Congressman McCarthy: Water Projects Needed Instead of High Speed Rail

McCarthy Introduces Legislation to Repurpose High-Speed Rail Funding to Water Infrastructure Projects

News Release

Congressman Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation recently that would repurpose recovered federal funding from the California High-Speed Rail project to critical water infrastructure projects in California and the West. McCarthy released the following statement on this legislation, H.R. 1600, the Repurposing Assets to Increase Long-term Water Availability and Yield (RAILWAY) Act:                                                                                   

“The California High-Speed Rail project is a boondoggle that California and American taxpayers must move on from. Since its inception, the project’s costs have ballooned while oversight and accountability within the California High-Speed Rail Authority has been nonexistent. Last month, Governor Newsom in his State of the State rightfully recognized these shortcomings and announced an end to the project as it was put to the voters.”

Congressman Kevin McCarthy

“The RAILWAY Act would end the Federal government’s involvement in this failed endeavor by repurposing up to $3.5 billion in recovered Federal funding for the California High-Speed Speed Rail project to water storage infrastructure projects as outlined in the bipartisan WIIN Act. Under the WIIN Act, five storage projects in California are advancing, and when completed, could provide 5 million acre-feet of additional water storage in our state. This is a far better use of taxpayer money that can address more important needs in our state.

 “California has experienced over five years of drought, and people across the state have felt the consequences, with entire communities on the brink of disaster due to lack of water. The RAILWAY Act would address this crisis head-on by providing significant funding for what California really needs: infrastructure projects that help our state capture and store water during wet years for use in dry ones. The RAILWAY Act builds on the success of the WIIN Act by continuing to increase California’s drought resiliency and helping ensure our communities, families, and farmers have access to life-sustaining water.” 

 Every Republican Member of the California Congressional Delegation joined McCarthy as cosponsors of the RAILWAY Act. Below are their quotes:

 “California farmers and families need a reliable water supply, not an extravagant high-speed rail line. This bill will redirect crucial funds and resources where they’re most needed—particularly in water infrastructure projects—to help ease the burden on Central Valley communities struggling through the water crisis.” –Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22)

“The RAILWAY Act repurposes funding from the most wasteful project in California’s history and invests it into some of our most critical water storage projects. That’s a win for taxpayers and a win for California’s future. We know California experiences periods of droughts followed by periods of significant rainfall. The RAILWAY Act provides a common sense solution to this problem by building storage projects to capture more water in wet years in order to sustain California families and our economy through the dry years. Building water storage is long overdue. It’s time to stop watching water be diverted into the ocean and start acting to capture and store that water.” –Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42)

“Years of drought in California brought entire cities within months of exhausting their water supplies. In extremely wet years, we have watched our dams spilling millions of acre feet of water to the ocean because of lack of storage. The infrastructure funding provided in the RAILWAY Act will begin to turn this tide in support of water abundance.” –Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04)

“California’s high-speed rail project has been a very expensive disaster, with costs ballooning so much that voters are no longer getting anywhere close to what they were sold. I agree that all federal funding given to California for this project should be promptly returned and invested in commonsense projects people need, be it water storage or transportation. I have a bill, the High-Speed Refund Act, with a similar goal of reinvesting these funds into useful transportation infrastructure, such as widening Highway 70, three lanes for I-5, improving Highway 99 or 395, or many other real world projects that are actually useful to people in Northern California. Almost any type of infrastructure will be more beneficial and, one way or another, taxpayers deserve a stop to additional waste for this misguided pipedream of high-speed rail.”Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)

“The last major reservoir in California was built forty years ago. Since then, our population has grown significantly, and we’re ill-prepared to endure droughts. It’s time we take action to increase our water supply and modernize our water infrastructure. This bill makes good use of funds that were already going to be spent in California. I hope that Congress will pass this legislation quickly.” –Congressman Paul Cook (CA-08)

“Efficient water storage and management is California’s greatest need. The high-speed rail project is California’s greatest waste of time. The RAILWAY Act corrects this problem by implementing a common-sense plan to address a significant concern in our state by investing significant and critical resources to ensure we have water availability for the future. I am proud to be part of this effort and will continue working with my colleagues to lead on this important ongoing issue.”  –Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-50)

Background

  • The Federal Railway Administration (FRA) made two grant awards to the California High-Speed Rail Authority for the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project totaling approximately $3.5 billion.
  • On February 12, the Governor of California, in his State of the State address summarized the reality that the HSR project costs too much, will take too long to build, and that “there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego.”
  • On February 19, the FRA notified the California High-Speed Rail Authority it is de-obligating $929 million in unspent FRA grant funding for the HSR project after determining that the Authority “has materially failed to comply with the terms of the funding agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the HSR Project.”  The FRA also indicated it is “exploring all available legal options” to recover approximately $2.5 billion in Federal funds already expended on the HSR project.
  • To view the FRA letter click here.

