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May 5, 2012 No Comments ›› Terry Phillips

Water for farming.We must stop the efforts by some (such as the incumbent) to federalize California’s water distribution. After 20 years of fighting, we finally came to an agreement. Kevin McCarthy wants to undo that and send everyone back to court. What a terrible idea. That’s why I opposed HR 1837.

Here is an editorial I wrote that was published in The Fresno Bee:

Central Valley Drowning in Water Politics
By Terry Phillips

There is no single resource more important to our quality of life than water.

The Kern County Water Agency recently commemorated its 50th anniversary with a day-long conference at Bakersfield College. Participants were interested in working together to plan for the Central Valley’s future water needs.

One popular proposal was the construction of a tunnel bypassing the Delta bottleneck to bring water into our region. Despite its estimated $13 billion price tag and a fifteen-year completion timeline, this idea has been gaining traction among various stakeholders. Other suggested ways to rehydrate our dry fields included desalination plants and more recycling.

Unfortunately, some political forces are attempting to drown our common interests – and our common sense.

One such measure floating through the U.S. House of Representatives is HR 1837, a controversial bill authored by Rep. Devin Nunes and cosponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Their law would impose more federal control over California’s water management. This is a shocking suggestion to anyone who has lived through the past decades of power struggles over this vital resource.

It is true that California and Washington have worked together on water management. But for more than a century, federal law has complied with state’s rights. That was reaffirmed in 1992 when Congress passed and President George H.W. Bush signed the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

Now a few politicians are unwisely trying to surrender local control and allow even more federal intervention. Under the guise of protecting agriculture, they ignore the fundamental question: Who is better able to manage our water?

Among other things, this federal usurping of California’s jurisdiction would have long-term negative consequences for farmers. While the stated intent of the Nunes/McCarthy bill is to increase pumping from the Delta, a more likely outcome would be to drive a wedge between Northern and Southern California. It could also force regulators, consumers and environmentalists back to court where the only real winners would be the attorneys for all sides.

Pitting one region or interest group against another is an unnecessary distraction. Surely we can work together in everyone’s best interests rather than turn our state into a latter-day Civil War battlefield. Clearly, more than geography enters into this matter.

So, why are members of the San Joaquin Valley congressional delegation engaged in political posturing over such radical and futile legislation? We should be suspicious about the reasons behind this move.

As we have learned the hard way, nothing gets done in our nation’s capital these days due to endless bickering. Permitting East Coast bureaucrats to decide how the Central Valley gets its water is simply the wrong policy. Local administrators are far more capable of making those decisions. Why would our elected representatives want to go the other way? The obvious answer is that it serves their partisan purposes.

Pretending to alleviate the plight of farmers with a bill that will have the opposite effect is exactly the sort of devious political theater that has Americans seething. It’s another example of our dysfunctional government. No wonder, then, that legislators have their lowest approval ratings in history.

The time for “politics as usual” is over.

Perhaps the best solution is to send some independent voices to Washington who are capable of building consensus and stop this egotistical foolishness. Until then, we should make sure our part of the water distribution process is protected.

HR 1837 is bad legislation. Let’s not allow Congress to preempt state law and give away more control over our water rights to the federal government.


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