Agriculture

Fong zeroes in on Newsom zeroing out water storage spending

With California’s snowpack levels again missing targets for average depth, lawmakers in Sacramento are once again in search of options to strengthen the state’s long-term water resiliency.

While doom-and-gloom rain down from the state’s top water agencies, the hunt for viable solutions for long-term fixes has grown into frustration for Bakersfield Republican Vince Fong.

Fong, the vice chair of the California State Assembly’s Budget Committee, excoriated Newsom administration officials for failing to include any funding for above-ground water storage in the 2022-2023 budget.

“Despite [Newsom] administration officials’ push for conservation, conservation alone cannot solve the state’s scarce water supply,” Fong said in a statement following a Wednesday budget subcommittee hearing.

“More water infrastructure is critical for the long-term economic health of California. California is facing a third consecutive year of drought, without adequate water storage.”

Tuesday, officials with the Department of Water Resources released the results from the third seasonal survey of snowpack at the Phillips Station, just south of Lake Tahoe.

Owing to a dry January and similarly dry February, the dousing from late December that helped build a sizable snowpack has wilted to roughly 63 percent of average for this time of year.

California water officials have already been fairly strict with water allocations, starting the 2021-2022 water season with a zero percent water allocation before raising it to 15 percent.

Fong pressed Newsom to allocate funds toward water storage and conveyance projects to help provide short and long-term relief.

As it stands, the push for major water storage projects – particularly funded by 2014’s Proposition 1 – have taken a lengthy time to reach the California Water Commission for billions in funding.

In a Sun View Op-Ed, Water Commission chair and vice chair Teresa Alvarado and Matthew Swanson noted that seven major projects continue to make their way via lengthy feasibility studies and environmental review.

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.