Politics

California drought experts to Congress: Help.

California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years and possible the worst in the past 500 years.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years and possible the worst in the past 500 years. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images

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new report from the University of California Davis finds that the economic cost of California’s ongoing drought is more than $2 billion, with a loss of more than 17,000 jobs. 

A pair of professors from the University of California and California’s Secretary of Food and Agriculture brought their findings to Washington to lobby Congress for a drought relief bill.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration opposes the House version of a drought bill.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act is sponsored by Hanford Republican David Valadao. John Laird, the head of the California Natural Resources Agency wrote to the House Natural Resources Committee, saying the bill is “not helpful,” and favors “some interests over others.”

The Brown administration prefers the Senate measure, sponsored by California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer that offers flexibility without overturning decades old water agreements or rolling back environmental protections.

Karen Ross, California’s Secretary for Food and Agriculture, came to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers on all sides, armed with the latest numbers on the drought’s economic impact. Her message is more diplomatic: Just get a bill done. "We’re all in this together," she says, "and we all need to keep trying to find those commonalities and stress the commonalities."

Talks have stalled as negotiators for the House and Senate have so far failed to find a compromise. Central Valley lawmakers are concerned that Feinstein’s bill doesn’t address the long-term water needs of agriculture.

Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of Turlock says Congress needs to find "immediate, lasting solutions for increased storage and increased water supplies to see a permanent solution for our Valley farmers signed into law this year.”

Ross says only a short-term fix may be possible in the current political environment.