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Kern County lawmakers meet to discuss water legislation

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 21:25:40-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Water is essential to our everyday lives but with the ongoing drought, it's becoming more difficult for people across the state and in the Central Valley to get the water they need.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor places Kern County not only in the Extreme Drought category but now most of the county is listed as being in Exceptional Drought status. And with the Central Valley being the root of farming in California some local legislators are working to bring more water back to our region.

Tuesday Assemblyman Vince Fong (32nd District), Senator Melissa Hurtado (14th District), and Senator Shannon Grove (16th District) came together to explain what the legislature is working on to ensure that our region gets the water it needs.

Vince Fong
Water is essential to our everyday lives but with the ongoing drought, it's becoming more difficult for people across the state and in the Central Valley to get the water they need.

“We are in the 3rd year of a catastrophic drought and we are not going to be able to conserve our way out of it. We need to be able to expand our water supply,” said Fong.

One bill that was essential to funding for local water conveyance systems – Senate Bill 599 -- died in the assembly but Grove says work was still able to be accomplished.

“With relationships that both of us have with leadership, the budget chair on the assembly side was able to get us $100 million for the first canals.”

And with this bill dying, these lawmakers agree it's been difficult to get their colleagues to recognize why water is important across the state.

Melissa Hurtado
Water is essential to our everyday lives but with the ongoing drought, it's becoming more difficult for people across the state and in the Central Valley to get the water they need.

“It's been a struggle but at the same time there’s been a lot of opportunities to message that water is not just a Central Valley issue, but also a California issue,” said Hurtado.

“Over the past 10 years, unfortunately, the state of California has missed opportunities to make those critical investments, the voters of California have passed bonds to complete these water storage projects that are right now trapped in a regulatory vortex,” added Fong.

They say they are still working on bills to help repair canals, help with infrastructure, and Fong says a drought package is also in the works. But it all boils down to messaging.

Lake Isabella (FILE)

“Food security is the way that I frame it. The way we message it," explained Hurtado. "There’s been challenges but at the same time I feel very proud of the work that we have done to secure the first $200 million and we are going after more. And I think there’s plenty of opportunity, but we have to get it right.”

Fong says 25 million Californians get their water through the State Water Project but says the reason there’s a groundwater shortage is that the surface water that is supposed to come to communities hasn't arrived.

“Twenty-five percent of the food production in the United States comes from the Central Valley so we need water to accomplish the things that improve the quality of life for people in California.”

Jenny Holtermann with the Water Association of Kern County

Jenny Holtermann with the Water Association of Kern County agrees, saying Kern industries need water.

“We need water. It’s a vital component to our economy here in Kern County, to our jobs to our industry, to our residents, everything requires water to make us as successful as we are.”

When it comes to the drought package Fong says as they go into their final month of the legislature in Sacramento they are still negotiating.