Lawmakers on the local and state level continued to step up the pressure on Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency for the entire state when it comes to the drought.
More than a dozen Central Valley lawmakers met on Friday in Fresno County to declare a regional state of emergency for the Valley when it comes to the drought themselves. For weeks, lawmakers on the local and state level have been calling for Newsom to declare a state of emergency over the drought for the entire state. They continued to put the pressure on Newsom when they met together on Friday.
More than a dozen Central Valley lawmakers and elected officials met on Friday to declare a regional drought emergency and urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to do the same statewide.
The regional drought emergency declared by the lawmakers on Friday was symbolic. Only Newsom can declare a state of emergency and only his state of emergency would lead to real action.
If Newsom declares a state of emergency it would give local water officials more flexibility on how to allocate water but could also cause a problem with environmentalists, putting Newsom in a tricky situation. Newsom possibly declaring a state of emergency has also been complicated by the fact he's facing a recall.
Still, Central Valley lawmakers on a bipartisan level continue to press Newsom to declare a state of emergency just as his predecessor, Jerry Brown, did in 2014. Three state senators, three state Assembly members and county board chairs from Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings Counties held a news conference on Friday at Harlan Ranch in Clovis. They said Newsom's action is necessary to avoid a crisis.
State Senator Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, whose district represents Porterville, compared the current situation to the drought of 1974-1977, which led to a crisis.
And this year also looks dire and even more dire locally in the Southern Sierra Nevada region in which the snowpack was just 16 percent of normal as of April 22. The storm in the last week helped a little, but wasn't expected to make much of a dent in the drought conditions. That's demonstrated by the U.S. Drought Monitor which considers 94.5 percent of Tulare County in an extreme drought.
The Tulare County Board of Supervisors have declared a drought emergency, but again it's really symbolic.
Newsom has declared state of emergency in just two counties, Mendocino and Sonoma. But Newsom maintains a state of emergency isn't necessary for the Central Valley.
“We recognize the level of concern in the Central Valley, and we continue to target efforts, policies and investments there including to improve drinking water and long-term water security,” Newsom's office stated.
“California and the Central Valley is better off today due to lessons learned from the last drought including: improved conservation measures to reduce demand, early cross coordination between agencies, development of water use efficiency standards, implantation of Sustainable Groudwater Management Act, a risk assessment and consolidation of small water systems, and the passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act.”
But Central Valley lawmakers continue to disagree. Assemblyman Jim Patterson said there's an emergency in the Valley whether Newsom recognizes it or not.
Among the local officials at Friday's press conference was Devon Mathis, a Porterville native and state assemblyman, whose district includes Porterville, and Tulare County Board of Supervisors chair Amy Shuklian.
Mathis referred to East Porterville, saying the area is still recovering from the last drought.