Commentary: Bipartisan bill will increase Central Valley water storage
Members of Congress from the San Joaquin Valley have joined together to sponsor a bill that would allow for increased storage during wet years at Lake McClure, above left.
Photos/Courtesy of Merced Irrigation District
A gated spillway that would be modified to accommodate the additional water if the project were approved.
Solving our state's water supply crisis is perhaps the single most important issue facing California agriculture. The regulatory drought brought on by the Endangered Species Act has resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of some of the world's most productive farmland being fallowed. At a time when our state is in dire need of economic stimulus, farmers and ranchers are unable to fully utilize their agricultural resources due to the unpredictable and unreliable supply of water needed for irrigation of their crops. If farmers could have that reliability, the crops they produce would create additional, much-needed economic activity not only in our rural areas, but throughout California.
To address some of the short-term needs for water reliability, Congressman Jeff Denham recently introduced House Resolution 869 and it quickly gained the bipartisan support of fellow San Joaquin Valley Congressmen Dennis Cardoza, Jim Costa, Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes. H.R. 869 will provide for increased storage at Merced Irrigation District's New Exchequer Dam.
H.R. 869 will increase the capacity of Lake McClure off the Merced River by modifying the existing spillway at the New Exchequer Dam, operated by the Merced Irrigation District. The legislation will allow temporary (two to eight weeks) storage of water in wet years within existing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission project boundaries, instead of forcing the release of excess water downstream when it is not needed.
H.R. 869 would create approximately 70,000 acre-feet of additional water supply. It also provides better flood protection and will generate an additional 10,000 megawatt hours of clean, renewable hydroelectric power per year—enough to serve 1,700 homes.
Raising the spillway is an easy solution that will benefit our farmers and communities alike. It will provide additional water storage at no cost to the federal taxpayer, resulting in more water supply reliability, more jobs and a stronger economy. We hope H.R. 869 will gain the full support of Congress and work can begin on this creative solution to a chronic problem that will continue to plague Central Valley agriculture until new water development is achieved along with the ability to effectively move water throughout our state's farming regions.
We applaud Congressmen Cardoza, Costa, Denham, McCarthy and Nunes for their working in a bipartisan manner on an issue that is so critical to California's farmers and ranchers: water reliability. We look forward to working with all our California congressional delegation and the greater agricultural community to begin laying the foundation for more infrastructure improvements that will meet the water needs of a growing California, nation and world.
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.