House passes HR 2898, Western Water and American Food Security Act; Legislators and organizations react

McClatchy DC News is reporting that the House of Representatives passed HR 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 passed on a 245 to 176 vote; the bill moves next to the Senate:

“A Republican-drafted California water bill approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday now faces a serious test in the Senate and beyond.

Loaded with provisions sought by GOP lawmakers and San Joaquin Valley farmers, the 170-page package won approval on a 245-176 vote following roughly two hours of sometimes contentious and often familiar debate.

“This is something we take very seriously,” said Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., the bill’s lead author. “We’re helping deliver real water to the Valley.” … ”

Read more from McClatchy DC here: California drought bill roils Capitol Hill waters

Reactions …

No surprise, the legislation is generating remarks from legislators and organizations.  Here is what they have to say, listed in alphabetical order, with more added to this post as they come in:

From Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee:

Rob Bishop“In the midst of the drought crisis in California and the West, H.R. 2898 will liberate Americans from the prison of outdated water laws and radical environmental regulations that have exacerbated the drought and choked the economy. This imperative legislation will restore water to communities across California and the West and stabilize food prices for Americans across the country. Most importantly, it restores people as our unmistakable, rightful first priority in the nation’s water policies,” Chairman Bishop stated. “I commend Rep. David Valadao for his leadership on H.R. 2898, and thank my California colleagues and members of the Committee, for their work on a strong bill that will alleviate manmade drought effects and return prosperity to the West.”

From the California Water Alliance:

Cal Water Alliance“The administration and its allies don’t understand that the West’s water problems are bigger than this cyclical regional drought or their desires to serve environmental special interest groups that reap profits and political power from suffering people and a faltering environment,” said California Water Alliance executive director Aubrey Bettencourt.

“Our water crisis has been building for 35 years,” she continued. “It’s bigger than California, it’s more severe than most of the country realizes, and it’s compounded by obstruction, lawsuits, and campaigns that tell lies to this country’s citizens.”

“Rep. Valadao and his bill will provide help for the entire nation, not just the West,” Bettencourt observed.

California has been in severe drought for four years. The greater Southwest and Intermountain West have suffered drought for 14 years. Texas and the southern Great Plains only emerged from extreme drought within the last month.

“HR 2898 is a good start to correcting what’s wrong with the West’s water,” Bettencourt said. “This bill is an opportunity; a vehicle to construct solutions to long-standing national needs. Other representatives and senators with strong proposals to help prepare for our next droughts and floods should align behind the bill and offer constructive amendments in the Senate. Bringing the two sides together will help show the administration the value of passing this milestone legislation.”

“Threats of a veto do nothing for food producers with dying apple orchards in Washington,” Bettencourt said. “They do nothing for those who would start preparing for future droughts and floods by building new surface water storage in Oregon, Wyoming, or my state of California. It provides no relief for Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada or New Mexico as they watch their Colorado River reservoirs dwindle and decline. It doesn’t stop future wildfires that will rage from the Southwest to Alaska.”

Bettencourt says, “In fact, threats of a veto only obstruct and deter good members of Congress on both sides of the aisle trying to actually serve the country’s higher needs. It blocks long-needed solutions and derails real solutions to the West’s water woes.”

Valadao’s bill is a first step to get the nation’s priorities right when it comes to food and water security. It focuses on infrastructure and on balancing the needs of people and the needs of the environment.

“Both are equally important. We have to start making real progress or both our people and the environment will suffer lasting harm,” Bettencourt pointed out.

“The administration’s war on improving Western water supplies and focusing on urban water conservation has starved California’s wildlife refuges along the Pacific Flyway of water for migratory waterfowl in a vain attempt to keep Delta smelt and tidal species viable. Despite continued assurances from those with vested interests, both the smelt and the waterfowl numbers are in free fall.”

Bettencourt continued, “Last year, there wasn’t enough water cold enough to keep our spawning Chinook salmon, their eggs, and young fry alive. They’ve brought several species to near extinction by their meaningless insistence on continued flushing of the state’s human water supply into the Pacific even though all the evidence shows that their prescription isn’t working.”

“It’s time to start getting this right,” she concluded. “David Valadao’s HR 2898 has widespread national and Western support. This bill is the nation’s – and California’s – best shot this term.”

