California Republicans succeeded in passing H.R. 3964 (Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act), a measure sponsored by Congressman David Valadao (R-Hanford), largely along party lines with a vote of 229-191. Valadao said, “While Californians are dealing with the brunt of the water shortage, this issue affects the entire country. I am proud the House of Representatives was able to come together to pass this common-sense legislation to provide a long-term solution for families and farmers suffering from this water crisis. It is now up to the senators from California to ensure their chamber acts upon our proposal quickly.”
Rep. Jim Costa was the only Democrat from California who voted for the measure saying, “It’s time for cooler heads to prevail. I hope that we can engender bipartisan support, because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s going to take.” Other California House Democrats called the bill a “water grab,” while The White House threatened to veto it if it got to the president’s desk -- an unlikely event as the bill now goes to the Democrat-controlled Senate. Senators Boxer and Feinstein oppose H.R. 3964 and plan to offer their own legislation.
In a statement released yesterday, Feinstein said, “I intend to introduce legislation soon with Senator Boxer to offer relief for California and other drought-stricken states and to streamline federal projects and operations.”
The House bill would stop the implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act until impacts on downstream users have been identified and mitigated. So far, the Act has cost over $100 million dollars with the promise that the river could be restored to accommodate future salmon runs. It would also revise elements of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992, which reallocated 800,000 acre feet of water from agricultural uses to environmental purposes, and would codify elements of the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord, which reflected flow requirements that were agreed to by the Clinton Administration, former Governor Pete Wilson and several environmental groups. The bill would also state that the flows agreed to in the Accord are in compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It would recognize hatchery-spawned fish as indistinguishable from natural-spawned fish under the ESA; streamline water transfers; authorize construction of two water storage facilities as well as the enlargement of Shasta Dam, although there are no funds appropriated for these projects.
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