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Subcommittee Evaluates Water Law

Friday, September 18, 2009

Capital Press Agricultural Weekly, Chip Power

Published March 24, 2006

How well a rewrite of an important federal law related to environmental uses of water is working was expected to be aired Friday, March 24, at a Central Valley workshop.

The Water and Power Subcommittee was to examine the impacts of the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which reallocated water from agricultural uses and reserved it for environmental purposes as well as setting up a fund to restore fish and wildlife.

The subcommittee was to review whether the promises of the act were being met and the outlook for the program's effectiveness in light of growing and competing water needs in California.

"Over $780 million later, with $500 million from water users and more than $200 million from taxpayers' pockets, it is time for congressional oversight on the act," said House Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman George Radanovich, R-Fresno.

The hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

Previously referred to as HR429, Public Law 102-575 contains 40 separate titles providing for water resource projects throughout the West, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, an Interior agency that manages water projects in the public interest.

Ten major areas of change, the Bureau says, included:

1. 800,000 acre-feet of water dedicated to fish and wildlife annually.

2. tiered water pricing applicable to new and renewed contracts.

3. water transfers provision, including sale of water to users outside the CVP service area.

4. Special efforts to restore anadromous fish population.

5. Restoration fund financed by water and power users for habitat restoration and enhancement and water and land acquisitions.

6. No new water contracts until fish and wildlife goals achieve.

7. No contract renewals until completion of an environmental impact statement.

8. Terms of contracts reduced from 40 to 25 years with renewal at the discretion of the secretary of the Interior.

9. Installation of the temperature control device at Shasta Dam.

10. Implementation of fish passage measures at Red Bluff Diversion Dam; firm water supplies for Central Valley wildlife refuges; and development of a plan to increase CVP yield.

The Environmental Working Group has said that the federal government has failed to meet the requirements of the 1992 act and that ecosystems and taxpayers' dollars are being exchanged for the commerce that the water deliveries provide.