Fresno House Natural Resources Hearing: "California Water Crisis and Its Impacts: The Need for Immediate and Long-Term Solutions"
March 19, 2014
Statement by Congressman McClintock
House Natural Resources Committee
March 19, 2014
Four years ago -- long before the current drought -- the Central Valley suffered from the deliberate diversion of 800,000 acre feet of water promised under the Bay Delta Accord. Instead, it was dumped into the Pacific Ocean for the amusement of the Delta Smelt.
This wanton act caused the loss of a quarter-million acres of the most productive farmland in America, it threw thousands of families into unemployment, and it devastated this region.
Now, a natural drought has compounded the regulatory drought.
Here is the simple truth of the matter.
Droughts are nature’s fault. Water shortages are our fault.
Nature produces 45,000 gallons of fresh water every day for every man, woman and child on the planet. The problem is, that water is unevenly distributed over both time and distance.
We build dams to transfer water from wet times to dry times. We build aqueducts to transfer water from wet areas to dry areas.
We don’t build dams and aqueducts to dump that water into the ocean. Water is very good at flowing downhill and it gets to the ocean very well on its own. We build dams and aqueducts so that surplus water isn’t lost to the ocean – but rather retained for beneficial purposes.
Unfortunately, in the last generation, a radical and retrograde ideology has insinuated itself into our water policy. It holds that human needs are to be subordinated to the goal of restoring mother earth to her pristine, prehistoric condition.
In pursuit of this goal, this movement has obstructed the construction of new dams by attaching so many conditions and restrictions as to render them economically infeasible. We have bills that ostensibly authorize new dams at Sites and Temperance Flats – but only if judged feasible under these unattainable standards. That means the dams won’t get built.
We have been unable to get the spillway raised just ten lousy feet on the Exchequer Dam that would add 70,000 acre feet of additional storage to Lake McClure. Self-described environmentalists oppose it because it would require a minor adjustment to the wild and scenic river boundary that overlapped with a pre-existing FERC boundary.
Indeed, this movement has not only obstructed the construction of new dams, it has actively pursued the goal of tearing down existing ones, such as the four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath.
If anything good comes of this drought, it will be that the public is finally awakening to the enormous economic and environmental damage that these policies have done.
The House has acted twice on legislation to address both the regulatory drought caused by unnecessary water diversions and to begin removing the regulatory hurdles that block new dam construction.
Mr. Valadao’s HR 3964 is an important first step. It strengthens water rights, it stops the massive loss of water required by the biological opinions on smelt and the San Joaquin River Restoration act, it opens up additional storage for local agencies at New Melones, it expands capacity at Lake McClure and allows local water districts to partner with the federal government to expedite expansion and construction of reservoirs.
The problem is that the Senate has not acted. And progress cannot be made between the two houses until the Senate either passes the House bill or sends its own bill to the House so that the conference process can proceed to a conclusion.
We are at a cross-roads and it is time we chose between two very different visions of water policy.
One is the nihilistic vision of 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 abundant 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.
# # #