NEWS WORTH NOTING: Congressman Harder secures nearly $14 Million for four Central Valley, regional water projects in House Funding Bill; AG Becerra warns EPA: State oversight is required by law under the Clean Water Act

Harder Secures Nearly $14 Million for Four Central Valley, Regional Water Projects in House Funding Bill

Four Projects Included in Harder’s SAVE Water Resources Act Named in Final Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) successfully fought to include millions of dollars in funding for four Central Valley and Northern California water projects in the final Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. These projects were included in Rep. Harder’s SAVE Water Resources Act, and he worked both publicly and privately to secure funding for these local priorities.

“The Central Valley has been left behind by funding bills for too long but now that’s changing,” said Rep. Harder. “We’re finally getting the support we need to make meaningful investments in our water infrastructure that will grow and secure our water supply.”

“The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill funds critical infrastructure projects throughout the country. I am especially pleased that our bill includes four projects — the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program, the Sites Reservoir, the Los Vaqueros Reservoir, and the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir — that will make a difference in the lives of Californians. These projects would not have been included without the hard work of Representative Harder and I commend him on his steadfast advocacy for his community,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

The projects will combine to provide nearly two million acre-feet of additional storage capacity for the Central Valley and California. Some of these projects were originally authorized in 2016, but this is the first time many were included in a full annual allocation of an appropriations bill.

North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program

Rep. Harder secured over $4.1 million for this project, which provides water for agricultural customers in the Del Puerto Water District (DPWD). The Cities of Turlock and Modesto provide treated recycled water to DPWD, which then distributes that water to local farmers. Water supplies have been impacted by drought and pumping restrictions in the area, making it difficult for farmers to access the water they need. The project provides as much as 30,600 acre-feet of water per year.

“Congressman Harder’s Securing Access for the central Valley and Enhancing (SAVE) Water Resources Act addresses the immediate needs of our region and the water supply challenges faced by the Del Puerto Water District and its Landowners,” said Anthea G. Hansen, General Manager, Del Puerto Water District. “Funding for the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program will help us achieve the final milestone of having the full project operational by the end of this year, providing 25,000 AF of “new” water to our service area.  Funding for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir will help ensure the local agency partners will be able to complete the required feasibility studies in an expedited fashion and be shovel-ready with a reservoir project that could provide up to 85,000 AF of much-needed south-of-Delta storage. We truly appreciate the Congressman’s efforts on our behalf.”

Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir

Del Puerto Water District will receive another $1.5 million for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir. The project will expand off-stream water storage up to 85,000 acre-feet for DPWD, which is based in Patterson, CA, in Rep. Harder’s district.

Sites Reservoir

Six million dollars in new funding will go to the Sites Reservoir project thanks to Rep. Harder’s advocacy. Sites is an innovative and modern off-stream water storage project, helping the Valley better prepare for droughts while preserving the environment. This project will add over 1.8 million acre-feet of storage to the Northern Central Valley, on average, supplying water to over 1 million homes.

Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion

Rep. Harder worked to secure over $2.1 million for this project, which currently stores up to 160,000 acre-feet of water. The expansion will add another 115,000 acre-feet of capacity. The project also provides water to wildlife areas south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The package also includes funding for key programs that invest millions in water projects in California. These programs include funding for rural drinking water, flood control, WaterSMART projects, and water recycling and reuse projects. Funding for these additional important programs total over $200 million.

Attorney General Becerra Warns EPA: State Oversight Is Required by Law Under the Clean Water Act

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as part of a coalition of 16 states and four state environmental agencies, today filed a comment letter warning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that any attempt to roll back state oversight of federal projects under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) would be unlawful. The letter responds to the EPA’s request for recommendations to revise existing guidance and regulations implementing Section 401. The statute preserves states’ authority to protect the quality of the waters within their borders. The EPA’s invitation begins the implementation of President Trump’s April 2019 Executive Order issued to undermine state authority recognized under the CWA.

“This rushed process is yet another reckless attempt by the Trump Administration to weaken Clean Water Act protections for the nation’s waters,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California has an inherent right under the Clean Water Act to evaluate whether projects meet our water quality standards and to impose conditions on federal projects to protect our water resources. We won’t sit by quietly while the Trump Administration tries to rob us of our rights and degrade water quality for our people simply to benefit polluting industries.”

The CWA reflects Congress’ policy to “recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of states to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution” of waters within their borders. Under Section 401 of the CWA, a project requiring federal approval that may result in discharges into the waters of the United States must obtain the state’s certification that the project meets state water quality standards and other appropriate state law requirements. This certification process includes adequately assessing the water quality impacts of proposed federal actions and imposing necessary conditions to remedy these impacts. States argue that there is no need for the proposed revisions to the statute, and that neither President Trump’s Executive Order nor the EPA’s guidance or policies can undermine the CWA.

In the comment letter, the coalition objects to any efforts to abbreviate the time-frame for states to complete the Section 401 water quality certification process and ensure compliance with state water quality standards. Furthermore, the group opposes any attempt to restrict the scope of states’ review and oversight of projects under Section 401. The EPA’s request for recommendations on future revisions to the existing Section 401 guidance and regulations is simply a step towards restricting state oversight. The comment period comes ahead of the agency’s revised guidance, which the Executive Order requires to be published just 17 days after the comment period ends. The speed of this process, and the EPA’s failure to disclose its proposed revisions ahead of the comment period, points to a process with a predetermined outcome. In the letter, the state attorneys general suggest that rather than make unnecessary changes to Section 401 guidance and regulations following a sham process, the EPA should simply continue applying its existing guidance and regulations.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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