No Denial Here: Solving California's Water Problems Remains A Top Priority

The Fresno Bee

In a May 10 column on Temperance Flat Reservoir, Bee columnist Marek Warszawski called out local lawmakers who supported the project and said we were in a “state of denial.”

Let me be clear: I am not in denial.

California’s water issues are complex and not easy to solve.

For more than 30 years, I have worked to improve water supply reliability for the San Joaquin Valley and all of California. I take every opportunity to explore solutions to California’s water woes. This includes sharing our problems with key officials like Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who I met in February at San Luis Reservoir to discuss the scope of California’s water challenges.

When I say, “I’m not giving up,” I mean it – I will never stop working to ensure water security for the Valley. This is a national security issue. Without flowing water, we cannot feed America or sustain our quality of life. Our future depends on a clean, reliable water supply.

We must use every tool we have to create long-term water solutions that help maintain our agriculture economy, supply our cities, improve water quality and protect the environment. That means managing the water we do have more effectively, investing in new water infrastructure, increasing conservation and water recycling programs, and adopting responsible and innovative business management practices. And, it means staying open to new ideas.

Jim Costa speech on House floor on Valley's need for dependable water supply

We have made progress. Here are some of the areas we have had success:

  • While I was in the California Legislature, I authored legislation to create the Kern County Water Bank, and led the passage of four water bonds providing more than $2 billion dollars to improve California’s water system and provide clean, safe, reliable drinking water.

  • In Congress, I secured approval of the Madera Irrigation District’s Water Bank, the San Luis Intertie, and the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project – bringing hundreds of thousands more acre-feet of water to the San Joaquin Valley.

  • I also worked for more than four years on a bipartisan basis to get the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act signed into law in December 2016. It increased pumping flexibility to move water to the Valley and provided over $515 million for water infrastructure projects, including $335 million for surface storage projects like Temperance Flat, Sites Reservoir, San Luis Reservoir, and Shasta Reservoir.

This month, I introduced legislation with fellow California Congressmen Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, to cut through red tape to raise the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam and improve water supply reliability for Merced County. This would provide an additional 57,000 acre-feet for irrigation, groundwater replenishment and environmental benefits.

My family and I have farmed in the Valley for 112 years. I know personally the importance of a reliable water supply.

We can all agree that water is a top Valley priority. We are the first to experience the negative impacts of drought. Solving our water problems requires a well-rounded approach that incorporates tools of all sizes and shapes. No single project can fix it all. But we cannot stop fighting. It will take us all working together – across party lines – to secure our future.

Democrat Rep. Jim Costa represents California’s 16th District, which includes Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties.