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Drought Relief Legislation Starts Slowly In Washington

By Kitty Felde for Capital Public Radio

Drought relief legislation this year has gotten off to a slow start on Capitol Hill - unlike last year, when bills were floated in both the House and the Senate.

Mendota Mayor Robert Silva, who spent the week meeting with members of Congress, says things are moving…underground.

Silva: Well…there’s a lot of back ground discussions…But I really feel positive about what’s being discussed with us.

Kitty: Who’s in the back room?

Silva: (laughs and laughs)

Kitty: Not talking.

Meanwhile, Mario Santoyo with the Fryant Water Authority says they’re asking federal regulators for less rigid interpretation of environmental guidelines.

"There’s a lot of flexibility within the biological opinions. The tendency is to been using the lower ranges. We’re pushing to maximize – within the biological opinions – the range you can operate."

"Well, that’s exactly what he’s gotten these last couple years," says House Democrat Jared Huffman of San Rafael. He says Delta operators are already squeezing extra water deliveries in every way possible. 

"If that’s not enough, what more do folks think should be happening? And that’s when I’m beginning to hear things like the species should be allowed to go extinct. And I just don’t think the people of California are ready to do that."

The first move, says Tulare Republican Devin Nunes, is up to the Senate.

"The House, we can pass anything. But we’d like to see what Senator Feinstein can come up with," said Nunes.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office says discussions are continuing. Friant Water District’s Mario Santoyo says based on his meetings, he expects the Senator to unveil her bill by the end of May.