Batting clean-up on reactions …
House Republicans on Senator Feinstein’s drought relief legislation …
From the office of Congressman Kevin McCarthy:
“Over one month ago, the entire California House Republican delegation stood behind solutions to capture El Nino rain and snow for our constituents. That same day, Senator Feinstein promised that within a week she would produce a legislative package agreed to by the Obama administration and the Brown administration. A month has passed and nothing has been introduced. Despite this abdication of leadership, we eagerly await the introduction and consideration of California water legislation in the Senate. Doing this would finally provide our constituents with a path towards real relief.
“If we had been operating under the guidelines of the Valadao legislation since December 1, we would have captured over 54.1 billion gallons of water. That equates to enough water for 1.9 million people for one year – which is enough water for the people of San Diego or San Francisco or Fresno.
“We will not stop fighting for our communities. It is time our Senators rise to this challenge with us. We cannot allow 2016 to be remembered as the year of ‘the lost El Nino.’”
Delta Counties Coalition on Governor Brown’s State of the State Address
From the Delta Counties Coalition:
In response to the State of the State address delivered this morning by Governor Jerry Brown, the Delta Counties Coalition released the following comments regarding the discrepancy between the Governor’s claim to maintain fiscal discipline while using taxpayer dollars to further his plan to build a multi-billion dollar, rate-payer funded, twin tunnel project in the Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta:
“The governor stressed fiscal discipline but his continued call for funding Delta tunnels flies directly in the face of that,” said Sacramento Supervisor Don Nottoli. “Spending $15 billion, and possibly much more, without creating one additional drop of water is the opposite of fiscal discipline.”
“The Governor got one thing right today in his comments related to water and that is there’s no magic bullet for solving California’s water challenges,” said San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott. “Governor Brown’s twin tunnels plan is certainly not a magic bullet. It will cost the State and ratepayers billions of dollars, it will devastate the Delta and its surrounding communities, and ultimately, it will not provide a single drop of additional water during times of shortage, nor will it provide a long-term water solution for California.”
“The Delta Counties wish to be part of the solution to solve California’s water crisis,” said Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Piepho. “But putting all resources and revenue into one massive project that does not create a single drop of new water does not make good fiscal, environmental or political sense.”
The Delta Counties Coalition has advocated for a set of approaches that will achieve balance for the economic and environmental health of the Delta while also improving water supply and stability. These solutions include:
- Increasing opportunities for local storage, increased conservation plans, water reuse and recycling and desalination.
- Increasing storage capacity.
- Reinforcing our levee system.
- Restoring the Delta’s health so that it can continue in its role as an economic, agricultural, recreational and environmental engine for the region and state.
C-WIN on the San Luis Drainage Resolution Act
From the C-WIN, CSPA, and AquAlliance:
C-WIN, CSPA and AquAlliance vehemently oppose HR 4366, the San Luis Drainage Resolution Act sponsored by Rep. David G. Valadao (CA-21).
This proposed legislation would approve the drainage litigation settlement between Westlands Water District and the federal government. The agreement will increase the federal deficit and lock in annual water subsidies forever. It also converts the district’s current two-year water contracts to a permanent contract for up to 890,000 acre-feet of water annually. For the sake of comparison, the City of Los Angeles uses only 587,000 acre feet in a typical year.
For decades, the district – which consists of fewer than 600 corporate farms — has irrigated its holdings with taxpayer-subsidized water delivered by the federal Central Valley Project. The district’s croplands contain large amounts of selenium, a toxic element that leaches from the soil when farmers flush their lands with CVP water to remove excess salt. The district then discharges this tainted runoff to Central Valley waterways and aquifers.
The high (or rather, low) points of the agreement include:
– Forgiveness of $375 million owed by Westlands to the federal government for capital repayment of Central Valley Project debt, thereby increasing the federal deficit.
– No additional land retirement. The amount of land Westlands already has retired will be credited to this final figure. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously recommended the retirement of more than 300,000 acres of this poisoned land.
– A permanent CVP contract for up to 890,000 acre-feet of water a year (subject to the availability of water)
– An exemption from the existing acreage limitations that were drafted to prevent oversized farms from receiving subsidized water.
– No public input on the settlement other than urging Congress to change or reject it.
– Gifting of federal facilities to Westlands, including buildings, canals, pipelines, pumps, headworks and related facilities.
“This deal can be equated with the bank bailout of 2008,” said C-WIN spokesman Tom Stokely. “The wealthy and powerful corporate interests that caused the crisis are allowed to exit the burning aircraft with golden parachutes. It locks in the destructive practices of the district, it continues to subsidize south-of-Delta Big Agriculture with taxpayer money, and it poses a long-term threat to both California’s environment and the state’s water supply. It is crony capitalism at its worse, and it demonstrates once again the corrosive power of money and corporate influence in Washington.”
Bill Jennings, the chairman and executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, observed the deal is not only bad for fisheries, water quality and the environment, its also bad for many water contractors.
“It would give Westlands a permanent water contract before all Endangered Species Act litigation is completed,” said Jennings. “In effect, this gives Westlands an advantage over other south-of-Delta contractors.”
Summing up the case against the pact, AquAlliance executive director Barbara Vlamis said congressional approval of the deal “will create a permanent demand for northern California water that will be used to create devastating pollution from land that never should have been irrigated in the first place. It assures continuation of a policy that is destructive, beneficial only to the few and powerful, and ultimately unsustainable.”
The three groups are promoting a better, cheaper, and more equitable alternative. A report by EcoNorthwest, an independent economic analysis firm, confirms that 300,000 acres of selenium-tainted land in the Westlands Water District and three adjacent water districts could be retired at a cost of $580 million to $1 billion. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey have reached similar conclusions. Retiring this land and curbing the water contracts associated with it would result in a savings to California of up to 455,000 acre-feet of water, or enough for 2,600,000 urban water users.
The Environmental Working Group estimated that annual subsidies to Westlands range from $24 million to $110 million a year. Further, land retirement is significantly less expensive than Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to build a massive tunnel system to divert water from the Sacramento River for the express benefit of western San Joaquin Valley agribusiness.
Agriculture consumes 80 percent of California’s developed water while accounting for only 2% of the state’s economic output. Our water supplies are limited in the best of times, and drought and climate change are only exacerbating the crisis. Subsidizing corporate agriculture on impaired and toxic lands is hardly a wise and reasonable use of our water. Congress must not approve this catastrophically flawed agreement before it is implemented. Californians need to tell our federal legislators that we don’t want another egregious and inequitable corporate bailout.
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