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Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COSTA. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, I rise to discuss a matter of great importance to my constituents in the San Joaquin Valley, and that's the future of our water supply. More importantly, it's our Nation's food supply and, therefore, an important part of the world's food supply.

H.R. 1837 is not perfect and has issues I think the authors should seriously consider, but I am supporting the legislation today because of a number of important provisions it contains.

Titles 1 and 3 of the legislation aim to address the biggest challenges for water policy in California. In 2009 and 2010, valley communities suffered through a hydrological and regulatory drought that was insufferable. This year, we are again faced with below-average snow pack in the mountains and may see as little as a 30 percent allocation for water in our area.

My congressional district is the most impacted in California by this shortfall. Farmers, farmworkers, and farming communities that live in my district is what I'm talking about. Our water system is broken in California; but while we're trying to fix it, we need operational flexibility while we continue to work on the long-term issues of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan.

We should be discussing more constructive ways in which we can work together.

Title 2 of this measure repeals and replaces the San Joaquin River Restoration Act. After 18 years of litigation, the parties involved decided to reach an out-of-court settlement agreement. We can all dispute that, but it was those 22 districts' local government that we respected who asked them to codify their out-of-court settlement agreement. I note that the Friant Water Authority continues to oppose title 2 of the bill, as do many of the districts who were involved with the writing and the negotiation of the settlement agreement.

Now, we do have problems with the implementation of the program--Congressman Cardoza and I will tell you--from the schedule, to costs, to third-party impacts, to the fulfillment of the water management goal, which is critical to the water users. These issues need to be addressed. But simply repealing the settlement agreement won't solve any of these problems, in my view. In fact, I'm certain they'll be back in court the next day, and that's not solving a problem.

We have had a long history of working on a bipartisan basis in California and in the San Joaquin Valley among our Representatives on water. It frustrates me to see the division on the House floor that has politicized this situation and arguably does nothing for the people that I represent. I have always been willing to work on both sides of the aisle, with the Senate, and with the administration to get things done for our valley; and I have done that throughout my career. But unless we are willing to work with Senator Feinstein, who I know wants to be helpful, I predict that this measure today, as it is proposed, will never be heard in the United States Senate. Therefore, it will never bring an additional single drop of water to our region that is desperately in need of more water.

I think we can do better for our constituents by working together on a bipartisan basis with both Houses to develop and implement solutions both in the long term and the short term. These are the efforts that really will increase our water supply, which all Californians need and deserve to have.


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