House Passes HR 2898, Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015

House Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Deliver Relief to People Suffering From Western Drought

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 16, 2015 – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2898, theWestern Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 with bipartisan support by a vote of 245-176.  Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement upon final passage.

“In the midst of the drought crisis in California and the West, H.R. 2898 will liberate Americans from the prison of outdated water laws and radical environmental regulations that have exacerbated the drought and choked the economy. This imperative legislation will restore water to communities across California and the West and stabilize food prices for Americans across the country. Most importantly, it restores people as our unmistakable, rightful first priority in the nation’s water policies,” Chairman Bishop stated. “I commend Rep. David Valadao for his leadership on H.R. 2898, and thank my California colleagues and members of the Committee, for their work on a strong bill that will alleviate manmade drought effects and return prosperity to the West.”

House Committee On Natural Resources Press Release

Congressman Valadao Press Release 

Congressman Huffman Press Release Opposing the Bill

H.R. 2898 – Bill Summary:

– California Provisions

Title I: Adjusting Delta Smelt Management Based on Increased Real-Time Monitoring and Updated Science

Title I would revises calculations used to determine incidental take limits for Delta smelt. Title I also requires the agencies to use real time data to make decisions about operational changes to the pumps and sets flow requirements for the Old and Middle Rivers in the San Joaquin River Delta area.

Title II: Ensuring Salmonid Management is Responsive to New Science

Requires the federal agencies to evaluate and quantify the benefit to salmon species from reductions in pumping. In addition, the Secretary of Commerce is required to consider alternative measures including barriers to fish entrainment, habitat enhancements and predation control programs. Authorizes a non-federally financed predator fish removal program on the Stanislaus River. Creates a pilot project to control invasive species in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries.

Title III: Operational Flexibility and Drought Relief
Directs the Secretaries (of Ag, Commerce and Interior) to provide the maximum quantity of water supplies practicable. Directs quick issuance of permits for water transfers within 30 days. Requires Cross Channel gates in the Delta stay open to the maximum extent possible. Authorizes emergency environmental reviews where the Secretaries can develop alternatives to comply with NEPA during an emergency drought declaration. Directs the Secretaries to strive for flexibility in project operations that maximize water supply. Directs Reclamation to work with local stakeholders to study additional storage at New Melones Reservoir. Repeals the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement. This section further states that the development of a warm water fishery satisfies the requirements of both the San Joaquin River Settlement and California State Fish and Game Code. The fishery will be located on the San Joaquin River between below Friant Dam and upstream of Gravelly Ford. Directs the Secretary of Interior to develop a program to reschedule water deliveries from Shasta and Folsom Reservoirs from one water year to the next for water contractors located South of the Delta.

Title IV: CALFED Storage Feasibility Studies

Directs Reclamation to complete five feasibility studies for water storage projects in California and sets timelines for completion. If these timelines are not met Title IV directs the Secretary of Interior to report in person and on a monthly basis to the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sets a number of conditions relating to development of water storage at Temperance Flat. This includes a prohibition on a Wild and Scenic River designations from hindering the study or development of storage at Temperance Flat.

Title V: Water Rights Protections

Deals with CA specific water operations including operation of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. Directs Secretary of Interior to confer with CA Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding implementation of this bill as it relates to the State Water Project operations and California Fish and Game Code. States that, under certain conditions, additional water yield will be made available to the State Water Project contractors to offset actions by CA Fish and Wildlife Dept. Directs federal agencies to adhere to CA state water law.  States that diversion of water shall not be done in a manner that alters water right priorities established under CA law. Sets specific conditions for water allocations to Sacramento Valley Contractors including specifying percentage of water delivers in: “wet, above normal, below normal, and dry” years.

Title VI: Miscellaneous

Contains a number of provisions. Amends the Central Valley Improvement Act and authorizes water deliveries to Kettleman City Community Services District. Creates an advisory board for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund.  Allows hatchery-spawned fish to be counted toward ESA populations. Authorizes the transfer of the New Melones Unit to water and power providers. Authorizes expanded sub-basin watershed studies. Codifies releases from the Lewiston Dam during “critically dry, dry, normal, wet and extremely wet years”.  Amends the Central Valley Project Improvement Act to ensure that water dedicated to fish and wildlife is replaced and provided to water contractors by the end of 2018. Adds definitions to the Central Valley Improvement Act to define “anadromous fish” and “reasonable flow”.

– Nation and West Wide Provisions

Title VII: Water Supply Permitting Act

Aims to expedite the permitting process for the construction of non-federal surface water storage facilities.  Establishes the Bureau of Reclamation as the lead permitting agency for environmental permits. Authorizes the Secretary of Interior to accept funds from non-federal entities to expedite evaluation of permitting.

Title VIII: Bureau of Reclamation Project Streamlining

Directs the Bureau of Reclamation to complete feasibility studies in less than three years with a maximum federal cost of $3 million. Allows certain conditions under which the Secretary of Interior can request an extension to these limits. Establishes finical penalties for federal agencies if they do not render a timely decision.  Directs the Secretary of Interior to develop an annual “Report to Congress on Future Water Project Development”. Directs the Secretary to publish a federal register notice by May 1 of each year requesting proposals for projects to be included in the Report. Non-federal project sponsors may make requests for proposals to be included in the Report. This title provision is modeled after Title VII of P.L. 113-121, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act that established a similar process for Army Corps of Engineers water projects through inclusion in Chief’s Reports.

Title IX: Accelerated Revenue, Repayment, and Surface Water Storage Enhancement

Provides a blanket authorization for Reclamation contractors to prepay repayment contracts. Under current law repayment must be congressionally authorized and is often done on a project by project basis. Authorizes a “Reclamation Surface Water Storage Account” that would act as a revolving loan fund for water storage projects.  Three years after enactment of this legislation Reclamation would deposit fifty percent of prepayment receipts into the Reclamation Surface Water Storage Account. This account would be used to fund loans for future surface water storage. Funds taken from this account would be designated as fully repayable and would be deposited in the Account repayment would be done under a 40 year contract.  CBO cost estimates indicate that this fund could generate approximately $360 million over the 2019-2020 period.

Title X: Safety of Dams

Amends the Reclamation Safety of Dams Act authorizes additional project benefits. As written this would allow the study and construction of additional storage capacity that could be conducted in conjunction with Dam Safety improvements. Project beneficiaries would pay for additional improvements.

Title XI: Water Rights Protection

Prohibits the Secretaries of Agriculture or Interior from conditioning or withholding a permit approval or extension on the surrender of modification of a water right. Also stipulates that the Secretaries shall not take any action that adversely affects  groundwater measures established by a state or the use of groundwater in accordance with state law.




ACWA Contact: David L. Reynolds
Director of Federal Relations
Association of California Water Agencies
400 North Capitol St., NW
Washington, DC 20001

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