Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) speaks at the San Luis Reservoir in Los Banos Wednesday. 

Flanked by water officials and agriculture advocates Wednesday at San Luis Reservoir, Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) called on dramatically increased investment in California’s water infrastructure in the face of crippling, ongoing drought conditions. Hurtado’s comments come 59 years to the day after President John F. Kennedy dedicated San Luis Reservoir in 1962.

“I am proud to be part of the effort to have brought $100 million from the state to fix critical water canals that deliver water to our homes and farms,” Hurtado said. “But we have to be honest about the changing, warming climate and the additional investment necessary to keep millions of Californians out of peril. I’m calling on all Californians to act in the spirit of President Kennedy and come together in unity to invest in this critical resource.  

President John F. Kennedy visited the San Luis Reservoir during the groundbreaking on August 18, 1962. During his speech, President Kennedy discussed the importance of inter-state and federal government partnerships are for progress, stating that “Progress represents the combined will of the American people, and only when they are joined together for action... that this country moves ahead, and we will prepare the way for those who come after us.”

During this legislative session, Senator Hurtado introduced Senate Bill 559 —The State Water Resiliency Act of 2021 — to allocate $785 million to repairing vital water delivery systems that provide drinking water to communities throughout California and water to sustain the state’s leading agricultural economy. The funds would go to fixing the Friant-Kern Canal, the Delta-Mendota Canal and major portions of the California Aqueduct, all of which have degraded and are losing water as a result of subsidence – the actual shrinking of land, according to a release from Hurtado. Congressman Jim Costa and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein have companion legislation in Congress.

In his May Revise, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed $200 million to help repair the canals. In the budget ultimately adopted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, $100 million was allocated to fixing the canals.

The San Luis Reservoir is the fifth largest reservoir in California, which stores water taken from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. The reservoir supplies water to approximately 63,500 acres of land in the Santa Clara Valley west of the Coast Ranges. Most of the water stored in the San Luis Dam is used for irrigation.  The California Valley Project receives water released to the Delta-Mendota Canal, which then provides water for 380,000 acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley.

Senator Hurtado is also a co-author of the Water Innovation Act of 2021, which will create the Office of Water Innovation at the California Water Commission-furthering new technologies and other approaches within the water sector. The Senator has also introduced Senate Bill 464, which will expand the eligibility for state funded food benefits to undocumented immigrants, ensuring all residents can access food assistance.

Senator Hurtado’s Senate Bill 108 which will declare it to be state policy that all people have access to sufficient, healthy food. In 2019, Senator Hurtado’s Senate Bill 513 was passed, which allows the State Water Resources Control Board to provide grants to eligible applicants to provide relief to households in which a private water well has gone dry, or been destroyed by drought, wildfire, or other natural disaster. The Senator’s Senate Bill 974 (2019) allows various water infrastructure projects to be exempted from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA.) These exemptions will help disadvantage community water systems that improve water quality, water supply or water reliability to seek necessary infrastructure to address their water supply needs and avoid the timely and costly burden of CEQA.

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