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The usual electoral mating call of the GOP runs to the tune of keeping the federal government off the back of state government and letting The People find honest solutions to their problems. Apparently we shouldn't expect to take them seriously about that when some of their large contributors aren't getting their way.
Amid the worst drought in California's recorded history, House Speaker John Boehner stood in a bare dirt field near Bakersfield to declare his support for taking more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and sending it to the parched farms of the Central Valley.
The bill would increase pumping from the delta to farms, as long there is water available, through 2015. It would also halt efforts to reconnect the San Joaquin River to San Francisco Bay and to restore salmon runs, which have been made possible by increased releases from the Friant Dam.
Water has never been far from the center of California politics. The state has already had the driest calender year on record and there is no rain in sight. This is supposed to be the rainy season. If it doesn't come by March it isn't going to come. The snow pack in the mountains that usually tops off the reservoirs in the Spring is pretty much non-existent. There is not going to be enough water to go around by a long shot. Restrictions are being imposed on everybody and all interest groups.
Agriculture is the major user of water. They never get as much as they want. California is home to the nation's greatest concentration of corporate agribiz. They take the position that uses of water to protect the environment and wild life are frivolous in the extreme. This is by no means the first time this political battle has been joined in congress.
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who wrote the 1992 law that increased water flows from the delta to restore salmon and other fisheries, said the GOP was "pulling the pin on the grenade" of California's water wars, rekindling a battle similar to the one that raged five years ago that pitted Bay Area Democrats against Central Valley lawmakers of both parties.
That 2009 fight came amid a confluence of forces that left the valley with Depression-era unemployment: a two-year drought, mass home foreclosures from the 2008 financial crisis, and a court ruling that cut water to farms by a third to restore the delta smelt, an endangered fish.
The situation is a mess and it is clearly going to get worse.
Originally posted to Richard Lyon on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 01:10 PM PST.