The Agony of the Central Valley
The Agony of the Central Valley
House Chamber, Washington D.C.
January 26, 2010
For many months, the Republicans on the Water and Power Sub-Committee of the House Natural Resources Committee have implored the majority Democrats to hold a hearing in the Central Valley of California to see and hear for themselves the damage that the federal government has caused by diverting 200 billion gallons of water away from Central Valley farms in order to indulge the environmental Left’s pet cause, the Delta Smelt.
After our pleas were met with continued stonewalling, we decided to hold a forum under our own auspices and invite all members of the California Congressional Delegation, all members of the Natural Resources Committee and representatives of the Obama administration to see firsthand what their policies have wrought.
Instead, after we had announced the forum, the Water and Power Sub-Committee Chairwoman decided to meet on the same day in Southern California to extol the virtues of water conservation.
Congress has thus made clear its intention to sacrifice the people of the San Joaquin Valley on the altar of environmental extremism.
Despite heavy rains over the past month, the Administration continues to blame a relatively mild drought for the fact Valley farmers will receive only five percent of the water they are entitled to. This does not explain how, in far more severe droughts than this, Valley farmers have received far greater allocations. Nor does it explain how these massive water diversions for the Delta Smelt are justified if supplies are so constratined.
Had the Democrats come to Fresno, they would have heard and seen the anguish of the people of the Central Valley of California. The water diversions have destroyed a half-million acres of the most productive farmland in America and thrown 30,000 Central Valley families into unemployment.
They would have heard the stories of food lines in communities that once prided themselves on being the breadbasket of the western United States. They would have heard about the frustration of seeing produce imported from China being handed out in those food lines to the very same American farmers who once supplied the same produce to the world.
And they would have seen the anger as the absent Interior Secretary’s testimony to the Natural Resources Committee last year was played back, in which he admitted that the Obama administration has the authority to turn the water pumps back on, but that it chooses not to do so because that would be “like admitting failure.”
There is some good news. This afternoon, the day after our forum in Fresno, the Interior Secretary relented to the extent of releasing 350,000 to 400,000 acre-feet of water already owned by Central Valley farmers. Having demonstrated his authority to do so, he now needs to follow through and release the water that he holds hostage to the Delta Smelt.
Meanwhile, Mr. Nunes of California has introduced HR 3105, the “Turn On the Pumps Act,” which does exactly the same thing that Congress did under far less severe circumstances several years ago in New Mexico. Met with the same intransigence from the Water and Power Subcommittee, Mr. Nunes has filed a discharge petition to bypass that subcommittee and bring that bill directly to the House for a vote. It needs 218 signatures. So far it has 105 – 104 Republicans and only 1 Democrat.
Madam Speaker, I assure you that it is not only the Central Valley that is suffering. The willful destruction of 500,000 acres of American farmland by these massive water diversions – all for the enjoyment and amusement of the three-inch long Delta Smelt -- is reflected in the rising prices for produce that families are feeling far beyond the Congressionally created dustbowl of California’s Central Valley.
Nor is the Delta Smelt doing any better. Despite these massive water diversions, the Delta Smelt population fell back to the historic low set in 2005, and is now well below the high points recorded in the late 1970s. Given these findings, how can anybody argue that the Delta pumping restrictions are benefiting the Delta Smelt.
Madam Speaker, I promised to carry the plea from the many Americans who poured their hearts out to us in Fresno on Monday for Congress to come to the Central Valley and see what their policies have caused. I place their invitation before you.