Central Valley lawmakers weigh in on purposed Calif. drought bill

In just a matter of days, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act.
February 1, 2014 6:39:21 PM PST
In just a matter of days, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act. The controversial bill aims to lift certain restrictions and provide more water to farmers.

Some of the bills key points include repealing the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. It would also lead to building and improving some dams and reservoirs in the state. It is expected to pass the U.S. House, but it is likely going to face opposition in the senate.

Citrus grower Manuel Cunha has a hard time understanding why he has to share water with fish in the San Joaquin River, during this historic state drought.

"I'd say that it's the farmers, the communities and the families that come first over any endangered species," Cunha said.

Last month, House Speaker John Boehner spoke the same message as he stood with Valley lawmakers in a dry field in Bakersfield.

The bill has the support of GOP lawmakers in the Valley, as well as democrat Jim Costa.

However, Costa is not optimistic the bill will make it through the senate. He says repealing the San Joaquin River Restoration Project is the point of not only political, but legal controversy, as it could violate a legal settlement made years ago.

"We all know that California is facing catastrophic drought conditions; maybe the worst that we have ever, ever experienced, and therefore let's find out what we can agree upon for the good of our Valley, for the good of our state," Costa said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, in a written statement said in-part:

"The bill undermines state law related to bay delta restoration and endangered species. It overrides the court-approved San Joaquin river settlement agreement, which all parties involved still agree with this bill is disingenuous, it is irresponsible and it is dangerous."

Cunha said California's water issues have long been a point of contention. But with the current drought he is hopeful lawmakers can find a long-term solution to the way the state's water is shared.

"Our house representatives must talk to our senators, if they don't and they just want to shove something down, we're going to have problems," Cunha said.

The house of representative can vote on the bill as early as Wednesday.

Congressman Jim Costa says even if it passes, it will likely not ever be heard in the senate. He expects Sen. Dianne Feinstein to introduce her drought bill in the next week.

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