McCarthy Statement on California Water in the Energy and Water Appropriations Act of 2017
Washington, DC – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) released the following statement upon the release of the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017, which includes language to deliver water to California’s Central Valley and southern Californian communities while protecting water rights:
“El Nino storms this year have provided a welcome departure from previous years of devastating drought. Unfortunately what has remained consistent are regulatory decisions that release more water flow out to the Pacific Ocean. It is the duty of our state’s leaders to pursue every possible avenue of relief for our struggling communities to get the water we desperately need. For years now, California Republicans have offered serious proposals that have passed the House. Unfortunately each time our Senators failed to meet the moment. I am hopeful this time will be different.
“Appropriations bills put the power of the purse in the hands of Congress to prioritize the policy of the federal government to meet the needs of our constituents. The inclusion of California water provisions in the FY17 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill is the latest effort by my Californian Republican colleagues and me to press for solutions and, once passed by the House, offers the Senate another chance to consider this important legislation. This year El Nino storms have blessed our state with rain and snow. But the Bureau of Reclamation has pumped less this year than last year when we faced historic dry periods.
“The gravity of the circumstances cannot be understated. Recent statements from Senator Feinstein that acknowledge more pumping is needed gives me confidence that should the Senate consider its own Energy and Water Development appropriations bill, both chambers can reach a solution. The House Appropriations Subcommittee consideration of this bill is an important step to providing water to all corners of the Golden State.”
BACKGROUND: Fiscal Year 2017 Energy & Water Development Appropriations - California Water Legislation
California-related provisions included in the FY17 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill
- Key components from the House-passed Valadao bill (H.R. 2898) that will help ensure the Central Valley and southern California get the water desperately needed from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta by providing the Bureau of Reclamation more direction on exporting water.
The difference from past House efforts to force the issue with the Senate
- This is the first time California water has been included in an appropriations bill. This is a new approach to a recurring problem – House water bills dying in the Senate.
- By including these provisions in spending bills that the Senate is also working on (Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development is marking up its bill on Wednesday) this will present another opportunity for the House and Senate to finally go to conference on California water legislation.
Why we are even at this point
- California Republicans have passed California water legislation several times over the past four years. Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to act.
- At the end of last year, California Republicans sought to include California water provisions in the FY16 omnibus appropriations bill, but Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer opposed this effort and blocked inclusion of these provisions in that bill using procedural methods.
- A House Energy and Water Development appropriations bill that includes California water language is the best chance to ultimately reach agreement so far this year with the Senate.
Specific California-related provisions in the FY17 Energy and Water appropriations bill
Delta Pumping Requirements:
- What: Reclamation shall pump at -5,000 cfs OMR unless that jeopardizes the long-term survival of the Delta smelt or Chinook salmon. If so, pumping can be reduced (i.e. more positive).
- Why: This provision is important because it is designed to provide more direction to the Bureau of Reclamation and more certainty for our communities south of the Delta in terms of water supplies.
First Few Storms Flexibility:
- What: Authorizes Reclamation to increase pumping to -7,500 cfs OMR to capture storm water runoff when there is high Delta outflow (i.e. water flowing into the Pacific Ocean) provided such action does not jeopardize the long-term survival of the Delta smelt or Chinook salmon. If so, pumping can be reduced (i.e. more positive).
- Why: This provision is important because it helps ensure there is not a repeat of what happened this rainy season – the loss of significant amounts of El Nino-related storm water to the Pacific Ocean because pumping could not be maximized due to perceived threats to Delta smelt and Chinook salmon.
State Water Project Offset & Water Rights Protections:
- What: This language ensures that California State Water Project (SWP) contractors benefit should the State of California revoke its consistency determination under California environmental laws between the SWP and Central Valley Project (CVP). It also ensures that senior water rights holders north and south of the Delta are preserved and protected.
- Why: This language is critical to ensure that “California water wars” are not stoked by this bill. This language should help keep all parties (north v. south, east v. west, Federal v. state, etc.) whole.
San Joaquin River Settlement:
- What: Prohibits the use of federal funds to implement the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Agreement.
- Why: This language is important to ensure that communities on the Friant Unit of the CVP, many of which are out of water, are able to access Millerton Lake water rather than it being used to restore salmon runs in the San Joaquin River on the Valley floor.
New Melones Reservoir:
- What: Directs Reclamation to work with local entities to increase water storage opportunities at New Melones Dam.
Instream Flow Purchases:
- What: Prohibits the use of federal funds to purchase water to supplement flows in rivers for environmental purposes in basins that have suffered drought.