Comprehensive Water Solutions, Courageous Water Leadership
Comprehensive Water Solutions, Courageous Water Leadership
For the 3rd Congressional District, water is life. Our rich agricultural lands feed the state, the nation, and the world. Our treasured rivers, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Clear Lake, and other bodies of water sustain and beautify our communities.
California’s 3rd District has an agricultural output of approximately $3 billion, and Garamendi’s family farm is a small part of this massive economic engine. As a rancher, pear farmer, and resident of the Delta community of Walnut Grove, Congressman Garamendi understands just how vitally important water is to our region. During the severe 2014 drought, after a desperate search for feed, Garamendi was forced to sell off much of his cattle herd, and his pear orchard is at risk. In years past, flood conditions have threatened his crops and his home.
Congressman Garamendi is focused on a comprehensive long-term water strategy focused on generating new water through water storage, recycling, conservation, improving water quality, preserving natural habitats, and building the levees and other infrastructure that will help our communities prepare during times of plenty and times of want.
Here are some of the water projects and proposals Congressman Garamendi is working on.
Congressman Garamendi will soon be introducing legislation that mirrors Senator Feinstein's Senate bill to address the California drought. This legilsation will authorize $1.3 billion in both long-term solutions and short-term relief, all without violating California's landmark environmental laws. Garamendi and Feinstein have been part of a bicameral group of legislators in Congress working on a bipartisan drought solution that treats all stakeholders fairly.
Some in California want to spend at least $24 billion on a massive twin tunnels system to ship water from the Delta south, principally for the benefit of a small band of well-connected farmers in the Westlands Water District in Kern County. This boondoggle, known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, wouldn’t create a drop of new water for the state and would serve only to reignite the California water wars.
Congressman Garamendi has proposed a better more comprehensive approach. His Water Plan for All California would actually create new water for the entire state through water conservation, recycling, and storage while protecting senior water rights and investing in needed levees. It also calls for habitat restoration and the use of the best available science and technology. You can read more about his plan and its superiority to the BDCP here.
A key component of Congressman Garamendi’s water plan is more water storage. Congressman Garamendi, partnered with his Republican colleague to the north, Congressman Doug LaMalfa, has introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 1060, the Sacramento Valley Water Storage and Restoration Act of 2015, a bill that would authorize construction of Sites Reservoir in Colusa County upon completion of a feasibility study. Full text of the bill is available here, and a summary is available here. Click here for videos, editorials, and news coverage of the LaMalfa-Garamendi Sites proposal.
The bill sets a deadline for the completion of the feasibility study and if deemed feasible authorizes construction of the storage reservoir. The bill also creates a process by which a non-federal sponsor could develop the project. Once completed, Sites Reservoir would provide 1.9 million acre feet of water storage capacity for California and would help residents prepare for droughts like the one currently hurting the state.
The Congressmen jointly developed the bill with local stakeholders, primarily the Sites Joint Powers Authority (JPA), a regional consortium of local water agencies and counties who joined together in 2010 to advocate for the project.
Congressman Garamendi serves as a Member of the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) Conference Committee. In this capacity on the bicameral bipartisan panel, he is charged with reconciling differences between the House and Senate passed versions of the legislation. WRDA authorizes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding for flood protection, ports, waterways, drinking water, environmental restoration, dams, and levee projects.
Garamendi’s presence on the WRDA Conference Committee is an opportunity for our region to have a committed voice for the projects that matter most. The Sacramento region is the second most flood-prone in the nation. Northern California has several major ports, including the Port of Sacramento, Port of Stockton, and the Port of Oakland. Garamendi understands the needs of our region, and he’s fighting for them on the WRDA Conference Committee. The WRDA Conference Committee is still working on a final agreement.
One project that won’t have to wait for the WRDA process to complete is the J Levee in Hamilton City. It’s a long time coming, but construction is soon to begin on Hamilton City’s long-delayed J Levee project, a welcomed relief for residents and farmers living in the flood zone.
Congressmen Garamendi and LaMalfa and lawmakers at every level of government successfully campaigned for the project to be included in the Corps of Engineers 2014 Work Plan. Up until this year, the project had failed to get funding because of Congress’s “no new start” policy, a flawed policy that prioritized old projects regardless of merit while restricting funds from new, lifesaving projects such as the J Levee.
Through active conversations with Appropriations Committee members and the support of California’s Senators, the January 2014 Omnibus bill, supported by Garamendi and signed into law by President Obama, lifted the policy and allowed the Corps to fund a limited number of new projects.
Following meetings with Garamendi and other regional leaders, the Army Corps of Engineers allocated $8.6 million for the J Levee to begin construction. President Obama’s proposed 2014 budget also includes an additional $3.8 million allocation. The project is expected to cost a total of $52.4 million, of which $34.1 million would come from federal sources and $18.3 from state and local sources.
Another water project that moved forward thanks in part to bipartisan cooperation between Congressmen Garamendi and LaMalfa was the Feather River West Levee Project. The one mile stretch of levee along the Shanghai Bend in Sutter County was at an elevated risk of flooding after sustaining damage in recent high water events. The levee has already failed twice, with the last failure causing 38 deaths.
The Congressmen sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urging expedited review of the permitting needed for the Feather River West Levee project, including the Shanghai Bend. During a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing, Garamendi told General Walsh of the Army Corps that the Sutter-Butte Levee Project is of “utmost importance to Yuba City and the surrounding communities” and highlighted the Shanghai Bend section (video and a transcript are linked here). A portions of this project is now complete, although nearby areas which could be helped by WRDA are still vulnerable to flooding.