With the beginning of the 114th Congress, we have a chance to figure out the best way forward on California water policy. The year ahead offers a fork in the legislative river. One fork is a repeat of the last several years: divisive plans that pit one part of the state against another. These are troubled waters, with controversial environmental policies, massive tunnels, huge costs, policy mandates and endless lawsuits tumbling over a cliff, benefiting no one and harming progress.
However, I am hopeful that we can choose the better fork in the policy river, charting a new course for federal policy by building on the success of Proposition 1 which united northern and southern California.
We can do this by aligning federal water policy to Proposition 1’s water conservation, recycling, and aquifer and surface storage, flood protection, and community water systems. For example, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) and I authored legislation to authorize construction of Sites Reservoir, which would provide Californians with 1.9 million acre feet of additional water storage capacity. I am also a lead co-sponsor of the Water in the 21st Century Act, which aims to provide incentives and investments for water use efficiency projects, conservation initiatives, and recycling. These bills are productive rather than divisive federal policy and I will be advocating for them to become law in 2015.
Together, we can bury the hatchet from the water wars of the past and move forward. For the good of all Californians, I am hopeful that this is our watershed moment.
Garamendi has represented California’s 3rd Congressional District since 2013 and the state’s 10th Congressional District from 2009 to 2013. He served as deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior from 1995-1998.