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Denham Cites Valley Water As High Priority

Denham Cites Valley Water As High Priority

Congressman Jeff Denham discusses important issues in the area – water, transportation and jobs – with Leader reporter Rich Paloma. VIRGINIA STILL/The Leader


POSTED October 29, 2014 10:59 a.m.
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While in the ag-rich Central Valley during a break from politicking in Washington D.C., Congressman Jeff Denham stopped by the offices of The Oakdale Leader to discuss certain federal issues that are affecting Central Valley residents he represents in California’s 10th Congressional District.

WATER

Water and California’s water crisis are a high priority on Denham’s radar as he seeks out legislation to complement this year’s water bonds.

“We need a federal bill, which means we have to work with Dianne Feinstein and the senate,” Denham said. “We have a house bill already, so we’ll have two bills to go through that deal with California’s water crisis. That means we would pass something that complements the bonds that are on this year’s water measures that would authorize each of the projects that are in that bill.”

Denham said those projects include construction of the Site Reservoir in Antelope Valley, expand Temperance Flat Dam and reservoir in Friant near Fresno, and to expand storage at San Luis Reservoir in Los Banos.

Denham also seeks to change federal regulations for New Melones to have 100,000 new acre feet capacity at no extra cost and a federal project in Shasta to allow it to have several million acre feet of water that it was previously authorized to have.

Congressman Denham added that he is specifically working with the Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts on a pilot project to manage non-native predator fish that are attacking salmon eggs. The government is currently spending millions of dollars to grow the salmon population but not addressing the predator fish issue.

If successful they will use the scientific data received across the state.

“It’s a very inexpensive way to increase your native fish, the salmon and steelhead population – to have it grow automatically rather than spend millions of dollars trying to rebuild the population,” said Denham.

Relicensing of local dams is on the agenda and Denham is also working with the irrigation districts to have it happen without problems.

“After so many years, the dams have to come up for relicensing and they’re basically coming up all at the same time,” Denham said. “Oftentimes it means a bunch of bureaucratic hurdles of environmental studies to relicense them to do what they’re doing already today.”

TRANSPORTATION

“We’ve got to get a highway bill done,” said Denham. “A highway bill that will bring back more of our California tax dollars. We continue to be a donor state.”

Denham said tax dollars are frequently paying for out-of-state projects while California gets ignored. Big projects in this area such as the 108/120 bypass are one of those he’d like to see addressed and completed.

Expanding goods movement through the expansion of rail has also been an active subject topic by Denham, who sits on the House Rail Committee.

“Not only can we get more shipments of things in like grain, which is going to our dairies and feed lots, but also get out our ag commodities for export,” Denham said.

Denham said he’d also like to have the California Bullet Train Project re-examined.

“To build trust in government, government needs to fulfill the will of voters,” Denham said. “Voters passed Prop 1A (High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act) and then the rail authority changed all of the things that were in there.”

Denham stated the projected ridership numbers were later changed and the cost went from $33 billion to $100 billion and now there are real questions if the California High Speed Rail Project is going to be built at all.

“There wasn’t a private investor like we were promised,” Denham said. “So I think the project has to be stopped altogether or if the project has changed that significantly, go back to the voters again for approval.”

BUSINESS/JOBS

Denham pointed out that he felt the biggest job issue for the area was water.

“We’ve got to get water in the area because we’re a large agriculture economy,” Denham said. “If our agriculture industry is suffering then it affects every other aspect of our economy.

Denham said he was on a committee to pass a California Farm Bill rather than a “commodity farm bill” which establishes subsidies.

“As a farmer I don’t need a handout, I just need a fair opportunity to succeed,” Denham said.

Denham said opportunities famers need is pest prevention and research and development. He recognized using the UC system as an excellent resource within the state.

The two-term congressman said he believes the Health Insurance Tax portion of the Affordable Care Act will cost families an additional $5,000 per year and would affect 23,000 jobs by 2023.

“It was an unintended tax which is why we have both republicans and democrats, over 230 cosponsors, to repeal this before it gets implemented,” said Denham. “That’s something that can have drastic effects to businesses – small businesses in particular.”

Locally, Denham said there are other issues affecting local business.

“You have these drive-by lawsuits, the ADA lawsuits,” Denham said. “You have somebody coming in from outside of our state, or outside of our community and driving by and filing these lawsuits.”

Denham feels the businesses want to live up to the Americans with Disabilities Act but with changing rules and regulations, the businesses should have 60 to 90 days after they’re advised of a violation rather than someone immediately filing a lawsuit.

“It’s extortion where some of these drive-by lawsuits are targeting businesses and asking them to make payments or suffer a lawsuit,” Denham said. “Often times they don’t go in the business and they (business owners) don’t know about it until they get something in the mail.

“When these businesses shut down, it doesn’t do anyone any good,” Denham said.

Denham has many supporters for the upcoming November election including local councilmen Farrell Jackson, Tom Dunlop, and Don Petersen. He’s also endorsed by every member of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and the Stanislaus Farm Bureau.

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