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GUEST OPINION: House bill would turn back environmental law clock 20 years


On any typical day, millions of families, farmers and fishermen in and around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta rely on the Delta for their water and livelihoods. Commercial and recreational fishermen have relied on Delta-dependent salmon populations for centuries. The Delta is a vital estuary that supports farmland, fisheries, small businesses and more than 750 plant and wildlife species.

Mike Thompson; Jared Huffman

Yet despite the Delta’s importance to families, businesses and communities across our state, some corporate water contractors, their lobbyists and now the House majority are trying to undermine any serious science-based solutions to California’s water challenges.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass water legislation that would kill local jobs, ignore 20 years of established science and overturn a century of California water law. The so-called San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act diverts water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta to south-of-Delta water users. The planned diversion dismisses the best available science, cripples local businesses, repeals environmental protections, hurts fishers and farmers and undermines states’ rights by removing California’s control of its water though federal legislation.

The legislation turns the environmental clock back 20 years, barring any state or federal protections stronger than obsolete and inadequate 1994 Delta flow standards. It dismisses science-based protections for salmon and other endangered species that are required under both California law and the U.S. Endangered Species Act. These broadly supported, science-based protections were established to protect natural resources and promote conservation efforts.

We have seen what happens when science is ignored and environmental protections are gutted for the sake of politics. In 2008 and 2009, due in part to the excessive pumping of water out of the Delta, salmon fisheries were forced to close for the first time in the state’s history. This resulted in the loss of $534 million and nearly 5,000 jobs. Responding to fishery closures in the Delta during 2010 cost our state nearly $63 million.


The water bill before Congress sets the stage for a similar disaster in the Bay-Delta. Proposals to increase diversions of water south of the Delta would create similar low-water flows, causing salmon kills and costing California millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

At a time when we should be working to put people back to work, we cannot afford water policies that destroy our commercial and recreational fishing industries, devastate farmers and stamp out local businesses that rely on the Delta’s natural resources.

The legislation passed by the House is nothing more than an attempt by well-funded south-of-Delta water contractors to steal water from the north with no regard for the fishers, farmers, families and businesses who depend on the Delta for their livelihoods.

It puts politics ahead of two decades of established science, guts environmental protections and kills local jobs. It should be rejected, and solutions to California’s water challenges should be based on sound science so that our Delta communities, wildlife and environment are not harmed.

Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, represents the 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, represents the 6th Assembly District.

12 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: House bill would turn back environmental law clock 20 years”

  1. Skippy says:

    Turning back the clock 20 years on environmental legislation would be a good start.
    Turning it back 40 years should be our goal.

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  2. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Up In Arms-the farming industry is destroying the central valley making it into a desert. Nobody is against farming. Farming that preserves the land is what’s important. Sustainable farming.
    For instance, why in the world do we grow cotton in California? It takes huge amounts of water. There is a reason it’s grown in the southern united states where water is more plentiful.

    The central valley is losing good farming land daily. Inch by inch, foot by foot. It’s only a matter of time.

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  3. Up In Arms says:

    This is another example of the war on our way of life by the leftists in Washington and Sacramento. In the name of eviromentalism, the government is trying to destroy the very location where 60% of our vegetables are grown.

    This would be comprehensiable only in socialist paradises like the old Soviet Union where millions starved because the government dictated what could be grown and where it could be grown.

    Congress is trying to save the farms in the Valley and return some balance to California agriculture, water and allow us to grow food in America for Americans.

    It is well past time to have the enviromental loonies stopped in their efforts to destroy California agriculture and a way of life.

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  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Maybe you all don’t know, but because of improper irrigation in the central valley there are huge swaths of land too salty to plant anymore. Open trench irrigation in desert like conditions causes evaporation which, over time, will leave salts in the soil. It’s POISON. They also keep pumping and pumping and much of that water goes up into the air as evaporation as well. Meanwhile, because of the pumping the central valley is sinking. WHAT A WASTE. The farmers should be using drip irrigation but no one insists on it so they waste millions of gallons of water. Never mind all those open canals. How much water is evaporated out of them by the time it gets where it’s going? Anyone think to put them underground? Southern California is itching to get their hands on our water too.

