State Water Crisis Discussed in Washington DC

September 30, 2009 7:08:32 PM PDT
Local lawmakers and water officials didn't pull any punches in Washington DC on Wednesday. The valley's water crisis was the topic of a government hearing. It was a call to action. Valley officials put up a united front in the fight for water. Their message was heard loud and clear.US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar got quite an earful at this California Water Forum in Washington DC. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of Visalia scolded the government officials in attendance. Nunes said, "Don't sit here and say it's partisan rhetoric. I don't want to hear that anymore. That's fiction."

A third year of drought and federal cutbacks in irrigation water pumped from the delta has forced west-side farmers to fallow hundreds of thousands of acres.

Local lawmakers demanded solutions such as the building of the two-gates project, a structure which would divert the endangered delta smelt around the pumps. Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno explained, "We've given Detroit billions of dollars. Can't we afford to somewhere find the 40-50 million dollars to build two-gates? Come on."

Interior Secretary Salazar said the federal government will work to help provide a steady water supply while restoring the delta's environmental integrity.

But Mario Santoyo of the California Latino Water Coalition called it nothing more than lip service. Santoyo said, "You hear Salazar talking about, this is a natural drought. I'm not sure what world he lives in. We've just gotta wonder if the Interior Department is lacking intelligence or purposely deflecting the issue."

Lester Snow, the head of California's Department of Water Resources, said the delta issue represents a defining moment in how the country is going to deal with complex natural resource problems.

Congressman Costa told government officials, "I plead to you not to let this become President Obama's Katrina because we haven't come together."

Governor Schwarzenegger applauded Secretary Salazar and the Obama Administration for calling for an independent review of biological studies on salmon and the delta smelt.

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