LaMalfa co-sponsors water legislation
Dec 6, 2014
SHASTA COUNTY, California –
North State Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, has co-sponsored emergency water legislation that he says will provide short-term drought relief in California.
But an environmental group calls the legislation a “water grab” that would usurp the state’s water rights authority and worsen California’s water crisis by giving stored-up water to huge agricultural companies.
LaMalfa is among six Republicans who partnered with one Democrat as the original sponsors of H.R. 5781, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014.
Supporters say the bill contains “noncontroversial language” and would provide 18 months of relief to farmers and communities by allowing increased Sacramento Delta flows while protecting the State Water Project and safeguarding Northern California water rights.
“These provisions are a starting point to build toward a comprehensive solution to address California’s water supply issues, and we remain ready to continue working with the Senate on a long-term agreement,” LaMalfa said in a statement.
Kevin Eastman, a spokesman for LaMalfa, did not return an email request for an interview Friday.
Jim Costa, of Fresno, the lone Democrat who co-sponsored the legislation, said it would provide a practical solution to the state’s long-term water problem.
“The (Central) Valley has suffered far too long because of our broken water system. This bill will allow us to take advantage of increased flows through the delta and provide much-needed water to our valley’s families and farms,” Costa said in a statement.
Introduced Tuesday, the bill comes after Sen. Dianne Feinstein withdrew last month from discussions between the Senate and House on drought-relief legislation, calling such efforts finished for 2014. Feinstein said she hoped to take up the matter again in 2015.
LaMalfa says this is an effort to move forward after Feinstein’s departure.
Tom Stokely, water policy analyst for the California Water Impact Network, calls the legislation a “wish list dictated by San Joaquin corporate farmers to the politicians they hold in thrall.”
Stokely, who’s based in Mount Shasta, said increasing river flows will have a negative effect on salmon, including Sacramento River salmon.
“Basically it’s a win for junior water-rights contractors,” Stokely said.
Stokely argues that these junior users put crops in the ground with “shaky water rights.”
“Essentially, they made an economic decision and I don’t think the public should bail them out just because we had a bad drought,” Stokely said.