In a joint effort with the other 11 Californian Republican members of Congress, Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) introduced a new bill in Washington this week that would focus on on streamlining operations, expanding water storage infrastructure, and increasing accountability.
According to the bill, known as the Working to Advance Tangible and Effective Reforms (WATER) for California Act, water conveyance through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, consistent with the Endangered Species Act, would be promoted in the state, as would advancing key surface water infrastructure projects. This would require the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) to be operated consistent with the 2019 regulations, rather than with Biden administration changes that made it more difficult for farmers to get water. Stakeholders in the CVP and SWP would also receive all water they contract and pay for.
The WATER for California Act will also provide eligibility for funding for the Shasta Enlargement Project, which would increase water storage across the state, as well as authorize more surface storage to provide water for those who need it in drought conditions as established by the WIIN Act. Altogether, the proposed act aims to get more water to farmers when needed, expand water storage, upgrade and build more water infrastructure, and make all projects legally airtight by complying with federal and state regulations.
While the bill has been brought up before, it has yet to pass Congress. However, with both a drought still being projected for California, and heavy rains highlighting the need for more reservoirs and water storage to take advantage of downpours, the WATER for California Act was reintroduced this week in Washington. In a statement, Congressman Valadao, the point-Congressman on this bill, highlighted the need for the bill to pass this year.
“The Central Valley has suffered from drought conditions, unfair water allocations, and a gross mismanagement of the water we do have by Sacramento bureaucrats and radical environmentalists for years,” said Valadao this week. “The WATER for California Act will bring more water to the farmers, businesses, and rural communities in the Valley and throughout California doing everything possible to survive these man-made water shortages. It also ensures transparency and holds this administration accountable over their attempts to reverse the 2019 Biological Opinions, which has caused Valley farmers great uncertainty about the future of their water supply. The storms impacting our state right now highlight just how important increasing water storage is so that our communities are better prepared for dry years. I promised my constituents that I would fight to secure a reliable and clean supply of water for our communities, and my first bill of the 118th Congress would do just that. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this critical legislation.”
Bill backed by all 12 GOP Congressional members
Other California Congressional GOP members, all who backed the bill, added their own statements as well.
“For over a decade, Congressman Valadao has been a champion in advancing drought and water policies, fighting to ensure that families and agricultural producers in the Central Valley have affordable and reliable access to water,” noted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).” I applaud his tireless efforts, and am proud to join him as a co-sponsor of the WATER for California Act. Now that Republicans are in the majority, we will deliver commonsense solutions out of the House to the residents of Kern, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare Counties and the American people.”
Congresswoman Young Kim (R-CA) also stated that ““Water is essential for the public health and safety of our communities. Unfortunately, burdensome regulations and mismanagement are worsening drought-inflicted water shortages that hurt our workers, families and food supply chain. I’m proud to join my California colleagues to introduce the WATER for California Act to reduce regulatory burdens hindering water access, and I thank Rep. Valadao for his tireless work on this. I’ll do all I can to provide certainty and secure water for Californians.”
While it currently remains unknown how far the bill will get this year, the continuous coverage of California’s water issues are expected to have the bill gain support in the House, including from California Democrats who currently have a storage funding bill live in the Senate. Water experts in California stressed to the Globe on Friday that more funding for storage is needed, no matter which source.
“Right now any funding at all is needed to expand storage and infrastructure,” added Jack Wesley, a water systems consultant for farms and multi-family homes. “Without a doubt it’s needed. WATER for California is the stronger act, especially how it helps farmers as well. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s what California needs right now, and hopefully it will pass as a result.”
The bill is expected to be discussed soon in Congress.
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