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

CFBF logoPassage of water legislation in the House of Representatives today provides an important building block for improving the California water system, according to the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. CFBF President Paul Wenger thanked California representatives who carried the Western Water and American Food Security Act by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and encouraged the Senate to act soon.

“We appreciate the efforts of Rep. Valadao, the bill’s original cosponsors and the House leadership to bring the legislation to this point. Passage of the House bill represents an important step to addressing long-standing problems that limit the flexibility of the California water system.” Wenger said. “We also recognize that more steps will be needed to attain that goal.”

Wenger noted that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has taken a longstanding interest in improving the water system.

“We look forward to seeing a proposal from the Senate in the near future, and to having Sen. Feinstein work with House members from California to craft a bill that can win widespread support,” he said.

Drought now affects each Californian personally, Wenger said, as farmers and city residents alike cope with water shortages.

“We know Congress can’t make it rain, but we also know that Congress can help our state do better at managing and storing the rain and snow that does fall,” he said. “We hope passage of the House bill moves us closer to creating a water system that better serves its people and its environment.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 57,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.

From Representative Jim Costa:

US_Rep._Jim_Costa_(D-CA)“Today’s passage of the Western Water and American Food Security Act is an important step towards fixing our broken water system and providing relief to the families of the drought-ravaged San Joaquin Valley and California. This legislation was developed in an inclusive approach that utilizes the most modern science to increase the flexibility of water delivery in the short-term and provide a streamlined process to increase water storage in the long-term, thereby bringing desperately needed water to our Valley.  Additionally, with the adoption of my amendment, this bill creates accountability and transparency to current environmental water releases by requiring data collection and reporting of the measured outcomes.

“The Western Water and American Food Security Act provides short and long-term solutions to our water crisis, and I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis with my colleagues in the Senate to pass meaningful, comprehensive drought legislation.”

From Representative Jeff Denham:

Jeff_Denham_Official_Portrait“Some will say they’re not voting for this bill because of the challenges they perceive that are in it. The biggest problem with this bill is it doesn’t do enough.

“We need millions of new acre feet of water. We should be looking at the next generation. I want my kids to farm, but without new water supplies, we continue to see farmers go out of business. That speaks to the security of our food supply as a country.

“You can’t farm with a zero allocation of water, which is why you see the high unemployment, which is why you see farm workers that are going to be homeless, without jobs this year. Which is why you’ll see more farms go out of business.

“This is a battle that’s gone on for quite some time. This bill deals with some very small issues that will be very significant this year.

“We need to have the full debate about what our country is going to do with its water supplies and the greater storage that we’re going to need in the future.

“But dealing with some common-sense issues like predator fish – why would we try to save fish only to allow them to be eaten by a non-native fish that eats 98 percent of the fish that we’re spending millions of dollars to provide? That is not an environmental solution any more than trucking fish around a river because the river can’t handle the fish.

“If you want to be an extremist, be an extremist dealing with a common-sense piece of solution here.

“This bill moves us in the right direction. This will help farms stay in business. This will allow us to continue to have jobs in the Central Valley and a vibrant food supply for the rest of the country. This bill is right for passing this morning and we would ask for a bipartisan vote.”

From Ann Hayden at the Environmental Defense Fund:

EDF_tm_CMYK“A bill to supposedly address California’s devastating drought, authored by Rep. David Valadao, cleared the House Natural Resources Committee last week and could come up for a full vote as early as this week.

Unfortunately, this proposal – dubiously named the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 – is yet another attempt to move more water through California’s vast Central Valley Project at a time when we can least afford it and at the expense of many water users.

Among other problems, the bill would permanently undermine science-based protections and regulatory assurances for at-risk species and ecosystems that are essential in providing reliable food, safe drinking water, and jobs to millions of Americans.

The proposed tradeoffs here are nothing new. Similar bills – H.R. 3964 and 5781 in 2014, both opposed by the White House and the State of California – also pitted fish against farms.

It’s time we move away from finger pointing and start finding collaborative solutions to the drought that increase the resiliency of our freshwater ecosystems while supporting agricultural communities in California’s Central Valley.”

From Senator Dianne Feinstein:

Dianne_Feinstein,_official_Senate_photo_2“The House today passed a drought bill that included some useful short-term provisions as well as some provisions that would violate environmental law. While I cannot support the bill as passed, I remain hopeful we can come to an agreement that can advance through both chambers.

