As our children head back to school and the fall harvest begins, the rivers coming into our reservoirs slow and they empty out. Unfortunately, this past winter and spring failed to bring us the amount of water we need, and the water supply situation for the Central Valley is shaping up to be a dire one. As a community, we face great uncertainty for next year.
Water is one of the most important job creators for the Valley, and part of my responsibility as your representative in Congress is to work to create predictable and reasonable water policies so our businesses can thrive, our rivers are healthy and our communities are treated fairly. The state’s water storage operation and conveyance policies directly impact the ability of our farmers and ranchers to succeed. They form the backbone of our economy and the global food supply chain. Any policy that jeopardizes their success will continue to threaten the economic strength of the country as a whole.
It can be difficult to keep up with all of the activities of state and federal government programs and agencies like the BDCP, the CALFED Bay-Delta Program, the Delta Plan, Reclamation, the state water board, and many others. My staff and I stay abreast of all these entities’ efforts, but monitoring is not enough. I want to share a few of the common sense solutions I’ve worked on that will impact facilities directly serving the district I represent, improving the water situation in the Central Valley.
In June, I introduced a bill that will allow the Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) and San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) to enter into a Warren Act contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, enabling them to store up to 100,000 acre feet of water in the New Melones Reservoir. This common sense legislation will help with water supply shortages around the Valley by putting both the OID and SSJID in a position to create a reliable multi-year supply of water that will aide our community and state. This water supply will be used to help meet needs in the Stanislaus River, the San Joaquin River and the Delta without requiring the construction of new facilities. This is a simple fix at no cost to the taxpayer.
I’ve also introduced a bill establishing a pilot program on the Stanislaus River to protect native salmon and steelhead fish populations from non-native predator fish, which are currently devouring large portions of the natives. The pilot program would be conducted by OID and SSJID with state and federal agencies at no cost to the taxpayer, while generating valuable data to better protect our native fish. The pilot program will help lower the pressure on our local water supply and give us a guide for future best practices for additional efforts on the Stanislaus River and other streams in California.
We are also long past due for the construction of increased water storage facilities throughout the state. We’ve done enough studies to know we need more water. This is why I sponsored language last year that would allow anyone with the money to start construction today.
As an almond farmer, I know firsthand how important a stable water supply is to staying in business and feeding families across the nation. In times of dry conditions we need to improve our water supply through common sense policies that increase the flexibility of our water facilities. These pieces of legislation, while not a silver bullet, are local solutions that will help the Valley for years to come.