Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

House approves contentious California water bill

Senators Barbara Boxer (L) and Dianne Feinstein (R) oppose the legislation.
Senators Barbara Boxer (L) and Dianne Feinstein (R) oppose the legislation.

A controversial bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday faces an uncertain future, further illustrating the enormous gap between Democrats and Republicans during this election year.

As reported by the L.A. Times, the heavily Republican-supported Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act “rewrites two decades of water law in California, wiping out environmental protections and dropping reforms of federal irrigation policy that have long irritated agribusiness in the Central Valley.”

The bill was approved 246-175 votes after a nearly five-hour debate, but the White House has already threatened a veto, and Senate Democrats like Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are mobilizing against it.

“Senator Boxer and I will do everything we can to make sure it won't pass," Feinstein said in the Merced Sun-Star, "and I don't believe it will pass."

Specifics of the bill include increasing the length of federal irrigation contracts from 25 to 40 years and the ability to override state environmental laws. The author of the bill, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, said that a “linchpin” of the legislation is blocking an ambitious 2009 law which planned on bringing water flows (and salmon) back to the San Joaquin River. According to the Congressional Budget Office, reducing the proposed water flows of the restoration project by more than half could potentially save the federal government at least $190 dollars.