“House Republicans are right that we need to increase the flexibility of the state’s water delivery infrastructure. We need to facilitate water transfers and maximize water pumping without violating environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act or biological opinions, and we must do this using updated science and real-time monitoring. Provisions to accomplish this were in the bill the Senate unanimously passed last year, and I plan to include them again this year with added environmental protections.

“I also believe we must look closely at ways to support water recycling, storage, desalination and groundwater replenishment projects. There are already 15 ocean desalination projects and 65 water recycling projects being considered throughout California. These types of projects—as well as building or increasing reservoir capacity—must be a part of any long-term solution.

“To get a bill through the Senate and the House we’ll need to include provisions that benefit the entire West and help support the development of alternative water infrastructure. If the climate continues to warm, as I believe it will, these alternatives will be key.”

From Representative John Garamendi:

garamendi“At its core, this bill is part of a partisan campaign that sounds like a broken record. Yet again, the House brings up legislation that tries to steal Northern California water and send it to part of the Western San Joaquin Valley. H.R. 2898 would imperil jobs in fishing, small businesses in the tourism sector, and agriculture in the Delta region while devastating the environment.

“The bill dictates pumping requirements, recklessly ignoring scientific data and the need for flexibility to meet current conditions. H.R. 2898 is radical legislation that overrides state and federal environmental and water law.

“However, the bill does contain some provisions that would benefit our entire state, including the creation of new water storage. I urge my colleagues to cross the partisan and regional divide. Let’s work with all parties to find solutions that work for all Californians. We can do this – as we have with the water bond, which has support across parties and across the state. Let’s build on that success. The Governor’s California Water Action Plan and my Water Plan for All of California offer us a way forward. We can also look to Congressman Huffman’s Drought Relief and Resilience Act, which I coauthored. Our state and our region desperately need us to step up to the plate.”

From Representative Jared Huffman:

Jared_Huffman,_Official_portrait,_113th_Congress“We’re back today to consider yet another bill that harms West Coast fisheries and tribal interests, another bill that undermines state law, another bill that micromanages the most complex water system in the world in a way that benefits a select few at the expense of many others across the state of California—another bill that is going nowhere,” Huffman said. “If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would just give up on the idea of ramming the same divisive ideas through Congress every few months, we too, might be able to make some progress on solving water problems.”

Last month, Huffman introduced comprehensive legislation to respond to the worst drought in California state history, after first unveiling the draft legislation to the public and asking Californians to share comments and ideas to incorporate in the bill. Huffman’s bill, the Drought Relief and Resilience Act, reflects the feedback of nearly 1,000 Californians from San Diego to Crescent City, Fresno to San Francisco, as well as farmers, environmentalists, fishermen, urban and rural Californians, and water managers throughout the country.

Huffman and his Democratic colleagues offered more than 20 amendments to the Republican drought bill in an effort to improve the bill and ensure that it does not hurt his Northern California constituents or other stakeholders throughout the state. However, all but four Democratic amendments were quickly rejected by the Republican Majority without even a vote.

From Representative Doug La Malfa:

Doug LaMalfa“We’ve acted on a bipartisan bill to send more water to Western homes and farms this year, protect state water laws, improve protection of endangered species, and plan for the future by advancing new water storage infrastructure,” said Rep. LaMalfa. “Even my Northern California district, which is home to the state’s largest reservoirs and shares water with communities across the state, is facing mandatory water rationing and fallowed fields. We cannot simply continue to stand by and watch as more and more families, farmers, and small businesses suffer due to inaction from Washington.”

“I’ve worked hard to ensure that this bill includes North State priorities, like moving Sites Reservoir forward, and I’m pleased that we’ve passed a bill that improves water access to all Californians,” LaMalfa added. “While opponents claim that this bill rewrites the Endangered Species Act, they can’t show where the bill does so. That’s because, even though I’d like to amend the ESA, this bill doesn’t. It actually improves ESA protections by requiring improved population monitoring and invasive species reduction, components that should be universally supported. It’s time for the Senate to work with us to send this responsible and critically necessary measure to the President’s desk.”

