Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1837, a federal water management bill targeting California. The bill would override state law to favor certain powerful water users – specifically agriculture.
The bill still needs to pass the Senate before going to President Obama, and both of California’s Senators have vowed to fight its passage. If it were to pass, it would disregard decades of collaboration between various stakeholders in California.
At risk are:
– efforts to restore the Bay Delta to help prevent a total collapse of the fish and other wildlife populations that rely on it;
– water conservation measures; and
– environmental protections for all Delta and Central Valley rivers.
The vote was highly partisan, with Republicans (ironically) pushing through this bill ignoring state rights in a vote of 246-175. Other states including Colorado, Wyoming, and Oregon stood in opposition to H.R. 1837, recognizing that it would set a precedent allowing Federal law to usurp state control over water.
One of the most outspoken opponents of H.R. 1837 is California Congressman John Garamendi. As President Clinton’s former Deputy Interior Secretary and as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Garamendi is intimately familiar with California water policy. According to the Congressman:
“This legislation turns upside down 150 years of California water law and court decisions, creating an unprecedented theft of 800,000 acre feet of the Delta water by South-of-the-Delta water contractors. All of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watersheds are contained in the state of California. The federal government has shown deference, respecting California water rights and the constitution. This legislation usurps California’s power to determine its own water and economic destiny.”
Next stop: the Senate.