Costa Puts Water Before Politics

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that bundled 14 different land management bills into a single package.  Despite qualms with a number of the provisions in the package and the process for consideration on the House floor, Costa supported the legislation citing that it contained legislation that would bring additional water to the Valley by allowing the modification of the Exchequer Dam spillway. Costa was an original cosponsor of the stand alone legislation to modify Exchequer.

“During my entire career, I have always put bringing water and jobs to our Valley first and today was no different,” said Costa. “These bills should have stood on their own merits and been considered as such. Instead, this was another example of a ‘gotcha vote’ that put politics above progress and good public policy. Despite these major flaws, bringing more water to our Valley has and always will be among my highest priorities.”

The lands package, H.R. 2578, also contained a provision that would create a 100-mile zone along the northern and southern U.S. borders within which the Department of Homeland Security would be able to seize control of federal forests, parks, wildlife refuges, monuments, tribal lands, and hunting grounds. The alleged reason for this provision is that conservation efforts stop Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from taking action to curb illegal immigration. This assertion is contrary to the repeated testimony from representatives of CBP and federal land management agencies who have previously told the Natural Resources Committee this was not the case. In the event that conflicts occur, procedures are already in place resolve these differences in order to protect our borders.

“If Congress was serious about immigration reform, we’d pass comprehensive immigration reform rather than using scattershot measures that do little to deal with the real issues,” said Costa. “There is no place for immigration reform in land management bills, period. I have always supported comprehensive immigration reform to deal with the flaws in our immigration system, provide a stable workforce for our agricultural community, secure borders, and protect our citizens.

Earlier today, Costa took to the floor to show his support for provisions that would bring additional water to the Valley and grazing on public lands. Costa also expressed his disappointment at the approach House Leadership used to move this legislation.

Below is the full text of Rep. Costa’s floor speech on this legislation earlier today:

Thank you Madame Speaker.

I rise today to speak in opposition to the rule for HR 2578: The Conservation and Economic Growth Act. 

But first, I want to thank the gentlewoman from New York for allowing me some time to speak on what I think are some of the good things in this package. Unfortunately some of the elements of this package I think are not the appropriate way we should be debating the challenges of immigration reform in the House of Representatives.

First, these bills should be taken on their individual merits, not as a package. If we consider them together, we should then have an open rule that would allow us to then debate the merits of each individual bill.

Now some of the bills contained in HR 2578 are helpful to my constituents and I’ve supported them in the past.  As an example, the measure offered by Mr. Denham allows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider spillway improvements on the project by the Merced Irrigation District (Exchequer Dam).

This would allow us an expansion of the capacity of the McClure reservoir; some 1,800 feet of the Merced River would be impacted but as a result of it we would gain perhaps as much as 78,000 acre/feet of water supply, which is much needed in the San Joaquin Valley. That is the good portion of this package.

There are also other areas that I support: language within the bill to provide certainty to the grazing community that I am an original cosponsor for.  Grazing public lands provides opportunities for America’s beef industry that is very essential and very important.

However, this bill also contains controversial provisions that would be damaging to my constituents. H.R. 1505 gives the Customs and Border Patrol authority to waive numerous laws pertaining to federal law management.  It’s just not the protection of those lands, its farmlands, its coastal zone management, mining, public health, and public safety.

HR 1505, as I was indicating, would waive numerous laws that pertain to very important elements of not only the coastal zones, but mining, public health, safety, and public review within 100 miles of the U.S. border. I oppose this measure because it is too sweeping in its efforts. This bill also blames border security problems on land management laws.

We have challenges on our border no question about it. I’ve supported additional funding for the Border Control Agency; we must protect our borders. But to do so in a land management bill makes simply no sense.

We should be taking up immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform separately from land management bills. That is I think is the method that we ought to apply. I yield back the balance of my time.