A sweeping overhaul of California’s water policy, specifically the rules that govern water throughout the Central Valley, took one step closer to becoming reality.
Last week, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed the Working to Advance Tangible and Effective Reforms (WATER) for California Act, which was introduced by Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford).
The backstory: Valadao initially introduced the WATER for California Act last December and brought it back for the new Republican-controlled House in January.
- Part of the legislation centers on the 2019 biological opinions that govern the state’s water usage. President Joe Biden’s administration has been working to throw out the Trump-era rules and revert back to the previous biological opinions administered in 2008 and 2009.
The big picture: The WATER for California Act would streamline operations, expand water storage infrastructure and increase accountability of water use.
- The legislation would require the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SVP) to operate under the 2019 biological opinions, blocking the Biden administration’s attempts at repealing those rules.
- Valadao’s bill would direct the Secretary of the Interior to make every reasonable effort to allocate water to the state’s water contractors, pushing back against the zero percent allocations in 2021 and 2022.
- The Shasta Enlargement Project would become eligible for funding by Biden’s infrastructure bill, which allocated $1.15 billion for storage projects but excluded Shasta.
- The final part of Valadao’s bill would reauthorize the water storage project program and coordinated operations of the CVP and SVP, which were established by the WIIN Act and expired in 2021.
What they’re saying: Valadao said in a statement that the state has wasted a “seemingly immeasurable amount of water” over the years because of a lack of storage.
- “For years, I have stressed the dire need to increase water storage, but extreme environmentalists and Sacramento bureaucrats have grossly mismanaged our water and prevented these projects from getting off the ground,” Valadao said.
- Valadao added, “If we don’t take action to fix the complex and contradictory laws and regulations that control how much we’re able to pump, and what storage projects we’re able to build or use, our ability to provide food for the nation will be in trouble. The WATER for California Act brings desperately needed commonsense to the way we manage water, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this critical legislation.”