This vote was on an amendment that would have put off a change in the management plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta until federal agencies can show the new plan will not harm the quality of the water supply for Delta farmers.
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that would alter the management of one of California’s largest waterways to favor agribusiness over environmental and conservation interests. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta supports sensitive bird and fish populations, but scarce water resources have jeopardized the health of the ecosystem. The bill would divert more water from the Delta south to water-thirsty farms and cities in the fertile San Joaquin Valley. It would also override state and federal environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
Rep. McNerney, who represents a district that includes much of the San Joaquin Delta, argued that this change would benefit farmers in the San Joaquin Valley at the expense of farmers in the Delta. His amendment would have barred the new water shipments from taking place until the U.S. Secretary of Interior could conclude that farmers in the Delta would not be hurt.
“Simply put, this bill will steal water from northern California and devastate water quality for our delta farmers. Farmers need fresh water. They don't need salt water for their harvest. That is why I'm offering a simple amendment to make sure that the most harmful provisions of this bill do not come into effect until the Secretary of the Interior certifies that they will not harm the water quality or water availability for Delta farmers,” Rep. McNerney said.
Republicans argued that the amendment, if enacted into law, would delay help for other communities that need water. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) argued that the Republican bill would do more to protect Delta communities because it would prevent state and federal governments from taking action that would impact private property rights. Most of the water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers would still flow through the Delta and on to the ocean, he said.
Rep. McNerney’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 177-243. Voting “yea” were 176 Democrats and 1 Republican. Voting “nay” were 234 Republicans and 9 Democrats. As a result, the House killed the effort to ensure water quality for farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta was not harmed by a change in the management of the area’s water resources.