Opinion

Harder talks about protecting Valley water rights, I actually do it

The Tuolumne River as it flows past Modesto near Carpenter Road.
The Tuolumne River as it flows past Modesto near Carpenter Road. jfarrow@modbee.com

In his opinion piece regarding water policy, “Harder vows to protect Valley’s water rights, way of life” (Aug. 8), Josh Harder displays an embarrassing lack of understanding about our water, our agricultural industry and legislation.

Harder criticizes my vote in favor of legislation funding the Department of the Interior, which includes the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service and provides nearly $1 billion for Wildland Fire Management. In addition, my vote repealed the devastating Waters of the United States rule which has allowed the EPA to run roughshod over farmers and included my amendment to boost water storage in California.

Most importantly, the legislation includes another amendment I wrote to stop the State’s Bay-Delta Plan, and it’s disastrous water grab which would flush at least 40 percent of Valley water into the ocean.

These are tangible real-world results I am delivering for the Central Valley that go far beyond empty rhetoric. Opposition to the bill would only ensure the Bay Delta Plan could move forward unchecked. To date, Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnel plan is just a pipe dream being kept afloat by Sacramento’s plan to steal the San Joaquin Valley’s water. Halting the water grab halts the tunnels, as everyone involved in Central Valley water policy knows.

While late to the game, I welcome Harder to the conversation on water. The Valley needs all the help it can get fighting Bay Area Democrats and radical environmentalists hell-bent on preventing new storage. That’s why his disappointment on this bill is so confusing; it streamlines judicial review for all major water projects in California ensuring we can actually build new storage. The language prohibits lawsuits against building Sites Reservoir, expanding Los Vaqueros and raising Shasta.

Without adequate water storage, our local economy will continue to suffer. And yet, Harder is disappointed.

I am fighting to bring more water to the Valley while protecting what we already have. Earlier this year, I secured federal authorization and funding for the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project, providing a new supply of recycled water to the Del Puerto Water District in conjunction with Ceres, Modesto and Turlock. My Save our Salmon Act was signed into law to address predation by invasive species against endangered salmon in the Stanislaus River. I also secured language to protect water in Don Pedro from Sacramento bureaucrats who are using the regulatory process to steal our water and make customers in Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts pay tens of millions more dollars to relicense hydropower generation.

As a local farmer, I understand what our agricultural community needs, which is why I’ve been endorsed by the Stanislaus and San Joaquin County farm bureaus.

I look forward to attending the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau Candidate Debate and hope Harder participates so he can explain why he thinks farmers are uneducated and vote purely out of self-interest. In a paper he published titled “Why Do People Vote?” – ironic, since he has missed 17 of 20 elections – Harder asserts “farmers vote at a substantially higher rate than would be expected based on their levels of education.”

He believes that’s “because, like people with government-related jobs, farmers are inspired by federal farming subsidies.”

Farmers are engaged because water is essential to our way of life. That’s why I authored the New WATER Act to provide funding for reservoirs, below-ground storage, recycling, and desalination. I am committed to delivering results. If Harder truly cared about this fight, we would have heard from him a month ago when Sacramento announced it was moving ahead with the Bay-Delta plan.

I will continue to fight for Valley water. Leadership means providing real-world solutions, not empty rhetoric. Water is too essential to our way of life to simply pay lip service. Our community demands results, and I’m committed to delivering.

Jeff Denham represents California’s 10th Congressional District. He wrote this for The Modesto Bee.

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