Feinstein shifts sides from smelt to farmers

“[Sen. Diane] Feinstein [D-CA] has infuriated environmental activists … by drafting federal legislation that would ease Endangered Species Act restrictions to allow more water to be pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for growers in the state’s Central Valley.

Drastic cutbacks in irrigation supplies this year alone from both state and federal water projects have idled about 23,000 farm workers and 300,000 acres of cropland, according to University of California at Davis researchers.

“The unemployment rate is 40 percent in some valley towns and people are standing in bread lines,” Feinstein said in a statement released through her office.

“I believe we need a fair compromise that will respect the Endangered Species Act while recognizing the fact that people in California’s breadbasket face complete economic ruin without help,” she added.  …

The senator has not released details of her proposed measure, which may be attached as an amendment to a federal jobs bill. But she said it would grant farmers in the state’s agricultural heartland up to 40 percent of their federal water allocation for two years.  …

Most farmers got just 10 percent of their contracted allocation in 2009 and could get less this year.

The cutbacks were forced by … delta pumping restrictions imposed to protect … [delta smelt] populations.”  “Despite Rain, California Still Fighting Over Water

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