Northern California House Members Introduce Bill To Raise A Hurdle To Bay Delta Conservation Plan

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Recently, House Representatives John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton, CA), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento, CA), George Miller (D-Martinez, CA), and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena, CA) introduced H.R. 6484 (pdf), a bill entitled the SAFE Levee Act. The bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide assistance to local interests for levee stability improvements within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and require the Secretary of the Interior to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of water conveyance options being considered in the Bay Delta Conservation Planning process.

Efforts to reinforce Delta levees can draw wide support, as this article on the Coalition to Support Near Term Delta Projects suggests (Sacramento Bee, Oct. 16, 2012, by Matt Weiser).  At the same time, levee reinforcement and expansion has the potential to undermine efforts to halt and reverse the destruction of tidal and floodplain areas within the Delta that provide habitat for multiple, at-risk, native species.  Both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been sued in recent years by parties concerned that their levee and floodplain policies harm at-risk, native species including species listed under the Endangered Species Act.  We reported on the legal actions here and here.

While the sponsors emphasize the provisions of the bill that support levee stability improvements in the Delta, the cost-benefit requirement it would impose with respect to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan water conveyance alternatives is designed to add an additional hurdle to an already complicated regulatory process.  All of the co-sponsors of the bill have spoken out publicly against the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, as this July 25, 2012, press release, entitled "California Representatives Condemn the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, demonstrates.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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