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Congress must help California deal with drought

Dec 10, 2014
In The News

For years, the California Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown squabbled over what should be in a multibillion-dollar water bond. Finally, this summer, they agreed on a $7.5 billion measure that won landslide approval in November.


The state’s long drought made lawmakers and voters alike realize the importance of getting something done. Now Congress needs the same epiphany on water legislation meant to help California.


Two Central Valley House Republicans — Rep. David Valadao and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — have spent months discussing drought measures with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. However, Feinstein and the Obama administration oppose the 26-page California Emergency Drought Relief Act approved by the House on Tuesday because it waives certain environmental protections and puts some limits on regulators.


But the framework for a compromise is already in place. Feinstein, Valadao and McCarthy all support provisions that would effectively increase water supplies going south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and that would push the federal government to act more quickly on water storage projects. They also seem within reach of a deal to modify pumping policies at two San Joaquin River tributaries and further increase supplies heading south.


These aren’t the grand changes that many in the Central Valley want — changes that would make human needs more of a priority than concerns about endangered species. But they’re much better than nothing, and they set a healthy precedent of McCarthy and Feinstein pairing up to address big state issues.


It’s a shame that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, isn’t playing a more constructive role. Unfortunately, helping the struggling Central Valley has never been a concern for many of California’s urban Democrats.