Environmental Protection

California Lawmakers Seek Statewide Approach to Water Supply

This season will be the first time since 2008 that salmon fishermen will be able to work.

As California’s salmon fishery is reopening for the first time in years and its reservoirs and groundwater banks are rapidly refilling, Democratic members of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power attended a field hearing on water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta recently and called for a more balanced approach to future droughts, according to a release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“Water is a shared resource all of us Californians rely on: farmers, communities, homeowners, manufacturers and fishermen all need our water supply to be protected,” said Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (Calif.-38), ranking member on the Subcommittee on Water and Power. “Instead of promoting special interests that pit us against each other, we should be promoting a balanced approach that helps all of California. We have examined this topic at more than 15 hearings since 2003, and it is time for attention to be paid to the water needs of the entire state.”

Last year, the state reported that the closure of salmon fishing cost the economy at least $250 million. Recent studies have estimated that nearly 2,000 salmon fishermen have been unable to work over the last three years, job loss figures comparable to the number of farm workers who could not work due to pumping restrictions during the drought. This season will be the first time since 2008 that California salmon fishermen will be able to work a commercial fishing season, after pumping restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta allowed the salmon population to bounce back.

Proponents of increased water flows from the Delta to agricultural users have cited pumping restrictions as the cause of Central Valley water curtailments. However, this year no water has been withheld on account of the Delta smelt or Chinook salmon. As of last week, the Central Valley Water Project had a water allotment of 75 percent of requested for agricultural users south of the Delta.

“Drought cycles are a fact of life,” said Napolitano. “We have been fortunate enough to receive a great quantity of rain this year, but now is not the time to stop preparing for the next drought. We need to continue with the techniques that have worked in the past: more conservation, storage, education, desalination, recycling, and infrastructure.”

On March 30, Gov. Jerry Brown declared the drought to be officially over.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

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