A water policy bill as damaging as the one devised by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, should have died on its lack of merit last year. Unfortunately, it's back again before the House of Representatives, which is about to vote on it.
The measure, HR 1837, would undermine state law along with key environmental protections for the Delta and flush the work of many dedicated individuals down the drain.
The bill totally ignores the reality that there are few, if any, public policy issues in California more complex than water distribution, primarily because there is not enough water to satisfy every competing interest.
Reaching consensus on such a balance has been the daunting task of water policymakers who have spent decades reaching agreements that preserve the environmental integrity of the Delta while providing equitable shares of limited supplies to urban and agricultural users.
What is needed is a balanced, thoughtful approach to water policy that is fair to urban water users, agriculture and the environment. Nunes' bill is none of the above.
His measure would cap the environmental obligations of state and federal water contractors, primarily those in the Central Valley and Southern California.
It also would weaken environmental protection measures in the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which is designed to increase salmon populations by shifting water from the Westlands Water District to the Delta.
HR 1837 is in direct conflict with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan effort that has been under way since 2006 to develop a long-term plan to achieve the co-equal goals of restoring the ecological health of the Delta and providing reliable water supplies.
Nunes' bill trashes the co-equal concept by focusing on water supply only to favored Central Valley agribusinesses at the expense of the Delta environment.
The bill would repeal a historic agreement between water users and environmentalists to restore the San Joaquin River.
Even worse, his measure would undermine California's authority -- which is more than a century old -- to govern water rights in favor of federal law. This would upset bipartisan efforts in this state to balance water supplies among urban and agricultural users and environmental needs.
To his credit, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, tried to amend the bill to make it more balanced in regard to environmental safeguards but was unsuccessful.
Despite all of its shortcomings, HR 1837 has a good chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on assertions that it is a jobs-creation bill -- which it decidedly is not.
The good news is that the bill is all but certain to fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate, thanks in large part to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's knowledgeable opposition.
One might think a GOP congressman would prefer state and local officials to make the key policy decisions and agreements on water policy instead of following the whim of Washington.
Evidently, that is not true for Nunes, who wants to place a few special agricultural interests in his district above the public good and negate decades of hard-fought water agreements by those who are most familiar with the issue.