House approves California water bill

On Feb. 29, the House of Representatives passed HR 1837, also known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, which will create more water storage capacity in the state of California. If enacted as written, the proposed bill would result in a number of changes, including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • the existing environmental regulatory baseline under which the Central Valley Project is operated
  • the list of scientific and fish and wildlife management agencies which would  responsible for assisting the Secretary of Interior in determining what would constitute reasonable in-stream flow requirements
  • potential increases in both project use and Base Resource allocations

However, the biggest impact to Western will be the portion of the bill that relates to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. These impacts would result from resetting the existing environmental regulatory compliance standards to a previous one (i.e., the 1994 Bay-Delta Accords). As proposed, this bill would assure transparency of CVPIA Restoration Fund expenditures by creating an oversight expenditure board, enact a sunset date as to when the Restoration Funds may be reduced as stipulated in the original act, and capping contributions to CVP power preference users as is the case for CVP water users. Because preference power customers pay CVPIA Restoration Fund assessments as an additive to their cost-based Base Resource allocation, these actions will ease some of the cost burdens currently faced by Western’s Sierra Nevada customers.

The bill faces a somewhat more problematical future in the Senate as the measure is opposed by several environmental groups. Stakeholders are also concerned that parts of the proposed new legislation could be separated and attached as amendments to other legislation being considered by Congress.