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Chesbro, Napolitano denounce HR 1837 water grab

by Dan Bacher

As chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee and a signatory to a letter from the Legislature opposing HR 1837, Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast) on June 2 denounced HR 1837, legislation by Representative Devin Nunes to grab more northern California water.

“This is a water grab that threatens salmon recovery and could devastate commercial and recreational fishing in Northern California," said Chesbro. "I’m very concerned that San Joaquin Valley water interests have their eyes on the Trinity River. We need to keep that water in the river to meet public and tribal needs and to improve fish populations.”

California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird testified before the Water and Power Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee regarding House Resolution 1837, an attempt by Congressman Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, to divert more Northern California water to the San Joaquin Valley.

Rep. Napolitano Pushes Back against Radical Republican Water Bill at Hearing

Rep. Grace F. Napolitano also issued a statement on House Subcommittee on Water and Power's hearing on H.R. 1837, the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act. She said the bill would "usurp California’s water laws, roll back California’s environmental protections, and alter water distribution to favor certain agricultural users."

“This bill would radically change the way we balance water and the environment in California,” said Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, ranking member on the Subcommittee on Water and Power. “New federal rules would override state law, exempting certain agricultural water users from following environmental restrictions or from having to contribute to the health of our natural water sources, as other users do. Creating this special privilege would push the costs of climate change and environmental damage onto all the other water users across the state.

“The new rules would also undercut ongoing negotiations within California, making it difficult or impossible for our state to move forward with necessary improvements for our water supply. The radical changes contained in this bill would ultimately benefit a small group of agricultural users while causing chaos for the rest of California.

“I am also troubled by the exclusionary way this bill is being drafted and pushed forward. This bill’s radical changes would affect all of California’s water users, including fishermen, Delta farmers, urban communities, and many others, none of whom were invited to appear as witnesses today. It is unacceptable to exclude these Californians while making decisions about their water supply in Washington, D.C.”

The Democratic Minority on the Subcommittee has requested an additional hearing to allow for the participation of more stakeholders.

Background on the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act:

• The bill would alter the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which was created in 1992 after years of negotiations between water users from across California. Since that bill’s enactment, agricultural revenues and water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have increased.

• As a federal law, the bill would supersede California’s water rights system and would disrupt or make impossible a number of negotiations Californians are currently involved in to improve their water supply, including the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the 2009 bipartisan water bill passed by the California legislature.

• The bill harms the environment by capping the water contributions that the Central Valley Project makes to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at 1994 levels, ignoring environmental changes in the Delta and additional endangered species that have become threatened in the intervening 17 years. It waives environmental impact studies for water contracts and extends them for 40 years, ensuring that water agreements will not have to adjust to climate change or their impacts on the environment.

• The bill turns California’s water rights system upside-down, overturning decades of legal precedent and sovereignty to give special priority to certain agricultural users on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. These users would also have lower requirements for contributing water for the protection of the California Bay-Delta Ecosystem, creating a privileged flow of water for use or sale.


Letter of opposition from Members of California State Legislature:
“H.R. 1837 undermines judicial agreements, erodes long-standing water law principles, usurps California’s sovereignty, and lays waste to any hope of progress in the Delta.”

Letter of opposition from a broad coalition of fishing groups:
“There are no words strong enough to describe the complete devastation this bill would bring to the Central Valley salmon runs and those who depend on them for their livelihoods, recreation and food sources.”

Letter of opposition from Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar:
“This legislation would undo ongoing broad-based collaborative initiatives that have been underway for many years to solve some of California’s most significant water issues.”