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Flint Michigan of The San Joaquin Valley
Government Failures Worsen Drought in the Face of El Niño

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 24, 2016 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans held a hearing to review federal regulations exacerbating California’s drought crisis even while El Niño is providing significant precipitation for the region.  

“I’ve watched what’s happening in Flint, Michigan and the outrage with the government action that put the population of Flint at risk,” stated Tom Birmingham, General Manager, Westlands Water District. “Where’s the outrage with governmental policies that have created zero water supplies for communities in the San Joaquin Valley?”

Panelists highlighted the problem of water restrictions, intended to protect the Delta smelt fish, resulting in 162 billion gallons diverted this year to protect the fish. These policies have proven futile as the Delta smelt numbers continue to decline.

“It is beyond reasonable dispute that the continued, prolonged water supply shortages being suffered in the San Joaquin Valley are the result of policy choices made by the federal government, not by hydrologic conditions,” Birmingham added. As a consequence, it is unlikely that the current El Niño conditions will produce any water supply benefits.”

The hearing highlighted the need for legislative solutions to increase water storage capacity, allowing reservoirs to capture water during the rainy season to help mitigate future drought.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) questioned the panel about how much water could have been captured if the House-passed Western Water and American Food Security Act was signed into law. At least “200,000 acre feet of that water,” serving “400,000 households of  4 people,” Birmingham responded.  

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) questioned the panel about the modeling and fish mortality data Federal agencies are using. Answers revealed that agencies rely on flawed data to make water flow decisions that ultimately results in shortages to water users.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) reiterated the harmful impact of drought to California’s economy. “This administration continues to talk about environmental and social justice. Where’s the justice [in] 50% unemployment?

“Will a three-inch fish continue to be more important than people? So far, that answer is yes,”
stated Subcommittee Chairman John Fleming (R-LA) stated.

Click here to view the full witness testimony and here to learn more about the Western Water and American Food Security Act

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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