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Local republican lawmakers call out drought and wildland management

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OROVILLE, Calif. - Local lawmakers visited Lake Oroville on Tuesday to call out what they say is the mismanagement of water, power and the wildlands.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa, State Senator Jim Nielsen, and State Assemblyman James Gallagher joined forces at the top of the Oroville Dam at 11 a.m.

Before the news conference even got underway, a group of counter-protestors got in a heated argument with Gallagher over the Miocene Canal.

"I am a 6 generation cattle and hog farmer. These men have sat in a room with me and said, we can't do anything for you yet they campaign on water rights,” Miocene Canal resident Megan Brown said. “I'm losing a water right."

Gallagher responded to her and said that he has been meeting on Miocene since the beginning.

“Either myself and my staff have been there every time, and we worked with Ramsey and PG&E and forces them into a settlement to rebuild the Miocene. Those are the facts,” Gallagher said.

Brown continued to ask the assemblyman why she still does not have any water then.

Gallagher’s response was that they cannot rebuild overnight, and he tied it back to the poor forest management.

"The Berry Creek area just over here burned. Why did it burn?” Gallagher asked. “They were ready to do a fuel reductions project around Berry Creek, but they had to go through another 18 month CEQA project to do the work."

Gallagher claims he and Nielsen got shut down when they tried to remove the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process and to double the amount of money in forest reduction projects.

"Yes, it’s climate change, drier conditions, longer fire seasons, but it is a fuel reduction issue,” Gallagher said. “We have a tender box of fuel in our forests and we are doing very little to get on top of it."

The lawmakers also addressed the drought emergency, focusing on Proposition 1 that was approved by California voters back in 2014. This provided 2.75 billion dollars for water storage projects.

“Not one gallon has been impounded because of the agencies of state and federal government permitting delays,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen and the other representatives demanded projects like Site Reservoir in Colusa County to get underway.

Gallagher held up an image of a huge fish kill of salmon in Sutter County, asking if this is the fish management we are getting.

The lawmakers also looked at ways to generate power, saying the solution to find power is through things like hydroelectric plants and turning the forest material's biomass into power.

Although, right now the Hyatt Power Plant at Lake Oroville is on the verge of shutting off due to the dramatically low lake levels.

Action News Now asked the representatives what tangible solutions they have for the dwindling water here at Lake Oroville.

LaMalfa said it has to start with shifting what water is left to human use, addressing his concerns for the water being released into the Delta.

"Is what we are releasing now actually doing enough to cool a river?” LaMalfa asked. “I don't think you are getting the results because the lakes are now shallow enough that the sun can pretty much heat them up from top to bottom."

Gallagher added that Sacramento Valley landowners and districts are willing to do voluntary agreements that will improve fish flows and habitat.

“The state water board, again under Gavin Newsom, refuses to do those voluntary agreements,” Gallagher told Action News Now.

He also proposed that they needed to build more water storage across the state. When asked where the money would come from, he claimed there are billions of federal dollars and money from the 2014 Proposition 1 Water Bond.

Action News Now reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment. We got this response from the California Natural Resource Agency: 

“Climate change is driving multiple threats to California and the West this summer, including wildfire, extreme heat, low reservoir levels and a stressed electricity grid. It’s clear that climate impacts have accelerated, and we are seeing more severe conditions in 2021 than any modeling predicted. These challenges are interconnected, and state agencies are working intensively in cooperation with the Legislature and local, tribal and federal partners to respond to urgent needs while we continue to build climate resilience.” 

- Lisa Lien Mager, Deputy Secretary for Communications

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