Brown declares drought; officials laud his action

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

In the midst of one of California’s driest winters on record, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of drought emergency on Jan. 17.

The governor’s declaration relaxes some environmental restrictions that protect wildlife impacted by California’s water storage and delivery system, making it easier to move water to areas that are suffering from the current drought.

His decision comes on the heels of advocates pressing for an intervention in the crisis, particularly as it relates to the threat to California’s agricultural industry.

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens — including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Brown.

However, he also called on Californians to conserve water in every way possible, challenging residents to reduce their usage by 20 percent.

Some experts have characterized the current drought as the most acute water shortage in the 100 years since state officials have been keeping records. “This takes a coming together of all the people of California to deal with this serious and prolonged event of nature,”said Brown.

Local elected officials, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Sen. Jean Fuller, applauded Brown’s decision.

“As we approach another drought year, I continue to call on federal and state officials to take immediate action to provide water supplies to our local families, farmers and small businesses and develop an operational plan that maximizes water supplies to communities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California,” said McCarthy.

“Restrictive environmental regulations reduce our supplies when water is available in wet years, but exacerbate the negative impacts during years of drought. At a time when we are in dire need of water, we must provide flexibility and allow water to flow around the state.”

McCarthy has also issued letters to the state Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Commerce urging them to take action within their agencies to increase water accessibility and asking for the administration to outline an affordable and reliable plan to deliver long-term solutions.

McCarthy also co-signed letters to President Barack Obama and Brown encouraging them to use their executive authorities to alleviate the effects of the drought.

“It is my hope the emergency declaration will help soften the impact this historic drought is having on the hardworking people of the Central Valley,” said Fuller. “Now that California has made an emergency declaration, it is time for President Obama to act. State and federal water officials need to move quickly and get additional resources to the areas most affected.”

While she welcomed the immediate relief the declaration will facilitate, she said it emphasizes the need for a comprehensive plan for the future. “This plan must include new storage, because without it we are destined to see droughts become more frequent and more devastating.”

Story First Published: 2014-01-22