Congressman LaMalfa discusses North State drought, fire conditions

Submitted by: Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa

For the past decade our district has faced numerous disasters and near-disasters, from the failure of Oroville Dam’s spillway to several years of drought and repeated wildfires that have destroyed towns, wreaked havoc on our environment and the morale of our people.

As your Member of Congress, I am continually working to address our water storage needs and change Forest Service policies to allow the USFS to thin our overgrown forests to reduce fire risks. Here are some quick updates on both subjects.


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Water Update

Rep. LaMalfa with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke and Sites Project Authority Discussing the need for the project in 2018. Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa photo

I have been a leading advocate for building more water storage in California and particularly building Sites Reservoir in both Glenn and Colusa Counties. This off-stream storage facility takes water normally lost during high flows from winter floods and stores it for the summer months and dry years. In total, Sites Reservoir would create a significant amount of water – over 1.5-million-acre feet of water capacity – which is almost half of the capacity of Lake Oroville and can be used for agriculture or drinking water whenever it is needed.

In 2016, I helped pass the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which included a section I wrote to federally authorize several water storage projects in California. This has resulted in a $23.7 million investment in Sites Reservoir to finish environmental reviews, permitting, and engineering work. In November of 2018, I helped secure a $449 million USDA low-interest loan to continue the project. Just this past week, I submitted a budget amendment for $1 billion to complete the funding required to build the project which would be combined with $816 million from California Proposition 1 water bond funds, and $44 million from local stakeholders. Sites Reservoir is my top proposal to build additional water storage and protect North State water.

Rep LaMalfa and Rep. Garamendi in 2014 announcing bipartisan legislation supporting federal authorization for building Sites. Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa photo

Unfortunately, this year is our second worst drought on record, and it is having a major impact. Yesterday, due to the State’s decision to prematurely dump water in the winter and spring, Lake Oroville measured at too low to produce electricity despite our power grid being more strained than ever. Domestic wells are starting to go dry across the district because of drought and lack of the agricultural irrigation that recharges the aquifers. I have called on the Biden Administration to accelerate the effort to get clean drinking water to our rural communities that need help. Our local counties are coordinating with California on ways to help. If your well has gone dry, please report it here.

The federal government cut off water to the Klamath Basin completely this year, including the federal wildlife refuges that use agricultural canal systems to deliver much needed water for shorebird and migratory nesting ducks. This water, which is stored in Upper Klamath Lake, is owned by the farmers in the area. The new Department of Interior has rescinded legal opinions that would have delivered water to farmers and the refuges. I recently announced a $15 million down payment of drought aid from the Bureau of Reclamation. Now, my colleague Representative Cliff Bentz (OR-02) and I are negotiating a bipartisan supplemental aid package in the House and Senate to help the area through this government-created disaster. I know farmers would rather farm with their water but they may need help now so they can survive until next year.

Rep. LaMalfa speaking with the California Waterfowl Association and farmers in the Klamath Basin working to prevent the botulism outbreak in 2020 that killed 60,000 shorebirds. Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa photo

While this aid will help the community, a lack of water will result in damage to countless farms, dry wells and devastation to the ecology of the refuges. Last year, I was at the Tule Lake wildlife refuge with the California Waterfowl Association to discuss the botulism outbreak due to the lower water level and how I had been working with the previous Administration to deliver water to prevent die off of ducks.

Even with the additional water I restored, over 60,000 shorebirds died from the outbreak last year and that was with Klamath Basin farmers having some water and doing everything they could to divert water to the refuge and providing habitat for the birds on their farms. This year, with no water, we could be facing far worse conditions. This is a result of species-specific management that holds water artificially high in the Upper Klamath Lake for a suckerfish and releases the rest downriver for salmon, resulting in the worst of all worlds: no water for shorebirds, no water for farms, salmon and suckerfish populations continue to plummet, and the local economy is devastated.

SEE ALSO: LaMalfa urges Biden and Newsom to keep COVID-19 vaccines voluntary

Fire Update

Rep. LaMalfa leading fire discussion with incoming USFS Chief Randy Moore and CalFire head of Air operations at last month’s Western Caucus Roundtable in California. Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa photo

Fires continue to ravage the West. Last week I had a chance to discuss the situation with the incoming Chief of the US Forest Service, Randy Moore. During the call, Chief Moore committed that he will issue a change of policy to all regions of the US Forest Service, including California to immediately put out all fires. This is a major policy change for the US Forest Service, whose previous policy was to let the fire burn if it was not immediately adjacent to communities or major infrastructure. He also committed to continue following a policy change I was successful in implementing last year to expedite contracting for bulldozers and water tankers closest to fires rather than using a national list that was used prior to this year. That previous list meant sometimes equipment would come from as far away as Florida while local assets were available.

Rep. LaMalfa speaking with evacuees at the Red Cross Dixie Fire Evacuation Center in Chester. Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa photo

Currently, just in District 1 over 370,000 acres are burning. In 2021 throughout California, 484,519 acres have burned, and 323 structures have been destroyed with over 5,671 fires started.

The largest fire currently in California is the Dixie Fire that was started when a tree fell into PG&E’s major power distribution lines near the Feather River Canyon. In 2018, I successfully passed a law which created a streamlined process to remove hazardous trees that were at risk of falling within 10 feet of powerlines. However, Senate Democrat policies prevented me from creating as large of a buffer needed to fully prevent trees from falling into powerlines. For the last two years, I have sponsored a bill – the CLEAR Zones Act – which would further streamline the permit process, and expand hazardous tree removal to include those that could fall within 50 feet of a transmission line.

Rep. LaMalfa receiving briefing on fires from CalFire. Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa photo

I am again advocating for reforms in forestry practices to thin our overgrown forests and reduce the most likely culprit of community threatening catastrophic fires – roadways and powerlines – by increasing the buffer zone around both. Unfortunately Democrat policies are focused more on climate change than solving the cause of catastrophic wildfires, chronically mismanaged forests. Regardless of if you think climate change is the culprit or not, we must act now to combat the vegetative overgrowth and over 160 million dying trees in our forests. This is the immediate cause of these extreme fires in not only District 1, but the western part of the United States. Common sense legislation needs to be passed and implemented to protect our communities, wildlife and the environment.

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Trevor Montgomery, 50, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.