Republicans pass controversial water bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.
July 12, 2017 9:00pm
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A controversial bill that critics say will strip California of much of its ability to regulate water supplies sailed through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives Wednesday evening.

The vote was 230-190. The bill’s author is Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford. It had 14 co-sponsors, 13 of whom are Republicans. The lone Democrat to support it is Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno. “I support moving this legislation through the House as an important first step for addressing California’s broken water system,” Mr. Costa says in explaining his support and vote. “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.”

Supporters say the hand of the federal government will open the taps to allow the pumping of more water out of the California Delta instead of conserving it to help fish and wildlife in the Delta.

Among those opposed to the legislation is Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, whose district includes much of the Delta.

“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,” Mr. McNerney says.

“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,” Mr. McNerney says. “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.”

Also opposing the bill is Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield. “H.R.23 contains the same radical provisions that have repeatedly died in Congress over the last five years,” Mr. Garamendi says. “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?”

Mr. Valadao’s bill now goes to the Senate. Both California Senators have vowed to try to stop it, but Mr. Valadao says he feels confident that with a Republican majority in the Senate and Donald Trump in the White house that his bill will make it into law.


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