THIS JUST IN … Costa applauds WRDA bill; Huffman slams the effort; Boxer blasts the GOP push; and NRDC says safe drinking water for Flint shouldn’t be at expense of CA jobs or environment

Costa Applauds Introduction of Bill Language to Fix California’s Broken Water System

From the Office of Congressman Jim Costa:

US_Rep._Jim_Costa_(D-CA)Today, Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement after the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) Act was introduced with language to assist in reducing the impacts of California’s drought crisis and to build additional long-term drought resiliency:

“Today, effective and bipartisan language to fix California’s broken water system was introduced as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) Act. I applaud my House and Senate colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, who I have been working with for years negotiating these provisions, which are fair and balanced.

“If this language is enacted into law, California is authorized to receive additional federal resources to improve water infrastructure, including investments in additional storage, increased water recycling, and water desalination. Additionally, there are short-term provisions to improve water system operations, so more water can be made available to Valley communities, farmers, and farm workers.

“California is dealing with a devastating drought and may soon face six years in a row of record breaking dry conditions. The people of California, farmers, and our environment will all benefit if this legislation is enacted.  As I have said time and again, continuing to operate under the same flawed policies and failing to provide funding for desperately needed water infrastructure is never to going to solve our water problems. Finally, something has the possibility of getting done, and all regions of state, especially those that have been most affected by the drought, will see positive impacts if this package is signed into law.

“While I appreciate the hard work that went into introducing this legislation, we are long overdue in getting here. Fixing California’s broken water system has been a political issue that has gone on for far too long. Families in California’s San Joaquin Valley are suffering without water and hundreds of thousands of acres of productive agriculture land have gone fallow. I sincerely hope that my colleagues will move past the hyperbole and look at the facts – this legislation is balanced and will provide benefits for cities, the agriculture industry, and the environment.

“I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to support this legislation and act swiftly, so it can be sent to the President’s desk for signature. Time is of the essence. The drought stricken communities in California, especially those in the San Joaquin Valley, deserve for this legislation to be passed immediately.”

The California drought language includes short- and long-term provisions:

Short-term provisions:

Delta Cross Channel Gates – Federal agencies must open the Delta Cross Channel Gates for as long as possible consistent with the State Water Board’s orders.  This may allow the agencies to open the Gates during the daytime when salmon are often not migrating in significant numbers, which could allow additional water to be pumped without harming fish or water quality.

Turbidity measures – By taking measures to manage turbidity and protect Delta smelt during the first storm-induced flush of sediment out of the Delta each winter, the agencies can both protect the fish and allow for more steady pumping the remainder of the year.

1:1 inflow-to-export ratio, solely for water transfers – Solely for voluntary transfers, sales and exchanges, allows agencies to use a 1:1 “inflow-to-export ratio” for San Joaquin River flows in April and May for the duration of the drought. By stretching water supplies through water transfers, agricultural districts that are short on water can use transfers to make up for reduced deliveries, while that same “block” of water moving through the Delta can help fish and potentially assist in the restoration of the Delta. The agencies can only use the 1:1 ratio for transfers if environmental protections, including the following, are satisfied:

  • There are no adverse effects on endangered species beyond those anticipated by the biological opinions.
  • The transfer water getting the benefit of the 1:1 ratio must be additional flow on top of the regular flow of the river.
  • The environmental effects of the proposed transfer, sale, or exchange are consistent with environmental effects permissible under applicable law.
  • Expediting reviews of transfers and temporary barriers – Expedites review of transfers and temporary barriers in the Delta, which could help move limited water to where it is needed, manage salinity and improve water quality.
  • Extended window for water transfers – Extends the window for transfers by five months, from  April 1 to November 30 (currently July 1 to September 30), if the extended transfers can be done consistent with the biological opinions.
  • Scientifically Supported Implementation of OMR (Old and Middle River) Flow Requirements – Science based on real-time monitoring governs the level of pumping within the ranges allowed by the biological opinions. The bill requires the agencies to explain why pumping at the high end of the smelt biological opinion would cause adverse effects to fish that violate the environmental protection mandate (described below), if they decide to pump at a lower levels.
  • Temporary Operational Flexibility for Storm Events – authorizes the agencies to increase pumping during winter storms, so that excess flows from storms may be captured.
  • Consultation on Coordinated Operations – Provides for increased transparency during consultation on the biological opinions by soliciting input from water districts and those environmental groups that already participate in implementation of the biological opinions.
  • Environmental Protection Mandate – The bill prohibits agencies from taking any action that would cause adverse effects to fish beyond those effects allowable under the biological opinion.

