EDITORIAL: Bipartisan effort delivers water for Valley agriculture

First the early morning skies Thursday dropped about one-fifth of an inch of rain on parched
Fresno. After more than 50 consecutive days without precipitation, the air was now fit to breathe
and people rejoiced.

Then something bigger happened: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor
said that 340,000 acre-feet of water stored at San Luis Reservoir on behalf of west-side farmers
would be released to them for use during the growing season.

You are entitled to ask: If the water belonged to these farmers, why were they in danger of losing
it? The short answer is that water law is complicated, and other farmers (and water districts) have
senior water rights over these west-side growers.

The west-side growers can thank U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Reps. Jim
Costa, Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes and David Valadao for the rare good news in this third
consecutive year of drought.

On Saturday, in a display of the bipartisanship that is needed to keep our country moving
forward (in good times and bad times), they wrote Connor a letter imploring him to send the
water to the farmers and water districts that had paid $150 million for it and had conserved it in
anticipation of another dry year.

Yes, the facts and logic of their arguments were strong. Yes, we are in an emergency situation.
But the power of bipartisanship — three Democrats and three Republicans — signing their
names to the same letter had to carry considerable weight, too.

“I am proud elected officials on both sides of the aisle were able to work together to resolve this
issue for our constituents,” Valadao, a Hanford Republican, said in a news release.

“By presenting a united, bipartisan front, we ensured that the Valley’s concerns were heard loud
and clear by the (Obama) administration,” Costa, a Fresno Democrat, said in a prepared
statement.

The drought has brought scorching sunlight to California’s water problems. The state needs more
water-storage capacity. It needs a better delivery system. And it must restore the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta to good ecological health.

But these are challenges that will be worked through in the years ahead.

This drought is creating problems that must be solved in days and weeks. One of them is
ensuring that cities on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, such as Orange Cove and Lindsay,
receive at least some of their contracted San Joaquin River water. After being treated, it becomes
drinking water in these towns.