After passing the House last week, H.R. 23, San Joaquin Valley Republican David Valadao’s “Gaining Responsibility on Water” Act was received by the Senate this week. This bill would prevent California from managing its own rivers, fisheries, and public trust resources – even going so far as to specifically prohibit the application of the Endangered Species Act and Public Trust Doctrine in restricting water rights or diversions associated with the State Water Project (SWP) or Central Valley Project (CVP).
From section 108 of the bill:
“Nor shall the State of California, including any agency or board of the State of California, restrict the exercise of any water right obtained pursuant to State law…in order to protect, enhance or restore under the Public Trust Doctrine any public trust value.”
H.R. 23 preempts California state law in several important and potentially disastrous ways.
- Prevents California from managing its own State Water Project consistent with state law
- Prevents California from managing water rights or diversions to protect native species in Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and Bay/Delta
- Exempts the operation of the CVP and SWP from the federal Endangered Species Act “or any other law” pertaining to those operations. This particular section goes on to prohibit federal and state agencies from imposing on any state-issued water right “any condition that restricts the exercise of that water right in order to conserve, enhance, recover or otherwise protect any species that is affected by operations of the [CVP or SWP].”
The bill also restricts federal law, particularly safeguards for evaluating new infrastructure
- Authorizes construction of new dams, including raising existing dams, and waives public right to provide input on new infrastructure projects under the National Environmental Policy Act.
- Limits public and agency review and comment on new dams and infrastructure across the Western United States, in a manner that weakens environmental protections for new infrastructure
- Limit the ability of the United States to condition water diversions to protect healthy rivers, economically important fisheries, and public lands, in order to protect state water rights.
What can you do?
H.R. 23 passed the House of Representatives, with a vote exactly along party lines.
If you live in a state with a Republican senator, please ask them to oppose H.R. 23. Find contact information for your senators here, or try using Resistbot and text “resist” to “50409”.
Learn more about H.R. 23 here:
- Legal Planet: California Members of Congress Seek to Eviscerate State Water and Environmental Laws
- Natural Resource Defense Council: House to Vote (Again) on Bill to Destroy California Rivers
- Letter from Governor Jerry Brown to House Speaker Paul Ryan opposing H.R. 23
- San Francisco Chronicle: GOP Push to Shift State Water Policy Away from Conservation