Reignite the Water Wars!
Farmers know they're in a water war because they're having to pull trees out of the ground or just let them die.
Dec 11, 2014
"Almond farmers are letting orchards dry up and in some cases making the tough call to have their trees torn out of the ground, leaving behind empty fields." - Associated Press
“Coming off a year where more progress has been made on water policy in California than any time in recent years – with broad support evident in the electorate for this strategy – this is no time to reignite water wars, move water policy back into the courts, and try to pit one part of the state against another. For this reason, the administration opposes HR5781. ” - John Laird, California Natural Resources Secretary
"If we try to get water we're reigniting the water wars. If we try to get water we're pitting one part of the state against another. If they do it, no problem." - Families Protecting the Valley
The new mantra of those opposing Congressman David Valadao's House Drought Legislation is that it would 'reignite' the water wars. It's as if they don't think they're in a war, and those darn farmers are trying to start one.
Farmers know they're in a water war because they're having to pull trees out of the ground or just let them die. They've seen their water allotments decrease year after year as more and more regulatons take more and more water for fish and fowl and the environment. Farmers don't need to reignite the water wars because they've been in it for twenty years. For environmentalists there is not a war because they're winning every battle. It's only a war when we want water so we can farm and don't want to lose any more water. And it is not starting a war if we just shut up and go out of business.
The definition of 'reigniting' the water wars: trying to win. They don't want us to try to win, because if we don't there's no war. If you don't reignite the water war you will not win. You will lose.
The House passed a bill Tuesday morning that seeks to divert more delta water to San Joaquin Valley farms, leaving less freshwater to maintain needed flows for struggling salmon runs, the health of the San Francisco Bay and wetlands and to keep saltwater from despoiling Sacramento Valley farmland. The bill, the Emergency California Drought Relief Act, passed with 230 votes (all but 6 were Republicans) and 182 Democrats voting against.
Despite it’s title, HR5781 will not end the drought. Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford (Kings County), proposed legislation will not produce more rain or make more water. It does not address the drought emergency — the state and federal government have tried to do that by assisting communities that have lost jobs because of the drought. Valadao’s bill seeks to impose federal rules that would undermine protections for fish and wildlife for the benefit of agribusiness.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has negotiated with House Republicans for months to modify the bill to insure it maintained Endangered Species Acts protections, respected two legal measures of the delta’s environmental health called biological opinions and conformed with the Clean Water Act, but was dogged in pursuing the core purpose of the bill — to send more water to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness. It appears the bill will not meet the senator’s standards for environmental protections and without her support, it is unlikely to clear the Senate.
Feinstein’s office released this statement Monday: “There are parts of the House bill introduced last week that I support, including provisions from legislation unanimously passed by the Senate in May and other provisions that were agreed upon over the past few months through bipartisan negotiation.
“But there are several other provisions that would waive environmental protections that need to be changed before I could support them. I have said all along that I will not support a bill that would waive these protections, and that remains true today.”
The bill’s proposed changes to federal water operations rightly alarmed the environmental community, Gov. Jerry Brown and President Obama. John Laird, the California Natural Resources Agency Secretary, issued a letter Tuesday on behalf of the Brown administration, opposing it. He wrote:
“Coming off a year where more progress has been made on water policy in California than any time in recent years – with broad support evident in the electorate for this strategy – this is no time to reignite water wars, move water policy back into the courts, and try to pit one part of the state against another. For this reason, the administration opposes HR5781. ”
An earlier version of the bill was struck down in the House this spring. Valadao introduced a new version on Dec. 2. The House debated it Monday, even though the chamber was not originally scheduled to be in session, and voted on Tuesday.
Valadao, and other San Joaquin Valley Republicans, represent large agricultural water users who have secondary rights to water and seek to increase the amount and the certainty of water allocated to them — something all drought-weary Californians would like. It would add another layer of complexity to already complex water management decisions. It would open the door to increased litigation that would harm small farmers, fishermen and tribes. Farmers gain, salmon and Pacific Coast salmon fisherman and tribes that depend on the salmon, lose. The Obama administration has warned the president would veto the bill, should it pass the Senate and make its way to his desk.
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, a water warrior who has fought for decades to balance the state’s water needs among fish, farms and cities, noted on the House floor Monday that water policy is better than it has been in the past because it developed through open hearings. He deplored the end-of-session attempt by Republicans to push the bill through.
“The idea that you can just go into a room in the 11th hour because you know the session is ending, and you are going to say, ‘we have greater merit than anybody else, we are going to change this law,’ that is not the democratic process,” he said.
“That is not the proper representation of the people we represent in the State of California, and it is absolutely contrary to what the state government has done and accomplished, what they have done and accomplished with the federal agencies, to try and make this work recognizing the incredible hardship that every region in our state is under.”
California and Congress have serious work to do to refashion our water policies and laws to promote greater efficiency and conservation. Legislation whose purpose is to take water from one to give it to another — to the detriment of all of California — serves no legitimate purpose.
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