The House on Wednesday approved an ambitious California water bill that favors farmers, splits the state and pressures the U.S. Senate.
In a highly partisan vote, the Republican-controlled House approved the legislation that would lengthen irrigation contracts, override state law and boost deliveries to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Most dramatically, the bill replaces one San Joaquin River restoration plan with something far less ambitious.
"This is a power grab," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. "It's a water grab, and it's an imposition of the federal government over the state."
Though the water is California's, the controversy crosses borders. In a rare floor speech, House Speaker John Boehner praised the legislation, a sign it could have political legs. From the other side, suggesting broader resistance, Colorado, Wyoming and Oregon state officials warned about the dangers of pre-empting state laws.
"This direct weakening of the deference to state water law is unacceptable," Wyoming State Engineer Patrick Tyrrell wrote. "It poses a threat to water rights and water administration across the Western United States."