News worth noting, DC edition: Congressman John Garamendi introduces companion bill to Feinstein drought legislation; Legislators and organizations react

Yesterday, Senator Feinstein’s bill was heard in Committee, and Congressman John Garamendi introduced companion legislation in the house.  As of this time of posting, no statement has been issued by Senator Feinstein, but here’s what everybody else had to say:

Congressman John Garamendi Introduces Comprehensive Bill to Address California Drought and Water Infrastructure

Legislation is a companion to a bill recently introduced by California Senator Dianne Feinstein

From Congressman John Garamendi’s office:
garamendiToday, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City, CA), the representative for 200 miles of the Sacramento River located in the 3rd Congressional District of California, introduced legislation that would modernize California’s water management policies and provide short-term and long-term solutions to alleviate California’s ongoing drought. The legislation is specifically designed to align with Proposition 1, the water bond recently passed by California voters. This will ensure that federal, state and local agencies will be able to fully coordinate on the implementation of the projects funded and authorized by the bill.

“This legislation will accomplish three vital tasks,” said Garamendi. “First, it will use the latest available science and real-time monitoring of endangered fish to assure their protection while maximizing water deliveries. The operational directives within the bill remain consistent with the Endangered Species Act and existing biological opinions. Second, it will provide short-term relief to the communities hit hardest by California’s ongoing drought. And third, it will fully fund the long-term infrastructure we need to maximize our efficiency and become more resilient to California’s drier climate.”

The bill already has support from a variety of stakeholders in local government and environmental advocacy. “The bill includes proposals to promote regional water self-sufficiency by helping local agencies develop new water supplies and better manage existing supplies,” said David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association. “In addition to improved water supplies for cities, rural communities and farms, the bill also includes provisions to aid birds along the Pacific flyway and promote the recovery of endangered Sacramento Valley salmon runs.  We encourage Congress to include these measures in any final drought relief legislation.”

Mark Hennelly, Vice-President of Legislative Affairs and Public Advocacy for the California Waterfowl Association, said: “The bill provides real, and much needed, help to California’s national wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas. The bill also provides relief to California’s farmers, without taking water away from migratory waterfowl.”

The language of the bill mirrors that of S. 2533, recently introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Coalition of House Democrats issues statement on Garamendi water legislation

From the Office of Jerry McNerney:

McNerney Official Photo_0House Democrats from California, Oregon, and Washington issued the following joint statement in response to Rep. John Garamendi (CA-03) introducing companion legislation to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s drought bill that was heard in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, Water and Power Subcommittee today. The House members included in this joint statement are: Reps. Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Michael M. Honda (CA-17), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Jim McDermott (WA-07), and Kurt Schrader (OR-05).

“Members from the California, Oregon, and Washington delegations have concerns about any legislative proposals that would harm the water quality and supply of our states, disadvantage our local farmers and fishermen, or violate tribal trust responsibilities. While we are pleased that the Garamendi bill includes language from bills that we have offered, the price our states and ecosystems may pay in exchange for longer-term provisions within the proposed legislation is too high. This legislation’s modification of environmental laws not only sets a troubling precedent, but also pressures federal and state agencies to increase diversions from an increasingly damaged ecosystem that is close to a devastating collapse.

“Furthermore, House Republicans have indicated that they are looking to conference the Senate version of this bill with Representative Valadao’s H.R. 2898 ­­­– a piece of legislation that we overwhelmingly oppose. Any legislation that emerges from a conference would not be acceptable to many of the diverse stakeholders in our home states.

“We understand the immense pressure that severe drought conditions place on water allocations. That is why we have put forth and advocated for policy alternatives that promote greater regional resiliency and more efficient management of our water supply. We remain committed to working together to advance policies that will move us toward a sustainable water future and build the regional self-sufficiency this drought and future droughts require.”

The following are statements from individual House Members and Delegations:

California

“My district contains a majority of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the heart of California’s water system. I remain deeply concerned with any legislation, including H.R. 5247, that tries to dictate California water policy, especially when it will have detrimental effects on our environment by diverting more water away from the families, farmers, and economies of the Delta. This could also set a dangerous precedent for how we manage our water supply for years to come. I’m committed to working with all stakeholders throughout the state and Congress to build drought resiliency and self-sufficiency in regions across the Nation. This can be achieved by making smart investments in innovative and efficient strategies that will create more water and a sustainable water future for us all,” said Congressman McNerney.

