As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Boxer has led efforts to increase investment in water infrastructure to protect communities from flooding, provide safe drinking water for families and improve management of water supplies. Throughout her Senate career, Senator Boxer has worked to secure funding for flood control, habitat restoration and water supply projects across California. She has also worked with other California lawmakers to provide relief to communities in the Central Valley that are suffering from drought conditions.
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Water Transfers and Drought Relief
- Easing Water Transfers in the Central Valley - Senator Boxer successfully fought to include an amendment in the Senate version of the fiscal year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill to facilitate voluntary water transfers among Central Valley Project contractors. The measure, co-sponsored by Senator Feinstein, will provide the flexibility to deliver water to agricultural communities when they need it most. Such transfers have been identified by the Bureau of Reclamation and numerous water contractors as being a one of the most critical immediate tools available to provide relief from water shortages.
- The Water Transfer Facilitation Act of 2009 – Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein introduced the Water Transfer Facilitation Act of 2009, a bill that would allow voluntary transfers of 250,000 to 300,000 acre feet of water a year among communities in the San Joaquin Valley. Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa introduced similar legislation in the House. The legislation would grant new authority to the Bureau of Reclamation to approve water transfers between sellers and buyers in the San Joaquin Valley, reducing unnecessary delays in water transfers at a time when Central Valley farmers have been hard hit by water shortages.
- Two Gates and Intertie – Senator Boxer has supported infrastructure projects such as the Intertie between the Delta-Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct, and “Two Gates,” the construction of two temporary gates in Old River and Connection Slough in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to control the movement of delta smelt. These are some of the most important short-term projects available to help provide more reliable water supplies to agricultural communities in the San Joaquin Valley. In November 2009, Secretary Salazar announced that the Bureau of Reclamation was committed to funding and moving forward expeditiously with both projects.
- Water Infrastructure and Drought Relief Projects in the Recovery Act – Senator Boxer was a strong supporter of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. She played a key role in helping secure funding for water infrastructure projects to create jobs, protect public health and improve management of water supplies. The Recovery Act is expected to bring $2.5 billion to California for flood control, water infrastructure, habitat restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and other water and environmental programs.
- Securing Drought Relief Projects in California - Senator Boxer wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in May 2009 requesting his assistance with drought relief measures in California, and joined with other members of the California delegation in meeting with the Administration to discuss short-term and long-term measures needed to help communities impacted by drought conditions. In July 2009, Secretary Salazar announced the allocation of $40 million from Recovery Act funds towards a variety of water conservation, pipeline replacement, and other drought relief projects throughout California. In September 2009, Secretary Salazar announced that all of the relevant agencies would come together to work out a plan for moving forward to address water shortages and environmental challenges in the Delta, to be released in December 2009.
- Helping Farmers Affected by Drought - Senator Boxer co-authored an Agriculture-Water Conservation provision that was included in the Senate-passed Jobs Bill. The provision allows for a one-time 30 percent credit of up to $500 for farmers in areas affected by drought for the costs of water conservation systems, if the improvements reduce the use of irrigation water by at least 5 percent.
- Securing Funding for CALFED - CALFED is a state and federal partnership that was formed in 1994 to ensure a clean and adequate water supply for agriculture, urban use, and environmental interests in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. In 1997, while serving on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Boxer secured the first and largest annual appropriation for the program: $85 million. Senator Boxer worked with Senator Feinstein in 2001 to negotiate and introduce legislation reauthorizing the program. The bill outlined a carefully crafted plan to balance the need for increased water supply, improved water quality, and environmental restoration. A modified version of this legislation was enacted as part of a larger water management package in 2004.
