Without water, there is no California. For as long as our state has existed, there has always been tension between need and supply. The North State currently has an ample water supply, but our Central Valley and Southern California neighbors do not. Consequently, all Californians have had to work together to ensure that every region has what it needs to power their regional economies.
Now more than ever, Californians must work together to address the state's decaying water infrastructure that is no longer capable of serving today's needs. With a growing population and the lack of water devastating many agricultural communities, we must act soon to secure the water future of all of California's regions. Tragically, state bureaucrats are actively working to protect the interests of other regions while shortchanging the North State in the process.
In 2009, then Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature passed a package of bills to address California's water crisis, which, among other things, authorized an $11.1 billion water infrastructure bond for the November 2010 ballot. This bond featured $3 billion for new above and below ground water storage throughout California, as well as funds for improved conveyance, delta restoration and groundwater protection. The bipartisan agreement also created the Delta Stewardship Council to oversee the restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The creation of this council is especially relevant to the North State because it was given the power to increase water flows from the North State, regardless of the impact on local communities. Now, this council wants to wield that power, putting our regional economy at grave risk.
A recent flow study completed by the State Water Board asks for a 75% increase flow of the Sacramento River. That study, coupled with the hurried Environmental Impact Report done by the Delta Stewardship Council, have the potential to reduce agriculture commodities by more than 50% and drain both Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville to "dead pool" levels five months of the year. This could cause irrigated land to decrease by 65% and affect both the groundwater and the habitat of the birds that use the Pacific Flyway.
In other words, the North State's water resources would be further drained to dangerous levels while energy costs would skyrocket for communities such as Gridley, Oroville and Redding. We will have less water for agriculture, hydroelectric power and other purposes. As a result, unemployment in local communities could rival those in Central Valley cities that are struggling with up to 40% unemployment.
What is especially troubling today about the 2009 water package is that while the Delta Stewardship Council is now reality, the money for water storage is not. That is because the Legislature has already delayed the election for voters to decide on the water bond. The majority party moved the election from 2010 to November 2012. Now, Democrat leaders are considering moving the election again from 2012 to 2014 because they do not want to detract from the Governor's ballot measure to raise taxes.
The people of the North State deserve better from Sacramento. That is why I have held meetings with state officials and constituents to ensure that our concerns are heard - and addressed. We cannot afford to have a little-known bureaucracy devastate the North State's environment and economy in order to satisfy powerful interests.
North State residents are ready to work with our neighbors on a solution that is fair to all sides. We recognize the need to restore the Delta and I support a responsible plan that incorporates water storage and conservation. I will continue to work to ensure that our region's interests are represented in any final plan.