You can call it a step forward today for farmers frustrated by what many consider overbearing water regulations.
The House of Representatives passed a water bill Wednesday that eases pumping regulations and speeds up storage projects.
Hanford Congressman David Valadao says the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act, or GROW Act will bring water to Valley farmers. Valadao is the bill’s author, and argued for its passage on the House floor using a series of large posters as slides, including a picture of a farm worker standing outside a dilapidated structure.
“This is what happens when water is allowed to flow out in the ocean as wasted,” Valadao said. “People are living in shanty towns. These are people who want to work. People who want to feed the world, and provide for their own families, and not wait for a check from the government.”
Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen supports the bill. He sees it as both a medium and long term fix to some of the Valley’s most pressing water issues.
“This is a very unique year,” Jacobsen said. “Top three, top two year as far as water historical records. We want to make sure that going forward, we have these allocations that are somewhat on the reliable side for the future of the Valley’s agriculture industry.”
Jacobsen and Rep. Valadao both say the GROW Act works within the Endangered Species Act. Many Democrats disagree, arguing the it fails to balance farmers needs and environmental needs.
“This legislation only prioritizes certain areas or industries instead of taking the comprehensive approach we need,” argued Sacramento Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui.
Fresno Congressman Jim Costa was one of only four Democrats to vote yes. He said in a statement he supports the bill, but would like to see more changes as it moves to the Senate.
Changes there might be needed, as the bill faces a tougher road. Both of California’s senators have already announced they oppose the bill, saying it takes regulatory control from the state and gives it to the feds.