Delta Advocacy Groups Oppose Water Giveaway

Restore the Delta, along with sixteen other Delta community/political leaders, sent a letter to Congressman Tom McClintock, Chair of the House Sub Committee on Water and Power, to express widespread opposition to HR 1837 (Nunes).

Recent massive fish kills at the water project pumps in the south Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta highlight the folly of H.R. 1837, Congressman Devin Nunes’s resolution to guarantee water supplies to the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Nunes’s San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act would undo years of efforts to balance Delta restoration with water supply reliability and to restore the San Joaquin River.

Says Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, “H.R. 1837 is an end run around California’s water rights laws. It puts junior rights holders ahead of Delta agriculture, Delta municipal water users, and fisheries. Forget public trust protections.”

Recovery of the West Coast’s recreational and commercial fishing industries is threatened by operation of federal and state water projects, which create conditions hostile to fish. Since April, eight million fish have been killed at the pumps, despite the fact that reservoirs are full.

Export contractors have refused to pay for fish screens at the pumps.

Nunes argues that federal endangered species protections have cost tens of thousands of jobs in impoverished San Joaquin Valley communities. But research by Dr. Jeffrey Michael of the University of the Pacific’s Business Forecasting Center has shown conclusively that San Joaquin Valley job losses are lower than claimed and have been driven by the housing construction collapse.

Even with pumping restrictions to protect salmon and other species, average exports from the Delta are now similar to what they were in the 1980s and 1990s. Several years of dramatic increases in pumping during the past decade have driven some species of fish to the brink of extinction.

Millions of tax dollars have been spent on scientific reviews confirming the adverse effects of project over-pumping.

Restore the Delta is a broad-based coalition including Delta farmers, environmentalists, fishermen, business leaders, and concerned citizens. Restore the Delta advocates for a more comprehensive and thoughtful approach to address the state’s water needs, including projects that safeguard the Bay, the Delta, the environment, and the people of California.

Dear Chairman McClintock and Ranking Member Napolitano:

Restore the Delta and the other in-Delta interests signing-on to this letter are writing to express our strong opposition to H.R. 1837.
First and foremost, when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was created to provide irrigation water, the law (Reclamation Act of 1902) made it clear that the Bureau was to abide by State water laws. H.R. 1837 would subordinate State rights to manage water resources, thereby allowing the Federal Government to subjugate California water law to Federal political interference. H.R. 1837 is an attempt to prioritize junior water contracts held by a limited number of San Joaquin Valley growers over the senior and superior water rights of Delta farmers, and other farmers whose land falls within the Delta watershed.

Second, the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord has failed to protect the Bay-Delta environment. Earlier this year, recommendations were made by panels of scientists and fishery experts from State and Federal agencies, as well as non-government agencies, that call for greater flows to be restored to the Delta. Just at the point that we are beginning to recover salmon fisheries and address the real needs for water flows into the Delta, this legislative threat to increase pumping without proper fish screening could stall and undo real efforts for successful restoration of Delta fisheries presently and in the future. Moreover, returning to the record high water export levels of 2000 through 2006 would have a negative impact on water quality and quantity for a number of Delta farmers and in-Delta municipal water users.

Another problematic item in this legislation is the repeal of the San Joaquin River Settlement. The San Joaquin River settlement has the potential to restore water flows and water quality to the San Joaquin River, thereby having a positive impact on the water quality and quantity of the southern part of the Delta. The San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement is one part of the solution to improving Delta water quality and quantity for fisheries, farming and urban communities.

Attempts to reverse this promise for San Joaquin River restoration sends a bad message to Delta communities. Since the inception of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Water Project, promises made regarding the export of surplus flows and proper fish screening at export water facilities have been broken repeatedly. If Congress were to break yet another promise regarding restoration through legislative action, it would signal to Delta communities the Federal Government’s sacrifice of the Delta for the benefit of another region in California.

It is this preference for San Joaquin Valley agriculture over Delta agriculture, fisheries and in- Delta urban uses that is the most disturbing aspect of HR 1837. Research conducted by Dr. Jeff Michael from the University of the Pacific has shown that decreases in water exports have had little effect on San Joaquin Valley job losses over the last few years, but that Delta agriculture does support over 36,000 jobs in California. HR 1837 is not a job creation bill for the San Joaquin Valley, but it very well could become a job killer bill for the Delta, and for California.

We recognize the need to help the San Joaquin Valley address its growing water needs. However, we cannot support legislation that has the real potential to destroy the economic and environmental health of our Delta communities.

In conclusion, we urge you to stop HR 1837 from moving forward in the legislative process and to keep it from being reconstituted in future legislative proposals.

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