The San Joaquin Water Reliability Act (H.R. 1837), co-sponsored by Reps. Nunes (R-Calif.), McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Denham (R-Calif.) and adopted by a vote of 246-175, would increase water supplies for agriculture and municipal uses and limit the ability of the federal and state governments to restrict water supplies to protect salmon.

The bill would overturn the 2009 San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act, which authorized the Interior Dept. to implement a 2006 settlement requiring state and federal agencies to cooperate in returning water and promoting a self-sustaining salmon population to the river. If enacted, H.R. 1837 would reinstate a 1994 agreement known as the Bay Delta Accord. That agreement between federal and state agencies was designed to ensure a reliable source of water for agriculture and to provide new water flows for fisheries in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The bill also would redirect 800,000 acre feet of water, previously allocated for restoring fish and wildlife, to water district users, including farmers. Water users would be allowed to enter into 40-year contracts instead of the 25-year contracts currently allowed.

In a Feb. 28 statement of administration policy, the White House said it “strongly opposes” H.R. 1837 because “the bill would unravel decades of work to forge consensus, solutions, and settlements that equitably address some of California's most complex water challenges.”

The 2006 settlement, which H.R. 1837 would replace, ended an 18-year-old dispute between farmers and environmental activists over releasing more water from the Friant Dam into the river to restore fish populations. The settlement was reached by the Friant Water Users Authority, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. government and third parties.