The House is currently reviewing a bill that would restore water to tens of thousands of farmers in California. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, H.R. 1837, amends previous legislation in an effort to restore water to California’s Central Valley which drought has cost millions of acres of crops to perish, along with jobs and people’s livelihoods.
California’s Central Valley has been receiving water from the Central Valley Project, a collection of canals, reservoirs, pumps and dams, since 1933. The CVP resulted in development of major cities such as Fresno, and Sacramento. The Valley is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, producing 8 percent of the nation’s agrarian output on less than 1 percent of farmland in the U.S.
The Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) of 1992 has changed this. Concerned about fish and wildlife habitats, the bill shut restricted water to parts the San Joaquin Valley and established restoration funds for the ecosystem. The result has been severe drought, and a collapse of the farming industry in the Valley. The area is currently one of the most impoverished in the nation. Furthermore the aims CVPIA took for environmental restoration have been unsuccessful. Twenty years and billions of dollars later, less than half of the restoration projects have been completed. A review of CVPIA by the OMB has shown that fish populations have either stayed the same or declined since 1992.
Sponsored by Rep. Devin Nunes, the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act seeks to renew and expedite long-term water contracts for the Central Valley Project. The legislation also demands more accountability from the Secretary of the Interior regarding the issue, as well as transparency for the restoration program and its expenditures. The bill is nonetheless environment-conscious, considering all requirements instituted by the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
It is clear this bill will not only quench the drought-stricken farmers of California’s Central Valley, bringing back thousands of jobs, but it will also help reduce the ever increasing grocery costs that consumers are experiencing across the nation. With little change in population trends for endangered fish in the area, it is evident that turning on the water pumps will only affect those struggling families, whom have been growing American produce for almost a century.