From Representative Jerry McNerney:

McNerney Official Photo_0Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) today took steps to eradicate water hyacinth, an invasive aquatic species taking over Delta waterways, after the House unanimously passed his amendment to H.R. 2898.

The amendment offered by Rep. McNerney would include water hyacinth in a pilot project included in H.R. 2898 to implement the invasive species control program. …

While the amendment did pass, Rep. McNerney did not vote to support the overall H.R. 2898 legislation because its solutions fail to address California’s drought, while causing serious ecological and economic damage to the Delta region.

“While I was glad to see my water hyacinth amendment pass the House, I still could not support this Republican bill because it does nothing to solve California’s historic drought crisis.  This bill would only damage a fragile ecosystem and hurt the local Delta economy,” said Rep. McNerney. “California is known for our technological innovation and we should be pursuing bold, forward-thinking solutions that create new water and don’t pit economies or regions of California against each other. We should be addressing water efficiency, storage, reuse and recycling, water management, innovative water projects, and a long-term approach to water shortages. I am working with my colleagues to that end, but I cannot support any legislation that doesn’t move us in that direction.”

From Doug Obegi at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

nrdc-logo“From Sacramento to Washington, there are many constructive proposals designed to ease the effects of the devastating California drought and better prepare for the next one. But the bill written by Rep. David Valadao (R-Ca.) is not among them.

“This legislation is a special-interest wish-list for agribusinesses that would gut protections for salmon and other endangered species, preempt state laws that protect fish and wildlife, and overturn the court-approved settlement to restore the San Joaquin River. It also threatens the health of California’s Bay-Delta estuary, the largest on the North American west coast – and the thousands of fishing jobs that depend on the estuary’s health. No wonder that commercial and sports fishing industries, conservation groups and the White House oppose it. So should the Senate. Instead, we must focus on genuine solutions – starting with a recognition that it’s the drought – not state or federal environmental laws – that is the overwhelming cause of lower water supplies in California.”

From Representative Mike Thompson:

mike thompson“Mister Speaker, he’s absolutely correct. If that fresh water doesn’t run through and run out to the ocean, the salt water runs back in. I have two major cities in my district that rely on that for a source of water. If this bill were to pass, their water supply is in jeopardy. You can’t drink salt water. It just doesn’t work.

“California is in the middle of a very extreme drought.

“It’s not due to a lack of pumping. It’s not because of our state’s water regulations. And it’s not because we’re putting fish ahead of farms and people.

“It’s because there is no rain and there’s no snow.

“No bill can make it rain. But this bill makes a bad situation even worse.

“It’s wrong for California. It won’t stop the drought. It won’t make it rain. But it will kill jobs. And it will ruin drinking water for millions of Californians.

“The State of California won’t support this bill because ignores 20 years of established science and undermines our extensive efforts to implement equal measures to address long-standing water shortages.

“We’ve been down this road before in California. We ignored science and we diverted water out of the Klamath River and nearly 80,000 spawning salmon died. Communities were devastated. And livelihoods were lost.

“This bill also sets a dangerous precedent for every other state in our country.

“California has long-standing water management rules. This bill overrides the very system of water regulations that Californians themselves devised to govern our state’s water supply.

“It tells local resource managers and water districts how to administer their water supply.

“If we pass this bill, we’re telling every state in America that we’re okay with the federal government undermining local experts and state laws from coast to coast.

“If that weren’t enough, this bill also undercuts longstanding environmental laws.

“The legislation we’re debating today redefines the standard by which the Endangered Species Act is applied. This will weaken the law, increase the risk of species extinction and lead to countless lawsuits and costly litigation. It’s as if the majority is holding wildlife responsible for our lack of rain.

“You will hear the other side talk about a little fish, the Delta Smelt – and how we’re protecting fish at the expense of people. The truth I, as the gentleman from California mentioned, that protection of the smelt hasn’t prevented one drop of water from being pumped south since 2013.

“We haven’t pumped more water south because there simply isn’t enough water. We’re in a drought.

“And I am not insensitive to the supply and demand reality of California’s water. I understand the concerns of the Central Valley farmers. I’m a farmer myself. But if my well runs dry, the solution isn’t to steal the water from my neighbors.

“We need real solutions that are based on science and that work for everyone.

“This bill is not the solution. It’s bad for California, bad for other states, and bad for our environment.”

