Congressman Nunes Skips Congressional Hearing on His Own Bill (HR 1837)

This morning, the House Energy and Water Subcommittee held a second hearing on HR 1837, inviting testimony from representatives of California’s largest commercial fishing association, delta water agencies, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Western States Water Council.  These critics of HR 1837 were excluded from the first hearing last week.  But today, they had an opportunity to explain how the bill would destroy thousands of jobs in the salmon fishing industry, radically preempt state law, and overturn state water rights so senior water rights holders have to mitigate for the environmental harm caused by the state and federal water projects. 

Yet as press reports have noted, this was an unusual hearing because most of the subcommittee’s GOP members, as well Rep. Nunes (R-CA) and the bill's two co-authors, simply didn’t show up. Additionally, the subcommittee’s Chairman, Rep. McClintock (R-CA), did not ask a single question of the 4 witnesses.  Apparently, the majority didn’t care to hear from salmon fishermen, delta water agencies, the federal government, or a representative of the 17 Governors of Western states.

Today’s Los Angeles Times features a good story in the business section documenting the challenges facing California’s salmon fishery, and the men and women who try to make their livelihoods catching this magnificent fish. Unfortunately, California’s salmon fishery had to be completely shut down in 2008 and 2009, resulting in the loss of thousands of fishing jobs each year, and between 2005 and 2011 the number of salmon fishing licenses dropped in half, according to the story in the LA Times.  But do the authors of HR 1837 care about the thousands of fishing jobs this bill puts at risk?  They certainly weren’t listening to the commercial fishermen who spoke today, and indeed, Rep. Nunes stated at last week’s hearing that claims of people being put out of work by the complete closure of the salmon fishery were “complete nonsense.”

Rep. Nunes and his coauthors, Reps. Denham (R-CA) and McCarthy (R-CA), would like you to forget that their bill risks the future of California’s salmon fishery and the thousands of jobs that depend on its health.  It’s as if the Congressman is afraid to say the word “salmon,” except when he’s denigrating the men and women who make their livelihoods fishing for salmon. It seems he’d rather talk about fried red herrings than have a meaningful discussion based on actual facts. 

The good news is that even though Rep. Nunes and his coauthors of this radical bill aren’t listening, the rest of California is – and they’re opposing the bill.  Over the weekend, both the Sacramento Bee and Contra Costa Times issued editorials opposing HR 1837. And as the McClatchy story noted, farmers are on record opposing the bill, joining fishermen, water agencies, Tribes, conservation groups, the State of California, and the federal government.  Our updated list of opposition materials is on my blog here; as you can see, it's getting to be a very long list. 

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