Denham Legislation Brings More Water Storage

Dept. of the Interior Moves forward on the Expansion of Shasta Dam

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

 The U.S. Department of the Interior is moving forward on the enlargement of Shasta Dam, a critical water storage reservoir in California. This expansion comes as a direct result of Rep. Jeff Denham’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act language and $20 million in funding approved in March of this year.

“We’re moving forward with building more water storage for the first time in decades,” Denham said. “Real progress and results are what California needs if the next generation wants water.”

Rep. Jeff Denham

The total expansion of Shasta Dam will raise the dam by 18 ½ feet and provide an additional 630,000 acre-feet of stored water for families, farmers, and cities, delivering more water and improving reliability for farmers and communities. The expansion will also help reduce flood damage and improve water quality in the Sacramento River to revitalize fish populations and foster a stronger ecosystem.

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, which is leading the expansion effort, construction contracts for the dam are expected to be issued by December 2019, and the entire project is estimated to cost $1.4 billion. The project is eligible for additional financing through Denham’s New WATER Act, which provides financing opportunities for water infrastructure projects and will reduce the cost to water users.

The Denham New WATER Act language is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks to make major water infrastructure improvements a reality in the Central Valley. This success comes on the heels of major developments in the fight against Sacramento’s water grab, including Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue voicing support for Denham’s efforts to stop the state’s Bay-Delta plan.

For more information about the enlargement of Shasta Dam, click here. To learn more about what Rep. Denham is doing to fight for water in the Valley, visit www.Denham.house.gov/water, where you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on his work in Washington to improve local water infrastructure, storage and delivery.

Halting the Sacramento Water Grab

Rep. Denham calls on Congress to halt Sacramento Water Grab by enacting Denham Amendment

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

 Recently, U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), along with thirteen of his California colleagues, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to make sure Rep. Denham’s House-passed amendment to stop Sacramento’s water grab is included in the next spending bill that is signed into law.

“My amendment halts the disastrous Bay-Delta Plan that would see 40 percent of our water flushed out into the ocean,” Rep. Denham said. “Congress must act to protect the Valley.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

 Rep. Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally-owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower.

Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years.

Sacramento’s planned water grab would do irreparable damage to Central Valley communities, directly interfering with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water and the Central Valley Project’s ability to deliver water.

The plan would subvert the will of Congress and jeopardize a significant portion of the nation’s agricultural productivity. Following a visit to New Melones at the request of Rep. Denham, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board highlighting serious concerns with the plan and directed his agencies to propose a new plan to maximize water storage and resolve issues with the state, among other directives. 

Rep. Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

Interior Secretary Zinke Agrees: Sacramento Water Grab “Unacceptable”

Zinke Directs Staff to Propose New Plan

News Release

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to Don Pedro and New Melones Reservoirs at the request of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) continues to yield results for the Valley, with Secretary Zinke issuing an internal memo Friday declaring the state’s proposed water grab an “unacceptable restriction” that reduces the Department of the Interior’s ability to deliver water and directing his agencies to propose a plan within 25 days to maximize water supply, construct new water storage, and resolve issues with the state, among other directives.

“After our tour of local reservoirs, Secretary Zinke recognizes that Sacramento’s water grab would cripple our communities, farms and water storage infrastructure,” Denham said. “Our water, our water rights, and our future depend on stopping this wasteful plan.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

Previously, the Bureau of Reclamation, within the Department of Interior, issued an official comment on the state’s proposed water grab, noting the plan “directly interfere[s] with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water” and “elevate[s] the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.”

The agency’s comment also specifies that siphoning off at least 40 percent of the Central Valley’s rivers during peak season would result in significant reductions in water storage at New Melones and result in diminished power generation as well as recreational opportunities. The agency recommends the Board reconsider and postpone the scheduled August 21-22 public meeting to allow for “additional due diligence and dialogue.”

Recently, Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill, and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower.

Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years. This would put in jeopardy critical water supplies for Central Valley farmers and communities who rely on the water for their homes, businesses, farms, and electric power. The amendment takes this issue head-on to protect Valley water.

Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

See the memo from Secretary Zinke here, or to read the full comment from the Department of the Interior on the state water grab plan, click here. For more information about what Denham is doing to fight for water in the Valley, visit www.Denham.house.gov/water, where you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on his work in Washington to improve local water infrastructure, storage and delivery.

Interior Dept: Water Grab at New Melones Devastating for Central Valley

Comments Come After Secretary of the Interior’s Visit

News Release from the Office of Rep. Jeff Denham

Following Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to Don Pedro and New Melones Reservoirs at the request of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), the Department of Interior issued an official comment on Friday regarding the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab.