Jared_Huffman,_Official_portrait,_113th_Congress“While I appreciate the work of my colleague Congressman John Garamendi, I remain concerned that this legislation continues to micromanage operations in the Bay-Delta to the detriment of fisheries and ecosystems. Sadly, based on the past actions of House Republicans to insert their radical rider into last year’s appropriations bill, I fear this bill too will be hijacked and used to push for more extreme water legislation that will harm California communities and jobs that depend on healthy fisheries,” said Congressman Huffman. “I cannot in good faith cosponsor a bill that will be twisted and distorted in this political process to harm my constituents.  I will continue to work with Congressman Garamendi, Senators Feinstein and Boxer, and the rest of my colleagues to promote new investments in water infrastructure and modernize outdated systems, wherever possible, to find a common ground and real solutions.”

“We cannot Doris Matsuiset the needs of one Californian against another in our efforts to find a solution to the state’s drought crisis,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Sacramento sits at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers, which are directly impacted by Delta operations.  I have concerns that the legislation as proposed will negatively impact our region’s economy, drinking water supply, and ecosystem.  As our discussions continue, I will do everything I can to address California’s immediate and long term water infrastructure needs, while balancing that goal against Northern California’s needs.”

“No part of our mike thompsonstate has been immune to the devastating impacts of the drought. Communities have seen their resources stretched thin and ecosystems have been pushed to the edge,” said Congressman Thompson. “This bill is not the solution. Without appropriations from Congress, local communities will never see the infrastructure investments promised in this proposal. In effect, we will be left with a bill that is dangerous and shortsighted. It will undermine water managers’ ability to balance needs across regions, and jeopardize the long-term stability of the Delta. Now is not the time to bend the rules that protect our state’s water system. Instead, Congress should get serious about effective, long-term solutions to the ongoing drought.”

Oregon

“This bill will have serious implications for the thousands of coastal families whose livelihoods depend on the ocean and waterways of Oregon. We support commonsense solutions to deal with the effects of California’s drought, but not if they come at the expense of Oregon’s fishing industry. Our fisheries and coastal communities cannot afford another setback,” said Oregon Representatives DeFazio, Blumenauer, Bonamici, and Schrader.

ACWA Executive Director Testifies in Support of Federal Drought Legislation

From the Association of California Water Agencies:

acwa_logo.gifAssociation of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Executive Director Timothy Quinn testified at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing today on federal legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The measure, S. 2533, includes both short-term provisions to provide drought relief as well as long-term direction to help prepare Western states for future droughts.

In his testimony before the Water and Power Subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Quinn said the legislation can help Congress move federal water policy in a more balanced direction that conforms with California’s commitment to improving both water supply reliability and ecosystem health.

Following are excerpts from his testimony:

“Despite some improvement this year in hydrologic conditions, California continues to suffer from drought conditions made worse by a broken water delivery system. This is why ACWA supports the drought relief provided by S. 2533.

“Another no less compelling reason is the potential to redefine the relationship between the federal government and California as partners in water management. In California, the core tenet of state water policy is that we will manage this vital resource for the ‘coequal’ goals of improving both water supply reliability and our environment. … In the past quarter century, California water agencies and water users have invested tens of billions of dollars in conservation and local water supply resources to reduce demands for imported water. We have developed mechanisms to allow a voluntary water market to function. We have developed, and continue to develop, local storage projects to shift water deliveries from dry years when conflict between environmental and water supply uses are greatest to wetter periods when those conflicts are significantly reduced. In short, in California, state and local water managers have reinvented how we manage water to try and accommodate the needs of both our economy and environment.

“The accomplishment of the coequal goals in California requires a partnership with the federal agencies that wield considerable power over water management in our state. Frankly, that partnership has not sufficiently developed. Federal regulatory agencies are approaching water management problems the same way they did decades ago. … From ACWA’s perspective, S. 2533 provides a much needed statement from the Congress that both water supply and environmental protection matter.

“ACWA encourages you to quickly pass this legislation to enable a Senate-House conference committee to meet and negotiate a bipartisan bill which can be signed by the President. ACWA is urging our delegation to work together to include provisions from S. 2533, H.R. 2898 and other drought legislation to achieve this important result.”

