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U.S. House passes bill that rewrites California water law

Its prospects are “dim” in the Senate.

Its supporters are “dim” in the House. :-)

And what about “States’ Rights…?” :-)

Yes, California is STILL very much about water.

Wednesday, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed in a mostly party line vote of 246-175, legislation that rewrites 20 years of water law in California, “…wiping out environmental protections and dropping reforms of federal irrigation policy that have long irritated agribusiness in the Central Valley.” “It essentially says farmers will get theirs and nothing for anybody else,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California). Despite the odds, House Republicans brought the bill to the floor to emphasize differences between the parties in an election year. Republicans contend that environmental regulations are killing jobs.

I contend that House Republicans are killing the environment (or trying to). (Pssssst… no environment, no jobs! I hope that they don’t let these people use sharp objects. Actually, it is the Republican landowners and agribusinesspeople who are ACTUALLY killing the jobs, but being “thinking-judging” types, they find it difficult to accept responsibilities for their own actions.)

So… why don’t these maroons in the House do something useful with their time and our money? :-)

“The bill, called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act (PDF; full text), kills a settlement that has launched one of the most ambitious river restoration projects in the West: the rewatering of a dried-up stretch of the San Joaquin River to revive salmon runs. It guts a 20-year-old federal law that set aside a large portion of federal irrigation supplies in California for environmental purposes and toughened the terms of federal irrigation contracts.

The legislation also rolls back fish protections in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to those stemming from a 1994 agreement between the state and federal government and it preempts California water law.”

Part of the conflict between the agricultural and environmental groups SEEMS to be, how far to “turn back time.” The supporters of the legislation want to turn back time to 1994; the environmental groups want to turn back time further, to when the region was a thriving ecosystem and more ecologically balanced. It personally makes me want to send some agribusiness folks to biology classes.

“Part of what it tries to do is turn back time,” said UC Berkeley law professor Holly Doremus. “It’s a remarkable overreach. It tries to give the irrigators everything. They threw all of the wish list in here.”

Supporters of the legislation listed by Representative Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, national farm groups, and interests from the Central Valley, including such agricultural forces as the Harris Ranch and Westlands Water District. Nunes also said, “The senators don’t understand that they’re going to put tens of thousands of people out of work.”

I can only think of the MILLIONS that largely Republican businesspeople, especially financial (but also some Democratic businesspeople of the “top 1%”) have put out of work (and sometimes, their HOMES) in California and across the nation in ALL job sectors in recent years.

Opponents warned that if Congress overrides state water law in California, it can do the same thing elsewhere. “What happens in California won’t stay in California,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek). “This bill, if it ever becomes law, will ignite California’s next water war and the fights will spread across the West.”

The Western States Water Council, which has 18 member states, opposed the measure. California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris wrote a letter to lawmakers saying the bill would impose unprecedented federal constraints on the state’s ability to manage its natural resources and “abrogate long-standing provisions of California law designed to protect” them.

-Bill at

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