On December 15, 2015, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the establishment of a Natural Resource Investment Center to spur partnerships with the private sector to develop creative financing opportunities to support economic development goals while advancing Interior’s resource stewardship mission. Announced at a White House Roundtable on Water Innovation, Secretary Jewell said the Center will use market-based tools and public-private collaborations to increase investment in water conservation and water infrastructure. Secretary Jewell said, “As a former CEO, I am confident the private sector can play a meaningful role in working with us to advance the goals of smart development alongside thoughtful conservation.”
The Center will focus on three objectives:
- * Facilitating water exchanges or transfers in the western U.S. to increase investment in water conservation and build up water supply resilience
- * Increasing investment in critical water infrastructure by developing new financing approaches and helping to execute project ideas
- * Fostering private investment and supporting well-structured markets that advance efficient permitting and effective landscape-level conservation for species, habitat and other natural resources.
The Center will harness the expertise of the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Geological Survey.
The Center will model its water efficiency and transfer efforts in part on the successful initiative of the Central Valley Project in California. Investments in supply resilience could include storage, pipelines, canals and efficiency to stretch and better manage scarce water supplies and sustain river ecosystems. The Center will also identify opportunities for private sector investments in important habitat conservation needs on public and private lands.
The Center is part of President Obama’s Build America Investment Initiative and Pay for Success. The former initiative calls on federal agencies to find new ways to increase investment in ports, roads, water and sewer systems, bridges and broadband networks. The latter initiative seeks new strategies to ensure essential governmental services produce intended outcomes.
Written by Rodney T. Smith, Ph.D.