California's drought is getting national attention from Congress.
House Speaker John Boehner came to the Bakersfield district of House Whip Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday to talk about emergency drought relief legislation for the Central Valley.
The proposed bill by McCarthy and fellow Republican Congressmen David Valadao of Hanford and Devin Nunes of Tulare would have several components:
- Turn on the Delta pumps this year and the following year to capture future rain events.
- End restoration flows in the San Joaquin River for this year and next.
- Establish a bipartisan, emergency joint committee from the House and Senate to devise a long-term legislative solution.
McCarthy says "restrictive" environmental regulations "exacerbate the negative impacts during years of drought." Valadao says, "Congress cannot make it rain, but they can provide relief from burdensome environmental regulations."
Nunes calls the drought a "man-made crisis" and blames the Democrat-led Senate, alleging its "rejection of all House initiatives to end the crisis has now resulted in an emergency situation throughout California."
Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein rejected Nunes' accusation that the Senate is to blame. She says she hasn't seen a draft of the House proposal, but is "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 which could spur serious litigation and likely delay any action."
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency to allow state agencies to reconsider water policies that often pit environmental concerns against agriculture.
Brown’s Secretary for Natural Resources says the state is facing "unprecedented" choices. John Laird says California is "rarely forced to confront water allocations this low, salinity in delta, and difficulty moving water during a crisis." But he adds, "now is not the time to be divided – now is the time to bring people together to find solutions.”
This is California's third consecutive dry year.