This was a vote on the passage of the bill expanding the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program. The measure authorized $38 million in federal assistance for the design, planning, and construction of six additional water recycling projects for the San Francisco Bay Area. The substance of this measure was not controversial. However, other water issues in California had become controversial matters. There was an ongoing drought in the state, and some federal actions and a related court decision had limited the flow of water in a few of the state’s major rivers to protect the habitat of certain fish. The combination of these events had caused problems for the farmers in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Republicans decided to oppose any California water-related bill, including this one, until there was a vote on legislation to deal with the issue.
The debate on H.R. 2442 focused primarily on disagreements regarding the San Joaquin Valley issue, and on the decision of the Democratic majority not to permit an amendment relating to that issue to be offered to the San Francisco Bay recycling bill.
Rep. Napolitano (D-CA), who represents a largely non-agricultural area of California, supported the legislation. She argued: “This bill, and the projects it authorizes, will immediately address California's water crisis through local action and provide economic relief through job creation. It will not solve California's water crisis. However, it does provide a valuable and important tool. As we all are very well aware, the drought in California has taken a terrible toll on jobs all over the state, the economy and the environment of the Central Valley in California in particular. . . H.R. 2442 provides a tool to create more water for the Bay Area and, in the process, reduce the amount of water imported from the Sacramento and delta area.”
She went on to say that the legislation provides what she called “a valuable and important tool to stretch the existing water supply and address the critical water issues of our state.”
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) noted that a number of other California water bills, sponsored by Republicans had been debated by the House during the current session. He also noted that no effort was made on any of them to have language added relating to the San Joaquin Valley issue. Miller suggested that, because H.R. 2442 was sponsored by Democrats, the Republicans had decided to try to offer that language to it and were now opposing the bill.
Rep. Hastings (R-WA) was leading the debate on H.R. 2442 for the Republicans. He said “there is an economic disaster occurring in the San Joaquin Valley . . . (because) man-made and government-enforced drought has dried up farm after farm in that valley, with 40,000 workers unemployed, standing in food lines and being ignored by the leadership in this House, when solutions to bring water and relief to this area have been blocked and stymied again by the leadership in this House . . . .”
Rep. McClintock (R-CA), who represents a primarily rural district in Northern California, opposed the bill. He said that “those who blame the drought for (the Central Valley water) problems ignore the fact that this is a very mild drought by historical standards. In fact, during much more severe droughts than the one we are currently experiencing, far more water flowed to the Central Valley than it does right now.” He suggested that the real cause of the problems was that “200 billion gallons of water have been diverted from the Central Valley by . . . regulations.”
Focusing on H.R. 2442, McClintock then said: “It's morally unconscionable that water recycling bills to benefit the pampered and privileged communities of San Francisco can sail through the House while 40,000 families have lost their jobs in the San Joaquin Valley because this government has diverted 200 billion gallons of water in order to indulge one of the environmental left's pet causes, the delta smelt.”
Rep. Nunes, who had lead the unsuccessful effort to have an amendment offered relating to the San Joaquin Valley issue, noted that San Francisco had previously “exempted environmental laws to build a new airport in the beautiful San Francisco Bay” and “used their muscle in the past to actually get by other environmental laws” when they succeeded in having a dam built in the Yosemite Valley to provide water for the city.” He added that “despite their own record, when folks a mere two hours away are bled dry of water, they have opposed a temporary waiver to allow not 2 billion gallons of water like this (bill) does, but 200 billion gallons of water.”
The legislation passed by a vote of 241-173. Two hundred and thirty-five Democrats and six Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-three Republicans and ten Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent on to the Senate the bill to expand the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program.