Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Feinstein's drought bill won't be a 'mind blower'

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It’s raining in California, but nowhere near enough to solve the state’s water woes.

Wednesday night, the House of Representatives passed a water bill condemned by Democrats as an attack on environmental laws and water agreements.  During the debate, House GOP members challenged California’s Democratic Senators to present their own measure.

Senator Dianne Feinstein disclosed Thursday she’s “very close” do doing just that. She said her staff is “pushing” her to release it, "But I said to them, 'We just made a change an hour ago.'”

Feinstein said she’s been working with rural and urban water districts, as well as state and federal agencies, to draft the legislation. A Sierra Club staffer said she hasn’t been in touch about the bill. Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s lands protection program, said he assumes Feinstein would support “the status quo” — keeping agreements in place not to divert water from the San Joaquin River, which would be at odds with the House bill.

Feinstein said the bill, which will be co-sponsored with Barbara Boxer, won't be “a mind blower.” Instead, she said it will outline “specific things that can be done now that it’s raining” in Northern California with the “expectation” of a foot-and-a-half of snow in the Sierras over the weekend. She described the bill's intent as looking for a “better way” to move water.

The House bill – the San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act - was voted on without a hearing; the measure was almost identical to an earlier bill that passed the House and failed in the Senate. It’s unclear whether Feinstein’s bill would need a hearing before a vote.

Boxer said the House should “accept our bill” because “it helps everybody, the whole entire state.”

The House is waiting to see what Feinstein’s bill contains – and whether the Senate can pass it – before talking about any compromise on drought legislation.

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