Congress needs to pass water legislation
Next week we expect the House of Representatives to again pass a water bill that could free up irrigation water for the San Joaquin Valley next summer. We implore U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to pick up the torch in the Senate and get a bill to the president’s desk this year.
Congressman David Valadao, who represents the area of Poplar and west, including most of Kings County, reintroduced the bill this week in an effort to get something done to ease the drought. Last year, restrictions placed on pumping water through the San Joaquin Delta to the Valley resulted in the east side getting no Friant water for the first time in more than 60 years. That led to near devastation in Terra Bella where more than 600 growers rely on that canal water to not only produce a crop, but to keep their trees alive. Fortunately, enough water was found to keep trees alive, but some growers lost their crop.
Both the House and Senate passed their own versions of drought relief this year, but the two bills stalled in conference committee where they were sent to hammer out a bill acceptable to everyone. Then, while negotiations were still ongoing, Feinstein withdrew from those talks, virtually killing any hopes for a bill this year until Valadao acted. The Hanford congressman was joined by Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes.
It is important for action to be taken now as any new attempt will basically have to go back to step one and by the time a bill is passed and signed by the president next year, we could be back into summer and millions of acre feet of water will already have been lost to the ocean.
We cannot afford to have another summer like this past summer. Domestic wells went dry all over and while the drought was mainly blamed, it was the lack of surface irrigation water that only made the situation worse.
It is time for Congress to step up to the plate, especially Sen. Feinstein.