Farm Bureau urges continued Senate action on drought legislation

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

CFBF logoToday’s U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on Western drought legislation should now lead to prompt markup of a bill for consideration by the full Senate, the California Farm Bureau Federation said. CFBF urged the Senate to maintain momentum on Western drought legislation.

“As another dry summer looms before us, we need the Senate to finalize and pass drought legislation to complement the drought bill already passed by the House of Representatives,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said.

“Californians saw a vivid example of the need for action this past winter,” Wenger said. “Trillions of gallons of water generated by El Niño storms passed through our rivers and out to sea. At least some of that water should have been captured for future human use—and federal drought legislation could help prevent such lost opportunities in future years.”

Wenger said having the Senate bill advance to markup quickly would assure Western residents that Congress will address longstanding issues.

“In an election year, people want their representatives to act on matters that affect their livelihoods and the environment around them,” he said. “Drought has plagued California, and human action has made matters worse by unnecessarily reducing water supplies. It’s time for the Senate to send a drought bill to a conference committee, and for Congress to produce commonsense legislation that helps ease the impact of water shortages in California and the West.”

Rep. Costa Supports Effort to Pass California Water Legislation

From Congressman Jim Costa’s office:

US_Rep._Jim_Costa_(D-CA)Today, Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement in response to Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3) introducing the California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act (H.R. 5247), House companion legislation to Senator Feinstein’s bill, S.2533.

“In order to get a California water bill passed and signed into law, our nation’s Senators must understand that there is support for Senator Dianne Feinstein’s legislation amongst California Representatives in the House, and that is why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 5247,” said Rep. Costa.  “There is room for improvement in Senator Feinstein’s legislation, especially provisions related to short-term fixes that would provide more accountability in how California’s water system is operated year to year, but if Congress is going to be able to provide some relief to the people of California, we must continue moving forward, and the passage of S.2533 would undoubtedly be an important step in the right direction.  Once S.2533 is passed out of the Senate, the House and Senate will have the opportunity to go to conference to resolve differences in the legislation.”

Costa continued saying, “I have consistently fought to bring more water to our San Joaquin Valley and that includes supporting legislation like the California water bill that the House passed last year. It is my hope that my colleagues will put aside their political differences and join me in supporting the California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act, because fixing California’s water system is dependent upon it.”

 

The California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act would provide $1.3 billion in funding and support for desalination, recycling efforts, and water storage projects, like Temperance Flat and the expansion of San Luis Reservoir.  The bill also would direct state and federal agencies to maximize water supplies during the short-term while not violating environmental laws that protect threatened and endangered species. Additionally, the legislation includes language that would provide for more scientifically managed reservoir operations and would allow for the raise of the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam in Merced County. The legislation would also complement the ongoing efforts made by the recent passage of the California Water Bond.

In addition to cosponsoring H.R. 5247, Rep. Costa joined other Members of the California Congressional delegation in sending a letter expressing support for S.2533 to Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Western Growers urges Senate Committee to act on Western water legislation

From the Western Growers Association:

Western_Growers LogoStatement by Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif encouraging the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to move to mark-up of Western drought legislation:

“We are pleased that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee remains committed to resolving the short- and long-term challenges related to the ongoing drought facing the Western United States. The five Western water bills considered today by the Senate Water and Power Subcommittee represent welcomed progress toward the goal of bringing a final product to the Senate floor.

While we support the California water package introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], we recognize that success is dependent on a bipartisan, regional effort that addresses the needs of diverse stakeholders throughout the West.

In addition to revising the flawed policies restricting water capture and storage in California, we are interested in a legislative solution that provides for the streamlining of new surface water storage facilities, more creative financing of water infrastructure projects and greater flexibility for states and water agencies to manage their water supplies – elements of which are included in several of the bills heard today by the Water and Power Subcommittee.

However, today’s hearings must be viewed by our Senate leaders as an intermediate – not final – step in the process. We encourage the Committee Members to quickly clear a path for these bills so they can be marked up and passed along for consideration by the full Senate. The House has already done their part. It is time to bring them a bill that can be negotiated in conference.

To avoid the distractions of the upcoming presidential election, Senate action on Western drought legislation must happen now. There is no alternative. Either our Senators help ensure the West is resilient enough to withstand future droughts, or they risk condemning the region to another year of increasingly uncertain water supplies with potentially irreparable environmental and human harm.


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