Water Resources Management
- The Water Resources Development Act - As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Boxer earned bipartisan praise for leading the fight for major water infrastructure legislation. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which she shepherded through her committee and on the Senate floor, authorized more $1.3 billion for 54 water supply, restoration and flood control projects across California. The bill had previously languished in Congress for more than six years, but in Senator Boxer’s first year as Chairman, she successfully fought to pass it through her committee and the Senate. In November 2007, Congress successfully overrode President Bush’s veto of the bill, which authorized $23 billion for more than 900 water projects nationwide – including critical funding to restore flood protections in New Orleans and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
- Securing Funding for Water Resources Projects - Senator Boxer helped secure over $180 million in the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations and Interior Appropriations bills for critical water supply, contaminated water remediation, flood control, navigation, and aquatic habitat restoration projects throughout California, including:
• $89,032,000 for flood control projects in the Sacramento region, including strengthening levees in the Natomas Basin, modifying Folsom dam to better manage flood water, adding protection along the banks of the Sacramento River, and making improvements to West Sacramento’s existing flood control projects.
• $43,310,000 for flood control along the Santa Ana River in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties.
• $300,000 to remediate perchlorate-contaminated groundwater in the Inland Empire.
• $1,149,000 for studies and projects to restore the Los Angeles River.
• $897,000 for flood control infrastructure in San Joaquin County.
• $117,000 for flood control projects along Lower Cache Creek in Yolo County.
• $99,000 for flood control projects along Lower Mission Creek in Santa Barbara County.
• $1,890,000 for flood protection along Murrieta Creek in Riverside County.
• $583,000 for flood protection along the Pajaro River in Central California.
• $14,250,000 for Hamilton Airfield Wetlands Restoration.
• $2,500,000 for structural improvements to Success Dam in Tulare County.
• $1,000,000 to dredge the Port of Oakland to accommodate larger container vessels.
- The Water Infrastructure Financing Act – Senator Boxer was a major co-author of the Water Infrastructure Financing Act. As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, she spearheaded negotiations over the legislation, which passed the committee in May 2009. This bipartisan legislation assists states with making low-interest loans to finance drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. It also revises and makes improvements to existing grant programs and provides incentives for improved water conservation and efficiency. The bill now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
- The Water Efficiency, Conservation, and Adaptation Act of 2009 – Senator Boxer was a major co-author of the Water Efficiency, Conservation, and Adaptation Act of 2009, which authorizes a grant program to finance a variety of measures to improve drinking, wastewater, irrigation, and other water systems in order to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. A broad range of water recycling, desalination, irrigation, groundwater, and wastewater projects are eligible for assistance. The legislation also authorizes EPA’s Water Sense program to provide consumer incentives for water-efficient products, buildings, landscapes, processes, or services. A modified version of the legislation was incorporated into the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, which is currently under consideration by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Boxer.
- Promoting Water Reuse, Conservation and Desalination - In July 2003, Senator Boxer introduced the California Affordable Quantity and Quality Water Act 1. CAL-AQQWA1 authorizes 22 expedited feasibility studies of water projects that call for the increased reuse, desalination, and conservation of water supplies.
Water Restoration Projects
- Restoring the San Joaquin River - After 18-years of litigation over Chinook salmon habitat in the San Joaquin River below the Friant Dam, the parties to the suit reached an agreement in September 2006. The settlement outlines a plan to restore and maintain fish populations while minimizing adverse water supply impacts to the Friant Division contractors. Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein introduced legislation in 2006 and 2007 to implement the federal agencies’ obligations under the settlement. The bill was included in a public lands omnibus bill that passed in 2009.
- Restoring the Los Angeles River – In 2006, Senator Barbara Boxer successfully included an authorization in the Water Resources Development Act for $12 million to restore and revitalize the 32-mile Los Angeles River for the benefit and enjoyment of the Los Angeles community. Since then, she has worked to secure appropriations to restore the Los Angeles River. The Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill included Boxer’s requests for$817,000 to continue investigations and begin demonstration projects to restore 32 miles of the Los Angeles River and $332,000 to complete a feasibility study on the restoration of another 51 miles of the River.
- Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration – As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Boxer worked to secure a $139.6 million authorization for the ecosystem restoration of Matilija Creek as part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007. Salt Marsh and Wetlands Restoration in Northern California – In 2005, Boxer secured a $64 million appropriation for the Napa River Salt Marsh Ecosystem restoration in Napa and Solano County, and a $153 million appropriation for the Hamilton Airfield ecosystem restoration project in Marin County.
- Preserving the Salton Sea - Senator Barbara Boxer secured $4.5 million for research pertaining to Salton Sea restoration in the Senate-passed Fiscal Year 2002 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Senator Boxer also successfully included a $30 million authorization for Salton Sea restoration projects in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act.
- Clean Water, Parks and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 - Senator Boxer endorsed Proposition 84 -- the Clean Water, Parks and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006. She supported the ballot measure to help clean up California's drinking water and preserve its beaches and ocean, especially in light of reports of record water and ocean pollution across the state.
- Improving Flood Protection for Sacramento - As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Boxer played a central role in ensuring that the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 included a $444 million authorization in federal funding to protect communities in Sacramento, which has the highest flood risk of any major city in the country because of the city’s aging levee system. Since FY 2006, Boxer has helped secure over $230 million in appropriations for various flood control projects surrounding Sacramento, including levee and channel improvements along the Sacramento and American Rivers, and raising and modifying Folsom Dam.
- Protecting the City of Napa from Floods - Senator Barbara Boxer secured $11 million in Fiscal Year 2009 and $10.6 million in Fiscal Year 2010 for the City of Napa to improve their flood protection.
- Expanding California’s Marine Sanctuaries - In the 111th Congress, Senator Boxer reintroduced the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries Boundary Modification and Protection Act. Boxer’s legislation would expand the boundaries of two existing National Marine Sanctuaries off northern California to protect the entire coastline in Sonoma County and as far north as Point Arena in Mendocino County.
- Protecting Oceans and Great Lakes – In the 111th Congress, Senator Boxer reintroduced her comprehensive bill to protect oceans and Great Lakes, the National Oceans Protection Act. Senator Boxer has worked for the past three Congresses to raise awareness of the need for reforming ocean management and to make these changes a priority for Congress and the Administration. Boxer’s bill would create a national ocean policy, establish regional ocean partnerships and an oceans and great lakes trust fund, and expand ocean research and education. This year, the Obama Administration created the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to improve federal coordination and management of ocean resources. Many of the Task Force’s actions so far closely parallel the provisions of Senator Boxer’s legislation.
- Protecting Marine Mammals - One of Senator Boxer’s early defining moments as a champion for ocean protection came during her tenure in the House of Representatives serving California’s 6th District. Boxer led the effort to protect dolphins from encirclement and drowning in purse seine nets used to catch yellowfin tuna, a practice that was killing over 130,000 dolphins per year. She authored the 1990 law, the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act, establishing the Dolphin Safe label, which enabled consumers to select tuna products harvested using fishing practices that minimize dolphin bycatch.
- Protecting Salmon Populations and California Fishermen - Senator Boxer introduced legislation in 2006 to provide financial relief to salmon fishermen, tribes, and related industries affected by the Klamath River salmon collapse and to support recovery efforts for wild salmon populations in the Klamath River. Provisions based on Boxer’s bill were included in the 2006 Senate-passed Magnuson-Stevens bill, and disaster assistance totaling $47.2 million was distributed to fishermen and other affected groups.
- Fisheries Management and Wetlands Restoration – The 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act included two key provisions modified from Senator Boxer’s National Oceans Protection Act. One provision would promote the use of a more holistic, ecosystem-based approach for fisheries management, rather than managing species individually – one of the principle recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. In addition, Senator Boxer authored a provision establishing a Community-based Restoration Program at NOAA to provide local communities with tools and resources to undertake critical beach, coastal, fish habitat, and wetlands restoration projects.