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H.R. 23: Gaining Responsibility on Water Act of 2017

Jul 12, 2017 at 7:16 p.m. ET. On Passage of the Bill in the House.

This was a vote to pass H.R. 23 (115th) in the House.

H.R. 23 modernizes water policies throughout the western United States and provides drought relief and water reliability in the State of California. A detailed section-by-section can be found here. Provisions of the legislation include:

Title I – Central Valley Project Water Reliability

H.R. 23 provides for the necessary replacement of water dedicated to fish and wildlife purposes by the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) at a reasonably low cost and targets CVPIA actions on a priority basis towards salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. The title removes American shad and striped bass, both non-native species, from the definition of “anadromous fish” and defines “reasonable flows” as water flows capable of being maintained taking into account competing consumptive uses of water and economic, environmental, and social factors.

The title provides for 40-year renewals of existing Central Valley Project long-term water contracts and affirms that the original intent of the CVPIA was to facilitate and expedite water transfers. The bill provides for an expedited review of all water transfer applications by adding that the contractor or the Secretary shall determine whether a transfer proposal is complete within 45 days of submission and must specify what must be added or revises in order to complete the transfer proposal. H.R. 23 clarifies that transfers, exchanges, and banking arrangements that could have been conducted prior to the enactment of the CVPIA may still take place and are not subject to the CVPIA.

Section 104 removes the tiered pricing section from the CVPIA, and establishes that any increased revenues in excess of the cost of service for CVP water transferred from agricultural to municipal and industrial use shall be deposited in the Restoration Fund.

The Restoration Fund is amended by deleting the existing 67/33 percent split, and adds a provision which prohibits the Secretary from requiring “donations” to the Restoration Fund as a condition of contracting for storage of conveyance of non-CVP water. The title also prohibits Restoration Fund charges on any water that is delivered with the sole intent of groundwater recharge. A Restoration Fund fee cap of $4 per megawatt-hour for Central Valley Project power sold to power contractors is established. The title also creates a Restoration Fund Advisory Board and directs the Secretary, in consultation with the Restoration Fund Advisory Board, to submit a report to Congress outlining the proposed expenditure of the Restoration Funds.

The title ensures fish, wildlife, and habitat restoration but providing for reasonable flows to restore anadromous fish production in the Central Valley, and affirms that the management of 800,000 acre-feet of CVP yield for fish, wildlife, and habitat purposes is a ceiling, rather than a floor, on the amount of water that can be taken from farmers and reallocated to the environment.

Section 108 declares that the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project have complied with all requirements of the Endangered Species Act if the projects are operated in a manner consistent with the “Principles for Agreement on the Bay-Delta Standards between the State of California and the Federal Government”, also known as the Bay-Delta Accord. Federal departments and the State of California are prohibited from imposing protection conditions that restrict water rights obtained pursuant to law, and the title ensures that implementation of the Bay-Delta Accord shall be in strict compliance with the water rights priority system and statutory protections for areas of origin.

The Secretary is directed to recognize hatchery-spawned species when making any determination under the Endangered Species Act that relates anadromous fish in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries.

The title provides for regulatory streamlining by declaring that a Notice of Determination or a Notice of Exemption prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act will satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act.

Finally, the title amends the San Joaquin River Restoration Act to describe key points regarding the San Joaquin River Settlement . The title adds new requirements that must be met for release of flows to comply with the Settlement and adds new requirements for the acquisition of property. Moving forward, the title requires the Governor of California and the Secretary of the Interior to jointly determine whether it is reasonable to move forward with implementing the Settlement as originally authorized by Congress.

Title II – CALFED Storage Feasibility Studies

Title requires the Bureau of Reclamation to complete five feasibility studies for storage projects in California. Further, the title prohibits a federal Wild and Scenic River designation from hindering the completion of the proposed Temperance Flat storage facility and allows the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement with irrigation districts and other local water districts and local government to advance water storage projects.

Title III – Water Rights Protections

The Secretary of Interior is instructed to consult with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on the impact the implementation of the title would have on any consistency determination for operations of the State Water Project issued pursuant to the California Fish and Game Code. The bill allows for increased water supply to the State Water Project from the Central Valley Project to offset reduced water supply as a result of the legislation, if certain conditions are met.

