(Editor’s Note: There were reports of behind-the-scenes negotiations between California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and several key members of the GOP over proposed legislation to address drought issues and water delivery in California. The legislation was ultimately pulled. The following commentary is from Mike Wade, executivve director of the California Farm Water Coalition.)
California’s Central Valley has shouldered more than its share of the pain brought on by reduced water deliveries and the drought. For more than 20 years, misguided environmental policies have drained California of over 20 million acre-feet of water – water that was originally intended to grow food. These regulations have flushed enough water out of the system to fill Lake Shasta five times.
That might make sense if dumping massive amounts of water was actually helping the ecosystem but it’s not. Threatened and endangered fish continue to languish. The supporters of those failed policies continue to press our elected leaders to do nothing rather than find a balanced solution that serves people at the same level that we serve the environment.
It’s these regulations that Senator Feinstein was attempting to modify; to deliver more water to our communities without harming the protections in the Endangered Species Act. But that didn’t happen.
When we look around the Valley we see unemployment, long lines at food banks, failed businesses, portable showers for people without water and almost half a million acres of fallowed farmland. It’s reliable water that enables that land to produce the food that fills grocery shelves across the state and around the world. We are eroding our ability to feed ourselves and employ our people.
Without needed reform there are two certainties we can count on: The situation for Valley residents isn’t going to improve and neither will the situation for the environment.