Statement by Jim Costa: Costa Urges Senate and President to Support House Passed California Water Bill

Costa Urges Senate and President to Support House Passed California Water Bill

Today, Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act with language to assist in reducing the impacts of California’s drought crisis and to build additional long-term drought resiliency:

“Today’s House passage of California water legislation is a win for the San Joaquin Valley. The bipartisan Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act earned broad support from Democrats and Republicans in the California delegation, and I hope my Senate colleagues will join Senator Feinstein in voting for this important legislation. I strongly urge the Senate and the President to act quickly, so the short-term provisions, like authorizing increased pumping during storms in the winter months, can be implemented immediately. More water will be captured and delivered to Valley communities and farms as a result of the enactment of this legislation.

“Additionally, this legislation authorizes a feasibility study for the Merced Streams Group, and will provide flood protection for the residents of Merced. There is also modifying language in the bill that would provide for Merced Irrigation District to advance funds so it could complete a study to evaluate raising the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam.

“The status quo in California is a result of flawed policies and five years in a row of record breaking drought, and current conditions will get exponentially worse if we do nothing. This bill will change the status quo and is good for all Californians, farmers, farm workers as well as the environment.”

Rep. Costa spoke on the House floor during debate in support of the water infrastructure legislation. His remarks can be viewed here.

Yesterday, Rep. Costa spoke on the House floor to bring attention to the human impacts of drought conditions in California’s San Joaquin Valley. His remarks can be viewed here.

The California drought language includes short- and long-term provisions:

Short-term provisions:

  • Delta Cross Channel Gates - Federal agencies must open the Delta Cross Channel Gates for as long as possible consistent with the State Water Board’s orders. This may allow the agencies to open the Gates during the daytime when salmon are often not migrating in significant numbers, which could allow additional water to be pumped without harming fish or water quality.
  • Turbidity measures - By taking measures to manage turbidity and protect Delta smelt during the first storm-induced flush of sediment out of the Delta each winter, the agencies can both protect the fish and allow for more steady pumping the remainder of the year.
  • 1:1 inflow-to-export ratio, solely for water transfers - Solely for voluntary transfers, sales and exchanges, allows agencies to use a 1:1 “inflow-to-export ratio” for San Joaquin River flows in April and May for the duration of the drought. By stretching water supplies through water transfers, agricultural districts that are short on water can use transfers to make up for reduced deliveries, while that same “block” of water moving through the Delta can help fish and potentially assist in the restoration of the Delta. The agencies can only use the 1:1 ratio for transfers if environmental protections, including the following, are satisfied:
    • There are no adverse effects on endangered species beyond those anticipated by the biological opinions.
    • The transfer water getting the benefit of the 1:1 ratio must be additional flow on top of the regular flow of the river.
    • The environmental effects of the proposed transfer, sale, or exchange are consistent with environmental effects permissible under applicable law.
  • Expediting reviews of transfers and temporary barriers - Expedites review of transfers and temporary barriers in the Delta, which could help move limited water to where it is needed, manage salinity and improve water quality.
  • Extended window for water transfers - Extends the window for transfers by five months, from April 1 to November 30 (currently July 1 to September 30), if the extended transfers can be done consistent with the biological opinions.
  • Scientifically Supported Implementation of OMR (Old and Middle River) Flow Requirements - Science based on real-time monitoring governs the level of pumping within the ranges allowed by the biological opinions. The bill requires the agencies to explain why pumping at the high end of the smelt biological opinion would cause adverse effects to fish that violate the environmental protection mandate (described below), if they decide to pump at a lower levels.
  • Temporary Operational Flexibility for Storm Events - authorizes the agencies to increase pumping during winter storms, so that excess flows from storms may be captured.
  • Consultation on Coordinated Operations – Provides for increased transparency during consultation on the biological opinions by soliciting input from water districts and those environmental groups that already participate in implementation of the biological opinions.
  • Environmental Protection Mandate – The bill prohibits agencies from taking any action that would cause adverse effects to fish beyond those effects allowable under the biological opinion.

Long-term provisions:

  • $558 million for storage, water recycling and desalination projects.
    • $335 million for water storage projects. – Funding can go to either state-led groundwater or surface storage projects, or to federally owned surface storage projects.
    • $30 million for desalination projects over 5 years.
    • $50 million for competitive grant funding for water recycling, wastewater reuse and reclamation of naturally impaired ground and surface water.
    • Increases WaterSMART funding authorization by $100 million.

The legislation authorizes the following California water projects:

Merced County Impacts

  • The bill authorizes a feasibility study for the Merced Streams Group project that was originally authorized in 1944 and has not yet been completed. Since 1997, 8 floods in the region have caused significant damage to communities in Merced County. This study, when complete, will evaluate and provide recommendations to move beyond the substandard 50-year flood planning to a much higher standard of flood protection.
  • Expedited completion of the Lower San Joaquin River flood risk management report.

California funding, reports and projects

  • $1.5 billion in Flood Risk Management funds for the American River and West Sacramento projects
  • $20 million in Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk reduction funds to San Diego County
  • $70.5 million in Flood Risk Management, Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation funds for the South San Francisco Bay shoreline
  • $375 million in Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation funds for the LA River Expedited completion of the report for the Sacramento River Flood Control System
  • Authorization of the feasibility studies for the Cache Creek Settling Basin, the Coyote Valley Dam, the Del Rosa Channel, the Mission-Zanja Channel, and the Soboba Indian Reservation