Washington D.C. – Today, the San Joaquin Valley’s Republican Congressional delegation unveiled legislation to restore the flow of water to beleaguered communities in the world’s most productive and highly valued agricultural region.
The bill, titled the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, is a comprehensive regional solution to government-imposed water shortages, according to a news release. It places into statute the 1994 agreement known as the Bay-Delta Accord, which received bipartisan support and praise. That agreement promised to end regulatory uncertainty and assured a reliable supply of water for communities, farms and the environment.
“The Republican controlled House is delivering on its commitment to the people of the San Joaquin Valley. We listened to the people, and we have put forward a plan. Now it is time for the Senate to do the same,” said Rep. Devin Nunes said in the news release.
“It is unacceptable that California’s man-made drought is taking away water our communities need to grow crops and create local jobs," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy in the news release. "This landmark legislation would get water flowing again in the Central Valley by knocking down onerous and unfounded government regulations that can leave our farmers high and dry. The bottom line is that without water, our local farmers and ranchers will continue to struggle. This bill ensures the government is not turning off the faucet on jobs and families in our communities.”
“For too long, San Joaquin Valley farmers and ranchers have been unable to fully utilize their agricultural resources due to the unpredictable and unreliable supply of water,” said Rep. Jeff Denham. “We can no longer afford to operate under outdated and unworkable policies that have hindered California’s farms and economy for more than a decade. At a time when the Valley suffers from double-digit unemployment rates, California farmers need a reliable water supply more than ever in order to create jobs and grow our economy.”
The news release said San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act restores the efficient operation of the region’s water infrastructure in order to maximize benefits to all water users. Key provisions include:
Bay-Delta Accord: The bill establishes the historic bipartisan Bay-Delta Accord as federal law and will guarantee that water is available to farms, communities, and the environment.
Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) Reforms: The bill focuses resources on the protection of native species, such as Steelhead, Sturgeon and Salmon. It ends the waste of water resources and establishes long overdue transparency and accountability measures to protect taxpayers.
San Joaquin River Settlement Repeal and Replace communities and farms. As a result, American taxpayers are expected save close to $1 billion.
Creates Jobs and Economic Growth: The end of regulatory uncertainty and the availability of reliable water supplies are expected to create 25,000 - 30,000 jobs in the region.
Ends Dominance of Special Interests and Lawsuits: To protect Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) contractors, the Act ends the dominance of special interests and legal proceedings in the management of the region’s water supply so long as the CVP and SWP are operated consistent with the Bay Delta Accord. Furthermore, the Act ensures that neither the Federal nor state government can restrict water supplies below the levels included in the Bay-Delta Accord.
Today’s bill introduction follows extensive local outreach, including a public hearing in Fresno by the House Natural Resources Committee. Congressman Nunes transmitted a copy of the legislation to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is credited with facilitating the Bay-Delta Accord, requesting her support.
Background, according to the news release:
The San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act is based on the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord. That agreement was hailed by the Clinton Administration as a model for the settlement of longstanding competing water interests. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt commended the Accord as “a powerful case study”— one that could ultimately save the Endangered Species Act. (San Francisco Examiner - “Deal Could Save Endangered Species Act”, December 18, 1994)
Sen. Feinstein offered strong support for the Bay-Delta Accord and takes credit for facilitating the agreement—“The Bay-Delta Accord provides a roadmap for meeting the twin objectives of ecosystem restoration and improved water supply,” – Senator Dianne Feinstein. (The CALFED Bay-Delta Authorization Act - A Balanced Law to Improve California’s Environment and Water Supply, May 18, 2005)
Self-described environmentalist and champion of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, Rep. George Miller, also praised the Accord— "(The) agreement marks the first time in the 92-year history of federally supported water development in the western United States that all water interests have embraced a comprehensive and scientifically sound approach to water management and species protection," – Rep. George Miller, former chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee (California Biodiversity News – “Bay-Delta Pact Brings Certainty; Stakeholders Plan Long-Term 'Fix'”, Spring 1995, Volume 2, Number 3)
Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and a variety of competing water interests joined in praising the Bay-Delta Accord. So too did activists from the environmental community— [The accord] "finally secures significant environmental improvements for the Bay-Delta estuary." – John Krautkraemer, Environmental Defense Fund. (Los Angeles Times – “Landmark Accord Reached on Use of Bay-Delta Water”, December 16, 1994)