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McClintock: Just the Facts!

The first article below is a response by Congressman Tom McClintock to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the Water Reliability Act

Feb 24, 2012

 

Families Protecting The Valley Newsletter
VOLUME 4 ISSUE 4

FEBRUARY 24 2012

 

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McClintock: Just the Facts!

The first article below is a response by Congressman Tom McClintock to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the Water Reliability Act, the Congressional bill being moved along by Devin Nunes and Jeff Denham. McClintock needs no further introduction and we'll let the article speak for itself. The original article he's talking about is also below.


 

Response San Francisco Chronicle

 

I have submitted a shorter letter responding to the Chronicle’s front-page article by Carolyn Lochhead (“Central Valley reps bill would upend water rights,” February 17, 2012), but believe the inaccuracies and omissions in it are so stark that it deserves a more detailed reply.


“Representatives from the Central Valley pushed legislation through a House committee Thursday that would upend the state's system of water rights, deploying the federal government to extract water from Northern California farms, fisheries and cities to send to farmers in the valley.”


Title IV of the measure specifically reaffirms and guarantees the state’s system of water rights and brings the full force of federal law to protect those rights.


Indeed, the Northern California Water Association, representing the very water users Ms. Lochhead contends would have their rights “upended” and their water “extracted” strongly supports the bill. It writes:


“The bill, if enacted, now contains provisions that would not only protect the interests of senior water rights holders in the Sacramento Valley, but would also provide significant, material water policy improvements to current federal law. The bill, if enacted, would provide an unprecedented federal statutory express recognition of, and commitment to, California’s state water rights priority system and area of origin protections. This is important for the region to provide sustainable water supplies for productive farmlands, wildlife refuges, and managed wetlands, cities and rural communities, recreation, and meandering rivers that support important fisheries.”


Additionally, Title I, Section 105 of the bill permits Delta and Bay Area districts to re-use environmental water once it has served its purpose, increasing the amount of water available to Northern California communities.


Finally, the vote was bi-partisan, with Democrats Jim Costa (D-California) and Dan Boren (D-Oklahoma) joining Republicans in adopting the bill 27 to 17.


“The legislation would halt restoration of the San Joaquin River, leaving as much as 40 miles of the river dry, restore irrigation contracts and override fish and wildlife protections in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.”


This charge, which was also made in the Chronicle’s editorial of February 16, 2012, is categorically false. In fact, Title II merely replaces the coldwater fishery established under the San Joaquin River Settlement Act of 2009 with a warm water fishery more conducive to the Central Valley habitat, guaranteeing year round flows. During my opening statement, I said:


“(The bill) replaces the San Joaquin River Settlement Act that was imposed in 2009 with a workable and vastly less expensive alternative.


“Let me put the current San Joaquin River Settlement Act in perspective. It will spend more than one billion dollars to achieve the stated goal of establishing a population of 500 salmon below the Friant dam. That comes to two million dollars per fish. And that’s without accounting for the costs that will be incurred by Central Valley farmers as water that is already in critically short supply is diverted to this project that are estimated to increase the actual cost ten-fold.”


During committee discussion, I went on to say, “The San Joaquin River is on the hot valley floor – the only time it has been a cold-water fishery was during very wet years and then only sporadically.”


“McClintock negotiated an agreement from fellow Republicans to preserve local water rights to protect his Sacramento district from the original bill.”


In fact, I said in my opening statement that my office had conducted “a laborious eight-month process of consulting more than 60 northern California water agencies – in both Democratic and Republican congressional districts and the result is an unprecedented consensus reflected in the amendment.” During the committee debate, I read a list of 11 water districts in Democratic Congressman Garamendi’s district alone that we worked with on amendments to protect their water rights.


Whatever our personal biases and opinions, we should at least be able to agree that readers are entitled to the truth, particularly in a story appearing on the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper over a matter of significant public importance. All of the facts and statements cited above were made during the public meeting and should have been known to all those who attended it. I believe that this article clearly crossed the line into demonstrable falsehood and I challenge the management of the Chronicle to set the record straight.


