This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Nunes (D-CA) to the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Commerce. The amendment would have prevented the Marine Fisheries Service from implementing those elements of its plan for the California Central Valley and associated water projects that reduced water flow to farms in the valley. That plan was part of an effort to save various species of whales and fish, including the killer whale and a three inch minnow.
The mandated water reduction by the Marine Fisheries Service, combined with an ongoing drought in California, had created significant opposition to the Service’s plan and certain of the water projects. Rep. Nunes, who represents parts of California’s Central Valley, acknowledged that offering his amendment “is the worst of all options”, but that he “had no other choice”.
Nunes said he was offering the amendment because these projects have “caused water shortages to spread not only in the (Central) Valley but now to Los Angeles and even to San Diego.” He said the Democratic majority was responsible for the water shortage since “(T)hey have refused to allow debate on this issue or even a vote on a bill that would end this crisis for good (and) . . . this Congress has failed its constitutional duties to provide for the general welfare of its citizens.”
Two Democrat Members who also represent parts of California’s Central Valley, Rep. Cardoza and Rep. Costa, co-sponsored the amendment. Rep Costa argued that the reasoning behind the projects was “flawed” and that valid alternative assessments and opinions “were not taken into account . . . .” Costa also claimed: (T)his is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. It's an issue that we must solve, and we must do it now.”
Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who was leading the opposition to the amendment, first said he recognized “the frustration of my friends who live in the Valley and are undergoing very serious economic times.” He then went on to argue that preventing the implementation of these projects “makes nothing better.” Miller cited the work, research, congressional action and court cases that had gone on, and argued “this amendment will collapse it all back again, we'll start all over again, and we'll just waste a lot of time. And the problems in the Central Valley will get worse for agriculture; they will get worse for the economy; they'll get worse in Southern California; they'll get worse in the delta; we'll have more endangered species lawsuits; and we'll have more complications. And we'll accomplish nothing. It's bold in its approach. It's destructive in its results.”
Miller also claimed “we're here in this situation because a court ruled after the last (Bush) administration trampled through the Fish and Wildlife Service . . . and altered scientific findings, studies, and opinions that we could no longer conduct the business of the Central Valley Project. I didn't see my friends on the other side of the aisle raise one objection at the time that those actions were taking place, at the time that criminal behavior was taking place.”
Rep. Miller was supported by Rep. Thompson, another California Democrat. Thompson argued that the amendment “take(s) science off the table again, which led us, in part, to this problem and put the courts in control of these rivers, but it also limits our opportunities to address the overall problem. Without the Federal agencies at the table . . . we're limited, and it's not going to bring any answers forward.”
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 208-212. One hundred and seventy-one Republicans and thirty-seven Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and nine Democrats and three Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, language was not added to the Departments of Commerce fiscal year 2010 funding bill that prevented the implementation of the Central Valley and California State water projects.