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Jeff Denham: Bureaucrats impede water development
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A simple and relatively inexpensive way to expand California’s available water is to modify spillways on reservoirs.
Congressman Jeff Denham noted experts have estimated it would allow access to a million acre feet of water annually. That’s enough to meet the typical water needs of almost 11 million people a year based on per capital consumption figures supplied by the United States Geological Survey.
But it requires more than the proverbial act of Congress. Denham noted the big roadblock is the federal bureaucracy — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to be more precise — that only relicenses hydroelectric operations every 40 to 50 years. The Turlock Republican suspects pressure from other federal agencies dealing with environmental concerns are making such a solution almost impossible to get traction due to their desire to increase water flows for fish.
“People in California are going to be surprised when they realize the wet weather we have isn’t (ending water shortages),” Denham said.
Denham discussed water — which he sees as the No. 1 issue facing California — among other topics during Thursday’s Manteca Rotary meeting at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.
He notes that California needs to spend money to create 5 million acre feet of more water storage to address urban and agricultural needs given the state’s population has increased 2.5 times since the last reservoir. Even then, the entire planned water system for California water is incomplete as several units were not built although federal and state agencies committed water that they were supposed to capture for delivery to cities and farms.
Denham said against that backdrop spending well over $24 billion for Twin Tunnels to have water bypass the Delta on its way south makes absolutely no sense as it doesn’t create a single additional drop of water. He also noted federal agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation that controls much of the developed water in California haven’t blessed Gov. Brown’s conveyance proposal.
The congressman has been working to try and get more reasonable water management policies at federal agencies.
He noted one federal government goal is to double the native species that are threatened in the Delta as well as double the number of non-native fish.
“That’s impossible to do when (federal studies) show that 90 percent of the native fish are being eaten by the non-native fish,” Denham said.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email