Support split for federal water bill


san joaquin riverWASHINGTON — California’s congressional delegation is split on a potentially game-changing federal water bill.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 360-61 to approve $558 million California water package that, among other things, would make it easier to build dams and move water south of the Delta. The Senate passed the bill 78-21 Friday and now goes to President Obama.

Part of the impetus for the wide-ranging water package was the drought that has plagued California. Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Dianne Feinstein negotiated to add a California package to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. Among the provisions included are Rep. Jeff Denham’s “Save Our Salmon Act,” a fish predation pilot program on the Stanislaus River. It would also expand storage at New Melones reservoir.

“The timing of these drought provisions is critical so our water system can capture and store desperately needed water,” said Denham, R-Turlock. “The regulatory flexibility of the provisions will benefit the Valley and allow our local districts to begin protecting our threatened salmon and steelhead from non-native predator fish and to allow for additional storage at New Melones Reservoir.”

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Tracy, spoke out against the rider he said would endanger wildlife and water quality in the Delta.

“This rider would devastate the Delta, exacerbate salinity intrusion and water quality issues, and pick winners and losers in an already drought-stressed state,” McNerney said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer also opposed the environmental proposals. However, opponents were outnumbered.

The bill calls for than $11 billion worth of infrastructure projects nationwide, including $335 million for proposed California water storage projects. The projects were not named but would provide partial funding for Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River and Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley.


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