c/o Raju Chebium
Gannett Washington Bureau
A Republican bill that would increase the amount of water available to farmers in CA's Central Valley, passed the GOP-majority House on 229 - 191 vote.
The measure would increase the share of water farmers and dairy producers could access under Central Valley Project, a federal water-management effort launched in 1933 to combat chronic shortages. Under the bill, the increased agricultural quota would result from the elimination of the allotment for the San Francisco Bay Delta to improve the habitat for Delta smelt and other fish.
The bill's backers said they want to help the region's economy and keep food prices low for consumers across the U.S. Critics said the measure would overturn state and federal laws and established science. Central Valley producers have long resented water rationing and want to increase the amount they can use. Environmentalists say the smelt is a barometer of the San Francisco Bay's health and have gone to court to preserve water shipments from Central Valley.
The tension between the two sides has increased as California's drought has worsened -- and was reflected in the heated floor debate between California's Republican and Democratic House members.