U.S. House passes Representative Valadao’s legislation to modernize California’s water policies

By on July 24, 2017

Legislation introduced by California Congressman David G. Valadao (R-21st District-Hanford), aimed to modernize the state’s water policies, recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 23, the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act, also known as the GROW Act, now heads to the Senate where it is expected to face significant obstacles.

The GROW Act seeks to codify the Bay-Delta Accord, update the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) and to enact “one-stop-shop” permitting reforms aimed at building infrastructure to capture more water. It would require the federal government to expedite and complete consideration of feasibility studies for water storage projects and prevent federal agencies from requiring certain entities to relinquish their water rights to the United States in order to use public lands.

Although California’s Water Year 2016/17 brought a five-plus year drought to its knees, it wreaked havoc throughout the state. While other western U.S. states experienced similar situations, California’s complex and often contradictory legal system – laws, court decisions and regulations – at both the state and federal levels have further complicated the efficient delivery of water state-wide. Rep. Valadao’s GROW Act endeavors to restore water deliveries to struggling communities. Rep. Valadao’s 21st Congressional District includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties which comprise some of the poorest and most impacted communities during the state’s prolonged drought.

“For years, California’s sophisticated network of storage and delivery facilities have been sorely mismanaged, causing devastating impacts across the state,” said Congressman Valadao. “This problem has become even more apparent during the last several months. Despite record precipitation levels, families, farmers, and communities still lack access to a reliable supply of water.” He continued saying, “My bill, the GROW Act, will restore water deliveries, ensuring the Central Valley has access to a reliable water supply. I look forward to working with the Senate and sending this bill to the President’s desk.”

The GROW Act would provide relief to Californians by restoring water deliveries that have been drastically reduced over the last two decades as a result of various environmental lawsuits as well as state and federal regulations. Rep. Valadao’s legislation requires regulators to comply with the bipartisan Bay-Delta Accord, which is consistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The bill will also cut the red tape holding back major water storage projects – some of which have been authorized for over a decade — which will aid the entire western United States during dry years.

Though the GROW Act is now headed to the Senate, California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris have issued a joint statement opposing the bill. The argue the bill would “eliminate the existing biological opinions required under the Endangered Species Act” and prevent “California from using new scientific data to manage our water supply by reverting us back to outdated limits set more than two decades ago.”

It is unclear at this time when the GROW Act will be heard in the Senate. Senators Feinstein and Harris have also stated that the bill “would preempt existing California environmental laws and regulations, giving the Trump administration greater control over water management in our state.”