The measure, called the "Gaining Responsibility on Water Act" or GROW Act, has already passed the US House, largely along party lines. Supporters, including many Central Valley Republicans and farmers, say it would cut the red tape that prevents dams and water storage projects from being built.
While that might normally sit well with powerful Southern California water interests, this bill is unlikely to garner support from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger says the measure doesn't strike the right balance between water supply and the environment.
“The way we read this bill is that it goes too far on the side of providing water supply, potentially at the expense of the environment and that’s not where our board is,” says Kightlinger.
He says staff has recommended the board of the Metropolitan Water District oppose the measure. The board will take up the issue at its August meeting.
Critics say the bill interferes with California water laws and would impede the federal Endangered Species Act. While the bill is specific to California, legal experts say it could have ramifications in other states.
“If enacted, I think it would serve as a precedent and encourage other development interests in other states to seek similar carve outs or exemptions from longstanding federal environmental laws,” says Rick Frank, director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at UC Davis.
The bill is sponsored by Central Valley Republican Congressman David Valadao and has support of the California Farm Bureau Federation.