I am writing to inform the public of another irresponsible act by a polarized and dysfunctional U.S. House of Representatives and its current leadership with the recent passage of HR 3964.
The stated purpose of the bill is to help California with its current drought emergency. It does not do that.
I have been a water manager and leader in California for more than 35 years and have never seen such a cynical and blatant disregard for the citizens of this state than what was placed in this bill under the guise of helping us with our terrible drought.
This bill was introduced by a group of GOP representatives with strong ties to agricultural special interests. It does not deal with the fundamental problems we will face this year or maybe next as a result of the water shortage, but it does provide for a whole host of long-term, special-interest benefits that are not drought related.
For example, dictating that water supply contracts be 40 years long, not 25 years as is current law. How about a unilateral repeal of a litigation settlement that agriculture, environmental and urban water interests agreed to five years ago after decades in court.
Oh, and let's reduce the price of water to agriculture by repeal of a fee charged for water delivered since 1992 that is used for environmental restoration -- that definitely has a link to the drought, doesn't it?
Does this bill help displaced farm workers who will lose their jobs this summer? No. Does it provide funding for emergency wells to be drilled or recycled water projects to be expedited? No. Does it help farmers who will experience loss of trees, vines and crops with financial assistance? No.
It does use the drought emergency to unilaterally roll back decades-long environmental restoration work, salmon protections, legal settlements and water pricing negotiated with urban, state, environmental and agricultural interests.
None of this will produce much water for this summer. Cities and urban areas of this state live under these same rules and are not asking for these repeals and rollbacks.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein brokered the historic deal to end the lengthy San Joaquin litigation. All interests were at the table and agreed. Now, five years later. these special interests get a bill to unilaterally repeal the settlement.
The governor strongly condemned this bill when it was drafted. This should not be a time when we look at our emergency and figure out who you help based on whether you are a Republican or Democrat.
And, by the way, I happen to be a registered Republican. This is about helping our state in a way that will produce real results. Wake up, Californians. As long as we tolerate this type of leadership with the promise that this type of legislation will actually get relief or progress for constituents, we will get more of the same.
What could have been a vehicle to help our state is nothing more than a bill crafted by special interests that will increase PAC contributions and attendance at home district pep rallies.
If you believe what you're being told this bill will do for you, tell me in six months where this bill ended up. What a waste of time and energy when we really need help.
Such is the leadership we seem willing to accept.
Walter Bishop is the former general manager of the Contra Costa Water District and is a resident of Moraga.