From Representative David Valadao:

valadao“I am proud that my colleagues in the House understand the dire situation Californians are facing and in response, have passed this critical legislation.” Rep. Valadao continued, “I look forward to working with the Senate until a solution is reached and can only pray that President Obama will reconsider his decision to veto this bill that will provide hundreds of thousands of Americans will the water they so desperately need.”

Original cosponsors of Congressman Valadao’s legislation include Reps. Ken Calvert (CA-42), Paul Cook (CA-08), Jim Costa (CA-16), Jeff Denham (CA-10), Duncan Hunter (CA-50), Darrell E. Issa (CA-49), Stephen Knight (CA-25), Dough LaMalfa (CA-01), Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Devin Nunes (CA-22), Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), Edward R. Royce (CA-39), Mimi Walters (CA-45), Mark E. Amodei (NV-02), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Cresent Hardy (NV-04), David P. Joyce (OH-14), Cynthia M. Lummis (WY-AL), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Michael K. Simpson (ID-02), Chris Stewart (UT-02), Scott Tipton (CO-03), and Ryan K. Zinke (MT-AL).

The full text of H.R. 2898 can be found here and a summary of the legislation of the bill can be found here.

From Western Growers Association:

Western_Growers LogoStatement by Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif commending passage of the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 by the U.S. House of Representatives today:

“We want to thank Rep. David Valadao for his leadership in introducing and helping secure passage of the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 in the House of Representatives. We also want to express our appreciation to Rep. Jim Costa and the other 13 California co-sponsors of the legislation, and to all the members who voted today to bring modest relief to millions of Americans suffering from the combination of drought and unbalanced regulatory policies governing water.

The focus now shifts to the Senate. We are encouraged by recent statements from Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski indicating that she will continue working with her colleagues in Congress ‘to advance legislation that ensures that federal actions mitigate the impacts of drought,’ as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein’s commitment today to working with members across the aisle to reach ‘an agreement that can advance through both chambers.’

With every day that passes, our ability to stem the social, economic, and environmental harm caused by the drought and unbalanced policies diminishes. It is time for western senators to engage on behalf of their states and to build support among all of their colleagues in the Senate. This must be done with a sense of urgency as too much time has been lost.”

From Westlands Water District:

Westlands-Water-DistrictToday’s passage of H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, is a positive step in the enactment of legislation that will bring common sense to supply water and protect listed species. It is welcomed news for Westlands Water District and the entire state.

H.R. 2898 is a product of the efforts of Members of the House and Senate, and it demonstrates that it is possible to advance legislation that can balance the needs of people and the environment. It has been observed by many Members of Congress that government cannot make it rain, but it can ensure that any future rainfall will benefit the interests that need it most–our cities, communities, schools, farms, farm workers, as well as the environment.

Congressman David Valadao is deserving of special thanks for his leadership and direction in introducing this critical piece of legislation. But the passage of this legislation by the House of Representatives was the result of many Members and their staff. Indeed, the entire Central Valley delegation worked together on this common sense legislation. Through the dedicated leadership of Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes, Jim Costa, Jeff Denham, Tom McClintock, Doug LaMalfa, and Ken Calvert, a solution is within reach to provide relief from the catastrophic effects of chronic water supply shortages that has wreaked havoc on the State of California. In addition, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop’s continued support of this issue along with Speaker John Boehner’s leadership, and years of attention to this matter, are greatly appreciated.

All too often the hours of work put forth by the Congressional staff goes unnoticed. Westlands would like to acknowledge the effort of both the staff at the House Resources Committee and the staff in the personal offices. To be certain, today’s votes would not have been possible without the bipartisan and bicameral cooperation of the staff.

Westlands is encouraged by Senator Dianne Feinstein’s comments made after the passage of the bill. We are hopeful she and members of the Senate will continue their work toward the enactment of meaningful legislation this year that will provide a reasonable balance between operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project to supply water and effective measures to protect at-risk species.

With agricultural production stunted and water for municipal and industrial use severely cut back, Westlands is eager to work with Members of Congress in both Houses of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, to restore the water supply for all of California’s interests.


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One Response

  1. jack pratt

    With all the money made by farmers and ranchers over the last 30 years why do taxpayers have to bail them out because of their poor planning and over use of common resources.


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