The RAILWAY Act would accomplish three important things:

  • Ends the California High Speed Rail (HSR) Project: The RAILWAY Act would reflect reality and end Federal participation in the HSR project—consistent with the FRA notification of February 19—in the Central Valley and repurpose funds to critical water infrastructure projects.
  • Increases Drought Resiliency in California and the West: The RAILWAY Act would provide significant funding to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act program that the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) uses to design and construct various large-scale water infrastructure projects in California and the West, including expanding existing and building new reservoirs, thereby increasing drought resiliency in western states.
  • Helps Keep Federal Funds in California: By providing significant funding to the WIIN Act program that the DOI is using to advance the Shasta Dam and Reservoir Enlargement Project, the Sites Reservoir Storage Project, the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Project, the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Phase 2 Expansion Project, and the Friant-Kern Canal subsidence correction project, all which are located in California, the RAILWAY Act would help ensure repurposed Federal funds remain in California to create jobs and build needed infrastructure.

The RAILWAY Act would also repurpose a portion of HSR project funds to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to award grants to projects designed to help small, rural communities by:

  • Developing new sources of water when residential wells run dry; and
  • Reducing or eliminating elevated nitrate levels in drinking water.

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Surface Water is the Key to SJV Farming Future

Water Projects Were Built to Deliver Surface Water to Farmers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Water is always a concern while farming on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Daniel Hartwig is the resource manager of Huron-based Woolf Farming and Processing. The company is a multi-generation and multi-crop farming business. Hartwig explains how monitoring and being proactive helps them stay ahead of some of the water issues.

Like everybody, we’re concerned that there’s not going to be enough water to do everything we’re currently doing,” Hartwig said. I think we’re just waiting to see and trying to be proactive and get ahead of a lot of these water issues, but at the same time, we’re monitoring it and hopeful that there will be more surface water to make up for what we might be stopped from pumping.”

Not having surface water is a big problem on the west side.

The entire reason the California Aqueduct and other canals were built was to have surface water to mitigate against the issues they had back in the twenties, thirties, and forties. Back before there was surface water available,” Hartwig explained.water

Hartwig said he thinks that President Trump’s memorandum could be helpful.

“Anything that’s going to help give us water and allow it to be more reliable is very helpful. However, the issue is timing and … anything that’s going to take more time is more water loss, and that creates a struggle for all of us, he explained.

“Regarding pump drilling, there are always discussions going on, but I don’t think we’re at the point yet where we can make any of those decisions just because we don’t know for sure what’s … going to come down the pipeline,” Hartwig said. We’re evaluating, and we’re monitoring, and trying to be involved in these groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) discussions.”

Again, having surface water is the key to the future, noted Hartwig.

“The lack of surface water is a huge problem. I mean, we would not have to pump as much groundwater if we were able to get as much water as we are supposed to be receiving from the state and federal water projects,” Hartwig said.

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40 Percent Water Grab Continues to Be Big Concern

Growers Will Fight Back

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Recently, over one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a rally in Sacramento outside the capital building, protesting the California State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed Water Grab, which consists of over 40 percent of the water from Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today spoke with Ronda Lucas, General Counsel with the Modesto Irrigation District.

Unfortunately, the state does not need to pick this fight, but they are choosing to.

“In ignoring our science in the process, one of the major deficiencies of the plan is the state board’s refusal,” Lucas said.

Rhonda Lucas

Lucas would like the water board to be intellectually honest about the linkage and the impact this will have on groundwater.

“They simply say that we’ll just get more water. There is no more water,” she said.

California is not in a critical overdraft area.

“Our sub base in the Modesto subbasin is in better shape than many, but that’s because we’ve been such good stewards,” Lucas said.

This plan will destroy the health of the groundwater basin.

Lucas says that many communities in the area could be impacted heavily. Some communities’ sole water source is groundwater, and this plan will dry up their drinking water.

“There will be school children that don’t have the basic needs to live, and we know it. And we’ve told the state board that, and they don’t seem to care,” Lucas said.

The bigger problem that is not well known is that the state is trying to come in and run the dam operation long-term.

“If the state is in charge of Don Pedro and the running of our facilities, which we believe to be illegal, we do not know what they are going to do because they have not had a good track record thus far,” Lucas explained.

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Marin County Farm Bureau Fights Back on Water Grab

More Water For Fish Will Not Work

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Recently in Sacramento, over one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a rally outside the Capitol building to protest the State Water Resources Control Board water grab. Over 40 percent of the water from Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers may be sent to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today spoke with Sam Dolcini with the Marin County Farm Bureau about the issue.

“I am here because water is critical to the entire agricultural infrastructure in the state of California. We have many dairies in our county that depend on the water from other parts of the state,” he said.

