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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Water, Water Everywhere...Except for California's Farms

January 19, 2011

House Chamber, Washington, D.C.  January 19, 2011.  M. Speaker:

 The Department of Interior issued an announcement yesterday that perfectly illustrates the irrationality of our current approach to water issues.

 California’s precipitation this season has gone off the charts.  Statewide snow water content is 198 percent of normal; in the all-important Northern Sierra snowpack is 174 percent of normal.  This is not only a wet year – it is one of the wettest years on record.

 Yet yesterday, we have this announcement from the Department of the Interior: that despite a nearly unprecedented abundance of water, the Bureau of Reclamation will only guarantee delivery of 45 percent of the California Central Valley’s contracted water supply south of the Delta.  This is the same percentage they received last year with barely average rainfall.

 This is of crucial importance to the entire nation, since the Central Valley of California is one of the largest producers of our nation’s food supply.  California produces half of the U.S.-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables on the nation’s grocery shelves and the prices you pay are directly affected by the California harvest. 

 The deliberate decision by this administration in 2009 and 2010 to divert hundreds of billions of gallons of water away from the Central Valley destroyed a quarter million acres of the most productive farmland in America, it threw tens of thousands of families into unemployment and it affected grocery prices across the country.

At the time, the administration blamed a mild drought, but never explained why a drought justified their decision to pour 200 billion gallons of water (that we did have) directly into the Pacific Ocean.    In a rational world a drought means that you are more careful not to waste the water that you have.

The real reason for this irrational policy, of course, is that they were indulging the environmental Left’s pet cause, a three-inch minnow called the Delta Smelt.  Diverting precious water to Delta Smelt habitat was considered more important than producing the food that feeds the country and preserving the jobs that produce the food.

But that issue is now moot.  This year we have nearly twice the normal water supply at this point in the season, and yet the Department of Interior will allow only 45 percent of normal water deliveries to California Central Valley agriculture south of the Delta.

The difference comes to 1.1 million acre-feet of water.  1.1 million acre feet.

Now consider this: since December 1st, the Central Valley Project has released 1.4 million acre feet more water into the Pacific Ocean than they did just last year.

Let me repeat that.  At the same time this Administration is denying California Central Valley agriculture 1.1 million acre feet of their rightfully contracted water in one of the wettest years on record, it is dumping 1.4 million acre feet of additional water into the Pacific Ocean.

M. Speaker, this is insane.  Coleridge’s lament “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink” appears to have become the policy of this administration.

The American people did not invest billions of dollars into federal water projects so that their water can be dumped into the ocean to please environmental extremists. 

This policy may have been cheered by the previous Congress, but it won’t be tolerated by the new majority, nor by the American people.

 There was a time when the principal objective of our federal water policy was to assure an abundance of water to support a growing population and a flourishing economy.  But in recent years, a radical and retrograde ideology has taken root in our public policy, abandoning abandoned abundance as the objective of our water policy and replacing it with the government rationing of government-created shortages.

I cannot imagine a more disturbing example of this ideology at work than the announcement yesterday by the Department of Interior.  Even faced with a super-abundance of water, they are determined to create and then to ration water shortages. 

The American people expect better and they deserve better.  They deserve a government dedicated to restoring jobs, prosperity and abundance – all of which is well within our reach – if we will simply reverse the folly that was on full display with yesterday’s announcement.

Ironically, this announcement came on the same day that the President ordered his agencies to identify regulatory policies that are harming the economy. 

M. Speaker, it appears the Department of Interior missed that memo.