CD065: Federal Intervention in California Water Rights

On February 5, the House of Representatives passed a bill that takes away California’s right to divide its dwindling water supply. The bill forces California to take water away from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta and give it to Agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley, voiding a bunch of State and environmental laws in the process.

Summary of the Bill

HR 3964: “Sacramento- San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act”

This is the second time the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed this bill. A similar bill was passed during the 112th Congress.

TITLE I: Eff The Fish

Water would be diverted away from this delta and given to Big Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

Section 101: Makes sure that water currently dedicated to fish and wildlife is given Central Valley Project contractors by December 31, 2018. Most Central Valley Project contractors are agricultural in the San Joaquin Valley.

Section 102: New terms for water contracts:

  • Eliminates a provision that makes sure the EPA approves new contracts for water delivery.
  • Extends the renewal length of existing contracts from 25 years to 40 years and eliminates requirements for environmental reviews
  • Adds a provision that contracts must only charge water customers for the water actually delivered

Section 105: Water usage will be prioritized to go towards agricultural, municipal, and industrial purposes

Section 107: Private for-profit organizations would be eligible for water storage and delivery contracts paid for with taxpayer money, which is not currently allowed.

  • If by September 30, 2018, the Central Valley doesn’t get an additional 800,000 acre-feet of water, all non-mandatory water uses will be cut off until the Central Valley gets their water.

Section 108: Rules will revert back to the law as of 1994.

The delta smelt, the “stupid little fish” the House GOP is pretending is the only species affected by drying up the delta

  • Operations of this new water plan “shall proceed without regard to the Endangered Species Act”
  • Prohibits the Federal government and any agency of the State of California from enforcing a State law that restricts water usage for the Central Valley Project or State Water Project (which gives water to Southern California) to protect any species affected by this new water diversion.
  • Prohibits the State of California from enforcing any of their laws that restricts Central Valley “water rights” “under the Public Trust Doctrine.
  • No costs associated with diverting water to Central Valley contractors will be paid by Central Valley contractors
  • “California law is preempted” from restricting the size of a fish allowed to be taken out of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers or the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta.

Section 111: Federal agencies can not be forced to change their actions by a National Environmental Protection Act determination.

*New to the 113th Congress version* Section 112 & 113: Gives 10 year water contracts to the Oakdale, South San Joaquin, and Calaveras County water districts if it doesn’t take water away from the Central Valley

*New to the 113th Congress version* Section 114: A pilot program to remove “non-native” bass species from the Stanislaus River.

  • The districts will pay 100% of the costs
  • The government “shall issue” permits for the program under the Endangered Species Act within 180 days; if it’s not done in 180 days, the permits “shall be deemed approved”
  • Permitting can be outsourced to “any qualified private contractor’
  • National Environmental Protection Act “shall not apply” to permitting for the program.
  • “Any restriction imposed under California law” on catching fish in the Stanislaus River “is herby void and is preempted”
  • Pilot fish-murdering program will sunset in seven years.

TITLE II: Overturns a Court Settlement

The Settlement ruled in 2004 that the Bureau of Reclamation illegally dried the San Joaquin River and ruled that they will have to release water from the Friant Dam for the first time in 55 years in order to allow the fish – specifically salmon- in the river to survive. The lawsuit was first filed in 1998 and was one of California’s longest running water disputes. It also restores water supplies to farmers near Stockton

Section 201: Repeals the settlement and enacts a whole new plan.

  • The new plan “preempts and supersedes any State law” that imposes stricter requirements.
  • Central Valley water contractors are allowed to sue the Federal government if it fails to enact the new plan.

Section 211: Repeals a requirement that salmon be reintroduced to the San Joaquin River

TITLE III: Payments to Central Valley water contractors

Section 301: Federal government has to reimburse water contractors for construction costs already accrued by January 31, 2018; future costs need to be reimbursed by the government within five years.

  • Power revenues can’t be used towards construction cost reimbursement

TITLE IV: Water Allocations

Section 403: Agricultural water contractors in the Central Valley will get 100% of their promised water in Wet – Below Normal years, 75% in a “dry” year, and “50% in a “Critically dry” year

Section 404: The Federal government must make sure that the Endangered Species Act and goals of “addressing environmental needs” do not cause any “adverse water supply or fiscal impacts” to Central Valley water contractors.

TITLE V: Precedent

Section 501: The coordination of water rights “require assertion of Federal supremacy to protect existing water rights”, says “these circumstances are unique to California”, and therefore “nothing in this Act shall serve as precedent in any other State.”

Section 502: “Nothing in this Act shall affect in any way the Proclamation of State of Emergency and associated Executive Order issued by Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. on January 17, 2014.”

Representatives Quoted in This Episode (In Order of Appearance)

Additional Information

Water War Boils Down to Farmers vs. Fisherman by George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2014.

Jennifer Briney’s appearance on Start Talking and Recording Today with Nick Seuberling

YouTube video of Congressional Dish supporter David’s 12 year old son, Sam Levin, and his impressive musical talents

Music in this Episode

Intro and Exit Music: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Are You Thristy? by Mighty Men of Faith (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Get Out of Our House by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)