Senator Dianne Feinstein won Senate approval of a 16-page drought bill late Thursday night, despite objections from some environmentalist groups. The quick passage, without debate, was the result of weeks of negotiations with Senate leaders.
Sen. Feinstein’s bill, SB2198, is designed to increase the amount of water pumped into the Central Valley for irrigation for the duration of the current drought. Some environmentalist groups and some Republicans who want a more permanent change to the state’s water usage oppose the bill.
The Natural Resources Defense Council objected to the bill, saying, “This shortsighted bill overrides protections for salmon and steelhead inthe Bay-Delta and the thousands of fishing jobs that depend on them.”
Feinstein rejected the environmentalists’ arguments. Last week, she told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter that environmentalists “have never been helpful to me in producing good water policy.” She added, “I have not had a single constructive view from environmentalists of how to provide water when there is no snowpack.”
Sen. Feinstein had reached agreements about the bill with Sen. Reid and the leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee from both parties. She also agreed to remove $300 million in spending to which Republicans objected. As a result, when the bill came up Thursday night, it passed in a matter of minutes with no debate.
After the bill passed, Feinstein released a statement. “The next step is working with the House to determine what measures wecan agree on to improve water supplies,” the statement read. “My hope is that this process canproceed quickly and bypass many of the controversial issues that havebeen raised in the past.”
The Feinstein bill and a House bill passed in February will now be combined in conference committee.