Trump signs law giving Merced County more water storage

New legislation pushed by Central San Joaquin Valley lawmakers was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, increasing the storage capacity at Lake McClure, according to leaders.

The Water Resources Development Act/America’s Water Infrastructure Act, a plan to store up to an additional 57,000-acre feet of water in Lake McClure, was a a bipartisan act pushed by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock.

Costa said the storage is vital for the Central Valley.

“Water is the lifeblood of our Valley, and we must have safe, reliable sources of water in both wet and dry years,” Costa said. “America’s Water Infrastructure Act uses multiple approaches to help increase surface water storage in the Valley, which will strengthen our resilience to drought.”

The legislation includes a provision allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accept non-federal funding for the review and update of operating manuals for locally-owned reservoirs. It also allows owners of non-federal dams to give that funding to the Corps, which was previously not allowed.

Officials with the irrigation district have worked towards the goal for several years. The operations manual for Lake McClure has not been significantly updated for more than 30 years, according to MID.

Agricultural workers could benefit from the new law, according to Rene Gutierrez, president of Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“The water in the Valley means jobs,” he said. “Water impacts everyone, not just ranchers and farm workers, but everyone. Our jobs and way of life are at risk. Water is everyone’s business and vital to the Central Valley community.”