Agriculture · Highlight

All eyes turn to the Feds on water infrastructure

One-hundred and ten organizations and agencies from 13 western states sent a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on March 25 seeking support from the Federal government on any water infrastructure package for the west.

For California, the timing couldn’t be any better: the drought was recently declared over.

On March 1, the statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack was 153% of normal for that date according to the California Department of Water Resources.

In February, from Los Angeles to Sacramento, rainfall was record breaking. Two years ago, we experienced the wettest year on record. From October 2016 to February 2017, California averaged the highest average precipitation since record keeping began in 1895.

Why then do we have problems with water in California? It seems mother-nature is doing her part, but we are not doing ours.

While demand on resources such as water continues to grow, our elected leaders and bureaucrats are not only proactively attempting to halt additional supply, but have been successful in a massive transfer of water from humans to the ocean over the past three decades.

Water rationing has become state law and water rates are on the rise. It becomes difficult for most people to realize what has happened with California water over time. The issue is a classic case of government causing a problem, building a massive bureaucracy to solve it, declaring it a crisis, and using it all to form law, policy, and regulation that ultimately controls people and business.

The only thing eventually left standing will be the bureaucracy.  The problem is, they do not grow the food we eat or the clothes we wear.

For example: the United States Bureau of Reclamation intends on breaking ground toward the end of this year to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet.

This additional infrastructure would add 630,000 acre-feet of water that could be used for both the environment and people. One acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.

According to the USGS, the average person uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day. For perspective, the added 18.5 feet onto Shasta Dam would provide one million people with water for over five years.

Yet, politicians and environmental groups are at the ready to oppose the project.

There are common tactics used by the California State Water Resources Control Board to both thwart projects and transfer water from humans to the ocean. Not issuing required permits will likely be a tactic on this project.

Others that take more water from cities and agriculture include changing water quality standards and outdated science.  Common practice of environmental groups is filing lawsuits. Before former United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive on “Sue and Settle” cases in October 2017, these cases were common practice to achieve particular uses of water.

Governmental agencies could basically agree to a settlement in a lawsuit by special interest groups. This practice circumvented current policy in place and formed new policy with no public participation. According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, between 2009 and 2012, EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest groups.

Back then, the federal EPA, the California EPA and environmental groups seemed to have the same agenda. Under the current administration, the federal EPA is operating on its own playbook while California EPA and environmental groups continue to use theirs.

Ignoring history in California water is increasingly becoming more common among individuals and groups who claim to have solutions. Climate change, population increase, environmental harm of dams, non-efficient use of water, and other reasons are what is regurgitated by most of the media, universities, and trade organizations.

These are topics on their own but there are better ways to describe the loss of surface water in California. We allowed a string of laws, settlements, and biological opinions starting with the Endangered Species Act, that have caused a deficit in surface supply of water of over 2.5 million acre-feet of water to the Central Valley, annually.

The latest assault on surface water is by the State Water Resources Control Board in the current update to the Bay Delta Plan. This is water that once supplied cities and towns, grew crops, and recharged aquifers.

There is no denying we have real challenges.  People, agriculture, and the environment all need water. We have the water.  We need common sense.

Wayne Western, Jr.
Wayne Western, Jr. is a contributor to The San Joaquin Valley Sun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *