Legislation by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-10th District-Turlock) and Rep. Jim Costa (D-16th District-Modesto) to authorize the financing of new water storage projects passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week and is a milestone toward helping to ensure better water availability in the San Joaquin Valley. The legislation passed with bipartisan and bicameral support.
Representatives Costa and Denham’s leadership and the language of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (WRDA) ensured the bill included provisions that will support local irrigation districts and water agencies in their efforts to raise spillway gates, build new water storage facilities, and repair and expand dams, reservoirs, and other water projects. As part of the New WATER Act the bill’s language will leverage non-federal investments to provide financing for expanding water storage.
The bill provides financing for water projects throughout the western United States, including new reservoirs, below ground storage projects, recycling and desalination projects. Rep. Denham’s provision in the WRDA bill authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to finance Bureau of Reclamation projects under the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act program and sets a one-year deadline for execution.
The New WATER Act is a pivotal step in solving the Central Valley’s long term water storage crisis. “We need more water storage in the Valley and my bill will deliver more storage,” said Rep. Denham. “Sacramento’s radical water grab makes this more important than ever.”
Specifically, legislation introduced by Rep. Costa and co-led by Denham will enable the Merced Irrigation District to take the first steps forward with a project to raise the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam. This would enlarge the storage capacity of Lake McClure, increasing water supplies for eastern Merced County up to 57,000 acre-feet.
Language by Rep. Denham included in the WRDA bill would significantly enhance flood protection in San Joaquin County by authorizing long-delayed and badly needed flood control protection efforts for more than 50,000 Valley residents and a number of critical infrastructure facilities. Rep. Denham also included language to expedite the feasibility study of Reclamation District 17, that includes the French Camp veteran’s treatment facility. The project will yield an estimated 84 percent reduction in expected annual property damage, while enhancing security at 262 critical infrastructure sites, 12 of which are considered essential to life safety.
The bill now moves to the Senate where its passage is projected; it is anticipated that President Donald Trump will sign the legislation next week.