Feinstein, Harris, even Jerry Brown hate big agriculture’s awful GROW water bill

  • Published on July 12th, 2017

California Governor Jerry Brown and Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein have voiced their opposition to HR 23, the “Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017,” aka the GROW water bill, that is supported by San Joaquin Valley agribusiness interests.

By Dan Bacher water splash GROW water bill

This bill is strongly opposed by California Indian Tribes, fishing groups and conservation organizations, since it guts key provisions of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992 and the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act,  two landmark federal laws that aim to restore salmon, steelhead and other anadromous fisheries on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Update: The House has passed the GROW water bill, largely on party lines. Democrats vow to continue the fight in the Senate. Use the app at the bottom of this article to contact your senator!

The  bill, authored by authored by Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) and cosponsored by every other California GOP Congresman plus Democrat Jim Cost, has been moved to the House floor and is expected to be voted on  this week.

Valadao claims his legislation will restore “water reliability to California communities” by “codifying the bipartisan Bay-Delta Accord” — and “reform” federal laws protecting fish and wildlife that wealthy agribusiness interests, including the Westlands Water District, have opposed for many years.

“It also reforms onerous federal laws – such as the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act – that have severely curtailed water deliveries and resulted in hundreds of billions of gallons of badly needed water being flushed into the ocean,” said Valadao.

In his letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan today, Governor Brown said the legislation would “override California water law” and asked Ryan to “respect California’s rights and shelve this bill.”

The text of Governor Brown’s letter  follows:

Dear Speaker Ryan 

I write to oppose H.R. 23, the “Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017.” 

Water defines the west and for over a century Congress and the courts have consistently recognized that state law determines how water is developed and used.  Western states have successfully resisted any attempted intrusion into this essential attribute of their sovereignty, including in the operation or construction of water projects involving the federal government.  This bill overrides California water law, ignoring our state’s prerogative to oversee our waters.  Commandeering our laws for purposes defined in Washington is not right.

It is also not smart.  California is the sixth-largest economy in the world, and its future depends on the wise and equitable use of its water.  Making decisions requires listening to and balancing among the needs of California’s nearly 40 million residents and taking into consideration economics, biodiversity, and wildlife resources.  All of this is best done at the state and local level – not in a polarized political climate 3,000 miles away.

Undermining state law is especially unwise today as California, with input from all stakeholders, is poised to make its boldest water infrastructure investments in decades: funding surface storage, updating an antiquated delta water conveyance, and adopting water-use efficiency targets.

I ask you to respect California’s rights and shelve this bill.

Yesterday Senators Harris and Feinstein issued a joint statement opposing Valadao’s GROW water bill, saying it would “preempt existing California environmental laws and regulations, giving the Trump administration greater control over water management in our state.”

Their full statement follows:

We oppose Congressman Valadao’s bill to weaken California’s ability to manage its own natural resources. California’s Central Valley helps feed the world. It deserves sensible and responsible water solutions—this measure doesn’t even come close to meeting that test. His legislation would preempt existing California environmental laws and regulations, giving the Trump administration greater control over water management in our state.“Science should be at the center of all decisions affecting California’s water supply. This bill would eliminate the existing biological opinions required under the Endangered Species Act. It also prevents California from using new scientific data to manage our water supply by reverting us back to outdated limits set more than two decades ago.

“Congressman Valadao’s bill would set back the progress made to find a balanced solution to California’s drought. If this bill passes the House of Representatives, we will fight to defeat it in the Senate.

Hoopa Valley Tribe leaders and lawyers are currently in Washington D.C. battling to stop the GROW water bill from passing, saying “Tribal rights, water and culture are under assault” by the legislation.

Hoopa Valley Tribal Council Member Vivienna Orcutt states:

The Trinity River provision in H.R. 23, Section 40, is a deceitful assault on Oregon and Northern California resources and economy. There’s a vested rights/property rights issue, a unilateral abrogation of contracts issue, tribal trust issue, area of origin issue, the 1955 act priority issue and the overruling of 9th Circuit Court issue.

The Hoopa Water Team is battling the destructive H.R. 23 bill that would prohibit salmon-aiding flows and Hoopa/Yurok Boat Dance ceremonial flows.

What you can do:

Use this app to contact your representatives. Tell them you are STRONGLY OPPOSED to H.R. 23, the “Gaining Responsibility on Water”, aka the GROW water bill, and you encourage them to vote NO.

Do it now! It’ll just take you a minute…

About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.