House lawmakers to review bipartisan drought bills

June 28, 2021

Lawmakers on a House panel will be up to their necks in water-related legislation tomorrow, including multiple bills seeking to boost supplies for the drought-stricken West.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife will consider legislation to authorize environmental mitigation projects at the shrinking Salton Sea in Southern California, which poses a significant public health risk, and measures to boost wastewater recycling programs.

The Salton Sea, California's largest lake, is rapidly shrinking due to reduced inflows and a large water transfer to San Diego from the agricultural area. The resulting exposed lake bed creates an air pollution public health crisis when winds whip it up (Greenwire, June 13, 2016).

California Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz's bill, H.R. 3877, would authorize new projects at the lake, including greatly expanding the Bureau of Reclamation's authority over the effort. It would also boost the amount of money Reclamation can spend on the projects from $10 million to $250 million, his office said.

"We need more action to address the pressing environmental and public health crisis at the Salton Sea," Ruiz, a doctor, said in a statement when he introduced the bill earlier this month. "I am impatient with our progress and will never stop working to strengthen our all-hands-on-deck approach to the environmental hazard at the Salton Sea."

The panel will also consider H.R. 4099 from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee Chair Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) to establish a new $750 million federal grant program for recycling projects. Napolitano chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment (E&E Daily, June 25).

Panel lawmakers will weigh Republican-sponsored bills as well, including H.R. 1851 to authorize updates to the St. Mary Diversion Dam and Canal Headworks at Reclamation's Milk River Project in Montana.

Another, H.R. 1869, would clarify a water rights settlement involving the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Idaho and Nevada.

Not on the list of bills being considered is H.R. 4018 from Rep. David Valadao and other California Republicans to boost deliveries of water to the state's agricultural hub (E&E Daily, June 22).

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, June 29, at 1 p.m. via webcast.

By:  Jeremy Jacobs
Source: E&E News