Last week, while standing in a dried out bed on Lake Mendocino, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency… but not for the entire state of California as expected. Newsom only declared a drought emergency for two Northern California counties last week, leaving the vast agricultural Central Valley region in the dust.
While California’s drought conditions are actually historically normal, each of California’s droughts are billed by government and media as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. Scientists who study the Western United States’ long-term climate patterns say California has been dry for significantly longer periods — more than 200 years, the Globe reported this week.
However, water has long been grossly mismanaged and used as a political football in the state of California, to the detriment of the people, agriculture and wildlife.
Where I’m standing I should be 40 ft under the water of Lake Mendocino.
Instead–I’m on dry, cracked earth. That’s climate change.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 21, 2021
Newsom’s emergency drought declaration covered only two counties above San Francisco – Mendocino and Sonoma, and the Russian River watershed to address acute conditions in the region.
“Republican Sen. Andreas Borgeas, the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, had gathered leaders to sign a letter to be sent to the governor pleading for more water, and the declaration Wednesday wasn’t what he had hoped for,” KMJ reported. “Fresno County joined San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Kings, Tulare, and Kern Counties requesting a declaration of drought.”
On the heels of Gov. Newsom’s inadequate declaration, California’s House Republican Delegation sent a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee urging them to hold a hearing on California’s latest drought and potential disaster.
However, despite the natural disaster declaration by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on March 5, 2021, declaring 50 California Counties as “primary natural disaster areas due to a recent drought,” the House Natural Resources Committee has yet to take any action addressing California’s drought.
With Gov. Newsom declaring two drought emergency counties and the House Natural Resources Committee doing nothing, it is as if Democrats in power are ignoring the potential disaster California’s agricultural region and counties face.
Rep. Mike Garcia (CA-25) sent the letter in an email, in which the lawmakers emphasized the urgency:
“California and other parts of the West are facing catastrophic drought that will impact water supplies for our communities and help exacerbate massive forest fires. For example, water storage throughout the Central Valley Project (CVP) is historically low, the Bureau of Reclamation has already paused its 5% allocation for south-of-the-Delta Federal agricultural water users, the State of California has reduced the State Water Project allocation from 10% initially to 5%, and the Colorado River snowpack ‘fell well short of expectations,’” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers also called out inaction by the democrat majority on the issue.
“For too long, many of our constituents have watched the needs of species like the Delta smelt outweigh the needs of people. The Democratic Majority’s upcoming hearings and lack of action on drought only perpetuate this, as well as turns a blind eye to the adverse impacts the drought is having on California’s ability grow the food we all eat and how it is hurting some of the poorest communities in our state,” the lawmakers wrote.
The Republicans encouraged a bipartisan solution to California’s drought.
“We may not agree on all of the prescriptions for combating drought, but we hope you agree with us that the time is now to focus on these matters. Our constituents do not deserve to watch Congress do nothing while their communities are increasingly in danger of becoming parched and/or going up in flames. We stand ready to work with you on what we believe can be bipartisan drought solutions,” the lawmakers wrote.
In March, Garcia introduced a bill to extend the bipartisan California water provisions of the WIIN Act through fiscal year 2028. The bill would enact a seven-year extension for critical water supply provisions in the WIIN Act, thus improving California’s access to water.
The letter to the House Natural Resources Committee is signed by: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Reps. Ken Calvert, Tom McClintock, Devin Nunes, Dough LaMalfa, David Valadeo, Mike Garcia, Michelle Steele, Young Kim, Jay Obernolte, and Darrell Issa.
“While the overwhelming majority of the state is experiencing extreme drought conditions, Governor Newsom has chosen to only serve his French Laundry wine and cheese crowd,” Scott Wilk, California Senate Republican Leader said, obviously referencing Newsom’s “Dinnergate” incident at the French Laundry restaurant after locking down the rest of the state, and most small businesses. “The Biden Administration has declared an emergency drought in nearly all California counties, what more does the governor need to get on board with this?”
“The fact of the matter is that droughts are nature’s fault, and have plagued us since the beginning of time,” Rep. Tom McClintock says when he discusses water issues. “But water shortages are OUR fault. We live in one of the most water-rich regions of the country – yet we have not built a major reservoir in this state since 1979. Meanwhile, the population has nearly doubled.”
Secretary Vilsak said in his letter declaring 50 California drought emergency counties, “A Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to such primary counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes FSA emergency loans.”4.27.20 CA GOP Drought Letter
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