California Water Bill Would Reduce Unemployment in Central Valley

Congressman Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader, United States Congress

(Editor’s note: A bill to temporarily deal with the California’s water crisis during the drought, particularly in the Central Valley, has run into a roadblock as Senator Dianne Feinstein who worked on fashioning the bill has pulled her support. A Sacramento Bee article reporting on the controversy over the bill is here. A Wall Street Journal editorial about the bill is here. Below are comments on the bill made by Representative Kevin McCarthy on the House floor.)

Do you realize four years ago we had 170 percent of snow pack, but only 80 percent of the water was allocated to come down through the Valley. The Valley not just feeds California, not just feeds the nation, but feeds the world. When the Valley does not get water, the prices of food goes up to for all.  But you know what’s even more important? Those that go out of work.

I’ve watched many elected officials come to this well and talk about unemployment, say unemployment is below six percent. Let me tell you what unemployment is throughout the Valley today. There are some cities that have more than 30 percent unemployment. The number one factor: water. So what does the world look like today even though not just this Congress, but the Congress before it moved legislation to deal with this issue? We are now at the worst drought in 1,200 years. Twelve-Hundred. Much longer than the entire life of this nation. 

So if we’re at this time, why do we bring this bill before us? I think we should have honesty in this bill. This is not the bill I would write. This is not the bill I would bring forward. This is a bipartisan bill where people on both sides of the aisle sat down, and we said we need a temporary bill that lives within these means. So do we change endangered species? No, we do not.

What does this bill do? It says in the rainy season, when the floodwaters are high, can we not move water down through the Valley? That’s what this bill does. It also gives the safeguard that, if the fish are harmed, to stop. Does this bill go on forever? No, it goes on the length to September or to the length of what the governor has declared within the drought. Now, I know government cannot make it rain, but government can stop the government policies that pick fish over people.

Government can prepare ahead of time that if we’re going to have a rainy season coming that we allow the water to have the best use of where it goes, that it protects the fish while at the same time allocates water to the Valley so everyone wins in the process. That’s why it was bipartisan. That’s why we sat together. That’s why it’s temporary. That’s why this bill is brought before us today.

I’d like to thank everybody on both sides of the aisle that worked for it, but what’s unfortunate, some people will say things that it’s not. The most important thing we should do in this House is make sure fairness is provided. I think the greatest fairness that should be provided is being prepared for when water comes. But what’s more even important, looking at the faces of the 30 percent unemployed, looking at the faces throughout that Valley and saying it does not have to be that way. Government can make a difference if both sides would work together as we craft this bill.

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