The Republican-backed legislation would allow Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumps to continue to send water to the Central Valley as long as water is available.
Those pumps are sending minimal water to the valley now because of low reservoir levels and river flows, not environmental regulations that protect endangered fish.
The bill would also stop the restoration of the San Joaquin River until 2015.
Shawn Coburn of Firebaugh farms in three counties in the valley and uses water from two federal systems.
“It’s like closing the gate after the cow has gotten out, it’s a little bit late now, but anything is better than nothing,” says Coburn.
Environmentalists and several Democratic House members called the legislation a “water grab” and an attempt to throw out the Endangered Species Act.
“Sucking the Delta dry is not the answer to California’s water issues," said Democratic Congresswoman Doris Matsui in a statement. "We need long-term solutions that will benefit the entire state, and should be working together to solve California’s water problems through a balanced approach. This proposal is anything but balanced and will only create further discord.”
The legislation is backed by Congressmen Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao.
Overall water use decreased again in September compared to last year in the Sacramento region. Water providers are also pumping less groundwater, despite a heavier reliance on it in the drought.
If a flood were to hit Twitchell Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta it would threaten much of California’s water supply. It’s why emergency management agencies are holding flood-fighting exercises during a drought.
UC Davis researchers have identified 'high priority' dams in California where releasing water may be a key for the survival of native fish species.
California Governor Jerry Brown says the state can lead the way with its water policies just as California is leading the way with initiatives for renewable energy and climate change.
A winter forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center Thursday shows the California drought may persist or intensify in parts of the state.