Drought Watch

Posted on January 22, 2014 | By clochhead@sfchronicle.com (Carolyn Lochhead)

In what looks to be a replay of the water wars of 2009, three Central Valley House Republicans said Wednesday they are drafting legislation to open the delta spigots to send more water to parched farms and take it away from fish and environmental restoration.

Signaling the political importance of the move, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, visited Bakersfield on Wednesday to join the press conference announcing the bill by Reps. David Valadao of Hanford (Kings County), Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Devin Nunes of Tulare. The legislation is likely to be blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but not before a public battle similar to the one that raged five years ago.

The 2009 fight followed the confluence of three events: a 2007 court ruling that cut Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water flows to valley farmers by a third to restore the delta smelt, a two-year drought, and the 2008 economic meltdown.

Conservative media zeroed in on the valley’s high unemployment as an example of environmentalism run amok. This week, the magazine National Review revisited the theme with a big takeout on the “Green Drought” that argues Republicans can recapture the Latino vote in the valley if they make the case for farms over fish.

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