    So I don’t moan about the farmers. The water belongs in the Delta, not just for the frogs and “mosquitos” but that water goes out to the bay and flushes the whole area. The delta region is also a haven for tourists who come to fish and boat so stimulate the local economies and creates JOBS. And, yes the birds, fish, amphibians of all kinds are preserved as well.

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  5. NoQuarters says:

    2 decades ago we had a great economy
    It puts politics ahead of two decades of established science, guts environmental protections and kills local jobs. It should be rejected, and solutions to California’s water challenges should be based on sound science so that our Delta communities, wildlife and environment are not harmed.
    Yes we should all bow to the cow of their established science
    Carp n bull, MIKE THOMPSON and JARED HUFFMAN ur fired, and Types like em (Noreen Evans, Di Feinstein and so on)these brownshirts have put all us families in harm’s way and this so called sound science has put many private sectors out of business’s or struggling let alone forced out of their homes ( Lawson Landings )
    Them ther smart people using what they call sound science, is more like PRESUME, ASSUMPTIONS, PROBABLE’S , COULD and MAY CAUSE,be the many keys words them EIRs contain if,n any of ya ever red a EIR
    This link SWRCB takes moment to upload
    Dredging takes Mercury out of the water so says the SWRCB thats why the water boarders are asking the taxpayers to foot the bill, but put us private sector people out of bis with SB670
    thier science put CFLs in our homes

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  6. bear says:

    You people are hopeless.

    Care to pay the price in taxes to maintain levees and subsidize corporate farms? That are entirely dependent on an illegal labor force?

    When you figure that one out, we all want to know.

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  7. James Todd says:

    Turn back environmental law 20 years? You mean back before we had the Congress-created dust bowl in Central California? Back to when we had water for families and farms to grow produce that sustained and added to the (now suffering) California economy? THAT far back? Back before LIBERAL DEMOCRATS took over the California Legislature and DESTROYED this state with entitlement spending? THAT far back?? Yes, PLEASE!!!!!

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  8. Jim Bennett says:

    Steve, that IS Agenda 21.
    Contrive an excuse like the Delta Smelt crap (which isn’t even indigenous),
    then take away most of the water from the most productive bread basket of left side of the Country.

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  9. Steve Klausner says:

    God Bless Ronald Reagan who killed more water projects than any other man. As Governor he vetoed the damming of Round Valley, as president he shut down the Army Corp of Engineers, the most destructive environmental force in the world. He didn’t do it for fish or birds, he did it for taxpayers. Those who benefit from a project should be willing to help pay for it.

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  10. steve humphrey says:

    Uh, those Corporate Water Contractors are called Farmers here in California. Love the hype though Mike.

    Take a trip down I5 and look at all of the dead trees, and once flourishing farmland that had to be abandoned due to some environmental law restricting water diversion. End result is higher food prices, fewer jobs, and families who once lived off the land they’ve owned for years ruined.

    Perhaps we should have elected to throw up another dam or two in some out of the way area to help us with water control in years past. But you’re not for that either. Your answer is shut the valve off.

    Water rights and availability is going to only continue it’s downward spiral, until finally someone actually does something about it. The problem is not going to go away by itself. That’s what we elected you for Mike. My suggestion is you start working on a solution that includes a higher availability of water so we won’t be facing a drastic situation in the next twenty years.

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  11. Harry Callahan says:

    First, drain the swamps in Sacramento and Washington. Take out of the alligators, spiders and mosquitos that are sucking the blood out of our political system and economy.

    The farmers who provide the vegetables and fruits you all love to eat are dependent upon Delta water. Cutting this water off destroys these farms and the produce we all eat and enjoy.

    This legislation will restore jobs, farms and produce we need in California. The so called environmentalists are the ones destroying the delta and the economy.

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  12. J.R. Wirth says:

    The Delta is a swamp. It’s a swamp that never got around to being drained as swamps should. The water should be used for artichokes and beets, that’s what it’s there for. I didn’t get to the top of the food chain as a human being to sacrifice for guppies and frogs. You would have to be a brainwashed nut bag to believe that.

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