H.R. 23, Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017

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Week ending July 14, 2017

H.R. 23, Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017


“H.R. 23 would amend the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act (SJRRS) to change water management plans and environmental restoration goals for the Central Valley region in California. The bill would authorize construction of a warm water fishery as an alternative to implementing the SJRRS. H.R. 23 also would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to transfer the current balance and future receipts of the San Joaquin Restoration Fund to nonfederal entities to construct a warm water fishery.” – cbo.

On bills with impact, such as HR 23, any opposition often expresses concerns. What follows is an explanation of the bill from the House Minority Whip’s office;

“After an exceptionally wet winter, California’s historic six-year drought has ended and in April of this year Gov. Brown lifted the drought emergency for most of the state. All major federal reservoirs in California are now well above 100% of their 15-year averages and all federal water users are getting 100% of their water allocations this year.

“The bill overturns a historic settlement reached in 2006 between conservation and fishing interests on one side and agriculture interests on the other. The San Joaquin River Settlement ended a 20 year lawsuit requiring State and federal agencies to cooperate in returning water and a self-sustaining salmon population to the San Joaquin River, California’s second longest river. The bill dictates water allocations under certain conditions for agricultural interests and it changes safeguards under the Endangered Species Act that currently protect economically important fisheries. The bill effectively legislates science, rolling back existing biological opinions required under the Endangered Species Act and reverts back to obsolete limits established more than two decades ago. This redistribution of limited water supplies to large industrial farming operations in the San Joaquin Valley could harm the West Coast salmon fishery.

“The bill includes language identical to H.R. 1654, the Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act (Rep. McClintock) which passed the House last month.  That vote can be found here. This provision would alter the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) permitting process to expedite the construction of new dams. It establishes a permitting process which effectively puts the BOR in the driver seat of permitting new dams and has the potential to undermine the work of other federal agencies fulfilling their statutory obligations to assess impacts on water quality via the Clean Water Act or listed species under the Endangered Species Act.  Proponents of this provision argue that “streamlining” the permitting process for new dams will help to create jobs and grow the economy. In reality, the high cost of building a dam, coupled with the limited available funds and permitting issues on the state level, are the primary impediments to building new dams, not federal environmental laws or delays in the federal permitting process. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, not a single dam has been denied construction because of a lack of coordination between Reclamation and other agencies or because of delays associated with environmental review and permitting.”

 (Full text of H.R. 23 at congress.gov)

Sponsor: Mr. Valadao

Status: Passed House /



On Passage: On passage Passed by recorded vote: 230 – 190 (Roll no. 352).

House Amendments:

n amendment, offered by Mr. LaMalfa, numbered 1 printed in Part C of House Report 115-212 to ensure water supply rescheduling provisions apply to equitably to all water districts in region On agreeing to the LaMalfa amendment; Agreed to by voice vote

n amendment, offered by Mr. Costa, numbered 2 printed in Part C of House Report 115-212 to authorize the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to conduct geophysical characterization activities of groundwater aquifers and groundwater vulnerability in California, including identifying areas of greatest recharge potential. On agreeing to the Costa amendment; Agreed to by voice vote.

An amendment, offered by Mr. Costa, numbered 3 printed in Part C of House Report 115-212 to authorize the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to develop a study to enhance mountain runoff to Central Valley Project reservoirs from headwaters restoration activities On agreeing to the Costa amendment; Agreed to by voice vote

An amendment, offered by Mr. Denham, numbered 4 printed in Part C of House Report 115-212 to set a timeline for completion of the New Melones Reservoir study, prevents exploitation of water rights, extends the program to protect Anadromous Fish in Stanislaus River for 2 years n agreeing to the Denham amendment; Agreed to by voice vote

An amendment, offered by Mr. DeSaulnier, numbered 5 printed in Part C of House Report 115-212 to require a review of available and new, innovative technologies for capturing municipal wastewater and recycling it for providing drinking water and energy, and a report on the feasibility of expanding the implementation of these technologies and programs among Central Valley Project contractors. On agreeing to the DeSaulnier amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 201 – 221 (Roll no. 350).

An amendment, offered by Mr. Pearce, numbered 6 printed in Part C of House Report 115-212 to ensure that the water rights of federally recognized Indian tribes are not affected by this bill. On agreeing to the Pearce amendment; Agreed to by voice vote.

Motion to recommit: On motion to recommit with instructions Failed by recorded vote: 189 – 230 (Roll no. 351).

Text of the motion:

The House proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Carbajal motion to recommit with instructions. The instructions contained in the motion seek to require the bill to be reported back to the House with an amendment to ensure that there is an adequate supply of water to fight wildfires, utilizing water from reservoirs or other surface waters.


On Passage:

Procedural Actions:


Senate Amendments:



Cost to the taxpayersCBO estimates that under H.R. 23 $181 million would be spent in 2019. Federal spending would decrease by the same amount over the 2020‐2021 period because under current law the bulk of spending to implement the JRRS is expected to occur in those years. Estimates of expenditures include funds available for spending from budget Authority made available in previous years

Pay-as-you-go requirements:  Data not available

Regulatory and Other Impact: Data not available

Dynamic Scoring:   Data not available

Tax Complexity:  Not applicable to this bill.

Earmark Certification:  Data not available

Duplication of programs: Data not available

Direct Rule-Making:  Data not available

Advisory Committee Statement: Data not available

Budget Authority: Data not available

Constitutional Authority:   Assumed.


More Bill Information:


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