Congressional Committee 'kangaroo court' will promote two salmon-killing water bills

Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River northeast of Fresno, California. Photo by Dan Bacher. |

By Dan Bacher | 

After a tour of Friant Dam and a local dairy farm site that has been damaged from recent floods, the Republican-controlled House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a legislative field hearing in Tulare today at 2 p.m. to launch two controversial bills that environmental groups say are designed to provide more water for San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and destroy salmon populations.

The hearing on H.R. 215, the "WATER for California Act, "and H.R. 872, the "FISH Act,” will take place at the World Ag Expo,4500 S. Laspina St. Tulare, CA 93274, according to a press advisory from the Committee.

The hearing will include House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Subcommittee on Water Wildlife and Fisheries Chairman Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), U.S. Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), U.S. Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) 

The field hearing will also be streamed live here on the committee's youtube channel.

”For too long, complex and contradictory laws and regulations that control how much we’re able to pump, and what storage projects we’re able to move forward, have amplified California’s water problems,” said Valadao and Westerman in an op-ed in the San Joaquin Valley Sun touting the legislation.  “If we don’t address the laws that govern our water, our ability to feed the nation will be in trouble.” (

However, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, sees the event much differently. She described the event in Tulare as a “kangaroo court” to launch two federal bills “designed for a salmon extinction with the stated intent of opening water spigots for Big Ag forever.” 

Barrigan-Parrilla said H.R. 872 (Calvert) “strips the National Marine Fisheries Service of its authority to protect salmon and other anadromous species under the ESA.”

She said H.R. 215 (Valadao) “authorizes and directs the enlargement of Shasta Dam, which would destroy Native American sacred sites, harm fish and wildlife, and violate State law.”

It also prohibits the United States from reinitiating consultation on Central Valley Project and State Water Project operations for 7 years “in an effort to lock in place the Trump Administration’s unlawful biological opinion on Delta flows,” according to Barrigan-Parrilla. 

“The science is clear,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “California salmon are in trouble because we are not allowing enough water to flow through our rivers and Bay-Delta when it is most needed by fish.”

“It’s really heartbreaking to watch California congressmen introduce federal bills that undermine protections for salmon,” she argued. “This is just another water grab on behalf of venture capital ‘farmers’ who make generous political donations. Real California representatives would work to strengthen protections for salmon, and Tribes, and the North Coast communities that depend on salmon.”

“This hearing is not an opportunity for public input. Instead, testimony will likely only be provided by a handful of hand-selected witnesses,” said Keiko Mertz and Ron Stork of Friends of the River in a press advisory. “U.S. Congressional  Representatives will be in attendance, most of which represent Districts with some of  the largest water users in the state. Several represent the southern Central Valley, an  area with groundwater overdraft so severe that drinking water wells are drying up and  the ground is sinking.”

They described HR 215 as the “Frankenstein Bill,” consisting of a “resurrection of many bad  ideas that would harm California rivers.”

The river advocates pointed out: 

• “This bill does not create new water. Instead, it would essentially take water from other users, Delta farmers, and the environment.

• It proposes expensive water projects and policy ideas which will damage  California ecosystems and communities – which will only add a drop in the bucket in a few years.

• It challenges state sovereignty to manage its own land and waters.”

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