U.S. Senate's sights on Sites
The same day the powerful U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $33.3 billion energy and water funding bill — which could include the long-debated Sites Reservoir and will include a certain battle over California water — candidates for two Colusa County supervisorial districts waded into the debate.
Three of the four candidates at the Soroptimist International of Colusa County event said they support the construction of the reservoir.
The fourth, Curtis Boewer, who is seeking the District 2 seat, said he did not know enough about the project to comment, but promised if elected he would learn.
The other candidates each touted the need for water storage in the North State, and Supervisor Tom Indrieri, seeking re-election in District 2, also noted the potential recreational benefits.
"I am definitely a strong supporter for ag and recreation. I can see a lot of boats up there," Indrieri said.
But it was the comment by the District 4 incumbent who represents the Sites area the created the buzz.
Supervisor Gary Evans said the project had a real chance of happening after all these years because it is so "stupid," a comment that reflected his attitude toward the government process than the actual project.
"I support it," Evans said, "and the only chance we have (to make it happen) is it is stupid, because it is damning up a creek without any water, and will have to pump (the water) in."
The bill shepherded by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein promotes water transfers, encourages planning to boost Central Valley irrigation water deliveries and speeds review of certain water storage proposals, in particular, Sites Reservoir in western Colusa County.
"Overall, I believe we have developed a well-balanced and responsible bill," Feinstein said Thursday.
A far more aggressive House bill passed earlier this year sets out a competing position. The House bill would curtail an ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan, lengthen irrigation contracts and override certain state and federal environmental provisions.
"We'll try to see what the art of the possible is," Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said Thursday.
Costa, a backer of the more aggressive House proposal, called Feinstein's Senate efforts "helpful," while adding that he would "like to see more certainty" in increased water deliveries south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The Colusa County supervisorial candidates are not against helping farming interests in the Central Valley, but argue the first priority has to be the Northern California interests.
Tom Reische, a sitting Colusa councilman trying to unseat Indrieri, also was clear what he would not want to see happen to the water.
"Hopefully, not going to Southern California," he said.
The chief author of the House bill, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, was even more emphatic about the need to ensure greater water deliveries though he did not dismiss Feinstein's provisions out of hand.
"We'll read the language and be willing to work with her," Nunes said Thursday. "The appropriations process is the easiest place to do minor fixes, but it's not going to solve the fundamental problem. This fix needs to be comprehensive."
The Senate bill calls for a six-month Interior Department study on ways to "facilitate additional water supply deliveries" to Central Valley Project contractors. The bill also "urges" the Interior Department to "facilitate and expedite" transfers of Central Valley Project water.
Environmental advocate Patricia Schifferle complained Thursday that this would allow "taxpayer-subsidized water" to be shipped out of the region.
The Senate bill also encourages the federal Bureau of Reclamation to work closely with water districts pursuing water storage projects, including completing reviews "on an expeditious basis."
Although the language is written broadly, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and others said the immediate beneficiary would be the proposed Sites Reservoir.
"I like that it's in the bill," said Garamendi, who is seeking re-election in a redrawn district that includes the Sites Reservoir area.
Garamendi said he had already engaged in extensive conversations with Feinstein about the water language, while Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, made clear his concerns about more water being diverted toward farms, and the potential impacts on environmental interests.
"It's minimally harmful," Miller said of Feinstein's efforts.
McClatchy News Service contributed to this report.?