Opinion Pieces

HR 1837 offers more balanced approach to water

From the San Francisco Chronicle Opinion Page

Over the past several weeks, there has been a steady rant against the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, including an editorial by this paper ("Wading into the water war," June 19). Unfortunately these opinions disregard basic facts and are helping to perpetuate the phony and disingenuous arguments of liberals who have suggested HR1837 would somehow destroy the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ecosystem.

The delta is in decline and more species are threatened or endangered today than when Bay Area lawmakers proudly proclaimed passage of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. That bill forced the Central Valley Project to annually flush more than 300 billion gallons of fresh water into the sea. That is enough to supply every man, woman and child on Earth a 16 ounce bottle of water every day of the year. In addition, nearly a billion dollars has been spent on habitat restoration with no measurable impact on the delta's ecosystem. It is outrageous to suggest that the delta ecosystem would suffer more under HR1837 than it has after two decades of existing policy.

Despite their failure to deliver positive results, Bay Area lawmakers and other liberals have persisted in blaming San Joaquin Valley water users for the delta's decline. This has undermined efforts to tackle the actual causes of the delta's problems which are far more complex than the left would have us believe. It has also shifted attention away from the fact that San Francisco residents get their own water from a pipeline that entirely bypasses the delta - not a drop of which contributes to ecosystem restoration. Where is the outrage from Sen. Dianne Feinstein over this freeloading? Is San Francisco immune from sacrifice?

Furthermore, despite this paper's misrepresentation of the facts, there is no question that all water contractors will benefit under the final version of HR1837. Any characterization that this legislation is somehow a water grab by junior water rights holders has no basis in fact. Since 1953, the abundant fresh water supplies of the Central Valley Project have been allocated to contractors on the basis of storage - that is, the more water that is in storage the more water is allocated. In recent years, this has dramatically changed. Full storage no longer results in full allocations. By establishing the historic Bay-Delta Accord as the operational guide for the Central Valley Project, Congress will restore reliability to the system.

Opponents of HR1837 have also attempted to discount the water shortages facing the San Joaquin Valley by claiming that the crisis has been exaggerated. They claim a mere few thousand jobs have been lost because of government water restrictions. My response is twofold. First, job losses have ranged from a few thousand to tens of thousands. The fact that jobs have been lost is not in dispute. Secondly, do bill opponents contend that intentional job destruction is acceptable in trade for policies that are, after several decades, proven to have no positive effect? It is time for change.

Devin Nunes is a Republican representing the 21st Congressional District, which includes all of Tulare County and a portion of Fresno.
(printed in the San Francisco Chronicle on July 7, 2011)