WASHINGTON, DC — Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) warns that California’s water crisis will continue until there are major changes in state government, and until Republicans win the U.S. Senate.
“We are being governed by people who are out of their minds,” McClintock said, referring to the inability of state and federal authorities to manage California’s water supply.
“Droughts are inevitable–they are nature’s fault. Water shortages are our fault,” he said.
Speaking to Breitbart News in his Capitol Hill office, McClintock outlined what he believes would be necessary to prevent future shortages: resuming construction on existing dam projects, some of which were abandoned during Gov. Jerry Brown’s first administration in the 1970s.
The Auburn Dam project, for example, would create a reservoir two-and-a-half times the size of the ailing Folsom Lake, he said. In addition, McClintock suggested raising the height of the Shasta Dam from the current 600 feet to 800 feet, as originally designed. That, he said, would add nine million acre-feet to its existing storage capacity–double its present volume.
McClintock also criticized Brown’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnel project, which will cost billions but would offer no water storage capacity and no hydroelectric power. He noted that state water projects in the mid-twentieth century spent comparable amounts in current dollars, yet also included storage and generated electricity, and paid for themselves over time.
“It’s only in the last several decades that the state has issued general bonds for these projects, which leave taxpayers on the hook. It’s insane,” McClintock said.
Environmentalists have opposed the construction of new dams, partly because of habitat and scenery destroyed by reservoirs, and because of the physical obstacle dams often pose to annual fish migrations.
Yet McClintock sees dams as a critical part of addressing California’s chronic water shortages. He and his Republican colleagues have also passed several measures aimed at changing the distribution of water to favor struggling Central Valley farmers, and he intends to hold hearings to investigate the release of large amounts of water from existing dams just before winter.
McClintock has championed solutions such as allowing one-stop permitting for federal water reclamation projects. Many of his legislative efforts, however, have stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has blocked them, and where California’s two Democratic Senators have resisted Republican changes to federal water policy.
Broader change will await Republican victories in 2014 and 2016. “The voters are everything,” he says.
McClintock believes taking the U.S. Senate in 2014 is the key, because he believes that the lame-duck Obama administration would not be able to withstand pressure from both houses of Congress to make changes if the severe water crisis persists.