Marin County Farm Bureau
Sam Dolcini

The proposal would dedicate 40 percent of unimpaired flows along the Tuolumne River alone between February and June. This water would be used for fish, wildlife, and salinity control. This would be a huge increase in water currently used for environmental purposes, with water already in short supply.

“This can be devastating for valley farmers, which is why they flock this week to the Capitol building to be sure their voices are heard,” Dolcini said.

Ronda Lucas, General Counsel with the Modesto Irrigation district, agrees that this water grab could be devastating.

“We are one of the six senior water rights holders,” she said. “They are taking the waterfront, and the impact that will have on the Modesto irrigation district will just be devastating.”

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State Water Resources Control Board Grab for Salmon Will Impact Federal Water

Feds and State Usually Do Not Work Well Together

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today continues our report on the recent water rally in Sacramento at the capital building. Farmers and stakeholders attended to protest the California State Water Resources Control Board Proposed Water Grab 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers redirected to increase flows for salmon.

U.S. representative for the 16th district Jim Costa explained how federal and state water projects would be drastically impeded.

There are distinctions between state and federal laws as relates to water. However, there are federal water projects. In this case, New Melones  Dam, a Federal Central Valley Water Project site, will be severely impacted, which could be a problem for the Water Board’s plan,” Costa said.  “With all of the challenges in water, none in the last 20 years have worked together between the Central Valley Water Project and the State Water Project.”

 Adam Gray, 21st district assemblymen representing Merced and Stanislaus counties, explained the fight with the water resources board over the years.

“For the six years I’ve been in the assembly, we have been fighting this fight with the state water board, and despite repeated concerns that we have raised, testimony that I provided and members of my community have provided, the state continues to ignore the concerns and the farmers are not happy,” Gray said. “We are going to raise our voices as loud as they need to be and talk to whoever we need to talk to to get a fair deal on this.”

“The irrigation districts have science-based plans that involve habitat restoration, water, rebuilding a river, and dealing with non-native predators,” he said. It is not going to be easy, and it is going to take sacrifice to make a fair deal. All they want to do is take, take, take, and it is all water with no consideration for those other things.”

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Almond Farmer Fights Back Against the State Water Grab

“Hundreds of Years of Property Rights Taken Away”

By Hannah Young, Associate Editor

More than 1,000 farmers, stakeholders, and supporters attended a rally in Sacramento protesting the California Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab.

This water grab will affect the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers, redirecting 40% of the water to increase flows for salmon population.

Tim Sanders, an almond grower in Stanislaus County, described the catastrophic effects this water grab will have on Valley farmers.

“The scarier part about this, they’re trying to change hundreds of years of water rights,” Sanders said. “If they can take our water rights with this grab, they can take anybody’s water rights, so everybody in California should be concerned about this.”

Sanders explained how this is proposed water grab is a real government overstep.

“Our area is one of the few areas in the state that aren’t in extreme overdraft of groundwater, and it’s because we can do irrigation,” Sanders said. “We can recharge our aquifers all the time.”

If the state takes surface water from these growers, they will have to rely on their pumps extracting water from the ground, which could put them in a situation where they’ll be impacted by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“We’ve got a good system working. They just need to leave us alone or come to us at the table and be willing to compromise, talk to us,” Sanders said.

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Gubernatorial Candidate John Cox Denounces State Water Resources Board

John Cox Joins Farmers and Agricultural Community in Calling to #StoptheWaterGrab 

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Gubernatorial candidate John Cox issued the following statements on the California State Water Resources Control Board’s recently proposed water plan that would divert between 350,000 and 1.7 million acre-feet of water away from Central Valley farmers annually.

The California Farm Water Coalition estimates the financial impact to Valley communities could be over $3 billion annually, with 6,500 jobs lost as a result.

Cox visited Fresno County last month to express support for the proposition 3 water bond. This announcement was ahead of visits to Fresno and Bakersfield.

“I am deeply disappointed yet sadly not surprised by the decision by the State Water Resources Control Board addressing flows on the San Joaquin river,” Cox said. “The complete failure of the Sacramento establishment to provide the necessary funding, authorization, and will to build adequate surface water storage is the single greatest reason California continues to suffer unnecessary water shortages. Even the most recent approval of funds by the California Water Commission for both the Sites and Temperance Flat reservoirs are but a fraction of the funds needed to complete these two vital water storage projects.”

“The time for action is long overdue and they need to stop the water grab,” Cox said. “As Governor, I and my appointments to all California boards and commissions—but in particular the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Water Commission—will take the steps necessary to develop sufficient water storage for California’s residential, agricultural, and business needs, while protecting our aquatic environment, the Delta, and our oceans.”

