We Must Fight Horrific Delta Bill

By Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
Executive Director, Restore the Delta

HR1837, a Federal bill sponsored by Congressman Devin Nunes (CA -21, Tulare County) , is a horrific bill for Delta communities. Tentatively, this pending piece of legislation will be considered for a floor vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

In addition to relaxing water pumping restrictions for the Delta, which have been one of the last lines of defense for protecting water quality for Delta farming and urban users, this legislation proposes to strip away 150 years of water rights law and protections in California. Our State water rights laws would be replaced with a new Federal government water rights system, just for California. In other words, passage of HR 1837 would set the stage for big government intrusion into local and state water laws. Enactment of this bill would also undermine our rights as citizens under the California Constitution by stripping away public trust protections of our most valuable shared resource — water.

Even more disturbing, a provision currently exists in HR 1837 that would grant the Westlands Water District the right to receive 100% of their contract water allotment, every year, even in drought years. Remember, Westlands Water District is a junior water rights holder and is only legally entitled to surplus or extra water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta during wet periods.

Passage of HR 1837 would create a new system that would give Westlands farmers all the water they want at any time at the expense of Delta farmers, Delta urban communities, and Delta fisheries.

This is why we need you to take action today!

We need each and every one of you to send four letters out as soon as possible to show your opposition to HR 1837. A draft model has been provided at the end of this email, as well as mailing addresses.

The first two letters should be sent to Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-19, Modesto) and Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-4, Auburn). Both are strong supporters of this legislation to the detriment of their own constituents and to the greater good of California. Let them know why you oppose HR 1837 and ask them to explain why they are such ardent supporters of a handful of corporate farmers in the Westlands Water District rather than the citizens of California whom they serve.

The third letter should be sent to Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, and should point out that the bill does not merit a floor vote.

The fourth letter, which will require revision from the template, should be sent to Secretary John Laird, of the California Resources Agency. Restore the Delta has learned that Secretary Laird does not feel that opposition to HR 1837 is an important priority for his office.

Considering that his agency is in charge of crafting the plan for the peripheral canal with the Westlands Water District (via the BDCP), opposing this bill which would put Westlands first in the water rights system ahead of all other Californians is a must do task for his office.

This is difficult but vitally important action request. It’s time for us all to roll up our sleeves, to fire up our computers, and to take a stand for the Delta.

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Tom McClintock
428 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Jeff Denham
1605 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

California Natural Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: OPPOSE H.R. 1837 (Nunes)

Dear Speaker Boehner:
On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we urge you to oppose the “San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act,” (H.R. 1837), which was introduced by Representative Nunes. Furthermore, we do not believe that this bill merits a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives.

H.R. 1837 overrides the public trust as defined in the California Constitution and state water laws. It reverses the long-standing Congressional principle that the federal government should follow state water law whenever possible.

H.R. 1837 would reduce water quality and water availability for Delta communities and Delta farmers. It seeks to ensure water flows to corporate agribusiness in the western and southern San Joaquin Valley at the expense of Delta family farmers. The recently-released Economic Sustainability Report authored by the Delta Protection Commission shows that Delta agriculture is worth $4.2 billion annually and provides tens of thousands of jobs. Delta agriculture and jobs should not be sacrificed to benefit water users in other parts of the state, some of whom do not even use that water for agriculture.

H.R. 1837 would hinder efforts to restore fish populations in the Delta. Science-based protections for salmon and other endangered species are required under both California state law and the Endangered Species Act. Since 2009, the State of California has consistently opposed legislation that would weaken the Endangered Species Act in the San Francisco Bay-Delta and Estuary. Title I of H.R. 1837 would substitute measures that were part of a short-term agreement in 1994, when the health of the Delta had not deteriorated so seriously and when recent scientific studies had not yet been done.

H.R. 1837 would reverse San Joaquin River restoration, thereby further impacting water quality and quantity for the south Delta. While the San Joaquin River restoration allows for a limited flow of additional water into the south Delta, breaking the promise of San Joaquin River restoration would signal to Delta communities the federal government’s sacrifice of the Delta for the preference of another region in California.

This deeply-flawed bill joins a long list of water strategies created behind closed doors without input from the Delta communities that rely on a healthy Delta for their livelihoods. It threatens the economic security of families, farmers, and small business owners in the Delta, as well as those in the Delta and Northern California who depend on recreational and commercial fisheries. It also threatens the urban economy surrounding the Delta – an area that is home to four million Californians and that is dependent on the Delta to meet its water user needs.

H.R. 1837 deserves your opposition.

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