For the past two decades, dams have been falling across the United States in a bid to reverse a legacy of destruction of fish and their habitat. American Rivers, a nonprofit advocacy organization, estimates that 1,200 dams were dismantled nationwide from 1999 to 2019, including major dams on the Elwha and White Salmon Rivers in Washington State.
Rep. Mike Levin said California’s innovations and investments in water supply reliability and renewable energy are a model for the nation – and that the state’s efforts protect the environment while growing the economy at the same time.
Levin, an attorney and congressman from San Juan Capistrano, represents the 49th District, which includes, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Vista, Oceanside and a portion of southern Orange County.
He made his remarks November 6 during a Legislative Roundtable at the San Diego County Water Authority attended by water agency board members and staff, local civic and business leaders and Citizens Water Academy graduates.
Water supply reliability through supply diversification
The Water Authority periodically holds Legislative Roundtables to hear about water-related issues in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento. More than 60 people attended the Wednesday event, asking Levin a variety of questions about water, energy and climate change.
In his first 11 months in office, he has sponsored and co-sponsored the following bills:
- Border Water Infrastructure Improvement Act
- Desalination Development Act
- Water Recycling Investment and Improvement Act
- Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act
- Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act
Desalination Development Act introduced
Levin cited the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant as an example of the “deep innovation” necessary to increase sustainability, referencing legislation he introduced to increase federal funding for desalination projects.
He introduced that legislation in July 2019 to raise the funding authorization in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act for desalination projects to $260 million.
Levin said his bill would help strengthen regional water supplies by supporting projects like the South Coast Water District’s Doheny Ocean Desalination Project and the City of Oceanside’s Mission Basin Groundwater Purification Facility Well Expansion and Brine Minimization Project.
California’s clean energy economy a ‘model for the nation’
He also said California has proven that a clean energy economy works to enhance environmental sustainability and jobs.
“We’re leading the way in California, and at the end of the day, we’ve developed a clean energy economy,” Levin said. “The state is a model for the country in how to protect the environment and grow the economy.”
The decadeslong Pacific Northwest salmon war may be nearing the end.
But it’s economics, not fish, that could be the demise of four dams at the center of the fight.
The dams on the Lower Snake River — besieged by conservationists and biologists for killing fish — are now battered by falling prices for renewable energy, skyrocketing replacement costs for aging turbines and a growing tab for environmental mitigation.
“The jig is up,” said Daniel Malarkey, a senior fellow at the Sightline Institute, a regional think tank focused on energy, economic and environmental policy. “We had this super-cheap power relative to other resources, and we’ve piled a bunch of extra costs on it.”
Farmers pump water from streams through irrigation canals and fish can also end up in those canals. When the irrigation season is over, fish are often left stranded.
Before farmers and other irrigators shut down their irrigation systems this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says to call them to ensure fish are not left stranded.
Farmers divert or pump water from streams through irrigations canals to water crops and livestock, but fish also end up in those canals. Experts said when the irrigation system is shut off, fish often end up stranded in the empty canals.