Valley Cities, Counties Urge Congressional Action On Drought Measure
Negotiators from the House and Senate have learned that more than three dozen southern and central San Joaquin Valley counties and cities want California drought legislation that would result in real water supply improvement to the San Joaquin Valley passed and adopted quickly.
Many resolutions and letters have been sent to Congress by local governing boards over the past few months.
Nearly all express concern over Delta water management and effects of the Endangered Species Act as implemented by federal agencies.
Typical is a Shafter City Council resolution, which says that this year’s Zero allocation of Central Valley Project water to the neighboring Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District and all other Friant contractors “is directly tied to failed management by state and federal agencies of the Endangered Species Act, preventing typical water deliveries to the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors and compelling [the] Exchange Contractors to receive San Joaquin River water that normally would have been delivered to East Side water and irrigation districts.”
Shafter’s resolution goes on to say that “a more balanced implementation of the Endangered Species Act in the Delta and a greater focus on environmental water conservation would have resulted in a modest water supply for Friant this year rather than the current Zero allocation.”
Most of the city and county communications to Congress make the same general points. They also point out that absence of surface water supplies is harming local and regional farm economies and is causing severe groundwater overdraft conditions. A number of the resolutions contend that as local residents are being compelled to adopt aggressive water conservation measures, so should wildlife and environmental management agencies.
Earlier this year, both the House and Senate passed drought measures. However, the bills differ widely from one another. The House version, HR 3964 (the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Drought Relief Act), focuses on reform while the Senate bill, SB 2198 (the Emergency Drought Relief Act), is more geared toward short-term easing of current drought effects.
Efforts to develop compromise language have continued.
There is a wide range of possible legislative outcomes.
A final bill could propose Endangered Species Act reforms, reasonable modification of environmental rules, redirecting water deliveries and consenting to new dams.
On the other hand, a much more modest measure could instead emerge, or there may be no agreement at all.