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Garamendi tries to stop California water war
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Feb 29th, 2012 9:29 AM
"I urge you to either vote "Nay" or "Present" on H.R. 1837, because it would turn upside down 150 years of California water law and use the power of the federal government to preempt our state law and constitution," Garamendi wrote in his letter to fellow Members of Congres
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Garamendi tries to stop California water war

by Dan Bacher

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and former Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, said in a press release on February 28 that he is "doing all he can to prevent reigniting another California water war."

On February 27, Garamendi sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to all Members of Congress urging his Democratic and Republican colleagues to vote 'nay' or 'present' on H.R. 1837, the so-called San Joaquin Water Reliability Act.

There is broad and substantial opposition to H.R. 1837 in California among urban, agricultural, conservationist, and recreational water stakeholders. A huge, diverse coalition of 190 environmental, environmental justice, tribal and fishing organizations from around the state sent comments in opposition to H.R. 1837 to Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. California Indian Tribes opposing the legislation include the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Karuk Tribe and Modoc Nation. (http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1102037578231-135/HR+1837+Opposition+Letter+Final.pdf)

The "water grab" is also opposed by the Western States Water Council, which consists of representatives appointed by the governors of 18 western states.

"I urge you to either vote "Nay" or "Present" on H.R. 1837, because it would turn upside down 150 years of California water law and use the power of the federal government to preempt our state law and constitution," Garamendi wrote in his letter to fellow Members of Congress.

"Water law is sacred in the western United States. If you represent the western states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming, then H.R. 1837 is especially alarming because it grants the federal government power to override a state’s water law. A "Nay" or "Present" vote is a states’ rights vote," emphasized Garamendi.

The Sacramento Bee also published an op-ed by Congressman Garamendi on H.R. 1837 entitled "Water bill in Congress promotes division, destroys state consensus."

"In addition to a blatant water grab, HR 1837 also creates sweeping exemptions from federal laws protecting our water and pre-emptively prohibits state lawmakers from striking a consensus-driven compromise. It would be more accurate to call HR 1837 the State Water Rights Repeal Act," Garamendi wrote in the op-ed.

"Now is not the time to reignite the California water wars of the past. Now is not the time to pit Californians against each other for short-term gain. There is a more constructive way forward for California. We must focus on responsible, science-based water management, with conservation, storage and recycling playing a prominent role – balancing our water needs and creating jobs across the Golden State," he stated.

At the same time that Representatives Devin Nunes, Tom McClintock and Jeff Denham are attempting to ramrod HR 1837 through the House, the Obama and Brown administrations are fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal.

If built, the canal would lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales. The canal would also result in the eradication of striped bass, now officially classified as a native species by the California Fish and Game Commission.

This morning (February 29) the House of Representatives will be voting on HR 1837; stay tuned for the results of the vote. For the journal of the day's proceedings, go to: http://clerk.house.gov/floorsummary/floor.aspx

Garamendi's letter and op-ed are below.

Letter to Colleagues: Protect States Water Rights

From: The Honorable John Garamendi
Date: 2/27/2012

Vote "Nay" or "Present" on H.R. 1837

I will be voting "Nay" on H.R. 1837. I urge you to either vote "Nay" or "Present" on H.R. 1837, because it would turn upside down 150 years of California water law and use the power of the federal government to preempt our state law and constitution.

Titles 1 and 2 of the bill rewrite complex federal water law without sufficient bipartisan collaboration, expert analyses or stakeholder engagement. Without Democrats and Republicans working cooperatively to address California’s water challenges, no solution will be achieved.

H.R. 1837 is not broadly supported in California among urban, agricultural, conservationist, and recreational water stakeholders. Several notable groups have not taken a position on the legislation because it lacks consensus. Most of the state’s leading editorial boards are opposed. H.R. 1837 is dividing us, instead of uniting us.

Water law is sacred in the western United States. If you represent the western states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming, then H.R. 1837 is especially alarming because it grants the federal government power to override a state’s water law. A "Nay" or "Present" vote is a states’ rights vote.

Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office reports that "H.R. 1837 would impose intergovernmental mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by preempting state laws and requiring or prohibiting some activities related to water management and wildlife preservation. The bill would require the state of California to change how it manages a state system for storing and delivering water. It also would prohibit the state from restricting existing water rights in an effort to protect any species affected by the operations of the water projects in the state. Similarly, it would prohibit restrictions on water rights that are designed to protect, enhance, or restore the value of public water resources. Finally, the bill would preempt several other state laws related to water management and wildlife preservation."

H.R. 1837’s unintended consequences are too great and its unanticipated uncertainties are too risky. What happens in California won’t stay in California no matter what Title 5 of this bill says. This bill, if it ever becomes law, will ignite California’s next water war and the fights will spread across the West.

Don’t get roped into voting "Yea" on H.R. 1837 by leadership. Vote "Nay" or "Present", protect states’ water rights and let those of us in California work together to reach solutions to our water challenges.

Sincerely,
JOHN GARAMENDI
Member of Congress

Sacramento Bee Op-Ed: Water bill in Congress promotes division, destroys state consensus

By Rep. John Garamendi

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

As early as Wednesday, Congress is voting on a dangerous bill that would turn upside down 150 years of California water law. House Resolution 1837, the so-called San Joaquin Water Reliability Act, removes all environmental protections for the Delta and Central Valley rivers while allowing destructive exports of water from the Delta to politically connected San Joaquin Valley farmers.

As President Bill Clinton's former deputy interior secretary and as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, I am intimately familiar with California water policy. During discussion of HR 1837 in committee, I offered a series of amendments that would have made this legislation better, but all my amendments were rejected.

We need to bring this bill back to the drawing board. That's why I'm doing all I can to stop this bill, partnering with farmers, fishermen, outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists to tell Congress to stop HR 1837. This legislation is opposed by the state of California, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, local governments, and editorial boards across the state. And the list of opposition is growing.

Water storage and water recycling are important components of water policy, and they're lacking in HR 1837. This bill threatens thousands of jobs for salmon fishermen and Delta farmers. These workers have already suffered from the creeping salt water from the bay caused by excessive pumping of Delta water.

While agribusinesses in parts of the San Joaquin Valley claim to be suffering from an absence of water, the facts tell a different story. Farmers in these areas pay some of the lowest rates despite their distance from water sources. Unemployment in these parts of the state has been a chronic issue even in wet years.

Recent job losses have been mainly caused by the collapse of the construction and housing sector after the financial crisis. In addition, even at the height of the financial crisis and drought, California farmers were able to post record sales.

In addition to a blatant water grab, HR 1837 also creates sweeping exemptions from federal laws protecting our water and pre-emptively prohibits state lawmakers from striking a consensus-driven compromise. It would be more accurate to call HR 1837 the State Water Rights Repeal Act.

This bill also destroys California's 2009 comprehensive water package by isolating the Delta. The state's dual goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration cannot be met if this bill becomes law.

It's possible to craft a balanced approach that satisfies the needs of everyone in California. HR 1837 isn't a balanced approach, however. If it were implemented, it would destroy waterways throughout Northern California, and it would take away California's ability to control our own water destiny.

Now is not the time to reignite the California water wars of the past. Now is not the time to pit Californians against each other for short-term gain. There is a more constructive way forward for California. We must focus on responsible, science-based water management, with conservation, storage and recycling playing a prominent role – balancing our water needs and creating jobs across the Golden State.

Instead of threatening the Delta and river communities throughout Northern California, I hope my colleagues in Congress will come back to the negotiating table. We can improve water access for Central Valley farmers without throwing out more than a century of water law. We can unite as Californians and invest in American-made water recycling and storage, from the Delta to the Bay Area to the Central Valley and farther south. We can create thousands of jobs throughout the state without destroying thousands of jobs in the Delta. We can embrace consensus instead of fostering division.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
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