Federal water bill heads to White House, could affect fisheries

Congress sent a major water-themed legislation to the White House in mid-December. If signed, the proposal could benefit waterways and fisheries in Southern and Central California.

The Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, earned majority votes in both the House and Senate during the first two weeks of December, clearing the way for the considerable water infrastructure bill to be placed on Pres. Barack Obama’s desk for signature.

A provision of the WRDA proposal calls for an increased amount of water to be diverted into Southern and Central California for drought assistance.

Opponents of the proposal, however, are reportedly worried the WRDA’s section on California would harm fish populations, cost fishery jobs and cut away from the Endangered Species Act.

“[Rider language in the WRDA] will result in the loss of thousands of fishery jobs, it will roll back the Endangered Species Act which was signed by President Nixon, and it will also take away power from Congress to approve new dams all over the country,” Sen. Barbara Boxer said in a released statement. “The bill also fails to include strong Buy America requirements.”

Addressing drought conditions in California was one of 30 infrastructure improvements the WRDA, if signed into law, hopes to address in coming years. The proposal also has a provision to allocate funding to help rectify the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

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