Rep. Gosar Offers Toast at Water Resources Hearing: “Whiskey is for Drinking, Water is for Fighting”

Feb 24, 2016 Issues: Government Oversight and Regulatory Reform, Energy, Public Lands and Water

For Immediate Release

Date: February 24, 2016

Contact: Steven D. Smith

Steven.Smith@mail.house.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04), Vice Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, offered the following toast before his opening statement at the subcommittee hearing examining “The 2016 California Water Supply Outlook During the El Niño and Three Years of Restricted Water Deliveries”:

“We have an expression in the West that ‘Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.’ Given that the hearing today is the first major hearing this year on California water, and that California and Arizona have a long history of fighting over water that dates back to at least the 1920s,  I brought some whiskey, and before we get to the fighting, I would like to propose a toast:

“May God bless this hearing. May we make real progress here today so that Congress can finally provide some form of relief for drought conditions and from policies that are crippling Western communities. And finally, may extremist environmentalist groups and others who are holding back commonsense solutions and comprehensive west-wide drought relief legislation that passed the House last July, put the interests of small businesses, farmers and American families ahead of the interests of a three-inch fish. Let the fighting begin. Cheers.”

 

Background:

On July 16, 2015, the House passed H.R. 2298, the Western Water and American Food Security Act, with a bipartisan vote of 245-176. Click HERE to read more. 

In May 2015, the House passed three Gosar amendments to protect and promote critical water infrastructure. The first of these three amendments, the Gosar-Newhouse amendment, prevented any appropriations from being used to remove any federally-owned or operated dams. Click HERE to read more. 

From Rep. Gosar’s Opening Statement: The Bureau of Reclamation’s multi-purpose water projects made the West what it is today. Generations of our prior leaders focused on the need to capture water and deliver it to cities and fields. These were non-partisan endeavors.

The Central Arizona Project continues to bring prosperity to Arizona’s cities, tribal communities and ranches almost fifty years from its inception. The Glen Canyon Dam and other projects affiliated with the Colorado River Storage Project provided the backbone of a regional economy that produced year-round water and emissions-free hydropower.

For years, those bent on destroying the Glen Canyon icon tried the frontal assault by trying to get it torn down. The so-called environmental community has gotten much more creative by actively litigating against dams and the federal agencies that operate them with the goal of making them effectively useless. 

The litigation tool in this case has been the Endangered Species Act and the little three-inch fish called the Delta smelt. Biological opinions challenged by the environmental litigation industry were made even worse by court actions and federal agencies terrified of further litigation. These federal plans have created a situation where communities who thought they were going to get more water in an El Nino year are now faced with potentially less water than last season’s dry year.

And that’s why this House passed comprehensive west-wide drought relief legislation last year.  It helps California, but it also helps the entire West by ending paralysis-by-analysis through regulatory streamlining to build more water storage, protecting state water rights and allowing water users to pre-pay what they owe to the federal government.  

From the House Natural Resources Committee: At a time when the El Niño is providing significant precipitation in California, some water users may continue to experience water restrictions due to federal rules and regulations mandating protection of a three-inch fish, the Delta smelt. In the face of higher precipitation, it is imperative that reservoirs capture this water and plan for future storage reservoirs that can help mitigate future drought.

While no one denies that natural drought played a significant role in the last four years, many believe that man-made actions related to federal and state biological opinions on endangered and threatened fish populations exacerbated such drought.

Federal and state water actions related to endangered species, water quality and other matters dating back to 1992 have reduced water availability for certain portions of California. The Delta smelt, a three-inch fish, listed as threatened in March 1993 has been at the forefront of this debate. Under the 2008 Delta smelt Biological Opinion, increased amounts of water were diverted from farms and cities in southern California and allowed to flow into the Pacific Ocean primarily on behalf of the Delta smelt. 

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