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Kern, Tulare, Los Angeles Counties, CA November 6, 2012 Election
Smart Voter

Water Policy

By Terry Phillips

Candidate for United States Representative; District 23

This information is provided by the candidate
A proposal to give federal control over California's water distribution system is bad policy.
There is no single resource more important to our quality of life than water.

One popular proposal regarding the Central Valley's future water needs is the construction of a tunnel bypassing the Delta bottleneck to bring water into our region. Despite its estimated $13 billion price tag and a fifteen-year completion timeline, this idea has been gaining traction among various stakeholders. Other suggested ways to rehydrate our dry fields include desalination plants and more recycling.

Unfortunately, some political forces are attempting to drown our common interests + and our common sense.

One such measure floating through the U.S. House of Representatives was HR 1837. The proposed law would impose more federal control over California's water management. This is a shocking suggestion to anyone who has lived through the past decades of power struggles over this vital resource.

It is true that California and Washington have worked together on water management. But for more than a century, federal law has complied with states' rights. That was reaffirmed in 1992 when Congress passed and President George H.W. Bush signed the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

Now a few politicians are unwisely trying to surrender local control and allow even more federal intervention. Under the guise of protecting agriculture, they ignore the fundamental question: Who is better able to manage our water?

Among other things, this federal usurping of California's jurisdiction would have long-term negative consequences for farmers. While the stated intent of the bill is to increase pumping from the Delta, a more likely outcome would be to drive a wedge between Northern and Southern California. It could also force regulators, consumers and environmentalists back to court where the only real winners would be the attorneys for all sides.

Pitting one region or interest group against another is an unnecessary distraction. Surely we can work together in everyone's best interests rather than turn our state into a latter-day Civil War battlefield. Clearly, more than geography enters into this matter.

So, why were some House members engaged in political posturing over such radical and futile legislation? We should be suspicious about the reasons behind this move.

As we have learned the hard way, nothing gets done in our nation's capital these days due to endless bickering. Permitting East Coast bureaucrats to decide how the Central Valley gets its water is simply the wrong policy. Local administrators are far more capable of making those decisions. Why would our elected representatives want to go the other way? The obvious answer is that it serves their partisan purposes.

Pretending to alleviate the plight of farmers with a bill that will have the opposite effect is exactly the sort of devious political theater that has Americans seething. It's another example of our dysfunctional government.

The time for "politics as usual" is over. We must make sure our part of the water distribution process is protected. The House passed a revised version of HR 1837 on February 29, 2012. The Senate is unlikely to follow suit, but President Obama has vowed a veto if necessary.

This bill is still bad legislation. Congress must not preempt state law and give away more control over our water rights to the federal government.

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