Mariposa & Yosemite

Denham points to positive impacts of Valley water storage bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Jeff Denham (CA-19) discussed the positive impacts his bill, H.R. 869, will have on the Valley at a Natural Resources Subcommittee legislative hearing today.

Denham’s bill will increase water storage in the Valley while bolstering the struggling economy and creating jobs. H.R. 869 would create approximately 70,000 acre feet of additional water available, which is enough to supply the needs of about 160,000 homes. The project would also generate an additional 10,000 megawatt hours per year of clean, renewable energy for the Central Valley.

Full text of Rep. Denham’s opening statement:

First, I would like to thank Chairman Bishop for bringing my bill, H.R. 869, before his Subcommittee for this Legislative Hearing. As a Representative from the West, the Chairman is very much aware of the problems that come when dealing with an uncompromising environmental agenda.

My legislation before the committee today is a simple, common-sense bill that will provide for much needed water storage during wet years in the Central Valley of California.

And, this bill has bipartisan support in Congress, from California water organizations throughout the state, cities, counties, labor, and recreationalists.

This past winter was considered a wet water year for California. Currently, dams are in flood control operations and releasing thousands of acre-feet of water due to the lack of sufficient storage.

There is a common saying to “save for a rainy day.” When talking about water and agriculture, the saying needs to be tweaked a little to read as “save on a rainy day,” meaning that we need to be able to save and store the excess water in wet years for when the inevitable drought occurs.

The Central Valley of California is home to the world’s most productive farm land. The economies of most communities in the Valley are buoyed by the agricultural production that occurs throughout the Valley.

I would like to submit for the record a chart that shows a direct correlation to jobs and the amount of water that the Central Valley receives. It clearly shows that a lack of water means that there is a lack of employment opportunities.

My district continually suffers from unacceptably high unemployment. Currently unemployment is hovering around 18 percent, which is about double of the national average.

We are dependent on water for jobs, communities to be sustainable, and livelihoods of farming operations.

H.R. 869 is as simple a piece of legislation that can be drafted to create desperately needed water storage.

Simply stated, the bill will allow for the Merced Irrigation District to raise the level of Lake McClure by 10 feet for 60 days during a wet water year.

With this legislation, the Merced Irrigation District will apply for relicensing with FERC with the proposed spillway modification included in their application. Their application will still be subject to full FERC review process once the application is filed.

This legislation will provide up to 70,000 acre-feet of additional water, which can serve 1,700 homes and generate roughly 10,000 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity on an annual basis.

There is no simpler or more logical a proposal to create jobs and much needed water storage where both are so greatly needed.

Let me also inform this committee that this legislation will not cost any state or federal funds.

Again, let me thank Chairman Bishop for bringing H.R. 869 before this committee, and let me thank Mr. Bryan Kelly for flying out from the Merced Irrigation District to help fully convey what this bill does and how much it is needed.