Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. R. 23, the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017, by a vote of 230 to 190. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. David Valadao (CA-21), aims at increasing the amount, quality, and reliability of water available to communities in the Central Valley of California. A large portion of the bill focuses on modifying policies regarding the operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project and the implementation of the San Joaquin River Settlement.
Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) was the only Democrat to cosponsor the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017, although he raised concerns regarding specific provisions contained within the legislation. “I support moving this legislation through the House as an important first step for addressing California’s broken water system,” Congressman Costa stated. “However, improvements to this bill need to be made if it is going to provide the long-term solutions we so badly need in the San Joaquin Valley and other parts of California. We must protect the Grasslands Ecological Area, an area that contributes nearly $73,000,000 to Merced County’s economy, and we cannot allow drastic cuts to the Central Valley Project’s Restoration Fund as currently proposed in the bill.”
In addition to cosponsoring the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017, Costa proposed two amendments to strengthen the bill coming out of the House, both of which also passed today. The first amendment authorizes a study for increasing the amount of mountain runoff water captured by Central Valley Project reservoirs, and the second authorizes a study to evaluate the natural groundwater system in California to identify areas with the greatest recharge potential. Rep. Costa explained, “In order to fix California’s water system, we must approach the issue from multiple angles, which includes using more effectively the resources and tools we already have, such as forest management, watershed restoration, increased surface and subsurface storage, and increased groundwater recharge.
Costa continued, “After decades of working to secure water for California’s Central Valley, I can say with certainty that the only way we are going to continue to make progress towards a long-term solution here is by working together – All of us: both parties, both chambers. I stand ready to work with my fellow members of Congress in the House and Senate to improve this bill so we can get a bipartisan solution signed into law.”
Congressman Costa has been working on California water issues since his time in the California State Legislature, where he was first elected in 1978. Costa serves on the Water, Power, and Oceans Subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and he was a key player in getting the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) passed in the House of Representatives in December 2016.
From Congressman John Garamendi:
Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City, CA), who represents the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, spoke on the House floor to oppose H.R. 23, which would override California water law and allow nearly unregulated pumping of water from the Delta, threatening the local economy, water quality, and wildlife. Unfortunately, the bill passed by a 230-190 vote.
Mr. Garamendi’s floor speech against H.R. 23 can be seen here .
“We have legislative amnesia,” said Garamendi. “Just 7 months ago, Senator Feinstein and Majority Leader McCarthy passed the bipartisan WIIN Act, a piece of legislation that actually expands California’s water supplies and uses a science-based approach to increase pumping levels while maintaining critical species protections. It also funds water supply infrastructure improvements. But H.R.23 contains the same radical provisions that have repeatedly died in Congress over the last five years. Why recycle a partisan bill that overrides California water law and allows for nearly unrestricted pumping that risks permanent damage to Delta communities and wildlife?”
“Instead of bringing back zombie legislation over and over again, it’s time to focus on implementing the WIIN Act, which will create new water, build infrastructure, and improve California’s drought resilience.”
From Congressman Devin Nunes:
The House of Representatives today passed a comprehensive water bill, the GROW Act (H.R. 23), that would resolve the perpetual water crisis in the San Joaquin Valley. Introduced by Rep. David Valadao, this legislation is vital for many Valley families and communities that are suffering from the debilitating effects of our water crisis. Although the Valley is still benefitting from our recent big rainfalls, don’t be fooled — since we can’t save nearly as much water as we need due to a lack of storage capacity, the crisis will revisit us in full force in the near future.
The House has already passed numerous water bills that would bring meaningful relief to the Valley, only to see the legislation die in the Senate. Once again, I urge the Senate, and California’s senators in particular, to quickly pass this bill or propose their own solution that would end this government-inflicted disaster and eliminate the Valley’s 2.5 million acre-foot water shortfall. Without that kind of solution, nearly a million acres of land will be forced out of production.
To see my remarks about the water bill on the House floor, click on the picture below:
From Congressman Jerry McNerney:
In response to the House passage of H.R. 23, which would undermine existing environmental protections for the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) issued the following statement:
“Every two years we debate this legislation and every two years it is the same argument. This year, though, an additional conflict has arisen.
“Yes, this is the same bill that would weaken environmental laws that protect our vital resources – specifically the Endangered Species Act, which has long been a target of the Republican Party. It pits Northern and Southern California against each other, harming those in my district and the northern part of the state to benefit a few wealthy farmers in the south. And it does nothing to create any new water.
“However, this time, the person who would be charged with overseeing the implementation of this legislation has a clear conflict of interest. David Bernhardt, who has been nominated as Deputy Secretary of the Interior, previously lobbied for the Westlands Water District and negotiated the controversial deal that ended with the Department of Interior paying out $350 million to the water district. This is the nation’s largest water district and, if Mr. Bernhardt is confirmed and this legislation enacted, he would have the power to pump even more water into the area at the expense of everyone that depends on fresh water from the Delta.
“But, this doesn’t have to continue to be a battle between north and south or Democrat and Republican. There are solutions to solve California’s water sustainability problems, and they don’t have to come at the expense of one region over another. I’ve introduced legislation that would authorize funding for 23 water recycling projects, which would bring more stability to the region’s water supply. Additionally, there are a number of other solutions I hope my California colleagues will join me in exploring, including environmentally sound water storage, early leak detection, conservation and data collection.
“There are forward-thinking solutions to this problem that would benefit California as whole, and I invite my colleagues to work with me on this issue so that we can proactively invest in California’s long-term water stability.”