launches effort to ease ESA
endangered rat stalls one of Rep. Radanovich’s local water
by a law that protects fish at the expense of humans, U.S.
Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, has introduced legislation
that would lift restrictions on pumping water from the Delta
during times of extreme drought.
Radanovich's California Drought Alleviation Act would
temporarily suspend the Endangered Species Act on the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, allowing irrigation pumps to
operate at unrestricted capacity during declared droughts.
The ESA law is being used to protect the Delta smelt, which
some environmentalists claim are being killed by irrigation
Radanovich's bill was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of
eight California congressmen.
Radanovich discussed the legislation at the annual Madera
County Farm Bureau's Water Conference Feb. 20, where he spoke
to about 100 growers.
The announcement was also made on a day when the U.S. Bureau
of Reclamation declared that no Central Valley Project would
be available to westside farmers this year.
Radanovich, who has represented the 19th Congressional
District for seven terms, said he has the support from his
Valley colleagues and hopes to convince both California
senators of the importance of keeping water flowing to
"I can't guarantee passage, but this is a huge step in an
emergency," Radanovich said.
There is a precedent for such action, he insisted. New Mexico
Sen. Pete Domenici was successful in amending the ESA in that
state in a drought situation.
An endangered rat is stalling one of his local water projects,
Radanovich told growers. A Madera underground water storage
bank is being hampered by ESA regulations and could end up
costing more money. The project has the potential to store up
to 250,000 acre feet of water.
Radanovich also lauded a law that may help counter some of the
restrictions on Delta pumping and water delivery. The
Information Quality Act, he said, is being used by some pro-ag
groups to put a spotlight on the biological opinions used in
making environmental regulations.
Agriculture's water woes are a tough case to make, Radanovich
concluded, because they don't have a direct effect on
"There's no direct connect like gas prices, but when they
start rationing water in L.A., that will get their attention,"
Besides lack of plentiful precipitation during the last two
years, water attorney Gary Sawyers explained how California's
water shortage evolved.
Sawyers, who was involved in the Bay-Delta water rights
proceedings, said laws written in the '60s and '70s started
the ball rolling toward environmental protection. The
California Environmental Quality Act and the National
Environmental Policy Act, plus the ESA and Clean Water Act all
changed how projects were done in this state.
"Environmental groups have lots of laws to use, and the cards
are stacked against water users," Sawyers said.
The agriculture industry should take some of the blame for its
current predicament, because it has historically done a poor
job in advancing its cause, he said, noting it was short
sighted by not supporting the Peripheral Canal in 1982.
"Madera County voted against it 81 percent to 19 percent," he
Some farmers are fighting for more water, said Sawyers, but
more need to make demands to keep water flowing for
agriculture. One group, Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, has
filed a lawsuit over illegal pollution discharges by the city
of Stockton and San Joaquin County. The coalition, made up of
south San Joaquin Valley ag interests, believes there are
other, significant causes of Delta smelt decline besides pumps
used to move the water out of the Delta.
Farmers need to demand more from leaders and leaders need to
take on difficult positions, Sawyers said.
"We have to require our leaders come together, keep trying or
else our water is lost and the problem continues," he added.
Cecilia Parsons is a staff writer based in Ducor. E-mail: