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Rep. Napolitano: GOP Water Bill Would Fail to Help Economy

June 27, 2011
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano called on House Republicans to abandon H.R. 1837, the San Joaquin Water Reliability Act. H.R. 1837 has sustained a barrage of criticism in recent weeks from editorial boards and concerned citizens across California as a “big gulp” effort to usurp state water laws, roll back environmental protections, and alter water delivery to favor certain agricultural users.

While H.R. 1837 was originally created to boost employment in the San Joaquin Valley, Napolitano cited a recent study from the Pacific Institute verifying that it was not environmental pumping restrictions but the national housing bust and recession which were the cause of the Central Valley’s economic downturn in recent years.

“We no longer have any reason to continue consideration of this misguided and destructive piece of legislation,” Napolitano said. “It overrides our water rights, disrupts our negotiations to improve water supply, damages our environment, and kills our fishing industry. Now we learn again that the economic reasoning behind this bill has been completely false from the beginning. We must abandon this dangerous overreach and help the people of California work out their own water solutions. The next round of water wars triggered by this bill will mean a lot of work for lawyers, but not much for anybody else.”

The study showed California agriculture posted record revenues in the drought years of 2007, 2008, and 2009, even with current pumping restrictions in place. In the same years, thousands of jobs were lost in construction and other sectors affected by the economic downturn.

H.R. 1837 overrides state water and environmental regulations to deliver water to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, threatening California’s fragile ecosystem and pushing the costs of environmental protection onto other senior water rights holders.


Pacific Institute Report: Impacts of the California Drought from 2007 to 2009: Surprising Outcomes for California’s Agriculture, Energy, and Environment

Recent Articles:

Farm Jobs Lost?  Blame Environmentalists! (Or Not) - New York Times
How State's Farmers Weathered Drought - San Francisco Chronicle
Study Devalues California Drought Impact - Contra Costa Times
Drought Study Refutes Criticism of Environmental Measures - Bakersfield Californian

CaliforniaDrought Drove Up Energy Costs - Los Angeles Times

Mercury News Editorial: Big water grab shows disregard for Delta health

Sacramento Bee Editorial: House should pull the plug on water grab

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial: Wading into the water war

San Francisco Chronicle - Op-Ed: Federal bill seeks to override state water law 

H.R. 1837, the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act:

·        If passed, the new bill would override state law and disrupt or make impossible a number of negotiations Californians are currently involved in to improve their water supply, including the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the 2009 bipartisan water bill passed by the California legislature.

·        The bill harms the environment by rolling back the water contributions that the Central Valley Project makes to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to 1994 levels, ignoring environmental changes in the Delta that have taken place over the last 17 years.

·        The bill waives environmental impact studies for new water contracts in the Central Valley Project and extends current 25-year contracts without any environmental review for a minimum of 40 years. Because the contracts are exempted from contributing water for the health of the Delta, under current law other Californians will have no choice but to make up the difference when future droughts, climate changes, and environmental needs tighten the available water supply.

·        The bill turns California’s water rights system upside-down, exempting these same agricultural interests from contributing water to help desperately weakened commercial fisheries and allowing them to use or sell water that would otherwise go to the fragile Delta. This favoritism upends California’s water rights system and reduces supply for other water users who continue to play by the rules.

·        The purported aim of the bill is to help unemployment in the Central Valley, yet respected California economists Richard Howitt and Jeffrey Michael, now joined by the Pacific Institute, have debunked claims that pumping restrictions have had any major effects on the Central Valley’s economy. Unemployment in the Central Valley has instead been primarily caused by the housing bust and national recession.



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