The Senate unanimously passed a drought relief bill for California last night. While "The
Emergency Drought Relief Act" was crafted in a way that made it difficult for Senators to
oppose, there's a good chance that important river protections, restoration efforts and the
Wild and Scenic Merced will get caught in the middle when the bill is merged with its
corresponding bill in the House. Help us keep these river protections strong! Contact your
to speak up for
rivers in California and Wild and Scenic Rivers everywhere!
As California and Southern Oregon face extreme drought conditions, legislators are looking for
ways to bring more water to parched farms, ranches, and residents. Several drought-relief bills
have been introduced in recent months, including Senator Dianne Feinstein's "Emergency
Drought Relief Act" (S. 2198) and "The San Joaquin Valley
Emergency Water Delivery Act
" (H.R. 3964) introduced by Representatives David Valadao,
Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy, which passed the House in February. H.R. 3964 overrides important
federal and state environmental protections, guts key elements of the 1992 Central Valley Project
Improvement Act, de-designates the Wild and Scenic Merced, and is opposed by the Obama
Administration. Although Senator Feinstein
initially called H.R. 3964 disingenuous, irresponsible and dangerous
, the House and
Senate are gearing up to merge the bills in conference.
A provision in S. 2198 calls for addressing the drought with "policies that do not pit
stakeholders against one another, which history has shown only leads to costly litigation that
benefits no one and prevents any real solutions." If the House and Senate hold to this
standard, we believe that changing Wild and Scenic designations, building new or higher dams, and
permanently gutting important environmental protections should be off the table.
Unfortunately, S. 2198 also requires the federal government to approve "any project or
operations to provide additional water supplies if there is any possible way
whatsoever…" The language of the bill does not specify whether these "water
supply projects" include expanding storage. American Whitewater is concerned that this could
open the door wide for efforts to de-designate the Wild and Scenic Merced River and flood it by
raising New Exchequer Dam and expanding McClure Reservoir. H.R. 3964, on the other hand,
have explicit provisions for de-designating the Wild and Scenic Merced. Senator
Feinstein stated that
she would be willing to consider additional storage in the final version
. We're deeply
concerned about where this is headed.
More storage is not the answer. Taller dams just become taller concrete walls in
river beds when the rain doesn't come, and rolling back a Wild and Scenic River boundary
won't change that. Instead, there are other ways to increase storage that should be
considered before any dams in the state are raised or new ones are built. This includes
re-evaluating existing reservoir project operations to balance the need for flood control while
maximizing storage opportunities.
Contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to keep the Wild and Scenic
Merced out of any future drought related negotiations and to defend important environmental
protections for California's rivers
. You don't have to live in Californa to make
an impact. Contacting Senators and Representatives from across the country is important.
Widespread Concern About Drought Bills
Environmental protections did not cause the drought, and rolling them back won't fix
the problem. Take action today and speak up for healthy rivers!