In the wake of the Pacific Institute’s report (PI) that found the energy and fishing sectors – not agriculture – bore the brunt of impacts from the California drought, more doubts have arisen regarding Congressman Nunes’ (R-Visalia) efforts to repeal the San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement and dismantle area-of-origin water rights (aka senior water rights) as a means to boost California’s economy.
Sponsors of Nunes’ bill (H.R. 1837, an act) have argued that California’s agricultural industry suffered severely from the environmental pumping restrictions put in place to protect the overburdened Bay-Delta. The legal pumping restrictions were established to help recuperate endangered and threatened aquatic species of the Bay-Delta, including salmon. The PI report found otherwise, concluding that unemployment in theCentral Valleygrew due to the housing bust, not reduced water supply. The report further found, “California’s 81,500 farms and ranches grossed $34.8 billion in revenue in 2009 – the third highest year on record and just below the all-time high of $38.4 billion in 2008, the second driest year of the drought.” The salmon fishing industry, however, did suffer from total shutdown; losing $534 million in just two years, with a loss of over 2,690 jobs.
Last week, in a formal statement, Congresswoman Napolitano said “We no longer have any reason to continue consideration of this misguided and destructive piece of legislation. It overrides our water right, disrupts our negotiations to improve water supply, damages our environmental and kills our fishing industry. Now we learn again that the economic reasoning behind this bill has been completely false from the beginning. We must abandon this dangerous overreach and help the people ofCalifornia work out their own water solutions. The next round of water wars triggered by this bill will mean a lot of work for lawyers, but not much for anybody else.”