The issues are intertwined like an intricate delicate weave. Water, which fuels California’s number one industry-agriculture-especially in the Central Valley is scarce this year and legislative rivals are looking for solutions and pointing fingers.
“I don’t think you can run for office and not talk about water right now,” said Congressman Jeff Denham, R-Turlock. He believes water storage to be one of the ultimate priorities.
Shawn Bagley of Salinas, a Democrat challenging District 12 GOP State Senator Anthony Cannella said the effect on the entire economy is underestimated.
“We need to fight for every drop of water,” Bagley said, noting that one of the last main projects put forth in California was the 1962 opening of the San Luis Reservoir in Santa Nella, which was opened with a ceremony with then Governor Pat Brown and President John F. Kennedy. “Water means big, big dollars for everybody.”
Leaders everywhere are prompting citizens to think actively about water efforts, stating that farmers need the water to grow crops, employ workers and buy equipment—which employs more people who are able to contribute paying for rent, food and taxes.
“I think it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” Bagley said if we were to ignore conserving water.
Cannella, who has also made water a top priority, said that’s why he’s sponsoring legislation across party lines with Democratic State Assemblyman Adam Gray, who also represents Patterson, to increase water storage and create ongoing money to shore up surface water storage projects around the state. Gray is running unopposed this year.
State Assembly Bill 2686 would allocate $3 billion in bond money for surface infrastructure projects as well as $1 billion for clean drinking water facilities.
The drought California is experiencing currently could mean a fallowing of up to 50 percent of farmland in some areas of Cannella’s agriculturally-rich district, which sprawls from Modesto south through Merced County, picks up part of Madera County and crosses to San Benito County and the agricultural portion of eastern Monterey County. All are agricultural counties.
“We have to have a water bond ready in the next couple of months,” Cannella said, who hopes to have a bond measure before voters by November. “Under no circumstances can it not contain $3 billion for water storage and continuous funding.”
Cannella said there also needs to be infrastructures for water treatment facilities across the state to recycle water that can be used for landscape and crop irrigation, freeing up other water for potable purposes.
Denham’s opponent, Turlock Democrat Michael Eggman, a farmer like Denham, said through spokesman Eric Goldman that tax dollars from California need to be brought back and spent on infrastructure projects like water storage.
Manteca Democrat Mike Barkley, who ran against Denham in June 2012 and finished a distant fourth in a five man race, is also advocating for water storage. He’s suggesting raising the capacity of every major federal water project in Northern California and adding a second level to the Temperance Flat reservoir in Fresno County, increasing an aggregate of 32 million acre feet of water and further protecting the Central Valley from floods.
Nick Rappley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 568-9975.