This vote was on an amendment that would have put off a change in the management plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta until federal agencies can show the new plan will not harm the safety of the water supply for area residents.
Rep. Jerry McNerney (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.
Rep. McNerney, who represents a district that includes much of the San Joaquin Delta, said he was concerned that diverting more water away from the Delta would harm water quality for those who live in the Delta region. If the result was a saltier water supply, this would require communities in the Delta region to pay more to treat their water. Sending water to agribusinesses is not fair if it results in greater costs and threats to public health elsewhere, he said.
“Many communities in the Delta region are struggling with budget and public health challenges as it is,” Rep. McNerney said. “The last thing we need is for the Congress to pass a bill that threatens our well-being and forces us to spend millions more to just treat our water. It's bad enough to steal somebody's water. It's even worse to steal their water and then charge them millions of dollars for the privilege.”
Republicans argued that their bill, not Rep. McNerney’s amendment, would offer “ultimate protections for Delta communities.” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) argued that the current management plan was an “attack on farmers all over the state and communities all over the state.” Allowing farmers to take water from the Delta, as they have done for a century, would help protect private property rights and therefore benefit all property owners, they said.
Rep. McNerney’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 178-242. Voting “yea” were 177 Democrats and 1 Republican. Voting “nay” were 236 Republicans and 6 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 can show the new plan will not harm the safety of the water supply for area residents.