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This week in… Federal Legislation
Several bills are making their way through the halls of Congress right now. Together, these bills give a good indication of how the Federal government is thinking about their role in finding solutions to the drought.
The current bills include the following:
- H.R. 2898: Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, introduced by David Valadao, passed in the house and is on its way to the Senate, where it is not expected to pass (and Obama has indicated he would veto the bill). The bill would increase pumping from the Delta, alter the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision-making process for the operation of the Central Valley Project, end a salmon restoration program in the San Joaquin River, and fast-track feasibility studies for building or enlarging five dams in the state.
- H.R. 2983: Drought Recovery and Resilience Act of 2015, introduced by Representative Jared Huffman, was referred to committee on July 8th. The bill would provide emergency funding to improve water supply and reliability, help out-of-work farmworkers, and combat upstream water theft on federal lands.
- H.R. 2993: Water Recycling Acceleration Act of 2015 was also was assigned to a congressional committee this month. The bill, introduced by Representative Doris Matsui, would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize funding for water recycling projects in states with drought declarations, without congressional approval.
- H.R. 3045: California Water Recycling and Drought Relief Act, introduced by Representative Jerry McNerney will, like HR 2993, amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize 27 regional water recycling projects that would provide over 100,000 acre-feet of new water.
None of these bills have much of a prayer of becoming law. Richard Frank, director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at UC Davis, says “When it comes to the drought and what can be done, the federal government has limited tools and limited jurisdiction. What Californians would probably welcome most would be money.”
In other news…
- The U.S. Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, and around an 80% chance it will last into early spring 2016.
- A judge ruled that notices to some farmers from the State Water Resources Control Board violated their rights by telling them to stop diverting water. The judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the Board from punishing those in violation of the notices, although the Board can still punish those who divert water illegally.
- The State Board responded by issuing a $1.5 million fine to the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District.
- Governor Brown signed a bill that would prevent local governments from issuing fines for brown lawns during drought emergencies.
- The Department of Water Resources has updated the State Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, as required by the Governor’s Executive Order in April.
California Drought Status
Drought conditions remain effectively unchanged from two weeks ago.
Statewide, California’s major reservoirs (representing 27.3 million acre-feet of storage) are at 36% of capacity and 50% of group average.