Governor Jerry Brown today declared a drought emergency in California. Notably, in their statements about the declaration, neither the governor nor Senator Dianne Feinstein mentioned any of our attempts in the House of Representatives over the past several years to pass legislation that would permanently end the state’s water crisis. The Senate has rejected all our efforts, including the comprehensive fix contained in H.R. 1837, which passed the House in 2012 but was not acted upon in the Senate. This week, senators declined another water fix that was proposed in connection with the omnibus spending bill.The governor’s emergency declaration has sparked victory laps by politicians, plenty of slaps on the back, calls for water bonds, demands to appoint a “federal drought coordinator,” and cries of joy from water districts that refuse to tell farmers and farmworkers what it will really take to end the water crisis. The bottom line is this: the declaration of a drought emergency will accomplish next to nothing. Outside of flood-level rainfall, there are only two ways to get more water this year: get the pumps turned back on, and get more water from the San Joaquin River that will otherwise be flushed into the ocean for the sake of phantom salmon. It will take federal laws, like those passed in the House and rejected in the Senate, to accomplish those actions. Anything else is just noise.
Perplexed by Senator Feinstein’s refusal to cooperate on water legislation, I joined my colleagues Reps. McCarthy and Valadao in writing a letter today inviting the senator to meet with us and explain any legislative proposals she may have to resolve the drought. You can read the letter here.