Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), and Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Marysville) met this week at the top of the Oroville Dam to decry Governor Gavin Newsom’s “lack of leadership and gross mismanagement of the state’s water, power and forests/wildlands.” They demanded urgent action because Californians are suffering, and it’s about to get worse.
The wells that rural communities depend on – which LaMalfa, Nielsen and Gallagher represent – are running dry, and farmers are being denied water to grow food. Currently there are weekly threats of rolling blackouts and Public Safety Power Shutoffs, as hundreds of thousands of acres burn throughout the state, threatening lives, property and wildlife.
It was only in April when California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press event in Oroville, with a 60% empty Oroville Dam Reservoir as his backdrop, and said he was not ready to declare an official drought emergency – despite that the previous two weeks 91% of Delta inflow went to the sea, state pumps were at -97%, federal pumps at -85%, and outflows showed 6,060,828,600 gallons. Since April, Oroville has been drained almost dry.
“While he still has his emergency powers, can’t the governor order stoppage of this outflow if California really is on the precipice of severe water shortages and a ‘rare mega drought?’” the Globe asked.
People forget the winter of 2019 brought 200 percent of average rains and snow pack. The state’s reservoirs held enough water for 5 to 7 years. Yet the state still held back on water to farmers, and residents faced rationing, the Globe reported May 2019, proving that water in California is a political football.
The Globe reported:
The state uses about 47.5 percent of its developed water supply for the environment, including wild river flows, managed wetlands and wildlife preserves, habitat and water quality control for fish, and required Delta outflows, according to the Department of Water Resources. Water is diverted in times of drought and times of plenty to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, leaving much less for irrigation or for Californians to drink, and now a recently passed law requires residents to be limited to 55 gallons per day in the near future.
“Hyatt Power Plant at Lake Oroville officially stopped making power today,” Congressman LaMalfa said in a statement. Hyatt can make up to 900 megawatts and typically produces 450 megawatts of power, enough to power 800,000 homes. Because of low water levels, only 10 megawatts had been produced recently. “Today the power plant went offline as the lake’s water level sank to one of the lowest levels on record.”
“Lake Oroville was at full capacity two years ago, as well as in 2017,” said LaMalfa. “This dam was designed to provide water and power through five years of drought. Governor Newsom’s administration mismanaged and wasted so much water that Oroville ran out of water in just a year and half. Throughout the winter and spring, the state let water out of the lake, ignoring that we were in a drought. The government has used our water for its pet projects like the delta smelt, a fish no one has found a single one of in over three years. Yet families and farms have seen dramatic cutbacks in their water availability. Mismanagement of our water means we lose 450 megawatts of power, recreation, drinking water, water for farms and water for fall run salmon. Everybody loses because of the states wasteful management,” LaMalfa said.