The long-suffering San Joaquin River and its environs can soon sigh a breath of relief, thanks to new legislation signed into law by President Obama. The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 protects 2.1 million acres of federal land across the American West, including 750,000 acres in California. It also saves 1,000 miles of rivers from new dams.
“This legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted,” Obama told press, such as the Mercury News, at a White House ceremony. “But rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share.”
Co-written by Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the act almost died in the House. After amendments, it finally passed 77-20 in the Senate, and 285-140 in the House. A majority of Republicans objected, due to restrictions on oil drilling.
Californian’s find the bill’s path for restoration of the San Joaquin River one of its more salient objectives. Enduring dry weather, thirsty agriculture and an uncertain snowpack melt, the state faces a serious water crisis.
The bill provides a long-term plan, allocating $400 million from farm water fees and bond money to remove fish barriers and restore levees. It also promises farmers inexpensive water in wet years, in order to encourage water banking. Although the legislation proved less than ideal for worried farmers in California, years of drought have left them with few alternatives.
Peter Moyle, a biologist at University of California-Davis, sees promising changes ahead. “Nature is amazingly resilient,” he told Mercury News. “This is a huge challenge, but I wouldn’t be working on it if I didn’t think it was possible.”
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Source: Mercury News