The House of Representatives passed a water bill Wednesday that eases pumping regulations and speeds up storage projects.
Hanford Congressman David Valadao says the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act, or GROW Act will bring water to Valley farmers. Valadao is the bill’s author, and argued for its passage on the House floor using a series of large posters as slides, including a picture of a farm worker standing outside a dilapidated structure.
“This is what happens when water is allowed to flow out in the ocean as wasted,” Valadao said. “People are living in shanty towns. These are people who want to work. People who want to feed the world, and provide for their own families, and not wait for a check from the government.”
Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen supports the bill. He sees it as both a medium and long term fix to some of the Valley’s most pressing water issues.
“This is a very unique year,” Jacobsen said. “Top three, top two year as far as water historical records. We want to make sure that going forward, we have these allocations that are somewhat on the reliable side for the future of the Valley’s agriculture industry.”
Jacobsen and Rep. Valadao both say the GROW Act works within the Endangered Species Act. Many Democrats disagree, arguing the it fails to balance farmers needs and environmental needs.
“This legislation only prioritizes certain areas or industries instead of taking the comprehensive approach we need,” argued Sacramento Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui.
Only one California Democrat, Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), voted for the bill. He said he has concerns about two parts of the bill that affect his district, but he expects changes to be made in the Senate.
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) expects opposition from California’s senators and governor to be enough to stop the bill before it reaches President Trump.
“Every two years we fight this thing out,” McNerney said. “It’s good political theater for some colleagues, but it’s not going to get through the Senate.”
But Valadao said he thinks having a Republican president improves its chances.
“I feel really good about it. I know we’re going to have to negotiate with our senators, hopefully they’ll come to the table,” Valadao said.
The bill builds on a previous water measure that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) negotiated last year, McCarthy said in a video released by his office.
“This will provide more water … allow more of that water to come through the Valley where it’s needed instead of out to the ocean,” he said.