TURLOCK, Calif. — Congress is giving a boost to momentum for leaders to address the predatory fish problem that farm groups believe has led to stricter controls on pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
A bill by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., that would eliminate population requirements for striped bass in the Central Valley Project Improvement Act is headed to the floor of the House of Representatives.
The legislation passed the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously on June 15, and Denham believes its bipartisan support will enable it to sail through Congress and be signed by President Barack Obama.
“It is the congressman’s hope the bill can be passed by the House and Senate soon, especially since the Obama administration supports” the legislation, Denham chief of staff Jason Larrabee said in an email.
In an effort to boost fish populations, the 24-year-old CVPIA mandated population doubling for both native species and non-native predator fish, including striped bass. As a result, millions more acre-feet of water has been flushed through the Delta and out to the ocean rather than being used for other purposes, Denham argues.
The Turlock lawmaker’s bill comes as the California Farm Bureau Federation and Western Growers are among a broad coalition that has petitioned the state Fish and Game Commission to ease or remove fishing controls on several types of bass.
The farm groups believe that solving the predator problem could lead to the easing of pumping restrictions that have deprived growers of needed surface water in recent years, Western Growers spokesman Cory Lunde has said.
Denham argues that removing predator fish from the doubling requirement will give native fish species a better chance to repopulate while saving water and money.
Since its introduction in February, his bill, the Save Our Salmon Act, has gained support from 15 water agencies and irrigation districts throughout California as well as from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“Reclamation and the Department appreciate the interest in reducing threats to the survival of listed fish in the Bay Delta,” Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Tom Iseman said in written testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee.