Tuesday, September 22, 2009

California farmers again denied water. This time by Senators Feinstein and Boxer.

This evening, Senate Democrats – led by Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer – defeated a California water amendment offered by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.
The amendment was simple.  It would have prevented the federal government from spending any money to implement biological decisions that are denying Californians access to essential water supplies from the Delta.  This prohibition would have lasted one year. 
Despite the clear suffering of people in California, my state's senior Senator blocked passage of urgently needed relief.  She even went so far as to compare our efforts to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The defeat of the DeMint amendment today is shameful.  The fact that California's Senators are responsible adds insult to injury.
These two Senators opposed the amendment, despite having voted for a similar provision in 2003.  That provision, related to the silvery minnow, was meant to protect the water supplies of New Mexicans.  It suspended the Endangered Species Act for two years.  In sharp contrast, Senator DeMint’s effort on behalf of Californians was limited to one year.
During the debate, Senator Feinstein eluded to the complex nature of the California water debate.  She expressed dismay that a South Carolina Senator would meddle in California’s affairs and pointed to a $750,000 earmark she is supporting to study the California water crisis.  Senator DeMint countered that the issue was national in scope and that our nation’s food supply was in jeopardy.  He further argued that farmers needed immediate relief.
How can anyone purporting to represent the interests of Californians not know that our state’s farmers and rural communities need immediate relief?  Studies are not the answer.
While infrastructure is urgently needed, including a canal to bypass the Delta, these projects are years from completion and have not even begun despite years of promises.  The only real answer is a temporary waiver to the ESA or some other provision, such as the one before the Senate today, which restores the flow of water until alternatives are realized.  Californians should be very disappointed in the outcome today.  But they should be reassured that some in Congress are working on their behalf – including the Senator from South Carolina.