Federal legislation would require regulatory agencies to speed up process

By WES SANDER

Capital Press

Sponsors of a federal bill to help facilitate water transfers say their legislation represents one step toward streamlining environmental reviews for water transfers.

"There needs to be environmental review" for transfers, said Deedee D'Adamo, senior policy adviser for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. "But every water year is different. The problem is, by the time those reviews take place, it's too late to use the water.

"What we're trying to do is just clear the path as much as possible," D'Adamo said.

The bill, HR3750, sponsored by Cardoza and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, directs regulatory agencies to find a way to streamline the environmental-review process required for transferring water.

That applies to north-south transfers as well as water sold from east to west within the San Joaquin Valley.

Districts have long expressed frustration with a system that has imposed restrictions on transfers between regions within the federal Central Valley Project, D'Adamo said. The legislation is intended to streamline those transfers anywhere within the CVP, she said.

Extending that effort to inter-system transfers -- between the CVP and California's State Water Project -- will hopefully be achieved in the future, D'Adamo said.

"We're not pretending for a minute that this is going to fix everything," she said. "There needs to be further discussion."

The bill, introduced in early October, matches one introduced simultaneously by California's Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. That bill has cleared one committee.

Bret Rumbeck, communications director for Costa, said there are no predictions for when the bills will become law. Once their proposals are implemented, they could increase east-west transfers by 100,000 acre-feet, and north-south transfers by 200,000 acre-feet annually, Rumbeck said.

"It will continue to give farmers a lifeline to grow crops and help the economy," Rumbeck said.

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