Monday, February 14, 2011

Water Wars Update


This week, the House will vote on a federal spending bill – the 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR). This CR, which funds the operation of the federal government for the current fiscal year, is necessary because last year Democratic leaders failed to pass a budget.

While much of the public attention is appropriately focused on efforts to reduce spending, there are also important provisions in the CR that relate to our communities in the San Joaquin Valley.

Specifically, thanks to the support of Republican leaders, I was able to get language included in the CR that will restore and protect our water supplies (see bill text).

The language included in the base bill of the 2011 Continuing Resolution will prevent any federal funds from being used to implement the biological decisions responsible for reduced Delta pumping – effectively guaranteeing normal pump operations for 2011.

Furthermore, it will ban federal funding for the restoration of the San Joaquin River during the 2011 fiscal year, the first step in Republican efforts to replace the flawed billion dollar salmon run. It also demonstrates Congressional intent to suspend restoration flows for 2011 thereby keeping the water on the east side of the valley.

In place of the existing restoration plan, which spends $21 million per salmon, I am working with House leaders to establish both an environmentally and economically responsible San Joaquin River restoration. This will include a year-round, live river on the San Joaquin but will also ensure a robust east side agriculture economy.

However, despite the inclusion of this important language in the CR, there are a number of obstacles ahead. There is no question that liberal leaders will offer amendments to strip the San Joaquin valley water language from the CR. That is why it is essential for California Democrats to unite in our defense. Should we succeed, the pressure will be on our Senators. Will they choose two inch bait fish and the junk science now rejected by the federal court or will they choose valley workers and their families?