This vote was on an amendment that would have put off a change in management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta unless federal agencies can be sure no jobs in northern California would be lost.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that would alter the management of one of California’s largest waterways to favor agribusiness over environmental and conservation interests. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta supports sensitive bird and fish populations, but scarce water resources have jeopardized the health of the ecosystem. The bill would divert more water from the Delta south to water-thirsty farms and cities in the fertile San Joaquin Valley. It would also override state and federal environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
Proponents of the bill argued that it would help farmers and businesses that are suffering drought-like conditions. But opponents said those jobs would come at the cost of jobs in northern California, which depends on a healthy Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to maintain fishing, recreation, and other industries.
Rep. Thompson’s amendment required a certification from the Secretary of Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, and Secretary of Labor that no jobs would be lost in northern California. Management of the water resources would not change until the certification could be given.
“The bill does the exact opposite of what it claims to do. It's a job-killer bill. It creates economic winners and losers based on south-of-Delta interests. The livelihoods and concerns of individuals outside of this limited area are ignored in order to support well-heeled agricultural interests south of the Delta,” Rep. Thompson said.
Republicans accused Democrats of hypocrisy, saying many of them represent districts that also receive water diverted from environmentally sensitive areas.
“Silicon Valley gets their water from Hetch Hetchy. San Francisco gets their water from Hetch Hetchy. What's Hetch Hetchy? Hetch Hetchy was dammed up. It's in Yosemite, and they pipe their water,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said. “So if they care about the fish and the fishermen, tear down the dam, send their water out to the Delta.”
Rep. Thompson’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 178-239. Voting “yea” were 176 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 231 Republicans and 8 Democrats. As a result, the House defeated the effort to put off new management rules for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta until federal agencies could ensure they would not result in job losses.