On May, 17, 2016, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Energy held hearings on a number of pending bills, including S. 2533, sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). The bill, titled “California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act,” is aimed at providing short-term water supplies to drought-stricken California and providing for long-term investments in drought resiliency throughout the Western United States.
Among its many provisions, S. 2533 invests $1.3 billion in defined long-term projects while making targeted, temporary changes to water operations that last for the length of the drought or two years, whichever is longer. Those temporary changes include potential increased pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which some say may adversely affect the fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act that occupy that region. The bill would require real-time monitoring of fish species relative to Delta conditions to identify: (1) opportunities to increase water pumping without violating environmental or endangered species laws or biological opinions; and (2) circumstances where it is necessary to decrease water pumping to protect natural origin steelhead, spring run Chinook salmon, winter run Chinook salmon, or delta smelt. The bill would also implement a number of temporary measures designed to maximize delivery of State Water Project or Central Valley Project water, while mitigating impacts to listed fish species.
Senator Feinstein stated that she hopes S. 2533 can pass the Senate, after which they can conference with the House to reconcile the bill with a House Republican proposal passed last year.