What do Congressional Republicans, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and GOP gubernatorial candidate and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner have in common? All advocate a waiver of the Endangered Species Act to help ease California’s water crisis.
The Act is the basis on which water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River has been severely curtailed, in protection of a species of fish called the delta smelt. Farmers, urban water utilities, environmentalists and everyone else who uses water have faced off over the dwindling supply.
Poizner, speaking to a small-business roundtable at the Fremont Chamber of Commerce today, called upon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – whom he noted is the first Speaker of the House from California – to support Republican legislation that would grant California a waiver from the Act to speed irrigation of parched Central Valley farms. Pelosi supported such a waiver for New Mexico several years ago but won’t do the same for California now, he charged. (Actually, what House Republicans wanted brought to the floor this summer was a wholesale suspension, not a temporary waiver, of the Act as it pertains to Delta pumping.)
Progressives see such a waiver as an end run around environmental protection laws to benefit big agribusiness, which could do more economic harm than good.
In a related matter, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, on Wednesday blasted House Republicans for opposing his H.R. 2442, the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act of 2009, which would add six water recycling projects for the Bay Area providing 7.2 million gallons of non-potable water per day for landscape irrigation, parks and so on – thus freeing up other water for agriculture and drinking. “When it comes to providing clean water to California, congressional Republicans have now shown their true colors. The legislation that the House voted on today would supply California with much-needed funding for alternative water supplies — but congressional Republicans just said no.”