Obama visit brings flood of drought commentary

With President Obama soon to arrive in California for drought-related visits to Firebaugh and Los Banos, lots of politicos and stakeholders are weighing in about the state’s crisis.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., issued a statement praising executive-order relief measures that the Obama administration announced today, including $100 million in livestock disaster aid for California ranchers, $60 million for California food banks to help families affected by the drought, and other measures to promote conservation and help rural communities suffering water shortages.

“I applaud the President for coming to California during this very difficult drought, and I thank him for moving so quickly to provide relief for our state,” Boxer said.

But, from House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“As President Obama visits California this afternoon to introduce an initiative to spend millions of dollars as part of his solution to California’s drought that has been exacerbated by federal and state regulations, House Republicans are continuing to work to find a bipartisan, bicameral solution to ensure our communities are not crippled by future droughts. Last week, the House passed H.R. 3964, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, by a bipartisan vote of 229-191. I urge Majority Leader Harry Reid to put this legislation on the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible.

“Earlier this week, California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced their own legislation on California water policy. After two House-passed bills and two Congresses, this development is welcomed, but long overdue.

“In the spirit of Californians working together to bring solutions to the President’s desk, I believe that there are components of the Senate bill that can be further discussed and explored. The federal government can do more to deliver water to our southern California communities by keeping the Delta Cross Channel Gates open, increasing pumping at Old and Middle Rivers, setting a 1-to-1 flow in the San Joaquin River for water transfers, and authorizing the drilling of wells in refuges.

“And most importantly, there is growing consensus that direction to federal and state agencies to maximize water supplies is the underlying issue that must be addressed. Unfortunately, without substantive changes to burdensome environmental regulations, the well-being of fish will continue to be placed ahead of the well-being of our central and southern California communities that rely on critical water supplies to survive. And as a result, our farmers will still be left paying for water allocations that they are not receiving.

“Our communities cannot afford rhetorical battles in this time of drought. Already, the actions taken by the House have resulted in the Senate putting forth their plan after years of inaction. When Majority Leader Reid decides to put California water legislation on the Senate floor for a vote and Senators Feinstein and Boxer work to ensure its passage, I look forward to coming together to find areas of common ground and commonsense to finally achieve a solution that our state is so desperately in need of. It remains to be seen if our Senate colleagues are willing to cross the aisle and acknowledge that a their-way-or-the-highway position is not feasible.”

More after the jump…

From Restore the Delta executive director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla:

“President Obama should not be misled that the peripheral tunnels are of any value in meeting California’s water challenges, and we implore him not to support this boondoggle that benefits mainly a handful of unsustainable mega-growers. The President needs to know where our water is going in order to decide whether to spend billions to continue feeding water buffaloes, or to change direction. Some use the current water scarcity to push the Peripheral Tunnels, but that is the wrong answer. We ask the president to meet not just with Westlands Water District, but to meet with Delta farmers and community leaders as well.”

From Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari:

“Today, President Obama and Governor Brown will come face-to-face with the fact that hundreds of thousands of Central Valley residents already know: The status quo is unacceptable. Not only has the region suffered from persistently high unemployment and poverty, but years of failure to plan and build adequate water infrastructure have exacerbated the effects of the drought. It’s disappointing that it’s taken such a devastating situation for the President and Governor to finally give the Central Valley the attention it deserves. Clearly, we need new leadership that is willing to tackle the tough challenges facing our state and willing to implement policies that will support the good jobs that Californians need.”

From Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Chico:

“The support of the President during our State’s water crisis is to be commended. There is no doubt that this will surely bring aid to areas in need. While President Obama is committed to doing everything he can to ensure that his Administration is helping farmers, small business and communities that are the most impacted, we need to be doing our part as well. The $200 million that the Federal Government will be giving to California for drought relief efforts will definitely help our current situation, but it is still a short-term solution. We need to be looking at long-term solutions, like my AB 1445, that will increase water storage in California, increasing our water supply, which can be used for any future emergency situations, like the one we are currently in.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto:

“I appreciate the President’s long overdue visit to the Valley. He can now see firsthand the devastation to our economy and our community. While I’m grateful for his willingness to direct money, what we need is more storage to withstand the impacts of drought – a drought that is predictable and will come again.

“No more excuses. No more delays. We need bipartisan leadership before any more jobs are lost.”

From state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto:

“This is the President’s first trip to our region. I really hope, when the dog and pony show is over, he takes the opportunity to get out and see with his own eyes what is really going on. Meet some of the folks that don’t have clean drinking water. See the thousands of fields that won’t be farmed and then talk to the people that won’t be getting a paycheck because of this drought.

“In the state legislature we have to get a bond on the ballot that pays for additional storage. We absolutely need to capture the water we do get during rainy years. The Federal government needs to do its part as well and make sure there is a reliable source of clean water to drink and for agriculture to use to grow the food we all consume.”

From state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Chico:

“I appreciate the President’s efforts to provide temporary relief to California. But this Band Aid is not a sustainable solution. Helping California overcome the insufferable bureaucratic and regulatory barriers created by multiple federal agencies is a good place for the President to start lending a hand if he truly wants to help California meet its water needs.

“Californians need long-term solutions to this on-going crisis. We need a more dependable water supply for farming and residential use, and that means more storage.

“Without more reliable sources of water, California’s number one industry – agriculture – will be crippled.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.