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article imageAgriculture and jobs? or fish?

By Gar Swaffar     Mar 3, 2012 in Politics
The battle over water in California is as old as the first settlements of the 49ers and who got how much water for sluicing or hydraulic mining. The arguments now revolve around the question of jobs or fish?
The presumed purpose of HR 1837, also known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, is to create more water storage capacity in the state of California. The detractors of the bill are certain the only purpose is to remove a portion of the environmental protections which have been put in place over the past several decades.
Rep Nunes, Devin (Ca Dist. 21) is the bill's sponsor in the House of Representatives and the bill's cosponsors are Rep Denham, Jeff (Ca. Dist.19) and Rep McCarthy, Kevin.
The bill cleared the House floor yesterday and will be headed to the Senate next. In the senate the bill faces opposition from both California Senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, who will undoubtedly face extreme pressure from their voter base of Liberal Democrats and environmentalists to quash the bill or to never allow it be voted on.
While the bill addresses a number of issues related to water storage in the Central Valley Project (CVP), some of the more controversial items appear to be concerning the definition of what constitutes an anadromous fish.
Rather than hold to the previous definition of only counting those fish who have naturally spawned inland, move to the ocean and then return from the salt water to spawn again, the new definition will include hatchery raised fish, as noted in the HR 1837 bill summary.
HR 1837 as now written would offer greater water guarantees to agriculture in the central valley of California and allow farmers a greater measure of water security for crop production.
As quoted in the Union Democrat, Rep. Denham on the House floor stated: "It is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue, it's an American jobs issue," claimed Denham. "To put people back to work."
And as is always the case in any legislation, the issue of who controls the funds, who holds the funds and who is allotted a share of the funds developed from the CVP schedule of Irrigation Capital Allocations is at stake also.
One provision which is sure to cause every environmentalist on the West Coast to go into a near fatal shock is the repeal of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act. (SJRRA)
The SJRRA stems from a hard fought court battle which was ended in 2006 by a federal court and which began in earnest in 2009. The purpose being to restore and maintain anadromous fish flows in the region, while protecting the long-term contractors using the water for agriculture.
The two purposes have been held to be mutually exclusive by many, and in the short term, the fish heavily outweigh the agricultural interests when water flows run short, as they almost undoubtedly will this year.
The fight has only begun, but the battles over water date as far back as the settlement of California and the 49ers who used the water for hydraulic mining. There's really nothing new here, only the players have changed.
More about HR 1837, Water reliability act, Salmon, andadromous fish, San Joaquin River
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