House Passes California Water Bill

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Rep. David Valadao’s (R-CA) Gaining Responsibility on Water Act. The legislation is co-sponsored by 14 members of the California Delegation, primarily Republicans. The intended purpose of the legislation is to allow for more water conveyance while protecting the water rights of users, as well.

Additionally, the legislation reforms the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act. Valadao’s legislation would reduce the cost of water delivery contracts and would give users more authority over how restoration funds are spent. The bill purports to expand on a compromise reached between Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) during last year’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act discussion. The compromise directed more water to farms by tweaking the way rules meant to protect endangered fish are interpreted when operating the State’s waterways.

Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) oppose the legislation. The two senators released a joint statement criticizing the elimination of the existing biological opinions required by the Endangered Species Act and the prevention of California from using new scientific data to manage the state’s water supply. Feinstein and Harris committed to defeating the legislation if it gets the Senate Calendar.

While its future in the Senate is uncertain, its passage in the House is a strong indicator that a Congress is still committed to California’s water.

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