Sincerely,

Tom McClintock
Chairman, Sub-Committee on Water and Power, House Natural Resources Committee



 

Central Valley reps bill would upend water rights

Carolyn Lochhead

 

Washington Representatives from the Central Valley pushed legislation through a House committee Thursday that would upend the state's system of water rights, deploying the federal government to extract water from Northern California farms, fisheries and cities to send to farmers in the valley.


The action by the House Natural Resources Committee came the same day that the House voted to require the federal government to usurp California's governance of its coastline by requiring offshore leasing for oil and gas drilling.


Neither bill is expected to become law, given strong opposition from California's Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.


But the water bill, HR1837, is a major salvo by Central Valley lawmakers, most of them Republicans but including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Hanford (Kings County), in a pitched, emotional battle over who gets water in a state whose antiquated water system is straining under the demands of a burgeoning population, a declining ecosystem and the nation's most productive farm sector.


Among other things, the legislation would halt restoration of the San Joaquin River, leaving as much as 40 miles of the river dry, restore irrigation contracts and override fish and wildlife protections in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.


"Plain and simple, it's a water raid on the delta," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove (Sacramento County), who waged trench warfare in the committee by offering more than 20 amendments. All were defeated, but Garamendi said he was "laying down a track of information that will be useful later."


Water held in trust


Garamendi said the valley lawmakers are attempting to "obliterate all the environmental laws of the state and federal governments and simultaneously override the California Constitution," whose public trust doctrine holds that all the waters of California are held in trust by the government for the people of California.


Feinstein and Boxer wrote a letter to the committee chairman stating their strong opposition, saying the bill would waive endangered species protections and attempt to provide more water to the valley "without accounting for where the water will come from or what the impacts will be."


Sponsored by Republican Reps. Devin Nunes of Tulare County, Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Jeff Denham of Merced, with support from Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove (Sacramento County) and Democrat Costa, the legislation cleared the House committee on a 27-17 vote.


Republicans said the legislation would "end California's man-made droughts, bring jobs and water supply certainty to the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys and decrease reliance on foreign food sources."


Costa said that with the world population headed to 9 billion, "the production of food and fiber is a security issue not only for us but for the world."


Stands no chance


But he conceded that the bill will never be enacted, saying Feinstein's participation was not sought, even though he said she has been "a champion trying to fight for water in our valley," often to the consternation of Bay Area Democrats. Costa said the bill "will never bring a single of water to our valley."


Cynthia Koehler, legislative director for California water for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the bill was the boldest attempt to pre-empt state water law she has ever seen.


"There is a fairly significant question about whether it is constitutional," she said. "Congress could say to every state, 'You cannot touch any water rights to preserve fish and wildlife for any purpose at all.' "


House members from the valley blamed their area's high unemployment on water shortages. Denham challenged Democrats to "come to Mendota and see the 40 percent unemployment rate."


But the Pacific Institute in Oakland concluded in a recent study on the effect of the recent state drought that chronic unemployment in the Central Valley was mainly the result of the housing downturn.


A matter of rights


McClintock negotiated an agreement from fellow Republicans to preserve local water rights to protect his Sacramento district from the original bill, which put those rights in question. He argued that the legislation does not trounce states' rights.


Instead, he said it upholds individual rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which makes it a duty of Congress "to protect the property rights, including water rights, of every citizen against encroachment" by the state, including water he claims was expropriated to protect fisheries and "cavalierly dumped into the Pacific Ocean."


Garamendi said the bill fails to develop any new water sources and simply moves water around, violating "160 years of history, regulations and water rights. The measure "adds to the conflict without resolving the underlying problem."


Costa defended amendments to grant 900 more acre feet of delta water to Kettleman City, a tiny, isolated farming town in Kings County, and raise Shasta Dam by 15 feet. Republicans warned that the Shasta amendment was an earmark and would "poison" the overall bill, so Costa withdrew it. The Kettleman City earmark stayed.


Carolyn Lochhead is the San Francisco Chronicle's Washington correspondent. clochhead@sfchronicle.com


Other:

Commentary: The Government-Imposed California Dust Bowl

Nunes Bill Reignites Water War

Editorial: Nunes Scores With Water Bill

Commentary: What's Devin Nunes Up To?

Farmers Want Out of Delta Bills

Nunes Bill Aims to Restore Central Valley Water Supplies

McClintock: Water for Our Future and Job Creation

 


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