The Department of Interior’s comment notes that the proposed water grab “directly interfere[s] with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water” and “elevate[s] the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.” Interior’s comment also specifies that siphoning off at least 40 percent of Central Valley’s rivers during peak season would result in significant reductions in water storage at New Melones and result in diminished power generation as well as recreational opportunities. DOI recommends the Board reconsider and postpone the scheduled August 21-22 public meeting to allow for “additional due diligence and dialogue.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

“Sacramento’s radical water grab would cripple the Central Valley’s economy, farms and community.  Secretary Zinke saw that when he visited New Melones and Don Pedro reservoirs with me last week,” Denham said. “They cannot drain our reservoirs and ignore our concerns.  I will continue fighting to make sure Central Valley voices are heard.”

“Under Sacramento’s plan, the Valley will suffer skyrocketing water and electricity rates.” Denham explained. “After a decade and millions of our money spent on a study that they required, the board ignored the science based proposal that would save our fish while preserving our water rights.  We will not allow them to take our water and destroy our way of life”

Last week, Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill, and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower. Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years. This would put in jeopardy critical water supplies for Central Valley farmers and communities who rely on the water for their homes, businesses, farms, and electric power. The amendment takes this issue head-on to protect Valley water.

Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

To read the full comment from the Department of the Interior, click here. For more information about what Denham is doing to fight for water in the Valley, visit www.Denham.house.gov/water, where you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on his work in Washington to improve local water infrastructure, storage and delivery.

Legislation would help manage forests, prevent wildfire

By: Rayne Pegg and Erin Huston; Ag Alert

Last year’s Rim Fire, California’s third-largest fire, understandably garnered a lot of media attention. More than 250,000 acres burned, private property was lost and significant water resources were placed at risk of impairment.

As we enter the 2014 fire season after a winter of significant drought, it is timely to reflect on the series of events that place California at risk of extreme wildfire. It is also important to remember how costly the devastation from just one fire can be. Individually, the Rim Fire cost $130 million to suppress—and this does not include the damage to rural communities, the environment or economic activities that rely on the forest.

California has already experienced numerous fires this season and the outlook for 2014 shows significant wildland fire potential. Fires are historically common in California and can actually prompt a regrowth process for several species. However, we’ve reached a point where fires burn hotter and more frequently than ever. Fires of this intensity and size threaten our rural communities, environment, water supplies, and federal and state budgets.

Devastating wildfires represent a cost associated with not managing our forests. Fires that once burned every 10 to 15 years, naturally, allowed for new tree and vegetation growth and the release of regenerating seed. However, today’s fires are less frequent, cover larger acreage, burn hotter and pose a greater risk to life and property.

Forest management on federal lands to reduce dead trees, thin densely grown areas and remove brush is significantly backlogged and commonly subject to nonsensical litigation, resulting in overgrown tree canopies, increased presence of disease and diminished wildlife habitat. This backlog and inability to properly manage our forests results in a series of destructive wildfire seasons.

Just as homeowners maintain their private gardens to manage overgrowth, weeds and dead plants so healthy plants can thrive, our forests need to be managed. But timber harvesting and thinning of trees have become fraught with litigation, which has left forestland to become overgrown with trees and underbrush, making it perfect habitat for forest fires.

Timber harvesting is often depicted as clear cutting that results in our lush forests looking like vacant lots. But most forestry in California consists of selective harvest, limited to younger trees within a range of height and width. Older-growth trees are left to grow and stabilize the soil, while dry brush and dead trees are cleared from the forest floor. Thinning out only selected trees and clearing the forest floor of dead brush creates spacing for new, beneficial vegetation and reduces overgrown brush and dry vegetation.

We also need to recognize that rural towns rely on foresting jobs to survive. Though growing marijuana is becoming popular in these areas, the money generated from that activity does not stay in the community and support local schools, public services or roads.

Because not enough money has been set aside in the federal budget to fight wildfires, money for forest-management activities ends up being robbed. Here’s how: The U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior are the two federal entities responsible for wildfire suppression. Suppression funding levels are based on the 10-year average of suppression costs; currently, that’s not enough to provide the necessary level for suppression activities nationwide. When suppression funding runs out, which happens regularly, both the USFS and DOI have the authority to transfer funds from within their budgets to make up for shortfalls. So money is usually taken away from non-suppression programs, including land management programs that decrease long-term wildfire risk and costs.

In the last two years, more than $1 billion was taken from 2013 and 2014 appropriations bills to repay the transfers from 2012 and 2013. It is estimated that the fiscal year 2014 wildfire season suppression is underfunded by $470 million, which will likely lead to another round of transfers that will again short-change forest management and other programs.

For this reason, the California Farm Bureau Federation is a member of the Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions, a diverse coalition working to pass legislation known as the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. The WDFA would change the approach to funding wildfire suppression by developing a wildfire emergency funding process for a portion of USFS and DOI suppression activities similar to funds for other natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

The legislation would treat catastrophic wildfires as the “predictable” emergencies that they are and provide a more reliable funding structure that does not harm land management and wildfire risk-reduction activities. In the rare case it should become necessary, USFS and DOI would retain their financial transfer authorities.

We must plan for catastrophic wildfires and manage our forests. Rather than relying on annual emergency appropriations to suppress fires we expect, this legislation provides a consistent, predictable funding stream that protects critical forest management activities that benefit the California economy and our forests.