of Water Resources’ dam safety standards, which are more stringent than the federal standards Reclamation projects are required to meet. The Bureau of Reclamation will only use available funds to satisfy federal dam safety standards. Second, the bill would provide a newly available funding source to address public safety concerns presented by uncovered irrigation canals in the City of Orland. In 2017, an infant tragically drowned in the Orland Project’s uncovered irrigation canals near a residential development.

Endorsements: Orland Water Users’ Association, Northern California Water Association, Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, City of Orland, Colusa County Board of Supervisors, Glenn County Board of Supervisors, Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District 

Bill text of the “Orland Project Transfer Act” is available here.

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