Oppose Alleged "Drought Relief" Legislation

Congress is at it again....draft "drought relief" legislation that will do little to provide real drought relief but includes a long wish list from the water barons that will almost certainly drive the Delta smelt to extinction in the wild and further decimate Central Valley salmon and steelhead.

Please contact your senators and federal representatives to oppose any "drought relief" legislation that:

  • Weakens Biological Opinions that protect threatened and endangered species and their habitat.
  • Exempts water project operations from the National Environmental Policy Act, relieves water project operators from mitigating environmental damage or harm, fast-tracks the environmental review of proposed new surface water projects, or preauthorizes new surface storage projects before feasibility and environmental studies are completed.
  • Provides "drought relief" to a handful of Central Valley counties dominated by industrial agriculture while providing little or no real relief or assistance to most of the other rural and urban counties in the state.
  • Weakens protection of rivers under the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (including designated rivers such as the Merced and rivers recommended for protection by a federal agency, such as the San Joaquin River Gorge).
  • Allows the transfer of taxpayer-funded federal assets such as the New Melones Dam and Reservoir to water contractors who have little obligation to operate these formerly public facilities to benefit the environment.
  • Includes technical provisions that Congress has neither the science background, expertise, or authority to implement, such as ordaining that there will be 56 days of negative flow in the south Delta or that there is no difference between hatchery fish and wild fish in regard to the Endangered Species Act.

Urge your representatives to instead introduce and pass true drought relief legislation for California that protects water quality, aquatic ecosystems, and native fish and wildlife in our rivers and estuaries, while providing effective and timely relief to California communities, industry, and farms.

Effective drought relief legislation should focus on those immediate actions that will extend our existing supplies, boost water conservation and efficiency, provide immediate relief for economically disadvantaged communities and neighborhoods that have run out of water, help mitigate the economic impacts of reduced water deliveries to farms, and encourage the permanent establishment of fundamental and long term changes in how water is managed and used in California.

This goal is achievable only if the drought relief bill is drafted in public with the full participation of and input from all of California's water stakeholders.

California does need federal assistance and relief from this devastating drought. But Congress should not make this situation worse by passing drought relief legislation that overrides environmental laws, weakens state water rights authority, and focuses on actions that will provide little immediate drought relief.