The Secretary of Interior is directed to strictly adhere to State water rights law and priorities and to honor water rights senior to those held by the Central Valley Project, and directs the Secretary to strictly adhere to and honor water rights and priorities that were obtained or existed pursuant to various sections of the California Water Code. This title will ensure that the Endangered Species Act is implemented in a manner that honors these priorities.

Further, the title directs the Secretary to ensure there are not redirected adverse water supply or fiscal impacts to those within the Sacramento River or the San Joaquin River watershed, or to the State Water, arising from operation of the Central Valley Project. Finally, this title directs the Secretary to allocate water provided for irrigation purposes to existing Central Valley Project agricultural water service contractors within the Sacramento River Watershed according to the following instances: 100% of contract quantities in a “wet”, “above normal” and “below normal” water year; 75% of contract quantities in a “dry” water year; and 50% of contract quantities in a “critically dry” water year.

Title IV – Miscellaneous

This title limits environmental releases on the Trinity River that deplete CVP water resources and decrease hydropower generation. In addition, this title grants applicant status to the Klamath Project and expresses Congressional disapproval and opposition to the violation of private property rights by the California State Water Resources Control Board.

Title V – Water Supply Permitting Act

This title includes the text of H.R. 1654, the Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act. The title authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to coordinate federal and state permitting processes relating to the construction of new surface water storage projects on lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture. The Bureau of Reclamation is designated at the lead agency for permit processing. In this capacity, the Bureau serves as a point of contact for applicants, state agencies, Indian tribes, and other regarding proposed qualifying projects. The Bureau must also coordinate the preparation of the unified environmental review document that serves as the basis for all federal decisions necessary to authorize the use of federal lands for new surface water storage construction.

Title VI – Bureau of Reclamation Project Streamlining

This title includes the text of H.R. 875, the Bureau of Reclamation Water Project Streamlining Act. This title streamlines the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental planning and study process for new water projects. Specifically, the bill would apply the same streamlined water project development process used by the U.S. Corps of Engineers under the Water Resources Reform Development Act of 2014 to the Bureau of Reclamation in order to facilitate the construction of new dams and reservoirs.

Future Bureau feasibility studies shall be completed with three years after the date of initiation and have a maximum federal cost of $3 million, with a maximum seven year extension if the Secretary provides a detailed justification. In addition, the Secretary is required to expedite the completion of any ongoing feasibility studies initiated before the date of enactment. If the Secretary determines that the project is justified in a completed report, they shall proceed to pre-construction planning, engineering, and design of the project.

The Secretary is directed to develop and implement a coordinated environmental review process with the Bureau of Reclamation and the non-federal project sponsor as lead agencies for expedited environmental review of a project. The title further directs the lead agencies to establish a schedule for completion of a study and lays out financial penalties to the Interior Secretary if timelines are not met.

Finally, the title directs the Secretary to develop and submit a report to Congress that identifies project reports, proposed project and proposed modifications to studies and federal and non-federal cost estimates for all three.

Title VII – Water Rights Protection

This title includes the text of H.R. 2939, the Water Rights Protection Act of 2017. The title prohibits the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agricultural from:

conditioning the issuance, renewal, amendment, or extension of any permit, approval, license, lease, allotment, easement, right-of-way, or other land use or occupancy agreement on the transfer of any water right requiring any water user to apply for or acquire a water right in the name of the United States under state law as a condition for any permit or other land use or occupancy agreement; and conditional or withholding the issuance of any permit, approval, or other agreement restrictions associated with changes to water diversions or groundwater withdrawals that is contrary to state water law. In addition, the bill requires the Secretaries to recognize existing state authority for permitting and adjudicating water use and not assert any connection between surface and groundwater that is inconsistent with state water laws. Finally, the title affirms that nothing in the title shall adversely impact existing legal authority under the jurisdiction of the Secretaries, existing or future Bureau contracts, the Endangered Species Act, federally reserved water rights, the Federal Power Act, Indian water rights, and federally held state water rights.

Source: Republican Policy Committee


All Votes R D
Aye 55%
No 45%
Not Voting

Passed. Simple Majority Required. Source:

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