California's Tough Water Choices
Most Californians are aware that we have only a limited amount of fresh water that we can use for all the different water needs in our state. It is also clear that maintaining the status quo is simply a losing battle. Courts get to decide if millions of acres of prime farmland will be able to received adequate water to grow the food that helps feed our nation. What is the best way to continue the fight to protect our water rights and assure that our local economies are not collateral damage for political agendas?
The agricultural community knows all too well that there are many onerous regulations that make it very costly to continue farming. But there is common ground and, “regulatory reform” would be a step in the right direction. Seems easy enough right? Year after year more regulations are put onto the books, but rarely are they ever taken off. Any attempt by a legislator to try to make environmental laws more balanced is viewed as an assault on the environment. Just this past summer in the California Legislature there were discussions of looking at the 42-year old law of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but any changes to the law were viewed as weakening the regulation by those in the environmental community.
We saw the same outcome when Congressman Richard Pombo attempted to make changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). His mission was clear; if a private property owner had habitat for an endangered species on their property and they were forced to maintain the habitat for the public good then the property owner should be compensated for the loss of use to their property. For years, Pombo topped environmentalists “Most Wanted” list. In 2006 the League of Conservation Voters named him chairman of its "Dirty Dozen”, Rolling Stone called him "Enemy of the Earth." His efforts to reform the ESA were considered “gutting or dismantling” the over 30-year old law. In 2006, the environmental community chipped in over $3 million to unseat Congressman Pombo.
As California continues to face water shortages we must remain engaged at a local, state and federal level. Over the summer Governor Brown and the Department of Interior released plans for the new Peripheral Canal. While we all remember the defeat of the canal in the early 1980’s today we face far worse challenges and our population has greatly increased. We cannot put our heads in the sand and think that it will not happen. While many remain skeptical and critical about the new conveyance tunnel with the support of our Governor and the Obama administration we cannot say that it will never become a reality.
We must assure that all Californians are provided water and that our current water rights are preserved and strengthened. It is paramount that we invest in new water infrastructure projects that will provide water as our population grows.
Sites Reservoir has been studied by the California Department of Water Resources for decades. Glenn, Colusa and some local irrigation districts have created a joint powers authority (JPA) to move the Sites Reservoir project through the design, permitting and funding phases. The Sites JPA is a locally driven effort to assure water reliability for not only the North State, but for all water users and the environment. The JPA meets regularity and provides critical local support for additional water storage in California.
We cannot continue to manage our water supply in crisis mode. It is not good for our communities or our economic future. Family Water Alliance will remain vigilant in assuring that our interests in rural California are understood and represented at the table. We asked that you stay engaged to and help address the critical water problems that our State faces. ■
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