HR 2473 is not targeted to benefit farmers but to provide public goods to constituencies of the Democrat Party: environmentalists, Indian tribes, scientists, fishing interests, rural immigrant enclaves with no water systems
On March 11, 2020, Congressman Josh Harder (D, Modesto) issued a press release that he authored a water storage bill for California – the SAVE Act: Securing Access for the Central Valley and Enhancing Water Resources Act – that passed the House Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 19-11. It is reported that this is the first bill among over 500 bills “sponsored” by Harder, that he has obtained approval for by a House Committee since being elected in 2018.
But despite Harder’s claims, HR 2473 does not contain any real funding for above-ground water storage (i.e., dams) for Central Valley farmers (see “Harder Bill Will Make Massive Investments in Local Storage Projects, Water Infrastructure and Research”) .
Below is the key provision in Harder’s bill that authorizes $100 million in funding for dams and then takes it away in the same sentence:
“Section 2 (b) (1) (A): $100,000,000 shall be expended by the Secretary of the Interior
for new surface or groundwater storage projects providing that –
Translated, what the above means is that water storage projects must meet a “public benefit” test to be eligible for funding; funding cannot reimburse an agricultural water district for any dam built beforehand; and can only be used if a local agricultural water district funds 50 percent of the cost.
What Harder omits in his bill is full disclosure that water storage projects for farmers are considered a “private benefit” that public grants or government general obligation bonds cannot fund. Only revenue bonds financed by farmers themselves can be used for dam construction.
This “snow job” is identical to California’s 2014 Water Bond written by the Democrat Party that was misadvertised as funding dams but actually denied funding for dams that did not serve a public benefit. In the 2014 state Water Bond, the only items that met a “public benefit” test were:
- ecosystem improvements around dams,
- water quality improvement projects for disadvantaged migrant communities,
- flood improvements,
- emergency repairs to water infrastructure, and
- public recreation improvements as part of a dam project (e.g., recreational fishing, etc.).
HR 2473 is not targeted to benefit farmers but to provide public goods to constituencies of the Democrat Party: environmentalists, Indian tribes, scientists, fishing interests, rural immigrant enclaves with no water systems (such as Lanare, California) and a bail out of disadvantaged communities that have contaminated drinking water, such as Flint, Michigan.
Highly-Cloned Water Bill
Another aspect of Harder’s HR 2473 that is potentially controversial is that it is a cloned version of another almost identical water bill (HR 1479 – Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act) authored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D, Oregon), Rep. Janice Napolitano (D, Los Angeles) and Rep. John Katko (R, West New York state) in 2019. Harder claims he is the author of the bill but DeFazio, Napolitano and Katko claimed the same a year earlier with their similar HR 1479. The same “public benefit” test was also included in HR 1479.
Apparently, the same or a similar bill is used by various congresspersons under different numbers and titles to advertise funding for water storage or water quality for disadvantaged communities, etc.
Harder ousted incumbent Republican Jeff Denham in the 2018 election to represent California’s 10th Congressional District serving the northern San Joaquin Valley. He is a native of the Central Valley and whose family were peach growers. Peaches are a crop that consume a “tremendous” amount of water in the summer similar to almonds. Almonds have become a scapegoat for California’s recent-past drought but peaches remain popular, albeit do not receive similar media attention.
Harder has college degrees from Stanford and Harvard Universities and previously worked as a venture capitalist in New York. Harder is proud that he obtained venture financing for a meal delivery service to low income families, Blue Apron, that has not made a profit since 2017. Blue Apron is an attempt to eliminate the commercial grocery store as a middleman by delivering meal kits directly to families and eliminating food choices. Blue Apron Holdings, Inc., stock is listed at $16.25 per share as of March 18, 2020 down 88 percent from $140.10 on July 30, 2017. Its stock has spiked from $2.28 per share on March 13, 2020 due to the curtailment of restaurants as part of the Corona Virus quarantine.
Congressman Josh Harder and the Democrat Party are going to have to be more forthcoming about their so-called water storage bill HR 2473 if they are truly serious about getting more above-ground water storage for California’s Central Valley farmers.
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