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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

California Water Bill - HR 2898

July 8, 2015
Press Release

Congressman McClintock is a co-author of H.R. 2898 (Valadao), the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015.  The legislation was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee on July 9th, 2015.  The bill next goes to the House floor.  Congressman McClintock delivered the following remarks in the House Natural Resources Committee in support of the measure:

Opening Statement
HR 2898 – California Water Bill
July 8, 2015

Mr. Chairman:

    Droughts are nature’s fault.  They happen.  But water shortages are OUR fault.  Water shortages are a deliberate choice we made nearly 40 years ago when we stopped building new dams.  We have not added a single major reservoir in California since 1979; meanwhile the population of our state has nearly doubled.

    Many people think the Colorado is the big river in the West.  The Colorado is a junior sister to the mighty Sacramento River.  The difference is, we store 70 million acre feet on the Colorado and only 10 million acre feet on the Sacramento; most of the rest is lost to the Pacific Ocean.  

    The fact is, we will not solve our water shortage until we build more dams, and we can’t build more dams until we overhaul the radical environmental laws that are making their construction cost-prohibitive.  

    The little town of Forest Hill receives its water from the Sugar Pine reservoir that was built with an 18 foot spillway, but no spillway gate.  They didn’t need the extra capacity at the time; they do now.  So they went shopping, and found that installing a spillway gate would cost $2 million.  But that’s not the cost of the project.  To it, they have to add at least a million dollars for environmental studies and at least $2 million for environmental mitigation – so a $2 million project that was within reach of this little town became a $5 million cost-prohibitive boondoggle.

    Worse, these same environmental laws have required the release of billions of gallons of what precious little water remains behind our dams for a handful of fish.  In April, 30,000 acre feet of water were released to nudge the offspring of 29 steelhead trout to swim toward the ocean.  That was enough water to meet the ANNUAL residential needs of 300,000 human beings.  

    The environmental left viewed the needs of 29 steelhead trout superior to the needs of 300,000 human beings in the worst drought on record.  There is only one word to describe this philosophy – it is insane.

    In both the 112th and 113th Congresses, the House passed comprehensive water legislation to address this crisis before it became a crisis.  It was blocked by our friends across the aisle in the Senate.  But the public is now awakened to the suffering this lunacy has caused and the Senate has since changed management.  The hour has come.

This bill:

•    Streamlines the permitting process that has completely stalled the consideration of even modest storage projects;
•    It expedites the authorization of new capacity at Shasta and the construction of new reservoirs at Sites, Temperance Flat, and Los Vaqueros;
•    It encourages hatcheries to boost fish populations;
•    It replaces cost-prohibitive requirements for a cold-water fishery on the hot San Joaquin valley floor with a warm-water fishery conducive to natural conditions;  
•    It provides operational flexibility to prevent unnecessary environmental spills;
•    It allows operational control of New Melones to be transferred to the local water districts who actually own the water stored behind this federal dam; and
•    It strengthens the legal protections for Northern California communities to prevent state officials from fulfilling their threats to ignore long-established California water rights.

    We are at a cross-roads and it is time to choose between two very different visions of water policy.

    One is the nihilistic vision of the environmental left: increasingly severe government-induced shortages, higher and higher electricity and water prices, massive taxpayer subsidies to politically well-connected and favored industries, and a permanently declining quality of life for our children, who will be required to stretch and ration every drop of water and every watt of electricity in their bleak and dimly lit homes.

    The other is a vision of abundance, a new era of clean, cheap and plentiful hydro-electricity; great new reservoirs to store water in wet years to assure abundance in dry ones; a future in which families can enjoy the prosperity that abundant water and electricity provide, and the quality of life that comes from that prosperity.  It is a society whose children can look forward to a green lawn, a backyard garden, affordable air-conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter, brightly lit homes and cities and abundant and affordable groceries from America’s agricultural cornucopia.