Long-term provisions:

  • $558 million for storage, water recycling and desalination projects.
    • $335 million for water storage projects. – Funding can go to either state-led groundwater or surface storage projects, or to federally owned surface storage projects.
  • $30 million for desalination projects over 5 years.
  • $50 million for competitive grant funding for water recycling, wastewater reuse and reclamation of naturally impaired ground and surface water.
  • Increases WaterSMART funding authorization by $100 million.

Congressman Huffman Slams McCarthy’s Last-Minute Effort to Attach Dangerous Provisions To Infrastructure Bill

From the Office of Congressman Jared Huffman:

Jared_Huffman,_Official_portrait,_113th_CongressCongressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) today slammed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) last-minute attempt to attach a nearly 100 page amendment to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The amendment, first made public today despite months of negotiations on WRDA, would gut science-based environmental and clean water protections to benefit McCarthy’s own district, while threatening jobs across the West Coast’s multi-billion dollar salmon industry.

The news reports that Congressman McCarthy plans to attach a new subtitle to the Water Resources Development Act comes just days after Representative Huffman joined with other lawmakers from California, Oregon, and Washington in a letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, opposing legislative riders that would harm fishing communities across the West Coast.

“There they go again. Today’s attempt by Kevin McCarthy to attach dangerous California water provisions to WRDA is simply the latest effort to pick winners and losers during a drought, overriding science to redirect water into the hands of the most powerful corporate farmers in the world – and it won’t be the end of it,” said Rep. Huffman. “This same last-minute closed-door water grab nearly torpedoed last year’s must-pass spending bill. By insisting on this parochial poison pill, the Majority Leader is apparently willing to risk tanking the WRDA bill– no matter the damage done to the families in Flint, no matter the harm to fishing communities across the West, no matter how many jobs that would be created under WRDA that will have to wait until the McCarthy rider is dealt with. Anyone that participates in this charade should be ashamed. This is a slap in the face to all of us who want to enact good infrastructure policy, who have been working to deliver for the families of Flint, and whose states care about salmon fishing jobs.”

You can read Congressman Huffman’s letter to White House CEQ Managing Director Christy Goldfuss here.

Senator Boxer blasts GOP push for California drought language in water bill

From The Hill:

BoxerOutgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer is slamming a push by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to attach California drought language to a waterways bill, calling the provision a “poison pill.”

Boxer, a California Democrat, said the inclusion of the drought language would jeopardize bipartisan efforts to finalize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which McCarthy said would be posted on Monday.

The underlying legislation authorizes dozens of water-related infrastructure projects around the country and is expected to include emergency funding for the lead-contaminated community of Flint, Mich.

“I was stunned to see comments made by Kevin McCarthy that the outrageous poison pill that he is trying to place on WRDA is ‘a little small agreement’ on California drought,” Boxer said in a statement.  “I will use every tool at my disposal to stop this last minute poison pill rider.”

Click here to read more from The Hill.

NRDC: Safe Drinking Water in Flint Should Not Come at Expense of California’s Jobs or Environment

From the NRDC:

NRDC Logo NewRepresentative Kevin McCarthy, with the agreement of Senator Dianne Feinstein, is trying to insert language today into the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill that would jeopardize funding aimed at helping Flint, Michigan replace its lead-contaminated water system.

The following is a statement by Scott Slesinger, legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“It is absolutely unacceptable to hold Flint funding hostage to this anti-environmental language.  This last minute, backroom deal proposes changes to WRDA that would threaten thousands of fishing jobs on the West Coast and harm water quality.  The people of Flint have waited too long for safe drinking water to be victimized again by this kind of political backroom dealing.”

Senator Feinstein has long advocated for “regular order” – that is, a fair and open legislative process – for California drought legislation, in contrast to this 11th hour process that did not involve the fishing community or other affected stakeholders.  Senator Barbara Boxer and many other Members strongly oppose the Feinstein-McCarthy language.  The bill could be vetoed over these anti-environmental provisions.

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