Salmon, © J. Cook Fisher/Flickr

House Passes Bill To Destroy California’s Bay Delta

US Capitol, FWSWildlife opponents in Congress are it again.

Yesterday the House of Representatives voted to sacrifice wildlife, wetlands, jobs, and water quality in favor of politics and big agribusiness profits. The House approved H.R. 1837 which would reallocate water in California and overturn a bipartisan, court-approved settlement to restore the San Joaquin River that ended 18 years of litigation and was approved by Congress in 2009.

Representatives ignored the massive outcry to defeat this bill and made many of us wonder how far this House will go to decimate wildlife. Opponents of the bill include California’s two U.S. senators, the leaders of both state legislative houses, local governments and water districts, Delta farmers, commercial and recreational fishing associations and environmental groups. Even the attorneys general of Montana and New Mexico weighed in against this thinly veiled water grab.

While farmers and fishermen are justly worried about the impacts this bill would have on their livelihoods, the legislation would also deliver a crushing blow for endangered species by overriding the Endangered Species Act. California’s Bay-Delta is an important habitat for endangered Chinook salmon, steelhead and delta smelt that are struggling to survive. But it’s not just fish that depend on this rich ecosystem. As part of the Pacific Flyway, millions of migratory birds depend on this area as they travel thousands of miles on their annual migrations.

Endangered Chinook salmon could be hit hard by the water diversions required by this bill.

This is yet another legislative assault on our nation’s land, water and wildlife. By putting politics ahead of science, wildlife opponents in the House have once again proved that they are far more concerned about boosting corporate profits than protecting America’s wildlife.

Following House passage the Senate will have an opportunity to weigh in and hopefully decide that the lasting impacts this bill would have on struggling wildlife, water, and jobs are unacceptable. We are grateful for California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s response to this bill who said, “Candidly, I have seen few pieces of legislation during my 19 years in the Senate that are as poorly considered and dangerously one-sided as this one. I stand ready to work with anyone in good faith to solve California’s water problems, but this bill is not a starting point.”

Thank you, Senator. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.