Since late 2013, California has been experiencing one of the largest, most intense droughts in the state’s history. As of August 26, the U.S. Drought Monitor rates the drought in most of California ‘D4 – Exceptional Drought’, the highest rating on its scale. It spread from south-central California, and has since hit even some of California’s usually water rich areas, including Sacramento County.

Water management and the drought have been major talking points across the state for the past year, so logically they have also become huge issues for the coming congressional elections. This is especially true in California’s highly contested 7th District elections, where former Republican Representative Doug Ose challenges Democratic Incumbent Ami Bera.

In the last few months, Ose has begun to focus even more heavily on the district’s water issues, though the drought has been a key part of his campaign since its beginnings: he released a fairly comprehensive water plan in mid-February 2014.

Ose’s plan focuses primarily on improvements to California’s water infrastructure, increasing water retention, creating new storage locations, and accessing new water resources. ‘Immediate Action Items’ listed by the plan include:

Reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to allow greater flexibility in the law so that local communities and farms do not suffer the consequences of a lasting drought.

Better Management Practices: Ensure that water retention facilities do not waste our water supply by excessive and poorly timed water releases.

Waive mandatory mitigation for adverse environmental impacts due to emergency reallocation of water during an emergency drought.

Alternative sources for refuge water: Investing and improving underground wells will help the Bureau of Reclamation to meet water requirements.

Non-permanent crop voluntary fallowing will allow farmers to transfer water to other farmers. This must not adversely affect the farmer’s ability to use water in future years.

The plan also attacks yet another Jerry Brown pipe dream (pun intended) akin to the moribund High Speed Rail: a $25 billion ‘peripheral pipe’ plan to send millions upon billions of gallons of water from northern California down south.

Incumbent Bera lists similar concerns about the drought on his campaign website, though has made few steps to improve water conditions in his district or California as a whole. In fact, Bera recently voted against the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, which would direct a large amount of water back into the San Joaquin Valley — water which had originally been diverted to preserve an endangered species of fish native to the area. The primarily Republican-backed bill passed without Bera’s vote.

After making no legislative strides to address the drought, Bera took a lesson from the Obama School of Conflict Resolution and went on a month long vacation, stopping in Wine Country to dine and drink with Nancy Pelosi.

Bera and Ose are scheduled to debate for the first time on Oct 8, in an event hosted by KVIE Capital Public Radio and the Sacramento Bee. Bera has not addressed Ose’s invitations to a series of four other debates.


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