The March 19 field hearing in Fresno by the House Natural Resources Committee featured testimony from several farmers and agricultural leaders. Western Growers had coverage of the hearing, headlined "Congressional Drought Hearing in Fresno Draws Emotional and Poignant Testimony."
The WG piece referenced the testimony of Kole Upton, and I've reprinted this remarks below. Upton's words offer great insight into the past, current and future realities of water politics. They seem to express at least as much frustration with lawmakers and regulators as with Mother Nature. Here is his testimony:
Kole Upton, in testimony before the Committee on Natural Resources United States House of Representatives:
“California Water Crisis and Its Impacts: The Need For Immediate and Long-Term Solutions”
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee
It is an honor and privilege to appear before the House Committee on Natural Resources. I appreciate the opportunity to testify concerning the subject of the hearing: “California Water Crisis and Its impacts: The need for immediate and long term solutions”.
We are family farmers who live on our farm. It was started when our father returned from World War II. With my brother and sons, I grow pistachios, almonds, wheat, corn, barley, oats, and occasionally pima cotton. As most famers in the Friant service area, we are in a conjunctive water use area. Our water comes from both surface water supplies and the underground aquifer. I am appearing as an individual at this hearing and not as a representative of any of the water or agricultural organizations of which I am board member.
This latest drought has magnified and exposed the water crisis being inflicted on the East Side of the San Joaquin Valley. The availability of adequate and affordable surface water is essential to the future of this Valley. It was the depletion of the underground aquifers in the 1920’s and 1930’s that led to the building of Friant Dam. Remarkably, we are facing the same scenario now. However, it is not because of the lack of surface water, it is due to the surface water being ‘reallocated’ because of the San Joaquin River Settlement and the enacting legislation. Surface water that should have been used in lieu of underground water and used to replenish the underground aquifers has instead been redirected to flow to the ocean. Had the redirection of this immense amount of surface water resulted in some magnificent environmental achievement or the saving of some species, then perhaps it might have been worth it.