House Speaker John Boehner's Central Valley water plan causes state-wide controversy

FRESNO, Calif.

House Speaker John Boehner traveled to a Bakersfield farm to present his legislation aimed at helping California through the critical drought period. Speaker Boehner's plan calls water from the Delta to be directed to growers here in the Central Valley at the expense of San Joaquin River restoration.

If that happens, some democrats and environmentalists say thousands of jobs will be lost in the process.

From Washington D.C. to the fallow cotton field in Bakersfield, House Speaker John Boehner stood up next to Central Valley Congressmen Devin Nunes, David Valadao, and Kevin McCarthy who all support the proposed legislation to stop river restoration in favor of drought relief.

"How you can favor a fish over people is something the people in my part of the world would not understand," said Boehner.

It's not that easy according to Dave Koehler, Executive Director of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust. He said there's already legal regulation restricting restoration water flows during critical dry years -- and restoration projects have the potential to bring needed jobs to the Valley. He said those jobs won't happen under the proposed drought bill.

"If we put the project on hold, we're jeopardizing thousands of jobs for the Valley. These are serious things to consider and no doubt a great number of people will weigh in on it," said Koehler.

For separate reasons, house democrats said the bill is already dried up. District 11 Congressman George Miller said the government can't sacrifice one region of the state to benefit another. "That's just stupid of the Central Valley suggesting -- and their representatives suggesting -- we'll just sacrifice the Delta, it doesn't mean anything, no body's up there. No, there's farmers up there, if you take all the water they say they want to take then these farmers are going to be pumping salt water on their land," said Miller.

In an exclusive Action News poll conducted by SurveyUSA, 80 percent of those questioned say the state and federal government could do more to help with the drought. And more than three-quarters say that includes limiting restoration efforts on the San Joaquin River.

There is likely to be a battle in passing the proposed bill. But, Speaker Boehner is already getting some support from the other side. On Wednesday night, Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno said he hopes to work with republicans on developing the drought bill.

The proposed legislation includes creating a bipartisan committee.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.