Lobbyists representing the best interests of the Castaic Lake Water Agency in Washington told board members this week not to expect much work to do done between now and September as the Trump administration faces a heavy work-load.
On Monday, members of CLWA’s Legislative Committee were briefed by lobbyists working in Washington about the progress of bills through the House and the Senate.
Lobbyist Harry Henderson, of Anchor Consulting LLC, told the committee in a memo that President Donald Trump is still putting together his staff.
“While the Cabinet is taking shape and the Senate has approved a significant number of nominees, the government itself is running with ‘bare bones’ staff as literally thousands of positions remain unfilled.
“This has created a number of problems with administration of federal policy, programs and funding.”
Further “complicating” the Washington schedule, Henderson said in his memo, is Trump’s push to move on tax reform and improvements to infrastructure over the next 10 months.
While those initiatives remain part of the president’s agenda, the House and the Senate are saddled with the task of funding the federal government though the end of September just to prevent a shut-down of services.
“While Congress has and remains likely to pass legislation to keep the federal government operational, there are concerns throughout Washington that this matter has yet to be resolved,” Henderson said in his memo
Dashed funding opportunity
The CLWA’s hope to see movement on the Fiscal Year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations Act was dashed Monday when Henderson reminded the committee that the House of Representatives rejected final passage of the act in May 2016.
Typically, funds made available through the Energy and Water Appropriations Act, if acquired, could be used to bolster agency’s mandated perchlorate remediation program and a reclaimed water/recycled water program.
He painted a bleak picture of the Act finding any sort of traction in Washington since the legislation has not been brought up since it was rejected, with no indication the House would take up the matter in the future.
Henderson did, however, share some good news with local water officials.
He told them the House passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior Appropriations Act which provides funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
But, Henderson tempered that optimism with an alert issued to committee members about a recent presidential decision that affects not only water in and around the Santa Clarita Valley, but across the nation.
Water law change
Trump issued an executive order on Feb. 28 that instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to take a second look at a rule which addresses how water of the United States is handled.
The directive has the potential to make it easier for agricultural businesses and developers to drain small bodies of water, wetlands and small streams including the Santa Clara River.
It was Trump’s hope to generate the economy and empower businesses by deregulating water use.
But, it remains to be seen whether a change in water handling rule could benefit a company such as Cemex if it were not bound by a section of the 1972 Clean Water Act which addresses how “navigable waters” are to be used.
State Senator Scott Wilk just amended a bill (SB 146) to keep Cemex out of the Santa Clarita Valley. It would direct the State Water Resources Board to deny any future water allocation permit applications that propose drawing water from the habitat of the state-protected unarmored threespine stickleback..
In short, Wilk’s bill would prevent Cemex from drawing an estimated 105 million gallons of water annually from the Santa Clara River if it begins mining Soledad canyon.
“A few years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency decided that ‘navigable waters’ can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land, or anyplace else that they decide — right? It was a massive power grab,” Trump said in February.
“The EPA’s regulators were putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands, and regulations and permits started treating our wonderful small farmers and small businesses as if they were a major industrial polluter. They treated them horribly. Horribly.
“If you want to build a new home, for example, you have to worry about getting hit with a huge fine if you fill in as much as a puddle — just a puddle — on your lot. I’ve seen it. In fact, when it was first shown to me, I said, ‘no, you’re kidding aren’t you?’ But they weren’t kidding.
“With today’s executive order, I’m directing the EPA to take action, paving the way for the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.”
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt