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Thursday, Dec 19 2013 11:00 PM

JEAN FULLER: Ensure water supply in '14 and work toward a long-term plan

In 2009, I helped lead an effort in the Legislature to provide a plan for fixing California's incredible water system. The result of this effort was a bipartisan plan for water supply reliability in the Central Valley and ecological restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Making water supply reliability and ecological preservation of the Delta "co-equal" goals was the first step in a long process of negotiation between many interested stakeholders.

Every day we go without a permanent solution to the state's water system, we put millions of Californians in peril.

Two out of three Californians and 3 million acres of farmland receive at least some of their water from the Delta. A major earthquake or storm in the Delta region could eliminate this supply of water for businesses, homes, and a huge percentage of the nation's fresh grown produce.

But even without the natural disaster scenario, those of us in the Central Valley continue to search for a reliable, consistent, and predictable water supply. This year, due to dry conditions and regulatory factors that will keep pumps in the Delta shut off, the California Department of Water Resources has stated that at least initially, water buyers in the Central Valley and Southern California will only receive 5 percent of their contracted amounts.

This dire prediction led me to travel to Washington, D.C., recently to discuss water with many federal stakeholders, where much of the problem with our over-regulation of the delta stems.

Congressman David Valadao, R-Hanford, and I have led a joint effort with each of our respective lawmaking bodies to demand urgent action from President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown. Recently, we sent a letter, signed by 50 Congressional and state legislative members, calling for immediate action to ensure an adequate water supply in 2014.

Longer term, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and additional storage is the solution.

The BDCP has been in the works for seven years and will bring to fruition the co-equal goals of water supply reliability and ecological restoration of the Delta. Central to the BDCP is a system that diverts water out of the Sacramento River from just south of Sacramento through twin tunnels that run underneath the Delta to the canals that bring water south. These tunnels will not divert any more water from the Delta, nor will they interfere with water rights of those in the north, but they will ensure consistent water delivery and improve the Delta ecology.

The BDCP took a significant step forward recently with the release of the draft environmental impact report and statement. This opens the public comment period and represents a huge milestone toward seeing this project through to completion.

A long-term solution must also include water storage. It is my hope an agreement can be crafted this year in the state legislature to place a reasonable bond measure before the voters in 2014 that provides us with the necessary resources to invest in our state's water storage capacity.

Efforts to derail these plans by many varied interests have been in the works since their development and those efforts will continue now and in the future. But at some point, we have to move forward with this critical water infrastructure.

I will work diligently during the upcoming year, and for the rest of my tenure in the legislature, to ensure that Central Valley residents and farmers have a sufficient supply of water.

State Sen. Jean Fuller , R-Bakersfield, represents the 18th Senate District.

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