Water Storage and Conveyance
While immediate concerns about our budget, health care and the country’s economic crisis dominate the news coverage, we cannot overlook how important a reliable water supply is in creating jobs in California. There is a direct correlation between water and jobs here in the Valley, and with consistent double-digit unemployment rates, we need to find solutions to the storage, conveyance, and regulatory problems exacerbating our state’s man-made water crisis.
Since taking office, I have introduced bills and amendments to ensure that California’s water supply will be used to its maximum potential. Yesterday my bill, H.R. 2578, which will allow the Merced Irrigation District (M.I.D.) to propose a ten-foot modification to their spillway gates at the New Exchequer Dam, passed through the House Committee on Natural Resources. The next step for the bill is the House Floor. If passed, my bill will begin to solve the regulatory problems that arise during water shortages.
Currently, M.I.D. is discussing a proposal to raise the spillway gates at the New Exchequer Dam by ten feet. This proposal would create an added capacity to store an extra 70,000 acre-feet of water during three summer months of a wet year, like this past one. This past year, the area that would be used to store this additional water was naturally inundated by the high flows with no adverse impacts to wildlife or the local Mariposa economy, but because we weren’t able to effectively store the water, we could not utilize this resource to create renewable energy and many Valley jobs. For the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to be able to consider the project proposed by M.I.D., Congress will first have to pass my bi-partisan bill, H.R. 2578.
In 1964, FERC licensed M.I.D. to store water and generate power at the New Exchequer Dam site. The Merced Irrigation District is in the process of renewing this license to continue their operations and reliable service to their customers. Through the FERC licensing process, there will be ample opportunities for public comment, as well as the necessary state and federal requirements for environmental protection. H.R. 2578 does nothing to weaken the environmental stewardship considerations FERC will discuss with M.I.D. during the process.
I introduced H.R. 2578 to address the very real water concerns in the Central Valley. Projects like this are the type of creative solutions needed to navigate through California’s burdensome environmental regulations. Until compromises like this can be signed into law, the residents of California will continue to struggle through water crises during drought years.
Water truly is the most important job creator in the Central Valley. I have made it a priority to maintain a steady focus on water policies impacting California. I will keep working for solutions to the water conveyance and storage issues in the Central Valley to create jobs and grow our local economy.