Obama: I’ll veto bill that will provide water to California’s Central Valley

posted at 2:30 pm on February 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

I’ve called the judicially-imposed drought in California’s Central Valley “the Dust Bowl Congress created” through its creation of the Endangered Species Act, invoked in this case by the Delta smelt, a fish that’s not suitable for eating.  Once a breadbasket for the nation, the cutoff of irrigation water to the Central Valley has destroyed agriculture and tens of thousands of jobs as a tradeoff for the endangered fish.  Now, however, voices of sanity in Congress have begun to speak on the man-made economic and agricultural disaster, as Rep. Devin Nunes builds support for his Sacramento-San Joaquin Water Reliability Act:

Nunes’ Sacramento-San Joaquin Water Reliability Act goes to a vote in the House Wednesday and if it passes, it will guarantee that water the farmers paid for finally gets to the parched Central Valley. It will put an end to the sorry stream of shriveled vineyards, blackened almond groves and unemployed farm workers standing in alms lines for bagged carrots from China.

The insanity of the current policies against some of America’s most productive farmers in one of the world’s richest farm belts is largely the work leftist politicians from the wealthy enclaves of the San Francisco Bay Area. This group has exerted its political muscle on the less politically powerful region that produces more than half the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. — with $26 billion in annual sales.

“The bill restores the flow of water and establishes a framework for meaningful environmental improvements. It is a repudiation of the left’s assault on rural communities, which began with the decimation of the West’s timber industry and now is focused on Central Valley agriculture,” Nunes told IBD.

The stand-alone bill, H.R. 1837, marks the first time Central Valley water shortages and the federal role in creating them will be considered directly in Congress.

That in itself is a damning indictment of the federal government, whose laws have created the disaster in California.  This first came to light more than two years ago, when Sean Hannity featured it on his national television show.  The delay in addressing it makes the financial situation worse with each passing day for farmers in the Valley, and for workers who now have to subsist on government handouts rather than earnings from productive jobs.

If Barack Obama has his way, though, that situation will continue indefinitely.  Late yesterday, the White House announced that Obama would veto Nunes’ bill because — I am not making this up — it would “unravel decades of work” on California water regulations … decades of work that brought California’s Central Valley to its current destruction:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1837, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act because the bill would unravel decades of work to forge consensus, solutions, and settlements that equitably address some of California’s most complex water challenges.

H.R. 1837 would undermine five years of collaboration between local, State, and Federal stakeholders to develop the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan.  It would codify 20-year old, outdated science as the basis for managing California’s water resources, resulting in inequitable treatment of one group of water users over another.  And, contrary to 100 years of reclamation law that exhibits congressional deference to State water law, the bill would preempt California water law.

The bill also would reject the long-standing principle that beneficiaries should pay both the cost of developing water supplies and of mitigating any resulting development impacts, and would exacerbate current water shortages by repealing water pricing reforms that provide incentives for contractors to conserve water supplies.

Finally, H.R. 1837 would repeal the San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement, which the Congress enacted to resolve 18 years of contentious litigation.  Repeal of the settlement agreement would likely result in the resumption of costly litigation, creating an uncertain future for river restoration and water delivery operations for all water users on the San Joaquin River.

The Administration strongly supports efforts to provide a more reliable water supply for California and to protect, restore, and enhance the overall quality of the Bay-Delta environment.  The Administration has taken great strides toward achieving these co-equal goals through a coordinated Federal Action Plan, which has strengthened collaboration between Federal agencies and the State of California while achieving solid results.  Unfortunately, H.R. 1837 would undermine these efforts and the progress that has been made.  For this reason, were the Congress to pass H.R. 1837, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Well, let’s take a look at California’s Central Valley and see what “five years of collaboration between local, State, and Federal stakeholders to develop the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan” has produced:

As for Obama’s stirring defense of federalism, the courts have already ruled that federal law — the Endangered Species Act — trumps California water law.  That’s the reason why a federal judge turned off the water spigots more than two years ago, and why California can’t get them turned back on.  If Obama was really concerned about federalism, he’d propose a repeal of the Endangered Species Act, which would also resolve this disaster.  Instead, Obama threatens to veto any attempt by Congress to fix what federal law has already broken.

Hopefully, Nunes’ bill gets clear sailing through Congress and Obama gets his bluff called.  If he wants to run as the Dust Bowl President in November, I say let him do it.

Update: I forgot the link to Investors Business Daily — my apologies!


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