Water Optimization for the West (WOW) Act Introduced to Provide Pathway to Water Abundance
California Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04) and 11 members representing western states today introduced legislation designed to reform water policy in the west.
“Western water policy is a bureaucratic nightmare designed to delay and deny the storage, delivery and use of our abundant water by farmers and residents. Environmental groups have used the law to block construction on new reservoirs, resulting in man-made droughts that have devastated entire communities. This legislation provides a common-sense approach to allowing water to flow quickly and efficiently to the communities that need it, while maintaining environmental protections,” McClintock said.
“Water is the lifeblood of the Central Valley; it helps us sustain California’s farmlands and keep our position as a top agricultural producer worldwide,” said co-author and Republican Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-23). “To ensure that Californians continue to receive the water they contract and pay for while protecting the environment, my colleagues in Congress and I successfully enacted the WIIN Act in 2016 – the first update to California water policy in over a decade. To build on this, the Water Optimization for the West (WOW) Act would extend critical provisions of the WIIN Act that help deliver water to the Central Valley. This new bill also includes the RAILWAY Act to repurpose unused funds from California’s failed High-Speed Rail towards desperately-needed water storage infrastructure projects that will benefit Californians far more than a train to nowhere. I am grateful to Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee Ranking Member McClintock for introducing the WOW Act and for his continued leadership to help ensure the Central Valley’s families and agricultural community’s access to water remains protected.”
“I want to commend Mr. McClintock for introducing the Water Optimization for the West Act,” said Natural Resources Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (UT-01). "This bill signals House Republicans’ continued dedication to provide water certainty for our constituents in the west by giving more local control over their water resources without being perpetually held up in bureaucratic red tape.”
The legislation puts common-sense principles into policy and ensures that storage projects are funded, streamlined and operated efficiently. Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on bullet trains to nowhere, the bill invests that money into water reliability. Instead of continuing the insanity of flushing half of our precious water out into the San Francisco Bay, this bill ensures Californian’s can keep their water for residential, agricultural, and business use. When aquifer recharge and groundwater storage are the most affordable sources of water, this bill ensures duplicative regulations don’t prevent such projects from moving forward.
The bill, H.R 5217, streamlines water districts’ contact renewals, expedites water transfers and gives the Secretary of the Interior discretion to modify dam operations in the Central Valley Project (CVP) to provide reasonable water flows of suitable quality, quantity and timing to protect migrating fish.
The WOW Act ensures that we can prepare for the dry years in times of abundance and ensures that the greening of the West in the 20th century isn’t followed by an aridification at the hands of shortsighted policy.
Co-Author Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42): “I want to thank Ranking Member McClintock for his leadership on western water issues and for including my FISH Act in his comprehensive water legislation. This bill builds on the successes of the bipartisan WIIN Act by extending the law’s provisions, investing in new water infrastructure, providing federal support to eradicate invasive nutria that threaten California’s ecosystems and infrastructure, and reducing regulatory burdens that unnecessarily impede water deliveries throughout California. I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue to modernize California’s water management system.”
Co-Author Rep. Paul Cook (CA-08): “After experiencing years of droughts in California, it’s clear we need to invest more in water infrastructure. This legislation focuses on funding for additional water storage projects, so that we’re better prepared in the future. I thank Congressman McClintock for his leadership on this issue and am pleased to join as a cosponsor of this bill.”
Co-Author Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04): “For far too long Western water fights have been an ongoing series of hopes and broken promises, this bill works to move us out of the past. Modern water challenges call for modern solutions, from water storage to improved water management the WOW act will move California and all of the West toward a more secure water future.”
Co-Author Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50): “Our constituents have experienced the pain that bad water policies have brought to our state. I’m proud to support this proactive package that brings common sense reforms and better water reliability to California.”
Co-author Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01): “Ask anyone in California and throughout the West and they’ll tell you they’d rather have too much water than not enough. That’s because, as recently as a few years ago, we’ve been impacted by severe droughts that make every drop of water a precious resource – ‘not enough’ has been the reality far too frequently. Surface water storage is one of the best and most practical investments we can make in California – every acre foot of water that we can save in wet years could make a huge difference in dry years. Even so, Sacramento seems determined to let millions of gallons of water flow needlessly out to sea. I applaud my California colleague, Rep. McClintock, for fighting against this misguided mindset and for working to increase the amount of available surface storage in California. We need all that we can get.”
Co-Author Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04): “Rural communities, like those I represent and across the West, rely on strong water infrastructure. Local water managers and operators are willing and able to manage, maintain, and improve our existing infrastructure if given the chance, and this bill celebrates our nation’s water projects. I am grateful that my friend, Rep. McClintock, has included my legislation to allow the Kennewick Irrigation District to locally manage water for users, as well as my legislation to honor two pioneers of Northwest hydropower, Nat Washington Sr. and Jr., at the Grand Coulee Dam. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance these priorities for Central Washington.”
Co-Author Rep. Devin Nunes (CA-22): “I’m proud to cosponsor this vital legislation and move closer to resolving the San Joaquin Valley’s ongoing water crisis. Unless we can get more water to our Valley and remedy our current lack of storage capacity, we will continue to experience a crippling water crisis. This bill, which codifies the Trump administration’s recently modernized biological opinions and helps to develop new water storage infrastructure, will ensure countless Valley families receive the water they rightfully deserve.”
Co-author Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03): “In recent years, the federal government has repeatedly attempted to circumvent long-established state water law by requiring the transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a permit condition for use of land owned by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. These efforts constitute a gross federal overreach and violation of private property rights.
My bill provides permanent protections for ski areas, farmers, ranchers, and others in the West. Water is the most precious resource we have in the arid West, and how we manage and protect our water supply has implications on everything from growing crops to managing wildlife habitats. The Water Rights Protection Act is a sensible approach that would preserve the water rights of all water users and provide certainty that the federal government cannot take their rights in the future. I appreciate Congressman McClintock recognizing the importance of protecting Western water rights and including my bill into this legislative package.”
Among numerous other provisions, the legislation also:
Repeals the San Joaquin River Settlement. The legislation lays out a definitive plan to provide restoration flows to the river without harming CVP contractors.
Establishes the Bureau of Reclamation as the lead for coordinating all reviews, permits, licenses, or other approvals or decisions (reviews) required under federal law to construct new surface water storage projects in the states covered under the Reclamation Act on lands administered by the Department of the Interior or Department of Agriculture.
Amends the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to transfer the responsibility for administering the Act from the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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