Got Water? Capitol Hill Heavy Hitter Pitches Emergency Drought Relief Bill
The battle for more water for Central Valley farmers has now reached the nation's capitol.
Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner was in Bakersfield with fellow members of Congress to unveil a three-part Emergency Drought Relief bill to help farmers access more water this year, among the driest on record.
The bill would put a two-year stop to water releases from Friant Dam, downstream, to Chinook Salmon.
Right now, Millerton Lake is just at 40 percent capacity.
But 17 percent of that water is going to help repopulate the Salmon population.
It was part of a deal between farmers and environmentalists, that took effect in 2009.
"You just shake your head and wonder what kind of nonsense does the bureaucracy do out here," said Rep. Boehner. "How you can favor fish over people is something that people in my part of the world would never understand."
The bill would also allow farmers to pump irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Right now, they are restricted on water allotments because of environmental protections for another fish, the Delta Smelt.
"I think we ought to think about the tens of thousands of farm workers who are going to be put out of work as a result of the government misusing a law because they're answering to people with louder voices," Boehner said.
Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) added, "We're going to run cities and communities out of water because we're flushing the water out into the ocean."
The third portion of the Boehner bill would also create a bipartisan committed to come up with long-term solutions, addressing legislative matters that may have created the current crisis.
Boehner says he plans to push the bill through the House in the next couple of weeks.
But, some in the Senate are already saying it's won't go far.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent out a statement saying, in part, "Although I have not seen a draft of the House Proposal, I am concerned that it may follow the pattern of previous House Bills which seek to either preempt state law or waive state water quality and endangered species act requirements."
Feinstein adds that if some restrictions are lifted, environmental agencies could later ask for even more strict measures to compensate for the damage done during the drought emerg