by Carly Fiorina
Common sense would tell us that it shouldn’t take an act of Congress to put the urgent needs of people ahead of a small fish. Apparently it does.
The day began with a visit to a local farm and a thorough briefing by water and agriculture experts. They provided a realistic assessment of the ill-considered actions that have literally turned off the spigot and prevented farmers from getting the water necessary to put their land into production.
More profound was my visit later to the west Valley community of Huron where acre after acre of farmland sit fallow because of a lack of water.
It underscored the fundamental reason this issue is so critical: Fertile farmlands create jobs, but fallow lands leave a devastating impact on the workers and their families whose lives and livelihoods depend on these farms.
This human face of California’s water crisis saddens me. The facts about the crisis anger me.
Hundreds of thousands of acres in the San Joaquin Valley lie fallow this year. The University of California at Davis estimates that in 2009, the lack of water coming from both the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project could result in the loss of up to 95,000 jobs.
While the persistent drought has certainly contributed to these effects, what would have been a difficult problem has become a crisis due to the aggressive and ill-considered implementation of the Endangered Species Act.
This act has been an important tool in conservation efforts. However, it is also true that the act prohibits the consideration of economic and social impacts.
The recent decision to limit water flowing to the Valley was made by nameless, faceless bureaucrats. These federal officials are unaccountable to voters for their action and there is little recourse to reverse their decision — unless Congress acts.
Congress tried to act the week before my visit to the Valley, however, Senate Democrats — led by Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer — defeated a California water amendment offered by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. This amendment should be reconsidered and approved.
The amendment would have removed for one year the bureaucratic roadblocks that deny Californians access to essential water supplies from the Delta. It would have temporarily allowed water to flow and put farmers and their workers back in the fields while further studies could be conducted and a balanced plan of action to address this issue could be developed.
There is precedent for this. In 2003, Sen. Pete Domenici sponsored a similar amendment relating to the overprotection of the silvery minnow which threatened the water supply of New Mexico.
Sen. Domenici was delivering relief for his state in his influential role as Chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. Both of California’s senators supported that amendment. Sen. Boxer now chairs this same committee and has refused to act.
Pragmatism calls for a solution that provides economic relief to a devastated region. It continues with a review and improvement of the science as Sen. Feinstein has recommended.
Ideology should not triumph over common sense and compassion. Leaders in our state and nation should focus on our top priority — jobs and opportunity.
To read the entire op-ed, please visit: http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/wo/story/1671114.html