I have worked throughout my career on California water policy, serving as the Chair of the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in Sacramento, and on the board of the Marin Municipal Water Board before that. California’s water story is one of feast or famine, with the state experiencing devastating floods following years of drought. This is made worse by a changing climate, which has reduced clean drinking water supplies, put pressure on food producers, driving iconic fish and wildlife to the brink of extinction, and threatened our tourism and recreation industries.
Water Infrastructure and Drought Resilience:
As the Ranking Member of the Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee, I am working to provide a range of short- and long-term solutions to stretch water supplies and build new clean water infrastructure. I introduced comprehensive drought response legislation, a range of short- and long-term solutions to stretch water supplies and build new clean water infrastructure, creating jobs without undermining environmental protections, preempting state laws, or redirecting impacts from one drought-stricken area to another. This bill passed the House as part of the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act in July 2022.
Modernizing the Army Corps’ Work at our Ports, Harbors, Reservoirs, and Waterways:
I have led the effort in Congress to bring Army Corps reservoir operations in line with modern science, to help save water, and to support communities through extreme weather events. The Army Corps of Engineers operates many of its reservoirs—critical for the water supply of cities and towns throughout the country, including in Sonoma County—on outdated and obsolete water control manuals, some of which are as much as 60 years old. For the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, I renewed my dedication to those projects and others that would benefit our community.
River Restoration and Protection:
I am the co-chair of the House Wild Salmon Caucus and work to ensure the North Coast’s rivers are healthy enough to uphold all the values they represent, including fishing, tribal trust responsibilities, endangered species and other fish and wildlife, power generation, and recreation.
In the 115th Congress, I helped protect the iconic Smith River by securing a twenty-year ban on new mining projects in an ecologically and economically critical region in Southwest Oregon, which includes the Smith River headwaters. In the 117th Congress, I introduced legislation to expand the hugely popular Smith River National Recreation Area into Oregon. The people of Del Norte County, the Elk Valley, and Tolowa Dee-ni' tribes, and thousands of other Californians and Oregonians who cherish the Smith River have united in working to secure two decades of protection for this spectacular landscape and its wildlife for future generations. I also introduced the Salmon FISH Act, a bill that identifies critical centers of salmon abundance to ensure these areas receive the protection, support, and funding they need to continue to sustain the healthiest remaining salmon populations.
One of the most important river restoration projects throughout the nation is the effort to remove the four dams on the Klamath River, which will rebuild the river’s salmon runs. After decades of work, this is finally happening. This is going to be the largest river restoration in American history. I am immensely proud to have been an active partner in these efforts, working alongside steadfast advocates to right this wrong and restore balance to the river.
California San Francisco Bay Delta:
The San Francisco Bay Delta is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, sustaining countless migratory birds and an economically vital salmon fishery, recreational opportunities, and improved quality of life for residents and tourists alike. Unfortunately, centuries of development, pollution, and water diversions have constricted the amount of water that flows naturally through the Bay-Delta and starved its wetlands and rivers. Current environmental standards are protecting an ecosystem on life support and are insufficient for a full and vibrant recovery.
Dating back to my time in the state legislature, where I played a leading role in crafting and passing a historic package of water reforms in 2009, I have fought to forge consensus around effective science-based environmental and clean water protections so that we can meet California’s water needs without sacrificing the salmon industry or the environmental values that make California great.
We are already living out the alarming impacts of climate change on land, including catastrophic wildfires and drought. We should be just as concerned about ocean impacts: major declines in biodiversity, rapidly shifting fish stocks, sea level rise, and widespread losses of our world’s most important coastal habitats. On the North Coast of California in my district, and across the country, coastal communities are all too familiar with these consequences.
One of my many efforts to include ocean-based solutions in climate crisis legislation has been advocating for the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act. This bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by prohibiting oil and gas leasing in the outer continental shelf, conserve blue carbon ecosystems, promote coastal resiliency, improve ocean protection, support climate-ready fisheries, tackle ocean health challenges, and restore U.S. leadership in international ocean governance.
I am also proud to co-chair the bipartisan National Marine Sanctuaries Caucus with Rep. Garret Graves. Protecting treasured ecosystems throughout the oceans and Great Lakes is essential not only for the historical and cultural value, but also for the significant benefits sanctuaries have on biodiversity, tourism and recreation, and scientific research. As a co-chair, I will continue to raise awareness and understanding of national marine sanctuaries and their role in sustaining healthy ecosystems.
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act:
People coast-to-coast depend on healthy oceans and fisheries, whether it’s the seafood we eat, time spent on the water as recreational anglers, or the economic engine supporting working waterfronts and coastal communities. That’s why I introduced the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, legislation to update and reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary law governing federal fisheries management and conservation that has made the U.S. a global leader in sustainable fisheries.
This legislation is the culmination of a two year-long process I led to get stakeholder input, including a nationwide listening tour and release of a discussion draft for feedback – part of an ongoing effort to foster a uniquely transparent, inclusive, science-based approach to updating this important law governing fisheries in American waters. As part of this process, I held eight listening sessions and covered seven management regions on a nationwide fisheries listening tour. Thanks to this process, we have crafted legislation that rises to the challenges of the 21st Century and includes critical updates to this landmark law.
Fighting for Fisheries:
Across the country, fishermen, tribes, and coastal communities depend on productive fisheries. However, far too many suffer while waiting for federal relief after unexpected disasters. On the North Coast of California, we’ve seen how ocean heat waves, domoic acid blooms, and drought have led to devastating consequences for our most important fisheries. As climate change impacts increase, it is more important than ever that we make sure fishing communities are as resilient as possible. I am pleased to share that I secured legislation in the 2023 funding package to improve the federal disaster relief process, making it more efficient and ensuring funds are provided in a timely manner to those impacted by a fishery disaster. This law will help make federal agencies more responsive to communities who have suffered a fishery disaster, while we continue to work in Congress to deliver the needed funds. The Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act, a bill that I introduced that has become law, sets a timeline for the federal government to respond to a fishery disaster request, and sets a timeline for disbursal of funds following a disaster. It also clarifies the disaster request process, including by allowing direct payments to be made to affected members of fishing communities as an eligible use of relief funds. I will continue working with federal agencies to oversee the implementation of this law so that North Coast communities, and communities across the country, see fishery disaster relief in a timely manner.
Internationally, I’ve been working hard to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and ensure that IUU fishing products stay out of U.S. markets. On the high seas where no one is watching, nefarious fishing activities can have a massive impact on fish populations, and crews can easily be exploited. Major provisions of my bill, the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, became law as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. I’ll continue advocating to expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to cover all species, ensuring that we have full traceability throughout our seafood supply chain for all types of seafood.
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