Congress can de­liver re­lief

Los Angeles Times - - OP-ED - By Ja­son Peltier Ja­son Peltier is the chief deputy gen­eral manager of the West­lands Wa­ter Dis­trict.

The big lie in Cal­i­for­nia right now is that there must be a choice be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral wa­ter use, rather than a so­lu­tion that meets all the state’s needs. Congress could de­liver im­me­di­ate re­lief to both groups by pass­ing leg­is­la­tion to min­i­mize wa­ter-sup­ply re­duc­tions.

Due to overzeal­ous ap­pli­ca­tion of the En­dan­gered Species Act, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has de­faulted to the most wa­ter re­stric­tive pol­icy pos­si­ble, with­out re­gard to science or drought con­di­tions. Over the last 20 years, that has meant redi­rect­ing some 2 mil­lion acre-feet of wa­ter a year from hu­man to en­vi­ron­men­tal pur­poses, caus­ing nearly con­tin­u­ous short­ages for our farm­ers, weak­en­ing our wa­ter sys­tem and, sadly, pro­duc­ing no mea­sur­able benefits for the fish­eries.

Leg­is­la­tion could re­quire the re­lease of more wa­ter from fed­eral and state projects — the high­est amount within the law’s en­vi­ron­men­tally ac­cept­able range — for use by cities in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and farms in the Cen­tral Val­ley. Laws pro­tect­ing wildlife would re­main in force and de­ter­mi­na­tions about the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions would con­tinue through­out the drought.

Ask­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­spond to a drought is no dif­fer­ent than telling FEMA to han­dle floods, fires and earth­quakes. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment should be re­quired to demon­strate some bal­anced con­sid­er­a­tion of hu­man con­di­tions and per­mit the cap­ture of ex­cess wa­ter for cities and food pro­duc­tion when the sit­u­a­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate.

There is bi­par­ti­san sup­port for a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion. With the cri­sis upon us, Congress must pass re­lief leg­is­la­tion im­me­di­ately.

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