“Gavin Newsom is the very embodiment of the ‘Sacramento political class’ that ignores the plight of everyday Californians,” Cox said. “He will continue to spend countless billions of hard-earned tax dollars on proven failures like the so-called High-Speed Rail project rather than demand construction of essential water storage infrastructure to meet California’s needs—including environmental purposes, which today already use more water than all California agriculture.”

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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.

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UC and Israel Sign Agricultural Research Agreement

California and Israel Face Similar Challenges

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC ANR News
From left, Ermias Kebreab, Eli Feinerman, and Mark Bell sign the agreement for Israel and California scientists to collaborate more on water-related research and education.

Pledging to work together to solve water scarcity issues, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis recently. The signing ceremony kicked off the 2018 Future of Water for Irrigation in California and Israel Workshop at the UC ANR building in Davis.

“Israel and California agriculture face similar challenges, including drought and climate change,” said Doug Parker, director of UC ANR’s California Institute for Water Resources. “In the memorandum of understanding, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization, UC Davis and UC ANR pledge to work together more on research involving water, irrigation, technology and related topics that are important to both water-deficit countries.”

The agreement will enhance collaboration on research and extension for natural resources management in agriculture, with an emphasis on soil, irrigation and water resources, horticulture, food security and food safety.

“It’s a huge pleasure for us to sign an MOU with the world leaders in agricultural research like UC Davis and UC ANR,” said Eli Feinerman, director of Agricultural Research Organization of Israel. “When good people, smart people collaborate, the sky is the limit.”

Feinerman, Mark Bell (UC ANR vice provost) and Ermias Kebreab (UC Davis professor and associate vice provost of academic programs and global affairs) represented their respective institutions for the signing. Karen Ross (California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary) and Shlomi Kofman (Israel’s consul general to the Pacific Northwest) joined in celebrating the partnership.

“The important thing is to keep working together and develop additional frameworks that can bring the people of California and Israel together as researchers,” Kofman said. “But also to work together to make the world a better place.”

Ross said, “It’s so important for us to find ways and create forums to work together because water is the issue in this century and will continue to be.”

She explained that earlier this year, the World Bank and United Nations reported that 40 percent of the world population is living with water scarcity. 

“Over 700,000 people are at risk of relocation due to water scarcity,” Ross said. “We’re already seeing the refugee issues that are starting to happen because of drought, food insecurity and the lack of water.”

Ross touted the progress stemming from CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program to promote healthy soils on California’s farmlands and ranchlands and SWEEP, the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, which has provided California farmers $62.7 million in grants for irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water on agricultural operations.

“We need the answers of best practices that come from academia, through demonstration projects so that our farmers know what will really work,” Ross said.

As Parker opened the water workshop, sponsored by the U.S./Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) Program, Israel Agricultural Research Organization and UC ANR, he told the scientists, “The goal of this workshop is really to be creating new partnerships, meeting new people, networking and finding ways to work together in California with Israel, in Israel, with other parts of the world as well.”

Drawing on current events, Bell told the attendees, “If you look at the World Cup, it’s about effort, it’s about teamwork, it’s about diversity of skills, and I think that’s what this event does. It brings together those things.”

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Officials Angered Over Temperance Flat Lack of Funding

The Will of The People Was Ignored

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Agricultural leaders from cities, along with state and federal officials representing the Central San Joaquin Valley, are reeling with anger and disappointment with the California Water Commission’s failure to fund the Temperance Flat Dam storage project.

California Water Commission members facing the room, with staff at table in front of them. The staff made all decisions based on NRDC and CA Fish and Wildlife recommendations, killing Temperance Flat funding.

“The California Water Commission have ignored the facts and their own guidelines and have ignored the will of the people,” said Lee Brand, mayor of Fresno. “We believe the voters, especially those in the Central Valley, overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1 where there was an expectation that their hard-earned money would be spent to help build water storage.”

“We desperately needed the Temperance Flat project. It will help us secure our water supplies against the droughts we know surely come,” Brand said.

The push to get funding for Temperance Flat dam was truly a valley-wide effort, with supervisors from Fresno, Kings, Madera and Merced counties, along with many cities and water agencies.

“Voters not just in the Valley but across the entire state should be upset over this decision. It is unthinkable that the Water Commission did not understand the benefits of the temperance flat project,” Brand said.

“Clearly all of us … are disappointed and clearly many of the voters in this valley are angered because we have been overlooked in terms of the water needs that are so essential for our valley,” said Jim Costa, D-CA 16th District, which includes Fresno.

“The Valley needs a reliable supply of water, and we supported this initiative on the basis that we would gain a more reliable supply of water. And clearly the recommendations of the Water Commission who took their staff’s lead was a very, very big disappointment for me. And I think all of us,” Costa continued.

“We’re not given up. That’s the bottom line. We’re not giving up,” he said.

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