Federal Water Tap, December 7: California Drought Legislation Stalls in Congress

The Rundown

Drought legislation will likely wait until next year. Federal officials travel to Paris for the UN climate conference. Climate change will hammer U.S. agriculture, while the National Park Service reports on climate adaptation at coastal parks and reserves. The House passes a bill that changes hydropower licensing and a bill that modifies a water infrastructure financing program.

“I understand that late Thursday night a drought bill was proposed as an addition to the omnibus. I am told it was proposed in my name, which I did not approve. This is regrettable, not only because I believe we remain close to an agreement on a broader bill, but also because it stands in opposition to my desire to do a bill in an open and public manner.

“House and Senate Democrats and Republicans have worked for months on new bill language that would address the differences between bills in both chambers. We have made significant progress toward a compromise bill that would include both long-term investments and short-term operations language to take advantage of El Nino, all in a manner consistent with environmental laws and biological opinions. But significant issues remain.” — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in a statement about drought legislation in Congress. Feinstein opposes attaching the drought bill to a broader spending measure that Congress must pass by Friday.

By the Numbers

$US 30 million: U.S. contribution to a program providing climate risk insurance to people in Africa, Central America, and the Pacific. (State Department)

16 percent: Average decrease in corn production in the United States by 2080 (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

$US 260 million: Average annual expenditure from 2012 to 2014 for 13 federal agencies to control aquatic invasive species (U.S. Government Accountability Office)

Studies and Reports

Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture
Climate change will cut the productivity of nearly all commodity crops grown in the United States, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. The magnitude and timing of the decrease depends on the crop. Irrigated acreage is expected to decline as well because of water shortages. Only barley, hay, and wheat are expected to see an increase in net production.

The USDA released a second report on how climate change will affect global food security and U.S. food production.

Adapting Coastal Parks to Climate Change
The National Park Service released a report on 24 actions being taken at coastal national parks, preserves, and seashores to adapt to rising seas, eroding coasts, and changing rainfall patterns.

News Briefs

California Drought Legislation Stalls
Congress will probably not pass a bill this year that addresses western drought, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who introduced one of the two competing drought bills, said that more time is needed to strike a compromise. Lawmakers representing California’s Central Valley are attempting to insert a drought package in a federal spending bill that must be passed by Friday, the Bee reports. That tactic has drawn the ire of California Democrats, who worry about the lack of openness.

Paris Climate Talks
President Obama spent Monday and Tuesday in Paris, at the United Nations climate conference. Obama met with the presidents of China and Turkey, the prime minister of India, and the leaders of small island nations.

At the conference’s opening session, Obama stressed the urgency of the moment. “For I believe, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that there is such a thing as being too late,” he said. “And when it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us. But if we act here, if we act now, if we place our own short-term interests behind the air that our young people will breathe, and the food that they will eat, and the water that they will drink, and the hopes and dreams that sustain their lives, then we won’t be too late for them.”

A pack of White House officials remained in Paris after the president left on Tuesday. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives December 7 to see the negotiations through the finish line, on December 11.

Briefings and roundtables at the U.S. Center are being streamed live on the internet. Here is the schedule of events.

Hydropower Bill
The House passed HR 8, a bill that includes changes to federal licensing process for hydropower dams. Green groups are concerned that the provisions handcuff a state’s ability to request environmental safeguard in dam designs.

Water Infrastructure Bill
House lawmakers expanded the reach of a new federal program for financing water infrastructure. As part of a five-year transportation bill, lawmakers approved the use of tax-exempt municipal bonds for the WIFIA financing program. Tax-exempt bonds are not currently permitted to be used to cover the local share of a WIFIA project.

On the Radar

Lake Powell Pipeline
The state of Utah filed a preliminary licensing proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a water supply pipeline from Lake Powell to Washington County, in the state’s southwest corner.

Public comments on the proposal are being accepted through February 29, 2016. The official application is expected to be filed this spring. Then an environmental review will begin.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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