“”Now that California senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have a bill introduced, both parties have their ideas on the table and negotiations can begin in earnest,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, executive director of the California Water Alliance, Wednesday.
“Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’s “California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015, released July 29, 2015 provides a fresh starting point. To develop a true recovery to California’s drought and ongoing water crisis, however, our senior senator must collaborate with her colleagues across party lines and throughout the entire West, where water shortages and drought are a constant and common reality.”
Bettencourt expressed some disappointment that the new legislation was so focused on California, rather than more widely on numerous critical issues faced by so many Western states suffering prolonged drought.
“A bill described by its authors as a ‘water solution’ solves little unless it helps more than California,” Bettencourt emphasized. “It must involve every state caught up in this natural drought crisis or limited in its response to droughts and floods by federal policy and laws.”
Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Nevada have all declared drought emergencies and are suffering right now. So are New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. National water policies affect the entire nation. Who knows what tomorrow might bring?
“While Sen. Feinstein announced plans to let other states hang provisions on her bill’s framework, serving them in their needs seem more like an afterthought gesture offered to obtain support,” Bettencourt noted. “It would have been better to include the West’s needs from the start.”
On the positive side, the bill includes funding for the poorest communities suffering without water and facing high unemployment. It envisions major funding for desalinization. It appears to offer limited funding for surface storage and, importantly, it recognizes that adding more sources of water is necessary.
“New sources are a must if we are to solve California and other states’ chronic water deficits stemming from federal and state policies that overtax our water supply with competing and conflicting human and environmental requirements. Acceptable service to both will fail during times of drought,” says Bettencourt.
“The bill shares many similarities with the House’s recently passed multi-state Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, as the Senator’s bill summary points out,” Bettencourt continued, “It’s our hope that common ground will bring both parties and chambers of Congress together as the legislative process progresses.”
“There are many useful provisions in Sen. Feinstein’s bill to help California now and long after this drought has ended,” Bettencourt says. “While they are a necessity for many suffering through this crisis, ‘relief’ is not ‘recovery.’ We intend to study the details of the legislation carefully, because that’s where the truth lies,” she continued.
Sen. Feinstein’s bill should mark a fresh start, with everything on the table and with a clear understanding of how it helps California – but more importantly the entire West – and considers fairly how other legislation already passed by the House or still in that chamber or in the Senate might marry with Feinstein’s provisions,” Bettencourt concluded.
Bettencourt, whose stakeholders are located in every part of California, said she hoped that Sen. Feinstein and Boxer would engage her organization along with many others to clarify and improve the bill now that she has introduced it.
From Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird:
““We applaud the constructive approach of Senator Feinstein and Boxer in crafting drought-response legislation that seeks to fairly balance the many needs of our diverse state. This approach recognizes the importance of water rights, environmental protection, and the need for flexibility in responding to this historic drought—and future droughts. The legislation aligns with the voters’ overwhelming approval of Prop 1, the Governor’s Water Action Plan to help move California toward water sustainability, and would help accelerate the ongoing state and local drought response and preparations for a future with even more frequent and severe droughts.”
From Congressman Jerry Mc Nerney:
“I am very concerned about some provisions included in the bill that are similar to the House Republican water legislation that I strongly opposed. Responsible solutions that address short and long-term water shortages in the West should reflect input from all affected districts and their representatives without prioritizing certain economies or geographic regions at the expense of others. This legislation does have some important ideas that will help address California’s historic drought crisis – including water recycling and other conservation programs that can help people and communities better conserve existing water resources. I remain committed to working with my home state Senators and the California delegation as long as we move toward solutions that help create more water and provide the drought relief that is long overdue.”
Last week, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) led his California and Oregon House Democrat colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer opposing H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015. The signatories include 19 California representatives – half of the California House Democratic Delegation.
From Congressman David Valadao:
“Today the California Senators introduced a drought bill that included some useful provisions while doing little to deliver more water to California farmers and families. While I cannot support the bill as written, I remain hopeful we can come to an agreement that can advance through the House and Senate.”
From the Western Growers Association:
“We want to express our thanks to Senators Feinstein and Boxer for re-introducing much needed legislation aimed at alleviating the short and long-term impacts of the historic drought in California. The bill that has been submitted today provides a basis to reconcile their bill with the recently passed House legislation. There is no time to waste as the impacts of the drought — exacerbated by an unbalanced regulatory scheme — are deepening in California and throughout the West. It’s time to advance reasonable legislation before more family farms and communities are forced into economic disaster.
Our attention must also turn to passage of a western water bill to address the needs of other states being affected by the drought. Any effort aimed at helping California must be combined with efforts to devise solutions to problems faced throughout the West as a result of long-term drought. For example, the Colorado River Basin is currently experiencing its driest period in 50 years. While recent atypical summer rain storms have provided some relief, it is clear that members of the Senate must come together to address common concerns throughout the West. Western Growers urges the Senate to act quickly.”
From the Westlands Water District:
“Westlands Water District is encouraged by the introduction by Senator Dianne Feinstein of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015. The State is facing unprecedented drought conditions, and the water supply shortages caused by four years of extraordinary dry conditions have been exacerbated by the restrictions imposed on the operations of the federal Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project under federal law.
The introduction of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 is an important step in the enactment of legislation to provide much-needed relief for the public water agencies that receive water from these projects and for the people, farms, and businesses they serve. There are great similarities between this bill and H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, which passed in the House of Representatives on July 16, 2015. However, there are also great differences.
Westlands looks forward to quick passage of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 by the Senate and to subsequent discussions in conference to reconcile the two bills. Through its work with Senator Feinstein and Members of the House of Representatives, Westlands knows that these policymakers are genuinely interested in working together, with the District and other interested entities, to find a meaningful legislative solution to the chronic water supply shortages that have devastated the San Joaquin Valley and other regions of the State and to provide effective means of protecting at-risk species. The District looks forward to working with them to find common-sense solutions that serve the interests of all Californians.”
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