The settlement has been further muddled by a bill authored by Tulare, Calif., U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes that passed the House recently. It would not only throttle back the ambitious river restoration, it would change the onerous Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) that took water away from agriculture and gave it to environmental interests in 1992.

The Nunes bill threw down the gauntlet to the Senate to come up with a solution to California’s growing water crisis. All it did was publicly anger California’s two Democratic senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

(For more, see: Brash SJV congressman shifts California water wars and Nunes moves forward in California water war)

Feinstein harshly criticized the bill, partly because of her dislike of Nunes who has attacked the San Francisco senator publicly. She has even refused to meet with him. However, it was reported that he sent emissaries to meet with her to see if she would discuss a compromise in the Senate. She was reportedly considering it.

Sawyers says, however, that Feinstein has written a letter denying any agreement to talk. “Boxer and Feinstein are in no mood to talk,” says Sawyers.

Water from nearby Kings River and its major dam, Pine Flat, is not governed by the Bureau of Reclamation, but it has its issues. Water rights to the Kings are locally held, and there are efforts to create an underground water bank with surplus water in wet years for use later.

Sawyers called the approach “progressive,” but there remain “tough” water rights issues to work through.

Groundwater has taken center stage in the California water crisis with the recent release of a study citing groundwater nitrate contamination. It is expected to result in more regulatory and legislative activity to mitigate and manage the problem.