[env-trinity] Fresno Bee June 18 2009
bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Jun 19 14:14:52 PDT 2009
Valley lawmakers narrowly lose House vote on irrigation water
Fresno Bee - published online 6/18/09
By Michael Doyle / Bee Washington Bureau reporter
WASHINGTON - Central Valley lawmakers this week briefly summoned House
attention to the region's water shortages, challenging the environmental
rules that have curtailed irrigation deliveries.
Legislatively, the Valley lawmakers failed. By a 208-218 vote Thursday
afternoon, the House rejected an amendment by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia,
that would have blocked a federal decision steering more irrigation water
into fish habitat protection.
Still, Nunes and his allies insist they put a useful spotlight on a region
they believe has been ignored too long.
"It's OK to value fish, that's OK," Nunes said during House debate, "but
understand you're starving families while you value fish."
The vote Thursday was closer than some expected, with 37 Democrats joining
most Republicans in supporting Nunes. Democratic Reps. Jim Costa of Fresno
and Dennis Cardoza of Merced voted for the amendment, with Cardoza using his
House Rules Committee position to ensure the amendment got a vote on the
The amendment offered to a $65 billion spending bill would have prohibited
federal funds from paying for a set of rules issued June 4 called a
"biological opinion." The National Marine Fisheries Service rules in
question cut Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water diversions by up to 7% to
protect endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead.
The federal agency ordered the reduction in pumping, which amounts to about
330,000 acre-feet a year, after concluding that current operations were
killing too many fish. The agency also directed that more water be stored
behind Shasta Dam, among other changes.
The agency was compelled to complete its 844-page biological opinion by U.S.
District Judge Oliver W. Wanger, who was appointed to the bench by former
President George H.W. Bush. Wanger determined last year that the agency's
previous plan failed to adequately protect fish.
"I appreciate the frustration of my friends who live in the Valley, who are
undergoing very serious economic times," said Rep. George Miller,
D-Martinez, "but to throw out this biological opinion makes nothing better.'
Rod McInnis, Southwest regional director of the fisheries service, added
when the biological opinion was issued that "what is at stake here is not
just the survival of species but the health of entire ecosystems and the
economies that depend on them."
The California water amendment, debated for about 16 minutes on Wednesday
and rejected on Thursday, will come back again. Nunes said he will keep
offering similar amendments on the appropriations bills needed to fund the
federal government in Fiscal 2010.
"This isn't a solution to the problem," Nunes said, "but it's all we can
The Nunes amendment was one of several dozen offered to the appropriations
bill funding the commerce and justice departments and other agencies.
The Senate and House will still have to reconcile differing versions of the
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land
415 519 4810 cell
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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