On Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 23, the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act. This bill takes another major step forward to bring our communities the water they contract and pay for by increasing pumping and speeding up the process to approve new water projects.
The GROW Act would provide water reliability to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) to ensure water resources are reliable, predictable, and available to fulfill supply promises, expand infrastructure by enacting one-stop-shop permitting reforms to capture more water, require the federal government to expedite and complete feasibility studies for water storage projects, and prevents federal agencies from requiring certain entities to relinquish their water rights to the U.S. in order to use public land.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) lauded the bill as a major step forward in California’s water issues.
“[W]ater is not optional. Not in my district. Not in California. Not anywhere,” McCarthy said on the House floor Wednesday. “But over the past five years my constituents have struggled to survive without life-giving water in the face of a catastrophic drought.”
He noted that the exceptional winter California experienced provided relief to a water-starved state, to the point that “there was so much water this past winter, we ran out of room to store it.”
However, California will not always be so fortunate and should be proactive.
What happens if next year’s rain and snowfall is average? Or below average? Or we have another drought?,” McCarthy asked. “The federal and state regulations that keep us from pumping and storing water will come back to haunt us.”
He said the water bill passed last year is a “down payment on California’s future.” The legislation McCarthy supports is another investment, another step.
The bill would look at pumping and the Delta smelt, an endangered species that drives much California’s controversial water policies.
“So, let’s look at pumping. There is no reason — absolutely no reason – we should prioritize potential benefits to fish over real benefits to families,” McCarthy said. “This legislation increases Delta pumping and will bring immediate relief two-thirds of California south of the Delta.”
He noted long-term solutions will require more than pumping to accommodate California’s residents.
“While California’s population has doubled since the 1970s, we haven’t completed a single major storage project in that time. Now that’s worth restating,” McCarthy said. “With California’s population having doubled since the 1970s we have not completed a single major storage project in that time. How can California grow and thrive in the future if we depend on inadequate infrastructure from nearly 50 years go?”
He noted five reservoir projects have been wrapped up in red tape for decades and cited that if complete, could provide as much as 1.5 million acre-feet of water for California.
“So we need to build more storage as soon as possible,” McCarthy said. “Last year’s water bill jumpstarted the process for building new reservoirs in California and the West. It was a bipartisan bill with hundreds of votes out of the House, more than 70 in the Senate.”
The GROW Act would require the federal government to finish the required feasibility studies and reform the permitting process so future projects avoid being bogged down.
“So I want to thank Congressman David Valadao (CA-21) for his hard work, his persistence on this issue,” he said. “Ultimately, American citizens haven’t gotten the water they need because their government was failing them. Last year’s bill was a start to change all that. So today, we take another major step forward to bring our communities the water they contract and pay for.”