[env-trinity] House Hearing Article Riverside Press 4 2 09
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Thu Apr 2 10:57:32 PDT 2009
Lift water restrictions, Southern California lawmakers tell Congress
The Riverside Press - Enterprise - 4/02/09
By Ben Goad
WASHINGTON - With California in the throes of drought, Congress must act
quickly to ease federal pumping restrictions that are negatively affecting
the state's already shrinking water supply, Inland Rep. Ken Calvert
Calvert, R-Corona, was among a handful of California Republicans who spoke
out in favor of easing the restrictions.
Pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the core of the state's water
system, have been virtually halted under a federal ruling to protect
threatened and endangered fish species, including the Delta smelt. The tiny
silver smelt, found only in that estuary, are sucked into the powerful pumps
that move water uphill into canals that carry it south.
Federal scientists say the smelt, believed to be an indicator of the overall
health of the Delta, are close to extinction.
Calvert and other House Republicans said the restrictions amount to the
federal government putting the well-being of fish before people, who are
suffering from the affects of a third consecutive year of drought in the
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Feb. 27 declared a statewide emergency due to
drought and warned of the possibility of water rationing. Meanwhile, recent
estimates show that about 250,000 acre-feet -- more than 83 billion gallons
-- of water have been lost to the Pacific Ocean because of the smelt ruling,
"Absent the federal restrictions, the quarter-million acre-feet of water
could have been exported to water users throughout the state," Calvert said.
"This is enough water to meet the water needs of half a million people for a
Calvert made his remarks during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing
to address the state's drought.
Democrats, who control Congress, appeared unlikely to lift the restrictions,
which were grounded in the Endangered Species Act.
Instead, the panel's Democrats pressed for a multifaceted strategy to combat
the drought through water recycling, desalination and better water-storage
"We must look toward a comprehensive solution," said Rep. Joe Baca,
D-Rialto. "We're at a critical time right now with the drought. We have to
look at the effect it's having on California right now . . . and especially
the Inland Empire."
Still, Calvert and others said turning the pumps back on is a needed
short-term solution for a problem that is only getting worse.
He said water rationing will probably occur, and that will drive up the cost
of water at a time when the state and national economies are already in
"Folks, get ready, your water prices are going to skyrocket," Calvert told
reporters before the hearing.
To drive home their point, the Republican witnesses at the hearing -- who
included Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, George Radonovich, R-Fresno, and
Wally Herger, R-Chico -- brought with them a fishbowl containing several
Delta smelt and placed it on the table during the hearing.
As he finished his testimony, Nunes said he wanted to submit the fish for
the official record.
"You can have them, we don't want them," Nunes told Rep. Grace Napolitano,
D-Santa Fe Springs, who headed the meeting.
Napolitano responded, "Thank you for your testimony, and I suggest you take
the cover off so they can get some air."
Staff writer Janet Zimmerman contributed to this report.
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land
415 519 4810 cell
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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