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Senate Democrats balk at governor's plan for dams
By Judy Lin - Bee Capitol Bureau
January 25, 2007

Followed by commentary of Mike Wade, Executive Director California Farm Water Coalition, posted 1/28/07

Senate Democrats on Thursday cast doubt on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to build a pair of dams, saying they have a cheaper and easier way to maintain the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

"We want more water supply and we want better flood protection as cheaply and as quickly as possible," Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said during a Capitol new conference to unveil his party's flood protection plan.

He added: "We don't believe new dams at this point are needed. They cost billions of dollars and they take years, in fact decades to build."

The Schwarzenegger administration has proposed building two dams, most likely in Temperance Flat just above Friant Dam near Fresno, on the San Joaquin River, and Sites reservoir in Colusa and Glenn counties.

In proposing four bills, Democrats said they favor a mix of conservation, groundwater storage and better floodplain management to provide twice the amount of water than the dams could provide.

Their bills seek to change how the state manages water and flood protection, as well as direct new bond money toward fixing existing levees. Democrats said their proposal ensures that flood agencies put public safety first, requires the state to rebuild weak levees, and reforms the structure of a 1940s-era flood protection board by requiring Legislative oversight.

Mike Henry
Assistant Executive Director
California Farm Water Coalition
717 K Street, Suite 417
Sacramento, CA  95814
(916) 441-7723 ph - (916) 441-7842, fax

California visitors better bring lunch

Mike Wade, Executive Director California Farm Water Coalition
Guest Comment Capital Press 2/2/07

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to seriously consider adding two new reservoirs to our state's water supply system was immediately met with criticism by some individuals who have long called for conservation and recycling as the only means to answer our future water needs.

Make no mistake about it, conservation and recycling must be a part of the answer but these efforts alone will not satisfy a thirst by 46.4 million Californians by the year 2030, compared to 33.8 million in 2000. New reservoirs must be a part of the formula for our future.

These critics characterize the governor's proposal to create new surface storage as "projects that make no sense." Some are pointing a finger at farmers as attempting to get taxpayers to "build them another billion-dollar handout."

These comments come from individuals within the environmental community, which they claim has received too much blame for stalling reservoirs. Instead, they insist that the fault lies with urban water agencies unwilling to pay their share and farmers who are always looking for a hand-out.

Can you believe it?

Nothing has stood in the way of new water development more than hard-core environmental groups. Some environmental groups have been very open to discussing how to cooperate in safeguarding California's water future. But others have done everything possible to prevent new reservoirs from taking shape.

Unfortunately, their voices are magnified each time they are interviewed by the news media.

Urban and agricultural water agencies have been very open about their willingness to pay for any water benefits they receive from new projects. The rub comes when water agencies are asked to pay for public benefits, such as environmental projects when they are clearly a public benefit and ones for which the public should pay.

Critics of new reservoirs want the public to believe that farms have unfairly benefited from past water projects, such as the federal Central Valley Project or the State Water Project. What they don't say is that farmers have been paying for the water they receive and are willing to pay their fair share of the costs for any new water delivered from new water projects.

It is my opinion that hard-core environmentalists want to prevent - yes, stop - any new water development in California.

By doing so, they know that the inevitable growth the state will experience in coming years will ultimately get its water from the supply that currently goes to farms.

That is an unbalanced approach to planning and a cowardly way to address the needs of the next generation.

What this state needs is a balanced approach to meeting its resource needs. Conservation and recycling programs have done a tremendous job of meeting new growth while only a small amount of new water has been developed in the past 30 years. That can't go on forever.

If we don't develop more water to meet our needs through the 21st century then we will have to meet new water supply needs by taking water away from an existing water user. That somebody is the California farmer.

If critics of the governor's proposal had their way, the sign at the border would say, "Welcome to California. Bring your own food."

Mike Wade is executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.


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