Obama signs WIIN Act into law
December 19, 2016
President Barack Obama on Friday signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act into law, which includes the Water Resources Development Act reauthorization.
Obama noted that the bill authorizes water projects; contains aid for Flint, Mich.; and resolves four Indian water rights settlements that resolve long-standing claims to water and the conflicts surrounding those claims.
He also said that the controversial provisions addressing the California drought "will help assure that California is more resilient in the face of growing water demands and drought-based uncertainty."
But the president added that, despite "short-term provisions governing operations of the federal and state water projects under the Endangered Species Act for up to five years, regardless of drought condition," his interpretation is that "consistent with the legislative history supporting these provisions, I interpret and understand Subtitle J to require continued application and implementation of the Endangered Species Act, consistent with the close and cooperative work of federal agencies with the State of California to assure that state water quality standards are met. This reading of the short-term operational provisions carries out the letter and spirit of the law and is essential for continuing the cooperation and commitment to accommodating the full range of complex and important interests in matters related to California water."
Obama's statement could become relevant if environmental groups decide that ESA is not being followed and the law ends up in court. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the author of the bill with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement after the bill passed: "I look forward to working with the agencies to ensure this bill is implemented in a manner consistent with the Endangered Species Act and relevant biological opinions, and to finally begin modernizing our aged water infrastructure."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who opposed the bill, used the last hours of her Senate career to speak at length about the bill and congressional intent. Boxer said she wanted her statements on the record in case the law ends up in the courts.
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