Natural Resources and Environment:

The Bureau of Reclamation Could Identify More Unneeded Land

RCED-85-25: Published: Apr 12, 1985. Publicly Released: Apr 12, 1985.

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GAO reported on the Bureau of Reclamation's process for identifying unused, underused, and unneeded land.

GAO identified about 1.8 million acres of unneeded land for project purposes. This occurred primarily because the Bureau's annual property reviews did not include detailed reviews of specific parcels of land, and it had not completed reviewing the need for all public domain land under its jurisdiction. Recognizing the need to improve its land management program, the Bureau has been implementing a land-use inventory and automated real property asset management system. This could help the Bureau develop a comprehensive and accurate inventory of land no longer needed for project purposes. GAO noted that, since proceeds from the sale of unneeded land are used to reduce the financial obligations of irrigation districts, three such districts could receive reductions in their repayment obligations of about $39 million if 73,000 acres of unneeded land are sold.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Bureau of Reclamation identified 1,811,696 acres of withdrawn land it no longer needed and submitted requests to BLM to revoke the withdrawals on these lands and restore them to the public domain so that they will be available for use by other federal agencies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, to transfer any unneeded public domain land used or needed by other federal agencies to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for disposition.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the Bureau of Reclamation, any proposed amendments should come from Congress since the intent of Congress was to credit the revenues from the sale of surplus settlement lands to the repayment obligations of the project's three irrigation districts. Because an impasse exists between GAO and the Bureau, GAO is closing the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, to consider whether interests of the federal government that would be advanced by amending the 1943 Columbia Basin Project Act to recover future surplus settlement land sale revenues for the government rather than crediting them to the repayment obligations of the project's three irrigation districts outweigh the interests of the districts. Should it be determined that the government's interests are paramount, legislation should be submitted to Congress specifying that future surplus revenues from settlement land sales shall be credited to the federal government.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is based on another recommendation, and since the Bureau plans to take no further action on that recommendation, it will resume selling settlement land at the Columbia Basin Project and will resume crediting the revenues as has been done in the past. Because an impasse exists between GAO and the Bureau, GAO is closing the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, to refrain from selling settlement land at the Columbia Basin Project until consideration of the proper disposition of future surplus settlement land sale revenues has been completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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