It is now more than two years ago when President Barack Obama came to the Central Valley and promised to help the area deal with what was then just a two-year drought. Fast forward through two more years of drought and the President has done nothing.
Last week, Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein called on the president to help to turn on the San Joaquin Delta pumps to send water to the Central Valley — water that is plentiful this year because in most areas of the state, rainfall has been above average. It was the second time in two weeks the senator has made such a request and as of today, the president has not even responded. Maybe he is too busy learning how to tango.
As wild as it might sound, more water is being sent out to the ocean in the name of protecting fish than what was sent last winter. Millions upon millions of gallons of water is rushing out to the ocean as many northern California reservoirs are having to release water because the reservoirs are full. Yet, the San Luis Reservoir — a key component of supply water to the Valley’s westside farmers — remains half full and it is likely those growers will once again claim water from behind Friant Dam, water which would come to eastside growers if not taken.
Fish supporters argue they have as much right to the water as farmers, and many may agree if that right was 50-50. The truth is, on average, three-fourths of the water in the state flows out to the ocean every year, leaving just a fourth — about 50 million acre-feet — for farmers and cities. Of that, farmers get about 40 million acre-feet.
The president has the power to help and does nothing, just like he has done nothing the past two years. Those controlling the Delta and the pumps, which can send water south, are unwilling to compromise. The president is unwilling to help and left to suffer are residents of the Valley.
That water from behind Friant Dam could slow the use of the underground water supply and in some areas be used to replenish that underground supply. It could stop subsidence of the land, and provide jobs and income for tens of thousands of poor people, yet our President and California Gov. Jerry Brown refuse to act.
Sen. Feinstein and our Republican federal lawmakers such as Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) should be applauded for doing all they can to get more water for the Valley. Hopefully somebody finally listens.