July 11, 2017: HR. 23 - Gaining Responsibility on Water Act
- The House is expected to vote this week on HR. 23, the "Gaining Responsibility on Water Act." The bill would weaken environmental protections in California and reduce the state's ability to manage its own water supply.
HR. 23, the "Gaining Responsibility on Water Act" (GROW Act), is a bill in the House of Representatives, introduced by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA-21), which would make major changes to water management in California.
Water policy has a long and contentious history in California, particularly as relates to a decades-long political battle over the water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This fight has largely been framed as taking place between environmentalists on one side and agricultural interests on the other side, though the actual debate has been very complex. At root, a combination of increased water usage over the latter half of the 20th century and a series of severe droughts (possibly caused or exacerbated by climate change effects) have caused the decline of water flows and quality in the Delta, bringing a variety of interests into conflict over how to apportion and use the remaining water.
HR. 23 appears to be an attempt by the California Republican Congressional delegation to settle the argument in favor of the agricultural side. Among other things, it would dramatically reduce the ability of California to manage its own water supply, exempting the application of the Endangered Species Act to the Delta water issue and disallowing the State from restricting the exercise of any water rights in order to protect, enhance, or restore water resources (see Sec. 108 (a) and (b)).
Much of the bill's 125 pages is also taken up with changing the procedures by which permits are issued for new dam projects. The federal Bureau of Reclamation would be put in charge of coordinating local, state, and federal permitting, environmental protections would be relaxed, and timelines for permits would be accelerated.
A full floor vote on HR. 23 is expected in the House of Representatives this week, possibly as early as Wednesday, July 12.
- Official bill information (includes full text)
- Feinstein, Harris Oppose House Water Bill (Feinstein press release)
- Proposed federal water bill would streamline new dam projects (Southern California Public Radio)
- California Members of Congress Seek to Eviscerate State Water & Environmental Laws (LegalPlanet, opinion/analysis)
- Farmers cry foul over water release plan (Porterville Recorder)
- Floods, Drought, and Lawsuits: A Brief History of California Water Policy (Public Policy Institute of California, 52 pages)
Call to Action
Today I will be calling my House Representative and asking him to vote NO on HR. 23.
If you don't know who your Representative in the House, you can look it up here: https://contactingcongress.org/
Script for Calling Scott Peters
"Hi, my name is _____ and I'm calling from _____ (zip code). I'm calling to ask Congressman Peters to vote against HR. 23. I believe that California is better able to determine its own water policy than the federal government is, and I'm deeply concerned about the environmental impact of this bill. Thank you."