A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation to aid in the modernization of California and Western water policies with the goal of availing more water to local communities.
One element that H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, focuses on the is the obstacles posed by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in terms of the water quantities dedicated to protect certain species in Central and Southern California. The Act would require federal agencies to use current data when making regulatory decisions, which has the potential to avail more water to drought stricken communities.
Notably, the legislation calls for additional storage at the New Melones Dam, which has been a source of contention relating to the drought state of emergency, as it works in conjunction with the New Melones Lake, functioning as the primary irrigation and water supply to the Valley.
This Act would require the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation to work with local water and irrigation districts within the Stanislaus River Basin to make certain the water storage available through the Draft Plan of Operations in New Melones Reservoir (DRPO) which relates to water conservation programs, conjunctive use projects, water transfers, rescheduled project water and other projects that have the potential to maximize water storage and beneficial use of resources.
The legislation requires any storage programs at the reservoir to be made under a valid water right consistent with the state water transfer guidelines and any other applicable water laws; the entities would be responsible to inform Congress of progress.
If passed, the legislation would provide federal regulators with direction and flexibility to capture water during periods of greater precipitation, which could be used to increase California’s water supplies.
“California’s devastating drought is hurting our ag economy and food supply nationwide,” said U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), who has acted as an original cosponsor to the legislation. “This bill provides both the short- and long-term solutions that the Central Valley needs, beginning with more storage. It includes two pieces of legislation I’ve introduced to study and eliminate the threat of predator fish and to increase storage in New Melones reservoir. We can’t keep waiting on the Senate or the President to get engaged and provide Californians with the solutions they need to survive.”
Click here for a the full text of the legislation.