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Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCLINTOCK. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I compliment the gentlelady from California on stating the opposite of this bill with remarkable precision.

It does not repeal 20 years of California water law; it restores it by restoring the allocation that was agreed to by a broad bipartisan coalition in the Bay-Delta Accord of 1994. In fact, at that time, the Democratic Interior Secretary, Bruce Babbitt, assured all parties that this agreement would be honored by the State and Federal governments.

His promise was broken first by his own Department and most recently when a Federal court deemed the delta smelt to be more important than the livelihoods of thousands of Central Valley farmworkers. Hundreds of billions of gallons of water that these communities had already paid for and depended upon were simply expropriated and blissfully and cavalierly dumped into the Pacific Ocean, turning much of California's fertile Central Valley into a dust bowl.

This bill redeems the promise made to the people of California and restores the allocations that were agreed to.

We hear: Well, that was then and this is now, and the science has changed. What they are referring to is not science; it is ideology masquerading as science. In 2010, their claims were thrown out of the Federal court, which cited ideological zealots who had attempted to, in the words of the court, ``Mislead and to deceive the court into accepting what is not only not the best science, it's not science.''

The science is this: the Northwest Fisheries Science Center determined the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is a principal factor in salmon migration. Ocean currents.

The California Department of Water Resources determined that pumps which deliver water to the Central Valley had a negligible influence on salmon and delta smelt migration.

The National Academy of Sciences reported that nonnative and invasive predators, like the striped bass, are a far more significant influence on salmon and delta smelt populations.

So the second thing that this bill does is to replace the ideological zealotry that created this human disaster with practical and fact-based solutions to support native delta smelt and salmon populations. For example, as I said earlier, it's common to find striped bass in the delta gorged with salmon smolts and delta smelt. This bill allows open season on these destructive, invasive, and nonnative predators.

Fish hatcheries produce millions of salmon smolts each year, and tens of thousands return as fully grown adults to spawn, but these fish are not allowed to be counted. This bill counts them, ensuring that hatcheries will produce thriving and bountiful populations of salmon and delta smelts and any other species considered endangered.

The San Joaquin River Settlement Act envisions an absurdly impractical year-round cold war salmon fishery on the hot valley floor at an estimated cost of $2 million per individual fish. That act was adopted by the Democrats 2 years ago when they controlled this House. It is so expensive because it attempts to establish something that only existed sporadically in nature. Instead, this bill establishes a year-round warm water fishery that acts in concert with the habitat at a fraction of the cost.

Third, the bill removes disincentives in current law that discourage farmers from purchasing surplus water in wet years to recharge groundwater banks.

It removes prohibitive regulatory restrictions on water transfers between willing buyers and willing sellers, which once had efficiently distributed water throughout that system from areas of surplus to areas of shortage.

It allows environmental flows to be recycled and used by human communities once those flows have achieved their environmental purposes.

Fourth, it brings the full force of Federal law to invoke and protect State water rights and forbid their violation by any bureaucracy: local, State, or Federal. In fact, this provision specifically addressed concerns raised by the very same opponents to the original bill who feared that, because of the unique joint operating agreement between the State and Federal Governments, changes in Federal allocations could lead to raids on senior water rights holders by the State government.

This provision fully addresses those concerns through the Federal Government's legitimate constitutional authority in the 14th Amendment to protect the property rights of its citizens against encroachment by any government bureaucracy. This is the preemption issue that the opponents are raising. They are some of the same opponents who attacked the original bill for not protecting those rights. This bill doesn't preempt those rights; it specifically invokes them and protects them.

It brings to an end the predation on the working people of California. It places senior water rights holders in a safe and secure position, and treats our water as the precious resource it is.


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