You are hereSenate moves on San Joaquin River restoration bill

Senate moves on San Joaquin River restoration bill

Legislation that would also protect wilderness awaits likely approval.

Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009 Associated Press WASHINGTON -- In a rare Sunday session, the Senate advanced legislation that would implement the San Joaquin River restoration settlement and set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as wilderness. Majority Democrats assembled more than enough votes to overcome GOP stalling tactics in an early showdown for the new Congress. Republicans complained that Democrats did not allow amendments on the massive bill, which calls for the largest expansion of wilderness protection in 25 years. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other Democrats said the bill -- a holdover from last year -- was carefully written and included measures sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. By a 66-12 vote, with only 59 needed to limit debate, lawmakers agreed to clear away procedural hurdles despite partisan wrangling that had threatened pledges by leaders to work cooperatively as the new Obama administration takes office. Senate approval is expected this week. Supporters hope the House will follow suit. "Today is a great day for America's public lands," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. "This big, bipartisan package of bills represents years of work by senators from many states, and both parties, in cooperation with local communities, to enhance places that make America so special." The measure -- actually a collection of about 160 bills -- would confer the government's highest level of protection on land ranging from the Sierra Nevada mountain range to parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. Besides new wilderness designations, the bill would designate the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton in Hope, Ark., as a national historic site and expand protections for dozens of national parks, rivers and water resources. The measure would implement the 2006 legal settlement to restore the San Joaquin River, bringing water and salmon back to a now-dry stretch of the waterway. The lawsuit stemmed from the opening of Friant Dam in 1949, which transformed the Valley's main artery from a river thick with salmon into an irrigation source for more than a million acres of farmland. The measure also would: Protect about 70,000 acres of wilderness in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, including the new John Krebs Wilderness, named for the former congressman and conservationist who fought to protect these lands in the Mineral King Valley. Preserve nearly 470,00 acres of wilderness in the Eastern Sierra and San Gabriel Wilderness, including lands in the Angeles, Humboldt-Toiyabe and Inyo National Forests. Protect some 190,000 acres in Riverside County as wilderness, including parts of Joshua Tree National Park. Update January 15, 2009: The Senate passed the San Joaquin Restoration bill last Thursday. Here is the full story in the Fresno Bee: The legislation is now in the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. The bill text and status can be found here:

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