President criticized for ‘lost opportunity’

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A rare visit to California last week by President Barack Obama has been criticized by conservative legislators as a failed opportunity to demonstrate leadership and by media outlets for his exclusion of Republican leadership and for denying the public a glimpse of him.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Bakersfield) and Central Valley Con-gressmen David Valadao and Devin Nunes, who helped pass the House’s drought-relief package, called out Obama in a joint statement.

“The president missed a prime opportunity,” said Valadao. “As farmers, farm workers and communities in the San Joaquin Valley suffer, this administration has chosen handouts and a climate-change lecture over real solutions. We feed the world, and all we ask for is a reliable, clean water supply.

“I will remind the President that my constituents are part of the environment too, and the lack of a long-term solution could spell economic and social destruction for the Central Valley.”

“To blame the California water crisis on global warming is ludicrous,” Rep. Nunes said. “The state has an incredible irrigation system designed to supply water through five years of drought. But as a result of excessive regulations and lawsuits by environmental extremists, we cannot fully use this system, and billions of gallons of water have been flushed into the ocean that could have supplied drought-stricken farmers and communities.

“Invoking global warming shows ignorance of California’s irrigation system and of basic math and engineering. President Obama could have taken the lead in solving this crisis, but he is apparently more concerned with placating his radical environmentalist allies.”

“The President’s decision to use his visit to California as an opportunity to launch a massive spending initiative to explore the impacts of climate change will simply leave California Central Valley communities dry,” said Rep. McCarthy.

“Unfortunately, nothing the president proposed today changes the underlying issue that our communities are not receiving the water they have contracted and paid for, thus exacerbating the impacts of the current and future droughts.

‘House Republicans on the other hand are continuing to work to find a bipartisan, bicameral solution to ensure our communities are not crippled by future droughts. We look forward to coming together with the Senate to find areas of common ground and common sense to finally achieve a solution that allows desperately needed water to flow in our state.”

Two weeks ago McCarthy delivered an impassioned plea to the Senate, urging members to take similar action. His concern, which is shared by a bipartisan coalition, relates to the state’s role in exacerbating the crisis of California’s driest year on record.

Following Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a drought emergency last month, the state water agency announced it would be delivering zero percent of the water promised to the Central Valley.

Conservatives say that legislators are allowing niche environmental interests to place the welfare of certain fish above that of humans. Those changes have reduced California’s access to clean water — even diverting fresh water into the ocean instead of storing it.

Last week, California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer finally put forth a proposal regarding California’s water policy. However, McCarthy criticized their plan as failing to provide a long-term solution.

“The problem that must be solved is our communities’ ability to capture and store the water that they have contracted and paid for,” said McCarthy.

“Last week the House passed legislation that restores a bipartisan 1994 agreement that will achieve that goal. The Senate must take action on California water legislation as quickly as possible. Californians are interested in a serious conversation to end the madness of our manmade water crisis.”

State Sen. Jean Fuller lauded the attention Brown and Obama have given to the crisis — which she said threatens to increase unemployment and food prices.

“It is the president’s turn to act, and act decisively,” she said. “Water is one of California’s most precious resources, but for too long, federal regulations have sent a tremendous amount of this resource out to the Pacific. Using emergency powers, President Obama can make a substantial difference and help get the water moving to the Central Valley.

“In the long-term, we must invest in, and modernize, the state’s water infrastructure including the addition of significant new storage.”

Story First Published: 2014-02-19