Valley congressional leaders and House Speaker John Boehner met in a dusty cotton field outside Bakersfield today to announce a plan for emergency legislation in response to California’s drought.
Boehner, who was joined by valley Republicans Devin Nunes, David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy told the crowd that the water shortage requires action, and blamed environmental laws for part of the problem.
"When you look at what is going on in California and you come from my part of the world, you just shake your head and wonder what kind of nonsense does the bureaucracy do out here," Boehner says.
The proposed law would do three things: it would remove environmental restrictions on Delta pumps through 2015; it would also suspend restoration flows for salmon in San Joaquin River; and it would establish a joint House-Senate committee to devise a long-term solution to the state’s water woes.
Farmers like Larry Starrh say the drought is forcing them to take drastic measures. His family has farmed in Kern County for 80 years.
“Yesterday my family sat down and we decided we were going to have to fallow -- to dry up -- a 1,000 acres of almonds that are producing right now," Starrh says. "So this year they are going to die.”
House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy likened the current drought to other natural disasters.
“You just had an anniversary of an earthquake in LA, a bridge collapsed," McCarthy says. "How many times during an emergency do you waive other actions only for a short time period? That’s all we’re asking.”
But environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council remained critical of the proposal. They said the current shortages are a result of mother nature, not the endangered species act, which they say would be harmed by the proposal.
Boehner says he hopes legislation will clear the House within three weeks.